- WIST is my personal collection of quotations, curated for thought, amusement, turn of phrase, historical significance, or sometimes just (often-unintentional) irony. Please feel free to browse and borrow.
- 17,395 quotes and counting ...
Topic Cloudaction age America argument author beauty belief change character courage death democracy education ego evil faith fear freedom future God government happiness history humanity integrity leadership liberty life love morality perspective politics poverty power religion science society success truth tyranny virtue war wealth wisdom writing
- I've been adding topics/tags since 2014, so not all quotes have been given one. Full topic list.
- * Visual quotes (graphics, memes) only
- “Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National… (6,915)
- “The Lesson for Today,” A Witness Tree (1942) (5,813)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,732)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,870)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,847)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (3,923)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,814)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,670)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (3,080)
- “Hallowed Ground” (1825) (3,064)
Most Quoted Authors
Author CloudAdams, John • Bacon, Francis • Bible • Bierce, Ambrose • Billings, Josh • Butcher, Jim • Chesterton, Gilbert Keith • Churchill, Winston • Einstein, Albert • Eisenhower, Dwight David • Emerson, Ralph Waldo • Franklin, Benjamin • Fuller, Thomas (1654) • Gaiman, Neil • Galbraith, John Kenneth • Gandhi, Mohandas • Goethe, Johann von • Hazlitt, William • Heinlein, Robert A. • Hoffer, Eric • Huxley, Aldous • Ingersoll, Robert Green • James, William • Jefferson, Thomas • Johnson, Lyndon • Johnson, Samuel • Kennedy, John F. • King, Martin Luther • La Rochefoucauld, Francois • Lewis, C.S. • Lincoln, Abraham • Mencken, H.L. • Orwell, George • Pratchett, Terry • Roosevelt, Eleanor • Roosevelt, Theodore • Russell, Bertrand • Seneca the Younger • Shakespeare, William • Shaw, George Bernard • Stevenson, Adlai • Stevenson, Robert Louis • Twain, Mark • Watterson, Bill • Wilde, Oscar
- Only the 45 most quoted authors are shown above. Full author list.
- 6-Aug-20 - (Attributed) | WIST on The Rights of Man (1791).
- 24-Jul-20 - Italian proverb | WIST on Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 89 (1665-1678).
- 6-Jul-20 - (Attributed) | WIST on Quoted in Plutarch, Parallel Lives, “The Life of Solon,” sec. 18.5 [tr. Perrin (1914)].
- 6-Jul-20 - Agamemnon, l. 928 | WIST on Oedipus Rex, l. 1529 (concluding words).
- 20-May-20 - Introduction to the Art of Thinking, ch. 1, "Friendship" (1761) | WIST on John 15:13 (KJV).
- 18-May-20 - Chamblee54 on Clouds, ll. 998-999 (423 BC) [tr. Athenian Soc. (1912)].
About six months ago, he stopped recognizing me. Now I no longer recognize him.
The Bible has been interpreted to justify such evil practices as, for example, slavery, the slaughter of prisoners of war, the sadistic murders of women believed to be witches, capital punishment for hundreds of offenses, polygamy, and cruelty to animals. It has been used to encourage belief in the grossest superstition and to discourage the free teaching of scientific truths. We must never forget that both good and evil flow from the Bible. It is therefore not above criticism.
More Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality, Introduction (1993)
There is a raging tiger inside every man whom God put on this earth. Every man worthy of the respect of his children spends his life building inside himself a cage to pen that tiger in.
America Comes of Middle Age: Columns, 1950-1962 (1963)
“My Dream” (1954), You Can’t Get There from Here (1957)
I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here, beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept, plighted faith may be broken, and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke: but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. For the noblest man that lives, there still remains a conflict. He must still withstand the assaults of time and fortune, must still be assailed with temptations, before which lofty natures have fallen; but with these the conflict ended, the victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot.
Speech at Arlington National Cemetery, Decoration Day (30 May 1868)
A speech by Garfield, then a Congressman and a former Union Major General in the Civil War, for the first Decoration Day (later Memorial Day) ceremonies.
