We must wait, with hope
until evening to see if
day has been splendid
This is based on a quote attributed to Sophocles:
One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.
Sophocles was the Greek playwright who left us with the complex story of Oedipus.
When I think of Homer, Ovid and fellers like Sophocles, which isn’t often, I am reminded of the movie, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The Star Trek heroes return to 1986 and Spock and Kirk discuss the current state of literature:
James T. Kirk: That’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word. You’ll find it in all the literature of the period.
Spock: For example?
James T. Kirk: Oh, the complete works of Jacqueline Susann, the novels of Harold Robbins….
Spock: Ah… The Giants.
The suggestion is that 1000’s of years from now, Susann and Robbins are ‘The Giants’ because their books survived and are revered. Now maybe they survived because they where in a trash dumpster the day the library burned down and the dumpster preserved the books until they were discovered years and years later.
How do we know that the same thing didn’t happen to Homer and Sophocles?
When the barbarians burned down the great libraries, maybe their texts happen to survive by chance? Giants today, but back in their own time, maybe they were sold in the checkout lane of the local grocery for 1 Drachma.
But I digress, back to Sophocles and his wonderful quote.
There is a problem with the quote.
I wanted to tell how I heard the quote lately and then cite the original work of Sophocles.
I am reading Robert Caro’s new short book, Working, and Caro uses the quote to explain his work on Robert Moses.
I searched the WWW and found lots and lots of links to the quote and lots of links to speeches that quoted the quote.
I even found a 2008 transcript of a C Span interview with Robert Caro where Caro again explains the quote in context of his work on Robert Moses,
“Because it was something that just stuck in my mind. And it seemed to me to sum up Robert Moses’ career. You know for decades, as he was shaping New York, building all the bridges, the parks, the housing projects, determining the city’s priorities. He was such a hero to New York you know and, the policies, but at the end where was New York when his 44 years of power had ended? That’s what we see. And I thought that quote, one must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been, summed up what I was trying to say in that book. ” (Q&A with Robert Caro December 19, 2008)
But no citation as to the source.
I did find one vague attribution of Sophocles, Antigone, but a quick check of the full text of the play reveals no such quote.
Most telling, the quote does not appear in any online version of Bartlett’s that I can find.
I am starting to think that Sophocles did not say One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been, but he would have wanted to say it had he had the chance.
The search will continue.