Words From a Wise Bird

Many years ago Jeff published a nifty collection of historical thoughts in a little orange booklet called "Quoth The Raven--Seventeen Points to Ponder." That highly sought after booklet is unfortunately long out of print but the quotes it contained are fairly well known in the public domain. I have compiled them again for your enjoyment along with Jeff's comments about them.


About The Raven

For genealogical reasons Jeff's Cooper's totem was the raven, and he did see him as an ominous beast but rather a wise bird.

To the shamanic cultures of the northern areas of Europe and Asia, and on into the Americas, the raven was viewed generally as a positive character. With the coming of Christianity to Europe and the British Isles, the raven was soon cast into the negative, where for many he remains today. In the process of converting the native peoples of Europe to Christianity, the traveling monks and other proselytizers had to overturn the old beliefs and symbols, casting those which had been seen as positive into the negative. Of course the invasion of the Vikings didn't help either.

Edgar Allen Poe thought of the raven as the omen of misfortune and death, but that thought derives from the historical memory of those unfortunates folks who were victims of the Viking expansion of 795-1066AD and their attacks on early Christian communities in and around England. The raven symbol came to be associated with the pillaging of the Vikings, because of its frequently being painted upon the sails of the Viking long boats. You can well imagine looking out to sea and seeing a huge black raven approaching you, seen well before details of the ship could be made out, and the resulting terror which that ship brought to those on shore.

In Norse mythology Odin was the primary god, and his familiars were the two ravens Hugin and Munin, who brought him news of both earth and heaven. The Germans referred to Odin as Wotan and thus in German the raven may be referred to as Wotansvogel--God's bird.

To the Celts, the raven has been associated with the goddesses Nantosuelta, Rhiannon, Epona, and the Morrigan. Ravens were/are said to guard the tomb of king/folk hero Bran—the tomb is said to lie under the White Tower at the Tower of London, where to this day a dozen ravens are kept, tended by the royal Ravenmaster.

In the native cultures of North America, raven was seen as a bringer of magic and a mystical courier, representing the Void—from whence all existence came forth—which is home to the Great Mystery. Various myths have raven creating day and night, the tides, bringing fire and light to mankind and stealing/giving us the sun and moon and the stars to guide at night.

Those of us associated with Orange Gunsite definitely have positive feelings about the raven. As Jeff has written: "As the bringer of the word we think of him as the collector of traditional wisdom—ignorance or rejection of which betide corruption."

Ravens vs. Crows

My thanks to Ric Wyckoff for much of this information on the raven.


"Quoth The Raven--Seventeen Points to Ponder."

Raven (1k gif)

"Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die; and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life. Both life and death are parts of the same great Adventure." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was the most "American" president as well as the most quotable. His idealism causes the cynic to blush.


"Happiness may never be sensibly pursued as an end in itself, because happiness is the by-product of achievement." -- Northcote Parkinson (paraphrase)

C. Northcote Parkinson makes this point in "Left Luggage," a witty and devastating rebuttal of the socialists. This sentence should be over the doors of every school in the land.


"This is the law: The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in defense. The sword is more important than the shield and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental." -- John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is not usually thought of as a student of combat, but he was hard at work at it near the end of his career, and his insights in this discipline are perhaps his best.


"Never give in. Never, never, never, never! Never yield in any way, great or small, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force and the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy...." -- Winston Churchill

Churchill--"the greatest man of the twentieth century and the greatest Englishman of all time"--seems to have spoken in quotations. Most of what he ever said or wrote is worth repeating and this quote is immortal.


How Did You Die
by
Edmund Vance Cooke

Did you tackle the trouble that came your way
    With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
    With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
    Or trouble is what you make it.
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
    But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
    Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
    But to lie there–that's the disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the harder you bounce;
    Be proud of your blackened eye.
It isn't the fact that your licked that counts;
    Its how did you fight and why?

And though you be done to death, what then?
    If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
    Why the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
    And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
    But only how did you die?

Cooke's small poem has such power that it usually stuns the reader. If he did nothing else, these words would justify his life.


"Are we at last brought to such humility and debase degradation, that we Americans can not be trusted with arms for our own defense?" -- Patrick Henry, 1788

Governor Henry here disarms the disarmer--once and for all, we would like to think.


If
by
Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowances for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
    Or being lied about, not deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
    And yet don't look too good, nor too wise;

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two imposters just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
    And never breath a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings–not lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
    And–which is more–you'll be a Man, my son!

Kipling's mighty statement ought to be memorized by every young man of consequence before leaving his parents' hearth. It is interesting that it was written to honor Cecil John Rhodes who was indeed "a man" but whose small nation has been abandoned by larger nations with lower standards.


"Verloren ist nur, wer sich selbst aufgibt." ("A man has only lost when he admits it to himself.") -- Hans-Ulrich Rudel

Rudel was the greatest individual warrior in history. He autographed his books and pictures with the above.


"The sickness of the late twentieth century is cowardice. Anger is the only cure for cowardice--anger strong enough to overcome fear." -- Eric Hoffer

Eric Hoffer, the stevedore philosopher, was an unsettling social critic. The truth expressed here came as a shock to the Aquarians.


"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." -- John Stuart Mill

Mill, who defined liberty, here puts it to the poltroon. He and Hoffer are two very different people who reached similar conclusions.


Invictus
by
William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced or cried out loud.
Under the bludgeoninings of chance
    My head is bloody but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
    I am the captain of my soul.

Henley was a hopeless invalid. As such he is a permanent reproach to the healthy coward.


"If you are not making anyone mad, you are not getting anything done." -- Paul McNicol

McNicol was a colonel of marines. That says it all.


"An armed society is a polite society." -- Robert Heinlein

Heinlein's fantasy-philosophy is unfashionably popular, and his gift for the pungent phrase is the envy of lesser authors. Here he makes a very significant but much overlooked point.


"Let your gun be your constant companion on your walks." -- Thomas Jefferson

President Jefferson is sometimes considered to be the patron of the American left. This is one of his ideas that they have swept under the rug.


"No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full." -- Sulla--"Felix" (Lucius Cornelius Sulla)

"Sulla the Happy." "Sulla the Fortunate." He was held by the Romans to be the man who did everything right--who really "got his act together." We can see why.


"Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence.... From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable.... The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference–they deserve a place of honor with all that's good...." - Attributed to George Washington

"First in war. First in peace. And first in the hearts of his countrymen." No such man could be a hoplophobe.


"To live is to strive.

"Nothing good may be had without effort.

"The goals of life are three:
    To understand.
    To accomplish.
    To appreciate.

"We cannot know, but we can seek knowledge.
We cannot win but we can fight.
We can, on the other hand, wonder and delight in life, in the world, and in joy.

"Our time is not measured in days but rather in events. Each is his own judge, and no one cares but himself. Therefore, "This above all–to thine own self be true.""

The philosophy of Jeff Cooper's life.


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Updated 2009-10-10