Quotations about   fortune

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Chance is the pseudonym of God when he did not want to sign.

[Le hasard, c’est peut-être le pseudonyme de Dieu quand il ne veut pas signer.]

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) French poet, writer, critic
La Croix de Berny, Letter 3 (1855) [with Jules Sandeau, Émile de Girardin, and Joseph Méry]

Source (French). Alternate translation:

Let [chance] act, for perhaps it is the pseudonym of God.
[tr. Fendall/Holcomb (1873)]

Frequently misattributed to Anatole France.
Added on 21-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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A thief can rifle any till,
A fire with ash your home can fill,
A creditor calls in your debt.
Bad harvest does your farm upset,
An impish mistress robs your dwelling,
Storm shatters ships with water swelling.
But gifts to friends your friendships save.
You keep thus always what you gave.

[Callidus effracta nummos fur auferet arca,
Prosternet patrios impia flamma lares:
Debitor usuram pariter sortemque negabit,
Non reddet sterilis semina iacta seges:
Dispensatorem fallax spoliabit amica,
Mercibus extructas obruet unda rates.
Extra fortunam est, quidquid donatur amicis:
Quas dederis, solas semper habebis opes.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, epigram 42 (5.42) [tr. Wills (2007)]
    (Source)

(Source(Latin)). Alternate translations:

Some felon-hand may steal thy gold away;
Or flames destructive on thy mansion prey.
The fraudful debtor may thy loan deny;
Or blasted fields no more their fruits supply.
The am'rous steward to adorn his dear,
With spoils may deck her from thy plunder'd year.
Thy freighted vessels, ere the port they gain,
O'erwhelm'd by storms may sink beneath the main:
But what thou giv'st a friend for friendship's sake,
Is the sole wealth which fortune n'er can take.
[tr. Melmoth (c. 1750)]

Thieves may break locks, and with your cash retire;
Your ancient seat may be consumed by fire;
Debtors refuse to pay you what they owe;
Or your ungrateful field the seed you sow;
You may be plundered by a jilting whore;
Your ships may sink at sea with all their store:
Who gives to friends, so much from Fate secures;
That is the only wealth for ever yours.
[tr. Hay (1755), ep. 43]

The thief shall burst they box, and slyly go:
The impious flame shall lay thy Lares low.
Thy dettor shall deny both use and sum:
They seed deposited may never come.
A faithless female shall they steward spoil:
They ships are swallow'd, while thy billow boil.
Whate'er is bountied, quit vain fortune's road:
Thine is alone the wealth thou has bestow'd.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 5, ep. 82]

A crafty thief may purloin money from a chest;
an impious flame may destroy paternal Lares;
a debtor may deny both principal and interest;
land may not yield crops in return for the seed scattered upon it;
frauds may be practices on a steward entrusted with your household purse;
the sea may overwhelm ships laden with merchandise.
Whatever is given to friends is beyond the reach of Fortune;
the wealth you have bestowed is the only wealth you can keep.
[tr. Amos (1858), ch. 3, ep. 77]

A cunning thief may burst open your coffers, and steal your coin;
an impious fire may lay waste your ancestral home;
your debtor may refuse you both principal and interest;
your corn-field may prove barren, and not repay the seed you have scattered upon it;
a crafty mistress may rob your steward;
the waves may engulf your ships laden with merchandise.
But what is bestowed on your friends is beyond the reach of fortune;
the riches you give away are the only riches you will possess for ever.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

A cunning thief will break your money-box and carry off your coin,
cruel fire will lay low your ancestral home;
your debtor will repudiate interest alike and principal,
your sterile crop will not return you the seed you have sown;
a false mistress will despoil your treasurer,
the wave will overwhelm your ships stored with merchandise.
Beyond Fortune's power is any gift made to your friends;
only wealth bestowed will you possess always.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Some thief may steal your wealth away,
Although by massive walls surrounded;
Or ruthless fire in ashes lay
The ancient home your fathers founded;

A debtor may withhold your dues,
Deny perhaps a debt is owing,
Or sullen ploughlands may refuse
To yield a harvest to your sowing.

