Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Following is the stanza:

Teach us delight in simple things,
And mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And Love to all men 'neath the sun!

What does second line and third line mean? And does the last line mean love to all people who work hard under the harsh sun?

A brief explanation will suffice.

(I hope that this is not a subjective question! Also, please change the tag; my reputation is not quite enough to create new one.)

share|improve this question
    
Sorry I didn't know how to write in the form of a stanza. –  Fire Flux Mar 22 '11 at 16:09
    
For future reference, putting two spaces at the end of a line before a return will force a line break without starting a new paragraph (or you can explicitly use a <br> tag). –  Phrogz Mar 22 '11 at 16:52
    
@Phrogz- thank you –  Fire Flux Mar 22 '11 at 16:55

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

"Bitter springs" means, basically, "springing from something bitter." So the second line means: may we learn to not be happy because of others' misfortunes.

"Forgiveness free of evil done" means that we'll forgive those who wrong us, and never remember again the evil they did. (Sort of the opposite of "I may forgive, but I'll never forget.")

In the last line, "under the sun" means "everyone in the world" - the expression is borrowed from Ecclesiastes (1:3).

share|improve this answer
    
Ah, I like both your interpretation of "spring" as source (instead of my silly mechanical coil) and "free of evil done" as "forget what they did". +1 –  Phrogz Mar 22 '11 at 16:11
    
Good explanation, Alex! +1 –  n0nChun Mar 22 '11 at 16:21

Teach us delight in [...] mirth that has no bitter springs

I believe this means "Teach us to enjoy humor that is does not have a basis in (buoyed up by) cruelty or unkindness.

Teach us delight in [...] forgiveness free of evil done

I believe that this means "Teach us to forgive others even of the most trivial grievances". (I am not convinced of this, though, as I do not know why this would be suggested as either unlikely or desirable.)

I believe the last line, "love to all men 'neath the sun" is simply saying to love everyone, as we are all underneath the sun (even when indoors). I do not think that there is any implication that they must be outdoor laborers.

share|improve this answer

A lot of poetry is will mean different things to different people. Much of this poem is a prayer. Here's how I interpret the lines you ask about:

And Mirth that has no bitter springs

We wish for joy without accompanying pain.

Forgiveness free of evil done

Allow mankind to be able to express love and forgiveness to each other without first suffering the offenses that would need to be forgiven.

And Love to all men 'neath the sun.

This is love for everyone, not just those that work in a field, for the sun shines on all the earth. It's a lovely poem.

share|improve this answer
    
Yes! Land Of Our Birth is indeed an excellent poem! –  Fire Flux Mar 22 '11 at 16:40
    
I've heard the title to be, "The Children's Song". –  JCooper Mar 22 '11 at 16:48
    
I believe this explanation is the correct one. Previous commentators missed the meaning of both 2 and 3. In 2, he's saying "happiness without concomitant pain" and in 3, "forgiveness detached from harm." Sort of like, "Give us the Yin without the Yang." –  The Raven Mar 22 '11 at 19:36

"Mirth that has no bitter springs." Teach us to delight in happiness that is not derived from others' unhappiness.

"Forgiveness free of evil done." Teach us to forgive others for the evil they do, without retribution or restitution (free, not earned). Free is modifying forgiveness, so it is "free forgiveness", not "free of evil".

"All men 'neath the sun." Every person on the earth - common idiom. Not relating to laborers.

share|improve this answer

Yes, the question is subjective, but only because all poetry is so it's fine.

Here are my two cents which may or may not disagree with everyone else, all defensible interpretations are valid.

"Teach us delight in simple things," Teach us to enjoy the little things in life so that we are always happy

And mirth that has no bitter springs; and give us the gift of being able to laugh whole-heartedly without interference from the "bitter springs" of grief and trouble that bubble beneath the surface

Forgiveness free of evil done, and forgive people freely, not bearing grudges

And Love to all men 'neath the sun! And love everyone on earth. As Alex pointed out, "'neath the sun" is borrowed from Ecclesiastes. It's a motif that appears many times throughout the book. A close reading shows that the phrase refers to the mundane, prosaic, aspects of life that people tend to view as unimportant. I think that this line means "to love everyone and everything because the ordinary is also extraordinary."

share|improve this answer

protected by RegDwigнt Mar 18 '12 at 16:31

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.