Quotations about   fate

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From history’s examples we conclude,
And modern instances teach us the same:
Good follows Evil, Evil follows Good,
Shame ends in glory, glory ends in shame.
Thus it is evident that no man should
Put trust in victories or wealth or fame,
Nor yet despair if Fortune is adverse:
She turns her wheel for better, as for worse.

Si vede per gli esempi di che piene
Sono l’antiche e le moderne istorie,
Che ‘l ben va dietro al male, e ‘l male al bene,
E fin son l’un de l’altro e biasmi e glorie;
E che fidarsi a l’uom non si conviene
In suo tesor, suo regno e sue vittorie,
Né disperarsi per Fortuna avversa,
Che sempre la sua ruota in giro versa.

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 45, st. 4 (1532) [tr. Reynolds (1973)]

Alt. trans. [Rose (1831)]:
'Tis plain to sight, through instances that fill
The page of ancient and of modern story,
That ill succeeds to good, and good to ill;
That glory ends in shame, and shame in glory;
And that man should not trust, deluded still,
In riches, realm, or field of battle, gory
With hostile blood, nor yet despair, for spurns
Of Fortune; since her wheel for ever turns.
Added on 18-May-20 | Last updated 18-May-20
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The great appeal of fatalism, indeed, is as a refuge from the terror of responsibility.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Decline of Greatness,” Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1958)
    (Source)

The same phrase is used in the successor essay, "On Heroic Leadership," sec. 2. (1960)
Added on 14-May-20 | Last updated 14-May-20
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Brave men earn the right to shape their own destiny.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Decline of Greatness,” Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1958)
    (Source)

Reprinted in The Politics of Hope, ch. 2 (1963)
Added on 7-May-20 | Last updated 7-May-20
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You can have the other words — chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“Sand Dabs, Five,” Winter Hours (1999)
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Added on 17-Mar-20 | Last updated 20-Mar-20
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For the man who is truly good and wise, we think, bears all the chances life becomingly and always makes the best of circumstances, as a good general makes the best military use of the army at his command and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides that are given him; and so with all other craftsmen.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, ch. 10, sec. 13 [1101a] (350 BC) [tr. Ross (1908)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "For we hold that the man who is truly good and wise will bear with dignity whatever fortune sends, and will always make the best of his circumstances, as a good general will turn the forces at his command to the best account, and a good shoemaker will make the best shoe that can be made out of a given piece of leather, and so on with all other crafts." [tr. Peters (1893)]
  • "For our conception of the truly good and sensible man is that he bears all the chances of life with decorum and always does what is noblest in the circumstances, as a good general uses the forces at his command to the best advantage in war, a good cobbler makes the best shoe with the leather that is given him, and so on through the whole series of the arts." [tr. Weldon (1892)]
  • "We hold that the truly good and wise man will bear all kinds of fortune in a seemly way, and will always act in the noblest manner that the circumstances allow; even as a good general makes the most effective use of the forces at his disposal, and a good shoemaker makes the finest shoe possible out of the leather supplied him, and so on with all the other crafts and professions." [tr. Rackham (1926)]
Added on 18-Feb-20 | Last updated 18-Feb-20
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If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.

Other Authors and Sources
Chinese proverb

Quoted by Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife (1992).
Added on 11-Feb-20 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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People don’t alter history any more than birds alter the sky, they just make brief patterns in it.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
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Added on 28-Dec-18 | Last updated 28-Dec-18
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“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on” — and only then do you find out if it goosed you in passing.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Farnham’s Freehold, ch. 21 (1964)
    (Source)

See Omar Khayyám.
Added on 7-Aug-17 | Last updated 7-Aug-17
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If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same ….

