Grocott & Ward, comps. Grocott’s Familiar Quotations, 6th ed. 189-?.


I’ll fight till from my bones my flesh be hack’d.
Shakespeare.—Macbeth, Act V. Scene 3. (To Seyton.)

He that fights and runs away,
Will live to fight another day.

[These lines are almost universally supposed to form a part of Hudibras. Butler has, indeed, two or three passages somewhat similar. For example:—

For those that run away, and fly,
Take place at least of th’ enemy.
Hudibras.—Part I., Canto III. Line 609.

And again—
For those that fly may fight again,
Which he can never do that’s slain.
Hudibras.—Part III., Canto III. Line 243.

Mr. Collet, however, refers us to a small volume of Poems by Sir John Mennes, written in the reign of Charles II., and says the original of the couplet may be traced to Demosthenes, who has a passage of which the English lines above are almost a literal translation.—Relics of Literature, page 185. But if we can trace the original idea to a much higher source than Demosthenes, we shall approach nearer to the author of the idea itself, whoever may have composed the couplet. In Plutarch’s Morals, we are told that Archilochus (a famous Greek Poet and Musician, who lived three centuries prior to Demosthenes) set the example of fighting and flying, and said, “It is much easier to get a new buckler than a new existence.” The translation of the lines of Archilochus, on excusing his cowardice, runs thus:—

Nature’s not honour’s laws, we must obey:
This made me cast my shield away,
And by a prudent flight and cunning save
A life, which valour could not, from the grave.
A better buckler I can soon regain,
But who can get another life again?

Archilochus.—Plutarch’s Morals; Essay on the Laws, &c., of the Lacedemonians, Part I.; translated by Mr. John Pulleyn, Trinity College, Cambridge, 1684.

This fact seems to set at rest the question as to the originator of the saying, and brings us a little nearer to the author of the lines. In Murray’s Handbook of Familiar Quotations, the fair compiler of that book gives a quaint couplet from a work of Nicholas Udall, published in 1542, as follows:—

That same man that rennith awaie,
Maie again fight another daie.]