Quotations about   obsession

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All writers are born; they’re never made … I take off and write, out of a sense of desperate compulsion. I always write as if I’d gotten my X-ray back from the doctor on Monday, and I’d best check with the insurance man to see whether or not the house is free and clear.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Lecture notes, Creativity Seminar, Ithaca College (c. 1972)
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Added on 7-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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But the Queen, long sick with love,
Nurses her heart’s deep wound
With her pounding blood, and dark flames
Lick at her soul. Thoughts of Aeneas —
The man’s heroic lineage, his noble character —
Flood her mind, his face and words transfix
Her heart, and her desire gives her no rest.

[At regina gravi iamdudum saucia cura
volnus alit venis, et caeco carpitur igni.
Multa viri virtus animo, multusque recursat
gentis honos: haerent infixi pectore voltus
verbaque, nec placidam membris dat cura quietem.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 4, l. 1ff (4.1-5) (29-19 BC) [tr. Lombardo (2005)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

But anxious cares already seiz'd the queen:
She fed within her veins a flame unseen.
The hero's valor, acts, and birth inspire
Her soul with love, and fan the secret fire.
His words, his looks, imprinted in her heart,
Improve the passion, and increase the smart.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

But the the queen, long since pierced with painful care, feeds the wound in her veins, and is consumed by unseen flames. The many virtues of the hero, the many honors of his race, recur to her thoughts: hjis looks and words dwell fixed in her soul: nor does care allow calm rest to her limbs.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Not so the queen: a deep wound drains
The healthful current of her veins:
Long since the unsuspected flame
Has fastened on her fevered frame:
Much dwells she on the chief divine,
Much on the glories of his line:
Each look is pictured in her breast,
Each word: nor passion lets her rest.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

But pierced with grievous pangs long since, the queen
Feeds in her veins the wound, by secret fire
Consumed. The hero's many virtues oft
Recur to her mind, and glories of his race.
Within her heart his looks, his words are fixed;
Her troubled soul allows her limbs no rest.
[tr. Cranch (1872)]

But the Queen, long ere now pierced with sore distress, feeds the wound with her life-blood, and catches the fire unseen. Again and again his own valiance and his line's renown flood back upon her spirit; look and accent cling fast in her bosom, and the pain allows not rest or calm to her limbs.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Meanwhile the Queen, long smitten sore with sting of all desire,
With very heart's blood feeds the wound and wastes with hidden fire.
And still there runneth in her mind the hero's valiancy,
And glorious stock; his words, his face, fast in her heart they lie:
Nor may she give her body peace amid that restless pain.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Long since a prey to passion's torturing pains,
The Queen was wasting with the secret flame,
The cruel wound was feeding on her veins.
Back to the fancy of the lovelorn dame
Came the chief's valour and his country's fame.
His looks, his words still lingered in her breast,
Deep-fixt.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 1]

Now felt the Queen the sharp, slow-gathering pangs
of love; and out of every pulsing vein
nourished the wound and fed its viewless fire.
Her hero's virtues and his lordly line
keep calling to her soul; his words, his glance,
cling to her heart like lingering, barbed steel,
and rest and peace from her vexed body fly.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

But the queen, long since smitten with a grievous love-pang, feeds the wound with her life-blood, and is wasted with fire unseen. Oft to her heart rushes back the chief's valour, oft his glorious stock; his looks and words cling fast within her bosom, and the pang withholds calm rest from her limbs.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

But the queen finds no rest. Deep in her veins
The wound is fed; she burns with hidden fire.
His manhood, and the glory of his race
Are an obsession with her, like his voice,
Gesture and countenance.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

But now for some while the queen had been growing more grievously love-sick,
Feeding the wound with her life-blood, the fire biting within her.
Much did she mue on the hero's nobility and much
On his family's fame. His look, his words had gone to her heart
And lodged there: she could get no peace from love's disquiet.
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

Too late. The queen is caught between love's pain
and press. She feeds the wound within her veins;
she is eaten by a secret flame. Aeneas'
high name, all he has done, again, again
come like a flood. His face, his words hold fast
her breath. Care strips her limbs of calm and rest.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971)]

