WIST is my personal and ever-growing collection of quotations. Please feel free to browse and borrow. More info and contact information is available under "About WIST."
Quotes13780 quotes and counting ...
Man is born to live, not to prepare for life.
COUNTESS: Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none.
All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 1, sc. 1, l. 73 (1602)
For a thing to remain undone nothing more is needed than to think it done.
MAL: Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle.
A bureaucrat is one who has the power to say “no” but none to say “yes”. Bureaucrats can find an infinite number of reasons for rejecting any proposed change, but can find none for accepting it.
Life is one day at a time. And thank God! I couldn’t take much more.
One of the oldest Russian proverbs remains as inexorably true in modern America: “No one is hanged who has money in his pocket.” Or, one might say, capital punishment is only for those without capital.
We should be wanting to ourselves, we should be perfidious to posterity, we should be unworthy that free ancestry from which we derive our descent, should we submit with folded arms to military butchery and depredation.
Wooden-headedness consists of assessing a situation in terms of preconceived, fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be confused by the facts.
Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it’s no worse than it is.
The firefly only shines when on the wing.
So is it with the mind — when once we rest
There is a certain dignity to be kept up in pleasures, as well as in business.
Knowledge is happiness, because to have knowledge — broad, deep knowledge — is to know true ends from false, and lofty things from low. To know the thoughts and deeds that have marked man’s progress is to feel the great heart-throbs of humanity through the centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life.
Economists are very good at saying that something cannot go on forever, but not so good at saying when it will stop.
Most men that do thrive in the world do forget to take pleasure during the time that they are getting their estate, but reserve that till they have got one and then it is too late for them to enjoy it.
If forty million people say a foolish thing it does not become a wise one, but the wise man is foolish to give them the lie.
A Writer’s Notebook (1949)
An entry in 1901. See Anatole France.
One thing shines clear in the heart’s sweet reason,
One lightning over the chasm runs —
That to turn from love is the world’s one treason
That darkens all the suns.
You ever look at their faces? “We’re pro-life.” Don’t they look it? Don’t they just exude joie de vivre?
Be assured, my young friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.
FOOL: Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest.
To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.
MAL: I would appreciate it if one person on this boat would not assume I’m an evil, lecherous hump.
ZOE: No one’s saying that, sir.
WASH: Yeah, we’re pretty much just giving each other significant glances and laughing incessantly.
When a mess, which is a system of problems, is taken apart, it loses its essential properties and so does each of its parts. The behavior of a mess depends more on how the treatment of its parts interact than how they act independently of each other. A partial solution to a whole system of problems is better than whole solutions of each of its parts taken separately.
I shall stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.
They are escaped convicts. His Majesty is fortunate to be rid of such rabble. Their true God is power.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
We must show by our behavior that we believe in equality and justice and that our religion teaches faith and love and charity to our fellow men. Here is where each of us has a job to do that must be done at home, because we can lose the battle on the soil of the United States just as surely as we can lose it in any one of the countries of the world.
Man — who is he? Too bad, to be the work of God: Too good for the work of chance!
Songwriting is about getting the demon out of me. It’s like being possessed. You try to go to sleep, but the song won’t let you. So you have to get up and make it into something, and then you’re allowed to sleep. It’s always in the middle of the bloody night, or when you’re half-awake or tired, when your critical faculties are switched off. So letting go is what the whole game is.
Mistrust all in whom the urge to punish is strong!
It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.
Europe … have totally mistaken our character. Accustomed to rise at a feather themselves, and to be always fighting, they will see in our conduct, fairly stated, that acquiescence under wrong, to a certain degree, is wisdom, and not pusillanimity; and that peace and happiness are preferable to that false honor which, by eternal wars, keeps their people in eternal labor, want, and wretchedness.
Letter to James Madison (23 Mar 1815) [ME 14:290]
The so-called lessons of history are for the most part the rationalizations of the victors. History is written by the survivors.
It Is Later Than You Think: The Need for a Militant Democracy (1939)
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.
To ask the right question is already half the solution of a problem.
Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise.
A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.
The Simplest Way to be Happy (1933)
How little a thing can make us happy when we feel that we have earned it.
“Eve’s Diary” (1905)
Anything I like is either illegal or immoral or fattening.
Apparently a gag attributed by Woollcott to a Frank Rand of St. Louis on his radio show in Sep. 1933; it was then directly attributed to Woollcott in Reader's Digest in Dec. 1933. It is sometimes cited to Woollcott's essay "The Knock at the Stage Door," The North American Review (Sep 1922), but not found there. See here for more information. Variants:
- "All the things I like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening."
- "All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal or fattening."
- "Everything I want to do is either illegal, immoral or fattening."
How convenient does it prove to be a rational animal, that knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination so to do.
If this is a dream, then perhaps our dreaming
Can touch life’s height to a finer fire:
Who knows but the heavens and all their seeming
Were made by the heart’s desire?
I was walking through Central Park, and I saw an old man smoking. Nothing makes a smoker happier than to see an old person smoking. This guy was ancient, bent over a walker, puffing away. I’m like, “Dude, you’re my hero! Guy your age smoking, man, it’s great.” He goes, “What? I’m 28.”
HAWKEYE: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.
FR. MULCAHEY: How do you figure, Hawkeye?
HAWKEYE: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?
FR. MULCAHEY: Sinners, I believe.
HAWKEYE: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them — little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.
In public affairs, stupidity is more dangerous than knavery.
Excess of grief for the deceased is madness; for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not.
In Anon. Mental Recreation Or, Select Maxims, Sayings And Observations Of Philosophers (1831).
INARA: What did I say to you about barging into my shuttle?
MAL: That it was manly and impulsive?
INARA: Yes, precisely. Only the exact phrase I used was, “Don’t.”
Managers are not confronted with problems that are independent of each other, but with dynamic situations that consist of complex systems of changing problems that interact with each other. I call such situations messes. Problems are extracted from messes by analysis. Managers do not solve problems, they manage messes.
The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value.
Backlog Studies, ch. 11 (1872)
It would be some time before I fully realized that the United States sees little need for diplomacy; power is enough. Only the weak rely on diplomacy. This is why the weak are so deeply concerned with the democratic principle of the sovereign equality of states, as a means of providing some small measure of equality for that which is not equal in fact. Coming from a developing country, I was trained extensively in international law and diplomacy and mistakenly assumed that the great powers, especially the United States, also trained their representatives in diplomacy and accepted the value of it. But the Roman Empire had no need for diplomacy. Nor does the United States. Diplomacy is perceived by an imperial power as a waste of time and prestige and a sign of weakness.
You have greatly ventured, but all must do so who would greatly win.
Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, Act 1, sc. 1 (1821)
Person after person has said to me in these last few days that this new world we face terrifies them. I can understand how that feeling would arise unless one believes that men are capable of greatness beyond their past achievements. … The time now calls for mankind as a whole to rise to great heights. We must have faith or we die.
The worst of superstitions is to think
One’s own most bearable.