Quotations about   desperation

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Oft to the town he turns his eyes,
Whence Dido’s fires already rise.
What cause has lit so fierce a flame
They know not: but the pangs of shame
From great love wronged, and what despair
Can make a baffled woman dare —
All this they know, and knowing tread
The paths of presage, vague and dread.

[… moenia respiciens, quae iam infelicis Elissae
conlucent flammis. Quae tantum accenderit ignem,
causa latet; duri magno sed amore dolores
polluto, notumque, furens quid femina possit,
triste per augurium Teucrorum pectora ducunt.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 5, l. 4ff (5.4-8) (29-19 BC) [tr. Conington (1866)]
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Elissa is an alternate name for Dido. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Then, casting back his eyes, with dire amaze,
Sees on the Punic shore the mounting blaze.
The cause unknown; yet his presaging mind
The fate of Dido from the fire divin'd;
He knew the stormy souls of womankind,
What secret springs their eager passions move,
How capable of death for injur'd love.
Dire auguries from hence the Trojans draw;
Till neither fires nor shining shores they saw.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

... looking back at the walls which now glare with the flames of unfortunate Elisa. What cause may have kindled such a blaze is unknown; but the thought of those cruel agonies that arise from violent love when injured, and the knowledge of what frantic woman can do, led the minds of the Trojans through dismal forebodings.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

He saw the city glaring with the flames
Of the unhappy Dido. What had lit
This fire, they knew not; but the cruel pangs
From outraged love, and what a woman's rage
Could do, they know; and through the Trojans' thoughts
Pass sad forebodings of the truth.
[tr. Cranch (1872)]

... looking back on the city that even now gleams with hapless Elissa's funeral flame. Why the broad blaze is lit lies unknown; but the bitter pain of a great love trampled, and the knowledge of what woman can do in madness, draw the Teucrians' hearts to gloomy guesses.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

... Still looking back upon the walls now litten by the flame
Of hapless Dido: though indeed whence so great burning came
They knew not; but the thought of grief that comes of love defiled
How great it is, what deed may come of woman waxen wild,
Through woeful boding of the sooth the Teucrians' bosoms bore.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

... And backward on the city bent his gaze,
Bright with the flames of Dido. Whence the blaze
Arose, they knew not; but the pangs they knew
When love is passionate, and man betrays,
And what a frantic woman scorned can do,
And many a sad surmise their boding thoughts pursue
[tr. Taylor (1907)]

         ... but when his eyes
looked back on Carthage, they beheld the glare
of hapless Dido's fire. Not yet was known
what kindled the wild flames; but that the pang
of outraged love is cruel, and what the heart
of desperate woman dares, they knew too well,
and sad foreboding shook each Trojan soul.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

... looking back on the city walls which now gleam with unhappy Elissa's funeral flames. What cause kindled so great a flame is unknown; but the cruel pangs when deep love is profaned, and knowledge of what a woman can do in frenzy, lead the hearts of the Trojans amid sad forebodings.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

         His gaze went back
To the walls of Carthage, glowing in the flame
Of Dido’s funeral pyre. What cause had kindled
So high a blaze, they did not know, but anguish
When love is wounded deep, and the way of a woman
With frenzy in her heart, they knew too well,
And dwelt on with foreboding.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

He looked back at Carthage's walls; they were lit up now by the death-fires
Of tragic Dido. Why so big a fire should be burning
Was a mystery: but knowing what a woman is capable of
When insane with the grief of having her love cruelly dishonoured
Started a train of uneasy conjecture in the Trojans' minds.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

         ... gazing
back -- watching where the walls of Carthage glowed
with sad Elissa's flames. They cannot know
what caused so vast a blaze, and yet the Trojans
know well the pain when passion is profaned
and how a woman driven wild can act;
their hearts are drawn through dark presentiments.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971)]

         But he kept his eyes
Upon the city far astern, now bright
With poor Elissa's pyre. What caused that blaze
Remained unknown to watchers out at sea,
But what they knew of a great love profaned
In anguish, and a desperate woman's nerve,
Led every Trojan heart into foreboding.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981)]

... looking back at the walls of Carthage, glowing now in the flames of poor Dido's pyre. No one understood what had lit such a blaze, but since they all knew what bitter suffering is caused when a great love is desecrated and what a woman is capable when driven to madness, the minds of the Trojans were filled with dark foreboding.
[tr. West (1990)]

... looking back at the city walls that were glowing now with
unhappy Dido’s funeral flames. The reason that such a fire had
been lit was unknown: but the cruel pain when a great love is
profaned, and the knowledge of what a frenzied woman might do,
drove the minds of the Trojans to sombre forebodings.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

... he glanced back at the walls of Carthage
set aglow by the fires of tragic Dido’s pyre.
What could light such a conflagration? A mystery --
but the Trojans know the pains of a great love
defiled, and the lengths a woman driven mad can go,
and it leads their hearts down ways of grim foreboding.
[tr. Fagles (2006)]

... gazing back at city walls lit up by the flames -- poor Dido's pyre. No one knew what caused the blaze, but they knew the great grief of a love betrayed and what a woman's passion could unleash. Their hearts were somber with foreboding.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
Added on 14-Sep-22 | Last updated 14-Sep-22
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More quotes by Virgil

The very utterness of the crash and ruin, the desperation of the case, might be its hope. On ruins one can begin to build. Anyhow, looking out from ruins one clearly sees; there are no obstructing walls.

Rose Macaulay
Rose Macaulay (1881-1958) English writer
The Valley Captives (1911)
 
Added on 24-Mar-22 | Last updated 24-Mar-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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As long as we haven’t been able to abolish a single cause of human desperation, we do not have the right to try to suppress the means by which man tries to clean himself of desperation.

