Quotations about   prophecy

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But, oh, how little they know, the omniscient seers.
What good are prayers and shrines to a person mad with love?
The flame keeps gnawing into her tender marrow hour by hour
and deep in her heart the silent wound lives on.
Dido burns with love — the tragic queen.

[Heu vatum ignarae mentes! quid vota furentem,
quid delubra iuvant? Est mollis flamma medullas
interea, et tacitum vivit sub pectore volnus.
Uritur infelix Dido ….]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 4, l. 65ff (4.65-68) (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006), l. 82ff]
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Of lovesick Dido. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

What priestly rites, alas! what pious art,
What vows avail to cure a bleeding heart!
A gentle fire she feeds within her veins,
Where the soft god secure in silence reigns.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Alas, how ignorant the minds of seers! what can prayers, what can temples, avail a raging lover? The gentle flame preys all the while upon her vitals and the secret wound rankles in her breast. Unhappy dido burns ....
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Alas! but seers are blind to day:
Can vows, can sacrifice allay
     A frantic lover's smart?
The very marrow of her frame
Is turning all the while to flame,
     The wound is at her heart.
Unhappy Dido! all ablaze ....
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Alas, the ignorance
Of all prophetic lore! What vows, what shrines
Can help her raging love? The soft flame burns,
Meanwhile, the marrow of her life; the wound
Lives silently, and rankles 'neath her breast.
The unhappy Dido [...] with burning bosom ....
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 85ff]

Ah, witless souls of soothsayers! how may vows or shrines help her madness? all the while the subtle flame consumes her inly, and deep in her breast the wound is silent and alive.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Woe's me! the idle mind of priests! what prayer, what shrine avails
The wild with love!—and all the while the smooth flame never fails
To eat her heart: the silent wound lives on within her breast:
Unhappy Dido burneth up ....
[tr. Morris (1900), l. 65ff]

Blind seers, alas! what art
To calm her frenzy, now hath vow or shrine?
Deep in her marrow feeds the tender smart,
Unseen, the silent wound is festering in her heart.
Poor Dido burns ....
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 9-10; l. 71ff]

How blind the hearts of prophets be! Alas!
Of what avail be temples and fond prayers
to change a frenzied mind? Devouring ever,
love's fire burns inward to her bones; she feels
quick in her breast the viewless, voiceless wound.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Ah, blind souls of seers! Of what avail are vows or shrines to one wild with love? All the while the flame devours her tender heart-strings, and deep in her breast lives the silent wound. Unhappy Dido burns ....
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Alas, poor blind interpreters! What woman
In love is helped by offerings or altars?
Soft fire consumes the marrow-bones, the silent
Wound grows, deep in the heart.
Unhappy Dido burns ....
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Ah, little the soothsayers know! What value have vows or shrines
For a woman wild with passion, the while love's flame eats into
Her gentle flesh and love's wound works silently in her breast?
So burns the ill-starred Dido ....
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

But oh the ignorance of the augurs! How
can vows and altars help one wild with love?
Meanwhile the supple flame devours her marrow;
within her breast the silent wound lives on.
Unhappy Dido burns ....
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 86ff]

Alas, what darkened minds have soothsayers!
What good are shrines and vows to maddened lovers?
The inward fire eats the soft marrow away,
And the internal wound bleeds on in silence.
Unlucky Dido, burning ...
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 91ff]

But priests, as we know, are ignorant. What use are prayers and shrines to a passionate woman? The flame was eating the soft marrow of her bones and the wound lived quietly under her breast. Dido was on fire with love ....
[tr. West (1990)]

But what do prophets know? How much can vows,
Or shrines, help a raging heart? Meanwhile the flame
Eats her soft marrow, and the wound lives,
Silent beneath her breast. Dido is burning.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

But what can prophets known? What use are vows and shrines to the obsessed? The flame devoured her soft marrow; the silent wound throbbed in her heart. Unhappy Dido burned.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
Added on 6-Jul-22 | Last updated 8-Jul-22
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By applying conjecture to the countless delusions of drunk or crazy men we may sometimes deduce what appears to be a real prophecy; for who, if he shoots at a mark all day long, will not occasionally hit it? We sleep every night and there is scarcely ever a night when we do not dream; then do we wonder that our dreams come true sometimes? Nothing is so uncertain as a cast of dice and yet there is no one who plays often who does not sometimes make a Venus-throw and occasionally twice or thrice in succession. Then are we, like fools, to prefer to say that it happened by the direction of Venus rather than by chance? And if we are to put no trust in false visions at other times I do not see what especial virtue there is in sleep to entitle its false visions to be taken as true.

