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Bill Shakespeare--As You Like It--Sermons in Books, Stones in Running Brooks

Posted by Bob on October 03, 2000

In Reply to: Bill Shakespeare--As You Like It--Sermons in Books, Stones in Running Brooks posted by Bruce Kahl on October 03, 2000

: : Hi
: : I've come across an expression that goes something like: There are sermons in books, stones in running brooks... I'm not sure if this is right. Could someone please tell me (preferably on my e-mail)
: : 1) what the correct expression is.
: : 2) what it precisely means.
: : 3) what the origin of the expression is.

: : This is kinda urgent. so prompt help would be greatly appreciated..

: Find tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. -- Shakespeare, As You Like It"

: I think it means to look for gratitude, spirituality and serenity in everyday things but this is just my personal opinion.

: William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

: As You Like It

: Act II. Scene I.

: The Forest of Arden.
: Enter DUKE Senior, AMIENS, and other Lords, like Foresters.

: Duke S. Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
: Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
: Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
: More free from peril than the envious court?
: Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
: The seasons' difference; as, the icy fang
: And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
: Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
: Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
: 'This is no flattery: these are counsellors
: That feelingly persuade me what I am.'
: Sweet are the uses of adversity,
: Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
: Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
: And this our life exempt from public haunt,
: Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
: Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
: I would not change it.

When Shakespeare wants characters to learn something of the truth about themselves, to reach a kind of authenticity, he sends 'em to the woods. In many of the plays, he sends them into nature where, like the Duke above, they learn that the "civilized" world is full of human mischief, not to mention dishonesty and outright treachery. Out in nature, minus the trappings of court life, it is possible to find "good in everything." It's possible to see a Stratford boy, working in London, brushing up against Court characters, and observing them, keeping them at arms-length, not dazzled by the titles and pomp, but measuring the artificiality of their conduct.