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) French playwright, actor, director
“Sûreté générale: La liquidation de l’opium,” La Révolution Surréaliste (Jan 1925) [tr. L. Dejardin]
    (Source)


Alternate translation: "So long as we have failed to eliminate any of the causes of human despair, we do not have the right to try to eliminate those means by which man tries to cleanse himself of despair." [tr. Weaver (1976)]
 
Added on 17-Feb-21 | Last updated 17-Feb-21
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There are souls that are incurable and lost to the rest of society. Deprive them of one means of folly, they will invent ten thousand others. They will create subtler, wilder methods, methods that are absolutely desperate.

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) French playwright, actor, director
“Sûreté générale: La liquidation de l’opium,” La Révolution Surréaliste (Jan 1925) [tr. L. Dejardin]
    (Source)
 
Added on 10-Feb-21 | Last updated 10-Feb-21
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KING : Am I the strongest or am I not?
BECKET: You are, today. But one must never drive one’s enemy to despair. It makes him strong. Gentleness is better politics. It saps virility. A good occupational force must never crush, it must corrupt.

Jean Anouilh (1910-1987) French dramatist
Becket, Act 2 (1959) [tr. Hill (1961)
    (Source)


The lines remain intact in Edward Anhalt's 1964 screenplay.
 
Added on 17-Sep-20 | Last updated 17-Sep-20
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Things are never so bad that they can’t get worse. But they’re sometimes so bad they can’t get better.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 5 (1966)
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Added on 7-Jul-20 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
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Want is a master which can sometimes make
A man the gravest sacrilege commit.

[Perché il bisogno a dispogliar gli altari
ra’ l’uom talvolta, che sel trova avere.]

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 43, st. 90 (1532) [tr. Reynolds (1973)]


Alt. trans.: "For man, alas, will sometimes disarray / The altar, when he finds himself in need ...." [tr. Rose (1831)]
 
Added on 11-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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An author is like a horse pulling a coal-cart down an icy hill; he ought to stop, but when he reflects that it would probably kill him to try, he goes right on, neighing and rolling his eyes.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies (1990)
 
Added on 30-Oct-19 | Last updated 30-Oct-19
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Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) Catalan-Cuban-French author, diarist
The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4, 1944–47, Feb. 1947 (1971)
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Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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Always in a moment of extreme danger things can be done which had previously been thought impossible. Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas.

Erwin Rommel (1891-1944) German field marshal
The Rommel Papers, ch. 11 [ed. B. H. Liddell Hart, (1953)]
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Added on 1-Aug-17 | Last updated 1-Aug-17
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Love and business and family and religion and art and patriotism are nothing but shadows of words when a man’s starving.

Henry - starving - wist_info

O. Henry (1862-1910) American short story writer [pseud. for William Sydney Porter]
“Cupid à la Carte,” Heart of the West (1907)
 
Added on 5-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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No man was ever more than about nine meals away from crime or suicide.

Eric Sevareid (1912-1992) American journalist [Arnold Eric Sevareid]
“A New Kind of Leadership,” speech, Conference on Vision Care, Washington, DC (26 Apr 1974)


For more discussion of this and other closely parallel quotations, see: There Are Only Nine Meals Between Mankind and Anarchy – Quote Investigator.
 
Added on 1-Oct-15 | Last updated 3-May-22
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There is a point beyond which perseverance can only be termed desperate folly.

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War, 4.9 (1852) [tr. Graham (1873)]
 
Added on 8-Jul-15 | Last updated 8-Jul-15
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It has been said that the love of money is the root of all evil. The want of money is so quite as truly.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Erewhon, ch. 20 (1872)


See Bible, 1 Timothy 6:10
 
Added on 4-Nov-11 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol, Stave 1 “Marley’s Ghost” (1843)
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Added on 3-Sep-11 | Last updated 21-Dec-20
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The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher and writer
Walden, ch. 1 “Economy” (1854)
    (Source)


See Schulman.
 
Added on 20-Oct-10 | Last updated 1-Jul-22
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The cheapest form of pride however is national pride. For it betrays in the one thus afflicted the lack of individual qualities of which he could be proud, while he would not otherwise reach for what he shares with so many millions. He who possesses significant personal merits will rather recognise the defects of his own nation, as he has them constantly before his eyes, most clearly. But that poor beggar who has nothing in the world of which he can be proud, latches onto the last means of being proud, the nation to which he belongs to. Thus he recovers and is now in gratitude ready to defend with hands and feet all errors and follies which are its own.

[Die wohlfeilste Art des Stolzes hingegen ist der Nationalstolz. Denn er verrät in dem damit Behafteten den Mangel an individuellen Eigenschaften, auf die er stolz sein könnte, indem er sonst nicht zu dem greifen würde, was er mit so vielen Millionen teilt. Wer bedeutende persönliche Vorzüge besitzt, wird vielmehr die Fehler seiner eigenen Nation, da er sie beständig vor Augen hat, am deutlichsten erkennen. Aber jeder erbärmliche Tropf, der nichts in der Welt hat, darauf er stolz sein könnte, ergreift das letzte Mittel, auf die Nation, der er gerade angehört, stolz zu sein. Hieran erholt er sich und ist nun dankbarlich bereit, alle Fehler und Torheiten, die ihr eigen sind, mit Händen und Füßen zu verteidigen.]

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit [Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life], ch. 2
 
Added on 30-May-08 | Last updated 27-Sep-21
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Never contend with a man who has nothing to lose.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 172 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
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