phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

And yet...and yet...

Posted by Woodchuck on December 13, 2002

In Reply to: And yet...and yet... posted by TheFallen on December 12, 2002

: : : : : hi, i'm the book critic of the san francisco chronicle, drawn here from google by your excellent treeing of the phrase 'weapons of mass destruction.' here's one that's been bothering me for a while: the now-ubiquitous repetitive phrase 'and yet...and yet...' where did it come from, and how did it become so inescapable?

: : : : : btw, who are you guys? how do you do it? and can you reply via e-mail to as well as on the bulletin board? i've got a newspaper column to fill in the next 3.5 hours, in case the answers are newsworthy and you're feeling especially industrious.

: : : : : all finest,
: : : : : david kipen

: : : : We are an international group of volunteers who share a love and fascination of and with the English Language.
: : : : I do not have an answer for you on your phrase inquiry but hopefully someone will post something here to help you out.
: : : : Please visit again!

: : : I can never resist tracking down a vaguely familiar quotation. I found so many, I will not quote them all, but will cite a few that may have served to popularize the phrase.

: : : * W. B. Yeats, "The Wild Swans at Coole"
: : : * Charles Hamilton Sorley circa 1912
: : : * Thomas Bailey Aldrich, 19th century poet
: : : * George Eliot in _Middlemarch_ (1871-1872)

: : : The earliest usage I've found so far (assuming the English translation was made in the author's lifetime) is a haiku by Kobayashi Issa (1762 -1827):
: : :
: : : The world of dew
: : : is the world of dew,
: : : And yet, and yet--

: : : And yet, and yet... I doubt that's the earliest usage. I did try searching the Oxford Shakespeare at Bartleby and as much as I wish I could pin it on Shakespeare, it seems we can't.

: : : A 17th or early 18th century origin seems likely, but there's just too much ground to cover in one day.

: : Another use of this evocative phrase (found using Google): Emma Goldman's essay "Durruti Is Dead, Yet Living" , linked below. If a follow-up post removes the link, return to this post for it or use
: : Goldman/Writings/Essays/durruti.html

: Another contender for the crown is Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Dodgson, who has Alice say the following:-

: "It was much pleasanter at home," thought poor Alice, "when one wasn't always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered around by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit-hole--and yet--and yet--it's rather curious, you know, this sort of life.!"

: (Alice in Wonderland 1865)

: However, the usage of the phrase in the 19th Century is frequent, both in the UK and the USA, including appearing in the works of Thomas Aldrich and Oscar Wilde. There's a US Civil War song dating from 1864 called "Brave Boys Of Home" that features the phrase in the chorus, as follows:-

: "Brave boys are they!
: Gone at their country's call;
: And yet, and yet we cannot forget
: That many brave boys must fall."

: That's the earliest usage in original English that I can find in a hurry, but I'm sure it'll be bested

The only thing I find more irresistible than tracking down a vaguely familiar quotation is an opportunity to best TheFallen. I'm fairly sure one of the things he can't resist is bursting my bubble when I'm full of hot air, and yet, and yet. I'm going to speculate wildly, anyway!

Thomas Carlyle used the phrase in his six-volume history of Frederick the Great providing an 1860s usage in the UK as well as the US.

I thought I'd try Hawthorne and Thoreau for a pre-1860 U.S. reference. No luck, but at, I found Frank B. Sanborn's "Recollections of Seventy Years" quoting Margaret Fuller using the phrase in a letter from Florence dated December 12, 1849:
"Your letter, my dear Rebecca, was written in your noblest and most womanly spirit. I thank you warmly for your sympathy about my little boy. What he is to me even you can hardly dream; you who have three, and in whom the natural thirst of the heart was earlier satisfied, can scarcely know what my one ewe lamb is to me. That he may live, that I may find bread for him, that I may not spoil him by over-weening love, that I may daily grow better for his sake,-are the ever-recurring thoughts, say prayers, that give their hue to all the current of my life. Yet in answer to what you say, that it is still better to give the world this living soul, than a part of my life in a book,-it is true: and yet,-and yet,-of my book I could know whether it would be of any worth; of my child I must wait to see what his worth will be. I play with him, my ever-growing mystery,-but from the solemnity of the thoughts he brings there is refuge only in God. Was I worthy to be the parent of a soul, with its immense capabilities of weal and woe? God be merciful to me, a sinner! comes so naturally to the mother's heart, I think...."
Forgive the long quote, but the parallel to Issa's haiku floored me as it was written upon the death of his daughter. He wrote in comment ". . . I knew well it was no use to cry, that water once flown past the bridge does not return, and blossoms that are scattered are beyond recall. Yet try as I would, I could not, simply could not, cut the binding cord of human love."

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a huge influence on Fuller. During Emerson's " youth the publications of the German Higher Critics and their progeny, as well as translations of Hindu and Buddhist poetry, were causing controversy in American academic circles. Emerson's class at Harvard Divinity School was affected by these influences; consequently, upon assuming the pastorate of a Boston church in 1829, Emerson experienced many doubts concerning traditional Christian belief."

Emerson used "and yet, and yet" in an oration entitled "The Method of Nature" delivered before the Society of the Adelphi, Waterville College, Maine, August 11, 1841 and published as part of "Nature; Addresses and Lectures" .
Interestingly, in 1833, Emerson met Coleridge, Wordsworth and Carlyle. Emerson and Carlyle developed a friendship. Emerson sponsored the 1836 Boston publication of Carlyle's "Sartor Resartus", edited and with preface by R.W. Emerson. Another coincidence?

Emerson had the greater interest in eastern philosophy and poetry. (see and
It's hardly definitive proof, and yet it seems very likely that Emerson would've been familiar with Kobayashi Issa'a haiku, and he may have acquainted Fuller and Carlyle with it, or they may have merely picked up their friend and mentor's turn of phrase.

Can anyone support or refute this theory?

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