[Iam ex insanorum aut ebriorum visis innumerabilia coniectura trahi possunt, quae futura videantur. Quis est enim, qui totum diem iaculans non aliquando conliniet? Totas noctes dormimus, neque ulla est fere, qua non somniemus, et miramur aliquando id quod somniarimus evadere? Quid est tam incertum quam talorum iactus? Tamen nemo est quin saepe iactans Venerium iaciat aliquando, non numquam etiam iterum ac tertium. Num igitur, ut inepti, Veneris id impulsu fieri malumus quam casu dicere? Quodsi ceteris temporibus falsis visis credendum non est, non video, quid praecipui somnus habeat, in quo valeant falsa pro veris.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Divinatione [On Divination], Book 2, ch. 59 (2.59) / sec. 121 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
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The "Venus throw" or "Point of Venus" was the highest-scoring throw in the Roman game of Tali, throwing four knucklebone dice to show one each of the four main sides (1, 3, 4, 6). (Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

From the visions of drunkards and madmen one might, doubtless, deduce innumerable consequences by conjecture, which might seem to be presages of future events. For what person who aims at a mark all day long will not sometimes hit it? We sleep every night; and there are very few on which we do not dream; can we wonder then that what we dream sometimes comes to pass? What is so uncertain as the cast of dice? and yet no one plays dice often without at times casting the point of Venus, and sometimes even twice or thrice in succession. Shall we, then, be so absurd as to attribute such an event to the impulse of Venus, rather than to the doctrine of chance? If then, on ordinary occasions, we are not bound to give credit to false appearances, I do not see why sleep should enjoy this special privilege, that its false seemings should be honoured as true realities.
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

What is more uncertain than the fall of the dice? Yet everyone will occasionally throw the double six, if he throws often enough; nay, sometimes even twice or thrice running.
[Source]

 
Added on 20-Jan-22 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Can Socialists Be Happy?” Tribune (20 Dec 1943) [as John Freeman]
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Added on 15-Jun-21 | Last updated 15-Jun-21
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Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will not say it shall be so, but rather I will say, here in this world he changed his life. But many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: Hic jacet Arthurus Rex, quondam Rex que futurus.

[Here lies Arthur, the once and future king.]

No picture available
Thomas Malory (c. 1415-1471) English writer
Le Morte d’Arthur, Book 21, ch. 7 (1485)
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Added on 8-Sep-20 | Last updated 10-Feb-21
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And when matins and the first mass was done, there was seen in the churchyard, against the high altar, a great stone four square, like unto a marble stone; and in midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there were written in gold about the sword that said thus:—Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England.

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Thomas Malory (c. 1415-1471) English writer
Le Morte d’Arthur, Book 1, ch. 5 (1485)
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Added on 1-Sep-20 | Last updated 10-Feb-21
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The best Qualification of a Prophet is to have a good Memory.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Experience,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Reflections (1750)
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Added on 17-Apr-12 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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Least and last of all should I undertake to criticise works on the Apocalypse. it is between 50. and 60. years since I read it, & I then considered it as merely the ravings of a Maniac, no more worthy, nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Alexander Smyth (17 Jan 1825)
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On the Book of Revelation.
 
Added on 18-Jul-11 | Last updated 7-Jul-22
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ELRIC: As I look at you, Ambassador Mollari, I see a great hand reaching out of the stars. The hand is your hand. And I hear sounds — the sounds of billions of people calling your name.
LONDO: My followers?
ELRIC: Your victims.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 2×03 “The Geometry of Shadows” (16 Nov 1994)
 
Added on 14-May-08 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) English writer, fabulist, philologist, academic [John Ronald Reuel Tolkien]
The Lord of the Rings, Vol. 1: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, ch. 7 “Strider” (1954)
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A poem by Bilbo, recorded in a letter from Gandalf to Frodo, referring to Aragorn. Bilbo later repeats the poem at the Council of Elrond.
 
Added on 28-Feb-08 | Last updated 2-Jun-22
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I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (3 Jul 1776)
 
Added on 14-Aug-07 | Last updated 4-Jul-15
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Jesters do oft prove prophets.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 5, sc. 3, l. 83ff [Regan] (1606)
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Frequently misattributed (with "often" for "oft") to Joseph Addison.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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