Ideas come when we do not expect them, and not when we are brooding and searching at our desks. Yet ideas would certainly not come to mind had we not brooded at our desks and searched for answers with passionate devotion.
“Science as a Vocation [Wissenscahft als Beruf],” Speech, Munich University (1918) [tr. Gerth & Mills (1948)]
- "Ideas come when they are least expected, rather than while you are racking your brains at your desk. But, by the same token, they would not have made their appearance if we had not spent many hours pondering at our desks or brooding passionately over the problems facing us." [tr. Livingstone]
- "[Ideas] come, at any rate, when one does not expect them, not while racking one's brains and pondering at one's desk. Of course, the ideas would not have occurred to us without our having been through the state of racking our brains and being engaged in impassioned questioning." [tr. Wells (2018)]
The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.
This is widely attributed to Paine, in respectable sources, and usually (when a source is given) from The Rights of Man (1791) or The Age of Reason (1795). But a search of the text of the latter shows none of the three clauses appear in it. In The Rights of Man, Paine did write, "My country is the world, and my religion is to do good," which is close but not the same (and is sometimes cited with the different word order of the subject quote).
The three clauses appear (with a fourth, "I believe in One God and no more") on the 1923 plaque at the location of Paine's last residence, on Grove St. in Greenwich Village, NY, but with no citation (though one is sometimes applied). But the attribution of this phrase to Paine (including citing it to The Age of Reason) predates the plaque (e.g., 1913). I've not been able to find a reliable citation for this quote.
I must respekt thoze, I suppose, who never make enny blunders, but I don’t luv them.
[I must respect those, I suppose, who never make any blunders, but I don’t love them.]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Affurisms” (1874)
MORDEN: Think about it, Captain. Look at the long history of human struggle. Six thousand years of recorded wars, bloodshed, atrocities beyond description. But look at what came out of all that. We’ve gone to the stars. Split the atom. Written sonnets. We would never have evolved this far if we hadn’t been at each other’s throats, evolving our way up inch by inch.
The first thing brought forth by the study of any religion, ancient or modern, is that it is based upon Fear, born of it, fed by it — and that it cultivates the source from which its nourishment is derived.
The Profits of Religion, Book 1 “The Church of Conquerors,” “The Great Fear” (1917)
California, here I come,
Right back where I started from.
Bloom in the sun;
Birdies sing and ev’rything.
A sun-kissed miss said, “Don’t be late.”
That’s why I can hardly wait.
Open up that Golden Gate,
California, here I come.
Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they’re much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity.
A human being is a deracinated caveman, as a caveman was a deracinated nephew of an ape. Everyone gets to be something by starting as something else — either that or he stays unevolved.
In Vince Clemente, “‘A Man Is What He Does With His Attention’: A Conversation with John Ciardi,” Poesis, Vol. 7 #2 (1986)
Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds.
[Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι.]
The Iliad, Book 1, ll. 1-5 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1969)]
Alt. trans.:The wrath of Peleus' son, the direful spring
Of all the Grecian woes, O Goddess, sing!
That wrath which hurled to Pluto's gloomy reign
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain,
Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore,
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore ....
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]Sing, O goddess, the destructive wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, which brought countless woes upon the Greeks, and hurled many valiant souls of heroes down to Hades, and made themselves a prey to dogs and to all birds ....
[tr. Buckley (1860)]Of Peleus' son, Achilles, sing, O Muse,
The vengeance, deep and deadly; wence to Greece
Unnumber'd ills arose; which many a soul
Of mighty warriors to the viewless shades
Untimely sent; they on the battle plain
Unburied lay, a prey to rav'ning dogs,
And carrion birds ....
[tr. Derby (1864)]Sing, O goddess, the rage of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures ....
[tr. Butler (1898)]The wrath sing, goddess, of Peleus' son, Achilles, that destructive wrath which brought countless woes upon the Achaeans, and sent forth to Hades many valiant souls of heroes, and made them themselves spoil for dogs and every bird ....
[tr. Murray (1924)]Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Achilles' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that cause the Achaeans loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men -- carrion
for dogs and birds ....