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“If–” st. 2 (1910)
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Added on 3-Jul-17 | Last updated 3-Jul-17
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The greatest evil which fortune can inflict on men is to endow them with small talents and great ambition.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French moralist, essayist, soldier
Reflections and Maxims [Réflexions et maximes], #562 [tr. Stevens] (1746)
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Added on 14-Jun-17 | Last updated 14-Jun-17
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KARMA’S A BITCH. No, let me rephrase that: Karma is your vengeful bunny-boiler ex, lurking in your darkened front hallway wearing an ice-hockey mask and carrying a baseball bat inscribed with BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS COMING.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Rhesus Chart (2014)
Added on 23-May-17 | Last updated 23-May-17
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A man’s character is his fate.

Heraclitus (c.540-c.480 BC) Greek philosopher [also Heracleitus]
“On the Universe,” fragment 121
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You wanted God’s ideas about what was best for you to coincide with your ideas, but you also wanted him to be the almighty Creator of heaven and earth so that he could properly fulfill your wish. And yet, if he were to share your ideas, he would cease to be the almighty Father.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses (1843) [tr. Hong]
Added on 18-Jan-17 | Last updated 18-Jan-17
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Destiny is for people who are too lazy to create alternate timelines.

Other Authors and Sources
Richard Stevens III, Diesel Sweeties (5 Oct 2011)
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Added on 4-Jan-17 | Last updated 4-Jan-17
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Captain, the problem is not that I’m paranoid. The problem is that the universe keeps justifying my paranoia.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The End of All Things (2015)
Added on 25-Oct-16 | Last updated 25-Oct-16
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Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends.

Jacques Delille (1738-1813) French poet, translator
“Malheur et Pitié,” Canto 1 (1803)
Added on 3-Oct-16 | Last updated 3-Oct-16
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MONGO: Mongo only pawn in game of life.

Mel Brooks (b. 1926) American comedic actor, writer, producer [b. Melvyn Kaminsky]
Blazing Saddles (1974)
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Small are the seeds fate does unheeded sow
Of slight beginnings to important ends.

William Davenant (1606-1668) English poet and playwright [a.k.a. William D'Avenant]
Gondibert, Canto 2 (1650)
Added on 8-Jun-16 | Last updated 8-Jun-16
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It is a very rare thing for a man of talent to succeed by his talent.

Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 4, #88 (1886)
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Added on 4-Apr-16 | Last updated 4-Apr-16
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RESPONSIBILITY, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)
Added on 5-Jan-16 | Last updated 5-Jan-16
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MALVOLIO: Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.

Shakespeare - greatness thrust - wist_info

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Twelfth Night, Act 2, Sc. 5, l. 156 (1599)
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The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable; for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.
Jonathan Swift - fortune - wist_info

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Sometimes I wonder whether if I’d been the one that went for coffee and not Leslie May my life would have been much less interesting and certainly much less dangerous. Could it have been anyone, or was it destiny? When I’m considering this I find it helpful to quote the wisdom of my father, who once told me, “Who knows why the fuck anything happens?”

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Rivers of London [Midnight Riot] (2011)
Added on 30-Sep-15 | Last updated 30-Sep-15
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Whatever happens, they say afterwards, it must have been fate. People are always a little confused about this, as they are in the case of miracles. When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that’s a miracle. But of course if someone is killed by a freak chain of events — the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there — that must also be a miracle. Just because it’s not nice doesn’t mean it’s not miraculous.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Interesting Times (1994)
Added on 2-Sep-15 | Last updated 2-Sep-15
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Do your duty, and leave the outcome to the Gods.

Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) French tragedian
Horace, Act 2, sc. 8 (1640)
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KIRSTEN: Do you figure his parents just assumed he’d grow up to be evil when they named him “Zebediah Killgrave”?

MATT: Yeah, we call that the “Victor Von Doom” Paradox.

Mark Waid (b. 1962) American comic book writer, editor
Daredevil, Vol. 4, #10 (Nov 2014)
Added on 27-Apr-15 | Last updated 27-Apr-15
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Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.

Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) American screenwriter and wit
In Alva Johnston, The Legendary Mizners, ch. 4 (1953)

Also quoted in Evan Esar, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (1949).
Added on 23-Apr-15 | Last updated 23-Jan-17
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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
Added on 23-Apr-15 | Last updated 23-Apr-15
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Success is ten percent opportunity and ninety percent intelligent hustle.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
An American Bible [ed. Alice Hubbard] (1918)
Added on 20-Feb-15 | Last updated 20-Feb-15
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I’ve always been in the right place at the right time. Of course, I steered myself there.

