Thursday 04 June 2009

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword : Origin and meaning


The meaning and origin of the saying “ The pen is mightier than the sword”
Definitions abound, but all allude to the same principle that it is more sensible to resolve a conflict by the use of words and communication rather than by physical conflict and confrontation.
This saying is attributed in this form by all sources to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839, from his play Richelieu.
Verbatim
“ Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! - itself a nothing! -
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! - Take away the sword -
States can be saved without it!”
The concept of communication rather than confrontation a a method of resolving conflicts has been around for many many years, but worded somewhat differently.
Here are a few examples.
Euripides 400+ BC “ The tongue is mightier than the blade.....”
Prophet Muhammad “ The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr...”
Shakespeare 1600 “Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills”
Cicero “arms yield to persuasion”
This, is however, not a philosophy adopted by all, as the numbers of current global conflicts bear witness to. On the other side..
“Actions speak louder than words”
Terry Pratchett “ Only if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp”
General MacArthur “Whoever thinks the pen is mightier than the sword clearly has never encountered automatic weapons”

Good place to start digging for more is at Wikipedia.
Image from Wikipedia.

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