Quotations about   passion

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Pride is not a wise counselor. People who believe themselves to be the incarnation of good have a distorted view of the world. The absence of any obstacle to the deployment of strength is dangerous for the strong themselves: passion takes precedence over reason. “No power without limit can be legitimate,” as Montesquieu wrote long ago. Political wisdom does not consist in seeking only immediate victory, nor does it require systematic preference of “us” over “them.”

Tzvetan Todorov
Tzvetan Todorov (1939-2017) Bulgarian-French historian, philosopher, literary critic, sociologist
Hope and Memory: Reflections on the Twentieth Century, Preface to the English edition (2003)
Added on 25-Apr-22 | Last updated 25-Apr-22
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The first thing to do when you are upset is to notice that you are. You begin by mastering your emotions and determining not to go any further. With this superior sort of caution you can put a quick end to your anger.

[El primer paso del apasionarse es advertir que se apasiona, que es entrar con señorío del afecto, tanteando la necesidad hasta tal punto de enojo, y no más. Con esta superior refleja entre y salga en una ira.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 155 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

The first step towards getting into a passion is to announce that you are in a passion. By this means you begin the conflict with command over your temper, for one has to regulate one's passion to the exact point that is necessary and no further. This is the art of arts in falling into and getting out of a rage.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

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The vulgar ignorance of stubborn people makes them prefer contention to truth and utility. Prudent people are on the side of reason, not passion, whether because they foresaw it from the first, or because they improved their position later.

[Vulgaridad de temáticos, no reparar en la verdad, por contradecir, ni en la utilidad, por litigar. El atento siempre está de parte de la razón, no de la pasión, o anticipándose antes o mejorándose después.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 142 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

'Tis the common failing of the obstinate that they lose the true by contradicting it, and the useful by quarrelling with it. The sage never places himself on the side of passion but espouses the cause of right, either discovering it first or improving it later.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

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We were not a latter-day Héloïse and Abelard, Pelléas and Mélisande when we married. For one thing the Héloïse and Abelards, Pelléases and Mélisandes, do not get married and stay married for forty years. A love which depends solely on the combustion of two attracting chemistries, tends to fizzle out. The famous lovers usually end up dead. A long-term marriage has to move beyond chemistry to compatibility, to friendship, to companionship. It is certainly not that passion disappears, but that it is conjoined with other ways of love.

Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) American writer
Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (1988)
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The Intellect engages us in the pursuit of Truth. The Passions impel us to Action.

[Cogitatio in vero exquirendo maxime versatur, appetitus impellit ad agendum.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 35 / sec. 132 (44 BC) [Barnes (1814)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

Reflection is chiefly employed in the investigation of truth, appetite impels to action.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

Reflection chiefly applies itself in the search of truth. Appetite prompts us to action.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

Thought is occupied chiefly in seeking the truth; impulse urges to action.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

Thought is employed in the discovery of truth, appetite impels to action.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

Thought is occupied chiefly with the discovery of truth; impulse prompts to action.
[tr. Miller (1913)]

Thought is mostly expended in seeking out the truth, passion urges men to action.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

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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 (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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We repeat: strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one’s balance in spite of them. Even with the violence of emotion, judgment and principle must still function like a ship’s compass, which records the slightest variations however rough the sea.

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 1, ch. 3 “On Military Genius” (1832) [tr. Howard/Paret (1976)]

Alternate translation:

We, therefore, say once more a strong mind is not one that is merely susceptible of strong excitement, but one which can maintain its serenity under the most powerful excitement; so that, in spite of the storm in the breast, the perception and judgment can act with perfect freedom, like the needle of the compass in the storm-tossed ship.
[tr. Graham (1873), "The Genius for War"]
Added on 10-Sep-21 | Last updated 10-Sep-21
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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) English poet
Sonnets from the Portuguese, #43 (1850)
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The world belongs to the enthusiast who keeps cool.

