December 29, 2017

“Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”


On December 29, 1890, U.S. Seventh Cavalry troopers gunned down more than 200 Lakota Indians — including men, women and children — at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The Army initially called it “The Battle of Wounded Knee.”

In truth, it wasn’t a battle.

Today, it’s generally called what it really was — the Wounded Knee Massacre.

The famous quote that’s now associated with this tragic event is “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”

But those words were not originally written with the infamous massacre in mind.

They come from the poem “American Names,” written by American poet Stephen Vincent Benét and first published in the October 1927 issue of the Yale Review.

Benét’s poem is a patriotic ode expressing his love for American place names.

As he explained in the first verse:

        “I have fallen in love with American names,
       The sharp names that never get fat,
       The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,
       The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,
       Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.”

Books of quotations often include this first verse from “American Names” and the final verse, which contains the famous line about Wounded Knee.

They usually omit the fourth verse, which blithely drops the N-word:

       “I will fall in love with a Salem tree
       And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz,
       I will get me a bottle of Boston sea
       And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues.
       I am tired of loving a foreign muse.”

Benét’s seemingly nostalgic use of the old racial slur “blue-gum nigger” and other lines in the poem indicate that he was enamored with the romantic sound of many American place names and was oblivious to (or didn't care about) any potential negative connotations they might have.

The poem’s mention of Wounded Knee is simply as one of those good old American place names, which Benét deems superior to “foreign” names.

In the last verse he suggests that the spirits of American soldiers killed in Europe during the First World War could not find peace in their burial grounds over there.

Speaking in the voice of a dead American soldier, Benét ended the poem with these lines:

        “I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
       I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
       You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
       You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
       I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
       Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”

It was long after the publication of “American Names” that its final line became associated with the Wounded Knee massacre.

That literary connection was made in 1970, when American historian and novelist Dee Brown used Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as the title of a groundbreaking book that tells the history of the American West from the Indians’ perspective.

Buffy Sainte-Marie singingAfter the publication of Brown’s book, the phrase “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee” became forever linked to the massacre that took place at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890.

It has also been used to poetically encapsulate a broader sense of loss, sadness and outrage over the historic mistreatment Indians in North America.

Perhaps the most poignant use was by the great Canadian Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie.

In 1990, she wrote a song titled “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” which comments on the continuing abuse of Indians and Indian rights by governments and big corporations.

The chorus goes:

      “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
       Deep in the earth
       Cover me with pretty lies
       Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”

You can read the full lyrics of Buffy’s deeply emotional song here and see a video of her performing it live by clicking this link or the photo of her at right.

“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” was originally on her album Coincidence and Likely Stories (1992) and is also included on her compilation album Up Where We Belong (1996).

I think it’s one of the greatest protest songs ever written, by one of the greatest of the many great singer/songwriters who started out in the 1960s folk music scene.

I understand that Stephen Vincent Benét is considered to be a great poet and that many people like his poem “American Names.”

Personally, I am moved far more by Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and by Dee Brown’s book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

If you listen to that song and read that book, or watch the HBO adaptation of the book, you will have a better understanding why some people view Benét’s gushingly patriotic poem as “pretty lies.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related reading, viewing and listening…

December 24, 2017

“Silent Night” – the origin and evolving words of the famous Christmas carol...


In 1818, during the annual Christmas Midnight Mass at the St. Nicholas Church at Oberndorf, Austria, the song we know as “Silent Night! Holy Night!” (or just “Silent Night”) was performed in public for the first time.

Most sources say this happened on Christmas Eve, the night of December 24, 1818, though some say it was after midnight on December 25.

The lyrics of the song were written in German by Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), an Austrian Catholic priest who sang tenor during the song’s debut.

The church organist, Franz Gruber (1787-1863), wrote the music.

During that first performance of the song, Gruber accompanied Mohr and the choir on guitar. According to legend, he played a guitar because a mouse had chewed on and damaged the bellows of the church organ.

The original German title of the song — “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!” — is taken from the opening line of the first verse:

      “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
       Alles schläft; einsam wacht
       Nur das traute heilige Paar.
       Holder Knab im lockigten Haar,
       Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
       Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!”

