Sunday, February 14, 2010

Who said it II

Last April we played Who said it?, and I couldn't wait a whole year to play it again. My rules are, as almost always with trivia or the like, that I have to find it in my own library. It is hoped that they are "interesting" (see below as to the reasons for the quotations). At least they are to me. This really isn't a trivia contest (although you might want to take a guess), because it would be very odd indeed if you knew many if any of these quotes. What it really is, what most of these trivia like posts are, is just my personal celebration of the only material things I own that I have a personal connection with - my books. I love to peruse through them, finding stickies in them, notes I took or just things I loved and have forgotten. I put the answer right below them, so you don't have to jump back and forth.

1. Again and again the angry monsters made fierce attacks. I served them well with my noble blade, as was only fitting. Small pleasure they had in such a sword-feast, dark things in the sea that meant to eat me, sit round their banquet on the deep sea-floor. Instead, in the morning, they lay on the beach, asleep from my sword, the tide-marks bloodied from their deep gashes, and never again did they trouble the passage of seafaring men across the ocean. (Hint, this one is the only quote from literature, but, historically, a very important work).

This is from Beowulf, the oldest epic poem, still existing, which we have in some form of Old English (I tried to read it. Few words are recognizable in modern English), and certainly near the top of my list of favorite of pre-modern epics or sagas, if not the top. This is from a scene much less famous than the battles with Grendel, his mother or the dragon. The mighty Beowulf is simply engaged in a friendly swimming contest that went on for days. He lost, but only because he was rather busy fighting monsters along the way.

2. At present every coachman and every waiter argues about whether or not the relativity theory is correct. A person's conviction on this point depends on the political party he belongs to.

This is from Albert Einstein's pen. It reminds me much of the current debate over global warming. What you read, who you give credence to, etc., seems so much to depend on whether one is more or less on the right or the left. Apparently, this is nothing new. Of course, now we know that relativity theory is correct as, without it, the gps in your cell phone and other devices would not work.

3. I find the public passion for justice quite boring and artificial, for neither life nor nature cares if justice is ever done or not.

This is from the snarly mystery writer, Patricia Highsmith, creator of Ripley. If nothing else, she said what she thought.

4. According to the reports sent to me, it appears that, thanks to the firmness of decision and courage which you showed, exposing your own person, the attempted high treason was crushed. You have saved the German people from grave danger, I am obliged to express to you my profound thanks and recognition.

From the president of Germany, Paul von Hindenberg, to Adolph Hitler, after the Night of the Long Knives. The hero of WWI, his role in Hitler's rise is disappointing to say the least, but he was already lapsing in and out of senility, and mistook Hitler on the day he died for the Kaiser.

5. These men could shave a horse's main (sic), paint, disfigure and offer for him for sale to the owner in the very act of inquiring for his own horse . . . they could hoop up in a hogshead a drunken man, they themselves being drunk, put in and nail down the head, and roll the man down New Salem Hill a hundred feet or more. They could run down a lean, hungry wild pig, catch it, heat a ten-plate stove furnace hot, and putting in the pig, could cook it, they dancing the while a merry jig.

A description by Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon, of the men of the West. He was complimenting them.

6. The course that we have chosen will require wisdom and endurance. But let no one doubt for a moment that we have the resources and we have the will to follow this course as long as it may take. No one should think for a moment that we will be worn down, nor will we be driven out, and we will not be provoked into rashness. But we will continue to meet aggression with firmness and unprovoked attack with measured reply.

Or not. This was a speech by LBJ on the Vietnam conflict. At least, for his part, he meant it, and we were there long after he left office.

7. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not violated but with his wrath.

A curious conflicting statement by Thomas Jefferson, who's greatest credit was his championing of religious freedom.

8. The inhabitants live upon flesh, rice, and milk. They have no wine made from grapes, but prepare it from rice and a mixture of spices. Both men and women have their bodies entirely decorated with needle markings, in figures of beasts and birds; and there are among them specialists whose sole employment is to execute these ornaments upon the hands, legs and breast. When a black coloring stuff has been rubbed into these punctures, it is impossible to efface the marks by water or otherwise. The man or woman who exhibits the greatest profusion of these figures is esteemed the most attractive.

Would you believe Marco Polo on tatooing in old China? There is, indeed, nothing new under the sun.

9. I thoroughly disapprove of duels. I consider them unwise and I know they are dangerous. Also, sinful. If a man should challenge me now I would go to that man and take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet spot and kill him.

Mark Twain ranks number 2 to me as the greatest American writer, and number 1 as a true author. I imagine many scholars would agree with me. I find in perusing his gems, you can find the answers to many of life's problems.

10.The more I see of the Czar, the Kaiser, and the Mikado the better I am content with democracy, even if we have to include the American newspaper as one of its assets.

Not bad for a president. That's Teddy Roosevelt, frustrated in his role as a peace maker. I hope and think he was joking.

11. I'd heard about what series are like, but I really didn't know how it would be. It was quite a shock. In this medium, you perform, everyone performs. There's no such thing as a real moment, an honest reaction, because the show is like a cartoon. You're not acting. Not the way I studied it.

