Quotations about   happiness

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Wretchedness is caused by emotional disturbances, and the happy life by calmness, and disturbance takes two forms — anxiety and fear in expecting evils, ecstatic joy and lustful thoughts in misunderstanding good things, all of which are at variance with with wisdom and reason. Accordingly, if a man possesses self-control and consistency, and is without fear, distress, excitability, or lust, is he not happy? But this is the nature of the wise man always, so he is happy always.

[Atque cum perturbationes animi miseriam, sedationes autem vitam efficiant beatam, duplexque ratio perturbationis sit, quod aegritudo et metus in malis opinatis, in bonorum autem errore laetitia gestiens libidoque versetur, quae omnia cum consilio et ratione pugnent, his tu tam gravibus concitationibus tamque ipsis inter se dissentientibus atque distractis quem vacuum solutum liberum videris, hunc dubitabis beatum dicere? atqui sapiens semper ita adfectus est; semper igitur sapiens beatus est.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 5, ch. 15 / sec. 43 (45 BC) [tr. Davie (2017)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Now since the Disturbances of the Soul render the Life miserable, but the composure of them happy; and there is a double rank of Passions; in that, Discontent and Fear are terminated on Evils conceiv'd; but excessive Mirth and Lust arise from the misapprehension of good things, since all are inconsistent with Advice and Reason, if you shall see any one clear, emancipated, free from these emotions so vehement, so discordant one with the other, and so distracting, can you make any question of calling him Happy? But the Wise man is always so dispos'd, therefore the Wise man is always Happy.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

But as the perturbations of the mind make life miserable, and tranquility renders it happy: and as these perturbations are of two sorts; grief and fear, proceeding from imagined evils, immoderate joy and lust, from the mistake of what is good; and all these are in opposition to reason and counsel; when you see a man at ease, quite free and disengaged from such troublesome commotions, which are so much at variance with one another, can you hesitate to pronounce such a one a happy man? Now the wise man is always in such a disposition: therefore the wise man is always happy.
[tr. Main (1824)]

But when the perturbations render life unhappy, while their repose makes it happy -- and since the mode of perturbation is twofold -- sorrow and fear having birth from reputed evils -- the delirium of joy and desire, from the delusion of good, -- when all these are repugnant to counsel and reason, and you see a man void, exempt, free from these excitements, so vehement, so discordant, so distracted by mutual conflicts, -- will you hesitate to pronounce him happy? But the wise man is always thus, and therefore always happy.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

But as the perturbations of the mind make life miserable, and tranquillity renders it happy; and as these perturbations are of two sorts, grief and fear, proceeding from imagined evils, and as immoderate joy and lust arise from a mistake about what is good, and as all these feelings are in opposition to reason and counsel; when you see a man at ease, quite free and disengaged from such troublesome commotions, which are so much at variance with one another can you hesitate to pronounce such an one a happy man? Now the wise man is always in such a disposition, therefore the wise man is always happy.
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

Now since perturbations of mind create misery, while quietness of mind makes life happy, and since there are two kinds of perturbations, grief and fear having their scope in imagined evils, inordinate joy and desire in mistaken notions of the good, all being repugnant to wise counsel and reason, will you hesitate to call him happy whom you see relieved, released, free from these excitements so oppressive, and so at variance and divided among themselves? Indeed one thus disposed is always happy. Therefore the wise man is always happy.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

Added on 18-Nov-21 | Last updated 18-Nov-21
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That person, then, whose mind is quiet through consistency and self-control, who finds contentment in himself, and neither breaks down in adversity nor crumbles in fright, nor burns with any thirsty need nor dissolves into wild and futile excitement, that person is the wise one we are seeking, and that person is happy.

