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7.1 Quotations: Who said "..."? William Butler Yeats


This article is from the Quotations FAQ, by Sir Hans dok@fwi.uva.nl Jason Newquist jrnewquist@ucdavis.edu with numerous contributions by others.

7.1 Quotations: Who said "..."? William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
``He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven'' (1899)

A small step
+ +---+ +--+

That's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.
Neil Armstrong (1930-)
First words spoken by a man walking on the moon, 20 July 1969

He didn't realize he had screwed up the line until after he got to
Earth, according to the book "Chariots for Apollo" by Charles R.
Pellegrino and Joshua Stoff (not the NASA Technical Memorandum on the
same subject and with an identical title). It was when presented with
a plaque by the builders of the LM that he pointed out their mistake in
failing to include the ``a'' at which point he was told that the word
was not in the tapes. He insisted (at that time) that he had said it.

The first words said upon "landing" on the moon were ``Contact light.
Okay, engine stop. ACA out of detent. Modes control both auto,
descent engine command override, off. Engine arm off. 413 is in.''
Then from Mission Control: ``We copy you down, Eagle.'' Eagle:
``Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.'' Source: Dave
Dooling ``L+25: A Quarter Century After the Apollo Landing'' in "IEEE
Spectrum" July 1994, p. 25. The words from the Eagle were also spoken
by Armstrong.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste
++ +------+ +--+ +-+ +---+ +-+ +---+

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there
may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good
terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and
listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their
story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the
spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and
bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than
yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep
interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession
in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business
affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you
to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and
everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not
feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all
aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take
kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of
youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born
of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle
with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees
and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is
clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And
whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken
dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be
Max Ehrman (1872-1945)
``Desiderata'' (1927)

From "Respectfully Quoted" (see below): ``There has been confusion
about the authorship of this poem. In 1956, the rector of St Paul's
Church in Baltimore, Maryland, used the poem in a collection of
mimeographed inspirational material for his congregation. Someone
printing it later said it was found in Old St Paul's Church, Baltimore,
dated 1692. The year 1692 is the founding date of the church and has
nothing to do with the poem, which was written in 1927. It was widely
distributed with the 1692 date. . . . --Fred D. Cavinder,
``Desiderata'', "TWA Ambassador", August 1973, pp. 14-15''

It's better to burn out than to fade away
+--+ +----+ ++ +--+ +-+ +--+ ++ +--+ +--+

My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It's better to burn out
Than to fade away
My my, hey hey
Neil Young (1945-)
"Rust Never Sleeps" (1979 album)
``My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)''

This is the oldest source I have heard of for this standard version.
These words are also uttered in the movie "Highlander", and they were
quoted by Kurt Cobain in his suicide letter. As someone on a.q once
pointed out, a much older similar line is

It is better to wear out than to rust out.
Richard Cumberland (1631-1718)
in G. Horne "The Duty of Contending for the Faith" (1786) p. 21, n.

which may or may not be the original from which it is derived. An even
older, similar looking line that more or less expresses the opposite is

It is better to marry than to burn.
``I Corinthians'' ch. 7, v. 9

May the road
+-+ +-+ +--+

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be ever at your back
May the Good Lord keep you in the hollow of His hand.
May your heart be as warm as your hearthstone.
And when you come to die
may the wail of the poor
be the only sorrow
you'll leave behind.
May God bless you always.
``An Irish Wish''
in Ralph L. Woods "A Third Treasury of the Familiar" (1970) p. 644

Another version--which is the version most often mentioned in
alt.quotations--runs thus:--

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Every once in a while, somebody wants to know about the full text of
this ``Irish blessing''. The origin of the fascination remains a
mystery to me.


He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved
much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of
intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his
niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he
found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued
soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to
express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them
the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory is a
Bessie A. Stanley (b.1879)
in "Notes and Queries" July 1976

This quotation was tracked down for certain by Anthony W. Shipps in
"Notes and Queries" for July, 1976. It was written in 1905 by Bessie
A. Stanley and was the first-prize winner in a contest sponsored by
the magazine "Modern Women". Shipps notes that "It is still quoted
from time to time in American magazines and newspapers, but it is now
often attributed to Emerson. Shipps says that ``The versions printed
in the two local newspapers in 1905 do not agree, and in the many later
appearances in print which I have seen, the wording has varied
somewhat. However, the essayist's son, Judge Arthur J. Stanley, Jr.,
of Leavenworth, writes me that the correct text is the one given in the
eleventh edition (1937) of "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations".'' That's
the one that is here also, folks, thanks to William C. Waterhouse (who
wrote practically all of this).

Three kinds of lies
+---+ +---+ ++ +--+

On the remark ``There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies,
and statistics.'':

The following information comes from Ralph Keyes "Nice Guys Finish
Seventh" (HarperCollins, 1992) pp. 49-50.
``In his autobiography, Mark Twain attributed the remark . . . to
Disraeli. . . . [It] has also been attributed to Henry Labouch\`ere,
Abraham Hewitt, and others. No one other than Twain is known to have
credited Disraeli with making the comment. British statistician John
Bibby once appealed to his colleagues for a reliable source of the
saying. The best anyone could come up with was this 1896 comment by a
member of the Royal Statistical Society: ``We may quote to one another
with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, lies, damned lies,
statistics...'' After consulting a Disraeli biographer, Bibby
concluded that he probably wasn't this Wise Statesman. Bibby is still
trying to determine who was.''
In the notes, Keyes gives the Twain source as "Mark Twain's Own
Autobiography", Madison, WI 1924, 1990, p.185.
The 1896 source is "Journal of the Royal Statistical Society"
59:38-118, on page 87.
Bibby's work was privately published in Edinburgh (1983, 1986)
under the title "Quotes, Damned Quotes, and..."

"Respectfully Quoted" mentions an attribution to Holloway H. Frost
next to some of the those mentioned above, and has the following
amusing piece on the quotation:--

The quotation, or a variation, seems to be known internationally.
When a Russian citizen was interviewed, following the death of
Chernenko, he began by saying, ``As one of your writers said, `There
are three kinds of lie: a small lie, a big lie and politics.''' --
"Time", March 23, 1985, p. 21.

The shoulders of giants
+-+ +-------+ ++ +----+

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of
Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Letter to Robert Hooke, 5 February 1676
in H. W. Turnbull (ed.) "Correspondence of Isaac Newton"
vol. 1 (1959) p. 416

Earlier uses are well known:--

A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a
giant himself.
Robert Burton (1577-1640)
"The Anatomy of Melancholy" (1621-1651)
``Democritus to the Reader''

A dwarf on a giant's shoulders sees farther of the two.
George Herbert (1593-1633)
"Jacula Prudentum" (1651)

It was proverbial by then. "Oxford" gives something earlier yet:--

Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the
shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a
greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness on sight on our part,
or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised
up by their giant size.
Bernard of Chartres (d. c.1130)
John of Salisbury "Metalogicon" (1159) bk. 3, ch. 4


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