A cunning trollop of the town
May make your agent rob his master,
Or waters of the ocean drown
Your goods and ship in one disaster.

But give to friends whate'er you may,
'Tis safe from fortune's worst endeavor:
The riches that you give away,
These only shall be yours for ever.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

A cunning thief may rob your money-chest,
And cruel fire lay low an ancient home;
Debtors may keep both loan and interest;
Good seed may fruitless rot in barren loam.
A guileful mistress may your agent cheat,
And waves engulf your laden argosies;
But boons to friends can fortune's slings defeat:
The wealth you give away will never cease.
[tr. Duff (1929)]

Deft thieves can break your locks and carry off your savings,
fire consume your home,
debtors default on principal and interest,
failed crops return not even the seed you'd sown,
cheating women run up your charge accounts,
storm overwhelm ships freighted with all your goods.
Fortune can't take away what you give your friends:
that wealth stays yours forever.
[tr. Powell (c. 2000)]

Savings -- the cunning thief will crack your safe and steal them;
ancestral home -- the fires don't care, they'll trash it;
the guy who owes you money -- won't pay the interest, won't pay at all.
Your field -- it's barren, sow seed and you'll get no return;
your girlfriend -- she'll con your accountant and leave you penniless;
your shipping line -- the waves will swamp your stacks of cargo.
But what you give to friends is out of fortune's reach.
The wealth you give away is the only wealth you'll never lose.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

Added on 6-Aug-21 | Last updated 14-Jan-22
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I see now that English class consciousness has an important silver lining. At least there we know that class is a real fact of social life. Posh Brits are more likely to see that their position is at least in part the result of good fortune. For Americans to solve the problem of their deepening class divisions, we will have to start by admitting their existence and our complicity in maintaining them. We need to raise our consciousness about class. And yes, I am looking at you.

Richard V. Reeves (b. 1969) British historian, journalist, political theorist
“Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich,” New York Times (10 Jun 2017)
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Added on 24-Jun-21 | Last updated 24-Jun-21
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Luck is probability taken personally.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
(Attributed)

While Jillette says this often, he attributes it to statistician and fellow skeptic, Daniel "Chip" Denman.
Added on 3-Jun-21 | Last updated 3-Jun-21
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For friendship adds a brighter radiance to prosperity and lessens the burden of adversity by dividing and sharing it.

[Nam et secundas res splendidiores facit amicitia et adversas partiens communicansque leviores.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship],” ch. 6 / sec. 22 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
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Alternate translations:

  • "Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief." [tr. Addison (1711), Spectator, #68 (18 May 1711)]
  • "For prosperity, friendship renders more brilliant, and adversity more supportable, by dividing and communicating it." [tr. Edmonds (1871)]
  • "Such friendship at once enhances the lustre of prosperity, and by dividing and sharing adversity lessens its burden." [tr. Peabody (1887)]
  • "For friendship both makes favourable things more splendid and disasters lighter, by splitting and sharing them." [Source]
Added on 1-Mar-21 | Last updated 22-Mar-21
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Men have made an idol of luck as an excuse for their own thoughtlessness. Luck seldom measures swords with wisdom. Most things in life quick wit and sharp vision can set right.

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 119 (Diels) [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
    (Source)

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:

  • "Men have fashioned an image of Chance as an excuse for their own stupidity. For Chance rarely conflicts with intelligence, and most things in life can be set in order by an intelligent sharpsightedness." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "Men fashioned the image of chance as an excuse for their own thoughtlessness; for chance rarely fights with wisdom, and a man of intelligence will, by foresight, set straight most things in his life." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
Added on 12-Jan-21 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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I, too, could be successful, if I had money, talent, luck, charm, confidence, and plenty of help.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #3414
Added on 18-Dec-20 | Last updated 18-Dec-20
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I find it very difficult to enthuse

Over the current news.

Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,

And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Everybody Tells Me Everything,” The Face Is Familiar (1940)
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Added on 24-Jul-20 | Last updated 24-Jul-20
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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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Every time it rains, it rains
Pennies from heaven.
Don’t you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven?