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]Sing now, goddess, the wrath of Achilles the scion of Peleus,
ruinous rage which brought the Achaians uncounted afflictions;
many the powerful souls it sent to the dwellings of Hades,
those of the heroes, and spoil for the dogs it made of their bodies,
plunder for all of the birds ....
[tr. Merrill (2007)]
That is the whole trouble with being a heretic. One must usually think out everything for oneself.
The Duke of Gallodoro (1952)
Bright college years, with pleasure rife,
The shortest, gladdest, years of life,
How bright will seem through memory’s haze,
Those happy, golden, bygone days.
There is nothing that you may not get people to believe in if you will only tell it them loud enough and often enough, till the welkin rings with it.
Wisdom, Wit, and Pathos, “Friendship” (1884)
"Welkin" is an obsolete word for "heavens."
The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore have to judge by themselves, and those who do not, strikes across all social and cultural or educational differences. In this respect, the total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable: we now know that moral norms and standards can be changed overnight, and that all that then will be left is the mere habit of holding fast to something. Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves.
“Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship” (1964)
When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?
Invisible Monsters (1999)
To believe that man’s aggressiveness or territoriality is in the nature of the beast is to mistake some men for all men, contemporary society for all possible societies, and, by a remarkable transformation, to justify what is as what needs must be; social repression becomes a response to, rather than a cause of, human violence.
“The Human Nature of Human Nature,” Science (14 Apr 1972)
Based on an address at Faculty of Medicine Day, McGill University Sesquicentennial Celebration, Montreal, Canada (1 Oct 1971).
You’re mad, bonkers, off your head … but I’ll tell you a secret … all of the best people are.
This is attributed on many pages as a quote from Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. No such quote exists in the book, and the word "bonkers" does not appear until the 1940s. This appears to be a paraphrase of lines from the 2010 Tim Burton adaptation of Carroll's work (screenplay by Linda Woolverton):HATTER: Have I gone mad?
ALICE: [checking his temperature] I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.
What I’m suggesting is, stand for yourself, be for something and the hell with it. Because the hand-wringers and the editorialists and the sigh-and-pontificate crowd will be against you, whatever you do.
Interview with Joan Walsh, Salon (11 Mar 2002)
Fake quotes will ruin the Internet.
A successful career has been full of great blunders.
Notes of Thought, #482 (1873)
A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he cannot sit in it.
Lecture 22, Gifford Lectures, University of St Andrews, Scotland (1918)
Reprinted in Philosophy of Plotinus, Vol. 2 (1923).
O sacred hunger of ambitious minds
And impotent desire of men to reign,
Whom neither dread of God, that devils bindes,
Nor lawes of men, that commonweales containe,
Nor bands of nature, that wilde beastes restraine,
Can keepe from outrage and from doing wrong,
Where they may hope a kingdome to obtaine.
No faith so firme, no trust can be so strong,
No love so lasting then, that may endure long.
The Faerie Queene, Book 5, Canto 12, st. 1 (1589-96)
Ghosts seem harder to please than we are; it is as though they haunted for haunting’s sake — much as we relive, brood, and smoulder over our pasts.
The Second Ghost Book, Preface (1952) [ed. C. Asquith]
If hard work is not another name for talent, it is the best possible substitute for it.
“College Education,” Speech, Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (Jun 1867)
Added on 31-Jul-20 | Last updated 31-Jul-20
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I hate to be a kicker,
I always long for peace,
But the wheel that does the squeaking,
Is the one that gets the grease.
“The Kicker” (c. 1870)
A "kicker" was idiom in the era for a complainer. This is a common citation for the origin of "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," but the existence of such a poem has never been verified. The earliest documented version of the phrase is in the Wall Street Journal (20 May 1910): "The wheel that squeaks the loudest / Is the wheel that gets the grease." The metaphor itself can be found in various versions back to at least the 15th Century.
Added on 30-Jul-20 | Last updated 30-Jul-20
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G’KAR: If you’re going to be worried every time the universe doesn’t make sense, you’re going to be worried every moment of every day for the rest of your natural life.
