We have come to the cross-roads
And I must either leave or come with you.
I lingered over the choice
But in the darkness of my doubts
You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I should take.
We have come to the cross-roads
And I must either leave or come with you.
I lingered over the choice
But in the darkness of my doubts
You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I should take.
We are half-hearted creatures,
fooling about with drink and sex and
ambition when infinite joy is offered us,
like an ignorant child who wants to go on
making mud pies in a slum because he
cannot imagine what is meant by the offer
of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily
The only ultimate disaster that can befall us, I have come to realise, is to feel ourselves to be at home here on earth.
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
The Bus Driver’s Prayer
Who art in Hendon
Harrow Road be Thy name
Thy Kingston come
In Erith as it is in Hendon.
Give us this day our Berkhamsted
And forgive us our Westminsters
As we forgive those who Westminster against us.
Lead us not into Temple Station
And deliver us from Ealing,
For thine is the Kingston
The Purley and the Crawley,
For Iver and Iver.
No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war; we are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this, but in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or to detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on. It is rather for us here to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain. That the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Lamb’s Conduit Street
A world in miniature; a universe in a grain of sand.
You can look from one end and see the other end.
You couldn’t call it majestic. It isn’t very grand
And yet I think it’s monumental. A nuanced blend
Of shops and popups and café’s you can pop in,
Slip out of carrying coffee that makes everything clear
And somehow this street quietens the city’s din
And concentrates the careworn mind to the sheer
Pleasure of simply walking down a welcoming street
That asks you to pause, take your time, have a look
And follow a different, independent, subtle beat.
Buy a shirt. Buy a croissant. Meet your mate. Buy a book.
I went there with my son and he turned to me and said
‘This is the perfect street. I’ll always live here in my head.’
To a Friend in Search of Rural Seclusion
When all else fails,
The frugality and industry of private people can repair the breaches which the extravagance of government makes in society’s capital.
It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
Women sitting next to him at dinner: Oh Mr President my friend bet me I wouldn’t be able to get you to say three words to me tonight.
Coolidge: You lose
We economists don’t know much, but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can’t sell tomatoes for more than two cents per pound. Instantly you’ll have a tomato shortage. It’s the same with oil or gas.
Meeting at Night
The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each.
10 Rules of Good Writing
1 Never open a book with weather.
2 Avoid prologues.
3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
5 Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
The most important rule is one that sums up the 10, if it sounds like writing, rewrite it.
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we have to have three spaces opened within us – and all at the same time; our opinionated head, our closed down heart, and our defensive and defended body.
Answer to the exam question “What is the future of coal?”
Morris said to have spent much of his time in Paris in the Eiffel tower, painting, sketching, writing and taking many of his meals in its restaurant.
One of the restaurant staff noticed he was a regular visitor and said, “You are certainly impressed with our Tower, monsieur!”
“Impressed?!!” said Morris. “This is the only place in Paris where I can avoid seeing the thing!”
We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality only means that, for certain dead levels of our life, we forget what we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant, we remember what we forgot
True Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth.
successfully tested for at least two further iterations
Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
A bishop interviewing Justin Welby when he first put himself forward for ordination:
I have interviewed a thousand candidates for ordination and you don’t come in the top thousand.
I had applied for a job at Imperial Chemical Industries in 1948 and was called for a personal interview. However I failed to get selected. Many years later, I succeeded in finding out why I had been rejected. The remarks written by the selectors on my application were: “This woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated!”
So, God takes your child by the hand
and pulls her from her deathbed.
He says: ‘Feed her, she is ravenous.’
You give her fruits with thick hides
– pomegranate, cantaloupe –
food with weight, to keep her here.
You hope that if she eats enough
the light and dust and love
which weave the matrix of her body
will not fray, nor wear so thin
that morning sun breaks through her,
Somehow this reanimation
has cut sharp the fear of death,
the shock of presence. Feed her
roast lamb, egg, unleavened bread:
forget the herbs, she has an aching
fast to break. Sit by her side,
split skins for her so she can gorge,
and notice how the dawn
draws colour to her just-kissed face.
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.
On September 28 the fleet came safely to anchor in Pevensey Bay. There was no opposition to the landing. The local “fyrd” had been called out this year four times already to watch the coast, and having, in true English style, come to the conclusion that the danger was past because it had not yet arrived had gone back to their homes.
Milne: No matter how imperfect things are, if you’ve got a free press everything is correctable, and without it everything is concealable.
Ruth: I’m with you on the free press. It’s the newspapers I can’t stand.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
That is always the way with you men; you believe nothing the first time; and it is foolish enough to let mere repetition convince you of what you consider in itself unbelievable.
It is much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so odds with prayer as vanity
Show this bold Prussian that praises slaughter, slaughter brings rout.
How his old Russian hat raises laughter, laughter rings out.
The McNamara Fallacy
The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes.
The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading.
The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness.
The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.
When I hear artists or authors making fun of business men, I think of a regiment in which the band makes fun of the cooks.
What is not surrounded by uncertainty cannot be the truth.
Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.
of Charles de Gaulle
He looks like a female llama who has just been surprised in her bath.
News from a foreign country came
As if my treasure and my wealth lay there;
So much it did my heart inflame,
‘Twas wont to call my Soul into mine ear;
Which thither went to meet
The approaching sweet,
And on the threshold stood
To entertain the unknown Good.
It hover’d there
As if ‘twould leave mine ear,
And was so eager to embrace
The joyful tidings as they came,
‘Twould almost leave its dwelling-place
To entertain that same.
Adherents of Xmas are exhausted and overextended but Christmas worshipers are joyful. Are you rushing or feasting?
It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.
What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.
The Place Where We Are Right
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
The well-to-do do not want the poor to suffer. They wish them to be as happy as is consistent with the continued prosperity of the well-to-do.
To be a failure may be one step to being a saint
People who can repeat what you are saying aren’t listening
(from his television adaption of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End)
A flat in Holborn! I couldn’t have imagined anything more humiliating!
…the reason why the lives of the rich are at bottom so tame and uneventful is simply that they can choose the events. They are dull because they are omnipotent. They fail to feel adventures because they can make the adventures. The thing which keeps life romantic and full of fiery possibilities is the existence of these great plain limitations which force all of us to meet the things we do not like or do not expect.
This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.
Be charitable before Wealth makes thee covetous.
of Richard Wagner
A beautiful sunset that was mistaken for a dawn.
He must be a poor creature that does not often repeat himself.
He must be a poor creature that does not often repeat himself.
“Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation” yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.
Nikainetos, third century BC
I am the grave of Biton, traveller:
If from Torone to Amphipolis you go
Give Nicagoras this message: his one son
Died in a storm, in early winter, before sunrise.
The Avon to the Severn runs,
The Severn to the sea,
And Wycliffe’s dust shall spread abroad,
Wide as the waters be.
50 years after his death Wycliffe, who instigated the first full translation of the bible into English, was condemned for heresy and his body was dug up, his bones burned and his ashes poured into the river Avon
We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
But the plural of ox should be oxen not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I spoke of my foot and showed you my feet,
When I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
If the singular is this, and the plural is these,
Why shouldn’t the plural of kiss be kese?
Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
So plurals in English, I think you’ll agree,
Are indeed very tricky–singularly.
Once you have a formula and an electronic computer, there is an awful temptation to squeeze the lemon until it is dry and present a picture of the future which through its very precision and verisimilitude carries conviction. Yet a man who uses an imaginary map, thinking it a true one, is likely to be worse off than someone with no map at all; for he will fail to inquire wherever he can, to observe every detail on his way, and to search continuously with all his senses and all his intelligence for indications of where he should go.
I didn’t have a pre-race ritual, only a post race one – I stood on a podium and someone put a medal around my neck.
Never have children, only grandchildren
The following traditional Habsburg entombment “knocking” ceremony took place at the door of Vienna’s Capuchin Friary after the funeral followed of Otto Von Habsburg.
Capuchin Friar : “Who desires admission?”
Leader of funeral party: “Otto of Austria, former Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, Prince Royal of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Osweicim and Zator, of Teschen, Friaul, Dubrovnik and Zadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trento and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria: Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenburg; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and Windic March; Grand Voivod of the Voivodship of Serbia”
Friar : “We do not know him!”
Friar : “Who desires admission?”
Leader : “Dr Otto von Habsburg; President and Honorary President of the Pan-European Union; Member and Father of the House of the European Parliament; Holder of honorary doctorates from countless universities and freeman of many communities in Central Europe; Member of numerous noble academies and institutes; Bearer of high and highest awards, decorations and honours of church and state made to him in recognition of his decade-long struggle for the freedom of peoples, for right and justice.”
Friar: “We do not know him!”
Friar : “Who desires admission?”