Today, the familiar English version of this first verse that most of us know is:

      “Silent night! Holy night!
       All is calm, all is bright.
       Round yon virgin mother and child,
       Holy infant so tender and mild.
       Sleep in heavenly peace,
       Sleep in heavenly peace.”

However, it wasn’t until the 20th Century that this version became standard. And, although it’s the only one most people are aware of today, there have actually been many different English translations.

A literal English translation of the German words of the first verse is something like this:

      “Silent night! Holy night!
       All are sleeping, alone and awake
       Only the intimate holy pair,
       Lovely boy with curly hair,
       Sleep in heavenly peace!
       Sleep in heavenly peace!”

The most famous English version of the song was written by American Episcopal Bishop John Freeman Young (1820-1885) and first published in 1859.

Young made up his own words for the middle part of the first verse and for most of the other two verses (of the original six) that he “translated.”

His English adaptation became the one that’s best known. But it wasn’t the first.

According to the authoritative, amazingly detailed history of the song on The Hymns and Carols of Christmas site, an American named J. F. Warner created what is believed to be the oldest English version of Mohr’s German lyrics in 1849.

Warner titled the song “Silent Night! Hallowed Night!”

That makes sense since “hallowed” is one of the possible translations of the German word Heilige. (It can also be translated as awed, blessed, devout, righteous, sacred, saintly, solemn — or holy.)

Warner’s lyrics for the rest of the first verse (and other verses) are, if anything, even more creative “translations” than Young’s.

He started his version of the song this way:

      “Silent night! halllow’d night!
       Land and deep silent sleep,
       Softly glitters bright Bethlehem’s star,
       Beck’ning Israel’s eye from afar,
       Where the Saviour is born,
       Where the Saviour is born.”

Another early English translation that preceded Young’s was written in 1858 by Emily E.S. Elliott. She titled her version of the song “Stilly Night, Holy Night.” Elliott’s lyrics also bear little relation to the original German.

Since then, twenty or so other English versions of “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!” have been created, each with its own unique lyrics.

But at some unknown turning point in the 20th Century, for some unknown reason, Rev. Young’s became the standard.

There’s a good chance you’ve been hearing — and possibly singing — his words this Holiday season.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Everything Else from ThisDayinQuotes.com!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related listening and reading…


December 17, 2017

“Strange but true” — there are quotes by Lord Byron you probably didn’t know you knew…



Although Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron) is one of the most famous of all English poets, few of us can recite a lot of lines from his poems.

Thanks to some popular modern biographies, Ken's Russell's movie Gothic (1986), the BBC drama Byron (2003), and other movies and TV shows, many people are aware that Byron had an outrageously wild personal life.

It was a life crammed full of sex (including affairs with both male and female lovers and probably his own sister), drugs (opium in particular) and rocky relations with the British Establishment, which he repeatedly poked in the eye with his scandalous lifestyle and radical liberal politics)

As memorably summed up by one of his many lovers, Lady Caroline Lamb, Byron was “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”

In fact, I’d guess more people are familiar with Byron’s proto-rock ‘n’ roll star reputation than his poetry.

There are some lines from Byron poems which are familiar to almost everyone.

The best-known is “She walks in beauty, like the night,” the opening words of his poem “She Walks in Beauty” (published in 1815).

Another bit of verse written by Byron popularized two idiomatic expressions you undoubtedly know and have probably used, though you may not know they come from one of his poems.

On December 17, 1823, Cantos XII, XIII and XIV of Byron’s epic satirical poem Don Juan were first published.

Canto XIV contains the lines:

“‘Tis strange — but true; for Truth is always strange;
       Stranger than fiction.”

Those words by Byron are generally credited as the origin of the sayings “strange but true” and “truth is stranger than fiction.”

So, while few people know it, they are paraphrasing a quotation by Byron when they use those phrases — both of which could aptly be applied to aspects of Byron’s personal life.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related reading and viewing…

December 11, 2017

“Greed is good!” – the famous movie misquote and it’s real life inspiration

Michael Douglas Greed is Good Wall Street (1987)


On December 11, 1987 Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street was released in U.S. theaters.

The movie stars Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, a mega-rich, ethically-challenged Wall Street investor who specializes in corporate takeover schemes.

Gekko has no pangs about taking over, gutting, and reselling companies regardless of the impacts on employees and local communities.

In fact, he’s proud of his takeover record, as he explains in the memorable speech he gives that includes the line usually misquoted as “Greed is good,” a shortened version of what Douglas actually says.

That now familiar saying is partly based on an actual speech given by the real-life Wall Street investor and money manipulator Ivan Boesky.

On May 18, 1986, Boesky gave the commencement address at the UC Berkeley’s School of Business Administration.

At the time, Boesky was a widely admired financial wizard who was riding high.

One of the things he told the students was this proto-Gekko quote.

     “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

Boesky was feeling a tad less good the following year, when he was convicted of filing false trading records and sentenced to three years in prison, after also paying a record $100 million to settle a conviction for insider trading.

Boesky’s rise and fall and his infamous Berkeley quote were part of Oliver Stone’s inspiration for Wall Street.

Gekko clearly echoes Boesky in the scene in which he calls greed good.

Ivan Boesky, Greed is all rightIn that scene, he’s speaking to a meeting of shareholders of the company Teldar Paper, which he wants to take over.

To encourage them to approve his takeover big, he tells them he has studied the company and found that the current management is wasting money and shortchanging shareholders.

Then he says:

“I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you.”

The Teldar shareholders like what Gekko says and give him a standing ovation.

And, despite the fact that Gekko is a slimy character who is ultimately goes to prison for insider trading involving another company, and despite the financial scandals and meltdowns that happened before and after Wall Street was released, there are many people who like and essentially agree with the philosophy he expresses in that speech.

It’s fits the Ayn Randian “enlightened self-interest” creed of hard core advocates of business and opponents of “over-regulation” – a subset of people who have increasingly dominated American politics.

The end of Wall Street is somewhat uplifting. Gekko goes to jail and Bud Fox, the young protégé who initially helped him in a crooked takeover scheme (played by Charlie Sheen), blows the whistle on Gordon and redeems himself.

If Gekko existed in real life, he’d probably view the current push to reduce the regulation of businesses and financial markets as uplifting.

Indeed, events of the past few years might remind many people of something else Gordon Gekko says in Wall Street

He explains to Charlie Sheen’s character:

“The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars...We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naive enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you buddy?”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related viewing and reading…

November 23, 2017

“He who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”


In the 1630s, England’s infamous “Star Chamber” (sort of a politically-oriented version of the Spanish Inquisition) banned the printing or sale of “any seditious, scismaticall, or offensive Bookes or Pamphlets.”

The Star Chamber was abolished in 1641.

But two years later, the British House of Commons passed a new censorship law.

Although it was called a book “licensing” law, it was more about limiting free speech and creating publishing monopolies for politically-connected publishers than it was about protecting the rights of authors (or readers).

Books deemed to be in violation of the “Licensing Order of 1643” were seized and destroyed. And, the writers, printers and publishers of those books faced prison sentences.

This angered England’s great poet John Milton and inspired him to write a “speech” urging more liberal publishing laws.

The full title of the printed version was Areopagitica; A Speech of Mr. John Milton For the Liberty of Unlicens’d Printing, To the Parlament of England. (The complete text is online here.)

Now generally referred to as Areopagitica for short, it was first published, in pamphlet form, on November 23, 1644.

Milton’s Areopagitica is among the most famous historical documents advocating freedom of the press ever written. (The title alludes to the ancient Greek judges of Areopagus.)

One line in it is still frequently quoted today and included in many books of quotations:

“As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”

Milton’s eloquent words failed to persuade Parliament to change its book “licensing” and censorship regulations. They remained in effect until 1694, 20 years after Milton’s death.

Of course, in the centuries since then, censorship of books has significantly and steadily decreased, at least in the United Kingdom, the United States and other Western democracies.

