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Humanities Lecture

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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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Humanities Lecture

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