"In This World A Man Must Either Be Anvil Or Hammer"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The idea that a man is either the smiter or the one smitten is an old one. If he does not assert himself, he will be put upon by others. Some writers have varied the expression, to insist that in his lifetime man plays both parts, and must act in either role to his utmost capacity. In the days of Christian martyrdom, the second century Bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatius Theophorus, told his followers: "Stand like an anvil when it is beaten upon." A later religious poet, George Herbert (1593-1633) advised in Jacula Prudentum (1640): "When you are an anvil, hold you still;/ When you are a hammer, strike your fill." More recently the American poet, Edward Markham (1852-1940) wrote in "Preparedness": "When you are the anvil, bear–/ When you are the hammer, strike." Longfellow, in his longest prose work, Hyperion, employed the same figure. Based on the New England poet's trip to Europe in 1835–1836 to study at Heidelberg, Hyperion embodied Longfellow's own experiences and even used as heroine Frances Appleton, whom he was to marry five years later. About Paul Flemming (representing Longfellow), the hero of this sentimental romance, the novelist declares in Book I, chapter IV: "One half of the world must sweat and groan, that the other half may dream." In Part IV, a priest, after telling Flemming a story, bids him goodbye with the comment:

"I shall not see you in the morning, so goodby, and God bless you. Remember my parting words. Never mind trifles. In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer. Care killed a cat!"
"I have heard you say that so often," replied Flemming, laughing, "that I begin to believe it. But I wonder if Care shaved his left eyebrow after doing the deed, as the ancient Egyptians used to do!"
"Aha! now you are sweeping cobwebs from the sky! Good night! Good night!"