Leader : “Otto — a mortal, sinful man!”
Friar: “Let him be admitted.”
casual comment made within hearing of his opponent in the changing room before a big final
I wouldn’t want to be playing me today.
We have been living beyond our means. We have been paying ourselves more than our efforts were earning. We sought political leaders who would assure us that the good times would never end and that the centuries of boom and bust were over; and we voted for those who offered that assurance. We sought credit for which we had no security and we gave our business to the banks that advertised it. We wanted higher exam grades for our children and were rewarded with politicians prepared to supply them by lowering exam standards. We wanted free and better health care and demanded chancellors who paid for it without putting up our taxes. We wanted salacious stories in our newspapers and bought the papers that broke the rules to provide them. And now we whimper and snarl at MPs, bankers and journalists. Fair enough, my friends, but, you know, we really are all in this together.
I’ve been scraping little shavings off my ration of light
And I’ve formed it into a ball, and each time I pack a bit more onto it
I make a bowl of my hands and I scoop it from its secret cache
Under a loose board in the floor
And I blow across it and I send it to you
Against those moments when
The darkness blows under your door
Isn’t that what friends are for?
(an unmatched left parenthesis creates a unresolved tension that will stay with you all day
A message to the Foreign Office from Central Spain, August 1812
Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as the number of jars of raspberry jam issued
to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come
as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I
construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:
1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or perchance,
2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant
This World is not Conclusion.
This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy — don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips — and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –
1.if you write anything criticising editing or proofreading, there will be a fault in what you have written;
2.if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
3.the stronger the sentiment in (a) and (b), the greater the fault; and
4.any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.
Strew gladness on the paths of men—
You will not pass this way again.
If you knew how much work went into it, you would not call it genius.
to his son
For the Athenians command the rest of Greece, I command the Athenians; your mother commands me, and you command your mother.
I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there.
Politicians are always realistically maneuvering for the next election. They are obsolete as fundamental problem-solvers.
On the prospects of the a French invasion during the Napoleonic wars.
I do not say they cannot come – I only say they cannot come by sea.
I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.
In A Bath Teashop
“Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another —
Let us hold hands and look.”
She such a very ordinary little woman;
He such a thumping crook;
But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels
In the teashop’s ingle-nook.
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts and no one to thank.
A good opening and a good ending make for a good film provided they come close together.
Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife.
The south-west wind roaring in from the Atlantic…. is, I think the presiding genius of England.
on being asked which was his favorite chess piece
It does not really matter, as long as it is an extra one.
Harpists spend 90% of their time tuning their harps and 10% playing out of tune.
This is a great metaphor – I just haven’t worked out what for!
New Year Poem
Tomorrow in the offices the year on the stamps will be altered;
Tomorrow new diaries consulted, new calendars stand;
With such small adjustments life will again move forward
Implicating us all; and the voice of the living be heard:
“It is to us that you should turn your straying attention;
Us who need you, and are affected by your fortune;
Us you should love and to whom you should give your word.”
31 December 1940
The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward.
Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realise that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.
As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.
Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.
My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.
To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.
I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
I woke, and found that life was Duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, poor heart, unceasingly;
And thou shalt find thy dream to be
A truth and noonday light to thee.
The fox knows many tricks; the hedgehog one good one.
The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.
Single letter telegram sent by Wilde from Paris to his publisher in Britain inquiring how his new book was doing.
The publisher cabled an, arguably, marginally briefer reply:
Clement Freud (grandson of Sigmund) was visiting China as part of a parliamentary delegation with Winston Churchill MP and he asked of the authorities…
“I am in your country with a colleague, than whom I am older, have been in parliament longer, have held higher positions in our respective political parties: we are both staying at the Peking Palace Hotel and his suite is bigger than mine. Why?”
The Minister, very embarrassed, finally said: “It is because Mr Churchill had a famous grandfather.”
Clement reflected that “It is the only time that I have been out-grandfathered.”
Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.
The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.
Any time something is written against me, I not only share the sentiment but feel I could do the job far better myself. Perhaps I should advise would-be enemies to send me their grievances beforehand, with full assurance that they will receive my every aid and support. I have even secretly longed to write, under a pen name, a merciless tirade against myself.
Rossetti makes the remark somewhere, bitterly but with great truth, that the worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.
It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.
(in slightly different words previously incorrectly attributed to C S Lewis)
You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.
There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature…
Travel is highly educational.