[Ergo hic, quisquis est, qui moderatione et constantia quietus animo est sibique ipse placatus, ut nec tabescat molestiis nec frangatur timore nec sitienter quid expetens ardeat desiderio nec alacritate futtili gestiens deliquescat, is est sapiens quem quaerimus, is est beatus.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 4, ch. 17 / sec. 37 (45 BC) [tr. Graver (2002)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

He therefore, call him by what name you will, who through Moderation and Constancy, hath quiet of mind, and is at Peace with himself; so as neither to fret out of Discontent, nor to be confounded with Fear, who neither is inflam'd with an impatient longing after any thing, nor ravish'd out of himself into the Fools Paradice of an empty Mirth; this is the wise man, after whom we are in quest; this the Happy man.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

Whoever then, through moderation and consistency, is at rest in his mind, and in calm possession of himself, so as neither to pine with care, nor be dejected with fear, neither to be inflamed with desire, nor dissolved by extravagant joy, such a one is the very wise man we enquire after, the happy man.
[tr. Main (1824)]

Therefore the man, whoever he is, who has quiet of mind, through moderation and constancy, and thus at peace with himself, is neither corroded with cares, nor crippled by fear; and, thirsting for nothing impatiently, is exempt from the fires of desire, and, dizzied by the fumes of no futile felicity, reels with no riotous joy: this is the wise man we seek: this man is happy.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

Whoever, then, through moderation and constancy, is at rest in his mind, and in calm possession of himself, so as neither to pine with care, nor be dejected with fear, nor to be inflamed with desire, coveting something greedily, nor relaxed by extravagant mirth, -- such a man is that identical wise man whom we are inquiring for, he is the happy man.
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

Whoever then has his mind kept in repose by moderation and firmness, and is at peace with himself so that he is neither wasted by troubles nor broken down by fear, nor burns with longing in his thirsty quest of some object of desire, nor flows out in the demonstration of empty joy, is the wise man whom we seek; he is the happy man.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

Added on 4-Nov-21 | Last updated 4-Nov-21
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Despair says It’s all the same. Happiness knows there are even a thousand Despairs.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, # 50 (Spring 1999)
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there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
“The Bluebird”
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Added on 27-Oct-21 | Last updated 27-Oct-21
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Whoever increases the sum of human joy, is a worshipper.

He who adds to the sum of human misery, is a blasphemer.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
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I never will believe that our youngest days are our happiest. What a miserable augury for the progress of the race and the destination of the individual, if the more matured and enlightened state is the less happy one! Childhood is only the beautiful and happy time in contemplation and retrospect: to the child it is full of deep sorrows, the meaning of which is unknown.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Letter to Sara Hennell (May 1844)
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Added on 13-Oct-21 | Last updated 13-Oct-21
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Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
(Attributed)
Added on 23-Sep-21 | Last updated 23-Sep-21
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It may be confidently asserted that no man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.

Wollstonecraft - No man chooses evil because it is evil - wist.info quote

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) English social philosopher, feminist, writer
A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790)
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but whotthehell archy whotthehell
jamais triste archy jamais triste
that is my motto.

Don Marquis (1878-1937) American journalist and humorist
archy and mehitabel, “mehitabel sees paris” (1927)
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"Jamais triste" means "never sad" in French.
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This communicating of a man’s self to his friend worketh two contrary effects; for it redoubleth joys and cutteth griefs in Halves. For there is no man that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he joyeth the more; and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friend, but that he grieveth the less.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Friendship”
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Added on 16-Aug-21 | Last updated 16-Aug-21
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it s cheerio
my deario
that pulls a lady through

Don Marquis (1878-1937) American journalist and humorist
archy and mehitabel, “cheerio, my deario” (1927)
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Added on 11-Aug-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-21
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The happy should not insist too much upon their happiness in the presence of the unhappy.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-talk”
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Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 12 (1930)
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Added on 17-May-21 | Last updated 17-May-21
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A great part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-Talk”
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To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
(Misattributed)

This is regularly attributed to Emerson, but has not been found in his work. The original appears to be a contest essay written by Bessie A. Stanley of Lincoln, Nebraska in 1905:

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.

In 1951, Albert E. Wiggam, a newspaper columnist, wrote this similar passage, claiming it was an abridged version of something Emerson wrote:

To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty. To find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exaltation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived -- this is to have succeeded.

Variations of both quotations exist, but Wiggam seems to be the source of the Emerson reference. This was later cemented by Ann Landers producing the variation at the top of this post, citing Emerson but not Wiggam. She also at other times attributed it to Harry Emerson Fosdick and Bessie A. Stanley.

More information here:
Added on 3-May-21 | Last updated 3-May-21
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Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.