But even in those countries efforts to ban books from public libraries has continued.

For example, during the first decade of the 21st Century, the American Library Association documented more than 4,000 attempts to have various book removed from local libraries here in the US.

Some modern self-appointed censors want to ban books that conflict with their religious or political views. Some want to block access to books they deem “pornographic.”

Other reasons given for requesting books to be banned from American libraries in recent years include things like sexism, “anti-family” content and uses of the N-word, one of the common complaints lodged against Mark Twain’s classic novel Huckleberry Finn.

In fact, the targets of people and groups who want to ban books at their local libraries include many major literary classics, such as: 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1984 by George Orwell
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild by Jack London

You can read a longer list of examples on the “Banned & Challenged Classics” page of the ALA’s website.

If John Milton were still around to see that list, I’m pretty sure it he be angered again.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related reading…

November 05, 2017

“Spare the rod and spoil the child”


It’s not surprising that many people think the quote “Spare the rod and spoil the child” comes from the Bible.

There are at least five verses in the Bible’s Book of Proverbs that talk about using a rod to beat a child — for his own good, of course.

The most famous is Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

An even scarier piece of parenting advice is in Proverbs 23:13-14. It says: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. / Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

However, although the saying “spare the rod and spoil the child” was clearly inspired by these Biblical verses, it does not appear in the Bible.

It comes from the epic-length 17th-century poem ”Hudibras”, written by Samuel Butler (1612-1680), a cheeky British poet who enjoyed mocking religious extremists and hypocrites.

Butler’s epic satire follows the trials and tribulations of a character named Sir Hudibras.

Initially, the poem describes Hudibras as a noble and pious knight.

But during the course of the story he is shown to be a buffoonish poseur and nitwit.

Butler published Hudibras in three parts, in 1663, 1664 and 1678. The famous “spare the rod” quote comes in Part II, which was entered into the Stationer’s Registry (Britain’s early version of a copyright office) on November 5, 1663.

At the end of Part I, Sir Hudibras is put in prison after getting into a fracas with a group of locals who were watching a bear baiting “entertainment.”

In Part Two, a widow Hudibras had been wooing comes to visit him in jail and says she’ll get him out if he’ll prove he truly loves her.

When he tries to profess his love, she quickly rejects flowery words as the kind of proof she wants:

       “Hold, hold, quoth she; no more of this,
       Sir Knight; you take your aim amiss:
       For you will find it a hard chapter                         
       To catch me with poetic rapture.”

The widow then suggests that Hudibras could prove his love by attempting suicide. For example, she says, if he tried to hang himself she would believe him and cut him down before he died.

Hudibras thinks that option sounds a bit “too harsh.”

So, the widow suggests that Hudibras could prove his love by whipping himself or by letting her whip him. She then explains the benefits of the “virtuous school of lashing.”

Near the end of her spiel on the joys of the whip, the widow utters the famous “spare the rod” quotation:

       “If matrimony and hanging go
       By dest’ny, why not whipping too?                           
       What med’cine else can cure the fits
       Of lovers when they lose their wits?
      
Love is a boy by poets stil’d;
       Then spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Hudibras promises to enroll in the “school of lashing” if the widow gets him released.

She does. But then Hudibras reneges on his promise, a betrayal that sets up the plot of Part III of the poem, in which Hudibras gets his final comeuppance.

Samuel Butler was almost certainly thinking of the Biblical verses about rods and children when he wrote his own famous line about them.

When read or heard out of context, it may seem like Butler’s “spare the rod and spoil the child” quote has a meaning similar to the Bible verses — i.e., parents should discipline their children with physical punishment if they want them to turn out “right” and keep them from becoming spoiled brats or worse.

But what Butler implied in between the lines of his satiric verse is a bit more bawdy than Biblical.

The obvious theory, given the scene it’s used, in is that it refers to sexual fetishes involving spanking, whipping and a dominatrix.

Another theory is that it’s a reference to an old bit of sexual folklore about how to “spoil” — and thus prevent — a woman from becoming pregnant.

