Famous quotes are fascinating things. In a sentence or two, or even in just a few words, a truth is well expressed. As a bonus, they often come from someone with authority. While I like to use them from time to time, I’ve always been skeptical of ones I don’t know the source.
One I heard years ago is, “The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.” It is found in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms” (Book 2, Chapter 21). It’s powerful, but it is interesting to read a little more around the quote. Below is the passage in the book:
“We won’t fight.”
“We mustn’t. Because there’s only two of us and in the world there’s all the rest of them. If anything comes between us we’re gone and then they have us.”
“They won’t get us,” I said. “Because you’re too brave. Nothing ever happens to the brave.”
“They die once.”
“But only once.”
“I don’t know. Who said that?”
“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one?”
“Of course. Who said that?”
“I don’t know.”
“He was probably a coward,” she said. “He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.”
I agree with the last paragraph in the passage above. To me, it expresses a more universal truth. There are many manifestations of bravery, just as there are many types of injustices. Physical strength is an outward strength that everyone can see, but emotional, intellectual and spiritual strengths all need their own kind of muscle and endurance.