I can’t do with any more education. I was full up years ago.
Most political sermons teach the congregation nothing except what newspapers are taken at the Rectory
Man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.
The point to remember is what the government gives it must first take away.
Sailing To Byzantium
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.
We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.
‘Twas Euclid, and the theorem pi
Did plane and solid in the text,
All parallel were the radii,
And the ang-gulls convex’d.
“Beware the Wentworth-Smith, my son,
And the Loci that vacillate;
Beware the Axiom, and shun
The faithless Postulate.”
He took his Waterman in hand;
Long time the proper proof he sought;
Then rested he by the XYZ
And sat awhile in thought.
And as in inverse thought he sat
A brilliant proof, in lines of flame,
All neat and trim, it came to him,
Tangenting as it came.
“AB, CD,” reflected he–
The Waterman went snicker-snack–
He Q.E.D.-ed, and, proud indeed,
He trapezoided back.
“And hast thou proved the 29th?
Come to my arms, my radius boy!
O good for you! O one point two!”
He rhombused in his joy.
‘Twas Euclid, and the theorem pi
Did plane and solid in the text;
All parallel were the radii,
And the ang-gulls convex’d.
@JamieFro: Someone recently told me: “We’d have less arguments if you weren’t so pedantic”. I replied, “Don’t you mean ‘fewer’?”
… skepticism is a resting place for reason, … but it cannot be its permanent dwelling-place.
Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them.
It is right to be contented with what we have, never with what we are.
Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense.
The winds that blow
Ask them, which leaf of the tree
Will be the next to go.
The last level of metaphor in the Alice books is this: that life, viewed rationally and without illusion, appears to be a nonsense tale told by an idiot mathematician. At the heart of things science finds only a mad, never-ending quadrille of Mock Turtle Waves and Gryphon Particles. For a moment the waves and particles dance in grotesque, inconceivably complex patterns capable of reflecting on their own absurdity.
Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die
The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then
a definition of poetry
“imaginary gardens with real toads in them”
I was not made for the great light that devours, a dim lamp was all I had been given, and patience without end, to shine it on the empty shadows.
One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.
The important thing is to know how to take all things quietly.
Out of timber so crooked as that from which man is made nothing entirely straight can be carved
Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire.
Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
The oldest books are only just out to those who have not read them.
of Jack Kerouac
That’s not writing, that’s typing!
on playing chess against a slow playing opponent
The slowness of genius is hard to bear, but the slowness of mediocrity is intolerable.
Fortune hath somewhat the nature of a woman; if she be too much wooed, she is the farther off.
Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.
Where Earwigs Dare
A silver trail across the monitor;
fresh mouse-droppings beneath the swivel-chair;
the view obscured by rogue japonica.
Released into the wild, where earwigs dare -
you first went freelance – and then gently feral.
You worked from home – then wandered out again,
roughed it with spider, ant, shrew, blackbird, squirrel
in your won realm, your micro-Vatican.
No name conveys exactly what it is -
Chalet? Gazebo? You were not misled
by studios, snugs, garden offices,
workshops or outhouses. A shed’s a shed -
and proud of it. You wouldn’t want to hide it.
Wi-Fi-enabled rain-proof wooden box -
a box to sit in while you think outside it.
Self-rattling cage, den, poop-deck, paradox,
hutch with home-rule, cramped cubicle of freedom,
laboratory, thought-palace, bodger’s bower,
plot both to sow seeds and to go to seed in,
cobwebbed, Cuprinol-scented, Seat of Power.
My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life.
The game of science is, in principle, without end. He who decides one day that scientific statements do not call for any further test, and that they can be regarded as finally verified, retires from the game.
The opposite of success isn’t failure; it is name-dropping.
Building well has three conditions: firmness, commodity, and delight.
To be great, be whole: don’t exaggerate
Or leave out any part of you.
Be complete in each thing. Put all you are
Into the least of your acts.
So too in each lake, with its lofty life,
The whole moon shines.
My reason is not framed to bend or stoop; my knees are.
Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
Liberty is an opportunity for doing good, but this is only so when it is also an opportunity for doing wrong.
Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.
He was not so anxious to prove himself right, as to be so.
Aunt Dahlia was staring at Jeeves like a bear about to receive a bun.
Epitaph of Sir John Strange, Master of the Rolls, who died, at the age of fifty-eight, in 1754.
Here lies an honest lawyer,–
that is Strange.
