Sunday, March 8, 2009

Quotations from *Cup of Gold*, 2 of 11
John Steinbeck
1902-1968 American

But Robert answered her impatiently.

“To you he is only a little boy who must be made to say his prayers of nights and to wear a coat into the fields. You have not felt the polished steel of him as I have. Yes, to you that quick, hard set of his chin is only the passing stubbornness of a headstrong child. But I do know; and I say to you, without pleasure, that this son of ours will be a great man, because—well—because he is not very intelligent. He can see only one desire at a time. I said he tested his dreams; he will murder every dream with the implacable arrows of his will. This boy will win to every goal of his aiming; for he can realize no thought, no reason, but his own. And I am sorry for his coming greatness because of a thing Merlin once spoke of. You must look at the granite jaws of him, Mother, and the trick he has of making his cheek muscles stand out with clenching them.”
John Steinbeck, Cup of Gold

There were outland forces, nameless foreign ghosts, calling to him and beckoning from across the mysterious sea.

There was no desire in him for a state or condition, no picture in his mind of the thing to be when he had followed his longing; but only a burning and a will overpowering to journey outward and outward after the earliest risen star.
John Steinbeck, Cup of Gold

Henry said, “I have lost no love, sir, but my dream is over the sea that I do not know. I know Cambria.”
John Steinbeck, Cup of Gold

Merlin searched the boy’s face closely. Sadly he looked up at his harps. “I think I understand,” he said softly. “You are a little boy. You want the moon to drink from as a golden cup; and so, it is very likely that you will become a great man—if only you remain a little child. All the world’s great have been little boys who wanted the moon; running and climbing, they sometimes caught a firefly. But if one grow to a man’s mind, that mind must see that it cannot have the moon and would not want it if it could—and so, it catches no fireflies.”

“But did you never want the moon?” asked Henry in a voice hushed with the room’s quiet.

“I wanted it. Above all desires I wanted it. I reached for it and then—then I grew to be a man, and a failure. But there is this gift for the failure; folk know he has failed, and they are sorry and kindly and gentle. He has the whole world with him; a bridge of contact with his own people; the cloth of mediocrity. But he who shields a firefly in his hands, caught in reaching for the moon, is doubly alone; he only can realize his true failure, can realize his meanness and fears and evasions.

“You will come to your greatness, and it may be in time you will be alone in your greatness and no friend anywhere; only those who hold you in respect or fear or awe. I am sorry for you, boy with the straight, clear eyes which look upward longingly. I am sorry for you, and—Mother Heaven! how I envy you.”
John Steinbeck, Cup of Gold

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