Quotations about:
    danger


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Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Magician’s Nephew, ch. 4 “The Bell and the Hammer” (1955)
    (Source)

Inscription below the bell in Charn.
 
Added on 27-Dec-22 | Last updated 27-Dec-22
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All of our exalted technological progress, civilization for that matter, is comparable to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Letter to Heinrich Zangger (6 Dec 1917), in Collected Papers, Vol. 8, # 403 (1987) [tr. Hentschel]
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Added on 30-Nov-22 | Last updated 30-Nov-22
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Maybe all obligate carnivores are essentially the same. Can I eat that? Is it going to eat me? Is it a toy?

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear (b. 1971) American author [pseud. for Sarah Bear Elizabeth Wishnevsky]
Ancestral Night (2019)
    (Source)
 
Added on 29-Nov-22 | Last updated 29-Nov-22
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If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
Disturbing the Universe, ch. 1 (1979)
    (Source)
 
Added on 12-Sep-22 | Last updated 12-Sep-22
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Aufidia’s spouse before, you’re now her lover;
     your former rival is the one she wed.
Why want her not as your wife, but another’s?
     Does it take fear to make you rise in bed?

[Moechus es Aufidiae, qui vir, Scaevine, fuisti;
Rivalis fuerat qui tuus, ille vir est.
Cur aliena placet tibi, quae tua non placet, uxor?
Numquid securus non potes arrigere?]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 3, epigram 70 (3.70) [tr. McLean (2014)]
    (Source)

"To Scaevinus." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Aufidia's now gallant, who was her lord!
Her lord thy rival, once again abhorr'd!
Why like another's, nor thine own endure?
Canst feel no fervour, where thou are secure?
[tr. Elphinston (1782); Book 6, part 2, ep. 44]

For years neglected and turn'd off at last,
Dodwell's fair wife upon the town was cast. --
Now Dodwell's coach is ever at her door:
He likes the danger of a common whore.
[tr. Halhead (1793)]

You, Scaevinus, who were recently the husband of Aufidia, are now her gallant; while he who was your rival is now her husband. Why should you take pleasure in her, as the wife of your neighbour, who, as your own wife, gave you no pleasure? Is it that obstacles alone inspire you with ardour?
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

You are the paramour of Aufidia, and you were, Scaevinus, her husband; he who was your rival is her husband. Why does another man’s wife please you when she as your own does not please you? Is it that when secure you can’t get an erection?
[tr. Ker (1919)]

The wife you divorced, who has married her love,
You're trying again on the sly to recover.
From the fact she's another's fresh charm she derives,
And the danger a zest to adultery gives.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

You're fucking Aufidia, your ex
who's married to the guy who gave you grounds.
Adultery's the one way you get sex.
you only get a hard-on out of bounds.
[tr. Harrison (1981)]

You are Aufidia's lover, Scaevinus, who used to be her husband. Your rival that was, he is her husband now. Why does a woman attract you as somebody else's wife who doesn't attract you as your own? Can't you rise if there's nothing to be afraid of?
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Your present mistress once you held as wife,
With whom you could not live a wedded life.
Unless provoked by sexual transgression,
You obviously can't achieve erection.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

 
Added on 3-Sep-22 | Last updated 3-Sep-22
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A blossom must break the sheath it has been sheltered by.

Phyllis Bottome
Phyllis Bottome (1884-1963) British novelist and short story writer [mar. Phyllis Forbes Dennis]
The Mortal Storm, ch. 15 (1938)
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Added on 26-Aug-22 | Last updated 26-Aug-22
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No trust is safe.

[Nusquam tuta fides.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 4, l. 373 (4.373) [Dido] (29-19 BC) [tr. Bartsch (2021)]
    (Source)

Dido chiding Aeneas (and the gods) for Aeneas' desertion. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Faithless is earth, and faithless are the skies!
Justice is fled, and Truth is now no more!
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Firm faith no where subsists.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

No faith on earth, in heaven no trust.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Faith lives no more.
[tr. Cranch (1872)]

Nowhere is trust safe.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

All faith is gone!
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Faithless is earth, and false is Heaven above.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 48, l. 426]

No trusting heart is safe
in all this world.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Nowhere is faith secure.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Faith has no haven anywhere in the world.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Nowhere is it safe to be trustful.
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

Nowhere is certain trust.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 509]

Faith can never be secure.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 514]

Is there nothing we can trust in this life?
[tr. West (1990)]

Good faith is found nowhere.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

There’s no faith left on earth!
[tr. Fagles (2006)]

 
Added on 3-Aug-22 | Last updated 3-Aug-22
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But choice in any sphere is a peril, and the basic division of peoples is of those who believe in choice and those who mistrust it.

Nayantara Sahgal
Nayantara Sahgal (b. 1927) Indian author
From Fear Set Free (1962)
    (Source)
 
Added on 21-Jul-22 | Last updated 21-Jul-22
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The most dangerous men on earth are those who are afraid that they are wimps.

James Gilligan (b. c. 1936) American psychiatrist and author
Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, ch. 3 (1997)
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Added on 12-Jul-22 | Last updated 12-Jul-22
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Courage without conscience is a wild beast.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Decoration Day Speech, Academy of Music, New York City (29 May 1882)
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Added on 1-Jul-22 | Last updated 1-Jul-22
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When men are ruled by fear, they strive to prevent the very changes that will abate it.

Alan Paton
Alan Paton (1903-1988) South African author, activist
“The Challenge of Fear,” The Saturday Review (9 Sep 1967)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Sheridan Baker, The Essayist (1981).
 
Added on 3-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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“What do you think is going on, anyway?”

Some horrible Wagnerian thing, I told him, full of blood, thunder, and death for us all.

“Oh, the usual,” Luke said.

Exactly, I replied.

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) American writer
“Coming to a Cord,” Pirate Writings, #7 [Frakir] (1995)
    (Source)
 
Added on 27-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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But let us die, go plunging into the thick of battle.
One hope saves the defeated: they know they can’t be saved!

[Moriamur et in media arma ruamus.
Una salus victis, nullam sperare salutem.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 2, l. 353ff (2.353-354) [Aeneas] (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006), l. 443ff]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Then let us fall, but fall amidst our foes:
Despair of life the means of living shows.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Let us meet death, and rush into the thickest of our armed foes. The only safety for the vanquished is to throw away all hopes of safety.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Come -- rush we on our fate.
No safety may the vanquished find
Till hope of safety be resigned.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Let us die,
And plunge into the middle of the fight.
The only safety of the vanquished is
To hope for none.
[tr. Cranch (1872)]

Let us die, and rush on their encircling weapons. The conquered have one safety, to hope for none.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Fall on a very midst the fire and die in press of war!
One hope there is for vanquished men, to cherish hope no more.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Forward, then,
To die and mingle in the tumult's blare.
Sole hope to vanquished men of safety is despair.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 47, l. 421ff]

Let us fight
unto the death! To arms, my men, to arms!
The single hope and stay of desperate men
is their despair.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Let us die, and rush into the midst of arms. One safety the vanquished have, to hope for none!
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

So let us die,
Rush into arms. One safety for the vanquished
Is to have hope of none.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Let us die, let us charge into the battle's heart!
Losers have one salvation -- to give up all hope of salvation.
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

Then let
us rush to arms and die. The lost have only
this one deliverance: to hope for none.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 477ff]

Come, let us die,
We'll make a rush into the thick of it.
The conquered have one safety: hope for none.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 470ff]

Let us die. Let us rush into the thick of the fighting. The one safety for the defeated is to have no hope of safety.
[tr. West (1990)]

All that is left for us
Is to rush onto swords and die. The only chance
For the conquered is to hope for none.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

Let us die even as we rush into the thick of the fight. The only safe course for the defeated is to expect no safety.
[Routledge (2005)]

Let's die by plunging into war. Our only refuge is to have no hope of refuge.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
Added on 23-Mar-22 | Last updated 23-Mar-22
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Life is full of doors that don’t open when you knock, equally spaced amid those that open when you don’t want them to.

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) American writer
“Blood of Amber, ch. 2 (1986)
    (Source)
 
Added on 23-Mar-22 | Last updated 23-Mar-22
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The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) English writer, fabulist, philologist, academic [John Ronald Reuel Tolkien]
The Lord of the Rings, Vol. 1: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, ch. 6 “Lothlórien” [Haldir] (1954)
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Added on 10-Feb-22 | Last updated 8-Dec-22
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Tiny Monster Island is one of the more boring Mechanicsburg landmarks. Unless, of course, one is foolish — or unfortunate — enough to leave the path. Then it becomes very exciting indeed.

Phil Foglio (b. 1956) American writer, cartoonist
Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle (2014)
    (Source)
 
Added on 10-Jan-22 | Last updated 10-Jan-22
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There is more valour needed not to take up the affair of honor than to conquer in it. When there is one fool ready for the occasion, one may excuse oneself from being the second.

[Estima por más valor el no empeñarse que el vencer. y ya que haya un necio ocasionado, escusa que con él no sean dos.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 47 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
    (Source)

Alternate translation: "There is more courage in avoiding danger than in conquering it. He sees that there is already one rash fool, and avoids adding another." [tr. Maurer (1992)]
 
Added on 3-Jan-22 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
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The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become.

May Sarton
May Sarton (1912-1995) Belgian-American poet, novelist, memoirist [pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton]
Journal of a Solitude, “September 16th” (1973)
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Added on 2-Nov-21 | Last updated 2-Nov-21
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We vainly accuse the fury of Gunnes, and the new inventions of death; ’tis in the power of every hand to destroy us, and wee are beholding unto every one wee meete hee doth not kill us.

[We vainly accuse the fury of guns, and the new inventions of death; it is in the power of every hand to destroy us, and we are beholden unto every one we meet he doth not kill us.]

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Religio Medici, Part 1, sec. 43 (1643)
    (Source)
 
Added on 13-Oct-21 | Last updated 13-Oct-21
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The instinct for self-deception in human beings makes them try to banish from their minds dangers of which at bottom they are perfectly aware by declaring them non-existent.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Beware of Pity (1939)
 
Added on 19-Aug-21 | Last updated 19-Aug-21
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“When it comes to strangers with guns,” I told her, “I think suspicion is more likely to keep you alive than trust.”

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Parable of the Sower, ch. 11 (1993)
    (Source)
 
Added on 29-Jul-21 | Last updated 29-Jul-21
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The most intelligent of the Nazis, the legal theorist Carl Schmitt, explained in clear language the essence of fascist governance. The way to destroy all rules, he explained, was to focus on the idea of the exception. A Nazi leader outmaneuvers his opponents by manufacturing a general conviction that the present moment is exceptional, and then transforming that state of exception into a permanent emergency. Citizens then trade real freedom for fake safety.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, ch. 17 (2017)
    (Source)
 
Added on 9-Jun-21 | Last updated 9-Jun-21
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Don’t play for safety.
It’s the most dangerous thing in the world.

Hugh Walpole (1884-1941) English novelist
Fortitude, ch. 2, sec. 2 (1913)
    (Source)
 
Added on 7-Jun-21 | Last updated 7-Jun-21
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Perhaps God made cats so that man might have the pleasure of fondling the tiger ….

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, ch. 20 (1947)
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Added on 18-May-21 | Last updated 18-May-21
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And I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people that don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell — or not getting eternal life, or whatever — and you think that, “Well, it’s not really worth tellin’ ’em this, because it would make it socially awkward.” And atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize, “Just leave me alone. Keep your religion to yourself.” How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

I mean, if I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, that a truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you — and this is more important than that.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
“A Gift of a Bible,” Penn Says, ep. 192 (9 Dec 2008)
    (Source)
 
Added on 29-Apr-21 | Last updated 29-Apr-21
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But don’t you know, there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do: and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, ch. 34 (1889)
    (Source)

Origin of more simplified versions of the phrase. More discussion: The Best Swordsman in the World Doesn’t Need To Fear the Second Best Swordsman – Quote Investigator.
 
Added on 28-Apr-21 | Last updated 28-Apr-21
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I see only one danger about all this — that you might be led to take too many precautions. To take precautions, that, I find, is really dangerous. Courage is the only precaution a human being needs!

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Austrian psychologist
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Comment to a patient who chronically overworked herself. In Phyllis Bottome, Alfred Adler: A Biography, ch. 4 (1939). Often paraphrased, "The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions."
 
Added on 26-Apr-21 | Last updated 26-Apr-21
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Fame and wealth without understanding are not stable possessions.

[Δόξα καὶ πλοῦτος ἄνευ ξυνέσιος οὐκ ἀσφαλέα κτήματα.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 77 (Diels) [tr. @sententiq (2018)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Diels citation "77. (78 N.) DEMOKRATES. 42."; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium 3, 4, 82. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:

  • "Fame and wealth without wisdom are unsafe possessions." [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "Fame and wealth without intelligence are dangerous possessions." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "Reputation and wealth without intelligence are unsafe possessions." [tr. Taylor]
  • "Fame and wealth without understanding are not secure possessions." [Source]
 
Added on 20-Apr-21 | Last updated 20-Apr-21
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It might be argued that a man who employs this kind of skill with words for immoral purposes can do great harm, but the same goes for everything good except for virtue, and it goes above all for the most valuable things, such as strength, health, and generalship. After all, moral use of these things can do the greatest good, and immoral use the greatest harm.

[εἰ δ᾽ ὅτι μεγάλα βλάψειεν ἂν ὁ χρώμενος ἀδίκως τῇ τοιαύτῃ δυνάμει τῶν λόγων, τοῦτό γε κοινόν ἐστι κατὰ πάντων τῶν ἀγαθῶν πλὴν ἀρετῆς, καὶ μάλιστα κατὰ τῶν χρησιμωτάτων, οἷον ἰσχύος ὑγιείας πλούτου στρατηγίας: τούτοις γὰρ ἄν τις ὠφελήσειεν τὰ μέγιστα χρώμενος δικαίως καὶ βλάψειεν ἀδίκως.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 1, ch. 1, sec. 13 (1.1.13) / 1355b (350 BC) [tr. Waterfield (2018)]
    (Source)

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

But if it be urged that a man, using such a power of words for an unjust purpose, would do much harm, this is common to all the goods, with the exception of virtue; and especially in the case of the most useful, as for instance strength, health, wealth, and command: for by the right use of these a man may do very much good, and by the wrong very much harm.
[Source (1847)]

If, however, any one should object that a person, unfairly availing himself of such powers of speaking, may be, in a very high degree, injurious; this is an objection which will like in some degree against every good indiscriminately, except virtue; and with especial force against those which are most advantageous, as strength, health, wealth, and generalship. Because employing these fairly, a person may be beneficial in points of the highest importance; and by employing them unfairly may be equally injurious.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

If it is objected that the abuser of the rhetorical faculty can do great mischief, this, at any rate, applies to all good things except virtue, and especially to the most useful things, as strength, health, wealth, generalship. By the right use of these things a man may do the greatest good, and by the unjust use, the greatest mischief.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

And if it be objected that one who uses such power of speech unjustly might do great harm, that is a charge which may be made in common against all good things except virtue, and above all against the things that are most useful, as strength, health, wealth, generalship. A man can confer the greatest of benefits by a right use of these, and inflict the greatest of injuries by using them wrongly.
[tr. Roberts (1924)]

If it is argued that one who makes an unfair use of such faculty of speech may do a great deal of harm, this objection applies equally to all good things except virtue, and above all to those things which are most useful, such as strength, health, wealth, generalship; for as these, rightly used, may be of the greatest benefit, so, wrongly used, they may do an equal amount of harm.
[tr. Freese (1926)]

And if someone using such a capacity for argument should do great harm, this at least, is common to all good things -- except virtue -- and especially so in the case of the most useful things, such as strength, health, wealth, and generalship. For someone using these things justly would perform the greatest benefits -- and unjustly, the greatest harm.
[tr. Bartlett (2019)]

 
Added on 2-Apr-21 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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It’s one of those weird truths you learn early on as police that quite a high percentage of the public have all the survival instinct of a moth in a candle factory. They run the wrong way, they refuse to move, some will run toward the danger, and others will instantly whip out their phones and take footage.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
False Value (2020)
    (Source)
 
Added on 5-Mar-21 | Last updated 5-Mar-21
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It can be very dangerous to see things from somebody else’s point of view without the proper training.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Mostly Harmless, ch. 15 (1992)
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Added on 3-Mar-21 | Last updated 3-Mar-21
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Confront a child, a puppy, and a kitten with a sudden danger; the child will turn instinctively for assistance, the puppy will grovel in abject submission, the kitten will brace its tiny body for a frantic resistance.

H. H. Munro (1870-1916) Scottish writer [Hector Hugh Munro; pseud. Saki]
“The Achievement of the Cat” (1924)
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Added on 16-Feb-21 | Last updated 16-Feb-21
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If we stay strong, then I believe we can stabilize the world and have peace based on force. Now, peace based on force is not as good as peace based on agreement, but in the terrible world in which we live, in the world where the Russians have enslaved many millions of human beings, in the world where they have killed men, I think that for the time being the only peace we can have is the peace based on force.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
“Fallout and Disarmament: A Debate Between Linus Pauling and Edward Teller,” KQED-TV, San Francisco (20 Feb 1958)
    (Source)
 
Added on 16-Feb-21 | Last updated 16-Feb-21
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No shame in running,
fleeing disaster, even in pitch darkness.
Better to flee from death than feel its grip.

[Οὐ γάρ τις νέμεσις φυγέειν κακόν, οὐδ’ ἀνὰ νύκτα.
βέλτερον ὃς φεύγων προφύγῃ κακὸν ἠὲ ἁλώῃ.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 14, l. 80ff (14.80) [Agamemnon] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 96ff]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Better from evils, well foreseen, to run
Than perish in the danger we may shun.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

For there is no disgrace in flying from evil, not even during the night. It is better for a flying man to escape from evil, than to be taken.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

For there is no shame in fleeing from ruin, yea, even in the night. Better doth he fare who flees from trouble, than he that is overtaken.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

There is nothing wrong in flying ruin even by night. It is better for a man that he should fly and be saved than be caught and killed.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

There is no shame in running, even by night, from disaster.
The man does better who runs from disaster than he who is caught by it.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

There's no disgrace in getting away from ruin, not by a night retirement. Better a man should leave the worst behind him than be caught.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]
 
Added on 14-Jan-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Let us admit the case of the conservative. If we once start thinking, no one can guarantee what will be the outcome, except that many objects, ends, and institutions will be surely doomed. Every thinker puts some portion of an apparently stable world in peril, and no one can wholly predict what will emerge in its place.

John Dewey (1859-1952) American teacher and philosopher
Experience and Nature, ch. 6 “Nature, Mind and the Subject” (1929)
    (Source)

Book form of the inaugural Paul Carus lectures, given by Dewey in 1925.
 
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Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray
and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal,
I would never fight on the front lines again
or command you to the field where men win fame.
But now, as it is, the fates of death await us,
thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive
can flee them or escape — so in we go for attack!
Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves!

[Ὦ πέπον εἰ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε
αἰεὶ δὴ μέλλοιμεν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε
ἔσσεσθ’, οὔτέ κεν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ πρώτοισι μαχοίμην
οὔτέ κε σὲ στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν·
νῦν δ’ ἔμπης γὰρ κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο
μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βροτὸν οὐδ’ ὑπαλύξαι,
ἴομεν ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν ἠέ τις ἡμῖν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 12, l. 322ff (12.322-328) [Sarpedon to Glaukos] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 374-81]

Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

O friend, if keeping back
Would keep back age from us, and death, and that we might not wrack
In this life’s human sea at all, but that deferring now
We shunn’d death ever, nor would I half this vain valour show,
Nor glorify a folly so, to wish thee to advance;
But since we must go, though not here, and that, besides the chance
Propos’d now, there are infinite fates of other sort in death,
Which, neither to be fled nor ’scap’d, a man must sink beneath,
Come, try we, if this sort be ours, and either render thus
Glory to others, or make them resign the like to us.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 323-33]

Could all our care elude the gloomy grave,
Which claims no less the fearful than the brave,
For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
In fighting fields, nor urge thy soul to war;
But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
Disease, and death's inexorable doom;
The life which others pay, let us bestow,
And give to fame what we to nature owe;
Brave though we fall, and honoured if we live,
Or let us glory gain, or glory give!
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Oh Glaucus, if escaping safe the death
That threats us here, we also could escape
Old age, and to ourselves secure a life
Immortal, I would neither in the van
Myself expose, nor would encourage thee
To tempt the perils of the glorious field.
But since a thousand messengers of fate
Pursue us close, and man is born to die --
E’en let us on; the prize of glory yield,
If yield we must, or wrest it from the foe.
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 389-98]

