When I talked to my father about all the things I've done to set up this blog, I faltered in one of my descriptions because I wasn't sure of a technical term.
"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," I told him.
"Isn't it 'a little learning,' not 'a little knowledge?'" he asked.
Well, of course that gave me a chance to grab Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and look up the real thing. Here it is, from Alexander Pope (1688-1744):
"A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring;
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again."
That's from his "Essay on Criticism." I need to take its advice and read the whole thing -- it's been years since I read much Pope.
(The Pierian spring, you ask? I had to go to my Webster's dictionary for that, but it's named after the district in Thessaly called Pieria. In Greek mythology, Pierides referred to the muses.)
So, as I drink deeply from the spring of my Bartlett's, I'm finding many quotations in their original form -- sadly, less familiar than they ought to be. Allow me to introduce you to some of the best:
There usually are words missing from this gem by William Ross Wallace (1819-1881):
"The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."
I've often seen this proverb by the ever-prolific Anonymous using "would," not "might," but here's how Bartlett's said it was "from John Ray's 'English Proverbs' (1670):"
"If wishes were horses, beggars might ride."
I remember a rock band called Blood, Sweat and Tears. It seems they got their name by misquoting Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965). Bartlett's cites his first statement as Britain's prime minister in 1940 as follows:
"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
That's all for now... except for a gem from William Shakespeare (1564-1616) which often gets its verbs mangled and its spelling "updated." Here it is:
"Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow."
Not "tomorrow and tomorrow" but today -- type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
Filed under: Browsing through Bartlett's