Theodore Isaac Rubin (1923-2019) American psychiatrist and author
Love Me, Love My Fool: Thoughts from a Psychoanalyst’s Notebook (1976)
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If you are a person who looks at the funny side of things, then sometimes when you are lowest, when everything seems totally hopeless, you will come up with some of your best ideas. Happiness does not create humor. There’s nothing funny about being happy. Sadness creates humor.

Charles Schulz (1922-2000) American cartoonist
“On Staying Power,” My Life with Charlie Brown (2010) [ed. Inge]
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Added on 23-Apr-21 | Last updated 23-Apr-21
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Whatever creates or increases happiness or some part of happiness, we ought to do; whatever destroys or hampers happiness, or gives rise to its opposite, we ought not to do.

[τὰ μὲν γὰρ παρασκευάζοντα ταύτην ἢ τῶν μορίων τι, ἢ μεῖζον ἀντ᾽ ἐλάττονος ποιοῦντα, δεῖ πράττειν, τὰ δὲ φθείροντα ἢ ἐμποδίζοντα ἢ τὰ ἐναντία ποιοῦντα μὴ πράττειν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 1, ch. 5, sec. 2 / 1360b.11 (350 BC) [tr. Roberts (1954)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

For it behoves us to perform those acts which procure [happiness], or any one of its constituent parts, or which, when it is little, render it greater; but not to perform those which destroy, or obstruct it, or produce its contraries.
[Source (1847)]

We needs do the things which procure [happiness] or any of its constituents, or which render it greater from having been less, and refrain from doing the things which destroy or impede it, or produce its opposites.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

Since we ought to do those things which tend to create [Happiness] or any one of its parts, or to increase that part; but we ought not do those things which corrupt, or hinder it, or produce its opposite.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

For one should do the things which procure happiness or one of its parts, or increase instead of diminishing it, and avoid doing those things which destroy or hinder it or bring about what is contrary to it.
[tr. Freese (1924)]

After all, we are bound to act in a way that creates the conditions for happiness or one of its constituents, or at any rate increases rather than diminishes it, and to avoid doing things that destroy or hinder it or have outcomes that oppose it.
[tr. Waterfield (2018)]

Added on 9-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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I too have known joy and sadness, and, on the whole, I prefer joy.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #2053
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A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify making their life a hell in this.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4: The Puritan Movement, sec. 4 “The New Medicine for Poverty” (1926)
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Originally delivered as Holland Lectures, Kings College (Feb-Mar 1922).
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For life without life’s joys
Is living death; and such a life is his.
Riches and rank and show of majesty
And state, where no joy is, are empty, vain
And unsubstantial shadows, of no weight
To be compared with happiness of heart.

[τὰς γὰρ ἡδονὰς
ὅταν προδῶσιν ἄνδρες, οὐ τίθημ᾽ ἐγὼ
ζῆν τοῦτον, ἀλλ᾽ ἔμψυχον ἡγοῦμαι νεκρόν.
πλούτει τε γὰρ κατ᾽ οἶκον, εἰ βούλει, μέγα
καὶ ζῆ τύραννον σχῆμ᾽ ἔχων: ἐὰν δ᾽ ἀπῇ
τούτων τὸ χαίρειν, τἄλλ᾽ ἐγὼ καπνοῦ σκιᾶς
οὐκ ἂν πριαίμην ἀνδρὶ πρὸς τὴν ἡδονήν]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 1165ff [Messenger] (441 BC) [tr. Watling (1947), Epilogos, l. 977ff]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

For him I reckon but
An animate corpse, and not a living man,
Whose life's delights are cast away. Thy house,
I grant thee, may be richly stored with wealth;
And thou may'st live in royal pomp: but if
Joy is not there the while, and I must lose
All happiness thereby, I would not give
Smoke's shadow as the price of all the rest.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

For a life
Without life's joys I count a living death.
You'll tell me he has ample store of wealth,
The pomp and circumstance of kings; but if
These give no pleasure, all the rest I count
The shadow of a shade, nor would I weigh
His wealth and power 'gainst a dram of joy.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

