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A Brave and Startling Truth

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Allyson Conway

on 1 May 2014

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Transcript of A Brave and Startling Truth

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth
Angelou is making it clear that it is necessary for each person on earth to learn the brave and truth she is about to share and discuss. She refers to the earth as a "small and lonely planet" to point out that that area people make up is so small compared to the rest of the universe. She refers to people as "we" and "us" to show we are all the same and have demonic and angelic qualities and must all learn together.





First Stanza
Second Stanza
Angelou is communicating that one day people will come to a day of peace. One day people will open their clenched fists and allow in new thoughts. She uses fists as a metaphor to peoples thoughts and actions becoming less hostile and more calm toward one another. Peace can only be achieved through accepting and liberation from violence.
Third Stanza
A Brave and Startling Truth
Allyson Conway
Ontara Sarker

By: Maya Angelou
A Brave and Startling Truth
We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze
When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.


-Maya Angelou
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms
When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil
Minstrel- one of a troupe of comedians, usually white men made up as black performers, presenting songs, jokes, etc.
The hatred people feel towards each other causes their children to die and all of them will be buried not far from home. People are dying for similar reasons and are all buried in the same place in the same soil. The line "To lie in identical plots in foreign soil" is a metaphor for the idea that regrdless o background, all people are equal.
Fourth Stanza
When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze
Angelou has expanded the discussion from racism to the topic of discrimination and conflict between religions. She uses aggressive diction such as "storming" and "screaming racket" to describe churches and temples. Her diction contradicts the peace someone would normally think of when referring to a religious building. She then continues to contrast the idea of what should be happening; banners flying in the sky.
Fifth Stanza
When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse
Sixth Stanza
When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets
Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world
Seventh Stanza
Angelou continues to discuss actions that need to be stopped to allow the children and elderly to be at peace in the world. The violence over different religions must end so it can be practiced peacefully. The barricade of fear of differences must be broken down. She glimpses to her own childhood in the last two lines to show the effect discrimination has had on her life.
Angelou mentions many of the popular ideas people consider to be "wonders" of the world. She utilizes these examples to introduce the idea that humans too, can be referenced as "wonders," because of the genuine good qualities that are within them.
Theme:
In order for people to reach their full potential they must let go of their hatred for one another. Though, to access this liberation, one must be brave enough and vulnerable enough for love to break their personal barricade of fear. Ultimately, Maya Angelou conveys the themes of liberation through love, equality and freedom through love, and bravery to realize the liberation of love. Angelou states that it is after love enters our lives, that we truly become “the possible” and “the true wonders of this world.”

Angelou alludes to many incredible places in the world. Although they places she mentions are beautiful, they are not they only wonders in the world.
When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

In this stanza Angelou describes ourselves, the true "wonders" of the world. She mentions the contradicting nature of humans and their desire for violence yet wish for peace, to hurtful words and uplifting songs, to murder and tenderness.
We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines
Angelou continues to comment on the dual nature of humans who are composed both of good and bad. At the end of the ninth stanza, the she says “out of … such contradictions we learn that we are neither devils nor divines.” This sentence reiterates that humans cannot live without good or bad, these characteristics coexist.
When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
This stanza is in response to the previous stanza where Angelou speaks that everyone possesses both good and bad qualities. The speaker is trying to say here that people can choose to only act on their good impulses and not the bad ones.
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
Eighth Stanza
Ninth Stanza
Tenth Stanza
Eleventh Stanza
Angelou closes the poem by saying as we unveil the "brave and startling truth" we must first abandon the negative aspects and spotlight our better qualities. Although we are capable of exhibiting both aspects, we will only reflect the brave and startling truth when we come to accept love as a means of libeation.The only way people will be able to come to recognize the brave and startling truth that humans, are in fact wonders existing in this world, is if they abandon all of the negative violence and embrace the good qualities within people.
Angelou's speech was delivered with the intent of commemorating the founding of the United Nations in 1955. She explains ways in which peace is being achieved and for ways in which peace is being blocked within the world community.


Context
Full transcript