You’ll find your fortune falling
All over town
Be sure that your umbrella
Is upside down.

Johnny Burke (1908-1964) American lyricist [John Francis Burke]
“Pennies from Heaven” (1936)
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Added on 8-May-20 | Last updated 8-May-20
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Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Wealth,” The Conduct of Life, ch. 3 (1860)
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Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Montaigne; or, The Skeptic,” Representative Men, Lecture 4 (1850)
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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.

[τὸν γὰρ ὡς ἀληθῶς ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἔμφρονα πάσας οἰόμεθα τὰς τύχας εὐσχημόνως φέρειν καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων ἀεὶ τὰ κάλλιστα πράττειν, καθάπερ καὶ στρατηγὸν ἀγαθὸν τῷ παρόντι στρατοπέδῳ χρῆσθαι πολεμικώτατα καὶ σκυτοτόμον ἐκ τῶν δοθέντων σκυτῶν κάλλιστον ὑπόδημα ποιεῖν: τὸν αὐτὸν δὲ τρόπον καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους τεχνίτας ἅπαντας.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 10, sec. 13 (1.10.13) / 1101a.1-6 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Peters (1893)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

For the man who is truly good and sensible bears all fortunes, we presume, becomingly, and always does what is noblest under the circumstances, just as a good general employs to the best advantage the force he has with him; or a good shoemaker makes the handsomest shoe he can out of the leather which has been given him; and all other good artisans likewise.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 8]

For we hold that the really good and prudent man will bear all changes of fortune with good grace, and will always, as the case may allow, act most nobly; exactly as a good general will use such forces as are at his disposal most skilfully, and even as a good cobbler will, out of such leather as he may have, make the most perfect show; and of all those who practice any other art the same rule will hold good.
[tr. Williams (1869), sec. 17]

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. Welldon (1892)]

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.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

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 (1934)]

For a truly good and practically-wise person, we think, will bear what luck brings graciously, and, making use of the resources at hand, will always do the noblest actions, just as a good general makes the best uses in warfare of the army he has and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides he has been given, and the same with all other craftsmen.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

For we hold that a truly good and sensible man will bear all fortunes of life with propriety and will always act most nobly under whatever the given circumstances may be, like a good general, who uses a given army most effectively, or a good shoemaker, who makes the best shoes out of a given leather, and likewise with any artist.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

For we believe that the truly good and wise man bears all his fortunes with dignity, and always takes the most honorable course that circumstances permit, just as a good general uses his available forces in the most militarily effective way, and a good shoemaker makes the neatest shoe out of the leather supplied to him, and the same with all the other kinds of craftsmen.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

For a truly good and intelligent person, we suppose, will bear strokes of fortune suitably, and from his resources at any time will do the finest action, just as a good general will make best use of his forces in war, and a good shoemaker will produce the finest shoe from the hides given him, and similarly for all other craftsmen.
[tr. Irwin/Fine (1995)]

For the truly good and wise person, we believe, bears all the fortunes of life with dignity and always does the noblest thing in the circumstances, as a good general does the most strategically appropriate thing with the army at his disposal, and a shoemaker makes the noblest shoe out of the leather he is given, and so on with other practitioners of skills.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

For we suppose that someone who is truly good and sensible bears up under all fortunes in a becoming way and always does what is noblest given the circumstances, just as a good general makes use, with the greatest military skill, of the army he has and a shoemaker makes the most beautiful shoe out of the leather given him. It holds in the same manner with all the other experts as well.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