For when a man is lost to joy,
I count him not to live, but reckon him
A living corse. Riches belike are his,
Great riches and the appearance of a King;
But if no gladness come to him, all else
Is shadow of a vapour, weighed with joy.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

When a man has forfeited his pleasures, I do not reckon his existence as life, but consider him just a breathing corpse. Heap up riches in your house, if you wish! Live with a tyrant's pomp! But if there is no joy along with all of that, I would not pay even the shadow of smoke for all the rest, compared with joy.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

For when a man hath forfeited his pleasures, I count him not as living, -- I hold him but a breathing corpse. Heap up riches in thy house, if thou wilt; live in kingly state; yet, if there be no gladness therewith, I would not give the shadow of a vapour for all the rest, compared with joy.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

Who can say
That a man is still alive when his life’s joy fails?
He is a walking dead man. Grant him rich,
Let him live like a king in his great house:
If his pleasure is gone, I would not give
So much as the shadow of smoke for all he owns.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 910ff]

Yes, when a man has lost all happiness,
he's not alive. Call him a breathing corpse.
Be very rich at home. Live as a king.
But once your joy has gone, though these are left
they are smoke's shadow to lost happiness.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

He who forfeits joy
Forfeits his life; he is a breathing corpse.
Heap treasures in your palace, if you will,
And wear the pomp of royalty; but if
You have no happiness, I would not give
A straw for all of it, compared with joy.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Believe me,
when a man has squandered his true joys,
he's good as dead, I tell you, a living corpse.
Pile up riches in your house, as much as you like --
live like a king with a huge show of pomp,
but if real delight is missing from the lot,
I wouldn't give you a wisp of smoke for it,
not compared to joy. [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 1284ff]

When every source of joy deserts a man,
I don't call him alive: he's an animated corpse.
For my money, you can get rich as you want,
You can wear the face of a tyrant,
But if you have no joy in this,
Your life's not worth the shadow of a puff of smoke.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

Whenever men forfeit their pleasures, I do not regard
such a man as alive, but I consider him a living corpse.
Be very wealthy in your household, if you wish, and live
the style of absolute rulers, but should the enjoyment of these
depart, what is left, compared to pleasure,
I would not buy from a man for a shadow of smoke.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

When a man’s body has lost all sense of joy, you can say he’s not alive any more. He is a living corpse. You can have as much wealth in your house as you like and you can live like a king but when joy is missing then all those other things I wouldn’t exchange for the price of the shadow of smoke -- not against the sweetness of joy!
[tr. Theodoridis (2004), "Herald"]

For when a man has lost
what gives him pleasure, I don’t include him
among the living -- he’s a breathing corpse.
Pile up a massive fortune in your home,
if that’s what you want -- live like a king.
If there’s no pleasure in it, I’d not give
to any man a vapour’s shadow for it,
not compared to human joy.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 1296ff]

But when people lose their pleasures, I do not consider this life -- rather, it is just a corpse with a soul.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]
Added on 25-Mar-21 | Last updated 25-Mar-21
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Wisdom is by far the greatest part of joy,
and reverence toward the gods must be safeguarded.
The mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom.

[πολλῷ τὸ φρονεῖν εὐδαιμονίας
πρῶτον ὑπάρχει. χρὴ δὲ τά γ᾽ εἰς θεοὺς
μηδὲν ἀσεπτεῖν. μεγάλοι δὲ λόγοι
μεγάλας πληγὰς τῶν ὑπεραύχων
ἀποτίσαντες
γήρᾳ τὸ φρονεῖν ἐδίδαξαν.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 1348ff [Chorus] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 1466ff]
    (Source)

Final lines of the play. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Wisdom is first of the gifts of good fortune:
'Tis a duty, to be sure, the rites of the Gods
Duly to honor: but words without measure, the
Fruit of vain-glory, in woes without number their
Recompense finding,
Have lesson'd the agéd in wisdom.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Of happiness the chiefest part
Is a wise heart:
And to defraud the gods in aught
With peril's fraught.
Swelling words of high-flown might
Mightily the gods do smite.
Chastisement for errors past
Wisdom brings to age at last.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Wise conduct hath command of happiness
Before all else, and piety to Heaven
Must be preserved. High boastings of the proud
Bring sorrow to the height to punish pride: --
A lesson men shall learn when they are old.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Wisdom is provided as the chief part of happiness, and our dealings with the gods must be in no way unholy. The great words of arrogant men have to make repayment with great blows, and in old age teach wisdom.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Wisdom alone is man's true happiness.
We are not to dispute the will of heaven;
For ever are the boastings of the proud
By the just gods repaid, and man at last
Is taught to fear their anger and be wise.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness; and reverence towards the gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever punished with great blows, and, in old age, teach the chastened to be wise.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;
No wisdom but in submission to the gods.
Big words are always punished
And proud men in old age learn to be wise.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 1039ff]

