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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1995
AUTHOR: Aeschylus (525–456 B.C.)
QUOTATION: Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
comes wisdom
by the awful grace of God.
ATTRIBUTION: AESCHYLUS, Agamemnon. The above lines are from Edith Hamilton, trans., Three Greek Plays, p. 170 (1937). Other translations of this passage from Aeschylus vary.

Robert F. Kennedy, delivering an extemporaneous eulogy to Martin Luther King, Jr., the evening of April 4, 1968, in Indianapolis, Indiana, said, “Aeschylus wrote: ‘In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’”

These words, lacking “own,” have been used as one of the inscriptions at the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery.