William Morris


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

Author Quotes

Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization.

Drowsy I lie, no folk at my command, who once was called the Lady of the Land; who might have bought a kingdom with a kiss, yea, half the world with such a sight as this.

God made the country, man made the town, and the Devil made the suburbs.

I too will go, remembering what I said to you, when any land, the first to which we came seemed that we sought, and set your hearts aflame, and all seemed won to you: but still I think, perchance years hence, the fount of life to drink, unless by some ill chance I first am slain. But boundless risk must pay for boundless gain.

It sprang without sowing, it grew without heeding, ye knew not its name and ye knew not its measure, ye noted it not mid your hope and your pleasure; there was pain in its blossom, despair in its seeding, but daylong your bosom now nurseth its treasure.

Love is enough: while ye deemed him a-sleeping, there were signs of his coming and sounds of his feet; his touch it was that would bring you to weeping, when the summer was deepest and music most sweet.

O hearken the words of his voice of compassion: "come cling round about me, ye faithful who sicken of the weary unrest and the world's passing fashions! As the rain in mid-morning your troubles shall thicken, but surely within you some godhead doth quicken, as ye cry to me heeding, and leading you home."

So on he went, and on the way he thought of all the glorious things of yesterday, nought of the price whereat they must be bought, but ever to himself did softly say "no roaming now, my wars are passed away, no long dull days devoid of happiness, when such a love my yearning heart shall bless."

The reward of labor is life. Is that not enough?

Till the resting of hours: fresh are thy feet and with dreams thine eyes glistening.

When I was journeying (in a dream of the night) down the well-remembered reaches of the Thames betwixt Streatley and Wallingford, where the foothills of the White Horse fall back from the broad stream, I came upon a clear-seen mediæval town standing up with roof and tower and spire within its walls, grey and ancient, but untouched from the days of its builders of old. All this I have seen in the dreams of the night clearer than I can force myself to see them in dreams of the day. So that it would have been nothing new to me the other night to fall into an architectural dream if that were all, and yet I have to tell of things strange and new that befell me after I had fallen asleep.

A fearful thing stood at the cloister's end and eyed him for a while, then 'gan to wend adown the cloisters, and began again that rattling, and the moan like fiends in pain. And as it came on towards him, with its teeth the body of a slain goat did it tear, the blood whereof in its hot jaws did seethe, and on its tongue he saw the smoking hair; then his heart sank, and standing trembling there, throughout his mind wild thoughts and fearful ran: "some fiend she was," he said, "the bane of man." yet he abode her still, although his blood curdled within him: the thing dropped the goat, and creeping on, came close to where he stood, and raised its head to him and wrinkled throat. Then he cried out and wildly at her smote, shutting his eyes, and turned and from the place ran swiftly, with a white and ghastly face.

April O fair mid-spring, besung so oft and oft, How can I praise thy loveliness enow? Thy sun that burns not, and thy breezes soft That o'er the blossoms of the orchard blow, The thousand things that 'neath the young leaves grow, The hopes and chances of the growing year, Winter forgotten long, and summer near. When summer brings the lily and the rose, She brings us fear-her very death she brings Hid in her anxious heart, the forge of woes; And, dull with fear, no more the mavis sings. But thou! thou diest not, but thy fresh life clings About the fainting autumn's sweet decay, When in the earth the hopeful seed they lay. Ah! life of all the year, why yet do I, Amid thy snowy blossoms' fragrant drift, Still long for that which never draweth nigh, Striving my pleasure from my pain to sift, Some weight from off my fluttering mirth to lift? - Now, when far bells are ringing Come again, Come back, past years! why will ye pass in vain?

Earth, left silent by the wind of night, seems shrunken 'neath the gray unmeasured height.

Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.

If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of Art and the thing most to be longed for I should answer A beautiful House and if I were further asked to name the production next in importance and the thing next to be longed for I should answer A beautiful Book. To enjoy good houses and good books in self-respect and decent comfort, seems to me to be the pleasurable end towards which all societies of human beings ought now to struggle.

It took me years to understand that words are often as important as experience, because words make experience last.

Masters, I have to tell a tale of woe, A tale of folly and of wasted life, Hope against hope, the bitter dregs of strife, Ending, where all things end, in death at last.

O surely this morning all sorrow is hidden, all battle is hushed for this even at least; and no one this noontide may hunger, unbidden to the flowers and the singing and the joy of your feast where silent ye sit midst the world's tale increased.

Soon there will be nothing left except the lying dreams of history, the miserable wreckage of our museums and picture-galleries, and the carefully guarded interiors of our aesthetic drawing-rooms, unreal and foolish, fitting witnesses of the life of corruption that goes on there, so pinched and meagre and cowardly, with its concealment and ignoring, rather than restraint of, natural longings; which does not forbid the greedy indulgence in them if it can but be decently hidden.

The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life, and in elevating them to art.

To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce use, that is one great office of decoration; to give people pleasure in the things they must perforce make, that is the other use of it. Does not our subject look important enough now? I say that without these arts, our rest would be vacant and uninteresting, our labor mere endurance, mere wearing away of body and mind.

When we can get beyond that smoky world, there, out in the country we may still see the works of our fathers yet alive amidst the very nature they were wrought into, and of which they are so completely a part: for there indeed if anywhere, in the English country, in the days when people cared about such things, was there a full sympathy between the works of man, and the land they were made for: — the land is a little land; too much shut up within the narrow seas, as it seems, to have much space for swelling into hugeness: there are no great wastes overwhelming in their dreariness, no great solitudes of forests, no terrible untrodden mountain-walls: all is measured, mingled, varied, gliding easily one thing into another: little rivers, little plains, swelling, speedily- changing uplands, all beset with handsome orderly trees; little hills, little mountains, netted over with the walls of sheep- walks: all is little; yet not foolish and blank, but serious rather, and abundant of meaning for such as choose to seek it: it is neither prison nor palace, but a decent home.

A good way to rid one's self of a sense of discomfort is to do something. That uneasy, dissatisfied feeling is actual force vibrating out of order; it may be turned to practical account by giving proper expression to its creative character.

Architecture would lead us to all the arts, as it did with earlier mean: but if we despise it and take no note of how we are housed, the other arts will have a hard time of it indeed.

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