- 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.
- 17,665 quotes and counting ...
Topic Cloudaction age America author beauty belief change character courage death education ego error evil faith fear freedom future God government happiness history humanity integrity justice leadership liberty life love morality perspective politics power progress 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… (7,256)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,863)
- “The Lesson for Today,” A Witness Tree (1942) (5,863)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,971)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,877)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (3,983)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,855)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,713)
- “A Cult of Ignorance,” Newsweek (21 Jan 1980) (3,198)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (3,195)
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.
- 26-Oct-20 - De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 10 / sec. 33 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)] | WIST on Heauton Timoroumenos [The Self-Tormentor], Act 4, sc. 5, l. 48 (l. 796).
- 24-Oct-20 - Daniel Onyirioha on The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, ch. 25 [tr. Stanhope].
- 20-Oct-20 - Members of a whole – ICMDA Blogs on Poem on Humanity.
- 19-Oct-20 - Dave on (Attributed).
- 19-Oct-20 - Dave on (Attributed).
- 19-Oct-20 - Tim Mattock on (Attributed).
It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, or 6, or 7, to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you.
“The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro,” opening comments, Cambridge Union, Cambridge, England (17 Feb 1965)
Debate with William F. Buckley, Jr.
I have no faith in the sense of comforting beliefs which persuade me that all my troubles are blessings in disguise.
“Pleasure Be Your Guide,” The Nation, “Living Philosophies” series #10 (25 Feb 1939)
Adapted into Clifton Fadiman, I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Certain Eminent Men and Women of Our Time (1952)
How often in life we complete a task that was beyond the capability of the person we were when we started it.
For herein may be seen noble chivalry, courtesy, humanity, friendliness, hardiness, love, friendship, cowardice, murder, hate, virtue, and sin. Do after the good and leave the evil, and it shall bring you to good fame and renown.
The universe contains any amount of horrible ways to be woken up, such as the noise of the mob breaking down the front door, the scream of fire engines, or the realization that today is the Monday which on Friday night was a comfortably long way off. A dog’s wet nose is not strictly speaking the worst of the bunch, but it has its own peculiar dreadfulness which connoisseurs of the ghastly and dog owners everywhere have come to know and dread. It’s like having a small piece of defrosting liver pressed lovingly against you.
In this decline of all public virtue, ambition, and not avarice, was the passion that first possessed the minds of men; and this was natural. Ambition is a vice that borders on the confines of virtue; it implies a love of glory, of power, and pre-eminence; and these are objects that glitter alike in the eyes of the man of honour, and the most unprincipled: but the former pursues them by fair and honourable means, while the latter, who finds within himself no resources of talent, depends altogether upon intrigue and fallacy for his success.
[Sed primo magis ambitio quam avaritia animos hominum exercebat, quod tamen vitium propius virtutem erat. Nam gloriam, honorem, imperium bonus et ignavus aeque sibi exoptant; sed ille vera via nititur, huic quia bonae artes desunt, dolis atque fallaciis contendit.]
Bellum Catilinae [The War of Cateline; The Conspiracy of Catiline], ch. 11, sent. 1-2 [tr. Murphy (1807)]
At first, indeed, the minds of men were less influenced by avarice than ambition, a vice which has some affinity to virtue; for the desire of glory, power, and preferment is common to the worthy and the worthless; with this difference, that the one pursues them by direct means; the other, being void of merit, has recourse to fraud and subtlety. [tr. Rose (1831)]
But at first ambition more than avarice influenced the minds of the Romans. Which vice however was the nearer to virtue. For glory, honour, command, the good and slothful equally wish for themselves. But the former strives by the right course; to the latter because good qualities are wanting, he works by tricks and deceits. [Source (1841)]
At first, however, it was ambition, rather than avarice, that influenced the minds of men; a vice which approaches nearer to virtue than the other. For of glory, honor, and power, the worthy is as desirous as the worthless; but the one pursues them by just methods; the other, being destitute of honorable qualities, works with fraud and deceit. [tr. Watson (1867)]
At first it was not so much avarice as ambition which spurred men's minds, a vice, indeed, but one akin to virtue. Glory, distinction, and power in the state are equally desired by good and bad, though the first strives to reach his goal by the path of honor, the second, in the lack of honest arts, uses the weapons of falsehood and deceit. [tr. Pollard (1882)]
But at first men’s souls were actuated less by avarice than by ambitions -- a fault, it is true, but not so far removed from virtue; for the noble and the base alike long for glory, honour, and power, but the former mount by the true path, whereas the latter, being destitute of noble qualities, rely upon craft and deception. [tr. Rolfe (1931)]
At first people's minds were taxed less by avarice than by ambition, which, though a fault, was nevertheless closer to prowess: for the good man and the base man have a similar personal craving for glory, honour, and command, but the former strives along the truth path, whereas the latter, because he lacks good qualities, presses forward by cunning and falsity. [tr. Woodman (2007)]
Planning for the future without a sense of history is like planting cut flowers.
