A Search for Exemplary Sentences

From: Rick McGowan (rmcgowan@apple.com)
Date: Tue Nov 17 1998 - 21:11:32 EST


Suppose you had only one sentence, gleaned from the corpus of "classical
literature" or poetry of your exalted mother tongue, in which to capture that
language's beauty and cultural essence. What would it be? What sentence
sums up everything? What great aphorism makes the patriotic pulses pound and
sets all eyes to watering?

I'm collecting a set of exceptionally brief "sample texts" in various
languages. (Well, I actually have had a very modest collection for some
time, and I just remembered that I have always wanted to expand it...)

If you have in mind one sentence of your language's classical (or
near-modern) literature that you think really "says everything" would you
consider sending it to me? If I receive enough responses, I'll cause the
entries to be posted somewhere in a Unicode-encoded plain text file for your

I'll set the stage with an example from a well-known English dramatist:

        Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
        Having some business, do entreat her eyes
        To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
                        -- William Shakespeare (R&J, II.ii)

And for the hex-heads, here is a Chinese example which kind of says it all:

  U+ 9053 53ef 9053 975e 5e38 9053 540d 53ef 540d
     975e 5e38 540d 7121 540d 5929 4e0b 4e4b 59cb
                        -- Lao Tzu

In another guessable language, perhaps it is:

        Du danske sprog, du er min moders stemme,
        så sødt velsignet du mid hjerte når.
                        -- Hans Christian Andersen
And in Latin could it be:

        In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram.
                        -- Genesis 1:1

But in French, it probably is not:

        la chanson d'un dadaïste
        qui avait dada au coeur
                        -- Tristan Tzara

Whatever you send should be "classical"; it should be well-known to many or
all speakers of the language. Whatever you send must be properly attributed
(i.e., send me the name of the author, and what book or poem it's from). The
sentence must be usable and quotable without fear of copyright infringement
or such. (For example, quotes of Shakespeare are free of encumbrances;
quotes of Pablo Neruda or Maya Angelou are under copyright.) Please include
at least a rough translation into English. And, if the string cannot be
communicated via Latin 1 encoding, you may communicate it as a hex-string of
Unicode characters (or Unicode plain text file attachment).

Thanks in advance,
        Rick (rmcgowan@apple.com)

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