Quote: Supposed Lincoln quote traces to Alphonse Karr - help with French requested

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Nov 16 02:41:54 UTC 2013

Well, we like our presidents optimistic.  I'm sure Reagan didn't invent his beloved story about the boy who was delighted to be sent to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure "because there's gotta be a pony in here somewhere". As for the thorns and roses, at least the French version rhymes nicely.


On Nov 15, 2013, at 3:24 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:

> Here is a popular quotation attributed to Abraham Lincoln about
> optimism and pessimism that I have been asked to investigate:
> We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because
> thorn bushes have roses.
> The Lincoln connection appears to be spurious. I have attempted to
> trace the central concept of the saying instead of tracing the precise
> phrasing or syntax. Here is a conceptual match in 1882, I think:
> [ref] 1882 July 22, The Christian Life: A Unitarian Journal, Volume 8,
> Number 323, Notes of the Week: Home and Abroad, Start Page 345, Quote
> Page 346, Column 1, London, UK. (Google Books full view) link [/ref]
> http://books.google.com/books?id=y5ksAAAAYAAJ&q=%22putting+thorns%22#v=snippet&
> [Begin excerpt]
> "Some people," says Alphonse Karr, "are always finding fault with
> Nature for putting thorns on roses; I always thank her for having put
> roses on thorns."
> [End excerpt]
> I attempted to trace the expression further back in French. Here is an
> instance by Alphonse Karr in a book published in 1862, I think. Could
> someone help me with a translation of the middle section below? This
> section is indented in the book.  Also, does the context suggest that
> Karr is presenting his own words? (Please follow the link to see the
> full context.) Or is he presenting the words of someone else?
> Year: 1862
> Title: Sur la plage
> Author: Alphonse Karr
> Publisher: Michel Lévy Frères, Paris
> Page: 213
> (Google Books full view)
> http://books.google.com/books?id=maQjAQAAMAAJ&q=%22aient+des%22#v=snippet&
> [Begin excerpt]
> .. la feuille de rose pliée qui trouble le sommeil du sybarite, tandis
> que l'homme véritablement homme dort d'un sommeil réparateur sur la
> paille qui vient de tomber sous sa faux laborieuse.
> De leur meilleur côté tâchons de voir les choses:
> Vous vous plaignez de voir les rosiers épineux;
> Moi, je me réjouis et rends grâces aux dieux
>  Que les épines aient des roses.
> Et cœtera, et cœtera, — morale, histoire, fable, histoire naturelle,
> naturelle philosophie — ce qui n'empêche pas d'apprendre la première
> déclinaison, laquelle devient ce qu'elle doit être, un détail de
> l'instruction au lieu d'être ce qu'elle est pour un si grand nombre,
> l'instruction et l'éducation tout entières.
> [End excerpt]
> Thanks for any help you can provide,
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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