I swear to the Lord
I still can’t see
Why Democracy means
Everybody but me.
“The Black Man Speaks,” Jim Crow’s Last Stand (1943)
And however dark the skies may appear,
And however souls may blunder,
I tell you it all will work out clear,
For good lies over and under.
“Insight,” An Erring Woman’s Love (1892)
Injustice often arises also through chicanery, that is, through an over-subtle and even fraudulent construction of the law. This it is that gave rise to the now familiar saw, “More law, less justice.”
[Existunt etiam saepe iniuriae calumnia quadam et nimis callida sed malitiosa iuris interpretatione. Ex quo illud “summum ius summa iniuria” factum est iam tritum sermone proverbium.]
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 10 / sec. 33 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
Original Latin. Alt. trans.:
- "But another great spring from which injuries arise, is some quirk or cavil, and an oversubtle and malicious interpretation of the laws; from whence that saying, 'The height of justice is the height of roguery,' is now become a daily and common proverb among us." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
- "Injustice is often done by artful evasions, and from a too shrewd, but malicious interpretation of the laws. Hence the proverb, 'the strictest justice is the greatest injury,' has become quite familiar in conversation." [tr. McCartney (1798)]
- "Very often wrongs arise through a quirk, and through a too artful but fraudulent construction of the law. Hence, 'the rigour of law is the rigour of injustice,' is a saying that has now passed into a proverb." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
- "There are, also, wrongs committed by a sort of chicanery, which consists in a too subtle, and thus fraudulent, interpretation of the right. Hence comes the saying: The extreme of right is the extreme of wrong." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
Newton and Descartes started to try and prove that God existed in the same way as they would try and prove something in the laboratory or with their mathematics … And when you try and mix science and religion you get bad science and bad religion. The two are doing two different things. … Science can give you a diagnosis of cancer. It can even cure your disease, but it cannot touch your grief and disappointment, nor can it help you to die well.
“The Reason of Faith,” Interview with Michael Brunton, Ode (Sep-Oct 2009)
In religions which have lost their creative spark, the gods eventually become no more than poetic motifs or ornaments for decorating human solitude and walls.
Zorba the Greek, ch. 12 (1946)
One thing more dangerous than getting between a grizzly sow and her cub is getting between a businessman and a dollar bill.
Hence the lust for money first, then for power, grew upon them; these were, I may say, the root of all evils. For avarice destroyed honour, integrity, and all the other noble qualities; taught in their place insolence, cruelty, to neglect the gods, to set a price on everything. Ambition drove many men to become false; to have one thought locked in the breast, another ready on the tongue; to value friendships and enmities not on their merits but by the standard of self-interest, and to show a good front rather than a good heart. At first these vices grew slowly, from time to time they were punished; finally, when the disease had spread like a deadly plague, the state was changed and a government second to none in equity and excellence became cruel and intolerable.
[Igitur primo imperi, deinde pecuniae cupido crevit: ea quasi materies omnium malorum fuere. Namque avaritia fidem, probitatem ceterasque artis bonas subvortit; pro his superbiam, crudelitatem, deos neglegere, omnia venalia habere edocuit. Ambitio multos mortalis falsos fieri subegit, aliud clausum in pectore, aliud in lingua promptum habere, amicitias inimicitiasque non ex re, sed ex commodo aestumare magisque voltum quam ingenium bonum habere. Haec primo paulatim crescere, interdum vindicari; post, ubi contagio quasi pestilentia invasit, civitas inmutata, imperium ex iustissumo atque optumo crudele intolerandumque factum.]
Bellum Catilinae [The War of Catiline; The Conspiracy of Catiline], ch. 10, sent. 3-6 [tr. Rolfe (1931)]
Discussing the corruption of Rome in the years after the final defeat of Carthage.
