Whale catches runaway train.
Queen Elizabeth I, c. 1600. National Portrait Gallery, London.
Volume V, Number 4 | fall 2012
The verb ostracize derives from the Greek word ostracon, a potsherd on which each citizen wrote the name of one well-known citizen whom they wished to banish from the polis. The first published use of the word in English dates from 1649, in a poetic elegy to young Lord Hastings, a Royalist supporter of Charles I: “Therefore the Democratic stars did rise,/And all that worth from hence did ostracize.” The author was Andrew Marvell, who, not long after, served in Oliver Cromwell’s commonwealth government along with the secretary for foreign tongues, John Milton.
Written laws are like spiderwebs: they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.—Anacharsis, c. 550 BC
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