"The Good Die Young"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 192

Context: It is interesting to note that this proverbial saying has its origins in one of the most ribald of comedies and with an ironic twist. In English, however, it is seriously moral and evidently believed. George Herbert, the seventeenth century priest-poet, says "Those that God loves do not live long," while Wordsworth states "The good die first,/and those whose hearts are dry as summer dust/ Burn to the socket." Lord Byron indicates in his Don Juan that the proverb "was said of yore," and in Childe Harold he paraphrases the saying as "Heaven gives its favorites–early death." In the Roman play the younger intriguer argues with an older man, both of whom seek the Bacchides, the female followers of Bacchus:

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CHRYSALUS
Poor fool, you little know you're being sold!
You're on the block, the crier calls your name.
NICOBULUS
Tell me who's selling me?
CHRYSALUS
Whom the gods love
Dies young, whilst yet he's strength and sight and sense.
If any god loved him, (pointing to Nicobulus) ten years ago,
Nay, rather, twenty years since, he'd have died.
Too long he walks a burden to the earth;
A senseless, tasteless, worthless, stinking toad-stool!

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