"A love of money, and a lust for power, took possession of every mind. These hateful passions were the source of innumerable evils. Good faith, integrity, and every virtuous principle, gave way to avarice; and in the room of moral honesty, pride, cruelty, and contempt of the gods succeeded. Corruption and venality were introduced; and everything had its price. Such were the effects of avarice. Ambition was followed by an equal train of evils; it taught men to be false and deceitful; to think one thing, and to say another; to make friendship or enmity a mere traffic for private advantage, and to set the features to a semblance of virtue, while malignity lay lurking in the heart. But at first these vices sapped their way by slow degrees, and were often checked in their progress; but spreading at length like an epidemic contagious, morals and the liberal arts went to ruin; and the government, which was before a model of justice, became the most profligate and oppressive." [tr. Murphy (1807)]
"First a love of money possessed their minds; then a passion for power; and these were the seeds of all the evils that followed. For avarice rooted out faith, probity, and every worthy principle; and, in their stead, substituted insolence, inhumanity, contempt of the gods, and a mercenary spirit. Ambition obliged many to be deceitful; to belie with their tongues the sentiments of their hearts; to value friendship and enmity, not according to their real worth, but as they conduced to interest; and to have a specious countenance, rather than an honest heart. These corruptions at first grew by degrees, and were sometimes checked by correction. At last, the infection spreading like a plague, the state was entirely changed, and the government, from being the most righteous and equitable, became cruel and insupportable." [tr. Rose (1831)]
"Therefore at first the love of money, then that of power increased. These things became as it were the foundation of all evils. For avarice overthrew faith, honesty, and all the other good acts; and instead of them it taught men pride, cruelty, to neglect the gods, and to consider everything venal. Ambition forced many men to become false, to have one thing hidden in their hearts, another ready on their tongue, to value friendships and enmities, not accordingly to reality, but interest, and rather to have a good appearance than a good disposition. These things at first began to increase by degrees, sometimes to be punished. Afterwards when the infection swept on like a pestilence, the state was changed, the government from the most just and best, became cruel and intolerable." [Source (1841)]
"At first the love of money, and then that of power, began to prevail, and these became, as it were, the sources of every evil. For avarice subverted honesty, integrity, and other honorable principles, and, in their stead, inculcated pride, inhumanity, contempt of religion, and general venality. Ambition prompted many to become deceitful; to keep one thing concealed in the breast, and another ready on the tongue; to estimate friendships and enmities, not by their worth, but according to interest; and to carry rather a specious countenance than an honest heart. These vices at first advanced but slowly, and were sometimes restrained by correction; but afterwards, when their infection had spread like a pestilence, the state was entirely changed, and the government, from being the most equitable and praiseworthy, became rapacious and insupportable." [tr. Watson (1867)]
"At first the lust of money increased, then that of power, and these, it may be said, were the sources of every evil. Avarice subverted loyalty, uprightness, and every other good quality, and in their stead taught men to be proud and cruel, to neglect the gods, and to hold all things venal. Ambition compelled many to become deceitful; they had one thought buried in their breast, another ready on their tongue; their friendships and enmities they valued not at their real worth, but at the advantage they could bring, and they maintained the look rather than the nature of honest men. These evils at first grew gradually, and were occasionally punished; later, when the contagion advanced like some plague, the state was revolutionized, and the government, from being one of the justest and best, became cruel and unbearable." [tr. Pollard (1882)]
"Hence it was the desire for money first of all, and then for empire, which grew; and these factors were the kindling (so to speak) of every wickedness. For avarice undermined trust, probity, and all other good qualities; instead it taught men haughtiness, cruelty, to neglect the gods, to regard everything as for sale. Ambition reduced many mortals to becoming false, having one sentiment shut away in the heart and another ready on the tongue, assessing friendships and antagonisms in terms not of reality but of advantage, and having a good demeanour rather than a good disposition. At first these things grew gradually; sometimes they were punished; but after, when the contamination had attacked like a plague, the community changed and the exercise of command, from being the best and most just, became cruel and intolerable." [tr. Woodman (2007)]
"At first the desire of power, then the desire of money increased; these were effectively the material of all evils, because avarice overturned faith, probity, and all other noble arts; in their place, it taught men to be arrogant and cruel, to neglect the gods, and to consider all things for sale. Ambition compelled many men to become liars; to hold one thing hidden in the heart, and the opposite thing at the tip of one’s tongue; to judge friends and enemies not in objective terms, but by reference to personal gain; and finally, to make a good appearance rather than to have a good mind. As these vices first began to increase, they were occasionally punished; but afterward, once the contagion had spread like a plague, the state as a whole was altered, and the government, once the noblest and most just, was made cruel and intolerable." [tr. @sententiq (2017)]
That it is the nature of ambition, to make men liars and cheaters; to hide the truth in their breasts, and show, like jugglers, another thing in their mouths; to cut all friendships and enmities to the measure of their own interest, and to make a good countenance without the help of good will. [tr. Cowley? (17th C)]
Let the rockets flash and the cannon thunder,
This child is a marvel, a matchless wonder.
