Quotations about   sorrow

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I never will believe that our youngest days are our happiest. What a miserable augury for the progress of the race and the destination of the individual, if the more matured and enlightened state is the less happy one! Childhood is only the beautiful and happy time in contemplation and retrospect: to the child it is full of deep sorrows, the meaning of which is unknown.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Letter to Sara Hennell (May 1844)
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Added on 13-Oct-21 | Last updated 13-Oct-21
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The wound hurts less than your desire to wound me.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, # 18 (Spring 1999)
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Added on 5-Oct-21 | Last updated 5-Oct-21
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To lose a friend, a brother, or a son,
Heaven dooms each mortal, and its will is done:
Awhile they sorrow, then dismiss their care;
Fate gives the wound, and man is born to bear.

[μέλλει μέν πού τις καὶ φίλτερον ἄλλον ὀλέσσαι
ἠὲ κασίγνητον ὁμογάστριον ἠὲ καὶ υἱόν:
ἀλλ᾽ ἤτοι κλαύσας καὶ ὀδυράμενος μεθέηκε:
τλητὸν γὰρ Μοῖραι θυμὸν θέσαν ἀνθρώποισιν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 24, l. 46ff (24.46) [Apollo] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Pope (1715-20)]
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Complaining of Achilles excessive grief over Patroclus. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Other men a greater loss than he
Have undergone, a son, suppose, or brother of one womb;
Yet, after dues of woes and tears, they bury in his tomb
All their deplorings. Fates have giv’n to all that are true men
True manly patience.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 50ff]

For whosoever hath a loss sustain’d
Still dearer, whether of his brother born
From the same womb, or even of his son,
When he hath once bewail’d him, weeps no more,
For fate itself gives man a patient mind.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 59ff]

For perhaps some one will lose another more dear, either a brother, or a son; yet does he cease weeping and lamenting, for the Destinies have placed in men an enduring mind.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

A man may lose his best-lov’d friend, a son,
Or his own mother’s son, a brother dear:
He mourns and weeps, but time his grief allays,
For fate to man a patient mind hath giv’n.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

It must be that many a man lose even some dearer one than was this, a brother of the same womb born or perchance a son; yet bringeth he his wailing and lamentation to an end, for an enduring soul have the Fates given unto men.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

A man may lose one far dearer than Achilles has lost -- a son, it may be, or a brother born from his own mother's womb; yet when he has mourned him and wept over him he will let him bide, for it takes much sorrow to kill a man.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Lo, it may be that a man hath lost one dearer even than was this -- a brother, that the selfsame mother bare, or haply a son; yet verily when he hath wept and wailed for him he maketh an end; for an enduring soul have the Fates given unto men.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

For a man must some day lose one who was even closer than this; a brother from the same womb, or a son. And yet he weeps for him, and sorrows for him, and then it is over, for the Destinies put in mortal men the heart of endurance.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

A sane one may endure an even dearer loss: a blood-brother, a son; and yet, by heaven, having grieved and passed through mourning, he will let it go. The Fates have given patient hearts to men.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

No doubt some mortal has suffered a dearer loss than this,
a brother born in the same womb, or even a son ...
he grieves, he weeps, but then his tears are through.
The Fates have given mortals hearts that can endure.
[tr. Fagles (1990), l. 54ff]

There is no doubt that a man may have lost someone even dearer,
either a brother by one same mother or even his own son,
yet once he has lamented and wept, he ceases to mourn him,
since mankind is endowed by the Fates with a heart of endurance.
[tr. Merrill (2007), l. 46ff]
Added on 10-Mar-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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To care passionately for another human creature brings always more sorrow than joy; but all the same … one would not be without that experience. Anyone who has never really loved has never really lived.

Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) English writer
Sad Cypress, ch. 2 (1940)
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Added on 16-Dec-20 | Last updated 16-Dec-20
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But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain. When anyone lives as I do, surrounded by evils, how can he not carry off gain by dying?