William McFee (1881-1966) English writer
Casuals of the Sea, Book 1, ch. 13 (1916)
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Such closet politicians never fail to assign the deepest motives for the most trifling actions; instead of often ascribing the greatest actions to the most trifling causes, in which they would be much seldomer mistaken. They read and write of kings, heroes, and statesmen, as never do anything but upon the deepest principles of sound policy. But those who see and observe kings, heroes, and statesmen, discover that they have headaches, indigestions, humors, and passions, just like other people; every one of which, in their turns, determine their wills, in defiance of their reason.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (5 Dec 1749)
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And the winner will be desire,
Shining in the eyes of a bride,
An invitation to bed,
A power to sweep across the bounds of what is Right.
For we are only toys in your hands,
Divine, unbeatable Aphrodite.

[νικᾷ δ᾽ ἐναργὴς βλεφάρων ἵμερος εὐλέκτρου
νύμφας, τῶν μεγάλων πάρεδρος ἐν ἀρχαῖς
θεσμῶν. ἄμαχος γὰρ ἐμπαίζει θεὸς, Ἀφροδίτα.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 795ff [Chorus, Antistrophe] (441 BC) [tr. Woodruff (2001)]

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Triumphantly prevails
The heart-compelling eye of winsome bride,
Compeer of mighty Law
Thronèd, commanding.
Madly thou mockest men, dread Aphrodite.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

But victory belongs to radiant Desire swelling from the eyes of the sweet-bedded bride. Desire sits enthroned in power beside the mighty laws. For in all this divine Aphrodite plays her irresistible game.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Victorious is the love-kindling light from the eyes of the fair bride; it is a power enthroned in sway beside the eternal laws; for there the goddess Aphrodite is working her unconquerable will.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

And none has conquered but Love!
A girl’s glance working the will of heaven:
Pleasure to her alone who mock us,
Merciless Aphrodite.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 653ff]

For the light that burns in the eyes of a bride of desire
Is a fire that consumes.
At the side of the great gods
Aphrodite immortal
Works her will upon all.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 687ff]

Desire looks clear from the eyes of a lovely bride:
power as strong as the founded world.
For there is the goddess at play whom no man can fight.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

The kindling light of Love in the soft
Eye of a bride conquers, for Love sits on his
throne, one of the great Powers;
Nought else can prevail against
Invincible Aphrodite.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Love alone the victor --
warm glance of the bride triumphant, burning with desire!
Throned in power, side-by-side with the mighty laws!
Irresistible Aphrodite, never conquered --
Love, you mock us for your sport.
[tr. Fagles (1982), l. 890ff]

Desire radiant from the eyelids
of a well-bedded bride prevails,
companion in rule with the gods’ great
ordinances. She against whom none may battle,
the goddess Aphrodite, plays her games.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

You, Love!
Through the lashes of a lusty bride, Passion, you win the day, scorning the great laws which hold sway over the whole world.
Because Aphrodite is invincible!
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

The bride’s desire seen glittering in her eyes --
that conquers everything, its power
enthroned beside eternal laws, for there
the goddess Aphrodite works her will,
whose ways are irresistible.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 905ff]

Added on 18-Feb-21 | Last updated 9-May-21
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In battle the victory goes to Love;
Prizes and properties fall to Love.
Love dallies the night
On a girl’s soft cheeks,
Ranges across the sea,
Lodges in wild meadows.
O Love, no one can hide from you:
You take gods who live forever,
You take humans who die in a day,
And they take you and go mad.

[Ἔρως ἀνίκατε μάχαν, Ἔρως, ὃς ἐν κτήμασι πίπτεις,
ὃς ἐν μαλακαῖς παρειαῖς νεάνιδος ἐννυχεύεις,
φοιτᾷς δ᾽ ὑπερπόντιος ἔν τ᾽ ἀγρονόμοις αὐλαῖς:
καί σ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἀθανάτων φύξιμος οὐδεὶς
οὔθ᾽ ἁμερίων σέ γ᾽ ἀνθρώπων. ὁ δ᾽ ἔχων μέμηνεν.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 781ff [Chorus] (441 BC) [tr. Woodruff (2001)]