A staggering child, a child astounding,
Dazzling, diaperless, dumbfounding,
Stupendous, miraculous, unsurpassed,
A child to stagger and flabbergast,
Bright as a button, sharp as a thorn,
And the only perfect one ever born.
Arrived this evening at half-past nine.
Everybody is doing fine.
Is it a boy, or quite the reverse?
You can call in the morning and ask the nurse.
“First Child … Second Child,” Versus (1949)
All free governments are managed by the combined wisdom and folly of the people.
Letter to B. A. Hinsdale (21 Apr 1880)
If there is one thing which a comparative study of religions places in the clearest light, it is the inevitable decay to which every religion is exposed. It may seem almost like a truism, that no religion can continue to be what it was during the lifetime of its founder and its first apostles. Yet it is but seldom borne in mind that without constant reformation, i.e. without a constant return to its fountain-head, every religion, even the most perfect, nay the most perfect on account of its very perfection, more even than others, suffers from its contact with the world, as the purest air suffers from the mere fact of its being breathed.
Chips from a German Workshop, Preface (1866)
Good government makes everything well ordered and fit,
And at the same time it throws shackles on the unjust.
It levels out the rough, stops insolence, and weakens arrogance.
It causes the growing blossoms of blindness to wither.
It straightens crooked judgments and it levels out over-reaching deeds.
It stops the acts of civil conflict and
It stops the anger of grievous strife and because of it
Everything among men is wisely and appropriately done.
[Εὐνομίη δ’ εὔκοσμα καὶ ἄρτια πάντ’ ἀποφαίνει,
καὶ θαμὰ τοῖς ἀδίκοις ἀμφιτίθησι πέδας·
τραχέα λειαίνει, παύει κόρον, ὕβριν ἀμαυροῖ,
αὑαίνει δ’ ἄτης ἄνθεα φυόμενα,
εὐθύνει δὲ δίκας σκολιάς, ὑπερήφανά τ’ ἔργα
πραΰνει· παύει δ’ ἔργα διχοστασίης,
παύει δ’ ἀργαλέης ἔριδος χόλον, ἔστι δ’ ὑπ’ αὐτῆς
πάντα κατ’ ἀνθρώπους ἄρτια καὶ πινυτά.]
Fragment 4.32-39 W [tr. @sententiq (2015)]
Solon's description of eunomiē (lawfulness). Alt. trans.:Lawfulness, puts all things into good order and makes them sound,
And often places shackles about those who are unjust.
She smooths what is rough, puts an end to excess, enfeebles arrogance;
She withers the flowers of ruin as they spring up;
She straightens crooked judgments, and overbearing acts she turns to gentleness;
She puts an end to acts of dissension,
Puts an end to the bitterness of painful strife:
Beneath her hand all things among mankind are sound and prudent.
[tr. Miller (1996)]
Good Government displays all neatness and order,
And many times she must put shackles on the breakers of laws
She levels rough places, stops Glut and Greed, takes the force from Violence:
She dries up the growing flowers of Despair as they grow;
She straightens out crooked judgments given, gentles the swollen ambitions,
And puts an end to acts of divisional strife;
She stills the gall of wearisome Hate,
And under her influence all life among mankind is harmonious and does well.
Truth never damages a cause that is just.
Non-Violence in Peace and War, Vol. 2 (1949)
There is no wilderness where I can hide from these things, there is no haven where I can escape them; though I travel to the ends of the earth, I find the same accursed system — I find that all the fair and noble impulses of humanity, the dreams of poets and the agonies of martyrs, are shackled and bound in the service of organized and predatory Greed! And therefore I cannot rest, I cannot be silent; therefore I cast aside comfort and happiness, health and good repute — and go out into the world and cry out the pain of my spirit!
