Quotations about   discipline

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I’ll have no dealings
With law-breakers, critics of the government:
Whoever is chosen to govern should be obeyed ––
Must be obeyed, in all things, great and small,
Just and unjust! O Haimon,
The man who knows how to obey, and that man only,
Knows how to give commands when the time comes.
You can depend on him, no matter how fast
The spears come: he’s a good soldier, he’ll stick it out.
Anarchy, anarchy! Show me a greater evil!
This is why cities tumble and the great houses rain down,
This is what scatters armies!
No, no: good lives are made so by discipline.
We keep the laws then, and the lawmakers.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 665ff [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 525ff]
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Alt. trans.:

But whoso wantonly
Or strains the laws or sets about dictating
To those who rule, it is not possible
That such a one should ever earn my praise.
No! when a city constitutes a chief,
It well befitteth all men to obey
His great or small, just or unjust behests.
And I should confidently trust that he,
Whose law is such, would from fixed habitude
Both wisely rule and loyally obey.
he too, when posted in the battled line,
Amid the storm of fight, would keep his ground,
Brave and unswerving by his comrade's side.
There is no greater ill than disobedience.
'Tis this which ruins cities: this it is
Which works the downfall of a noble house.
And when, in battle, spear is locked with spear,
'Tis this again which breaks and routes the phalanx.
But when men keep the line, their discipline
For the most part ensures their safety. Thus,
It is our duty still to aid the laws.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

But he who overbears the laws, or thinks
To overrule his rulers, such as one
I never will allow. Whome'er the State
Appoints must be obeyed in everything,
But small and great, just and unjust alike.
I warrant such a one in either case
Would shine, as King or subject; such a man
Would in the storm of battle stand his ground,
A comrade leal and true; but Anarchy --
What evils are not wrought by Anarchy!
She ruins States, and overthrows the home,
She dissipates and routs the embattled host;
While discipline preserves the ordered ranks.
Therefore we must maintain authority.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

But he that wantonly defies the law,
Or thinks to dictate to authority,
Shall have no praise from me. What power soe'er
The city hath ordained, must be obeyed
In little things and great things, right or wrong.
The man who so obeys, I have good hope
Will govern and be governed as he ought,
And in the storm of battle at my side
Will stand a faithful and a trusty comrade.
But what more fatal than the lapse of rule?
This ruins cities, this lays houses waste,
This joins with the assault of war to break
Full numbered armies into hopeless rout;
And in the unbroken host 'tis nought but rule
That keeps those many bodies from defeat,
I must be zealous to defend the law.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

But if anyone oversteps and does violence to the laws, or thinks to dictate to those in power, such a one will never win praise from me. No, whomever the city may appoint, that man must be obeyed in matters small and great and in matters just and unjust. And I would feel confident that such a man would be a fine ruler no less than a good and willing subject, and that beneath a hail of spears he would stand his ground where posted, a loyal and brave comrade in the battle line. But there is no evil worse than disobedience. This destroys cities; this overturns homes; this breaks the ranks of allied spears into headlong rout. But the lives of men who prosper upright, of these obedience has saved the greatest part. Therefore we must defend those who respect order.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

But if any one transgresses, and does violence to the laws, or thinks to dictate to his rulers, such an on can win no praise from me. No, whomsoever the city may appoint, that man must be obeyed, in little things and great, in just things and unjust; and I should feel sure that one who thus obey would be a good ruler no less than a good subject, and in the storm of spears would stand his ground where he was set, loyal and dauntless at his comrade's side. But disobedience is the worst of evils. This it is that ruins cities; this makes homes desolate; by this, the ranks of allies are broken into headlong rout; but, of the lives whose course is fair, the greater part owes safety to obedience. Therefore we must support the cause of order.
[tr. Jebb (1917), l. 661ff]

To transgress
Or twist the law to one’s own pleasure, presume
To order where one should obey, is sinful,
And I will have none of it.
He whom the State appoints must be obeyed
To the smallest matter, be it right -- or wrong.
And he that rules his household, without a doubt,
Will make the wisest king, or, for that matter,
The staunchest subject. He will be the man
You can depend on in the storm of war,
The faithfullest comrade in the day of battle.
There is no more deadly peril than disobedience;
States are devoured by it, homes laid in ruins,
Armies defeated, victory turned to rout.
While simple obedience saves the lives of hundreds
Of honest folk. Therefore, I hold to the law,
And will never betray it.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 559ff]

But whoever steps out of line, violates the laws
or presumes to hand out orders to his superiors,
he'll win no praise from me. But that man
the city places in authority, his orders
must be obeyed, large and small,
right and wrong. Anarchy --
show me a greater crime in all the earth!
She, she destroys cities, rips up houses,
breaks the ranks of spearmen into headlong rout.
But the ones who last it out, the great mass of them
owe their lives to discipline. Therefore
we must defend the men who live by law.
[tr. Fagles (1982), l. 741ff]

So, if someone goes too far and breaks the law,
Or tries to tell his masters what to do,
He will have nothing but contempt from me.
But when a city takes a leader, you must obey,
Whether his commands are trivial, or right, or wrong.
But reject one man ruling another, and that's the worst.
Anarchy tears up a city, divides a home,
Defeats an alliance of spears.
But when people stay in line and obey,
Their lives and everything else are safe.
For this reason, order must be maintained.
[tr. Woodruff (2001), l. 662ff]

