Spoiling for a fight, Pete? DocPenfro always pushes back provided he's got several thousand miles between himself and any serious risk to life and limb. The Google ngram viewer is suggesting that its use in more or less the quoted form originated around 1900 and peaked about the time of WW2. Its popularity seems to have diminished since the 1970s. I shall leave it to braver men than myself to decide whether that entitles it to the status of a bona fide proverb.I think I will disagree with DocPenfro
DocP, it seems that Catch-22 has it both ways, with no clear decision either way. But it certainly is the same proverb (or saying) in different clothing.“Because it’s better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knee,” Nately retorted with triumphant and lofty conviction. “I guess you’ve heard that saying before.”
“Yes, I certainly have,” mused the treacherous old man, smiling again. “But I’m afraid you have it backward. It is better to live on one’s feet than die on one’s knees. That is the way the saying goes.”
“Are you sure?” Nately asked with sober confusion. “It seems to make more sense my way.”
“No, it makes more sense my way. Ask your friends.”
Heller, Joseph; (2010-10-26). Catch-22 (p. 233). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.