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"Self-reverence, Self-knowledge, Self-control"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Tennyson recounts the classical story of Oenone, the nymph of Mount Ida, who was the wife of Paris of Troy. Mourning the unfaithfulness of her lover, Oenone prays to the mountain: "'O mother Ida, many-fountained Ida,/ Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.'" She tells how she lost Paris. He came to her one day carrying an apple marked "For the most fair." He was to judge which of three goddesses–Heré (queen of heaven), Pallas (wisdom), and Aphrodite (love)–was most worthy of receiving the apple. Heré offered Paris "royal power," "ample rule," and "overflowing revenue" if he would choose her. Pallas offered wisdom. But Aphrodite offered Paris a beautiful wife (Helen). Paris chose Helen, thus bringing heartbreak to Oenone and destruction to his country. Oenone feels that he should have chosen Pallas's gift of wisdom. She quotes Pallas's speech, which epitomizes Tennyson's philosophy of life:

"'Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,
These three alone lead life to sovereign power.
Yet not for power (power of herself
Would come uncalled for) but to live by law,
Acting the law we live by without fear;
And, because right is right, to follow right
Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.' . . ."