by Cynthia Clampitt
At one point, when talking with someone younger than I am, I commented on something that ended well as going out in a blaze of glory. The younger person brightened and asked, “Oh, so you like Guns and Roses?” Not seeing the connection I admitted that I didn’t know their music. “That’s who said, ‘go out in a blaze of glory.’” Well, they may have said it, but not first. It is, like a lot of what folks say, an allusion to something someone else wrote or said. Shakespeare and the Bible give us the majority of the most common allusions, but stacks of other writers have contributed to our language—though fewer and fewer people know it all the time. (As for “blaze of glory,” that appears to have originated in John Dryden’s poem “The Hind and the Panther,” written in 1686.) Below is just a smattering of allusions. There will be more in time.
Best laid plans of mice and men This line, often used as things come crashing in, refers to a line in the poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. In the poem, Burns, while plowing a field, has turned up the nest of a field mouse, he mourns that his activity has disrupted the mouse’s careful preparations. “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley” (go oft awry). It’s a lovely poem that is not often read in the United States as the Scottish dialect in which it is written makes it hard for most readers to understand. Yet one of the most famous verses is easy to grasp and is perhaps the best known from the poem. Continue reading Words And Reason: Literary Allusions