Reference > Quotations > John Bartlett, comp. > Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. > Page 1052
John Bartlett (1820–1905).  Familiar Quotations, 10th ed.  1919.
Page 1052
Appendix. (continued)
    Sardonic smile.
          The island of Sardinia, consisting chiefly of marshes and mountains, has from the earliest period to the present been cursed with a noxious air, an ill-cultivated soil, and a scanty population. The convulsions produced by its poisonous plants gave rise to the expression of sardonic smile, which is as old as Homer (Odyssey, xx. 302).—Mahon: History of England, vol. i. p. 287.

The explanation given by Mahon of the meaning of “sardonic smile” is to be sure the traditional one, and was believed in by the late classical writers. But in the Homeric passage referred to, the word is “sardanion” ([greek]), not “sardonion.” There is no evidence that Sardinia was known to the composers of what we can Homer.

It looks as though the word was to be connected with the verb [greek], “show the teeth;” “grin like a dog;” hence that the “sardonic smile” was a “grim laugh.”—M. H. Morgan.
    Sister Anne, do you see any one coming?
          The anxious question of one of the wives of Bluebeard.
    Stone-wall Jackson.
          This saying took its rise from the battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861. Said General Bernard E. Bee, “See, there is Jackson, standing like a stone-wall.”
    The King is dead! Long live the King!
          The death of Louis XIV. was announced by the captain of the bodyguard from a window of the state apartment. Raising his truncheon above his head, he broke it in the centre, and throwing the pieces among the crowd, exclaimed in a loud voice, “Le Roi est mort!” Then seizing another staff, he flourished it in the air as he shouted, “Vive le Roi!”—Pardoe: Life of Louis XIV., vol. iii. p. 457.
    The woods are full of them!
          Alexander Wilson, in the Preface to his “American Ornithology” (1808), quotes these words, and relates the story of a boy who had been gathering flowers. On bringing them to his mother, he said: “Look, my dear ma! What beautiful flowers I have found growing in our place! Why, all the woods are full of them! “
    Thin red line.
          The Russians dashed on towards that thin red-line streak tipped with a line of steel.—Russell: The British Expedition to the Crimea (revised edition), p. 187.

Soon the men of the column began to see that though the scarlet line was slender, it was very rigid and exact. Kinglake: Invasion of the Crimea, vol. iii. p. 455.

The spruce beauty of the slender red line.—Ibid. (sixth edition), vol. iii. p. 248.


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