The Jungle, ch. 28 (1906)
The worship of God is a Duty; the hearing and reading of Sermons may be useful; but, if Men rest in Hearing and Praying, as too many do, it is as if a Tree should Value itself on being water’d and putting forth Leaves, tho’ it never produc’d any Fruit.
Letter to Joseph Huey (6 Jun 1753)
Let me tell you the secret of such so-called successes as there have been in my life, and here I believe I give you really good advice. It was to burn my boats and demolish my bridges behind me. Then one loses no time in looking behind, when one should have quite enough to do in looking ahead — then there is no chance for you or your men but forward. You have to do or die!
Speech, St Andrews University (3 Nov 1926)
Translated in his Adventure, and Other Papers (1927).
“People aren’t either wicked or noble,” the hook-handed man said. “They’re like chef salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”
Another point of disagreement is not factual but involves the ethical/moral principle […] sometimes referred to as the “politics of moral witness.” Generally associated with the religious left, secular leftists implicitly invoke it when they reject LEV on the grounds that “a lesser of two evils is still evil.” Leaving aside the obvious rejoinder that this is exactly the point of lesser evil voting — i.e. to do less evil, what needs to be challenged is the assumption that voting should be seen a form of individual self-expression rather than as an act to be judged on its likely consequences. […] The basic moral principle at stake is simple: not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) American linguist and activist
“An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting)” (15 Jun 2016) [with John Halle]
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks.
The Yosemite, ch. 15 “Hetch Hetchy Valley” (1912)
By the theory of our Government majorities rule, but this right is not an arbitrary or unlimited one. It is a right to be exercised in subordination to the Constitution and in conformity to it. One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. Minorities have a right to appeal to the Constitution as a shield against such oppression.
Inaugural Address (4 Mar 1845)
Now down in the Ocean sank the fiery light of day,
drawing the dark night across the grain-giving earth.
[Ἐν δ’ ἔπεσ’ Ὠκεανῷ λαμπρὸν φάος ἠελίοιο
ἕλκον νύκτα μέλαιναν ἐπὶ ζείδωρον ἄρουραν.]
The Iliad, Book 8, ll. 485-86 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990)]
Alt. trans.: "Then into Oceanus fell the bright light of the sun drawing black night over the face of the earth, the giver of grain." [tr. Murray (1924)]
CHARLIE ANDERSON: There’s nothing much I can tell you about this war. It’s like all wars, I suppose. The undertakers are winning it. Oh, the politicians will talk a lot about the “glory” of it, and the old men’ll talk about the “need” of it — the soldiers, they just want to go home.
It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.
Meditations, Book 12, ch. 4 [tr. Hays (2002)]
- "I have often wondered how each man should love himself more than any other; and yet make less account of his own opinion concerning himself, than of the opinions of others." [tr. Foulis (1742)]
- "I have often wondered, whence it comes to pass, that although every one loves himself more than he does any other man, he should yet pay a greater regard to the opinion of other people concerning him than to his own." [tr. Graves (1792)]
- "I have often wondered how it comes to pass that everybody should love themselves best, and yet value their neighbor's opinion about themselves more than their own." [tr. Collier (rev.)]
- "I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others." [tr. Long (1862)]
- "How is it that every person loves themselves more than any other person, yet still gives more value to the opinions of others than the opinion they hold of themselves?" [tr. McNeill (2019)]
Blaming mother is just a negative way of clinging to her still.
My Mother/My Self, ch. 2 (1977)
Few of us take the pains to study the origin of our cherished convictions; indeed, we have a natural repugnance to so doing. We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.
The Mind in the Making, ch. 4 “Rationalizing” (1921)
What we find in a soulmate is not something wild to tame, but something wild to run with.
Thou Sir Launcelot, there thou liest, that thou were never matched of earthly knight’s hand. And thou were the courtiest knight that ever bare shield. And thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrad horse. And thou were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman. And thou were the kindest man that ever struck with sword. And thou were the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights. And thou were the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.
Le Morte d’Arthur, Book 21, ch. 13 (1485)
Sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness.
We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not.
“Notes from a Trip to Russia,” Sister Outsider (1984)
Political strategies and tactics are not jealous lovers. You don’t have to be monogamous. Direct Action will not feel betrayed if you also vote from time to time — you can be poly in your tactics. And I am. Of course I vote! If you’re a woman, or a person of color, or a person who doesn’t own property, or even a white male who doesn’t belong to the nobility, centuries of struggle and many deaths have bought you the right to vote. I vote to keep faith with peasant rebels and suffragist hunger strikers and civil rights workers braving the lynch mobs of the South, if for no other reason. But there is another reason — because who we vote for has an enormous impact on real peoples’ lives.
“Pre-Election Day Thoughts,” blog post (7 Nov 2016)
Back of every mistaken venture and defeat is the laughter of wisdom, if you listen. We go forward by failure. Every blunder behind us is giving a cheer for us and only those who are willing to fail shall taste the dangers and splendors of life. To be a good loser is to learn how to win. The real coward is he who sees no glory in failure.
For in order to command well, we should know how to submit; and he who submits with a good grace will some time become worthy of commanding.
[Nam et qui bene imperat, paruerit aliquando necesse est, et qui modeste paret, videtur qui aliquando imperet dignus esse.]
De Legibus (On the Laws), Book 3, sec. 2 [tr. Barham]
Alt. trans.: "For he who commands well, must at some time or other have obeyed; and he who obeys with modesty appears worthy of some day or other being allowed to command." [tr. Yonge]
A lot of the arguments about religion going on at the moment spring from a rather inept understanding of religious truth. Our notion changed during the early modern period when we became convinced that the only path to any kind of truth was reason. That works beautifully for science but doesn’t work so well for the humanities. Religion is really an art form and a struggle to find value and meaning amid the ghastly tragedy of human life.
“The Reason of Faith,” Interview with Michael Brunton, Ode (Sep-Oct 2009)
I am a weak, ephemeral creature made of mud and dream. But I feel all the powers of the universe whirling within me.
The Saviors of God [Salvatores Dei], “The Preparation: Second Duty,” #22 (1923) [tr. Friar )
At the very least, comsats and personalized transceivers will banish forever the exasperation of waiting on a corner for a friend while he mistakenly waits for you on another.
When after the destruction of Brutus and Cassius there was no longer any army of the Commonwealth, when Pompeius was crushed in Sicily, and when, with Lepidus pushed aside and Antonius slain, even the Julian faction had only Cæsar left to lead it, then, dropping the title of triumvir, and giving out that he was a Consul, and was satisfied with a tribune’s authority for the protection of the people, Augustus won over the soldiers with gifts, the populace with cheap corn, and all men with the sweets of repose, and so grew greater by degrees, while he concentrated in himself the functions of the Senate, the magistrates, and the laws.
He was wholly unopposed, for the boldest spirits had fallen in battle, or in the proscription, while the remaining nobles, the readier they were to be slaves, were raised the higher by wealth and promotion, so that, aggrandised by revolution, they preferred the safety of the present to the dangerous past.
Nor did the provinces dislike that condition of affairs, for they distrusted the government of the Senate and the people, because of the rivalries between the leading men and the rapacity of the officials, while the protection of the laws was unavailing, as they were continually deranged by violence, intrigue, and finally by corruption.
[Postquam Bruto et Cassio caesis nulla iam publica arma, Pompeius apud Siciliam oppressus, exutoque Lepido, interfecto Antonio, ne Iulianis quidem partibus nisi Caesar dux reliquus, posito triumviri nomine, consulem se ferens et ad tuendam plebem tribunicio iure contentum, ubi militem donis, populum annona, cunctos dulcedine otii pellexit, insurgere paulatim, munia senatus, magistratuum, legum in se trahere, nullo adversante, cum ferocissimi per acies aut proscriptione cecidissent, ceteri nobilium, quanto quis servitio promptior, opibus et honoribus extollerentur ac novis ex rebus aucti, tuta et praesentia quam vetera et periculosa mallent. Neque provinciae illum rerum statum abnuebant, suspecto senatus populique imperio ob certamina potentium et avaritiam magistratuum, invalido legum auxilio, quae vi, ambitu, postremo pecunia turbabantur.]
Annals Book 1, ch. 2 [tr. Church & Brodribb (1876)]
Alt. trans.:After the deaths of Brutus and Cassius had disarmed the people, with Sextus Pompeius crushed off Sicily (in the naval defeat off Pelorum, 36BC), with Lepidus discarded and Antony’s life ended, the Julian faction itself would have been leaderless but for Octavian. Relinquishing his title of triumvir, he professed himself a plain consul, content to wield only a tribune’s authority in safeguarding the commons.
Seducing the military with gifts, the people with cheap grain, the world with the delights of peace, he gradually gained power, taking to himself the duties of the senate, the magistracy and the law, unopposed. The boldest had fallen in the field or been proscribed, the remaining nobility, raised to wealth and high office by their propensity for servitude, profiting from the turn of events, preferred security and their present situation to the dangers of the old order.