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Love! in the fight invincible:
Love! whose attacks at once enslave:
Who on the young maid's delicate cheeks thy nightly vigils keepest:
Who roamest o'er the main and mid the rustic cots!
None can escape thee, -- neither Gods immortal,
Nor men whose lives are fleeting as the day:
He raves whom thou possessest.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Love resistless in fight, all yield at a glance of thine eye,
Love who pillowed all night on a maiden's cheek dost lie,
Over the upland holds. Shall mortals not yield to thee?
Mad are thy subjects all.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Love, never foiled in fight!
1 Warrior Love, that on Wealth workest havoc!
Love, who in ambush of young maid's soft cheek
All night keep'st watch!--Thou roamest over seas.
In lonely forest homes thou harbourest.
Who may avoid thee? None!
Mortal, Immortal,
All are o'erthrown by thee, all feel thy frenzy.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Love, the unconquered in battle, Love, you who descend upon riches, and watch the night through on a girl's soft cheek, you roam over the sea and among the homes of men in the wilds. Neither can any immortal escape you, nor any man whose life lasts for a day. He who has known you is driven to madness.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Love, unconquered in the fight, Love, who makest havoc of wealth, who keepest thy vigil on the soft cheek of a maiden; thou roamest over the sea, and among the homes of dwellers in the wilds; no immortal can escape thee, nor any among men whose life is for a day; and he to whom thou hast come is mad.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

Love, unconquerable
Waster of rich men, keeper
Of warm lights and all-night vigil
In the soft face of a girl:
Sea-wanderer, forest-visitor!
Even the pure Immortals cannot escape you,
And mortal man, in his one day’s dusk,
Trembles before your glory.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

Where is the equal of Love?
Where is the battle he cannot win,
The power he cannot outmatch?
In the farthest corners of earth, in the midst of the sea,
He is there; he is here
In the bloom of a fair face
Lying in wait;
And the grip of his madness
Spares not god or man.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 675ff]

Love unconquered in fight, love who falls on our havings.
You rest in the bloom of a girl's unwithered face.
You cross the sea, you are known in the wildest lairs.
Not the immortal gods can fly,
nor men of a day. Who has you within him is mad.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

Invincible, implacable Love,
O Love, that makes havoc of all wealth;
That peacefully keeps his night-watch
On tender cheek of a maiden:
The Sea is no barrier, nor
Mountainous waste to Love's flight; for
No one can escape Love's domination,
Man, no, nor immortal god.
Love's Prey is possessed by madness.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Love, never conquered in battle
Love the plunderer laying waste the rich!
Love standing the night-watch
guarding a girl's soft cheek,
you range the seas, the shepherds' steadings off in the wilds --
not even the deathless gods can flee your onset,
nothing human born for a day --
whoever feels your grip is driven mad.
[tr. Fagles (1982), l. 879ff]

Eros, undefeated in battle,
Eros, who falls upon possessions,
who, in the soft cheeks of a young girl,
stays the night vigil,
who traverses over seas
and among pastoral dwellings,
you none of the immortals can escape,
none of the day-long mortals, and
he who has you is maddened.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

Love! You are beyond wars, beyond any place you fall!
You make nests out of the soft cheeks of young girls for your slumber
and you hover over the oceans and distant lands
and no immortal god, nor mortal man with his measured days escapes you!
And then, you catch and your catch becomes insane!
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

O Eros, the conqueror in every fight,
Eros, who squanders all men’s wealth,
who sleeps at night on girls’ soft cheeks,
and roams across the ocean seas
and through the shepherd’s hut --
no immortal god escapes from you,
nor any man, who lives but for a day.
And the one whom you possess goes mad.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 894]

Love, unconquered in battle, Love, who attacks wealth, who sleeps on a young girl's soft cheek and wanders beyond the sea and in the wilderness: There is no escape from you for immortals or men who live but for a day; he who has you is mad. [tr. Thomas (2005)]
Added on 11-Feb-21 | Last updated 9-May-21
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Therefore he who bids the law rule may be deemed to bid God and Reason alone rule, but he who bids man rule adds an element of the beast; for desire is a wild beast, and passion perverts the minds of rulers, even when they are the best of men. The law is reason unaffected by desire.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 3, ch. 16 / 1287a.32 [tr. Jowett (1885)]

