Friday, May 09, 2014

'The Glitter Is the Gold'

"What would be the good of gold," he was saying, "if it did not glitter? Why should we care for a black sovereign any more than for a black sun at noon? A black button would do just as well. Don't you see that everything in this garden looks like a jewel? And will you kindly tell me what the deuce is the good of a jewel except that it looks like a jewel? Leave off buying and selling, and start looking! Open your eyes, and you'll wake up in the New Jerusalem.

"All is gold that glitters--
Tree and tower of brass;
Rolls the golden evening air
Down the golden grass.
Kick the cry to Jericho,
How yellow mud is sold,
All is gold that glitters,
For the glitter is the gold."

"And who wrote that?" asked Rosamund, amused.

"No one will ever write it," answered Smith, and cleared the rockery with a flying leap.
[G. K. Chesterton, Manalive, Chapter 3.]

The last line of the poem happens to be quoted in passing, without attribution, by Lord Peter in Have His Carcase. In the first and second to last line, Chesterton is, of course, turning a common saying upside down, one which is found in various forms elsewhere, including Dryden (The Hind and the Panther), Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice Act 2, Scene 7), Chaucer (House of Fame Book I), Spenser (The Faerie Queene, Book II, Canto VIII), and Alanus de Insulis (Parabolae). Dryden seems to be usually credited with the common form in English, "All that glitters is not gold."

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