Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"Graceful, particularly in youth, is the tear of sympathy, and the heart that melts at the tale of woe; we should not permit ease and indulgence to contract our affections, and wrap us up in selfish enjoyment. But we should accustom ourselves to think of the distresses of human life, of the solitary cottage, the dying parent, and the weeping orphan. Nor ought we ever to sport with pain and distress in any of our amusements, or treat even the meanest insect with wanton cruelty." - Hugh Blair

"Hopeful in adversity, anxious in prosperity, is the heart prepared for weal and woe." - Horace, full name Quintus Horatius Flaccus NULL

"Woe to a person who is not aware of his faults, for he does not know what he has to correct. But double woe to a person who is not aware of his virtues, for he is lacking the tools for correcting himself." - Yeruchem Levovitz, aka The Mashgiach

"No scene of mortal life but teems with mortal woe." -

"One foole cannot indure the sight of another, and one beggar is woe that another by the doore should goe." - Robert Armin

"If you trap the moment before it's ripe, the tears of repentance you'll certainly wipe; but if once you let the ripe moment go you can never wipe off the tears of woe." - William Blake

"No words suffice the secret soul to show, and truth denies all eloquence of woe." -

"Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love - and to put its trust in life." - Joseph Conrad, born Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski

"By woe the soul to daring action steals; by woe in plaintless patience it excels." - Richard Savage

"Weeping lightens woe." -

"The costliest thing on earth is the drunkard’s song. It costs ruin of body. It costs ruin of mind...The costliest thing on earth is sin. The most expensive of all music is the Song of the Drunkards. It is the highest tariff of nations - not a protective tariff, but a tariff of doom, a tariff of woe, an tariff of death." - Thomas De Witt Talmage

"The doctrine that the will alone is the way to power is a most woe-begone theory for the relief to the morally sick." - James Arthur Hadfield

"Faith is the song of life. Woe to him who wishes to rob life of its splendid poetry. The whole mass of prosaic literature and knowledge is of value only when it is founded on the perception of the poetry of life." - Abraham Isaac Kook

"Woe be to him who reads but one book." - George Herbert

"Ninety percent of the world's woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves - so how can we know anything else?" -

" I cannot understand the importance which certain people set upon outward beauty or plainness. I am of opinion that all true education, such at least as has a religious foundation, must infuse a noble calm, a wholesome coldness, an indifference, or whatever people may call it, towards such-like outward gifts, or the want of them. And who has not experienced of how little consequence they are in fact for the weal or woe of life? Who has not experienced, how, on nearer acquaintance, plainness becomes beautified, and beauty loses its charm, exactly according to the quality of the heart and mind? And from this cause am I of opinion that the want of outward beauty never disquiets a noble nature or will be regarded as a misfortune. It never can prevent people from being amiable and beloved in the highest degree; and we have daily proof of this." - Frederika Bremer

"There is no more terrible woe upon earth than the woe of the stricken brain, which remembers the days of its strength, the living light of its reasons, the sunrise of its proud intelligence, and knows that these have passed away like a tale that is told." - Ouida, pseudonym of Maria Louise Ramé, preferred to be called Marie Louise de la Ramée NULL

"The sweetest joy, the wildest woe is love. " - Philip James Bailey

"HAST thou no right to joy, O youth grown old! who palest with the thought Of the measureless annoy, The pain and havoc wrought By Fate on man: and of the many men, The unfed, the untaught, Who groan beneath that adamantine chain Whose tightness kills, whose slackness whips the flow Of waves of futile woe: Hast thou no right to joy? Thou thinkest in thy mind In thee it were unkind To revel in the liquid Hyblian store, While more and more the horror and the shame, The pity and the woe grow more and more, Persistent still to claim The filling of thy mind." - R. W. Dixon, fully Richard Watson Dixon

"Woe to the country which hath lost its leader; woe to the ship when its captain is no more." - Rabbinical Proverbs

"The Trial By Existence - Even the bravest that are slain Shall not dissemble their surprise On waking to find valor reign, Even as on earth, in paradise; And where they sought without the sword Wide fields of asphodel fore’er, To find that the utmost reward Of daring should be still to dare. The light of heaven falls whole and white And is not shattered into dyes, The light for ever is morning light; The hills are verdured pasture-wise; The angel hosts with freshness go, And seek with laughter what to brave;— And binding all is the hushed snow Of the far-distant breaking wave. And from a cliff-top is proclaimed The gathering of the souls for birth, The trial by existence named, The obscuration upon earth. And the slant spirits trooping by In streams and cross- and counter-streams Can but give ear to that sweet cry For its suggestion of what dreams! And the more loitering are turned To view once more the sacrifice Of those who for some good discerned Will gladly give up paradise. And a white shimmering concourse rolls Toward the throne to witness there The speeding of devoted souls Which God makes his especial care. And none are taken but who will, Having first heard the life read out That opens earthward, good and ill, Beyond the shadow of a doubt; And very beautifully God limns, And tenderly, life’s little dream, But naught extenuates or dims, Setting the thing that is supreme. Nor is there wanting in the press Some spirit to stand simply forth, Heroic in its nakedness, Against the uttermost of earth. The tale of earth’s unhonored things Sounds nobler there than ’neath the sun; And the mind whirls and the heart sings, And a shout greets the daring one. But always God speaks at the end: ’One thought in agony of strife The bravest would have by for friend, The memory that he chose the life; But the pure fate to which you go Admits no memory of choice, Or the woe were not earthly woe To which you give the assenting voice.’ And so the choice must be again, But the last choice is still the same; And the awe passes wonder then, And a hush falls for all acclaim. And God has taken a flower of gold And broken it, and used therefrom The mystic link to bind and hold Spirit to matter till death come. ‘Tis of the essence of life here, Though we choose greatly, still to lack The lasting memory at all clear, That life has for us on the wrack Nothing but what we somehow chose; Thus are we wholly stripped of pride In the pain that has but one close, Bearing it crushed and mystified." - Robert Frost