Alternate translations:

  • "He, therefore, who wishes Law to govern seems to wish for the rule of God and Intellect alone; he who wishes men to rule bring sin the element of the animal. For appetites are of this lower nature, and anger distorts the judgment of rulers, even of the best. And so Law is Intellect without animal impulses." [tr. Bolland (1877)]

  • "Moreover, he who would place the supreme power in mind, would place it in God and the laws; but he who entrusts man with it, gives it to a wild beast, for such his appetites sometimes make him; for passion influences those who are in power, even the very best of men: for which reason law is reason without desire." [tr. Ellis (1912)]

  • "He therefore that recommends that the law shall govern seems to recommend that God and reason alone shall govern, but he that would have man govern adds a wild animal also; for appetite is like a wild animal, and also passion warps the rule even of the best men. Therefore the law is wisdom without desire." [tr. Rackham (1932)]

  • "One who asks law to rule, therefore, is held to be asking god and intellect alone to rule, while one who asks man adds the beast. Desire is a thing of this sort; and spiritedness perverts rulers and the best men. Hence law is intellect without appetite." [tr. Lord (1984)]
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As a cause becomes more and more successful, the ideas of the people engaged in it are bound to change.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) American birth control activist, sex educator, nurse
Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography, ch. 32 (1938)
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There is the heat of Love,
the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper,
irresistible — magic to make the sanest man go mad.

[Ἔνθ’ ἔνι μὲν φιλότης, ἐν δ’ ἵμερος, ἐν δ’ ὀαριστὺς
πάρφασις, ἥ τ’ ἔκλεψε νόον πύκα περ φρονεόντων.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 14, l. 216ff (14.216) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 259ff]

Referring to Venus' girdle (cestus). Original Greek. Alternate translations:

In whose sphere
Were all enticements to delight, all loves, all longings were,
Kind conference, fair speech, whose pow’r the wisest doth inflame.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 181ff]

In this was every art, and every charm,
To win the wisest, and the coldest warm:
Fond love, the gentle vow, the gay desire,
The kind deceit, the still reviving fire,
Persuasive speech, and more persuasive sighs,
Silence that spoke, and eloquence of eyes.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

It was an ambush of sweet snares, replete
With love, desire, soft intercourse of hearts,
And music of resistless whisper’d sounds
That from the wisest steal their best resolves
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 256ff]

In it were love, and desire, converse, seductive speech, which steals away the mind even of the very prudent.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

There Love, there young Desire,
There fond Discourse, and there Persuasion dwelt,
Which oft enthralls the mind of wisest men.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Therein are love, and desire, and loving converse, that steals the wits even of the wise.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

Love, desire, and that sweet flattery which steals the judgement even of the most prudent.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Therein is love, therein desire, therein dalliance -- beguilement that steals the wits even of the wise.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

Allurement of the eyes, hunger of longing, and the touch of lips that steals all wisdom from the coolest men.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

There upon it is affection, upon it desire and seductive dalliance with robs even a sensible person of wisdom.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

Added on 20-Jan-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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The man who is master of his passions is Reason’s slave.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
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Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author, psychologist
The Measure of My Days (1968)
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There are very few historical characters who are alive enough to be hated.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“St. Paul” (1914), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1914)
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If the artist does not throw himself into his work as Curtius sprang into the gulf, as a soldier leads a forlorn hope without a moment’s thought, and if when he is in the crater he does not dig as a miner does when the earth has fallen in on him; if he contemplates the difficulties before him instead of conquering them one by one, like the lovers in fairy tales, who to win their princesses overcome ever-new enchantments, the work remains incomplete; it perishes in the studio where creativeness becomes impossible, and the artist looks on the suicide of his own talent.

