Frank Weathers cites personal correspondence between Jon Anderson and a friend of his, in which Anderson attributes the song’s inspiration to this quotation:
In the struggle for existence, it is only on those who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn.
I searched the Internet and this quote is all over the place, attributed to Chesterton, as if writing thus in The Speaker on February 2, 1901.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Chesterton actually wrote it. There are lots of fake quotations propagated by the Internet.
And the way the “struggle for existence” phrase is placed in that sentence doesn’t sound like Chesterton to me.
I did a search through the Collected Works of Chesterton published by Ignatius Press but I have been unable to verify the quotation.
In addition, my scouring of Chesterton books via the tremendous power of Google Books yields no results.
Is there anyone out there who can cite me a published source, in order to verify this Chesterton quotation?
Until then, I will have to conclude that it is fake.
Still, this would be a marvelous case of felix culpa…
Marvelous that Anderson could read a simple fake quotation somewhere and then spin a glorious Yes song out of it.
Perhaps it would not be too much to say that Anderson had a connatural understanding of Chesterton on this one point, in somewhat the same way that Chesterton himself had an intuitive grasp of Thomas Aquinas by way of connaturality, as Marshall McLuhan has argued in his “Introduction” to Hugh Kenner’s Paradox in Chesterton:
[Chesterton] seems never to have reached any position by dialectic or doctrine, but to have enjoyed a kind of connaturality with every kind of reasonableness.
According to Weathers’ friend, Anderson apparently had this to say about his inspiration:
He told me that the song was about pressing forward into a new world—like moving from black and white into technicolor. We could either accept the end of the world, war, corruption, the extermination of mankind, or we could work toward a bright, peaceful world based on “common sense.”
He wrote—and this is why I’ve always remembered it—that “hang on” doesn’t sound as pleasing when sung as “hold on.”
Sounds connatural to me…
After all, Chesterton is the Apostle of Common Sense.