O dear friend, if indeed, by escaping from this war, we were destined to be ever free from old age, and immortal, neither would I combat myself in the van, nor send thee into the glorious battle. But now -- for of a truth ten thousand Fates of death press upon us, which it is not possible for a mortal to escape or avoid -- let us on: either we shall give glory to some one, or some one to us.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

O friend! if we, survivors of this war,
Could live, from age and death for ever free,
Thou shouldst not see me foremost in the fight,
Nor would I urge thee to the glorious field:
But since on man ten thousand forms of death
Attend, which none may ’scape, then on, that we
May glory on others gain, or they on us!
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Ah, friend, if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be ageless and immortal, neither would I fight myself in the foremost ranks, nor would I send thee into the war that giveth men renown, but now -- for assuredly ten thousand fates of death do every way beset us, and these no mortal may escape nor avoid -- now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to other men, or others to us.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

My good friend, if, when we were once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Ah friend, if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be ageless and immortal, neither should I fight myself amid the foremost, nor should I send thee into battle where men win glory; but now -- for in any case fates of death beset us, fates past counting, which no mortal may escape or avoid -- now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to another, or another to us.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle,
would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal,
so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost,
nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory.
But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us
in their thousands, no man can turn aside or escape them,
let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

But now a thousand shapes of death surround us,
and no man can escape the, or be safe. Let us attack --
whether to give some fellow glory or to win it from him.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

 
Added on 2-Dec-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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One thing more dangerous than getting between a grizzly sow and her cub is getting between a businessman and a dollar bill.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989) American anarchist, writer, environmentalist
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989)
 
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He’d been wrong, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a flamethrower.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
 
Added on 13-Oct-20 | Last updated 13-Oct-20
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They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Equal Rites (1987)

See Pope.
 
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M. says he would much rather be a coward than brave because people hurt you when you are brave …

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
Quoted by Alice Forster in a letter (1883)
    (Source)

Ellipsis in original. Forster was 4 years old at the time. In P. N. Furbank, E. M. Forster: The growth of the novelist (1879-1914) (1977).
 
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At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech, Young Men’s Lyceum, Springfield, Illinois (27 Jan 1838)
    (Source)

This seems to be the source of this far more prosaic, and spurious, Lincoln quote: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
 
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So Henny-penny, Cocky-locky, Ducky-daddles, Goosey-poosey, Turkey-lurkey, and Foxy-woxy all went to tell the king the sky was a-falling.

Joseph Jacobs (1854-1916) Australian folklorist, literary critic, historian writer
English Fairy Tales, “Henny-Penny” (1890)
    (Source)
 
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The allurement that women hold out to men is precisely the allurement that Cape Hatteras holds out to sailors: they are enormously dangerous and hence enormously fascinating.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Incomparable Buzz-Saw,” The Smart Set (May 1919)
    (Source)
 
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We are willing enough to praise freedom when she is safely tucked away in the past and cannot be a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we cannot foresee, we get nervous about her, and admit censorship.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“The Tercentenary of the Areopagitica,” Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
    (Source)
 
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For when the water is up to your neck you must be truly stubborn not to cry for help.

[Che chi ne l’acqua sta fin’alla gola
Ben’e ostinato se merce non grida.]

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 1, st. 50, l. 353 (1532) [tr. Waldman]

Alt. trans.:
  • "For who, when circling waters round him spread / And menace present death, impores not aid?" [tr. Hoole (1807)]
  • "For the poor drowning caitiff, who, chin-deep, / Implores not help, is obstinate indeed." [tr. Rose (1831)]
  • "The drowning man who waits to be exhorted / To cry for help must be a man of pride!" [tr. Reynolds (2006)]
 
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Was none who would be foremost
To lead such dire attack;
But those behind cried “Forward!”
And those before cried “Back!”

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Horatius,” st. 50, Lays of Ancient Rome (1842)
    (Source)
 
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A sure friend is known in unsure times.

[Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.]

Quintus Ennius (239-169 BC) Roman poet, writer
Fragment, Scaenica 210 [Vahlen]

As quoted in Cicero, On Friendship [De Amicitia], ch. 17. sec. 64.