Of happiness the crown
And chiefest part
Is wisdom, and to hold
The gods in awe.
This is the law
That, seeing the stricken heart
Of pride brought down,
We learn when we are old.
[tr. Watling (1947), Exodos, l. 1027ff]

Our happiness depends
on wisdom all the way.
The gods must have their due.
Great words by men of pride
bring greater blows upon them.
So wisdom comes to the old.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

Of happiness, far the greatest part is wisdom,
and reverence towards the gods.
Proud words of arrogant man, in the end,
Meet punishment, great as his pride was great,
Till at last he is schooled in wisdom.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Wisdom is supreme for a blessed life,
And reference for the gods
Must never cease. Great words, sprung from arrogance.
Are punished by great blows.
So it is one learns, in old age, to be wise.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

By far is having sense the first part
of happiness. One must not act impiously toward
what pertains to gods. Big words
of boasting men,
paid for by big blows,
teach having sense in old age.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

The most important thing in man’s happiness is good judgement and he must not treat with disdain the works of the gods.
The arrogant pay for their big proud words with great downfalls and it’s only then, in their old age that they gain wisdom!
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

The most important part of true success
is wisdom -- not to act impiously
towards the gods, for boasts of arrogant men
bring on great blows of punishment --
so in old age men can discover wisdom.
[tr. Johnston (2005)]

Knowledge truly is by far the most important part of happiness, but one must neglect nothing that the gods demand. Great words of the over-proud balanced by great falls taught us knowledge in our old age.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]
Added on 11-Mar-21 | Last updated 11-Mar-21
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More quotes by Sophocles

Above all, the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man. And so, when we have leisure from the demands of business cares, we are eager to see, to hear, to learn something new, and we esteem a desire to know the secrets or wonders of creation as indispensable to a happy life. Thus we come to understand that what is true, simple, and genuine appeals most strongly to a man’s nature.

[In primisque hominis est propria veri inquisitio atque investigatio. Itaque cum sumus necessariis negotiis curisque vacui, tum avemus aliquid videre, audire, addiscere cognitionemque rerum aut occultarum aut admirabilium ad beate vivendum necessarian! ducimus. Ex quo intellegitur, quod verum, simplex sincerumque sit, id esse naturae hominis aptissimum.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 4 / sec. 13 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

But of all the properties and inclinations of men, there is none more natural and peculiar to them than an earnest desire and search after truth. Hence it is that our minds are no sooner free from the thoughts and engagements of necessary business, but we presently long to be either seeing, or hearing, or learning of something; and esteem the knowledge of things secret and wonderful as a necessary ingredient of a happy life. Whence it appears that nothing is more agreeable and suited to the nature and minds of men than undisguised openness, truth, and sincerity.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

The desire and investigation of truth is proper to man. When disengaged from necessary business and cares, we are eager to add to our knowledge by examining for ourselves or listening to others. The discovery of what is secret or wonderful, we are disposed to conceive essential to happiness. Hence, what is true, simple, and undisguised, is best adapted to human nature.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

The distinguishing property of man is to search for and to follow after truth. Therefore, when relaxed from our necessary cares and concerns, we then covet to see, to hear, and to learn somewhat; and we esteem knowledge of things either obscure or wonderful to be the indispensable means of living happily. From this we understand that truth, simplicity, and candour, are most agreeable to the nature of mankind.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

The research and investigation of truth, also, are a special property of man. Thus, when we are free from necessary occupations, we want to see, or hear, or learn something, and regard the knowledge of things either secret or wonderful as essential to our living happily and well.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

There is no happiness in life, there is no misery, like that growing out of the dispositions which consecrate or desecrate a home.