[Si l’artiste ne se précipite pas dans son oeuvre, comme Curtius dans le gouffre, comme le soldat dans la redoute, sans réfléchir; et si, sans ce cratère, il ne travaille pas comme le mineur enfoui sous un éboulement: s’il contemple enfin les difficultés au lieu de las vaincre une à une, à l’example de ces amoureux des féeries, qui pour obtenir leurs princesses, combattaient des enchantements renaissants, l’oeuvre reste inachevée, elle périt au fond de l’atelier où la production devient impossible, et l’artiste assiste au suicide de son talent.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Cousin Betty [La Cousine Bette] (1846) [tr. Waring (1899)]

Curtius is the young Roman patrician, Marcus Curtius. In 362 BC, a chasm opened up in Rome's forum, and soothsayers proclaimed it could only be filled by Rome's greatest treasure. Curtius mounted his horse and leapt into the chasm, which then closed over him.

Alt. trans.:
  • "If the artist does not throw himself into his work, like Curtius into the gulf beneath the Forum, like a soldier against a fortress, without hesitation, and if, in that crater, he does not work like a miner under a fall of rock, if, in short, he envisages the difficulties instead of conquering them one-by-one, following the examples of lovers in fairy-tales who, to win their princesses, struggle against recurring enchantments, the work remains unfinished, it expires in the studio, wher production remains impossible and the artist looks on at the suicide of his own talent." [tr. Raphael (1992)]
  • "If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtius flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy's trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one ... he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent." [Source]
  • Original French.
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In art as in lovemaking, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and so does heartless skill, but what you want is passionate virtuosity.

John Barth (b. 1930) American writer
Quoted in Charles B. Harris, Passionate Virtuosity: The Fiction of John Barth (1983)

Quoted as such in the introductory materials, without specific citation. Barth used the phrase on multiple occasions, including:
  • "My feeling about technique in art is that it has about the same value as technique in love-making. That is to say, on the one hand, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and, on the other hand, so does heartless skill; but what you want is passionate virtuosity." [first used, in Alan Prince, "An Interview with John Barth," Prism (Spring 1968)]
  • "Heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal, Dunyazade; so does heartless skill. But what you want is passionate virtuosity." [Barth, Chimera (1972)]
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For some men, the stronger their desire, the more difficult it is for them to act. They are hampered by mistrust of themselves, daunted by the fear of giving offence; besides, deep feelings of affection are like respectable women; they are afraid of being found out and they go through life with downcast eyes.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Sentimental Education, Part 2, ch. 3 (1869)

Elsewhere as Book 2, ch. 16.
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Animals often strike us as passionate machines.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
Reflections on the Human Condition, Aphorism 7 (1973)
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Anger as soon as fed is dead —
‘Tis starving makes it fat.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) American poet
Poem #1509 (c. 1881)
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The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but hides us from ourselves; and we injure our own cause, in the opinion of the world, when we too passionately and eagerly defend it.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon, Vol. 1, #240 (1820)
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Moral passion without entertainment is propaganda, and entertainment without moral passion is television.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Starting from Scratch (1989)
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Other people’s appetites easily appear excessive when one doesn’t share them.

André Gide (1869-1951) French author, Nobel laureate
The Counterfeiters, “Edouard’s Journal: Oscar Molinier” (1925)
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Spiritual strength and passion, when accompanied by bad manners, only provoke loathing.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
The Will to Power, Part 1, “Critique of Religion,” Sec. 175 [tr. Ludovici] (1888)
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The way to avoid evil is not by maiming our passions, but by compelling them to yield their vigor to our moral nature. Thus they become, as in the ancient fable, the harnessed steeds which bear the chariot of the sun.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts (1858)
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This is no day for the rabble-rouser, whether he be Negro or white. We must realize that we are grappling with the most weighty social problem of this nation, and in grappling with such a complex problem there is no place for misguided emotionalism. We must work passionately and unrelentingly for the goal of freedom, but we must be sure that our hands are clean in the struggle. We must never struggle with falsehood, hate, or malice. We must never become bitter. I know how we feel sometime. There is the danger that those of us who have been forced so long to stand amid the tragic midnight of oppression—those of us who have been trampled over, those of us who have been kicked about — there is the danger that we will become bitter. But if we will become bitter and indulge in hate campaigns, the new order which is emerging will be nothing but a duplication of the old order.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Give Us the Ballot,” Speech, Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, Washington, DC (1957)
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The truth is always in the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because as a rule the minority is made up of those who actually have an opinion, while the strength of the majority is illusory, formed of that crowd which has no opinion — and which therefore the next moment (when it becomes clear that the minority is the stronger) adopts the latter’s opinion, which now is in the majority, i.e., becomes rubbish by having the whole retinue and numerousness on its side, while the truth is again in a new minority.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Journal (1850)
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Take a book, the poorest one written, but read it with the passion that it is the only book you will read — ultimately you will read everything out of it, that is, as much as there was in yourself, and you could never get more out of reading, even if you read the best of books.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Stages on Life’s Way (1845)
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Hearts can break. Yes. Hearts can break. Sometimes I think it would be better if we died when they did, but we don’t.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
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The profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader. The profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until an equal mind and heart finds and publishes it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Quotation and Originality,” Letters and Social Aims (1876)
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What the tender poetic youth dreams, and prays, and paints to-day, but shuns the ridicule of saying aloud, shall presently be the resolutions of public bodies, then shall be carried as grievance and bill of rights through conflict and war, and then shall be triumphant law and establishment for a hundred years, until it gives place, in turn, to new prayers and pictures.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Politics,” Essays: Second Series (1844)