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We must learn to suffer whatever we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of discords as well as of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only some of them, what could he sing? He has got to know how to use all of them and blend them together. So too must we with good and ill, which are of one substance with our life. Without such blending our being cannot be: one category is no less necessary than the other.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 3, Essay 13 “On Experience” (1587-88) [tr. Screech (1987)]
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Alt. trans.
  • [Frame (1943)] "We must learn to endure what we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of contrary things, also of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only one kind, what would he have to say? He must know how to use them together and blend them. And so must we do with good and evil, which are consubstantial with our life. Our existence is impossible without this mixture, and one element is no less necessary for it than the other."
  • [Source] "We must learn to suffer what we cannot evade; our life, like the harmony of the world, is composed of contrary things -- of diverse tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, sprightly and solemn: the musician who should only affect some of these, what would he be able to do? He must know how to make use of them all, and to mix them; and so we should mingle the goods and evils which are consubstantial with our life; our being cannot subsist without this mixture, and the one part is no less necessary to it than the other."
  • [Florio (1603)] A man must learne to endure that patiently which he cannot avoyde conveniently. Our life is composed, as is the harmony of the world, of contrary things: so of divers tunes, some pleasant, some harsh, some sharpe, some flat, some low, and some high. What would that musitian say that should love but some one of them? He ought to know how to use them severally and how to entermingle them. So should we both of goods and evils which art consubstnatiall to our life; our being cannot subsist without this commixture, whereto one side is no lesse necessary than the other."
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Fortune to many gives too much, enough to none.

[Fortuna multis dat nimis, satis nulli.]  

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 12, epigram 10 (12.10)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Fortune gives too much to many, enough to none." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
  • "Fortune hath overmuch bestow'd on some; / But plenary content doth give to none." [tr. Fletcher]
  • "Fortune, some say, doth give too much to many; / And yet she never gave enough to any." [tr. Harrington]
  • "Fortune gives one enough, but some too much." [tr. Hay]
  • "Fortune to many gives too much, enough to none." [tr. Ker (1919)]
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How easy it is to be amiable in the midst of happiness and success!

Anne Sophie Swetchine (1782-1857) Russian-French author and salonist [Madame Swetchine]
Life and Letters of Madam Swetchine, ch. 5 [8th ed., 1875] (ed. de Falloux; tr. Preston]
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Where Plenty smiles — alas! she smiles for few,
And those who taste not, yet behold her store,
Are as the slaves that dig the golden ore,
The wealth around them makes them doubly poor.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
The Village, Book 1, line 136 (1783)
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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.
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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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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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“Well?” said Greycat. “Does fortune smile upon us?”
“She smiles,” said Dunaan. “And she frowns.”
“How, at the same time?”
“Yes.”
“Fortune has a very flexible countenance.”
“That is well known.”

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Five Hundred Years After (1994)
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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]
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We cannot insure Success, but We can deserve it.

adams-insure-success-deserve-it-wist_info-quote

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (18 Feb 1776)
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Perhaps after Addison.
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He sendeth sun, he sendeth shower,
Alike they’re needful to the flower;
And joys and tears alike are sent
To give the soul fit nourishment.
As comes to me or cloud or sun,
Father! thy will, not mine, be done.

Sarah Fuller Adams (1805-1848) English poet (nee Flower)
“He sendeth Sun, he sendeth Shower”
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When I contemplate the common lot of mortality, I must acknowledge that I have drawn a high prize in the lottery of life … the double fortune of my birth in a free and enlightened country, in an honourable and wealthy family, is the lucky chance of an unit against millions.

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) English historian
Memoirs of My Life and Writings (1796)
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Chance generally favors the prudent.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées, # 147 (1838) [tr. Atwell]

Variant: "Chance generally favors the prudent man."
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You know, if you’re an American and you’re born at this time in history especially, you’re lucky. We all are. We won the world history Powerball lottery, but a little modesty about it might keep the heat off of us. I can’t stand the people who say things like, “We built this country!” You built nothing. I think the railroads were pretty much up by 1980.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Victory Begins at Home (20 Jan 2004)
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It is a very rare thing for a man of talent to succeed by his talent.

Joseph Roux
Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 4, #88 (1886)
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Men understand the worth of blessings only when they have lost them.

Plautus (c. 254-184 BC) Roman playright [Titus Maccius Plautus]
The Captives (3rd C BC)
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Fortune favors the brave.

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
Aeneid, Book 10, l. 284 (c. 29-19 BC)
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Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Open Door (1957)
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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)
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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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The pat on the back, the arm around the shoulder, the praise for what was done right, and the sympathetic nod for what wasn’t, are as much a part of golf as life itself.

Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) US President, (1974-77) [b. Leslie Lynch King, Jr.]
Speech, Dedication of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Pinehurst, North Carolina (12 Sep 1974)
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Fortune has dealt with me rather too well. I have known little struggle, not much poverty, many generosities. Now and then I have, for my books or myself, been somewhat warmly denounced — there was one good pastor in California who upon reading my Elmer Gantry desired to lead a mob and lynch me, while another holy man in the state of Maine wondered if there was no respectable and righteous way of putting me in jail. And, much harder to endure than any raging condemnation, a certain number of old acquaintances among journalists, what in the galloping American slang we call the “I Knew Him When Club,” have scribbled that since they know me personally, therefore I must be a rather low sort of fellow and certainly no writer. But if I have now and then received such cheering brickbats, still I, who have heaved a good many bricks myself, would be fatuous not to expect a fair number in return.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1930)
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The Stream of Life sometimes glides smoothly on, through flowry meadows and enamell’d planes. At other times it draggs a winding reluctant Course through offensive Boggs and dismal gloomy Swamps. The same road now leads us thro’ a spacious Country fraught with evry delightful object, Then plunges us at once, into miry Sloughs, or stops our passage with craggy and inaccessible mountains. The free roving Songster of the forest, now rambles unconfin’d, and hopps from Spray to Spray but the next hour perhaps he alights to pick the scattered Grain and is entangled in the Snare. The Ship, which, wafted by a favourable gale, sails prosperously upon the peaceful Surface, by a sudden Change of weather may be tossed by the Tempest, and driven by furious, opposite winds, upon rocks or quicksands. In short nothing in this world enjoys a constant Series of Joy and prosperity.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Journal (27 Mar 1756)
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One overmuch elated with success
A change of fortune plunges in distress.

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman poet and satirist [Quintus Horacius Flaccus]
Epistles, 1.10 [ed. Kraemer, Jr (1936)]
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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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That thro certain Humours or Passions, and from Temper merely, a Man may be completely miserable; let his outward Circumstances be ever so fortunate.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
“An Inquiry Concerning Virtue, or Merit”
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Only he who has seen better days and lives to see better days again knows their full value.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook [ed. Paine (1935)]
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There are but two ways of rising in the world: either by your own industry or by the folly of others.

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
“Of the Gifts of Fortune” (52). The Characters [Les Caractères] (1688) [tr van Laun (1929)]
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But we live through the fine days without noticing them; only when we fall on evil ones do we wish to have back the former. With sour faces we let a thousand bright and pleasant hours slip by unenjoyed and afterwards vainly sigh for their return when times are trying and depressing. Instead of this, we should cherish every present moment that is bearable, even the most ordinary, which with such indifference we now let slip by, and even with impatience push on.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena (1861)
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From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) French emperor, military leader
Comment to the Abbé du Pradt (10 Dec 1812)
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During the retreat from Moscow, a repeated comment during a discussion with one of his ambassadors. Quoted by Archibald Alison, History of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789, to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815, Vol. 16, ch. 73 (1842). See also Paine.

Alt. trans.:
  • "There is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous."
  • "There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous."
  • "From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but a step."
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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.
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One Month in the School of Affliction will teach thee more than the great Precepts of Aristotle in seven years; for thou canst never judge rightly of human Affairs, unless thou hast first felt the Blows, and found out the Deceits of Fortune.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, #2749 (1731 ed.)
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More quotes by Fuller, Thomas (1654)

He that swells in Prosperity will shrink in Adversity.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #2321 (1732)
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Still, I do not mean to find fault with the accumulation of property, provided it hurts nobody, but unjust acquisition of it is always to be avoided.

