Quotations about   lessons

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The first duty towards children is to make them happy. If you have not made them happy, you have wronged them. No other good they may get can make up for that.

Charles Buxton (1823-1871) English brewer, philanthropist, writer, politician
Notes of Thought (1873)
Added on 6-Sep-16 | Last updated 6-Sep-16
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The wish falls often warm upon my heart that I may learn nothing here that I cannot continue in the other world; that I may do nothing here but deeds that will bear fruit in heaven.

Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [pseud. Jean-Paul]
Letter to Rector Werner (1781)
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Added on 22-Jun-16 | Last updated 22-Jun-16
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We can draw lessons from the past, but we cannot live in it.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Consumer Advisory Council, Washington, DC (13 Dec 1963)
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Added on 6-Jun-16 | Last updated 6-Jun-16
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It seems to me that life’s circumstances, being ephemeral, teach us less about durable truths than the fictions based on those truths; and that the best lessons of delicacy and self-respect are to be found in novels where the feelings are so naturally portrayed that you fancy you are witnessing real life as you read.

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Delphine, Preface (1802)
Added on 22-Dec-15 | Last updated 22-Dec-15
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Dead battles, like dead generals, hold the military mind in their dead grip.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The Guns of August, ch. 2 (1962)
Added on 21-Jul-15 | Last updated 21-Jul-15
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Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)

There are several variants, but no citation for this quotation. See Pliny the Younger.
Added on 8-Jul-15 | Last updated 30-Jul-15
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Let the great book of the world be your principal study.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (7 Apr 1756)
Added on 18-Dec-14 | Last updated 18-Dec-14
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Zeus, who guided mortals to be wise,
has established his fixed law —
wisdom comes through suffering.
Trouble, with its memories of pain,
drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
so men against their will
learn to practice moderation.
Favours come to us from gods
seated on their solemn thrones —
such grace is harsh and violent.

τὸν φρονεῖν βροτοὺς ὁδώ-
σαντα, τὸν [πάθει μάθος]
θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν.
στάζει δ’ ἀνθ’ ὕπνου πρὸ καρδίας
μνησιπήμων πόνος· καὶ παρ’ ἄ-
κοντας ἦλθε σωφρονεῖν.
δαιμόνων δέ που χάρις βίαιος
σέλμα σεμνὸν ἡμένων.

Aeschylus - awful grace - wist_info quote

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)]
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Alt. trans.:

  • [Hamilton (1930)]: "God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."
  • [Hamilton (1937)]: "Guide of mortal man to wisdom, he who has ordained a law, knowledge won through suffering. Drop, drop -- in our sleep, upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despite, comes wisdom by the awful grace of God."

The first alternate was used, slightly modified, by Robert Kennedy in his speech on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (4 Apr 1968). Kennedy's family used it as an epitaph on his grave Arlington National Cemetery: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God."

See here for more discussion.

Added on 19-Aug-08 | Last updated 4-Dec-15
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We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it — and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 11 (1897)
Added on 10-Sep-07 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad with power;
The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small;
The bee fertilizes the flower it robs;
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

Charles Beard (1874-1948) American historian
Summary of human history, in reply to George S. Counts

See also Euripides, George Herbert.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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But, on the other hand, Uncle Abner said that the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn’t, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was gitting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn’t ever going to grow dim or doubtful.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)

Full text.

Variants sometimes seen:

  • The man who sets out to carry a cat by its tail learns something that will always be useful and which never will grow dim or doubtful.
  • A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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