Added on 30-Jul-20 | Last updated 30-Jul-20
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Despite what Hollywood would lead you to believe, we criminal defense attorneys do not advocate lenient sentences for all wrongdoers as a matter of policy. […] Our role is to stand beside our clients, no matter who they are or what they did, and be their advocates, the one person required to plead their case and argue their interests. This is the closest our society comes to grace or humility. It’s grace because we give this support to defendants whether they deserve it by any objective measure, and it’s humility because we know the system is so capable of grave error in accusing and punishing.
“Fault Lines” blog, Mimeslaw.com (8 Jun 2016)
Marrying a woman for her beauty makes no more sense than eating a bird for its singing. But it’s a common mistake nonetheless.
Cold Mountain (1997)
A man is what he does with his attention.
Behold me, Lucius; moved by thy prayers, I appear to thee; I, who am Nature, the parent of all things, the mistress of all the elements, the primordial offspring of time, the supreme among Divinities, the queen of departed spirits, the first of the celestials, and the uniform manifestation of the Gods and Goddesses; who govern by my nod the luminous heights of heaven, the salubrious breezes of the ocean, and the anguished silent realms of the shades below: whose one sole divinity the whole orb of the earth venerates under a manifold form, with different rites, and under a variety of appellations. Hence the Phrygians, that primæval race, call me Pessinuntica, the Mother of the Gods; the Aborigines of Attica, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, in their sea-girt isle, Paphian Venus; the arrow-bearing Cretans, Diana Dictynna; the three-tongued Sicilians, Stygian Proserpine; and the Eleusinians, the ancient Goddess Ceres. Some call me Juno, others Bellona, others Hecate, and others Rhamnusia. But those who are illumined by the earliest rays of that divinity, the Sun, when he rises, the Æthopians, the Arii, and the Egyptians, so skilled in ancient learning, worshipping me with ceremonies quite appropriate, call me by my true name, Queen Isis. Behold, then commiserating your calamities, I am come to thy assistance; favoring and propitious I am come. Away, then, with tears; leave your lamentations; cast off all sorrow. Soon, through my providence, shall the day of deliverance shine upon you. Listen, therefore, attentively to these my instructions.
[En adsum tuis commota, Luci, precibus, rerum naturae parens, elementorum omnium domina, saeculorum progenies initialis, summa numinum, regina manium, prima caelitum, deorum dearumque facies uniformis, quae caeli luminosa culmina, maris salubria flamina, inferum deplorata silentia nutibus meis dispenso: cuius numen unicum multiformi specie, ritu vario, nomine multiiugo totus veneratur orbis. Inde primigenii Phryges Pessinuntiam deum Matrem, hinc autochthones Attici Cecropeiam Minervam, illinc fluctuantes Cyprii Paphiam Venerem, Cretes sagittiferi Dictynnam Dianam, Siculi trilingues Stygiam Proserpinam, Eleusini vetustam deam Cererem, Iunonem alii, Bellonam alii, Hecatam isti, Rhamnusiam illi, et qui nascentis dei solis inchoantibus illustrantur radiis Aethiopes utrique priscaque doctrina pollentes Aegyptii, caerimoniis me propriis percolentes, appellant vero nomine reginam Isidem. Adsum tuos miserata casus, adsum favens et propitia. Mitte iam fletus et lamentationes omitte, depelle maerorem: iam tibi providentia mea illucescit dies salutaris. Ergo igitur imperiis istis meis animum intende sollicitum.]
Metamorphoses [Metamorphoseon] (The Golden Ass) Book 11, ch. 47 [tr. Bohn’s Library (1866)]
Alt. trans. [tr. Adlington (1566)]: "Behold Lucius I am come, thy weeping and prayers hath mooved mee to succour thee. I am she that is the naturall mother of all things, mistresse and governesse of all the Elements, the initiall progeny of worlds, chiefe of powers divine, Queene of heaven! the principall of the Gods celestiall, the light of the goddesses: at my will the planets of the ayre, the wholesome winds of the Seas, and the silences of hell be diposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable customes and in many names, for the Phrygians call me the mother of the Gods: the Athenians, Minerva: the Cyprians, Venus: the Candians, Diana: the Sicilians Proserpina: the Eleusians, Ceres: some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate: and principally the Æthiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Ægyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustome to worship mee, doe call mee Queene Isis. Behold I am come to take pitty of thy fortune and tribulation, behold I am present to favour and ayd thee, leave off thy weeping and lamentation, put away all thy sorrow, for behold the healthfull day which is ordained by my providence, therefore be ready to attend to my commandement."