"MAN'S CIVIL WAR - MY hovering thoughts would fly to heaven And quiet nestle in the sky, Fain would my ship in Virtue's shore Without remove at anchor lie. But mounting thoughts are halèd down With heavy poise of mortal load, And blustring storms deny my ship In Virtue's haven secure abode. When inward eye to heavenly sights Doth draw my longing heart's desire, The world with jesses of delights Would to her perch my thoughts retire, Fon Fancy trains to Pleasure's lure, Though Reason stiffly do repine ; Though Wisdom woo me to the saint, Yet Sense would win me to the shrine. Where Reason loathes, there Fancy loves, And overrules the captive will ; Foes senses are to Virtue's lore, They draw the wit their wish to fill. Need craves consent of soul to sense, Yet divers bents breed civil fray ; Hard hap where halves must disagree, Or truce halves the whole betray ! O cruel fight ! where fighting friend With love doth kill a favoring foe, Where peace with sense is war with God, And self-delight the seed of woe ! Dame Pleasure's drugs are steeped in sin, Their sugared taste doth breed annoy ; O fickle sense ! beware her gin, Sell not thy soul to brittle joy !" - Robert Southwell, also Saint Robert Southwell

"Pour out thy heart to the Rock, Pour out thy inmost soul To the stronghold naught can shock, As the mornings and evenings roll. To Him who around and before Is, whether thou rest or roam, To Him let thy thoughts upsoar, Be thou on the road or at home. Thus tested by praise and belief, Thou favour divine shalt gain, He will turn His ear to thy grief, He will bend His eye on thy pain. Behold, He will pay thy reward, Thou shalt share the abode of the blest, For the day thou return to the Lord, He will draw thee close to His breast." - Salomon ibn Gabirol, aka Solomon ben Judah or Avicebron

"We ache with weights of mysteries Our ears hear voices from the infinite, That takes the hushed soul captive. " - Samuel Ullman

"The positive desire for self-work and growth is often hampered by our weak character, forgetfulness, instability and the many other attacks our yetzer (evil inclination) launches upon us. [We say to ourselves:] “The ground you have given me is infertile…” Woe is to the one who lacks patience with oneself! Such an individual will speedily despair from all self-work and growth, and even if he does not totally lose hope, he inevitably falls into sadness, and there is no greater damaging state of being to our service of Hashem than sadness." - Shlomo Wolbe, aka Wilhelm Wolbe

"“According to one’s abilities” is the essential rule in the service of Hashem. And our abilities are limited. Each pathway into self-growth which we endeavor to present throughout this work is built upon this important foundation: We must always move slowly with our work, never overburdening ourselves or being extreme with what we try to do. “One who grabs much, will not attain, and one who grabs little will attain.” (Tractate Kiddushin 17a) And even regarding the little we can do, we will fail not once or twice, nevertheless we can never despair. Rather, we must persevere and stubbornly begin anew until, with Hashem’s help, we succeed." - Shlomo Wolbe, aka Wilhelm Wolbe

"The essence of prayer does not consist in asking God for something but in opening our hearts to God, in speaking with Him, and living with Him in perpetual communion. Prayer is continual abandonment to God. Prayer does not mean asking God for all kinds of things we want; it is rather the desire for God Himself, the only Giver of Life, Prayer is not asking, but union with God. Prayer is not a painful effort to gain from God help in the varying needs of our lives. Prayer is the desire to possess God Himself, the Source of all life. The true spirit of prayer does not consist in asking for blessings, but in receiving Him who is the giver of all blessings, and in living a life of fellowship with Him." - Sadhu Sundar Singh

"Already I had learned from thee that because a thing is eloquently expressed it should not be taken to be as necessarily true; nor because it is uttered with stammering lips should it be supposed false. Nor, again, is it necessarily true because rudely uttered, nor untrue because the language is brilliant. Wisdom and folly both are like meats that are wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or simple words are like town-made or rustic vessels — both kinds of food may be served in either kind of dish." - Saint Augustine, aka Augustine of Hippo, St. Austin, Bishop of Hippo NULL

