Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘proverbs’

Tower Of Strength

Posted by Admin on May 21, 2010

This expression “tower of strength” is found in The Book of Common Prayer written in 1549, originally was used most often to refer to God and heaven:

“O Lorde …  Bee vnto them a tower of strength.”

Shakespeare, being his own person, put a twist to the phrase in his play in Richard III written in 1594 where in Act 5, Scene 3:

KING RICHARD:
Up with my tent! Here will I lie tonight—
But where to-morrow? Well, all’s one for that.
Who hath descried the number of the traitors?

NORFOLK:
Six or seven thousand is their utmost power.

KING RICHARD:
Why, our battalia trebles that account!
Besides, the King’s name is a tower of strength,
Which they upon the adverse faction want.

But that’s not the first recorded use of the phrase “tower of strength.”  In fact, the legendary ancient Greek epic poet, Homer wrote The Odyssey in 800 B.C. where the following is found: 

“When I saw him I tried to pacify him and said, ‘Ajax, will you not forget and forgive even in death, but must the judgment about that hateful armor still rankle with you? It cost us Argives dear enough to lose such a tower of strength as you were to us. We mourned you as much as we mourned Achilles son of Peleus himself, nor can the blame be laid on anything but on the spite which Zeus bore against the Danaans, for it was this that made him counsel your destruction – come here, therefore, bring your proud spirit into subjection, and hear what I can tell you.’

So while I would love to give the prize to Mr. Shakespeare yet again, and while it might be refreshing to award the prize for this phrase to Homer, the phrase is a derivative of a phrase found in the Bible in Proverbs 18:10 where the following is written:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Greece, Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do As I Say And Not As I Do

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2010

This is an admonitory phrase that has been used by parents the world over for generations and yet, very few people seem to know its origins.  In the Spectator on June 24, 1911, this advice was published:  “It has always been considered allowable to say to children, ‘Do as I say, rather than as I do.'”

This phrase, however, harkens back to several generations before 1911.  In John Selden’s book Table Talk which was published posthumously in 1689 (and written in 1654 just prior to his death), he wrote:  “”Preachers say, “Do as I say, not as I do.‘”  And while the advice is sound, he was not the first author to offer it.  In 1546, John Heywood’s “A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue“ the following can be found:  “It is as folke dooe, and not as folke say.”

However, the Anglo-Saxons in the 12th Century were known to say:  “Ac theah ic wyrs do thonne ic the lære ne do thu na swa swa ic do, ac do swa ic the lære gyf ic the wel lære” which translates into:   “Although I do worse than I teach you, do not do as I do, but do as I teach you if I teach you well.”

However, when all is said and done, this saying can be traced all the way back to the Bible in the Book of St. Matthew (verses 1-3) where the King James Version states:  “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples saying  “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

Posted in Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 12th Century, Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »