Oh, the quote by Samuel Johnson? Most know the first line, but I like the whole exchange.
We talked of war.Hat tip Bluto at Jawa.
Johnson: "Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea."
Boswell: "Lord Mansfield does not."
Johnson: "Sir, if Lord Mansfield were in a company of General Officers and Admirals who have been in service, he would shrink; he'd wish to creep under the table."
Boswell: ""No; he'd think he could try them all."
Johnson: "Yes, if he could catch them: but they'd try him much sooner. No, Sir; were Socrates and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden both present in any company, and Socrates to say, 'Follow me, and hear a lecture on philosophy;' and Charles, laying his hand on his sword, to say, 'Follow me, and dethrone the Czar;' a man would be ashamed to follow Socrates. Sir, the impression is universal; yet it is strange. As to the sailor, when you look down from the quarter deck to the space below, you see the utmost extremity of human misery; such crouding, such filth, such stench!"
Boswell: "Yet sailors are happy."
Johnson: "They are happy as brutes are happy, with a piece of fresh meat, --with the grossest sensuality. But, Sir, the profession of soldiers and sailors has the dignity of danger. Mankind reverence those who have got over fear, which is so general a weakness."
Scott: "But is not courage mechanical, and to be acquired?"
Johnson: "Why yes, Sir, in a collective sense. Soldiers consider themselves only as parts of a great machine."
Scott: "We find people fond of being sailors."
Johnson: "I cannot account for that, any more than I can account for other strange perversions of imagination."