Tender Not-Resignation

So I think the phrase ‘tender your resignation’ is a weird one. I don’t generally think of resignation as a tender anything. I know of an example of tenderly not resigning, but more on that in a minute.

I struggled to find the origin of the phrase which I guess is just a residual set phrase left over from older times. It fits into a larger definition of the word tender as a verb, meaning to give or offer. Thus it is also used for money (‘legal tender’) and to tender for a job, meaning you offer to do it for a certain price (I’ve never heard this usage before). But how this coincides with the other meaning is elusive. The connection is deep in Proto-Indo-European coming from the root meaning stretch or something along those lines. In one sense, stretch came to be associated with thin and therefore delicate, weak, young. In another, it came to mean to stretch forth as in to offer. So there you have it, learn something new everyday.

Also, I’ve been neglecting my cat duties once again, so here are the precious ones.

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The world is such a place, guys. Like, yeah. What are we doing. We have so many problems. And there are loads of them that really have nothing to do with Trump, though that situation certainly isn’t helping. I oscillate between caring too much and not caring enough because the world is just such a big deal and I’m so small. I am small, but we are not, if only we set our minds on acting together. Anyway.

You may have thought I had forgotten to follow up with the whole ‘tenderly not resigning’ but I have not, behold. I have a little something for you and I wanted it to be at the end of the post because reasons so here you go.

This month is not a poem-a-week month, but this is a poem that I very much admire by one of my favorite poets. I share it both because it is beautiful and because it reminds us that just because it’s the way things are doesn’t mean it’s the way they should be. In the past week I’ve read the word ‘normalize’ in mainstream discourses (I am sort of used to it in academia) much more than I had hitherto thought possible. And with good reason: we are in danger, those of us who have not yet succumbed, of normalizing a broad set of extremely unacceptable behaviors. But no matter how commonplace something becomes, if it’s wrong it’s wrong.

There are three things this poem says that I think speak to our times: I know, I do not approve, and I am not resigned. We must know and then we must act. This is basically what I said last week but it bears repeating. Incessantly.

I will not approve and I refuse to be resigned.

Dirge Without Music

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

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