Last modified on 2 November 2014, at 03:42

Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon

The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.

Sir Edward Grey, 3rd Bt., 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon (25 April 18627 September 1933) was British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916.

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Recreation (1919)Edit

Address at Harvard University (8 December 1919)
  • It is sometimes said that this is a pleasure-seeking age. Whether it be a pleasure-seeking age or not, I doubt whether it is a pleasure-finding age. We are supposed to have great advantages in many ways over our predecessors. There is, on the whole, less poverty and more wealth. There are supposed to be more opportunities for enjoyment: there are moving pictures, motor-cars, and many other things which are now considered means of enjoyment and which our ancestors did not possess, but I do not judge from what I read in the newspapers that there is more content. Indeed, we seem to be living in an age of discontent. It seems to be rather on the increase than otherwise and is a subject of general complaint. If so it is worth while considering what it is that makes people happy, what they can do to make themselves happy, and it is from that point of view that I wish to speak on recreation.
  • Books are the greatest and the most satisfactory of recreations. I mean the use of books for pleasure. Without books, without having acquired the power of reading for pleasure, none of us can be independent, but if we can read we have a sure defence against boredom in solitude.
  • Poetry is the greatest literature, and pleasure in poetry is the greatest of literary pleasures. It is also the least easy to attain and there are some people who never do attain it.
  • There is much poetry for which most of us do not care, but with a little trouble when we are young we may find one or two poets whose poetry, if we get to know it well, will mean very much to us and become part of ourselves... The love for such poetry which comes to us when we are young will not disappear as we get older; it will remain in us, becoming an intimate part of our own being, and will be an assured source of strength, consolation, and delight.
  • Some one, I think it was Isaac Disraeli, said that he who did not make himself acquainted with the best thoughts of the greatest writers would one day be mortified to observe that his best thoughts are their indifferent ones, and it is from the great books that have stood the test of time that we shall get, not only the most lasting pleasure, but a standard by which to measure our own thoughts, the thoughts of others, and the excellence of the literature of our own day.
  • Though I know something about British birds I should have been lost and confused among American birds, of which unhappily I know little or nothing. Colonel Roosevelt not only knew more about American birds than I did about British birds, but he knew about British birds also. What he had lacked was an opportunity of hearing their songs, and you cannot get a knowledge of the songs of birds in any other way than by listening to them.
    We began our walk, and when a song was heard I told him the name of the bird. I noticed that as soon as I mentioned the name it was unnecessary to tell him more. He knew what the bird was like. It was not necessary for him to see it. He knew the kind of bird it was, its habits and appearance. He just wanted to complete his knowledge by hearing the song. He had, too, a very trained ear for bird songs, which cannot be acquired without having spent much time in listening to them. How he had found time in that busy life to acquire this knowledge so thoroughly it is almost impossible to imagine, but there the knowledge and training undoubtedly were. He had one of the most perfectly trained ears for bird songs that I have ever known, so that if three or four birds were singing together he would pick out their songs, distinguish each, and ask to be told each separate name; and when farther on we heard any bird for a second time, he would remember the song from the first telling and be able to name the bird himself.
Colonel Roosevelt liked the song of the blackbird so much that he was almost indignant that he had not heard more of its reputation before. He said everybody talked about the song of the thrush; it had a great reputation, but the song of the blackbird, though less often mentioned, was much better than that of the thrush.
  • Colonel Roosevelt liked the song of the blackbird so much that he was almost indignant that he had not heard more of its reputation before. He said everybody talked about the song of the thrush; it had a great reputation, but the song of the blackbird, though less often mentioned, was much better than that of the thrush. He wanted to know the reason of this injustice and kept asking the question of himself and me. At last he suggested that the name of the bird must have injured its reputation. I suppose the real reason is that the thrush sings for a longer period of the year than the blackbird and is a more obtrusive singer, and that so few people have sufficient feeling about bird songs to care to discriminate.
  • One more instance I will give of his interest and his knowledge. We were passing under a fir tree when we heard a small song in the tree above us. We stopped and I said that was the song of a golden-crested wren. He listened very attentively while the bird repeated its little song, as its habit is. Then he said, "I think that is exactly the same song as that of a bird that we have in America"; and that was the only English song that he recognized as being the same as any bird song in America. Some time afterwards I met a bird expert in the Natural History Museum in London and told him this incident, and he confirmed what Colonel Roosevelt had said, that the song of this bird would be about the only song that the two countries had in common. I think that a very remarkable instance of minute and accurate knowledge on the part of Colonel Roosevelt. It was the business of the bird expert in London to know about birds. Colonel Roosevelt's knowledge was a mere incident acquired, not as part of the work of his life, but entirely outside it.
  • I am not attempting here a full appreciation of Colonel Roosevelt. He will be known for all time as one of the great men of America. I am only giving you this personal recollection as a little contribution to his memory, as one that I can make from personal knowledge and which is now known only to myself. His conversation about birds was made interesting by quotations from poets. He talked also about politics, and in the whole of his conversation about them there was nothing but the motive of public spirit and patriotism. I saw enough of him to know that to be with him was to be stimulated in the best sense of the word for the work of life. Perhaps it is not yet realised how great he was in the matter of knowledge as well as in action. Everybody knows that he was a great man of action in the fullest sense of the word. The Press has always proclaimed that. It is less often that a tribute is paid to him as a man of knowledge as well as a man of action. Two of your greatest experts in natural history told me the other day that Colonel Roosevelt could, in that department of knowledge, hold his own with experts. His knowledge of literature was also very great, and it was knowledge of the best. It is seldom that you find so great a man of action who was also a man of such wide and accurate knowledge. I happened to be impressed by his knowledge of natural history and literature and to have had first-hand evidence of both, but I gather from others that there were other fields of knowledge in which he was also remarkable.
  • Of all the joys of life which may fairly come under the head of recreation there is nothing more great, more refreshing, more beneficial in the widest sense of the word, than a real love of the beauty of the world... to those who have some feeling that the natural world has beauty in it I would say, Cultivate this feeling and encourage it in every way you can. Consider the seasons, the joy of the spring, the splendour of the summer, the sunset colours of the autumn, the delicate and graceful bareness of winter trees, the beauty of snow, the beauty of light upon water, what the old Greek called the unnumbered smiling of the sea.
  • When we are bored, when we are out of tune, when we have little worries, it clears our feelings and changes our mood if we can get in touch with the beauty of the natural world.

Twenty-five Years (1925)Edit

Twenty-Five Years: 1892-1916 (1925)
  • A great European war under modern conditions would be a catastrophe for which previous wars afforded no precedent. In old days nations could collect only portions of their men and resources at a time and dribble them out by degrees. Under modern conditions whole nations could be mobilized at once and their whole life-blood and resources poured out in a torrent. Instead of a few hundreds of thousands of men meeting each other in war, millions would now meet, and modern weapons would multiply manifold the power of destruction. The financial strain and the expenditure of wealth would be incredible. I thought this must be obvious to everyone else, as it seemed obvious to me; and that, if once it became apparent that we were on the edge, all the Great Powers would call a halt and recoil from the abyss.
    • Recalling his thoughts of July 1914 on the prospect of war with Germany.
  • A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week — he thinks it was on Monday, August 3rd. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below... My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words, "The lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

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