Table of Contents

Introduction

The Wonderful Words by Mary O’ Neill is an 18 lines poem in which the poet talks about the importance of words in the world. Further he praises English Language and advises the readers to learn it so that we may be able to express our thoughts. Finally, he says that we should use beautiful word to express our thoughts because they are the food and dress of our thoughts.

Although the poem has not been divided into stanzas, I have divided them into three stanzas for better understanding. So, let us try to understand what the poet has to say in this poem.

Poem

Video

Stanza 1

Never let a thought shrivel and die
For want of a way to say it
For English is a wonderful game
And all of you can play it.

The poet advises the readers to never let a thought shrivel (i.e. become worthless) and die (i.e. forget). In other words, we should never let our thoughts go away. We should say it properly. English is a wonderful game which we all can play. In other words, English is a beautiful language which we all can speak and should speak.

So, the poet says that instead of forgetting a beautiful thought, we should bring it out using the words. And English is a good language for expressing those thoughts to others.

Stanza 2

All that you do is match the words
To the brightest thoughts in your head
So that they come out clear and true
And handsomely groomed and fed —
For many of the loveliest things
Have never yet been said.

For expressing what is in our minds, we need to match the most relevant words to the brightest i.e. most beautiful thoughts in our mind. In other words, we should find the most suitable words for our thoughts. This way they will come out of our mouths clear and true. They will be handsomely groomed i.e. said with good words and gestures. The person(s) listening to use will be able to understand our words and also feel good by our sweetness.

The poet says that we often fail to say many beautiful and amazing things because we don’t know the words to express them. Hence we should learn as many words as possible so that we may be able to express those beautiful things to the world instead of letting them die.

Stanza 3

Words are the food and dress of thought
They give it its body and swing
And everyone’s longing today to hear
Some fresh and beautiful thing;
But only words can free a thought
From its prison behind your eyes
May be your mind is holding now
A marvellous new surprise!

According to the poet, words are the food and the dress of our thoughts. In other words they make our thoughts appear beautiful and pleasing. The words give our thought a body (i.e. make them lively). This way, those who are longing (desiring) to listen to us hear something new and beautiful that pleases their ears and mind.

According to the poet, thoughts are imprisoned behind our eyes. They may be trapped in the mind. Only way to free them is using words. Only words can provide them a way to come out.

Finally, the poet says that if we have words to express our thoughts, the person(s) listening to us will be amazed because of amazing things which we will tell them.

Further Reading

  1. Play quiz on the poem The Wonderful Words
  2. Questions-Answers of The Wonderful Words