This quotation is more often given as the paraphrase used by another speaker of the era, the abolitionist Wendell Phillips:

What the tender and poetic youth dreams to-day, and conjures up with inarticulate speech, is to-morrow the vociferated result of public opinion, and the day after is the charter of nations.

Phillips used this phrase, prefixed with, "As Emerson says," and in quotation marks, at least twice. First in his lecture "Harper's Ferry" (1 Nov 1859), Brooklyn. Second, in a different context, in "The Scholar in a Republic" (30 Jun 1881), a famous speech at the centennial of the Phi Beta Kappa society at Harvard University.

Emerson did not use this shorter phrasing, however, in any of his written works, and frequent attributions of it to him are in error.

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Reason! reason! … As much as you like; but beware of thinking that it answers to everything, suffices for everything, satisfies everything. This mother loses her child: will reason comfort her? Does cool reason counsel the inspired poet, the heroic warrior, the lover? Reason guides but a small part of man, and that the least interesting. The rest obeys feeling, true or false, and passion, good or bad.

Joseph Roux
Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, ch. 4, #95 (1886)
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Executions, far from being useful examples to the survivors, have, I am persuaded, a quite contrary effect, by hardening the heart they ought to terrify. Besides, the fear of an ignominious death, I believe, never deterred anyone from the commission of a crime, because in committing it the mind is roused to activity about present circumstances.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) English social philosopher, feminist, writer
Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, Letter 19 (1796)
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Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives, and we obey them without realizing it.

Van Gogh - emotions - wist_info

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter
Letter to Theo Van Gogh (Jul 1889)
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It is folly to pretend that one ever wholly recovers from a disappointed passion. Such wounds always leave a scar. There are faces I can never look upon without emotion. There are names I can never hear spoken without almost starting.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Hyperion, Book 2, ch. 3 (1839)
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He failed to realized that the public is bored by foreign affairs until a crisis arises; and that then it is guided by feelings rather than thoughts.

Harold Nicolson (1886-1968) English diplomat, author, diarist, politician
The Evolution of Diplomacy, 4.3 (1954)
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The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason.
The passionless cannot change history.

Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004) Polish-Lithuanian poet, essayist, diplomat
“The Child of Europe” (1946)
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I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don’t know what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose.

