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The meaning and origin of the expression: Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water

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Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water'?

This Shakespearian saying expresses the notion that, while we recall well anything done to harm us, we forget quickly the good others do.

A modern phrase that expresses a similaridea is Monty Python's "What have the Romans ever done for us?". The characters in that sketch claim that "The Romans have taken everything from us" and offered nothing in return except aqueducts, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public baths and peace.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water'?

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water'From Shakespeare's Henry VIII, 1612:

GRIFFITH:
Noble madam,
Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues
We write in water. May it please your highness
To hear me speak his good now?

The line was alluded to on Keats' tombstone - Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

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