The original Latin
Sometimes referenced as Chapter 5 within Book 11.
The essence of success is that it is never necessary to think of a new idea oneself. It is far better to wait until somebody else does it, and then to copy him in every detail, except his mistakes.
The Abode of Love, Part 3, “The Random Wooings” (1956)
Very little would have been needed for the tears of Judas to be allied in the memory of mankind with those of Peter. He might have become a saint, the patron of all of us who constantly betray Christ.
[Il s’en est fallu de très peu que les larmes de Judas ne fussent confondues, dans le souvenir des hommes, avec celles de Pierre. Il aurait pu devenir un saint, le patron de nous tous qui ne cessons de trahir.]
Life of Jesus [Vie de Jésus] (1936) [tr. Kernan (1937)]
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.
Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Indianapolis (4 Apr 1968)
One person with a belief, is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.
Considerations on Representative Government, ch. 1 (1861)
Often misquoted, "One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests."
No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes. On the contrary, whatever the punishment, once a specific crime has appeared for the first time, its reappearance is more likely than its initial emergence could ever have been.
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Epilogue (1963)
The murderer, the victim, the witness, each of us thinks our role is the lead.
Invisible Monsters, ch. 1 (1999)
She floated away on the riptide of dementia, ultimately a speck on the horizon, waving for as long as she could to her deeply confused children onshore.
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, “Mom, Interrupted” (2007)
On her mother's Alzheimer's Disease.
Enter to grow in wisdom. / Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.
Lines inscribed on the 1890 (Dexter) Gate to Harvard Yard, Cambridge, Massachusetts
On the front ("Enter") and back ("Depart") of the gate, which was erected in 1901 as a gift of the Harvard Class of 1890. Eliot also considered "Enter daily to grow in wisdom" and "Depart to serve better they country and mankind."
- "Enter to learn; go forth to serve."
- "Enter to learn; go forth to earn."
For there is no gardening without humility, an assiduous willingness to learn, and a cheerful readiness to confess you were mistaken. Nature is continually sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. But, by the due exercise of patience and diligence, they may work their way to the top again.
The Garden That I Love, “April 30th” (1894)
He who tries to be holy in order to be happy will assuredly be neither.
Christian Mysticism, Lecture 1 (1899)
Dearer is love than life, and fame than gold;
But dearer than them both, your faith once plighted hold.
The Faerie Queene, Book 5, Canto 11, st. 63 (1589-96)
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him, all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
This doxology was added at the end of Ken's Morning, Evening, and Midnight Hymns ("Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun," "All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night" (or "Glory to Thee, My God, This Night"), and "Lord, Now My Sleep Does Me Forsake." It is now often sung on its own in some Christian denominations, particularly Anglican.
Such is the unity of all history that any one who endeavors to tell a piece of it must feel that his first sentence tears a seamless web.
“A Prologue to a History of English Law,” Law Quarterly Review (Jan 1898)
Prologue to the 2nd ed. of his and Pollock's History of English Law (1898). Frequently mis-paraphrased, "The law is a seamless web."
Many complain of their looks, but none of their brains.
Also noted as a Jewish or Yiddish proverb.
This is also often cited to Sally Koslow, Little Pink Slips, ch. 5 (2007); it appears there as ""Many complain of their looks, few of their brains," but is described as an unoriginal needlepoint on a pillow cover.
See also La Rochefoucauld for a similar construction.
As an organized political group, the Communists have done nothing to damage our society a fraction as much as what their enemies have done in the name of defending us against subversion.
I find it very difficult to enthuse
Over the current news.
Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,
And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.
“Everybody Tells Me Everything,” The Face Is Familiar (1940)
I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not be a fool, which, if I may judge by the exhibitions around me, is a matter of no small difficulty.
Letter to Burke Aaron Hinsdale (1 Jan 1867)