Oliver Wendell Holmes

(1809-1894 / United States)

Cacoethes Scribendi - Poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

If all the trees in all the woods were men;
And each and every blade of grass a pen;
If every leaf on every shrub and tree
Turned to a sheet of foolscap; every sea
Were changed to ink, and all earth's living tribes
Had nothing else to do but act as scribes,
And for ten thousand ages, day and night,
The human race should write, and write, and write,
Till all the pens and paper were used up,
And the huge inkstand was an empty cup,
Still would the scribblers clustered round its brink
Call for more pens, more paper, and more ink.

Comments about Cacoethes Scribendi by Oliver Wendell Holmes

  • (1/17/2007 2:22:00 PM)

    It may be true that the title is 'The wickedness of writing' but I have always thought the title to be directly from latin translation as 'The insatiable urge to write' (Report) Reply

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  • (2/3/2006 1:46:00 PM)

    The title is a Latinisation of the Greek term 'kakos-ethes'. 'Kakos is 'bad' and 'ethes' is character or disposition. So it's taken as 'wickedness' and the title means 'The wickedness {bad ethics} of writing'. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: tree, sea, night, change

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004

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