“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 … Read more

“We must love one another or die.”

September 1, 1939 is now known as the day when World War II started. On that day, Germany’s Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler ordered his military forces to invade neighboring Poland. He claimed it was an act of self defense, necessary to protect German citizens and the territorial rights of Germany. “Germans in Poland are persecuted … Read more

“The shot heard round the world”

The famous phrase “The shot heard round the world” was coined by American essayist, lecturer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) in 1837. It’s the last line in the first verse of his poem “Hymn: Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument,” generally referred to as “The Concord Hymn.” Emerson wrote the poem for … Read more

“Only God can make a tree.” But Joyce Kilmer’s poem inspired many people to plant and preserve them…

On a chilly winter afternoon in 1913, at his home in New Jersey, poet Joyce Kilmer jotted down the first two lines of a new poem in his notebook, along with the date — February 2, 1913. Those two lines went on to become among the most famous, most inspiring and most mocked bits of … Read more

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”

Three years after Jack Kerouac coined the term “The Beat Generation” a group of Beat poets gathered at the Six Gallery on Fillmore Street in San Francisco for a poetry reading. The date was October 7, 1955 and Kerouac was there. So were local Beat celebrities Gary Snyder, Phil Lamantia, Michael McClure and a then … Read more

“Prose = words in their best order; — poetry = the best words in the best order.”

Most of the best-known quotes by the British poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge come from his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) and Kubla Khan (1816). But one of his most famous quotations is not something he wrote. It’s a remark he made in a conversation that was jotted down by his … Read more

“England’s green and pleasant land”

If you’re not British, you may only be vaguely aware of the song “Jerusalem.” But the tune and lyrics are very familiar to the people of England. It is England’s unofficial national anthem, like “God Bless America” is in the United States. Some Brits have urged that “Jerusalem” be made the official national anthem of … Read more

The secret behind the famous phrase “the heart is a lonely hunter”…

On June 4, 1940, Houghton Mifflin published the first novel by the American writer Carson McCullers, a sensitive story about misfits and social outcasts in a Southern mill town titled The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. The success of McCullers’ book made its title a familiar and oft-quoted phrase. The novel was later adapted into … Read more

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.” (A little knowledge, too, but that’s a misquote.)

Most people have heard the old line of poetry: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” It became a proverbial saying that has been — and is still is — used and repurposed in many ways. The common variation is “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” However, that’s an misquote of the original line … Read more

“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 … Read more