Alt. trans.:
  • "In unsure fortune a sure friend is seen." [tr. Peabody (1884)]
  • "When things get iffy, you find out who your true friends are." [tr. Ehrlich (1995)]
  • "A sure friend is tried in doubtful matters." [Source]
  • "A friend is never known until one have need." [Source]
  • "A friend is never known 'till a man have need." [Source]
  • "A true friend is discerned during an uncertain matter." [Source]
  • "A certain friend is discerned in an uncertain time." [Source]
 
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Be like the bird, who
Halting in his flight
On limb too slight
Feels it give way beneath him,
Yet sings
Knowing he hath wings.

[Soyez comme l’oiseau, posé pour un instant
Sur des rameaux trop frêles,
Qui sent ployer la branche et qui chante pourtant,
Sachant qu’il a des ailes!]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
“In the Church of *** [Dans l’eglise de ***],” Songs of Dusk [Les chants du crepuscule], #33 sec. 6 (1836)
    (Source)

Full French poem. Alternative translations:
  • Be like the bird that, on a bough too frail
    To bear him, gaily sings!
    He carols -- thought he slender branches fail:
    He knows that he has wings. [Source]
  • Be like the bird that seeks its short repose
    And dauntless sings
    Upon that bending twig, because it knows
    That it has wings. [Source]
  • Be like that bird, that halting in her flight
    A while on boughs too slight;
    Feels them give way beneath her,
    And yet sings, yet sings,
    Knowing that she hath wings.
    [Laura Sedgwick Collins 1890s song, "Be Like That Bird"]
  • Thou art like the bird
    That alights and sings
    Though the frail spray bends --
    For he knows he has wings.[tr. Kemble (Butler)]
 
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When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf.

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
Blood Meridian, ch. 5 (1985)
    (Source)
 
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Some Saian mountaineer
Struts today with my shield.
I threw it down by a bush and ran
When the fighting got hot.
Life seemed somehow more precious.
It was a beautiful shield.
I know where I can buy another
Exactly like it, just as round.

Archilochus (c. 680-645 BC) Greek lyric poet and mercenary [Ἀρχίλοχος, Archilochos, Arkhilokhus]
Fragment 79 [tr. Davenport (1964)]
    (Source)

Fragment from Plutarch, "Laws and Customs of the Lacedaemonians". Alt. trans.:
  • "Let who will boast their courage in the field, / I find but little safety from my shield. / Nature's, not honour's, law we must obey: / This made me cast my useless shield away, / And, by a prudent flight and cunning, save / A life, which valour could not, from the grave. / A better buckler I can soon regain; / But who can get another life again?" [tr. Pulleyn (18th C)]
  • "A Saian boasts about the shield which beside a bush / though good armour I unwillingly left behind. / I saved myself, so what do I care about the shield? / To hell with it! I'll get one soon just as good." ["To my shield" (D6, 5W)]
  • "I don't give a damn if some Thracian ape struts / Proud of that first-rate shield the bushes got. / Leaving it was hell, but in a tricky spot / I kept my hide intact. Good shields can be bought." [tr. Silverman]
  • "Some barbarian is waving my shield, since I was obliged to leave that perfectly good piece of equipment behind under a bush. But I got away, so what does it matter? Life seemed somehow more precious. Let the shield go; I can buy another one equally good." [tr. Lattimore (1955)]
Identified elsewhere as Fragment 6.
 
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There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed. I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
In Richard B. Woodward, “Cormac McCarthy’s Venomous Fiction,” New York Times (19 Apr 1992)
    (Source)
 
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A faint smile hovered around the man’s lips. It was the sort of smile that lies on sandbanks waiting for incautious swimmers.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
    (Source)
 
Added on 15-Oct-18 | Last updated 15-Oct-18
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PISTOL: Knocks go and come. God’s vassals drop and die,
[Sings] And sword and shield,
In bloody field,
Doth win immortal fame.

BOY: Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would
give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 9ff (1599)
    (Source)
 
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To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner.

Anne Rice (b. 1941) American author [b. Howard Allen Frances O'Brien]
The Vampire Lestat, Part 5, ch. 3 (1992)
    (Source)
 
Added on 23-Feb-18 | Last updated 23-Feb-18
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In short, Mort was one of those people who are more dangerous than a bag full of rattlesnakes. He was determined to discover the underlying logic behind the universe. Which was going to be hard, because there wasn’t one.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
    (Source)
 
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