P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) Anglo-American humorist, playwright and lyricist [Pelham Grenville Wodehouse]
“The Art of Fiction #60,” interview with Gerald Clarke, The Paris Review (Winter 1975)
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“I can see we’re going to get along like a house on fire,” said Miss Tick. “There may be no survivors.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Wee Free Men (2003)
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Write while the heat is in you. When the farmer burns a hole in his yoke, he carries the hot iron quickly from the fire to the wood, for every moment is less effectual to penetrate (pierce) it. It must be used instantly or it is useless. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher and writer
Journal (10 Feb 1852)
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The ruling passion, be it what it will,
The ruling passion conquers reason still.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet
Moral Essays 3.153 (1731-1735)
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If you mean to make your side of the argument appear plausible, do not prejudice the people against what you think truth by your passionate manner of defending it.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
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We should have a glorious conflagration if all who cannot put fire into their works would only consent to put their works into the fire.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, Preface (1824 ed.)
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It is very natural for young men to be vehement, acrimonious and severe. For as they seldom comprehend at once all the consequences of a position, or perceive the difficulties by which cooler and more experienced reasoners are restrained from confidence, they form their conclusions with great precipitance. Seeing nothing that can darken or embarrass the question, they expect to find their own opinion universally prevalent, and are inclined to impute uncertainty and hesitation to want of honesty, rather than of knowledge.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #121 (14 May 1751)
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It is the passion that is in a kiss that gives to it its sweetness; it is the affection in a kiss that sanctifies it.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904) American epigrammatist, writer, publisher
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. 1 (1862)
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A man makes his inferiors his superiors by heat. […] Self-control is the rule.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Social Aims,” Letters and Social Aims (1876)
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Their mistakes are always due to lack of moderation and taking things too far, contrary to Chilon’s saying. That is, they do everything to excess: they love excessively, they hate excessively, and so on and so forth.

καὶ ἅπαντα ἐπὶ τὸ μᾶλλον καὶ σφοδρότερον ἁμαρτάνουσι, παρὰ τὸ Χιλώνειον (πάντα γὰρ ἄγαν πράττουσιν: φιλοῦσι γὰρ ἄγαν καὶ μισοῦσιν ἄγαν καὶ τἆλλα πάντα ὁμοίως), καὶ εἰδέναι ἅπαντα οἴονται καὶ διισχυρίζονται (τοῦτο γὰρ αἴτιόν ἐστιν καὶ τοῦ πάντα ἄγαν)

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 2, ch. 12, sec. 14 (2.12.14) / 1389b (350 BC) [tr. Waterfield (2018)]

Speaking of youth.

Chilon was one of "the Seven Wise Men" of Greece. His maxim was "Μηδὲν ἄγαν" ["Never go to extremes."] (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 1.41)

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

  • "And all their errors are on the side of excess, and too much zeal, contrary to Chilo's rule; for they carry every thing too far. For they are extreme in their friendships, and in their hates, and in all other their actions are similarly excessive." [Source (1847)]

  • "And all their errors are on the side of excess and too great earnestness, in contravention of Chilo's rule; for the young carry everything to an excess; for their friendships are in excess, their hatreds are in excess, and they do everything else with the same degree of earnestness." [tr. Buckley (1850)]

  • "All their mistakes are on the side of excess or vehemence -- against the maxim of Chilon; they do everything too much; they loe to much, hate too much, and so in all else." [tr. Jebb (1873)]

  • "All their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They disobey Chilon's precept by overdoing everything, they love too much and hate too much, and the same thing with everything else." [tr. Roberts (1924)]

  • "All their errors are due to excess and vehemence and their neglect of the maxim of Chilon, for they do everything to excess, love, hate, and everything else." [tr. Freese (1926)]

  • "And quite all the mistakes they make tend in the direction of excess and vehemence, in violation of the saying of Chilon, for they do all things excessively: they feel friendly affection to excess and hatred to excess, and all else similarly." [tr. Bartlett (2019)]

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All love that has not friendship for its base
Is like a mansion built upon the sand.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“Upon the Sand” (1910)
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We are constantly railing against the passions; we ascribe to them all of man’s afflictions, and we forget that they are also the source of all his pleasures.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Pensées Philosophiques [Philosophical Thoughts] (1746)

Alt. trans.: "One declaims endlessly against the passions; one imputes all of man's suffering to them. One forgets that they are also the source of all his pleasures."
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Hence a young man is not a proper hearer of lectures on political science; for he is inexperienced in the actions that occur in life, but its discussions start from these and are about these; and, further, since he tends to follow his passions, his study will be vain and unprofitable, because the end aimed at is not knowledge but action.

