June 12th, 2013


The Wordsmith's Forge

I have been re-reading one of my favorite books. This book has a great first line. It begins, “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” Simple, direct, it sets you up for what is to come. It juxtaposes the familiar (a farm) with the exotic (the Ngong Hills). It piques your interest. You settle down and await the story’s development.

It made me think of other famous first lines. Here are a few you might have come across before. How many (including the first, above) can you identify? You might add any you haven’t read to your summer reading list.

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

“I sing of arms and the man.” (Arma virumque cano.)

“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

“This is the forest primeval.”

“All Gaul is divided in three parts.” (Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.)

“You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,’ but that ain’t no matter.”

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”