Tom Levenson of The Inverse Square goosed me with the 123 meme. On p. 123 of the book closest to me at the time I was tagged, here are sentences 6 through 8:
By 461, the likely year of Patrick's death, the Roman Empire is careening in chaos, barely fifteen years away from the the death of the last western emperor. The accelerated change is, at this point, so dramatic we should not be surprised that the eyes of the historians have been riveted on it or that they have failed to notice a transformation just as dramatic -- and even more abrupt -- taking place at the empire's periphery. For as the Roman lands went from peace to chaos, the land of Ireland was rushing even more rapidly from chaos to peace.The book, of course, is Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, whose title is not made to frighten readers away with its scholarship, but which seems to me after about 80 pages and a browse through the bibliography to be expert, well written, and insightful. That could just be appearance, though, since I'm weak in history.
I cheated a little on this, since actually The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli, as translated by William J. Connell, was on top of How the Irish, but in my defense, p. 123 of The Prince doesn't have even a fifth sentence. However, to be fair, here's a quote that spans from p. 122 and concludes the book:
This barbarian domination stinks to everyone. Let your illustrious house therefore take up this enterprise with that spirit and that hope with which just undertakings are taken up, so that under its insignia this fatherland may be ennobled, and under its auspices that saying of Petrarch may be realized
Virtue against fury
Will take up arms, and may the struggle be short;
since the ancient valor
in Italian hearts is not yet dead.