[Nec vero rei familiaris amplificatio nemini nocens vituperanda est, sed fugienda semper iniuria est.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 8 / sec. 25 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:
  • "Not but that a moderate desire of riches, and bettering a man's estate, so long as it abstains from oppressing of others, is allow enough; but a very great care ought alwys to be taken that we be not drawn to any injustice by it." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
  • "The enlargement of fortune is blameless, while no man suffers by its increase; but injury is forever to be avoided" [tr. McCartney (1798)]
  • "Nor indeed is the mere desire to improve one's private fortune, without injury to another, deserving of blame; but injustice must ever be avoided." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
  • "Nor, indeed, is the increase of property, without harm to any one, to be blamed; but wrong-doing for the sake of gain is never to be tolerated." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
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A man’s worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes. So long as a man is struggling with obstacles he has an excuse for failure or shortcoming; but when fortune removes them all and gives him the power of doing as he thinks best, then comes the time of trial. There is but one right, and the possibilities of wrong are infinite.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“Address on University Education,” opening ceremonies of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (12 Sep 1876)
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A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
“Elements of Success,” speech, Spencerian Business College, Washington, D.C. (29 Jul 1869)
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No condition so low but may have Hopes; none so high but may have Fears.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #3555 (1732)
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O stranger, cease thy care;
Wise is the soul, but man is born to bear;
Jove weighs affairs of earth in dubious scales,
And the good suffers, while the bad prevails.
Bear, with a soul resign’d, the will of Jove;
Who breathes, must mourn: thy woes are from above.

[‘ξεῖν᾽, ἐπεὶ οὔτε κακῷ οὔτ᾽ ἄφρονι φωτὶ ἔοικας:
Ζεὺς δ᾽ αὐτὸς νέμει ὄλβον Ὀλύμπιος ἀνθρώποισιν,
ἐσθλοῖς ἠδὲ κακοῖσιν, ὅπως ἐθέλῃσιν, ἑκάστῳ:
καί που σοὶ τάδ᾽ ἔδωκε, σὲ δὲ χρὴ τετλάμεν ἔμπης.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 6, l. 187ff (6.187-190) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Pope (1725), l. 227ff]
    (Source)

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Stranger! I discern in thee
Nor sloth, nor folly, reigns; and yet I see
Th’ art poor and wretched. In which I conclude,
That industry nor wisdom make endued
Men with those gifts that make them best to th’ eye;
Jove only orders man’s felicity.
To good and bad his pleasure fashions still
The whole proportion of their good and ill.
And he, perhaps, hath form’d this plight in thee,
Of which thou must be patient, as he free.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

You seem to be a good man and discreet,
But Jove on good and bad such fortune lays,v Happy or otherwise, as he thinks meet;
And since distress is fallen to your share,
You must contented be to suffer it.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 178ff]

Since, stranger! neither base by birth thou seem’st,
Nor unintelligent, (but Jove, the King
Olympian, gives to good and bad alike
Prosperity according to his will,
And grief to thee, which thou must patient bear,)
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 233ff]

Stranger, who seemest neither vile nor vain,
Zeus both to good and evil doth divide
Wealth as he listeth. He perchance this pain
Appointed; thou thy sorrow must sustain.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 25]

Nor vice, nor folly marks thee -- and great Jove
In high Olympus thron'd doth this world's good
To men mete out, the wicked and the just,
E'en as to Him seems best: and this thy lot
He haply hath assign'd;' and 'tis for thee
With patient soul to bear it.
[tr. Musgrave (1869), l. 289ff]

Sir guest! since thou no sorry wight dost seem;
And Zeus himself from Olympus deals out weal
To the good and band: -- to each as it pleaseth him:
And somehow he hath sent these things to thee;
So it becomes thee to endure them wholly.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

Stranger, forasmuch as thou seemest no evil man nor foolish -- and it is Olympian Zeus himself that giveth weal to men, to the good and to the evil, to each one as he will, and this thy lot doubtless is of him, and so thou must in anywise endure it.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

O guest, forsooth thou seemest no fool, and no man of ill.
But Zeus the Olympian giveth to menfolk after his will,
To each, be he good, be he evil, his share of the happy day;
And these things shall be of his giving; so bear it as ye may.
[tr. Morris (1887)]

Stranger, because you do not seem a common, senseless person, -- and Olympian Zeus himself distributes fortune to mankind and gives to high and low even as he wills to each; and this he gave to you, and you must bear it therefore.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