He who violates the laws of the gods and his city, or wants to command its leaders, will never gain my respect. We must obey those whom the city has ordained to be its leaders. We should obey them, unquestioningly, in all things, minor or great, those we agree with and those we oppose. I believe such a man would govern well and he’d also be an obedient servant; and he’d stay at his post even in the hurricane of war, honourably, bravely defending his country. There’s no worse evil than anarchy. Anarchy destroys nations, my son. Anarchy destroys homes. Anarchy turns the spears of allies into fleeing cowards. Those men left standing, the survivors, have been saved by discipline. That’s why each man must protect, with all his might, law and order.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

But anyone who’s proud
and violates our laws or thinks he’ll tell
our leaders what to do, a man like that
wins no praise from me. No. We must obey
whatever man the city puts in charge,
no matter what the issue -- great or small,
just or unjust. For there’s no greater evil
than a lack of leadership. That destroys
whole cities, turns households into ruins,
and in war makes soldiers break and run away.
When men succeed, what keeps their lives secure
in almost every case is their obedience.
That’s why they must support those in control.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 757ff ]
Added on 7-Jan-21 | Last updated 7-Jan-21
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Where does discipline end? Where does cruelty begin? Somewhere between these, thousands of children inhabit a voiceless hell.

[Où finit la correction? Où commence le martyre? Dans l’entre-deux, des milliers d’enfants peuplent un enfer qui ne fait pas de bruit.]

François Mauriac (1885-1970) French author, critic, journalist
Second Thoughts: Reflections on Literature and on Life (1961) [tr. Foulke]
Added on 22-Jul-20 | Last updated 22-Jul-20
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Character is simply habit long continued.

Plutarch (AD 46-127) Greek historian, biographer, essayist [Mestrius Plutarchos]
Moral Writings [Moralia], “On the Education of Children,” 4.3 [tr. Babbitt and Goodwin]
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Added on 29-Aug-17 | Last updated 29-Aug-17
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In our judgment of men, we are to beware of giving any great importance to occasional acts. By acts of occasional virtue weak men endeavour to redeem themselves in their own estimation, vain men to exalt themselves in that of mankind.

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist, poet, bureaucrat, man of letters
The Statesman: An Ironical Treatise on the Art of Succeeding, ch. 3 (1836)
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Added on 8-Aug-17 | Last updated 8-Aug-17
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All of your scholarship, all your study of Shakespeare and Wordsworth would be vain if at the same time you did not build your character and attain mastery over your thoughts and your actions.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
Speech to students, Agra, in Young India (19 Sep 1929)
Added on 7-Feb-17 | Last updated 9-Feb-17
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Laborare est orare. By the Puritan moralist the ancient maxim is repeated with a new and intenser significance. The labor which he idealizes is not simply a requirement imposed by nature, or a punishment for the sin of Adam. It is itself a kind of ascetic discipline, more rigorous than that demanded of any order of mendicants — a discipline imposed by the will of God, and to be undergone, not in solitude, but in the punctual discharge of secular duties. It is not merely an economic means, to be laid aside when physical needs have been satisfied. It is a spiritual end, for in it alone can the soul find health, and it must be continued as an ethical duty long after it has ceased to be a material necessity.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4 (1926)
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The Latin means, "To work is to pray."
Added on 28-Sep-16 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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Be charitable and indulgent to every one but yourself.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
(Attributed)

Quoted in Maturin M. Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1884 ed.).
Added on 19-Aug-16 | Last updated 19-Aug-16
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Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.

Bell - brought to a focus - wist_info quote

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
Interview, in Orison Swett Marden, How They Succeeded, ch. 2 (1901)
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Added on 28-Apr-16 | Last updated 28-Apr-16
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Democracy requires both discipline and hard work. It is not easy for individuals to govern themselves. … It is one thing to gain freedom, but no one can give you the right to self-government. This you must earn for yourself by long discipline.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
Added on 4-Mar-15 | Last updated 4-Mar-15
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Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say No to oneself.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existance, ch. 3 (1967)
Added on 25-Jun-14 | Last updated 25-Jun-14
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The greatest strength and wealth is self-control.

Pythagoras (c.570 BC - c.495 BC) Greek mathematician and philosopher
(Attributed)
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Quoted in Hobart Huson, Pythagoras (1947).
Added on 25-Mar-14 | Last updated 25-Mar-14
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Courage (in a soldier) is maintained by a certain anger; anger is a little blind and likes to strike out. And from this follows a thousand abuses, a thousand evils and misfortunes that are impossible to predict in an army during war.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 22-Jul-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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To do a job effectively, one must set priorities. Too many people let their “in” basket set the priorities. On any given day, unimportant but interesting trivia pass through an office; one must not permit these to monopolize his time. The human tendency is to while away time with unimportant matters that do not require mental effort or energy. Since they can be easily resolved, they give a false sense of accomplishment. The manager must exert self-discipline to ensure that his energy is focused where it is truly needed.

Hyman Rickover (1900-1986) US Navy Admiral
(Attributed)

Quoted in T. Rockwell, The Rickover Effect (1992)

Added on 26-Aug-08 | Last updated 9-May-14
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He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who ruleth his spirit than he who taketh a city.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Proverbs 16:32 (KJV)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Oct-18
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