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Is Whittier a plagiarist?

... Is there a time limit on plagiarism?

by Louise Fennell

Since April is poetry month I started thinking about my
favorite poem which I always thought was written by that
prolific writer "Anonymous". That's what I was told in grade
school. However, I recently looked it up on Google and
found it attributed to John Greenleaf Whittier among others.

Whittier's version goes like this:

"If thou of fortune be bereft
and in thy stores there be but left
two loaves, sell one, and with the
dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul."
-John Greenleaf Whittier

However, upon further investigation, I found an earlier
version by Elbert Hubbard, (1856-1915.

"If I had two loaves of bread
I would sell one of them
and buy White hyacinths to feed my soul".

Upon seeing that, I decided to look at the other sites too
and found an even earlier version by a 13th Century Persian
poet named Muslihuddhin Sadi.  

"If of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft.
And from thy slender store two loaves
Alone to thee are left,
Sell one and from the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed the soul."

There was also a web site reference as follows:
http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924022210672#page
/n11/mode/2up


This takes you to a book of poetry titled "In Saadi's Rose Garden"
which contains the exact wording as the Whittier version and ends with
-Copyright by the Century Co., 1907
Whittier lived from 1807 to 1892 so he didn't copyright it. Who did?
Can I believe what I read in Google?


I  know there is a time limit on copyright but I didn't think
there was one on plagiarism?
Should I love this poem less because it appears it's not
original? These poetic words have been taped to my
refrigerator for years even through a couple of moves. They
got me through the lean years when my children were small
and money was tight. They reminded me to find a way to
get money for the movies or a trip for an ice cream even if
we had to search the couch cushions and run the yardstick
under the washing machine for loose change. This is very
disillusioning. Please someone tell me Whittier is not a
plagiarist. I'm confused.




  April 3, 2015


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