Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert Bly

American Poet, Author, Activist and Leader of the Mythopoetic Men's Movement, best known for his book, "Iron John: A Book About Men"

"Having no soul union with other men can be the most damaging wound of all."

"Every part of our personality that we do not love will become hostile to us."

"All my clumsy prose amounts to is praise of the feminine soul, whether that soul appears in men or women… The masculine soul… also needs praise, but I am not doing that here."

"Bad people - A man told me once that all the bad people were needed. Maybe not all, but your fingernails you need; they are really claws, and we know Claws. The sharks—what about them? They make other fish swim faster. The hard-faced men In black coats who chase you for hours In dreams—that’s the only way to get you To the shore. Sometimes those hard women who abandon you get you to say, You. A lazy part of us is like a tumbleweed. It doesn’t move on its own. Sometimes it takes A lot of Depression to get tumbleweeds moving. Then they blow across three or four States. This man told me that things work together. Bad handwriting sometimes leads to new ideas; and a careless god—who refuses to let people Eat from the Tree of Knowledge—can lead To books, and eventually to us. We write Poems with lies in them, but they help a little. "

"And to die, which is the letting go of the ground we stand on and cling to every day,is like the swan, when he nervously lets himself down into the water, which receives him gaily and which flows joyfully under and after him, wave after wave, while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm, is pleased to be carried, each moment more fully grown, more like a king, further and further on."

"And why shouldn't the miraculous, Caught on this earth, visit the old man alone in his hut?"

"As I've gotten older, I find I am able to be nourished more by sorrow and to distinguish it from depression."

"As the saying goes, you might as well be yourself; everyone else is taken."

"But our gusty emotions say to me that we have tasted heaven many times: these delicacies are left over from some larger party."

"By the time a man is 35 he knows that the images of the right man, the tough man, the true man which he received in high school do not work in life."

"Changing, what has no head or arms Or legs, what has not found its body."

"Don't go outside your house to see flowers. My friend, don't bother with that excursion. Inside your body there are flowers. One flower has a thousand petals. That will do for a place to sit. Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty inside the body and out of it, before gardens and after gardens."

"During the fifties, for example, the American character appeared with some consistency that became a model of manhood adopted by many men: the Fifties male. He got to work early, labored responsibly, supported his wife and children and admired discipline. Reagan is a sort of mummified version of this dogged type. This sort of man didn't see women's souls well, but he appreciated their bodies; and his view of culture and America's part in it was boyish and optimistic. Many of his qualities were strong and positive, but underneath the charm and bluff there was, and there remains, much isolation, deprivation, and passivity. Unless he has an enemy, he isn't sure that he is alive. The Fifties man was supposed to like football, be aggressive, stick up for the United States, never cry, and always provide.... During the sixties, another sort of man appeared. The waste and violence of the Vietnam war made men question whether they knew what an adult male really was. If manhood meant Vietnam, did they want any part of it? Meanwhile, the feminist movement encouraged men to actually look at women, forcing them to become conscious of concerns and sufferings that the Fifties male labored to avoid."

"Each seed throws itself out down before the dawn, And the night opens itself out behind it, And inside its own center it lives!"

"Every modern male has, lying at the bottom of his psyche, a large, primitive being covered with hair down to his feet. Making contact with this Wild Man is the step the Eighties male or the Nineties male has yet to take. That bucketing-out process has yet to begin in our contemporary culture."

"Horrible types, specialists in the One, builders of middle-class castles, and upper-class Usher houses, writers of boring Commencement speeches, creepy otherworldly types, worse than Pope Paul, academics who resembled gray jars, and who would ruin a whole state like Tennessee if put into it; people totally unable to merge into the place where they live -- they could live in a valley for years and never become the valley."

"I have risen to a body not yet born, existing like a light around a body through which the body moves like a sliding moon."

"I have wandered in a face, for hours."