Bob Hope (1903-2003) American comedian, actor, humanitarian (b. Leslie Townes Hope)
In Merla Zellerbach, “Revealing Secrets of Their Success,” San Francisco Chronicle (11 Jul 1979)
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Happy is he who learns to bear what he cannot change!

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) German poet, playwright, critic [Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller]
“On the Sublime”
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One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“‘Tis the Set of the Sail” (1916)
Added on 12-Nov-14 | Last updated 12-Nov-14
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Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
Who never spent the darksome hours
Weeping and watching for the morrow,
He knows ye not, ye gloomy Powers.

To earth, this weary earth, ye bring us,
To guilt ye let us heedless go,
Then leave repentance fierce to wring us:
A moment’s guilt, an age of woe!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, 2.13 (1796) [tr. Carlyle (1824)]
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What is the point of having free will if one cannot occasionally spit in the eye of destiny?

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
White Night (2008)
Added on 25-Mar-14 | Last updated 25-Mar-14
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There’s not a living human being who doesn’t need luck. You need luck every time you give a concert. You worry about weather and transportation. Trains and planes are sometimes late; taxis have been known to break down. Then, at the hall, you worry that a string might snap or the lights fail, or that a page-turner might flip over two pages at once.

Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) Lithuanian-American violinist
(Unsourced)

Quoted on his official web page.
Added on 6-Jan-14 | Last updated 6-Jan-14
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All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience for it.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (15 Apr 1778)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 13-Dec-13 | Last updated 13-Dec-13
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Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.

[Nil sine magno vita labore dedit mortalibus.]

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman poet and satirist [Quintus Horacius Flaccus]
Satires, Book 1, Satire 9, l. 59 (c. 35 BC)
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I want death to find me planting my cabbages.

Montaigne - cabbages - wist_info

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“That to Philosophize Is to Learn to Die,” Essays (1588) [tr. D. Frame (1958)]
Added on 24-Jul-09 | Last updated 19-Dec-19
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Fortune is not on the side of the faint-hearted.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Phaedra, fragment 842

Also "Fortune never helps the fainthearted" [Fragments, l. 666]
Added on 23-Jun-08 | Last updated 17-Aug-16
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You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best you have to give.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
In Edward P. Morgan (ed.) This I Believe … (1952)
Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 24-Nov-14
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The game of life is not so much in holding a good hand as in playing a poor hand well.

Other Authors and Sources
H. T. Leslie
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Apr-14
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EDMUND: This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, — often the surfeit of our own behavior, — we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 1, sc. 2 (c. 1605)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Mar-15
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Nothing determines who we will become so much as those things we choose to ignore.

Other Authors and Sources
Sandor McNab
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Apr-14
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The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good and ill together.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 4, sc. 3, l. 74 (1602)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-May-16
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CALVIN: Do you believe our destinies are determined by the stars?
HOBBES: Nah.
CALVIN: Oh, I do.
HOBBES: Really? How come?
CALVIN: Life’s a lot more fun when you’re not responsible for your actions.

Bill Watterson (b. 1958) American cartoonist
Weirdos from Another Planet (1990)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-May-14
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The brave man carves out his fortune, and every man is the son of his own works.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish novelist
Don Quixote, Part 1, Book 1, ch. 4 (1605)
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But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Checker-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

Omar Khayyám (1048-1123) Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer
Rubáiyát, 51 [tr. FitzGerald, 1st ed. (1859)]
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And this made me remember that common saying everyone in China was raised with: “If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.”

Amy Tan (b. 1952) American novelist
The Kitchen God’s Wife, ch. 17 (1991)
    (Source)

Usually quoted without the attribution to a common saying.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Dec-14
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When we talk of tomorrow, the gods laugh.

Other Authors and Sources
Chinese proverb
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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