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Is the Pen, truly mightier than the Sword

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Is the Pen, truly mightier than the Sword

Postby AAUSA » Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:06 pm

The pen is mightier than the sword
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"The pen is mightier than the sword" is a metonymic adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.[1][2] The play was about Cardinal Richelieu, though in the author's words "license with dates and details... has been, though not unsparingly, indulged."[1] The Cardinal's line in Act II, scene II, was more fully:[3]

True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!

The play opened at London's Covent Garden Theatre on 7 March 1839 with William Charles Macready in the lead role.[4] Macready believed its opening night success was "unequivocal"; Queen Victoria attended a performance on 14 March.[4]

In 1870, literary critic Edward Sherman Gould wrote that Bulwer "had the good fortune to do, what few men can hope to do: he wrote a line that is likely to live for ages."[2] By 1888 another author, Charles Sharp, feared that repeating the phrase "might sound trite and commonplace".[5] The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, which opened in 1897, has the adage decorating an interior wall.[6][7] Though Bulwer's phrasing was novel, the idea of communication surpassing violence in efficacy had numerous predecessors.


Assyrian sage Ahiqar, who reputedly lived during the early 7th century BC, coined the first known version of this phrase. One copy of the Teachings of Ahiqar, dating to about 500 BC, states that "The word is mightier than the sword."[8]

According to the website,[9] the book The People's Almanac by Irving Wallace and David Wallechinsky lists several supposed predecessors to Bulwer's phrasing.
Their first example comes from the Greek playwright Euripides, who died c. 406 BC. He is supposed to have written: "The tongue is mightier than the blade."[9] If the People's Almanac is correct, it should be possible to source this to an extant work by Euripides; however, the quote does appear in the 1935 fictional work Claudius the God and his Wife Messalina by Robert Graves,[10] and is thus possibly an anachronism.

Several possible precursors do appear in the Old and New Testaments,[11] for example, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, whose authorship is uncertain, verse 4:12 reads: "Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart."[12]

The Islamic prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying "The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr".[13][14]

In 1529, Antonio de Guevara, in Reloj de príncipes, compared a pen to a lance, books to arms, and a life of studying to a life of war.[15][16] Thomas North, in 1557, translated Reloj de príncipes into English as Diall of Princes.[16] The analogy would appear in again in 1582, in George Whetstone's An Heptameron of Civil Discourses: "The dashe of a Pen, is more greeuous than the counterbuse of a Launce."[17][18]

Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, who died in 1602 and was personal scribe and vizier to Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar (Akbar the Great), wrote of a gentleman put in charge of a fiefdom having "been promoted from the pen to the sword and taken his place among those who join the sword to the pen, and are masters both of peace and war."[19][20] Syad Muhammad Latif, in his 1896 history of Agra, quoted King Abdullah of Bokhara (Abdullah-Khan II), who died in 1598, as saying that "He was more afraid of Abu'l-Fazl's pen than of Akbar's sword."[21]

William Shakespeare in 1600, in his play Hamlet Act 2, scene II, wrote: "... many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills."[9][22]

Robert Burton, in 1621, in The Anatomy of Melancholy, stated: "It is an old saying, A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword: and many men are as much galled with a calumny, a scurrilous and bitter jest, a libel, a pasquil, satire, apologue, epigram, stage-play or the like, as with any misfortune whatsoever."[23] After listing several historical examples he concludes: "Hinc quam sit calamus saevior ense patet",[23] which translates as "From this it is clear how much more cruel the pen may be than the sword."[9]

Thomas Jefferson, on June 19, 1792, ended a letter to Thomas Paine with: "Go on then in doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword: shew that reformation is more practicable by operating on the mind than on the body of man, and be assured that it has not a more sincere votary nor you a more ardent well-wisher than Y[ou]rs. &c. Thomas Jefferson"[9][24]

The French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), known to history for his military conquests, also left this oft-quoted remark: “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

Published in 1830, by Joseph Smith, Jr, an account in the Book of Mormon related, "the word had a greater tendency to lead the people to do that which was just; yea, it had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword".[25]

Netizens have suggested that a 1571 edition of Erasmus' Institution of a Christian Prince contains the words "There is no sworde to bee feared more than the Learned pen"[26][27] but this is not evident from modern translations[28] and this could be merely a spurious quotation.

The phrase appeared as the motto of gold pen manufacturer Levi Willcutt during a Railroad Jubilee in Boston, Massachusetts which ran during the week beginning 17 September 1852.[29]
The motto appears in the school room illustration on page 168 of the first edition of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). The words "pen" and "is" are suspiciously close together leading some scholars to speculate that the illustrator, True Williams, deliberately chose the narrow spacing as a subtle obscene prank.[30]

Woodrow Wilson's 1916 U.S. presidential re-election campaign used the slogan "He proved the pen mightier than the sword".
It is the motto of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.
In its Latinized form, Calamus Gladio Fortior, it is the motto of Keio University in Tokyo, Japan.
In another Latinized form, "Cedit Ensis Calamo", it is the motto of the Authors' Club of London, founded by Walter Besant in 1891.
In another Latinized form Doctrina Fortior Armis, it is the motto of Hipperholme Grammar School, England.

In the 1989 film Batman, the insane criminal known as The Joker uses the phrase in a darkly literal sense, after wielding a fountain pen like a dart to wound a rival crimelord.

British music photographer Kevin Cummins once shot The Smiths vocalist Morrissey in front of a handwritten "pen is mightier than the sword" poster in the background. The writing was styled so that the first two words appeared to be "penis".

A recurring GEICO commercial uses the phrase as a question, "Is the pen mightier than the sword?" It shows a ninja wielding and brandishing a sword with elite skills; an amateur defeats him by signing (with a pen) a package for a taser, with which he then shoots the sword-wielder.

In the 1989 film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", Marcus Brody, the companion of Henry Jones, remarks that they had just borne witness to the fact that the "Pen is mightier than the sword".

Plan B (musician) quotes the motto at the end of his song "Sick 2 def". The name of the whole album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words seems to be related to the same theme.

The logo of the Waikato Times newspaper in New Zealand features the image of a sword with a quill pen crossed on top of it.

My take on this timeless discussion is that it matters little as to which is ultimately judged mightier. Each illustrates a totally different source of impact on the lives and fortunes of mankind, and reflects the times when each held more sway than the other. Today, it appears that we may have a new champion, one that comes with all sorts of "Handle with Care" warnings.

The symbol of the Sword has long represented the tyrannical capacity of employing physical might and military force to either preserve or change the course of social behavior, irrespective of the rights and preferences of the societies affected. History is legion with tales of conquest, heroes galore, and new societies emerging from the dust of battle, and from the immortal tales of the Sword.

The Pen, however, uses stunning symbolism, titillating theatrics and romantic imagery to sway or persuade the thoughts and feelings of society towards the writer's agenda and hidden purpose. It appeals to the unrestrained imagination of the reader, the allure of romance and the promises of fantasies fulfilled to hold captive a willing audience. Like a drug, it can produce an insatiable desire and perceived need for even more writing to try and appease the appetite of the masses for more.

Yet, to be fair, great prose and poetry has issued from geniuses whose works have successfully transported countless readers over the ages, to new heights of vision and human potential. It can be pointed out that such works have been instrumental in inspiring social changes, and opened the way for major discoveries in art, science, industry, and in philosophy. The pen has been mighty indeed.

Nonetheless, the transmitted word may prove mightiest of all, as the historically most powerful tradition of communicating information and impressions first hand, and at any moment in time. Thanks to technology, such person to person communication can be now accomplished face to face, over long distance telephones and Skype, and on the Internet.

Indeed, the best examples of preserving the past, and announcing the present, have been done by word of mouth. The examples that come to mind are chants, songs, recitations of rituals and the holy incantations of the almighty Priesthoods of history, and of today. Ex Cathedra refers to the irrefutable truth of Papal utterance while seated in Peter's Chair in Rome. And who cannot but be persuaded by the words sung by national anthems worldwide.

Today, the impact of simply communicating over the amazing choices of mediums and devices, effectively transmits knowledge and revelations in the most immediate and efficient method possible. Who can disagree that the most convincing communication continues to be accomplished best through the medium of transmitted language. Even the widespread use of Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and in the technologies to follow, simply mimic the spoken word in ether enhanced form, allowing for mind bending speed of thought and information transfer. Most especially important is the enlightened use of blogs and online chats, that convey one's thoughts instantly, and without any censorship or deletion of what has just been accomplished in an instant. What we may need now is a method or policy of correcting any unintended or harmful speech and opinions that may escape the boundaries of reason, good taste and of respect for the privacy and honor for each other.

Indeed, the immediate and irrevocable impact of the spoken word, when irresponsibly released online, must not be discounted, ignored or trivialized by our complacency, lack of focus or by any short sided and deliberate attempts to act as though it doesn't really matter. We owe our highest diligence and responsibility to speak only of what we know, and to fully know of what we speak. This is at once, our highest capacity to communicate, and potentially our greatest danger. We must remain impeccable with our word, we must stay resolute with commitment to integrity of purpose, and we must always be available to be accountable for our actions and our words.
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Re: Is the Pen, truly mightier than the Sword

Postby Carina Rei » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:06 pm

Thank you Takahashi Shihan for this brilliant exposition. You have an extraordinary style in the use of the pen.
I think that through all the media we have available in our free world, the written and spoken word has a great power and influence in our life. The correct and honest use of it can do much good everywhere.
In the new technologies like internet there is infinite information about almost everything for all aspects of our life, but we should always verify it with other reliable information and look for the sources.

Through Facebook and online chats we are able to communicate our thoughts instantly, what can lead to unintended opinions, with possible negative effects, but these would be of a short time, because of the many writings and fast changes of the site, what you are reading now, you will need a lot of time to find again maybe next week. It is totally different with blogs and websites, where you can publish articles and comments and look for them even in years as it is all well organized.

And face to face communication can be very enriching and thoughts provoking, one word said to another person can be inspiring and lead to an idea for an article for example.

And finally I'd like to add that we aikidoka are learning to use the sword, the pen and also the spoken word to create harmony and peace as it was the wish of the Founder.

Puedes leer este artículo aquí en español

Bitte lese diesen Artikel hier auf Deutsch
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