Some Words to Live By



As an avid collector of quotes and lines of poetry, I often find myself with unattributed lines and mis-attributed quotes. The internet, though efficient in locating and aggregating information, is not, of course, of much help in clearing up issues of accurate attribution.

But to be honest with you, if the quote is good, I really do not care. What matters to me is that the line is good. And so on hump-day of the first full week of May, here are some quotes I have collected from various sources over the years.

Let me know if there are any you especially like… or that you know are indeed misattributed. Thanks.

In the meantime, enjoy!



“Know what you are talking about.”  ~John Paul II

“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.” ~Abraham Lincoln

“Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand.”  ~Ezra Pound

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.”  ~W.H. Auden

“The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance” ~P.B. Shelley

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same” ~Thomas Merton

“The desire to write grows with writing.” ~Erasmus

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”  ~Henry James

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.”  ~John Paul II

“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”  ~Samuel Johnson

“A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard — by stealing what he has a taste for, and can carry off.” ~Archibald MacLeish

“Don’t ask a writer what he’s working on. It’s like asking someone with cancer on the progress of his disease.”  ~Amy Lowell

“Poetry is a sort of inspired mathematics, which gives us equations, not for abstract figures, triangles, squares, and the like, but for the human emotions. If one has a mind which inclines to magic rather than science, one will prefer to speak of these equations as spells or incantations; it sounds more arcane, mysterious, recondite.”  ~Ezra Pound

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“Your library is your paradise.”  ~Erasmus

“I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.” ~Seamus Heaney

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” ~Henry James

“There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.” ~Archibald MacLeish

“The first draft of anything is shit.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.”  ~W.H. Auden

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  ~Marcel Proust

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“Debate doesn’t really change things. It gets you bogged in deeper. If you can address or reopen the subject with something new, something from a different angle, then there is some hope…. That’s something poetry can do for you, it can entrance you for a moment above the pool of your own consciousness and your own possibilities.” ~Seamus Heaney

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“I don’t want everyone to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did.” ~Henry James

“The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.”  ~W.H. Auden

“Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.” ~Marcel Proust

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”  ~T.S. Eliot

“Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn’t misuse it.”  ~John Paul II



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