"Why are men afraid of women? The answer that's being given now is a very strange one. That all fetuses in the womb are originally female, we know that. And when the baby's marked to be a boy at about the age of six weeks, changes begin to occur, two hundred fifty of them. This eventually changes the body from a female into male, changes the brain, changes all these things. So, when the boy comes out he's really not sure that he's a man. Men are an experimental species. And the boy's afraid he's going to slide back. This takes place below the level of consciousness. But you can still feel it in seventeen-year-old boys. That's why they go to military school. Because there will be no one around there that will be feminine male. And they see a feminine male, they feel terrified that somehow they will slip back again. That's the terror."

"I know a lot of men who are healthier at age fifty than they have ever been before, because a lot of their fear is gone."

"I love you with what in me is unfinished. I love you with what in me is still"

"I want nothing from You but to see You."

"I was unfaithful even to Infidelity."

"I was very surprised to find out, as my poems pick up more and more of the past of human beings, the ancient culture, more and more of the grief and the suffering of human beings "

"If a man, cautious, hides his limp, Somebody has to limp it! Things do it; the surroundings limp. House walls get scars, the car breaks down; matter, in drudgery, takes it up."

"It is not our job to remain whole. We came to lose our leaves Like the trees, and be born again, Drawing up from the great roots."

"It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions."

"It is with my body that I love the fields. As we walk we enter the magnetic fields of other bodies, and every smell we take in the communities of protozoa see; and a being leaps up toward it, as a horse rears at the starting gate, When you and I come near each other, we are drawn down into the sweetest pools of slowly circling energies, slowly circling smells."

"I knew this friendship with myself couldn’t last forever. "

"Now we sing, and do tiny dances on the kitchen floor. Our whole body is like a harbor at dawn; We know that our master has left us for the day."

"One day while studying a [William Butler] Yeats poem I decided to write poetry the rest of my life. I recognized that a single short poem has room for history, music, psychology, religious thought, mood, occult speculation, character, and events of one's own life."

"Reclaiming the sacred in our lives naturally brings us close once more to the wellsprings of poetry."

"So I am proud only of those days that we pass in undivided tenderness."

"So the space between two people diminishes; it grows less and less; no one to weep; they merge at last. The sound that pours from the fingertips awakens clouds of cells far inside the other's body, and beings unknown to us start out on a pilgrimage to their Savior, to their holy place. Their holy place is a small black stone that they remember from Protozoic times, when it was rolled away from a door."

"Some men live with an invisible limp, stagger, or drag a leg. Their sons are often angry."

"Sympathy he longed for, didn't need, and wouldn't accept."

"The beginning of love is a horror of emptiness."

"The candle is not lit to give light, but to testify to the night."

"The deeper question about remedies is not whether ancient religious forms can reform and thus provide these remedies, but whether new forms of nature-related spirituality might emerge that cohere with a modern evolutionary/ecological worldview, and could provide a basis for environmental concern and action... I believe there is strong evidence that such religion is emerging and gathering strength."

"The walnut of my brain glows. I feel it irradiate the skull. I am aware of the consciousness I have, and I mourn the consciousness I do not have."

"There are a lot of men who are healthier at age fifty then they have ever been before, because a lot of their fear is gone."

"There is a privacy I love in this snowy night. Driving around, I will waste more time."

"This body longs for itself far out at sea, it floats in the black heavens, it is a brilliant being, locked in the prison of human dullness."

"This clumsy living that moves lumbering as if in ropes through what is not done, reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks."

"We are living at an important and fruitful moment now, for it is clear to men that the images of adult manhood given by the popular culture are worn out; a man can no longer depend on them. By the time a man is thirty-five he knows that the images of the right man, the tough man, the true man which he received in high school do not work in life."

"We can exchange sparks of light with another's eyes when we meet our lover on the dance floor at someone else's wedding. Our brains then go about warmed and fiery, and with one note they can explode into cello concertos and can imagine the giant blinking at the top of the bean stalk... His barbarous fingers scratching his head."

"We did not come to remain whole, we came to lose our leaves like the trees, the trees that are broken, but start again...drawing up from the great roots."

"We make the path by walking."

"When a father, absent during the day, returns home at six, his children receive only his temperament, not his teaching."

"Where a man's wound is, that is where his genius will be."