One thing is certain: what Samuel Butler was talking about in that part of his poem Hudibras is a bit different than what the pious authors of the Book of Proverbs had in mind.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page or send me an email.

Related reading…

October 11, 2017

“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” (and finger-eating wolverines)


On October 11, 1975, at 11:30pm Eastern Time, a new TV comedy show debuted on the NBC network.

It opened with a wacky skit featuring three comic actors who were virtually unknown at the time.

In the skit, a frumpy-looking East European immigrant with a heavy accent is being tutored on how to speak proper English by a well-dressed teacher.

They are sitting in comfortable chairs next to each other in a small room.

The teacher starts a repeat-after-me type lesson with an unusual language exercise about wolverines…

       TEACHER: “Let us begin. Repeat after me. I would like...”

       IMMIGRANT: (With a noticeable accent.) “I wude like...”

       TEACHER: “...to feed your fingertips...”

       IMMIGRANT: “...to feed yur fingerteeps...”

       TEACHER: “...to the wolverines.”

       IMMIGRANT: “...to de woolvur-eenes.”

After a couple more odd exercises about wolverines and badgers (or, “woolvur-eenes” and “bed-jurs” as the immigrant pronounces them), the teacher suddenly gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the floor, apparently dead from a heart attack.

The European immigrant looks confused for a moment.

Then he gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the floor, copying the professor.

Next, a Stage Manager walks into the scene, smiles into the camera and says, for the very first time, what would soon be a well-known line:

       “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

The three not-yet-famous comedians in the skit were: John Belushi a former Second City improv performer who went on to become one of the most beloved comic actors in the world prior to his tragic death in 1982 from an apparent drug overdose; Michael O'Donoghue, a former National Lampoon magazine writer picked as head writer for the new show (who died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1994 at age 54); and, the fortunately still living comic legend, Chevy Chase, who was best known at the time as a cast member of the National Lampoon Radio Hour.

All three were among the amazingly talented group of original cast members of the show, which was officially titled NBC’s Saturday Night when it started airing in 1975, but soon came to be called Saturday Night Live, or SNL for short.

The revolving, evolving group of comic actors who performed comedy sketches on NBC’s new Saturday Night series were collectively dubbed the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”

The voice heard after Chevy Chase on the historic first episode was that of longtime television show announcer Don Pardo, reading the names of the performers who would be appearing (a function he continued on SNL until his death in August 2014). The first host was my favorite curmudgeon, the great George Carlin (1937-2008).

I was watching the premiere of SNL that night and watched the show almost every weekend for nearly 20 years. Nowadays, I record the show on DVR and watch the opening long enough to hear the famed line “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

I check out who the guest host and musical guest will be. Then I usually fast forward a lot, though skits that rarely strike me as funny as anything done by the early “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” I often have no idea who the guest hosts or musical performers are and don’t understand most of the jokes that include current pop culture references.

Yep, I’m nearly as old as John Belushi would have been if he’d survived his oversized lust for life and I’m nearly as much of a curmudgeon as George Carlin. I miss them both.

Of course, there are some things I do like about the modern world. For example, I can now rewatch old episodes of Saturday Night Live any time I want as streaming video on my iPad.

And whenever I get nostalgic and rewatch the opening skit that turned the lines “I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines” and “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night” into catchphrases, it still cracks me up.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my quotations Facebook group.

Related viewing, reading and listening…

Copyrights, Disclaimers & Privacy Policy


Copyright © Subtropic Productions LLC

All original text written for the This Day in Quotes quotations blog is copyrighted by the Subtropic Productions LLC and may not be used without permission, except for short "fair use" excerpts or quotes which, if used, must be attributed to ThisDayinQuotes.com and, if online, must include a link to http://www.ThisDayinQuotes.com/.

To the best of our knowledge, the non-original content posted here is used in a way that is allowed under the fair use doctrine. If you own the copyright to something posted here and believe we may have violated fair use standards, please let us know.

Subtropic Productions LLC and ThisDayinQuotes.com is committed to protecting your privacy. For more details, read this blog's full Privacy Policy.