8

To those familiar with Shakespeare, do you know where this phrase comes from?

Robust grass endures mighty winds; loyal ministers emerge through ordeal

  • giga-usa.com/quotes/authors/li_shimim_a001.htm attributes this quote to Li Shimin (without reference), although Google certainly has many attributing it to Shakespeare without reference. – fundagain Jul 5 '18 at 12:05
  • There appears to be no reference to the quote prior too 2001, according to Google. After 2001, it begins appearing in "meme" form, attributed to Shakespeare without reference. – fundagain Jul 5 '18 at 12:21
  • @fundagain, thank you for the interest. This is what I have seen. Very interesting question, though. – peter5 Jul 5 '18 at 12:24
11

I have read all of Shakespeare's works and the quote does not even sound like a Shakespeare quote. Most of Shakespeare's works are written in a type of verse known as iambic pentameter and the quote cannot be scanned as a succession of iambs.

Of course, Shakespeare also used prose in his plays, but I couldn't find any examples of the words "robust, "ordeal" or "emerge" or the phrase "loyal ministers" in Shakespeare's works. (Shakespeare did use "endure", "robustious", "mighty", "loyal" and "minister".)

As one of the comments pointed out, GIGA Quotes attributes the quote to Li Shimin (personal name of emperor Taizong of Tang). However, the Wikipedia article about 萧瑀 / Xiao Yu, who served as chancellor during the reign of Tang Taizong, mentions the following poem, which looks longer than the quote in the question and which is attributed to emperor Taizong:

疾風知勁草,板盪識誠臣。勇夫安識義,智者必懷仁 (traditional Chinese characters)

疾风知劲草,板荡识诚臣。勇夫安识义,智者必怀仁 (simplified Chinese characters)

Below are translations of some of the words from the poem:

  • 疾风 (jí​fēng): storm or strong wind
  • 劲草 (jìng​cǎo): tough upright grass; (figuratively) a staunch character
  • 臣 (chén): state official or subject in dynastic China

(I won't try to write my own translation; you can't simple translate Classical Chinese by simply looking up words in a modern Chinese dictionary.)

  • Thanks a lot for the detailed answer. – peter5 Jul 5 '18 at 23:07
  • @PeterShor The reason for the "however" was not the quote's authorship but the length of the poem, which looks longer than the quote when you take the terseness of Classical Chinese into account. I have reworded the text to clarify this. – user800 Aug 5 '18 at 16:27
8

The quote appears to be taken from a poem by the emperor Taizong (personal name Li Shimin) of China. Wikipedia says that Emperor Taizong wrote a poem to his chancellor Xiao Yu that contains these two lines:

Only in a gust of wind can the strong among the grass be known,
Only in turmoil can the faithful subjects be seen.

These lines differ slightly in meaning from the OP's quote. However, it appears that the original Chinese poem is terse enough that it might support both translations.

The original Chinese and another translation can be found here. The Chinese characters are:

疾风知劲草
板荡识诚臣
勇夫安识义
智者必怀仁

A different translation found by Google books is:

A strong wind reveals the strength of grass,
A time of lawlessness makes a forthright person recognizable.
How can a temerarious fellow discern justice?
A wise man is bound to cherish benevolence.

  • Thanks a lot for the detailed answer – peter5 Jul 5 '18 at 23:07

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