Stranger, you appear to be a sensible, well-disposed person. There is no accounting for luck; Zeus gives prosperity to rich and poor just as he chooses, so you must take what he has seen fit to send you, and make the best of it.
[tr. Butler (1898), rev. Power/Nagy]

Stranger, since thou seemest to be neither an evil man nor a witless, and it is Zeus himself, the Olympian, that gives happy fortune to men, both to the good and the evil, to each man as he will; so to thee, I ween, he has given this lot, and thou must in any case endure it.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

Stranger -- for to me you seem no bad or thoughtless man -- it is Zeus himself who assigns bliss to men, to the good adn to the evil as he wills, to each his lot. Wherefore surely he gave you this unhappiness, and you must bear it.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

"Sir," said the white-armed Nausicaa, "your manners prove that you are no rascal and no fool; and as for these ordeals of yours, they must have been sent you by Olympian Zeus, who follows his own will in dispensing happiness to people whatever their merits. You have no choice but to endure."
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

Stranger, there is no quirk or evil in you
that I can see. You know Zeus metes out fortune
to good and bad men as it pleases him.
Hardship he sent to you, and you must bear it.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

My friend, since you seem not like a thoughtless man, nor a mean one,
it is Zeus himself, the Olympian, who gives people good fortune,
to each single man, to the good and the bad, just as he wishes;
and since he must have given you yours, you must even endure it.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

You, stranger, since you do not seem to be
mad or malicious, know that only he --
Olympian Zeus -- allots felicity
to men, to both the noble and the base,
just as he wills. To you he gave this fate
and you must suffer it -- in any case.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

"Stranger," the white-armed princess answered staunchly,
"friend, you're hardly a wicked man, and no fool, I'd say --
it's Olympian Zeus himself who hands our fortunes out,
to each of us in turn, to the good and bad,
however Zeus prefers ...
He gave you pain, it seems. You simply have to bear it.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

"Stranger, you do not seem to be a bad man
Or a fool. Zeus himself, the Olympian god,
Sends happiness to good men and bad men both,
To each as he wills. To you he has given these troubles,
Which you have no choice but to bear.
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 191ff]

Stranger -- because you seem neither base nor without understanding
Zeus himself, the Olympian, gives out fortune to mankind,
both to the base and the noble, to each one just as he wishes;
so he has given you this, yet nevertheless you must bear it.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

Since your manners show you are not a bad man or a fool -- it is Olympian Zeus himself who assigns good fortune to men, good and bad alike, as he wills, and must have sent you your personal misfortune -- and you must just endure it.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

Stranger, you do not strike me as either a rogue or a fool. It is Olympian Zeus himself who dispenses prosperity to men, to both good and bad, to each as he wishes; he must surely have sent you these troubles, and you must bear them as you may.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

Well, stranger, you seem a brave and clever man; you know that Zeus apportions happiness to people, to good and bad, each one as he decides. your troubles come from him, and you must bear them.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

Stranger, you seem neither malicious nor witless: but it's Zeus, the Olympian in person, who bestows good fortune on men, the good and the bad, to each as he wills; I suppose he chose this lot for you, and you just have to bear it.
[tr. Green (2018)]

Stranger, you don’t seem to be a wicked man,
or foolish. Olympian Zeus himself
gives happiness to bad and worthy men,
each one receiving just what Zeus desires.
So he has given you your share, I think.
Nonetheless, you must still endure your lot.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 241ff]

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We do not what we ought,
What we ought not, we do,
And lean upon the thought
That chance will bring us through;
But our own acts, for good or ill, are mightier powers.

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) English poet and critic
Empedocles on Etna, Act 1, sc. 2, ll. 238-242 (1852)
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Destiny leads the willing, but drags the unwilling.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #1275 (1732)
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See Seneca the Younger.
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Only when man’s life comes to its end in prosperity can one call that man happy.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
Agamemnon, l. 928

Alt trans.:
  • "Call no man happy till he is dead."
  • "Hold him alone truly fortunate who has ended his life in happy well-being."
Compare to Sophocles.
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What a Day may bring a Day may take away.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #5475 (1732)
    (Source)
Added on 13-Aug-09 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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