Edwin Hubbell Chapin (1814-1880) American clergyman
Living Words (1860)
    (Source)
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Youth is full of sunshine and life. Youth is happy, because it has the ability to see beauty. When this ability is lost, wretched old age begins, decay, unhappiness. […] Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Czech-Austrian Jewish writer
In Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 1971 ed.)
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Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it.

Robert Brault (b. c. 1945) American aphorist, programmer
(Attributed)
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Dreams, books, are each a world; and books we know,
Are a substantial world, both pure and good:
Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
Our pastime and our happiness will grow.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) English poet
“Personal Talk,” st. 3 (1846)
    (Source)
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Beauty, like truth and goodness, is a quality that may in one sense be predicated of all great art, but the deliberate attempt to beautify can, in itself, only weaken the creative energy. Beauty in art is like happiness in morals: it may accompany the act, but it cannot be the goal of the act, just as one cannot “pursue happiness,” but only something else that may give happiness.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
Anatomy of Criticism, “Mythical Phase: Symbol as Archetype” (1957)
    (Source)
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To find someone who will love you for no reason, and to shower that person with reasons, that is the ultimate happiness.

Robert Brault (b. c. 1945) American aphorist, programmer
(Attributed)
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He who tries to be holy in order to be happy will assuredly be neither.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
Christian Mysticism, Lecture 1 (1899)
    (Source)
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If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“Book Reviews,” Esquire (1 Nov 1959)
    (Source)

Review of William Strunk Jr and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, revised edition.
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Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.

Oscar Levant (1906-1972) American pianist, composer, actor, wit
(Attributed)
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DEMOSTHENES: And dare you rail at wine’s inventiveness?
I tell you nothing has such go as wine.
Why, look you now; ’tis when men drink, they thrive,
Grow wealthy, speed their business, win their suits,
Make themselves happy, benefit their friends.
Go, fetch me out a stoup of wine, and let me
Moisten my wits, and utter something bright.

Aristophanes (c. 450-c. 388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
Knights, ll. 90-96 [tr. Rogers (1924)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.
  • [O'Neill (1938)]: "Do you dare to accuse wine of clouding the reason? Quote me more marvellous effects than those of wine. Look! when a man drinks, he is rich, everything he touches succeeds, he gains lawsuits, is happy and helps his friends. Come, bring hither quick a flagon of wine, that I may soak my brain and get an ingenious idea."
  • [Hickie (1853)]: "Have you the audacity to abuse wine for witlessness? Can you find anything more business-like than wine? Do you see? when men drink, then they are rich, they transact business, gain causes, are happy, assist their friends. Come, bring me out quickly a stoup of wine, that I may moisten my intellect, and say something clever."
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If you said to a bunch of average people two hundred years ago “Would you be happy in a world where medical care is widely available, houses are clean, the world’s music and sights and foods can be brought into your home at small cost, travelling even 100 miles is easy, childbirth is generally not fatal to mother or child, you don’t have to die of dental abcesses and you don’t have to do what the squire tells you” they’d think you were talking about the New Jerusalem and say ‘yes’.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
(Attributed)

Usually cited to alt.fan.pratchett, but not found in the repository.
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I got rhythm, I got music,
I got my man
Who could ask for anything more?

Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) American lyricist [b. Israel Gershowitz]
“I Got Rhythm”, Girl Crazy, Act 1 (1930)
    (Source)
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But also I say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,
when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“Poppies,” Blue Iris (2004)
    (Source)
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Nevertheless even under these [misfortunes] the force of nobility shines out, when a man bears calmly many great disasters, not from insensibility, but because he is generous and of a great soul. Setting happiness then, as we do, not in the outward surroundings of man, but in his inward state, we may fairly say that no one who has attained to the bliss of virtue will ever justly become an object of pity or contempt.

