I am trying to recall an idiom I heard a long time ago (could be a line from a poem or novel perhaps), that dealt with the appearance of strength even until the last moments before something is about to collapse. The quote went something like "the tree seems strong right until the moment the storm breaks it in two"...

Anyone know what quote that is please??

Cheers. Ancat


The Oak and the Reed, is a fable by Aesop about two trees in a storm. They deal with the contrasting behaviour of the oak, which trusts in its strength to withstand the storm and is blown over, and the reed that 'bends with the wind' and so survives.

Hence the saying:

A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall.

{McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.}

  • A good answer, Kayla, but it would be improved by giving a link to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, say – at least for the second, less well-known expression. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 13 '14 at 15:39
  • Thanks for the tip, I added the link for the second quote. – Kayla Owen Oct 13 '14 at 16:19
  • 1
    The fable of the oak and the reed is by Aesop. See en.wikiedia: The Oak and the Reed. – rogermue Oct 13 '14 at 17:05

I know a line like this from Isaac Asimov's novel Foundation. The line occurs in the first section of the novel, in this exchange from the trial of the character Hari Seldon.

Q: Is it not obvious to anyone that the Empire is as strong as it ever was?
A: The appearance of strength is all about you. It would seem to last forever. However, Mr. Advocate, the rotten tree-trunk, until the very moment when the storm-blast breaks it in two, has all the appearance of might it ever had. The storm-blast whistles through the branches of the Empire even now.

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