Polonius’ Advice to Laertes

Polonius’ Advice to Laertes

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Edgefield Advertiser.

By: Robert Scott

Quoting Shakespeare is not something one does lightly; a little goes a long way. A half -century ago, all Naval Academy Midshipmen were required to memorize some lines of Shakespeare, not in English class but as part of their professional training. This quote from “Hamlet” is still etched somewhere in my own brain. It has advice that could profit many in our government, especially this month with a new Congress and a not-so-new President having agreed for a few weeks, at least, to reopen the government and pay its – I should say our, all of our — employees. The context is Polonius, the father, giving farewell advice to his son Laertes, who is headed off to college.

There, — my blessing with you!

And these few precepts in thy memory

See thou character. – Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade. Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,

Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;

Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not expressed in fancy: rich, not gaudy:

For the apparel oft proclaims the man.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.