[ὅμως δὲ καὶ ἐν τούτοις διαλάμπει τὸ καλόν, ἐπειδὰν φέρῃ τις εὐκόλως πολλὰς καὶ μεγάλας ἀτυχίας, μὴ δι᾽ ἀναλγησίαν, ἀλλὰ γεννάδας ὢν καὶ μεγαλόψυχος. εἰ δ᾽ εἰσὶν αἱ ἐνέργειαι κύριαι τῆς ζωῆς, καθάπερ εἴπομεν, οὐδεὶς ἂν γένοιτο τῶν μακαρίων ἄθλιος]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, ch. 11 (1100b.13–14) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Stock (1897)]
    (Source)

In St. George William Joseph Stock, Lectures in the Lyceum or Aristotle's ethics for English readers, Lecture 6 (1897).

Often highly paraphrased: "Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind."

Alt. trans.:
  • "But nevertheless, even in these [misfortunes], nobility of the soul is conspicuous, when a man bears and digests many and great misfortunes, not from insensibility, but because he is high spirited and magnanimous. But if the energies are the things that constitute the bliss or the misery of life, as we said, no happy man can ever become miserable." [tr. Vincent (1835)]
  • "Yet even in these [misfortunes] nobility shines through, when a man bears with resignation many great misfortunes, not through insensibility to pain but through nobility and greatness of soul. If activities are, as we said, what gives life its character, no happy man can become miserable." [tr. Ross (1908), Book 1, ch. 10]
  • "But nevertheless true worth shines out even here, in the calm endurance of many great misfortunes, not through insensibility, but through nobility and greatness of soul. And if it is what a man does that determines the character of his life, as we said, then no happy man will become miserable." [tr. Peters (1893), Book 1, ch. 10, 13]
  • "Still even in these circumstances nobility shines out, when a person bears the weight of accumulated misfortunes with calmness, not from insensibility but from innate dignity and magnanimity. But if it is the activities which determine the life, as we said, nobody who is fortunate can become miserable." [tr. Weldon (1892), Book 1, ch. 11]
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For one swallow does not make spring, nor does one fine day; and similarly one day or a brief period of happiness does not make a man supremely blessed and happy.

[μία γὰρ χελιδὼν ἔαρ οὐ ποιεῖ, οὐδὲ μία ἡμέρα: οὕτω δὲ οὐδὲ μακάριον καὶ εὐδαίμονα]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 7 (1098a.18) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Rackham (1934), 1.7.16]
    (Source)

Rackham notes that μακάριος ("blessed"/"happy") derives from μάκαρ, applied in Homer and Hesiod to the gods, and to humans admitted to the Islands of the Blessed. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

For as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

For a single day, or even a short period of happiness, no more makes a blessed and a happy man than one sunny day or one swallow makes a spring.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

For as one swallow or one day does not make a spring, so one day or a short time does not make a fortunate or happy man.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 6]

For one swallow or one fine day does not make a spring, nor does one day or any small space of time make a blessed or happy man.
[tr. Peters (1893), 1.7.16]

For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day. Nor, similarly, does one day or a short time make someone blessed and happy.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

One swallow does not make a summer; neither does one fine day. And one day, or indeed any brief period of felicity, does not make a man entirely and perfectly happy.
[tr. Thomson (1953)]

For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day; and so too one day or a short time does not make a man blessed or happy.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

One swallow does not make a summer; neither does one day. Similarly neither can one day, or a brief space of time, make a man blessed and happy.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

For one swallow does not make a summer, nor one day. Neither does one day or a short time make someone blessed and happy.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day. And in this way, one day or a short time does not make someone blessed and happy either.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day. Nor, similarly, does one day or a short time make someone blessed and happy.
[tr. Reeve (2014)]

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“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure.”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol, ch. 1 (1843)
    (Source)
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Neither fear your death’s day nor long for it.

[Summum nec metuas diem nec optes.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 47, l. 13 [tr. Ker (1919)]
    (Source)

    The final element of living a happy life. Alt. trans.:
  • "Neither fear, nor wish for, your last day" [Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)]
  • "Nor fear nor yet desire thy last day" [Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906)]
  • "And for the inevitable hour, / Nor hope it nigh, nor dread its power." [tr. Merivale]
  • "Ne wish for Death, ne fear his might." [tr. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey]
  • "Death neither wish, nor fear to see." [tr. Sir Richard Fanshawe]
  • "Neither to fear death nor seek it." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
  • "Nor dread your last day, nor long for it." [tr. Ker (1919)]
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Virtue extends our days: he lives two lives who relives his past with pleasure.

