[Ads-l] Quote: We are taught to fly in the air like birds =?Windows-1252?Q?=85_?=but how to live on the earth we do not know" (Request)

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sun Jul 17 11:42:57 UTC 2016

According to a hathitrust search p. 26 of the book listed below seems a likely suspect.



Social classes in post-war Europe.
Main Author: Stoddard, Lothrop, 1883-1950<https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Search/Home?lookfor=%22Stoddard,%20Lothrop,%201883-1950%22&type=author&inst=> Language(s): English Published: London, C. Scribner's sons, 1925.
Subjects: Europe<https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Search/Home?lookfor=%22%20Europe%22&type=subject&inst=> > Social conditions<https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Search/Home?lookfor=%22%20Europe%20Social%20conditions%22&type=subject&inst=>
Physical Description: 178 p. 22 cm.

From: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole <...>
Sent: Saturday, July 16, 2016 11:49 PM
To: ...
Subject: [ADS-L] Quote: We are taught to fly in the air like birds … but how to live on the earth we do not know" (Request)

The following words have implausibly been attributed to George Bernard Shaw:

Now that we have learned to fly the air like birds, swim under water
like fish, we lack one thing - to learn to live on earth as human

I received a request to explore the provenance of the expression, and
the earliest match I've found was written by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
and pointed to an unnamed peasant recorded by Maxim Gorky.

Year: 1929
Title: Kalki: Or, The Future of Civilization
Author: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Quote Page 9
Publisher: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner, London
Database: Google Books Snippet View; data may be inaccurate and should
be verified on paper


[Begin excerpt]
Maxim Gorky relates how, after addressing a peasant audience on the
subject of science and the marvels of technical inventions, he was
criticized by a peasant spokesman in the following words: "Yes, we are
taught to fly in the air like birds, and to swim in the water like the
fishes, but how to live on the earth we do not know."

Among the races, religions, and nations which live side by side on the
small globe, there is not that sense of fellowship necessary for good
life. They rather feel themselves to be antagonistic forces.
[End excerpt]

If you have access to the above book, and you are willing to help
verify this citation with scans please let me know.

If you can find a citation before 1929 or a match in the oeuvre of
Maxim Gorky that would be very helpful. Evidence of the Russian
version of the statement would be interesting. Martin Luther King
employed a version in his Nobel Peace Prize speech in 1964.


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

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