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    miser


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To what extremes, O cursèd lust for gold
will you not drive man’s appetite?
 
[Per che non reggi tu, o sacra fame
de l’oro, l’appetito de’ mortali?]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 2 “Purgatorio,” Canto 22, l. 40ff (22.40-41) [Statius] (1314) [tr. Musa (1981)]
    (Source)

Statius is quoting Virgil (whose shade stands in front of him) from The Aeneid, Book 3, ll. 56-57:

Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,
Auri sacra fames?

Unlike the phrase in that pagan book, which is purely about the corrupting power of greed and gold-lust, Dante's Italian and some translators make reference to a "holy hunger," a virtue/rule of proper attitude toward money and spending, criticized here for it not restraining humans from the sins of being either spendthrifts or misers -- a nod to Aristotle making sin about extremes and virtue about moderation. See Ciardi, Durling, Kirkpatrick, Princeton, and Sayers for more discussion.

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

Why, thou cursed thirst
Of gold! dost not with juster measure guide
The appetite of mortals?
[tr. Cary (1814)]

Why should'st thou not restrain accursèd thirst
Of gold, the appetite of mortals lost?
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

To what impellest thou not, O cursed hunger
Of gold, the appetite of mortal men?
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

Why restrainest thou not, O holy hunger of gold, the desire of mortals?
[tr. Butler (1885)]

To what lengths, O thou cursed thirst of gold,
Dost thou not rule the mortal appetite?
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

O cursed hunger of gold, to what dost thou not impel the appetite of mortals?
[tr. Norton (1892)]

Wherefore dost thou not regulate the lust of mortals, O hallowed hunger of gold?
[tr. Okey (1901)]

To what, O cursed hunger for gold, dost thou not drive the appetite of mortals?
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

O hallowed hunger of gold, why dost thou not
The appetite of mortal men control?
[tr. Binyon (1943)]

With what constraint constran'st thou not the lust
Of mortals, thou devoted greed of gold!
[tr. Sayers (1955)]

To what do you not drive man's appetite,
O cursèd gold-lust!
[tr. Ciardi (1961)]

Why do you not control the appetite
Of mortals, O you accurst hunger for gold?
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

Why cannot you, o holy hunger
for gold, restrain the appetite of mortals?
[tr. Mandelbaum (1982)]

O sacred hunger for gold, why do you not rule human appetite?
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Why do you, O holy hunger for gold, not
govern the appetite of mortals?
[tr. Durling (2003)]

You, awestruck hungering for gold! Why not
impose a rule on mortal appetite?
[tr. Kirkpatrick (2007)]

To what end, O cursèd hunger for gold,
do you not govern the appetite of mortals?
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

Accursed craving for money, what is there, in
This world, you don't lead human beings to?
[tr. Raffel (2010)]

 
Added on 23-Feb-24 | Last updated 23-Feb-24
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When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyment and realities of life — will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,” Nation and Athenaeum (1930-10-11)
    (Source)

Originally a society talk in 1920, expanded to a lecture given in Madrid (1930-06). Reprinted in Essays in Persuasion, Part 5, ch. 2 (1931).
 
Added on 11-Jun-20 | Last updated 31-May-23
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The miser iz a riddle. What he possesses he haint got, and what he leaves behind him he never had.

[The miser is a riddle. What he possesses he hasn’t got, and what he leaves behind him he never had.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist, aphorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Puddin and Milk” (1874)
    (Source)
 
Added on 11-Jun-20 | Last updated 11-Jun-20
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A miser grows rich by seeming poor; an extravagant man grows poor by seeming rich.

William Shenstone (1714-1763) English poet
“Of Men and Manners,” sec. 86, Men and Manners (1804)
    (Source)
 
Added on 14-Jul-14 | Last updated 14-Jul-14
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The Prodigal robs his Heir, the Miser himself.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English physician, preacher, aphorist, writer
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #4722 (1732)
    (Source)
 
Added on 25-Jan-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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What greater evil could you wish a miser than a long life?

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 69 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
 
Added on 21-Nov-11 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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But among the Very Rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
A Miscellany of Men, “The Miser and His Friends” (1912)
    (Source)

In a similar vein, in "The Paradise of Thieves," The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914), Chesterton has the character Muscari say:

To be clever enough to get all that money,
one must be stupid enough to want it.

 
Added on 18-Jul-11 | Last updated 13-Sep-23
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Would yee both eat your cake, and have your cake?

John Heywood (1497?-1580?) English playwright and epigrammist
Proverbes, Part 2, ch. 9 (1546)
    (Source)
 
Added on 20-Apr-11 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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“It is impossible to help all,” says the miser, and — helps none.

[Man kann nicht allen helfen! sagt der Engherzige und — hilft Keinem.]

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) Austrian writer
Aphorisms [Aphorismen], No. 105 (1880) [tr. Wister (1883)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

You can't be of help to everybody! say the narrow-minded, and help nobody.
[tr. Scrase/Mieder (1994)]
 
Added on 8-Oct-10 | Last updated 21-Sep-22
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The miser is as much in want of that which he has, as of that which he has not.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings]
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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