[Ampliat aetatis spatium sibi vir bonus. Hoc est
Vivere bis vita posse priore frui.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 23

    Alt trans.:
  • "The good man prolongs his life; to be able to enjoy one's past life is to live twice." [Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)]
  • "For he lives twice who can at once employ / The present well, and e'en the past enjoy." [Pope, Imitation of Martial]
  • "A good man lengthens his term of existence; to be able to enjoy our past life is to live twice." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
  • "The good man broadens for himself the span of his years: to be able to enjoy the life you have spent, is to live it twice." [tr. Nisbet (2015)]
  • "A good man widens for himself his age's span; he lives twice who can find delight in life bygone." [tr. Ker (1919)]
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One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
(Attributed)
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Life is not living, but living in health.

[Vita non est vivere, sed valere vita est.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 6, epigram 70, l. 15 (6.70) [tr. Ker (1919)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

  • "It is not life to live, but to be well." [tr. Burton (1621)]

  • "Not all who live long, but happily, are old." [tr. Anon. (1695)]

  • "For life is not to live, but to be well." [tr. Johnson, in The Rambler, #48, cited to Elphinston (1 Sep 1750)]

  • "For sense and reason tell, / That life is only life, when we are well." [tr. Hay (1755)]

  • "To brethe can just not dying give: / But, to be well, must be to live." [tr. Elphinston (1782), 2.115]

  • "For life is not simply living, but living in health." [tr. Amos (1858)]

  • "Life consists not in living, but in enjoying health." [tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

  • "The blunderer who deems them so, / Misreckons life and much mistakes it, / He thinks 'tis drawing breath -- we know / 'Tis health alone that mars or makes it." [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

  • "To live is not just life, but health." [tr. Shepherd (1987)]

  • "Life's not just being alive, but being well."

Added on 4-Apr-18 | Last updated 12-Nov-21
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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]
    (Source)
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I am all for the short and merry life.

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883) English writer, poet, translator
Letter to Frederick Tennyson (31 Dec 1850)
    (Source)

Later his epitaph.
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A good martini, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman … or a bad woman, depending on how much happiness you can stand.

George Burns (1896-1996) American comedian
Dr. Burns’ Prescription for Happiness, “Nine Definitions of Happiness” (1984)
    (Source)
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You’ve got to rattle your cage door. You’ve got to let them know that you’re in there, and that you want out. Make noise. Cause trouble. You may not win right away, but you’ll sure have a lot more fun.

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) American lawyer, feminist, civil rights activist
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Quoted in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. (Mar 1973).
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I believe that happiness consists in having a destiny in keeping with our abilities. Our desires are things of the moment, often harmful even to ourselves; but our abilities are permanent, and their demands never cease.

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Reflections on Suicide (1813)
    (Source)
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It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Diary (2003)
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Happiness ain’t a thing in itself, it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant. That’s all it is. There ain’t a thing you can mention that is happiness in its own self — it’s only so by contrast with the other thing. And so, as soon as the novelty is over and the force of the contrast dulled, it ain’t happiness any longer, and you have to get something fresh.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine (Dec 1907)
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If a civil word or two will render a man happy, he must be a wretch indeed who will not give them to him.

Louis XIV (1638-1715) French monarch (1643-1715) [Louis the Great, the Sun King)
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Quoted in William Seward, Anecdotes of Distinguished Persons, Vol 4, 5th ed. (1804).
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No one can be happy in eternal solitude.

Anne Brontë (1820-1849) British novelist, poet [pseud. Acton Bell]
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, ch. 7 “The Excursion” [Helen] (1848)
    (Source)
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We ought to consider what is the end of government before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
“Thoughts on Government,” letter to George Wythe (Jan 1776)
    (Source)
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Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.

kierkegaard-most-men-pursue-pleasure-hurry-past-wist_info-quote

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Either/Or, Vol. 1 “Diapsalmata” (1843) [tr. Swenson (1959)]
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We choose our joys and our sorrows long before we experience them.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
Sand and Foam (1926)
Added on 26-Sep-16 | Last updated 26-Sep-16
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