4MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

(I should just have a Kipling Corner but, anyway, here is a poem he wrote for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  And you could tell that he knew that sitting at the summit of the British Empire’s power the coming fall would be calamitous.  Looking at where things are now it is just as timely today as it was in 1897).



By Rudyard Kipling (1897)


God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awful Hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!


The tumult and the shouting dies;

The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!


Far-called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!


If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

Or lesser breeds without the Law—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!


For heathen heart that puts her trust

In reeking tube and iron shard,

All valiant dust that builds on dust,

And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,

For frantic boast and foolish word—

Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!


3MAR2018 – Quote of the Day


(Let’s continue the Herodotus theme.  In my history class in fifth grade we learnt that Vasco da Gama was the first man to circumnavigate Africa.  But apparently the Phoenicians were contracted by the Egyptians to prove that there was a sea route around Africa (or as the Greeks called it Libya).  And this was over 2,500 years ago.  It’s also interesting to see what mistaken views Herodotus had about the comparative sizes of Asia, Africa and Europe.)


Herodotus, The Histories. 4.42

I wonder, then, at those who have mapped out and divided the world into Libya, Asia, and Europe; for the difference between them is great, seeing that in length Europe stretches along both the others together, and it appears to me to be wider beyond all comparison. [2] For Libya shows clearly that it is bounded by the sea, except where it borders on Asia. Necos king of Egypt first discovered this and made it known. When he had finished digging the canal which leads from the Nile to the Arabian Gulf, he sent Phoenicians in ships, instructing them to sail on their return voyage past the Pillars of Heracles until they came into the northern sea and so to Egypt. [3] So the Phoenicians set out from the Red Sea and sailed the southern sea; whenever autumn came they would put in and plant the land in whatever part of Libya they had reached, and there await the harvest; [4] then, having gathered the crop, they sailed on, so that after two years had passed, it was in the third that they rounded the pillars of Heracles and came to Egypt. There they said (what some may believe, though I do not) that in sailing around Libya they had the sun on their right hand.22 43.


1MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

Herodotus – Polycrates and the Curse of Too Much Good Luck

I actually believe in this myself.  I have always been blessed with extraordinary good luck.  By this I mean I have almost entirely avoided serious misfortune in my life.  My strongly held belief is that when this lucky streak ends it’s going to be a seismic event.  C’est la vie.

Now Pharaoh Amasis was somehow aware of Polycrates’ great good fortune; and as this continued to increase greatly, he wrote this letter and sent it to Samos: “Amasis addresses Polycrates as follows. [2] It is pleasant to learn that a friend and ally is doing well. But I do not like these great successes of yours; for I know the gods, how jealous they are, and I desire somehow that both I and those for whom I care succeed in some affairs, fail in others, and thus pass life faring differently by turns, rather than succeed at everything. [3] For from all I have heard I know of no man whom continual good fortune did not bring in the end to evil, and utter destruction. Therefore if you will be ruled by me do this regarding your successes: [4] consider what you hold most precious and what you will be sorriest to lose, and cast it away so that it shall never again be seen among men; then, if after this the successes that come to you are not mixed with mischances, strive to mend the matter as I have counselled you.” 41.

Reading this, and perceiving that Amasis’ advice was good, Polycrates considered which of his treasures it would most grieve his soul to lose, and came to this conclusion: he wore a seal set in gold, an emerald, crafted by Theodorus son of Telecles of Samos; [2] being resolved to cast this away, he embarked in a fifty-oared ship with its crew, and told them to put out to sea; and when he was far from the island, he took off the seal-ring in sight of all that were on the ship and cast it into the sea. This done, he sailed back and went to his house, where he grieved for the loss. 42.

But on the fifth or sixth day from this it happened that a fisherman, who had taken a fine and great fish, and desired to make a gift of it to Polycrates, brought it to the door and said that he wished to see Polycrates. This being granted, he gave the fish, saying: [2] “O King, when I caught this fish, I thought best not to take it to market, although I am a man who lives by his hands, but it seemed to me worthy of you and your greatness; and so I bring and offer it to you.” Polycrates was pleased with what the fisherman said; “You have done very well,” he answered, “and I give you double thanks, for your words and for the gift; and I invite you to dine with me.” [3] Proud of this honor, the fisherman went home; but the servants, cutting up the fish, found in its belly Polycrates’ seal-ring. [4] As soon as they saw and seized it, they brought it with joy to Polycrates, and giving the ring to him told him how it had been found. Polycrates saw the hand of heaven in this matter; he wrote a letter and sent it to Egypt, telling all that he had done, and what had happened to him. 43.

When Amasis had read Polycrates’ letter, he perceived that no man could save another from his destiny, and that Polycrates, being so continually fortunate that he even found what he cast away, must come to an evil end. [2] So he sent a herald to Samos to renounce his friendship, determined that when some great and terrible mischance overtook Polycrates he himself might not have to sadden his heart for a friend. 44.

27FEB2018 – Quote of the Day

Another Kipling gem that shouldn’t be excerpted.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.” 

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!


23FEB2018 – Quote of the Day

To some the sentiment of this poem may seem overblown.  But if you read about the poet’s life you may feel as I do that it was justified.




Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.