"Give, O Lord, what Thou commandest, and then command what Thou wilt." - Saint Augustine, aka Augustine of Hippo, St. Austin, Bishop of Hippo NULL

"Thou must be emptied of that wherewith thou art full, that thou mayest be filled with that whereof thou art empty." - Saint Augustine, aka Augustine of Hippo, St. Austin, Bishop of Hippo NULL

"It is a maxim of ours to work in the service of the people, with the good pleasure of the pastors, and never to act contrary to their wishes. And, at the opening and closing of each mission, we get their blessing in a spirit of dependence." - Saint Vincent de Paul

"Propositions prey upon and are grounded upon one another just like living forms. They support one another as plants and animals do; they are based ultimately on credit, or faith, rather than the cash of irrefragable conviction. The whole universe is carried on on the credit system, and if the mutual confidence on which it is based were to collapse, it must itself collapse immediately. Just or unjust, it lives by faith; it is based on vague and impalpable opinion that by some inscrutable process passes into will and action, and is made manifest in matter and in flesh; it is meteoric — suspended in mid-air; it is the baseless fabric of a vision to vast, so vivid, and so gorgeous that no base can seem more broad than such stupendous baselessness, and yet any man can bring it about his ears by being over-curious; when faith fails, a system based on faith fails also." - Samuel Butler

"Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own." - Sydney J. Harris

"Viewed purely in the abstract, I think there can be no question that women should have equal rights with men....Especially as regards the laws relating to marriage there should be the most absolute equality between the two sexes. I do not think the woman should assume the man's name." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"When the voices of children are heard on the green, And laughing is heard on the hill, My heart is at rest within my breast, And everything else is still. ‘Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down, And the dews of night arise; Come, come, leave off play, and let us away Till the morning appears in the skies.’ ‘No, no, let us play, for it is yet day, And we cannot go to sleep; Besides, in the sky the little birds fly, And the hills are all cover’d with sheep.’ ‘Well, well, go and play till the light fades away, And then go home to bed.’ The little ones leapèd and shoutèd and laugh’d And all the hills echoèd." - William Blake

"The man of Woe - The mann whose thoughtes agaynste him do conspyre, One whom Mishapp her storye dothe depaynt, The mann of woe, the matter of desier, Free of the dead, that lives in endles plaint, His spirit am I, whiche in this deserte lye, To rue his case, whose cause I cannot flye. Despayre my name, whoe never findes releife, Frended of none, but to my selfe a foe; An idle care, mayntaynde by firme beleife That prayse of faythe shall throughe my torments growe, And counte those hopes, that others hartes do ease, Butt base conceites the common sense to please. For sure I am I never shall attayne The happy good from whence my joys aryse; Nor haue I powre my sorrows to refrayne But wayle the wante, when noughte ellse maye suffyse; Whereby my lyfe the shape of deathe muste beare, That deathe which feeles the worst that lyfe doth feare. But what auayles withe tragicall complaynte, Not hopinge healpe, the Furyes to awake? Or why shoulde I the happy mynds aquaynte With doleful tunnes, theire settled peace to shake? All ye that here behoulde Infortune's feare, May judge noe woe may withe my gref compare. Finis. Sir Edward Dyer" - Edward Dyer, fully Sir Edward Dyer

"And love is love, in beggars and in kings. " - Edward Dyer, fully Sir Edward Dyer

"For all eternity, I forgive you and you forgive me." - William Blake

"Listen to the fools reproach! It is a kingly title!" - William Blake

"Man's desires are limited by his perceptions; none can desire what he has not perceived." - William Blake

"In conclusion, I have endeavored, with what success has been already determined by the voice of my own country, to give a panorama of Irish life among the people … and in doing this, I can say with solemn truth that I painted them honestly and without reference to the existence of any particular creed or party." - William Carleton

"The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade pants for the refuge of some rural shade, where all his long anxieties forgot amid the charms of a sequester'd spot, or recollected only to gild o'er and add a smile to what was sweet before, he may possess the joys he thinks he sees, lay his old age upon the lap of ease, improve the remnant of his wasted span. And having lived a trifler, die a man." - William Cowper

"A willful fault has no excuse, and deserves no pardon." - Welsh Proverbs

"If poetry should address itself to the same needs and aspirations, the same hopes and fears, to which the Bible addresses itself, it might rival it in distribution." - Wallace Stevens

"I myself believe that there is in every painter's life a period of making absurdities. In my case I think that period is already long past." - Vincent van Gogh, fully Vincent Willem van Gogh

"It is with the reading of books the same as with looking at pictures; one must, without doubt, without hesitations, with assurance, admire what is beautiful." - Vincent van Gogh, fully Vincent Willem van Gogh

"A good mayor is a good thing. Are you afraid of the good you might do" - Victor Hugo

"We do not claim that the portrait we present here is a true one, only that it comes close." - Victor Hugo

"God gives us life, and God our life preserves; nay, all our happiness on Him doth rest: why then should love of God inflame man's breast less than his lady and the lord he serves?" - Tommaso Campanella, baptized Giovanni Domenico Campanella