I Sat Beside An Oralist

by James Frederick Meagher

I used to loathe an oralist and look at him askance,
As one who fostered bats within his belfry residence---
A sort of Simon Legree, or an old schoolmaster Squeers
Who kept the poor and puny things in everlasting tears,
Compelling them by punishment---and scolding like creation---
To jabber Russian battle yells with faultless modulation,
To read the lips of humming birds, to yodel, squeak and grunt,
To warble like Caruso---or some other crazy stunt.

I sat beside an oralist at Staunton if you please,
(Relief indeed from poets fate of crackers and of cheese)
I watched in sheer amazement as he sat him down to eat---
With actions almost human-like---of buttered bread and meat;
He gulped his cream and coffee down, nor grabbed a table knife
To ferry peas and porridge up at risk of limb and life
But used both fork and spoon au fait, and, bless my sinful soul,
He even knew the wherefor of a cutglass finger bowl.

I sat beside an oralist at Staunton, I confess.
We both broke bread together in most perfect friendliness.
I learned he, too, was human with a humans' honest aim,
And spending life's short span among the blind, the deaf, the lame;
I learned he, too, was oft downcast, and oft misunderstood
While toiling for the silent, striving for the common good;
And views for which I'd branded him a crazy imbecile
Came not from pure cussedness---though, truth, a bit futile.

Hereafter---when an oralist I vent sulphuric speech
And wave the flag of freedom high and make the eagle screech
Or rip him up and down the back and jab him in the vest
With forceful facts and figures aimed to knock him galley-west---
I hope he understands, at least, it's nothing personal,
It's principle we're fighting for, the good of one and all;
I hope he sasses back at me with fierce but friendly heat---
And he will if he can argue half as well as he can eat.