I think this is really wonderful. I hope you do too.

Learning a Dead Language

by WS Merwin

There is nothing for you to say. You must

Learn first to listen. Because it is dead

It will not come to you of itself, nor would you

Of yourself master it. You must therefore

Learn to be still when it is imparted,

And, though you may not yet understand, to remember.

What you remember is saved. To understand

The least thing fully you would have to perceive

The whole grammar in all its accidence

And all its system, in the perfect singleness

Of intention it has because it is dead.

You can only learn a part at a time.

What you are given to remember

Has been saved before you from death’s dullness by

Remembering. The unique intention

Of a language whose speech has died is order,

Incomplete only where someone has forgotten.

You will find that that order helps you to remember.

What you come to remember becomes yourself.

Learning will be to cultivate the awareness

Of that governing order, now pure of the passions

It composed; till, seeking it in itself,

You may find at last the passion that composed it,

Hear it both in its speech and in yourself.

What you remember saves you. To remember

Is not to rehearse, but to hear what never

Has fallen silent. So your learning is,

From the dead, order, and sense of yourself

Is memorable, what passion may be heard

When there is nothing for you to say.

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