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If any one owe a debt for a loan, and a storm prostrates the grain, or the harvest fail, or the grain does not grow for lack of water; in that year he need not give his creditor any grain, he washes his debt-tablet in water and pays no rent for this year.
Section 48 of the Code of Hammurabi (translated by Leonard William King, 1910).
Alternately translated as: If a man owe a debt and Adad inundate his field and carry away the produce, or, though lack of water, grain have not grown in the field, in that year he shall not make any return of grain to the creditor, he shall alter his contract-tablet and he shall not pay the interest for that year.


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I perceived that I was on a little round grain of rock and metal, filmed with water and with air, whirling in sunlight and darkness. And on the skin of that little grain all the swarms of men, generation by generation, had lived in labour and blindness, with intermittent joy and intermittent lucidity of spirit. And all their history, with its folk-wanderings, its empires, its philosophies, its proud sciences, its social revolutions, its increasing hunger for community, was but a flicker in one day of the lives of the stars.

Olaf Stapledon

The most reliable and best armed groups of the mass of revolutionary contingents organised to take extreme measures to overcome the famine shall be detailed for dispatch to all stations and all uyezds of the principal grain supplying gubernias. These groups, with the participation of railwaymen delegated by local railway committees, shall be authorised, firstly, to control the movement of grain freights; secondly, take charge of the collection and storage of grain; thirdly, adopt the most extreme revolutionary measures to fight speculators and to requisition grain stocks. When making any record of requisition, arrest or execution, the revolutionary contingents shall summon at least six witnesses to be selected from the poorest section of the population closest at hand.

Vladimir Lenin

In case of debt, as before remarked, the delinquent is sent to jail provided the creditor will not accept his services. If he will, however, the debtor becomes nolens volens [unwillingly or willingly, willy-nilly, from will-he nil-he i.e., whether he will or whether he will not] the servant of the creditor till the debt is satisfied; and, serving, as he does, at very reduced wages, his expenses for clothing, and other necessaries, but too often retain him in perpetual servitude. This system... acts with terrible severity upon the unfortunate poor, whose condition is but little better, if not worse indeed than that of the slaves of the South. ...Men's wages range from two to five dollars a month, and those of women from fifty cents to two dollars; in payment of which, they rarely receive any money; but instead thereof, articles of apparel and other necessaries at the most exorbitant prices. The consequence is that the servant soon accumulates a debt which he is unable to pay his wages being often engaged for a year or two in advance. Now, according to the usages, if not the laws of the country, he is bound to serve his master until all arrearages are liquidated; and is only enabled to effect an exchange of masters, by engaging another to pay his debt...

Josiah Gregg

We call it a grain of sand
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine without a name,
whether general, particular,
permanent, passing,
incorrect or apt.

Wislawa Szymborska

I did not know that mankind were suffering for want of gold. I have seen a little of it. I know that it is very malleable, but not so malleable as wit. A grain of gold will gild a great surface, but not so much as a grain of wisdom.

Henry David Thoreau
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