Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

May Sarton, pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton

American Author, Poet, Novelist and Memoirist

"One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being."

"Excellence costs a great deal."

"We are able to laugh when we achieve detachment, if only for a moment."

"Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self."

"De Gaulle did not call in "writers"; the very idea is grotesque. The leader who allows others to speak for him is abdicating."

"Love opens the doors into everything, as far as I can see, including and perhaps most of all, the door into one's own secret, and often terrible and frightening, real self."

"Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is a ll closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go. "

"Public education was not founded to give society what it wants. Quite the opposite."

"I can tell you that solitude is not all exaltation, inner space where the soul breathes and work can be done. Solitude exposes the nerve, raises up ghosts. The past, never at rest, flows through it."

"The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become."

"One has only to set a loved human being against the fact that we are all in peril all the time to get back a sense of proportion. What does anything matter compared to the reality of love and its span, so brief at best, maintained against such odds?"

"I feel like an inadequate machine, a machine that breaks down at crucial moments, grinds to a dreadful hault, 'won't go,' or, even worse, explodes in some innocent person's face."

"True feeling justifies whatever it may cost."

"A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself."

"Words are more powerful than perhaps anyone suspects, and once deeply engraved in a child's mind, they are not easily eradicated."

"Where music thundered let the mind be still, where the will triumphed let there be no will, what light revealed, now let the dark fulfill."

"If art is not to be life-enhancing, what is it to be?"

"Routine is not a prison, but the way to freedom from time."

"At some point I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come out with personal truth."

"Do not deprive me of my age. I have earned it."

"There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it a precarious business. But I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over my encounter, and to extract its juice, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it."

"The moral dilemma is to make peace with the unacceptable."

"When I speak of life and love as expanding with age, sex seems the least important thing. At any age we grow by the enlarging of consciousness, by learning a new language, or a new art or craft (gardening?) that implies a new way of looking at the universe. Love is one of the great enlargers of the person because it requires us to "take in" the stranger and to understand him, and to exercise restraint and tolerance as well as imagination to make the relationship work."

"Each day, and the living of it, has to be a conscious creation in which discipline and order are relieved with some play and pure foolishness."

"Without darkness, nothing comes to birth, As without light, nothing flowers."

"The values of solitude - one of its values - is, of course, that there is nothing to cushion against attacks from within, just as there is nothing to help balance at times of particular stress or depression. A few moments of desultory conversation...may calm an inner storm. But the storm, painful as it is, might have had some truth in it. So sometimes one has simply to endure a period of depression for what it may hold of illumination if one can live through it, attentive to what it exposes or demands. The reasons for depression are not so interesting as the way one handles it, simply to stay alive."

"No partner in a love relationship...should feel that he has to give up an essential part of himself to make it viable.”"

"In the country of pain we are each alone."

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."

"Women are at last becoming persons first and wives second, and that is as it should be."

"There is only one real deprivation... and that is not to be able to give one's gifts to those one loves most."

"Innocence is not pure so much as pleased, Always expectant, bright-eyed, self-enclosed."

"Though friendship is not quick to burn,It is explosive stuff"

"A man with a talent does what is expected of him, makes his way, constructs, is an engineer, a composer, a builder of bridges. It's the natural order of things that he construct objects outside himself and his family. The woman who does so is aberrant. We have to expiate for this cursed talent someone handed out to us, by mistake, in the black mystery of genetics."

"Most people have to talk so they won't hear."

"May we agree that private life is irrelevant? Multiple, mixed, ambiguous at best -- out of it we try to fashion the crystal clear, the singular, the absolute, and that is what is relevant; that is what matters."

"The minute one utters a certainty, the opposite comes to mind."

"We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be."

"Now there is time and time is young. O, in this single hour I live All of myself and do not move. I, the pursued, who madly ran, Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!"

"Self-respect is nothing to hide behind. When you need it most it isn't there."

"Deep down there was understanding, not of the facts of our lives so much as of our essential natures."

"Whether success or failure: the truth of a life really has little to do with its quality. The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention."

"The ambience here is order and beauty. That is what frightens me when I am first alone again. I feel inadequate. I have made an open place, a place for meditation. What if I cannot find myself inside it?"

"The anguish of my life here - its rages - is hardly mentioned...There is violence there and anger never resolved. I live alone, perhaps for no good reason, for the reason that I am an impossible creature, set apart by a temperament I have never learned to use as it could be used, thrown off by a word,a glance, a rainy day, or one drink too many. My need to be alone is balanced against my fear of what will happen when suddenly I enter the huge empty silence if I cannot find support there. I go up to Heaven and down to Hell in an hour, and keep alive only by imposing upon myself inexorable routines...It may be outwardly silent here but in the back of my mind is a clamor of human voices, too many needs, hopes and fear. I hardly ever sit still without being haunted by the "undone"."

"For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting and tormented self...I am unable to become what I see. I feel like an inadequate machine, a machine that breaks down at crucial moments, grinds to a dreadful halt, "won't go".."

"I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room."

"Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember nothing stays the same for long, not even pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go. "

"Instant success is the order of the day; "I want it now!" I wonder whether this is not part of our corruption by machines. Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life...so the few things that we still do...anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value."

"When I am alone the flowers are really seen; I can pay attention to them. They are felt as presences. Without them I would die...they change before my eyes. They live and die in a few days; they keep me closely in touch with the process, with growth, and also with dying. I am floated on their moments."

"Here life goes on, even and monotonous on the surface, full of lightning, of summits and of despair, in its depths. We have now arrived at a stage in life so rich in new perceptions that cannot be transmitted to those at another stage - one feels at the same time full of so much gentleness and so much despair - the enigma of this life grows, grows, drowns one and crushes one, then all of a sudden in a supreme moment of light one becomes aware of the sacred."