The queen, for her part, all that evening ached
With longing that her heart's blood fed, a wound
Or inward fire eating her away.
The manhood of the man, his pride of birth,
Came home to her time and again; his looks,
His words remained with her to haunt her mind,
And desire for him gave her no rest.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981)]

But the queen had long since been suffering from love's deadly wound, feeding it with her blood and being consumed by its hidden fire. Again and again there rushed into her mind thoughts of the great valour of the man and the high glories of his line. His features and the words he had spoken had pierced her heart and love gave her body no peace or rest.
[tr. West (1990)]

But the queen -- too long she has suffered the pain of love,
hour by hour nursing the wound with her lifeblood,
consumed by the fire buried in her heart.
The man’s courage, the sheer pride of his line,
they all come pressing home to her, over and over.
His looks, his words, they pierce her heart and cling --
no peace, no rest for her body, love will give her none.
[tr. Fagles (2006)]

But love's pain had already pierced the queen.
She fed it with her life-blood; the hidden flame consumed her.
Aeneas' courage and his noble birth haunted her thoughts.
His face and words lodged in her heart.
Love let her find no rest in sleep.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 18-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Competition provides spice in life as well as in sports; it’s only when the spice becomes the entire diet that the player gets sick.

George Leonard
George Leonard (1923-2010) American writer, editor, and educator
Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment (1991)
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Added on 29-Mar-22 | Last updated 29-Mar-22
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To ruminate upon evils, to make critical notes upon injuries, and be too acute in their apprehensions, is to add unto our own Tortures, to feather the Arrows of our Enemies, to lash our selves with the Scorpions of our Foes, and to resolve to sleep no more.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Christian Morals, Part 3, sec. 12 (1716)
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Added on 27-Oct-21 | Last updated 27-Oct-21
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Violent desire for one thing blinds the soul to all others.

[αἱ περί τι σφοδραὶ ὀρέξεις τυφλοῦσιν εἰς τἆλλα τὴν ψυχήν.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 72 (Diels) [tr. Freeman (1948)]
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Diels citation "72. (58 N.) DEMOKRATES. 37." 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:

  • "Extreme desires about one thing blind the soul to others." [tr. @sententiq (2018)]
  • "Violent desire for one thing blinds the soul to everything else." [Source]
Added on 6-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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I am sure that in nine out of ten cases the original wish to write is the wish to make oneself felt … the non-essential writer never gets past that wish.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
Letter to Graham Greene, quoted in Why Do I Write? (1948)

Ellipses in the original.
Added on 24-Aug-20 | Last updated 24-Aug-20
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Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one we have.

[Rien n’est plus dangereux qu’une idée, quand on n’a qu’une idée.]

Alain (1868-1951) French philosopher, journalist, pacifist [pseud. for Émile-Auguste Chartier]
Propos sur la religion, #74 (1938)

Alt. trans.: "Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you have only one idea."

Sometimes also quoted as "Rien n'est plus dangereux qu'une idée lorsque c'est la seule idée que vous avez."
Added on 14-Aug-20 | Last updated 14-Aug-20
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The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
“The Art of Fiction,” Interview by Jean Stein, Paris Review #12 (Spring 1956)
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An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they chose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
“The Art of Fiction,” Interview by Jean Stein, Paris Review #12 (Spring 1956)
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Added on 23-Jul-20 | Last updated 23-Jul-20
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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 [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Puddin and Milk” (1874)
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Added on 11-Jun-20 | Last updated 11-Jun-20
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For the Bolsheviki the end to be achieved was the Communist State, or the so-called Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Everything which advanced that end was justifiable and revolutionary. The Lenins, Radeks, and Zorins were therefore quite consistent. Obsessed by the infallibility of their creed, giving of themselves to the fullest, they could be both heroic and despicable at the same time. They could work twenty hours a day, live on herring and tea, and order the slaughter of innocent men and women. Occasionally they sought to mask their killings by pretending a “misunderstanding,” for doesn’t the end justify all means? They could employ torture and deny the inquisition, they could lie and defame, and call themselves idealists. In short, they could make themselves and others believe that everything was legitimate and right from the revolutionary viewpoint; any other policy was weak, sentimental, or a betrayal of the Revolution.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) Lithuanian-American anarchist, activist
My Disillusionment in Russia, ch. 12 (1920)
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Added on 26-Jul-19 | Last updated 26-Jul-19
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But beware you be not swallowed up in books: An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

John Wesley (1703-1791) English cleric, Christian theologian and evangelist, founder of Methodism
Letter to Joseph Benson (7 Nov 1768)
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Added on 4-Oct-18 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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Ambition is a Lust that’s never quench’d,
Grows more inflam’d and madder by Enjoyment.

Thomas Otway (1652-1685) English dramatist
The History and Fall of Caius Marius, Act 5, sc. 4 (1680)
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Added on 18-Oct-17 | Last updated 18-Oct-17
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Life is thickly sown with thorns. I know no other remedy than to pass rapidly over them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater their power to harm us.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
(Attributed)
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In The Lady's Magazine, "Anecdotes of Voltaire" (Jul 1786).
Added on 17-Oct-17 | Last updated 17-Oct-17
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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 enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised 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.

But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” (1930)
Added on 14-Feb-17 | Last updated 14-Feb-17
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Money is that dear thing which
if you’re not careful, you can squander
your whole life thinking of …

salter-money-is-that-dear-thing-wist_info-quote

Mary Jo Salter (b. 1954) American poet, editor, academic
“A Benediction,” part 6, ll. 1-3 (1994)
Added on 26-Dec-16 | Last updated 26-Dec-16
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You know that prudery is only the other side of prurience. The words are even on the same page in the dictionary.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
The Gods Themselves, Sec. 3, ch. 12 (1972)
Added on 19-Jul-16 | Last updated 19-Jul-16
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The happiness which is lacking makes one think even the happiness one has unbearable.

Joseph Roux
Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 5, #37 (1886)
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Added on 11-Apr-16 | Last updated 11-Apr-16
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Notoriously insensitive to subtle shifts in mood, children will persist in discussing the color of a recently sighted cement mixer long after one’s interest in the topic has waned.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
Metropolitan Life (1978)
Added on 16-Mar-16 | Last updated 16-Mar-16
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They hate not only their enemies but everyone who does not share their hatred.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Androcles and the Lion, ch. 2 (1912)
Added on 22-Dec-15 | Last updated 22-Dec-15
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Thou canst not prevent the birds from flying above they head, but thou canst prevent their building their nests in thy hair.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) German religious reformer
Letter to Hieronymous Weller (1530)
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On temptation, attributed to "a wise oracle."
Added on 30-Sep-15 | Last updated 30-Sep-15
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If she asked for the sun, he would climb the sky until he burned.

Daniel Swensen (b. c.1975) American writer
Orison (2014)
Added on 7-Sep-15 | Last updated 7-Sep-15
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The trouble with being number one in the world — at anything — is that it takes a certain mentality to attain that position in the first place, and that is something of a driving, perfectionist attitude, so that once you do achieve number one, you don’t relax and enjoy it.

Billie Jean King (b. 1943) American tennis player
Billie Jean (1982)
Added on 2-Apr-15 | Last updated 2-Apr-15
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Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss!

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) English dramatist and poet
Doctor Faustus, Act 5, sc. 1 (1604)
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A pretty girl is like a melody
That haunts you night and day,
Just like the strain of a haunting refrain,
She’ll start upon a marathon
And run around your brain.

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) American songwriter [b. Isidore Beilin]
“A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” (1919)
Added on 17-Dec-14 | Last updated 17-Dec-14
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Sorrow be damned & all your plans. Fuck the faithful, fuck the committed, the dedicated, the true believers; fuck all the sure & certain people prepared to maim & kill whoever got in their way; fuck every cause that ended in murder & a child crying.

Iain Banks (1954-2013) Scottish author
Against a Dark Background (1993)

Often paraphrased as "Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying."
Added on 23-Oct-14 | Last updated 23-Oct-14
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I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough…. The more one reads the more one sees we have to read.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (28 Dec 1794)
Added on 14-Jan-08 | Last updated 10-Jul-16
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Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their objects than love.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
The Mill on the Floss (1860)
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Added on 14-Aug-07 | Last updated 3-May-19
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There is a very fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness.”

Dave Barry (b. 1947) American humorist
“25 Things I Have Learned In 50 Years,” #11 (1997)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Oct-14
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Everyone is more or less mad on one point.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“On the Strength of a Likeness”
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A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Revenge,” Essays, No. 4 (1625)
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