Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"I view the major features of my own odyssey as a set of mostly fortunate contingencies. I was not destined by inherited mentality or family tradition to become a paleontologist. I can locate no tradition for scientific or intellectual careers anywhere on either side of my eastern European Jewish background… I view my serious and lifelong commitment to baseball in entirely the same manner: purely as a contingent circumstance of numerous, albeit not entirely capricious, accidents." - Stephan Jay Gould

"If evolution almost always occurs by rapid speciation in small, peripheral isolates—rather than by slow change in large central populations—then what should the fossil record look like? We are not likely to detect the event of speciation itself. It happens too fast, in too small a group, isolated too far from the ancestral range. We will first meet the new species as a fossil when it reinvades the ancestral range and becomes a large central population in its own right. During its recorded history in the fossil record, we should expect no major change; for we know it only as a successful, central population. It will participate in the process of organic change only when some of its peripheral isolates species to become new branches on the evolutionary bush. But it, itself, will appear ‘suddenly’ in the fossil record and become extinct later with equal speed and little perceptible change in form." - Stephan Jay Gould

"That which acts for an end unknown to itself, depends upon some overruling wisdom that knows that end. Who should direct them in all those ends, but He that bestowed a being upon them for those ends; who knows what is convenient for their life, security, and propagation of their natures? An exact knowledge is necessary both of what is agreeable to them, and the means whereby they must attain it, which, since it is not inherent in them, is in that wise God who puts those instincts into them, and governs them in the exercise of them to such ends." - Stephen Charnock

"Bodies like the earth are not made to move on curved orbits by a force called gravity; instead, they follow the nearest thing to a straight path in a curved space, which is called a geodesic. A geodesic is the shortest (or longest) path between two nearby points." - Stephen Hawking

"When I gave a lecture in Japan, I was asked not to mention the possible re-collapse of the universe, because it might affect the stock market. However, I can re-assure anyone who is nervous about their investments that it is a bit early to sell: even if the universe does come to an end, it won't be for at least twenty billion years. By that time, maybe the GATT trade agreement will have come into effect." - Stephen Hawking

"Love is the only thing you can really give in all this world. When you give love, you give everything." - Theodore Dreiser, fully Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser

"Though there is nothing more dangerous, yet there is nothing more ordinary, than for weak saints to make their sense and feeling the judge of their condition. We must strive to walk by faith." - Thomas Brooks

"The history of the world is but a biography of great men." - Thomas Carlyle

"Indeed, it is a kind of quintessence of pride to hate and fear even the kind and legitimate approval of those who love us! I mean, to resent it as a humiliating patronage." - Thomas Merton

"My own personal task is not simply that of poet and writer (still less commentator, pseudo-prophet); it is basically to praise God out of an inner center of silence, gratitude, and ‘awareness.’ This can be realized in a life that apparently accomplishes nothing. Without centering on accomplishment or non-accomplishment, my task is simply the breathing of this gratitude from day to day, in simplicity, and for the rest turning my hand to whatever comes, work being part of praise, whether splitting logs or writing poems, or best of all simple notes." - Thomas Merton

"Oh woman! lovely woman! nature made thee To temper man; we had been brutes without you; Angels are painted fair to look like you; There's in you all that we believe of heaven, Amazing brightness, purity, and truth, Eternal joy, and everlasting love." - Thomas Otway

"He that rebels against reason is a real rebel, but he that in defence of reason rebels against tyranny has a better title to Defender of the Faith, than George the Third." - Thomas Paine

"A divine nature has no need of statues or altars; but human nature being very imbecile, and as much distant from divinity as earth from heaven, devised these symbols, in which it inserted the names and the renown of the gods. Those, therefore, whose memory is robust, and who are able, by directly extending their soul to heaven, to meet with divinity, have, perhaps no need of statues. This race is, however, rare among men, and in a whole nation you will not find one who recollects divinity, and who is not in want of this kind of assistance." - Maximus of Tyre, fully Cassius Maximus Tyrius NULL

"That is the work of God. It is your living faith in the adequacy of the One who is in you, which releases His divine action through you. It is the kind of activity that the Bible calls "good works," as opposed to "dead works."" - W. Ian Thomas, fully Walter Ian Thomas

"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

"Once a dream did weave a shade O’er my Angel-guarded bed, That an emmet lost its way Where on grass methought I lay. Troubled, ’wilder’d, and forlorn, Dark, benighted, travel-worn, Over many a tangled spray, All heart-broke I heard her say: ‘O, my children! do they cry? Do they hear their father sigh? Now they look abroad to see: Now return and weep for me.’ Pitying, I dropp’d a tear; But I saw a glow-worm near, Who replied: ‘What wailing wight Calls the watchman of the night? ‘I am set to light the ground, While the beetle goes his round: Follow now the beetle’s hum; Little wanderer, hie thee home.’" - William Blake

"A robin redbreast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage. A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons shudders hell thro' all its regions. A dog starv'd at his master's gate predicts the ruin of the state. A horse misused upon the road calls to heaven for human blood. Each outcry of the hunted hare a fibre from the brain does tear. A skylark wounded in the wing, a cherubim does cease to sing. The game-cock clipt and arm'd for fight does the rising sun affright. Every wolf's and lion's howl raises from hell a human soul." - William Blake

"As the air to a bird or the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible." - William Blake

"Harmony of coloring is destructive of art... it is like the smile of a fool." - William Blake

"Love to faults is always blind, always is to joys inclined, lawless, winged, and unconfined, and breaks all chains from every mind." - William Blake

"His pure thoughts were borne like fumes of sacred incense o'er the clouds, and wafted thence on angels' wings, through ways of light, to the bright source of all." - William Congreve

"Man in society is like a flow'r, blown in its native bed. 'Tis there alone his faculties expanded in full bloom shine out, there only reach their proper use." - William Cowper

"Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts – between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks." - Will Durant, fully William James "Will" Durant

"[The Devil said:] It seems but yesterday that I launched Hell’s Five Hundred Year Plan.… I saw that Hell had to move with the tide and leave the rest to rationalism, liberalism and universal compulsory education… At first there was some opposition in Hell. Baal, Beelzebub and a handful of almost aboriginal demons who are still living in the 10th Century B.C. and have not had an idea since the Fall, naturally opposed the New Deal." - Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

"A man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something. A witness, in the sense that I am using the word, is a man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences." - Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

"Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruit in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between [people], and their beliefs -- in religion, literature, colleges and schools -- democracy in all public and private life...." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it's done right." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again / I am to see to it that I do not lose you" - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"I have just this moment heard from the front — there is nothing yet of a movement, but each side is continually on the alert, expecting something to happen." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"O You whom I often and silently come where you are, that I may be with you; as I walk by your side, or sit near, or remain in the same room with you, little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is playing within me." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"There's a man in the world who is never turned down, wherever he chances to stray; he gets the glad hand in the populous town, or out where the farmers make hay; he's greeted with pleasure on deserts of sand, and deep in the aisles of the woods; wherever he goes there's a welcoming hand-he's the man who delivers the goods." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"The art of practical decision, the art of determining which of several ends to pursue, which of many means to employ, when to strike and when to recoil, comes from intuitions that are more unconscious than the analytical judgment. In great emergencies the man of affairs feels his conclusions first, and understands them later." - Walter Lippmann

"To keep a faith pure, man had better retire to a monastery." - Walter Lippmann

"A constant knock will break the stone." - Welsh Proverbs

"Scatter with one hand, gather with two." - Welsh Proverbs

"I prayed like a man walking in a forest at night, feeling his way with his hands, at each step fearing to fall into pure bottomlessness forever. Prayer is like lying awake at night, afraid, with your head under the cover, hearing only the beating of your own heart." - Wendell Berry

"If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going." - Wendell Berry

"The essence of that spirit [the rationalistic spirit applied to religion] is to interpret the articles of special creeds by the principles of universal religion -- by the wants, the aspirations, and the moral sentiments which seem inherent in human nature. It leads men, in other words, to judge what is true and what is good, not by the teachings of tradition, but by the light of reason and of conscience; and where it has not produced an avowed change of creed. It has at least produced a change of realisations. Doctrines which shock our sense of right have been allowed gradually to become obsolete, or if they are brought forward they are stated in language which is so colourless and ambiguous, and with so many qualifications and exceptions, that their original force is almost lost.... Men have come instinctively and almost unconsciously to judge all doctrines by their intuitive sense of right, and to reject or explain away or throw into the background those that will not bear the test, no matter how imposing may be the authority that authenticates them. This method of judgment, which was once very rare, has now become very general.... When the peace of the Church has long been undisturbed, and when the minds of men are not directed with very strong interest to dogmatic questions, conscience will act insensibly upon the belief, obscuring or effacing its true character. Men will instinctively endeavour to explain it away, or to dilute its force, or to diminish its prominence. But when the agitation of controversy has brought the doctrine vividly before the mind, and when the enthusiasm of the contest has silenced the revolt of conscience, theology will be developed more and more in the same direction, till the very outlines of natural religion are obliterated." - W. E. H. Lecky, fully William Edward Hartpole Lecky

"The great ship, Balayne, lay frozen in the sea. The one-foot stars were couriers of its death to the wild limits of its habitation. These were not tepid stars of torpid places but bravest at midnight and in lonely spaces, they looked back at Hans' look with savage faces." - Wallace Stevens

"I know of nothing better than the Appassionata and could listen to it every day. What astonishing, superhuman music! It always makes me proud, perhaps with a childish naiveté, to think that people can work such miracles! ... But I can’t listen to music very often, it affects my nerves. I want to say sweet, silly things, and pat the little heads of people who, living in a filthy hell, can create such beauty. These days, one can’t pat anyone on the head nowadays, they might bite your hand off. Hence, you have to beat people's little heads, beat mercilessly, although ideally we are against doing any violence to people. Hmm — what a devilishly difficult job!" - Vladimir Lenin, fully Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

"I mean, I have the feeling that something in my mind is poisoning everything else." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"Oh Lolita, you are my girl, as Vee was Poe's and Bea Dante's, and what little girl would not like to whirl in a circular skirt and scanties?" - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"The kind of poem I produced in those days was hardly anything more than a sign I made of being alive, of passing or having passed, or hoping to pass, through certain intense human emotions. It was a phenomenon of orientation rather than of art, thus comparable to stripes of paint on a roadside rock or to a pillared heap of stones marking a mountain trail. But then, in a sense, all poetry is positional: to try to express one's position in regard to the universe embraced by consciousness, is an immemorial urge. Tentacles, not wings, are Apollo's natural members. Vivian Bloodmark, a philosophical friend of mine, in later years, used to say that while the scientist sees everything that happens in one point of space, the poet feels everything that happens in one point of time." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"We may not know any more about football than most of the other coaches in the league, but if we can put everything we know together so it makes good basic sense and then drill-drill-drill it into them... that kind of coaching can make winners out of losers." - Vince Lombardi, fully Vincent Thomas "Vince" Lombardi

"I have walked this earth for 30 years, and, out of gratitude, want to leave some souvenir." - Vincent van Gogh, fully Vincent Willem van Gogh

"If I cannot influence the gods, I shall move all hell." - Virgil, also Vergil, fully Publius Vergilius Maro NULL

"Oh, where the fields are! (expression for a longing to the country side)" - Virgil, also Vergil, fully Publius Vergilius Maro NULL

"Americans used to be 'citizens.' Now we are 'consumers." - Vicki Robin

"And if you wish to receive of the ancient city an impression with which the modern one can no longer furnish you, climb--on the morning of some grand festival, beneath the rising sun of Easter or of Pentecost--climb upon some elevated point, whence you command the entire capital; and be present at the wakening of the chimes. Behold, at a signal given from heaven, for it is the sun which gives it, all those churches quiver simultaneously. First come scattered strokes, running from one church to another, as when musicians give warning that they are about to begin. Then, all at once, behold!--for it seems at times, as though the ear also possessed a sight of its own,--behold, rising from each bell tower, something like a column of sound, a cloud of harmony. First, the vibration of each bell mounts straight upwards, pure and, so to speak, isolated from the others, into the splendid morning sky; then, little by little, as they swell they melt together, mingle, are lost in each other, and amalgamate in a magnificent concert. It is no longer anything but a mass of sonorous vibrations incessantly sent forth from the numerous belfries; floats, undulates, bounds, whirls over the city, and prolongs far beyond the horizon the deafening circle of its oscillations." - Victor Hugo

"And why is it that some men just can't deal with the idea that a smart, together, professional woman like me can actually deserve their respect and still want to be thrown down on the couch and pounded like a cheap steak now and then?" - Victor Hugo