[διὸ τῆς πολιτικῆς οὐκ ἔστιν οἰκεῖος ἀκροατὴς ὁ νέος: ἄπειρος γὰρ τῶν κατὰ τὸν βίον πράξεων, οἱ λόγοι δ᾽ ἐκ τούτων καὶ περὶ τούτων: ἔτι δὲ τοῖς πάθεσιν ἀκολουθητικὸς ὢν ματαίως ἀκούσεται καὶ ἀνωφελῶς, ἐπειδὴ τὸ τέλος ἐστὶν οὐ γνῶσις ἀλλὰ πρᾶξις.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 3 (1.3.5-6) / 1095a.2-5 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Ross (1908)]

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Hence the young man is not a fit student of Moral Philosophy, for he has no experience in the actions of life, while all that is said presupposes and is concerned with these: and in the next place, since he is apt to follow the impulses of his passions, he will hear as though he heard not, and to no profit, the end in view being practice and not mere knowledge.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 1]

And hence it is that a young man is not a fit student of the art political; for he has had no experience in matters of daily life, with which matters our premises are concerned, and of which our conclusions treat. And since, moreover, he is prone to follow his desires, he will listen without purpose, and so without benefit. For the true object of ethical study is not merely the knowledge of what is good, but the application of that knowledge.
[tr. Williams (1869), sec. 3]

Hence the young are not proper students of political science, as they have no experience of the actions of life which form the premises and subjects of the reasonings. Also it may be added that from their tendency to follow their emotions they will not study the subject to any purpose or profit, as its end is not knowledge but action.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 1]

And hence a young man is not qualified to be a student of Politics; for he lacks experience of the affairs of life, which form the data and the subject-matter of Politics. Further, since he is apt to be swayed by his feelings, he will derive no benefit from a study whose aim is not speculative but practical.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

Hence the young are not fit to be students of Political Science. For they have no experience of life and conduct, and it is these that supply the premisses and subject matter of this branch of philosophy. And moreover they are led by their feelings; so that they will study the subject to no purpose or advantage, since the end of this science is not knowledge but action.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

That is why a young person is not a suitable audience for politics. For he has no experience with the actions of life, and the accounts are in accord with these and concerned with these. Further, since he tends to follow his feelings, it will be pointless and not beneficial to him to be in the audience, since the end is not knowledge but action.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

In view of this, a young man is not a proper student of [lectures on] politics; for he is inexperienced in actions concerning human life, and discussions proceed from [premisses concerning those actions] and deal with [those actions]. Moreover, being disposed to follow his passions, he will listen in vain and without benefit, since the end of such discussions is not knowledge but actions.
[tr. Apostle (1975), ch. 1]

This is why a young man is not a fit person to attend lectures on political science, because he is not versed in the practical business of life from which politics draws its premisses and subject matter. Besides, he tends to follow his feelings, with the result that he will make no headway and derive no benefit from his course, since the object of it is not knowledge but action.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

This is why a youth is not a suitable student of political science; for he lacks experience of the actions of life which political science argues from and about. Moreover, since he tends to be guided by his feelings, his study will be futile and useless; for its end is action, not knowledge.
[tr. Irwin/Fine (1995)]

This is why a young person is not fitted to hear lectures on political science, since our discussions begin from and concern the actions of life, and of these he has no experience. Again, because of his tendency to follow his feelings, his studies will be useless and to no purpose, since the end of the study is not knowledge but action.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

Hence of the political art, a young person is not an appropriate student, for he is inexperienced in the actions pertaining to life, and the arguments are based on these actions and concern them. Further, because he is disposed to follow the passions, he will listen pointlessly and unprofitably, since the end involved is not knowledge but action.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Note that this passage was the basis for these lines from Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act 2, sc. 2, l. 165 (1609):

Young men, whom Aristotle thought
Unfit to hear moral philosophy

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In quarreling, the truth is always lost.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings]

Alt. trans.: "In excessive altercation, truth is lost."
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Matters of religion should never be matters of controversy. We neither argue with a lover about his taste, not condemn him, if we are just, for knowing so human a passion.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 3 “Reason in Religion,” ch. 6 “The Christian Epic” (1905-06)
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