From the mouth of the enchanting Ginger, aka, Tina Louise, the bathing beauty of Gilligan's Island. She wasn't much liked on the show and refused to participate in Returns to . . . As to the question, Ginger or Mary Ann, MA wins hands down.

12. I shall stand or fall in this struggle. I shall never survive the defeat of my people. There will be no capitulation to the powers outside, no revolution by the forces within.

Hitler himself, as the end neared. For a second, he sounded a little Churchillian, didn't he?

13. And what of our children, noble testament to our sacred union, fruit of our deep and enduring love; what manner of mercy is it that would slay their adored father, and deliver up their devoted mother to everlasting emptiness? Know then, you warped, gross, eaters of dust, you abominations upon this beauteous earth, I should rather embrace my husband in death than live on ingloriously upon your execrable bounty.

Ethel Rosenberg, possibly a Soviet spy (her husband Julius was certainly) reacting to hints that she might be spared (as were the other atomic spies in her circle) and that only her husband would be slayed. Betrayed by her own family, her story is still moving, even if you deem her a villain, and it is a touching love story at that.

14. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. Their is grandeur in this rule of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

So ends Darwin's The Origin of Species. He would be greatly surprised at criticism of his theory as a form of atheism.

15. Interesting. An unconvincing word; avoid it as a means of introduction. Instead of announcing that what you are about to tell is interesting, make it so.

I love Strunk and White's Elements of Style. It doesn't take long to read and is probably a good idea every once in a while. It certainly is interesting.

16. Among the Jews there are three schools of thought, whose adherents are called Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes respectively. The Essenes profess a severer discipline: they are Jews by birth and are peculiarly attached to each other. They escew pleasure-seeking as a vice and regard temperance and mastery of the passions as virtue. Scorning wedlock, they select other men's children while still pliable and teachable, and fashion them after their own pattern - not that they wish to do away with marriage as a means of continuing the race, but they are afraid of the promiscuity of women and convinced that none of the sex remains faithful to one man.

The works of Josephus are just riveting. Perhaps we owe more to him for our knowledge of the first century than anyone else. Certainly, his offhand mention of James, brother of Jesus who is called Messiah (which I believe was a genuine reference, unlike some other later insertions) is our best evidence of Jesus' existence.

17. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner at the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlorien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there. Far away I knew there were the Horse-lords on the confines of an ancient Kingdom of Men, but Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure. I had never heard of the House of Eorl nor of the Stewards of Gondor. Most disquieting of all, Saruman had never been revealed to me, and I was as mystified as Frodo at Gandalf’s failure to appear on September 22. . . .

If you can't figure that one out, you are just an idiot. But, it's from one of Tolkien's letters, which are the best guide as to how he created his own little imaginary middle-earth.

18. My heart skipped within me, thinking they had been English men at the first sight of them, for they were dressed in English apparel, with hats, white neckcloths, and sashes about their waists, and ribbons upon their shoulders.: but when they came near, there was a vast difference between the lovely faces of Christians, and the foul looks of these heathens.

Mary Rowlandson was taken by Indians during King Philip's War (17th century) and saw her own daughter die. She was finally ransomed and restored to her husband. Her tale of captivity (short and you can find it online) was a huge best seller in its day. It is hard not to feel her disappointment in thinking she is about to be rescued by friends only to be quickly dragged back to reality.

19. My understanding is covered with sores. There is no physician to heal me. I have waited for someone to pity me, but found no comforters. from Adam to this day I have surpassed all sinners. Bestial and corrupt, I have defiled my mind by a liking for unworthy things, my mouth by words of murder, lewdness and otehr foul acts, my tongue by self-praise, my throat and chest by pride and arrogance, my hands by indecent contacts, by theft and assassination, my loins by monstrous lechery, girding them up for every possible evil deeed, and my feet by hastening to commit murder and plunder.

From the self drawn will of Ivan the Terrible. If you don't find that interesting (sorry, Mssrs. Strunk and White) we have little in common.

20. We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold, gray day, teached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon and on the leaves of the shrub oaks on the hillside, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air alsso was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradis of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenom, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever, and infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.

Oh, to have a fraction of Henry David Thoreau's talent . . . that would be something. He is perhaps tied for second on my list of great American writers and tied for number 2 or number 3 among actual authors. You could open a collection of his works at random and come up on any page, almost every paragraph with as evocative a drawing. I can't read a line of his without thinking "wow".


  1. Some great choices, Frodo. Your enthusiasm infects this posting. Made me want to leave work and run home to my library. Bravo.

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  3. Then to the bookcave, Caped Crusader. For the record, although naturally I'm partial to my own collection, Bear has my second favorite private library, and he takes much better care of his books than I. You don't even need to really bring a book with you when you visit as there is plenty to read.

  4. Very interesting. Also makes me want to back and do some re-reading.

  5. OMG. I think my life's work is accomplished. I've inspired a couple of guys who already read ten times more than the average guy to . . . um . . . read some more. You have to savor the small accomplishments though. There all you might get.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .