Quote for Today: John Steinbeck


“This here ol’ man jus’ lived a life an’ just died out of it. I don’ know whether he was good or bad, but that don’t matter much. He was alive, an’ that’s what matters. An’ now he’s dead, an’ that don’t matter. Heard a fella tell a poem one time, an’ he says All that lives is holy. Got to thinkin’, an’ purty soon it means more than the words says. An’ I wouldn’t pray for a ol’ fella that’s dead. He’s awright. He got a job to do, but it’s all laid out for im an’ there’s on’y one way to do it. But us, we got a job to do, an’ they’s a thousan’ ways, an’ we don’ know which one to take. An’ if I was to pray, it’d be for the folks that don’ know which way to turn. Grampa here, he got the easy straight. An’ now cover im up an let im get to his work.”

―Casy in The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck
 Tollund Man, Public Domain Image by Sven Rosborn

7 thoughts on “Quote for Today: John Steinbeck

  1. writingpresence Reply

    Profound. I must go back and read that book again. I was rather young last time. PS I think the quote aboiut ‘all that lives is holy’ is from William Blake? I remember it set to music with school choir?

    • katmcdaniel Post authorReply

      Thank you! Yes, it is William Blake. More than once: in The Song of Enitharmon over Los and in America, A Prophecy, which is really dark.

      This is from Enitharmon over Los:
      “Arise, you little glancing wings and sing your infant joy!
      Arise and drink your bliss!
      For everything that lives is holy; for the Source of Life
      Descends to be a Weeping Babe; 25
      For the Earthworm renews the moisture of the sandy plain.”

      • writingpresence

        Oh beautiful. And I love that Earthworm’s conciliatory behaviour to the sand grains…. The thingy that I sang went on something like… ‘Life depends on life’ or life begetteth life”. Thanks for feeding my memories, & renewing the moisture of my sandy brain…

      • katmcdaniel Post author

        Maybe it was the quote from America…which seems pleasant taken out of context. You probably didn’t sing the first part.

        “The Terror answe’d: ‘I am Orc, wreath’d round the accursèd tree:
        The times are ended; shadows pass, the morning’ gins to break; 60
        the fiery joy, that Urizen perverted to ten commands,
        What night he led the starry hosts thro’ the wide wilderness,
        That stony Law I stamp to dust; and scatter Religion abroad
        To the four winds as a torn book, and none shall gather the leaves;
        But they shall rot on desert sands, and consume in bottomless deeps, 65
        To make the deserts blossom, and the deeps shrink to their fountains,
        And to renew the fiery joy, and burst the stony roof;
        That pale religious lechery, seeking Virginity,
        May find it in a harlot, and in coarse-clad honesty
        The undefil’d, tho’ ravish’d in her cradle night and morn; 70
        For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life;
        Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil’d.
        Fires enwrap the earthly globe, yet Man is not consum’d;
        Amidst the lustful fires he walks; his feet become like brass,
        His knees and thighs like silver, and his breast and head like gold.”

      • writingpresence

        Wow! Some of this sings sootily to me. And the allusion to biblical “feet of clay”, o that has been a well-mined seam for me in relation to the fallibility of “teachers” and those in whom I have mistakenly invested high fealty. Viz, everybody! Ha!

      • katmcdaniel Post author

        Yes! Very sooty. I really like the part about religion turning to compost. We humans have invested religion with so much shit that it will do the job nicely. 😉

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