Quotations about   decadence

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Our ancestors used to wear decent clothes, well-adapted to the shape of their bodies; they were skilled horsemen and swift runners, ready for all seemly undertakings. But in these days the old customs have almost wholly given way to new fads. Our wanton youth is sunk in effeminacy, and courtiers, fawning, seek the favors of women with every kind of lewdness. […] They sweep the dusty ground with the unnecessary trains of their robes and mantles; their long, wide sleeves cover their hands whatever they do; impeded by these frivolities they are almost incapable of walking quickly or doing any kind of useful work.

Orderic Vitalis (1075-c. 1142) English monk, chronicler
Historia Ecclesiastica, Book 4 [tr. Chibnall (1969-80)]

Alt. trans.: "Our ancestors used to wear decent clothes, nicely fitted to the shape of their bodies and suitable for riding and running and performing every task that they should reasonably perform. But in these wicked days the practices of olden times have almost completely given way to novel fads."
Added on 6-Jul-17 | Last updated 6-Jul-17
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It used to be a good hotel, but that proves nothing — I used to be a good boy, for that matter. Both of us have lost character of late years.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Innocents Abroad, ch. 57 (1869)
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Added on 20-Apr-17 | Last updated 20-Apr-17
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Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.

William James (Will) Durant (1885-1981) American historian, teacher, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 13-Mar-17 | Last updated 13-Mar-17
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The goal of every culture is to decay through over-civilization; the factors of decadence, — luxury, skepticism, weariness and superstition, — are constant. The civilization of one epoch becomes the manure of the next.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave (1944)
Added on 13-Feb-17 | Last updated 13-Feb-17
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What once were vices, are now the manners of the day.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], Letter 109
Added on 2-Feb-17 | Last updated 6-Feb-17
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In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

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Cole Porter (1891-1964) American composer and songwriter
“Anything Goes” (1934)
Added on 19-Jan-17 | Last updated 19-Jan-17
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Every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world, of the petulance and insolence of the rising generation. He recounts the decency and regularity of former times, and celebrates the discipline and sobriety of the age in which his youth was passed; a happy age which is now no more to be expected, since confusion has broken in upon the world, and thrown down all the boundaries of civility and reverence.

johnson-growing-depravity-of-the-world-wist_info-quote

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #50 (8 Sep 1750)
Added on 6-Oct-16 | Last updated 6-Oct-16
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Most men make use of the first part of their life to render the last part miserable.

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
Les Caractères, “De l’Homme” (1688)
Added on 20-Jul-16 | Last updated 20-Jul-16
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When a nation forgets her skill in war, when her religion becomes a mockery, when the whole nation becomes a nation of money-grabbers, then the wild tribes, the barbarians drive in. … Who will our invaders be? From whence will they come?

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) American author
Letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (Jul 1923)
Added on 24-May-16 | Last updated 24-May-16
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Everything is un-American that tends either to government by a plutocracy, or government by a mob. To divide along the lines of section or caste or creed is un-American. All privilege based on wealth, and all enmity to honest men merely because they are wealthy, are un-American — both of them equally so. Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood — the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Letter to S. Stanwood Menken (10 Jan 1917)
Added on 29-Jan-14 | Last updated 15-Jun-16
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In political institutions, almost everything we call an abuse was once a remedy.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 18-Nov-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things — bread and circuses!

[Nam qui dabat olim imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses.]

Juvenal (c.55-127) Roman satirist [Decimus Junius Juvinalis]
Satires, Satire 10, l. 78-79

Alt. trans.: "The people long for only two things: bread and circuses."
Added on 5-Nov-13 | Last updated 25-Apr-17
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No man ever became extremely wicked all at once.

[Nemo repente fuit turpissimus.]

Juvenal (c.55-127) Roman satirist [Decimus Junius Juvinalis]
Satires, Satire 2, l. 83

Alt. trans.: "No one ever became thoroughly bad all at once" or "No one's only corrupted overnight" or "No one reaches the depths of turpitude all at once."
Added on 22-Oct-13 | Last updated 25-Apr-17
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In political institutions, almost everything we call an abuse was once a remedy.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 29-Jul-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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Once again prosperous and successful crime goes by the name of virtue; good men obey the bad, might is right and fear oppresses law.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Hercules Furens, Part 1, l.255 [Amphitryon] [tr. Miller (1917)]
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Alt. trans.: "Successful and fortunate crime is called virtue."
Added on 21-Nov-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-17
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Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet and dramatist
“The Second Coming,” l.1-8 (1920)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 2-Nov-17
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