Tuesday, 6 April 2010

181. Fame is the Spur by Howard Spring

Here's one for the day they announce the UK general election.

The title of Howard Spring’s bestseller of 1940 — about the rise to power of a Labour politician — encapsulates the truth that all politicians seek to deny: that they seek personal aggrandizement first and foremost, and that serving the people comes second. It came originally from Milton’s Lycidas (a poem which incidentally also provided the title for Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel). But Fame is the Spur is not a ‘quotation-title’ in quite the ordinary sense that, say, Brave New World, The Grapes of Wrath or A Handful of Dust are quotation-titles (if you can name the sources for all three, award yourself the points that you need today). The key is in what comes after. The full quote from Milton runs:

Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
To scorn delights, and live laborious days.

The penultimate word of the sentence, bearing in mind the political affiliation of the hero, is the pun that Spring wishes the reader to find.
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Alternative Reading:
44 Surprising Literary Ventures
of Well-Known Writers


How to Use 'A' and 'The':
The Challenge of Definite and
Indefinite in English Grammar

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