Aside from choking on my sobs of happiness, the thing that struck me most at the inauguration was the poetic language. First, Obama:
”The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.”
My first thought was “that’s beautiful!” But when I closed my eyes, I saw my internal editor put a big red line through it.
And it was not too long ago, when watching National Treasure, when I completely agreed with the character who, after reading the Declaration, said, “They don’t talk like that anymore.”
But they do:
"America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."
Those are words so beautiful and inspirational, you could eat them. And Elizabeth Alexander’s poem is, I’m afraid, much more beautiful on paper than the way she read it, but either way, clearly poetic.
Then Rev. Lowery’s benediction:
"God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land."
"Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream."
Isn’t that poetic?
What does all this mean? Are we dumbing down our language too much? Are we losing something beautiful in our pursuit of clarity? Is this the beginning of a new trend, of a turning towards more poetic language? Just a coincidence? Is poetic language making a comeback, or is it only reserved for historic events?
What do you think? And if you could choose, would you prefer a trend toward more poetic language, or not?
And I have to leave you with the performance that thrilled me to no end, plus a thank you to MSNBC for being the only network who didn't talk OVER the music: