Humanities Lecture

By William E. Stafford 1914–1993
Aristotle was a little man with
eyes like a lizard, and he found a streak
down the midst of things, a smooth place for his feet   
much more important than the carved handles   
on the coffins of the great.

He said you should put your hand out   
at the time and place of need:
strength matters little, he said,
nor even speed.

His pupil, a king's son, died
at an early age. That Aristotle spoke of him   
it is impossible to find—the youth was   
notorious, a conqueror, a kid with a gang,   
but even this Aristotle didn't ever say.

Around the farthest forest and along   
all the bed of the sea, Aristotle studied   
immediate, local ways. Many of which   
were wrong. So he studied poetry.   
There, in pity and fear, he found Man.

Many thinkers today, who stand low and grin,   
have little use for anger or power, its palace   
or its prison—
but quite a bit for that little man
with eyes like a lizard.

William Stafford, “Humanities Lecture” from Stories That Could Be True (New York: Harper & Row, 1977). Copyright © 1977 by William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Kim Stafford.

Source: Stories That Could Be True (Harper & Row, 1977)

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Poet William E. Stafford 1914–1993

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects School & Learning, History & Politics, Life Choices, Activities, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 William E. Stafford

Biography

"If you have been wondering where the articulate, readable poems have gone in the last third of the 20th century, you might start with [William] Stafford," declares Victor Howes of the Christian Science Monitor. A pacifist and one of "the quiet of the land," as he often describes himself, Stafford is known for his unique method of composition, his soft-spoken voice, and his independence from social and literary expectations. As

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SUBJECT School & Learning, History & Politics, Life Choices, Activities, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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