William Morris


English Poet, Artist, Textile Designer, Libertarian Socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Author Quotes

The leading passion of my life has been and is a hatred of modern civilization.

This has sometimes appeared in paraphrased form as: "The aim of art is to destroy the curse of labor by making work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse towards energy, and giving to that energy hope of producing something worth the exercise".

What man art thou that thus hast wandered here, and found this lonely chamber where I dwell? Beware, beware! for I have many a spell; if greed of power and gold have led thee on, not lightly shall this untold wealth be won. But if thou com'st here knowing of my tale, in hope to bear away my body fair, stout must thine heart be, nor shall that avail if thou a wicked soul in thee dost bear; so once again I bid thee to beware, because no base man things like this may see, and live thereafter long and happily.

And then the image, that well-nigh erased over the castle-gate he did behold, above a door well-wrought in colored gold again he saw; a naked girl with wings enfolded in a serpent's scaly rings.

Do not be afraid of large patterns, if properly designed they are more restful to the eye than small ones: on the whole, a pattern where the structure is large and the details much broken up is the most useful... very small rooms, as well as very large ones, look better ornamented with large patterns.

Give me love and work - these two only

I love art, and I love history, but it is living art and living history that I love. It is in the interest of living art and living history that I oppose so-called restoration. What history can there be in a building bedaubed with ornament, which cannot at the best be anything but a hopeless and lifeless imitation of the hope and vigor of the earlier world?

It is profit which draws men into enormous unmanageable aggregations called towns, for instance; profit which crowds them up when they are there into quarters without gardens or open spaces; profit which won’t take the most ordinary precautions against wrapping a whole district in a cloud of sulphurous smoke; which turns beautiful rivers into filthy sewers, which condemns all but the rich to live in houses idiotically cramped and confined at the best, and at the worst in houses for whose wretchedness there is no name

Love is enough: it grew up without heeding in the days when ye knew not its name nor its measure, and its leaflets untrodden by the light feet of pleasure had no boast of the blossom, no sign of the seeding, as the morning and evening passed over its treasure.

Not on one strand are all life's jewels strung.

Slayer of the Winter, art thou here again? O welcome, thou that bring'st the Summer nigh! The bitter wind makes not thy victory vain, nor will we mock thee for thy faint blue sky.

The majesty that from man's soul looks through his eager eyes.

This land is a little land too much shut up within the narrow seas, as it seems, to have much space for swelling into hugeness.

What shall I say concerning its mastery of and its waste of mechanical power, its commonwealth so poor, its enemies of the commonwealth so rich, its stupendous organization — for the misery of life! Its contempt of simple pleasures which everyone could enjoy but for its folly? Its eyeless vulgarity which has destroyed art, the one certain solace of labor? All this I felt then as now, but I did not know why it was so. The hope of the past times was gone, the struggles of mankind for many ages had produced nothing but this sordid, aimless, ugly confusion.

And there he saw a door within the wall, well-hinged, close shut; nor was there in that place another on its hinges, therefore he stood there and pondered for a little space and thought: "Perchance some marvel I shall see, for surely here some dweller there must be, because this door seems whole and new and sound, while nought but ruin I can see around".

Don't think too much of style.

Go back again, now you have seen us, and your outward eyes have learned that in spite of all the infallible maxims of your day there is yet a time of rest in store for the world, when mastery has changed into fellowship — but not before. Go back again, then, and while you live you will see all round you people engaged in making others live lives which are not their own, while they themselves care nothing for their own real lives — men who hate life though they fear death. Go back and be the happier for having seen us, for having added a little hope to your struggle. Go on living while you may, striving, with whatsoever pain and labor needs must be, to build up little by little the new day of fellowship, and rest, and happiness.

I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.

It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do which shall be worth doing, and be of itself pleasant to do; and which should be done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome nor over-anxious.

Love is enough: though the world be a-waning and the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining, though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover the gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder, though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder, and this day draw a veil over all deeds passed over, yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter; the void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter these lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

Nothing should be made by man's labor which is not worth making or which must be made by labor degrading to the makers.

So I say, if you cannot learn to love real art at least learn to hate sham art and reject it.

The memory of some hopeful close embrace, low whispered words within some lonely place?

Thy still lips are sweet though the world is a-listening. O love, set a word in my mouth for our meeting, cast thine arms round about me to stay my heart's beating! O fresh day, o fair day, o long day made ours!

When a writer knows home in his heart, his heart must remain subtly apart from it. He must always be a stranger to the place he loves, and its people.

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English Poet, Artist, Textile Designer, Libertarian Socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood