Tracking Attribution

I remember reading as a young boy Hal Borland When the Legends Die (1963) and committing the epigraph to memory: “When legends die the dreams end. When the dreams end there is no more greatness.”

Recently all over the WWW, I’ve seen some forms of the quotation attributed to Tecumseh but I haven’t found a source that predates Borland. Wikiquote notes:

Quoted as a statement of Tecumseh in Inspire! : What Great Leaders Do (2004) by Lance H. K. Secretan, p. 67; but also often quoted as an anonymous Shawnee proverb, as in The Soul Would Have No Rainbow If The Eyes Had No Tears (1994) by Guy A. Zona, p. 45.

Secretan gives a clunkier version: “When the legends die, the dreams end; there is no more greatness.”

The series of competing attributions, reminds me of the Desiderata by Max Ehrman which on posters from the 1970s had the attribution “Found in Old St. Paul’s church” which is explained by

After Ehrmann died in 1945, his widow first published the work in 1948 in The Poems of Max Ehrmann. The Reverend Frederick Kates handed out about 200 unattributed copies to his congregation at Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore, during 1959 or 1960.

Why does attribution matter? Otherwise it is like labelling saffron as paprika. Time, person and place matter. And of course misattributions are a source of joy for the sleuth.

And so for day 2902

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