Posted by ESC on November 19, 1999
In Reply to: Only the good die young. posted by donhabel on November 19, 1999
: What is origin or earliest attribution of the phrase "Only the good die young" before the Billy Joel song of 1977?
Well, I don't know who said it first. But it wasn't Billy Joel. It's an old saying. I'm guessing that the sentiment comes from a time when most children died before age 5. People had sweet memories of babies who died young while they were still good. As opposed to those who grew up and became imperfect, sometimes not so good, adults. Here's a couple of examples of early usage I found. There are probably more:
The best of men cannot suspend their fate;
The good die early, and the bad die late.
Daniel Defoe, "Character of the Late Dr. S. Annesley
The good die first,
And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
Burn to the socket.
William Wordsworth, "The Excursion,"