“When the going gets tough, the tough get going …”


… is an American English phrase from the 1950s. The truth is, that when many are tested, they discover that they are not ‘tough’ at all. But hollow men … and women! They profess true love or solid friendship, they boast solidarity to a cause, but when it’s time to stand up for their cause, they ‘cool’ off. They were never really passionate about something, or someone … it was all show, as we say today.

I like the way Shakespeare puts it in ‘The Tragedy of Julius Caesar’ (1599)

BRUTUS Thou hast described
A hot friend cooling. Ever note, Lucilius,
When love begins to sicken and decay
It useth an enforcèd ceremony.

There are no tricks in plain and simple faith; 
But HOLLOW MEN, like horses hot at hand,
Make gallant show and promise of their mettle,
Low march within.
But when they should endure the bloody spur,
They fall their crests and, like deceitful jades,
Sink in the trial. Comes his army on? 

And of course, T S Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’ from 1925

We are the hollow men
 We are the stuffed men
 Leaning together
 Headpiece filled with straw.

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