The Grammarphobia Blog

Where ignorance is bliss

Q: Does the old expression that begins “where ignorance is bliss …” finish with “it follows to be wise” or with “ ’tis fallow to be wise”? The first one makes little sense to me. I think the second is right because it uses the agrarian idea of a field left fallow, where nothing productive is growing.

A: The expression comes from Thomas Gray’s poem “On a Distant Prospect of Eton College.” The lines read, in part: “… where ignorance is bliss, / ’Tis folly to be wise.” You can find the whole poem on Bartleby.com.