Quotations about   generations

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To be unacquainted with what has passed in the world, before we came into it ourselves, is to be always children. For what is the age of a single mortal, unless it is connected, by the aid of History, with the times of our ancestors?

[Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur?]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Orator, ad M. Brutus, ch. 34, sec. 120 (55 BC) [tr. Jones (1776)]
    (Source)

The original Latin. Alt. trans.
  • "For not to know what happened before one was born, is to be a boy all one s life. For what is the life of a man unless by a recollection of bygone transactions it is united to the times of his predecessors?" [tr. Yonge (1853)]
  • "To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain always a boy. For what is the lifetime of a man, unless it is connected with the lifetime of older men by the memory of earlier events?" [tr. Fox (2007)]
  • "What is a generation, if it is not conjoined with the age of our predecessors by the memory of ancient things?" [tr. @sentantiq]
  • "Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?"
  • "Not to know what happened before you were born is always to be a boy."
  • "To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child."
Added on 16-Nov-20 | Last updated 16-Nov-20
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As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity.
The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber
Burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning.
So one generation of men will grow while another dies.

[Οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
φύλλα τὰ μέν τ’ ἄνεμος χαμάδις χέει, ἄλλα δέ θ’ ὕλη
τηλεθόωσα φύει, ἔαρος δ’ ἐπιγίγνεται ὥρη·
ὣς ἀνδρῶν γενεὴ ἣ μὲν φύει ἣ δ’ ἀπολήγει.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 6, ll. 146-49 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Lattimore (1951)]
    (Source)

Like the race of leaves
The race of man is, that deserves no question; nor receives
My being any other breath? The wind in autumn strows
The earth with old leaves, then the spring the woods with new endows;
And so death scatters men on earth, so life puts out again
Man’s leavy issue.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 141ff]

Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground:
Another race the following spring supplies,
They fall successive, and successive rise:
So generations in their course decay;
So flourish these, when those are past away.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]


For, as the leaves, such is the race of man.
The wind shakes down the leaves, the budding grove
Soon teems with others, and in spring they grow.
So pass mankind. One generation meets
Its destined period, and a new succeeds.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 175ff]

As is the race of leaves, even such is the race of men. Some leaves the wind sheds upon the ground, but the fructifying wood produces others, and these grow up in the season of spring. Such is the generation of men; one produces, another ceases.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

The race of man is as the race of leaves:
Of leaves, one generation by the wind
Is scatter'd on the earth; another soon
In spring's luxuriant verdure bursts to light.
So with our race; these flourish, those decay.
[tr. Derby (1864)]


Even as are the generations of leaves such are those likewise of men; the leaves that be the wind scattereth on the earth, and the forest buddeth and putteth forth more again, when the season of spring is at hand; so of the generations of men one putteth forth and another ceaseth.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

Men come and go as leaves year by year upon the trees. Those of autumn the wind sheds upon the ground, but when spring returns the forest buds forth with fresh vines. Even so is it with the generations of mankind, the new spring up as the old are passing away.
[tr. Butler (1898)]


Even as are the generations of leaves, such are those also of men. As for the leaves, the wind scattereth some upon the earth, but the forest, as it bourgeons, putteth forth others when the season of spring is come; even so of men one generation springeth up and another passeth away.
[tr. Murray (1924)]


Very like leaves upon this earth are the generations of men -- old leaves, cast on the ground by wind, young leaves the greening forest bears when spring comes in. So mortals pass; one generation flowers even as another dies away.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]


Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,
now the living timber bursts with the new buds
and spring comes round again. And so with men:
as one generation comes to life, another dies away.
[tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 171-75]
Added on 16-Sep-20 | Last updated 24-Nov-20
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That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.

mill-height-of-absurdity-wisdom-wist_info-quote

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Often cited from a quote in Adlai Stevenson, Call to Greatness (1954), but appears earlier in, e.g., National Magazine (Nov 1911). Unverified in Mills' writings.
Added on 15-Dec-16 | Last updated 15-Dec-16
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The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.

nelson-ultimate-test-of-mans-conscience-wist_info-quote

Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005) American politician and environmentalist
“Ah, Wilderness! Save It,” New York Times (4 Sep 1984)
    (Source)
Added on 31-Oct-16 | Last updated 2-Nov-16
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Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Clouds, l. 914 (c. 423 BC) [tr. Arrowsmith (1962)]

This phrase comes from a single translation, by William Arrowsmith (1962), of Aristophanes, The Clouds, l. 914. It is the only translation that includes anything like that:
[909] Philosophy: Why, you Precocious Pederast! You Palpable Pervert!
[910] Sophistry: Pelt me with roses!
[910] Philosophy: You Toadstool! O Cesspool!
[911] Sophistry: Wreath my hairs with lilies!
[911] Philosophy: Why, you Parricide!
[912] Sophistry: Shower me with gold! Look, don't you see I welcome your abuse?
[913] Philosophy: Welcome it, monster? In my day we would have cringed with shame.
[914] Sophistry: Whereas now we're flattered. Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.

Compare to Hickey (1853):
[909] Just Cause: You are debauched and shameless.
[910] Unjust Cause: You have spoken roses of me.
[910] Just Cause: And a dirty lickspittle.
[911] Unjust Cause: You crown me with lilies.
[911] Just Cause: And a parricide.
[912] Unjust Cause: You don't know that you are sprinkling me with gold.
[913] Just Cause: Certainly not so formerly, but with lead.
[914] Unjust Cause: But now this is an ornament to me.
Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 8-Jul-20
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The freethinking of one age is the common sense of the next.

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) English poet and critic
God and the Bible (1875)
Added on 28-Apr-16 | Last updated 28-Apr-16
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Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them — if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.

J. D. Salinger (1919-2010) American writer [Jerome David Salinger]
Catcher in the Rye, ch. 24 [Mr. Antolini] (1951)
Added on 10-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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Croesus said to Cambyses: That peace was better than war; because in peace the sons did bury their fathers, but in wars the fathers did bury their sons.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apophthegms, #149 (1625)

See Herodotus.
Added on 10-Sep-10 | Last updated 28-Jul-17
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