Kipling’s poem referred to soldiers guarding civilians while they sleep, and that imagery was part of the misattributed quotation being explored.
The term “red-coats” referred to a military uniform and by extension a member of the military.
O makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap; An’ hustlin’ drunken sodgers when they’re goin’ large a bit Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Orwell was aware of the above verse, and he was sympathetic to some of the sentiments that it expressed.
The article discussed Orwell and Kipling, and it included two of the quotations listed above.
Grenier also used the phrase “rough men” when describing an attitude advanced by the movie: It burns with a white rage against societies as a whole, from military leaders and chiefs of state to (more common in our time) comfortable civilians in easy chairs, who send rough men out to serve their interests brutally, murderously (what is war?
Later commentators placed the statement between quotation marks and introduced various modifications to the passage.
QI believes that Grenier was using his own words to present a summary of Orwell’s viewpoint.
The saying that interests me is usually attributed to him, and there are two popular versions: We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.
Dear Quote Investigator: The brilliant writer George Orwell authored two of the most powerful and acclaimed political books of the last century: 1984 and Animal Farm.