Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Quote Me

The mental equivalent of an itch you can't scratch is a quote you can't place.

Worse yet, a quote you can't remember.

I had one of those running through my head on Sunday. Something about "though much is . . . something . . . much remains."

This is why Google was invented, of course. Only Google is not very helpful when you can't remember the quote. I turned up a handful of vague references of other people who couldn't quite remember the quote either. Just enough to learn that the quote was from a poem by Tennyson and the missing word was "taken."

Well, that ought to have helped, except that Tennyson wrote an awful lot of poems and I had to get lunch on and didn't have time to go through the Complete Works. A search of those complete works turned up nothing.

This suggested that I had the wrong words, but if I didn't have the right words, I couldn't well search for it, could I? The only word I was quite sure of was "much" and that doesn't narrow things down very far.

I kept muddling down for awhile until I discovered the poem was about Ulysses, and finally I found the poem itself. It wasn't remains, it was abides, and "though" isn't spelled out. And Ulysses is exhorting his comrades to achieve even in old age.

Come, my friends,
Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

These musings on age have, of course, absolutely nothing to do with turning thirty in six weeks. It was just a random quote.

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