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Source: p 7 of 35, Citizenship in a Republic (a speech), by Theodore Roosevelt

One notable passage on page seven of the 35-page speech is referred to as "The Man in the Arena":

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

For brevity, I denote this 'man in the arena': lionheart. I guess that but serves as a conjunction here. Yet which definition applies? No 'contrast' (Defn 1 ), 'impossibility' (Defn 2), or 'a response expressing a feeling such as surprise or anger' (Defn 3) exists, seeing as the preceding relative clauses are already exalting this lionheart. So why use but? What would change if but were omitted?

Footnote: I was reading this when I lighted upon this passage.

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    "Gladiator" would be a better shorthand than "lionheart". – Jasper Feb 8 '15 at 0:27
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    Come, now: no contrast between errs, comes short BUT does actually strive .. knows enthusiasms [and] devotions ... spends himself in a worthy cause? TR repeats the contrast: "If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly". – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 8 '15 at 2:33
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Shall we criticize a speech about critics and doers? :-)

I think the rhetorical train started out down this track:

It's not the critic who counts .... but the man who actually strives valiantly...

But that train gets sent down a sidetrack:

[The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;] who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming...

This sentence must have seemed too good not to use, and it was incorporated with side-effects:

[The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;]

When the train re-enters the original track, it takes up once again the rhetorical not-the-critic-but-the-striver rhetorical structure, like a man who, when he comes to after getting knocked out in the middle of a task, resumes his task where he left off.

Hence:

but [the man] who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms...

This language

dust and sweat and blood

is rather raw meat compared to "shortcomings", "enthusiasms", "devotions", "high achievement", "worthy causes". Is this rawer stuff the work of another staffer? of TR in a different mood?

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  • +1. Thank you. Would you please clarify your final sentences beginning with This language ? Do you mean that everything before the bolded but (in my OP) is written more luridly than everything after? If so, what are the problems or what bothers you? – AYX.CLDR Mar 7 '15 at 4:31
  • I don't see any "problem" with such a contrast in and of itself; but the corporeal seems to have been injected into the paragraph when it was felt that its high-mindedness ("devotions", "worthy causes", etc) was too bland and needed more "kick". That the more peppery phrases are not perfectly integrated syntactically is a telltale sign that the speech was being reworked, perhaps in haste at the last minute. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 7 '15 at 14:41
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That is a very tangled sentence! It works better if it is read aloud, which is what I had to do to catch why that "but" is there.

who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

To simplify and add some different punctuation: "The credit is due to the man in the arena, who errs -- because there is no effort without error -- but who strives anyway."

(Basically, this is a transcription of a speech, and the punctuation choices made then are not the choices that I would pick to make it clear what that "but" is doing there.)

The "but" is there as a synonym for "yet" -- first definition at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/but?s=t .

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