Nor did the provinces oppose this state of affairs, the power of the senate and people having been discredited by the quarrels among the great and the magistrates’ avarice, there being no help from a legal system skewed by force, favouritism and in the end bribery.
[tr. Kline (2017)]
When the killing of Brutus and Cassius had disarmed the Republic; when Pompey had been crushed in Sicily, and, with Lepidus thrown aside and Antony slain, even the Julian party was leaderless but for the Caesar; after laying down his triumviral title and proclaiming himself a simple consul content with tribunician authority to safeguard the commons, he first conciliated the army by gratuities, the populace by cheapened corn, the world by the amenities of peace, then step by step began to make his ascent and to unite in his own person the functions of the senate, the magistracy, and the legislature.
Opposition there was none: the boldest spirits had succumbed on stricken fields or by proscription-lists; while the rest of the nobility found a cheerful acceptance of slavery the smoothest road to wealth and office, and, as they had thriven on revolution, stood now for the new order and safety in preference to the old order and adventure.
Nor was the state of affairs unpopular in the provinces, where administration by the Senate and People had been discredited by the feuds of the magnates and the greed of the officials, against which there was but frail protection in a legal system for ever deranged by force, by favouritism, or (in the last resort) by gold.
[tr. Jackson [Loeb (1931)]]
After the public was disarmed by the murders of Brutus and Cassius, when Pompey had been defeated in Sicily, Lepidus discarded, and Antony had been killed, even the Julian party had Caesar as the remaining leader. Once he gave up the name of triumvir and was declaring himself a consul, happy to safeguard the common people with tribunal powers, he won over the army with payments, the people with food grants, and everyone else with pleasing peace.
Then, bit by bit, he began to arrogate to himself the duties of the senate, the executive offices, and the law because there was no one opposing him since the boldest men had died either in battle or by proscription. The remaining nobles discovered themselves increased by honors and wealth as soon as they accepted servitude: they preferred the present safety to ancient dangers.
The provinces too were not opposed to this state of affairs because the rule of the Senate and People there had been undermined by the struggles of the powerful and avarice of the officers against which there was the weak defense of laws which were corrupted by force, by nepotism and, finally, bribery.
[tr. @sententiq (2020)]
It’s a terrible thing to be alone — yes it is — it is — but don’t lower your mask until you have another mask prepared beneath — As terrible as you like — but a mask.
Letter to John Middleton Murry (Jul 1917)
Oh, progeny playing by itself
Is a lonely little elf,
But progeny in roistering batches
Would drive St. Francis from here to Natchez.
“Children’s Party,” Many Long Years Ago (1945)
I can hardly believe that any person can be found who will not admit that every one of these provisions is just. They are all asserted, in some form or other, in our Declaration or organic law. But the Constitution limits only the action of Congress, and is not a limitation on the States. This amendment supplies that defect, and allows Congress to correct the unjust legislation of the States, so far that the law which operates upon one man shall operate equally upon all. Whatever law punishes a white man for a crime shall punish the black man precisely in the same way and to the same degree. Whatever law protects the white man shall afford equal protection to the black man. Whatever means of redress is afforded to one shall be afforded to all. Whatever law allows the white man to testify in court shall allow the man of color to do the same. These are great advantages over their present codes.
Speech, House of Representatives (4 Apr 1871)
On the proposed 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which forbade to each state the ability to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
The position which believers and unbelievers occupy with regard to their various forms of faith is very much the same all over the world. The difficulties which trouble us, have troubled the hearts and minds of men as far back as we can trace the beginnings of religious life. The great problems touching the relation of the Finite to the Infinite, of the human mind as the recipient, and of the Divine Spirit as the source of truth, are old problems indeed; and while watching their appearance in different countries, and their treatment under varying circumstances, we shall be able, I believe, to profit ourselves, both by the errors which others committed before us, and by the truth which they discovered. We shall know the rocks that threaten every religion in this changing and shifting world of ours, and having watched many a storm of religious controversy and many a shipwreck in distant seas, we shall face with greater calmness and prudence the troubled waters at home.
Chips from a German Workshop, Vol. 1, Preface (1866)
If a law commands me to sin I will break it; if it calls me to suffer, I will let it take its course unresistingly. The doctrine of blind obedience and unqualified submission to any human power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is the doctrine of despotism, and ought to have no place among Republicans and Christians.
“Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” Anti-Slavery Examiner (Sep 1836)
Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted.
Yes I Can, Part 3, ch. 3 (1965)
Great causes are never tried on their merits; but the cause is reduced to particulars to suit the size of the partisans, and the contention is ever hottest on minor matters.
“Nature,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
The evangelist was preaching “sin and redemption,” the infinite grace of God and His pardon for human frailty. He was very much in earnest, and he meant well, but Jurgis, as he listened, found his soul filled with hatred. What did he know about sin and suffering — with his smooth, black coat and his neatly starched collar, his body warm, and his belly full, and money in his pocket — and lecturing men who were struggling for their lives, men at the death grapple with the demon powers of hunger and cold! — This, of course, was unfair; but Jurgis felt that these men were out of touch with the life they discussed, that they were unfitted to solve its problems; nay, they themselves were part of the problem — they were part of the order established that was crushing men down and beating them! They were of the triumphant and insolent possessors; they had a hall, and a fire, and food and clothing and money, and so they might preach to hungry men, and the hungry men must be humble and listen! They were trying to save their souls — and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?
The Jungle, ch. 23 (1906)
The Faith you mention has doubtless its use in the World. I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I endeavour to lessen it in any Man. But I wish it were more productive of good Works, than I have generally seen it: I mean real good Works, Works of Kindness, Charity, Mercy, and Publick Spirit; not Holiday-keeping, Sermon-Reading or Hearing; performing Church Ceremonies, or making long Prayers, filled with Flatteries and Compliments, despis’d even by wise Men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.
Letter to Joseph Huey (6 Jun 1753)
The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.
Quoted in Listener (14 Dec 1939)
Build movements. Vote with your values, but vote strategically. Voting isn’t a Valentine. It’s a chess move.
Facebook (17 Oct 2016)
Solnit is credited with the core message of the last two sentences. She indicates (including from that Facebook post) that it was something she had said that was extracted and perhaps tweaked by May Boeve. E.g., "That 2016 aphorism that I sort of said and May Boeve made into this stand-alone slogan." (1 Nov 2018) "I said that off the cuff in 2016 and May Boeve caught it and it went on to have a nice life. It's also not the only chess move you get." (11 Aug 2020).
- "Voting is a chess move, not a valentine. And here's the joy of being politically engaged all year round every year; you get to work with a whole lot of chess pieces and players and strategies and long-term visions, so you don't agonize over whether this little hop with a pawn we call voting defines you. You get to define yourself by what you're passionately committed to, by who you align with, by your dreams and your visions, you get to move a lot of pieces a lot of times, you get heroic allies, and you play to win above, beyond, around elections. But you vote, because you know it matters too." (7 Nov 2016)
- "I think of voting as a chess move, not a valentine. It’s just a little part of the picture of how we make the world." ("The 2000 Election Unleashed Disaster on the World. We Can’t Let that Happen Again in 2016," The Nation (3 Nov 2016))
- "A vote is not a valentine. You are not confessing your love for the candidate. It's a chess move for the world you want to live in."
- "Voting isn't a valentine, it's a chess move. Just one of many with one of your many pieces, if you're using what you've been given."
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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[A man who] counts the pain of the state as his own glory; as if, indeed, your consulate were not the reason for that conspiracy and through which the republic was torn apart when it possessed you as its protector.”
[… qui civitatis incommodum in gloriam suam ponit. Quasi vero non illius coniurationis causa fuerit consulatus tuus et idcirco res publica disiecta eo tempore quo te custodem habebat.]
Invectiva in Ciceronem [Invective Against Cicero], sec. 3 [tr. @setentiq (2020)] (Spurious)
In reference to the Catiline conspiracy. Most scholars believe this was not Sallust's work, but that of a 1st Century rhetorician, likely the one who penned the provoking Invective against Sallust, ostensibly by Cicero.
- "[He] who caused the state injury to augment his own glory. As though your consulship were not the cause of that conspiracy! That is the reason the state was torn apart at that time with you as its guardian." [tr. Novokhatko (2009)]
- "[A] man who makes disaster to his country the means of his own glorification, was sent as a protector to this city and its citizens, and not as its executioner. As if, forsooth, your consulship was not the cause of that conspiracy, and as if the reason why the commonwealth was not rent asunder at that time was because it had you for a protector." [tr. Loeb ed. (1921), sec. 2]
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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