[εἰ δὲ τοῦ χρόνου
πρόσθεν θανοῦμαι, κέρδος αὔτ᾽ ἐγὼ λέγω.
ὅστις γὰρ ἐν πολλοῖσιν ὡς ἐγὼ κακοῖς
ζῇ, πῶς ὅδ᾽ Οὐχὶ κατθανὼν κέρδος φέρει]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 460 ff [Antigone] (441 BC) [tr. Jebb (1891)]
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Alt. trans.:

But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain: for when any one lives, as I do, compassed about with evils, can such an one find aught but gain in death?
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

And if my time is shortened, this to me
Is gain indeed. For whoso lives, as I live,
Beset with many sorrows, how does he
Not win by dying?
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

If death
Is thereby hastened, I shall count it gain
For death is gain to him whose life, like mine,
Is full of misery.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

And now, if I fall
A little sooner, 'tis the thing I wish.
To thou, who live in misery like me,
Believe me, King, 'tis happiness to die.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

But if I die young, all the better:
People who live in misery like mine
Are better dead.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

I knew that my death was imminent, of course I did, and even if it came sooner, I would still think it a good thing because when one lives in such a dreadful misery why should he not think death to be a good thing?
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

And if I have to die
before my time, well, I count that a gain.
When someone has to live the way I do,
surrounded by so many evil things,
how can she fail to find a benefit
in death?
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 521ff]

If I die
before my time, I say it is a gain.
Who lives in sorrows many as are mine
how shall he not be glad to gain his death?
[tr. Wyckoff]

But if
I shall die before my time, I declare it a profit,
for whoever lives beset, as I do, by many things evil,
how does he not gain profit by dying?
[tr. Tyrrell/Bennett]
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What a strange machine man is! You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes, and out comes sighs, laughter, and dreams.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) Greek writer and philosopher
Zorba the Greek, ch. 23 (1946)
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The joy of love is too short, and the sorrow thereof, and what cometh thereof, dureth over long.

No picture available
Thomas Malory (c. 1415-1471) English writer
Le Morte d’Arthur, Book 10, ch. 56 (1485)
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There’s enough sorrow in the world, isn’t there, without trying to invent it.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
A Room with a View, ch 2 (1908)
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Added on 4-Apr-18 | Last updated 4-Apr-18
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Sorrow makes us all children again, destroys all difference of intellect. The wisest knows nothing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (30 Jan 1842)
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Two days after he recorded the death of his son.
Added on 3-Apr-18 | Last updated 7-Jan-19
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Sorrow is how we learn to love. Your heart isn’t breaking. It hurts because it’s getting larger. The larger it gets, the more love it holds.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Riding Shotgun, ch. 17 (1996)
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Added on 26-Feb-18 | Last updated 26-Feb-18
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He that lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend.
Eternity mourns that. ‘Tis an ill cure
For life’s worst ills, to have no time to feel them.
Where sorrow’s held intrusive and turned out,
There wisdom will not enter, nor true power,
Nor aught that dignifies humanity.

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist, poet, bureaucrat, man of letters
Philip Van Artevelde, Part 1, Act 1, sc. 5 (1834)
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Don’t agonize, organize.

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) American lawyer, feminist, civil rights activist
(Attributed)
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Quoted in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. (Mar 1973).
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It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Diary (2003)
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Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.

bronte-proud-people-sad-sorrows-wist_info-quote

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) British novelist, poet [pseud. Ellis Bell]
Wuthering Heights, ch. 7 (1847) [Nelly Dean]
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There is not so much Comfort in the having of Children as there is Sorrow in parting with them.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #4932 (1732)
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What happens to all the tears we do not shed?

renard-all-the-tears-we-do-not-shed-wist_info-quote

Jules Renard (1864-1910) French writer
Journal (Nov 1906) [tr. Bogan & Roget (1964)]
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Lofty mountains are full of springs; great hearts are full of tears.

Joseph Roux
Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest, 5.56 [tr. Hapgood (1886)]
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We choose our joys and our sorrows long before we experience them.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
Sand and Foam (1926)
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Cares are often more difficult to throw off than sorrows; the latter die with time, the former grow upon it.

Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [pseud. Jean-Paul]
(Attributed)
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In Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1884).
Added on 17-Dec-15 | Last updated 17-Dec-15
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BOLINGBROKE: Grief makes one hour ten.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Richard II, Act 1, sc. 3, l. 261 (1595)
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LAFEU: Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 1, sc. 1, l. 63 (1602)
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Grief is itself a med’cine.

