I've just re-read Terry Pratchett's book, Lords and Ladies - such fun! Part of the renowned Discworld series, it stars the three witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. It also features the wizards - in particular, Archchancellor Ridcully. At one point, a bandit chieftain foolishly holds up the coach which is carrying Ridcully, the Bursar, the Librarian and Ponder Stibbins. The chieftain sees the wizard's staff poking out of the window.
'Now then,' he said pleasantly. 'I know the rules. Wizards aren't allowed to use magic against civilians except in genuine lifethreatening situa-'
There was a burst of octarine light.
'Actually, it's not a rule,' said Ridcully. 'It's more a guideline.'
How familiar was that? It's almost exactly what Captain Barbarossa declared in Pirates of the Caribbean, when Keira Knightley called on him to stick to the terms of the Pirates' Charter. I think that bit was used in a trailer; it was certainly quoted in reviews as one of the funniest lines in the film. But here it was: Lords and Ladies was published in 1992. Terry Pratchett wrote it first.
I'd be willing to bet that whoever wrote the script didn't realise the line was second-hand. For some reason, it resonated, as it did with me: it lodged in the scriptwriter's mind, and out it popped when it was needed. He probably had no idea he'd first seen the line in the book.
It made me think about why it is that some combinations of words are persistent, echoing in the memory long after what surrounded them has been forgotten. I haven't come up with any answers so far, but I have come up with some examples. Here are my first ten. They're in no particular order, and they're not necessarily accurate - they're as I remember them. Incidentally, I don't have a good memory for quotes - or for jokes - so if I remember something, it must have very considerable staying power!
'Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams...'
(W B Yeats - the whole poem is gorgeous. It's lovely as a song, too.)
'Christ if my love were in my arms'
And I in my bed again!
Anon (but very old!)
'Today was bad, but tomorrow will be beyond all imagining...'
Susan Cooper: The Dark is Rising
'Je crains notre victoire, autant que notre perte.'
This is from a French A-level text, Horace, by Corneille. It means 'I fear our victory as much as our defeat'. I think the speaker had a lover on one side of the battle and a brother on the other. Beyond that, I remember nothing about the play, and I've no idea why this phrase has stuck. Mind you, now I come to think about it, there are all sorts of situations to which it could apply.
'The drunkenness of things being various.'
(From Snow, by Louis MacNeice)
'We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.'
(The Sunlight on the Garden, also MacNeice)
'I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams...'
'Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine...'
(Casablanca - like Shakespeare, the source of so many resonant quotes.)
'I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not like this. Not on the cess of war.'
(Wilfred Owen: Strange Meeting)
'Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.'
(From T S Eliot's Burnt Norton - as is the quote I used for the title of this post. And here's a picture of a rose garden, just to remind us of summer. It's at Hestercombe, in Somerset)
Do you have any similarly sticky quotes? Or, to borrow from Eliot - footfalls which echo in the memory, as these do in mine?