William Cowper (1731-1800) English poet
“Charity,” l. 159 (1782)
Added on 19-Oct-15 | Last updated 19-Oct-15
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Even at the movies, we laugh together, we weep alone.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001)
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Sorrow is a kind of rust of the soul, which every new idea contributes in its passage to scour away. It is the putrefaction of stagnant life, and is remedied by exercise and motion.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, # 47 (28 Aug 1750)
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There is no wisdom in useless and hopeless sorrow, but there is something in it so like virtue, that he who is wholly without it cannot be loved.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Letter to Hester Thrale (12 Apr 1781)
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When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 4, sc. 5, l. 83 [Claudius] (1600)
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Patience is the cure for every sorrow.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 170 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
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Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
Who never spent the darksome hours
Weeping and watching for the morrow,
He knows ye not, ye gloomy Powers.

To earth, this weary earth, ye bring us,
To guilt ye let us heedless go,
Then leave repentance fierce to wring us:
A moment’s guilt, an age of woe!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, 2.13 (1796) [tr. Carlyle (1824)]
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Depend upon it if a man talks of his misfortunes there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him; for where there is nothing but pure misery there never is any recourse to the mention of it.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (1780)
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In Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, ch. 51 "1780" (1791)
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Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 11, #15 [tr. Staniforth (1964)]
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Alternate translations:

How many things may and do oftentimes follow upon such fits of anger and grief; far more grievous in themselves, than those very things which we are so grieved or angry for.
[tr. Casaubon (1634)]

Consider that our anger and impatience often proves much more mischievous than the provocation could possibly have done.
[tr. Collier (1701), #18]

Consider how much more pain is brought on us by the anger and vexation caused by such acts than by the acts themselves, at which we are angry and vexed.
[tr. Long (1862)]

Consider that our anger and impatience often prove much more mischievous than the things about which we are angry or impatient.
[tr. Zimmern (1887)]

How much more grievous are what fits of anger and the consequent sorrows bring than the actual things are which produce in us those angry fits and sorrows.
[tr. Farquharson (1944)]

Anger and the sorrow it produces are far more harmful than the things that make us angry.
[tr. Needleman/Piazza (2008)]

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Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.

Malcolm X (1925-1965) American revolutionary, religious leader [b. Malcolm Little]
Malcolm X Speaks, ch. 9 “With Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer” (1965)
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It is said that our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) British Baptist preacher, author [Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon]
The Salt-Cellars (1889)
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Better the cottage where one is merry than the palace where one weeps.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb
Added on 15-Feb-12 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) English poet
“In Memoriam A. H. H.” , Part 27, st. 4 (1849)

Arthur Henry Hallam was the fiancé of Tennyson's sister Emily. Hallam died suddenly in September 1833.
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Fellowship in woe doth woe assuage.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
“The Rape of Lucrece,” l. 790 (1594)
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We cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over our heads, but we can refuse to let them build their nests in our hair.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb
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Keep me from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
Mirrors of the Soul (1965)
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When the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea, the angels in heaven began to break forth in songs of jubilation, but the Holy One, blessed be He, silenced them: “My creatures are perishing — and ye are ready to sing!”

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
(Unreferenced)

In Louis I. Newman, comp. The Talmudic Anthology, 103 (1945): "When the Egyptians were drowning, the angels wished to sing. But God said, 'My children are dying, and you would sing?'"
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From silly devotions and sad-faced saints, O Lord, deliver me.

Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) Spanish mystic, poet, philosopher, saint
(Attributed)

Variant: "God, deliver me from sullen saints."
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And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
‘Tis that I may not weep.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Don Juan, Canto 4, st. 4 (1820)
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Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Lectures on the English Comic Writers, Lecture 1 “On Wit and Humour” (1819)
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Sometimes altered to end "... and what they might have been."
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If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table Talk,” Drift-Wood (1857)
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More discussion of this quotation here: If We Could Read the Secret History of Our Enemies, We Should Find in Each Man’s Life Sorrow and Suffering Enough To Disarm All Hostility – Quote Investigator.
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