Thinking must never submit itself, neither to a dogma, nor to a party, nor to a passion, nor to an interest, nor to a preconceived idea, nor to whatever it may be, if not to facts themselves, because, for it, to submit would be to cease to be.
from “King John’s Christmas.”
Forget about the crackers,
And forget about the candy;
I’m sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don’t like oranges,
I don’t want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red India-rubber ball!
The person you are the most afraid to contradict is yourself.
What are lawyers really? To me a lawyer is basically the person that knows the rules of the country. We’re all throwing the dice, playing the game, moving our pieces around the board, but if there’s a problem, the lawyer is the only person that has actually read the inside of the top of the box.
A Dozen, a Gross and a Score,
plus three times the square root of four,
Divided by seven,
Plus five times eleven,
Equals nine squared and not a bit more.
The Integral of tee-squared dee tee,
From one to the cube root of three,
Times half the cosine,
Of three-pi over nine,
Is the log of the sixth root of e.
Pure mathematics consists entirely of assertions to the effect that, if such and such a proposition is true of anything, then such and such another proposition is true of that thing. It is essential not to discuss whether the first proposition is really true, and not to mention what the anything is, of which it is supposed to be true.
…. with no cure except as a guillotine might be called a cure for dandruff.
Elegance should be left to shoemakers and tailors
I can’t forget the lane that goes from Steyning to the Ring
In summer time, and on the Down how larks and linnets sing
High in the sun. The wind comes off the sea, and Oh the air!
I never knew till now that life in old days was so fair.
But now I know it in this filthy rat infested ditch
When every shell may spare or kill – and God alone knows which.
And I am made a beast of prey, and this trench is my lair.
My God! I never knew till now that those days were so fair.
So we assault in half an hour, and – it’s a silly thing -
I can’t forget the narrow lane to Chanctonbury Ring.
I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity;
I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity.
The truth is a trap: you can not get it without it getting you; you cannot get the truth by capturing it, only by its capturing you.
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.
Think they’re Socrates.
of jazz musician and composer John Dankworth
Couth, kempt and shevelled.
An alledged conversation between the taciturn president and his wife – on being asked by her what the the preacher’s sermon had been about
Mrs. Coolidge: Well, what did he say about it?
Coolidge: He was against it.
The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.
…there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter.
Do not ask me, for I am so ignorant that I cannot tell the difference between a king and a knave.
On being asked to play a table of cards, at a time when he was in dispute with the government and court.
The time will come when Winter will ask you what you were doing all Summer.
Nothing is ever lost; things only become irretrievable. What is lost, then, is the method of their retrieval, and what we rediscover is not the thing itself, but the overgrown path, the secret staircase, the ancient sewer.
The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.
Three little birds in a row
A man passed near that place.
Then did the little birds nudge each other.
They said, “He thinks he can sing.”
They threw back their heads to laugh.
With quaint countenances
They regarded him.
They were very curious,
Those three little birds in a row.
We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.
In an orchard there should be enough to eat, enough to lay up, enough to be stolen, and enough to rot on the ground.
Honesty is praised and starves.
(Probitas laudatur et alget)
On one of my birthdays I was given a toy printing-set with whose rubber letters I was able to print off my first composition. It was a story of a train going along very fast and, to the satisfaction of the passengers, racing through the samll stations along the track without stopping. Their satisfaction, however, turned to dismay, and then to panic fury, as it dawned on them that it was not going to stop at their stations either when it came to them. They raged and shouted and shook their fists, but all to no avail. The train went roaring on. At the time I had no notion what, if anything, the story signified. [...] Yet, as I came to see, and see now more clearly than ever, it is the story I have been writing ever since; the story of our time.
The world is content with setting right the surface of things.
There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
In separateness only does love learn definition.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours … In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.
People could put up with being bitten by a wolf but what properly riled them up was a bite from a sheep.
Before she can deliver
I stride away backwards
My car door opens,
I fall in
as the engine fires.
I speed home in reverse,
plop down in my easy chair
where, picturing what a good
night it’s going to be,
I slowly spit up
a manhattan – dry -
just the way
I like it.
I Have No Gun, But I Can Spit
Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes,
And all the untilled air between
Is private pagus or demesne.
Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
I beckon you to fraternize,
Beware of rudely crossing it:
I have no gun, but I can spit.
In the whole village
The husband alone
Does not know of it
18th Century Japanese poem
For hunger is a sauce, well blended and prepared, for any food.
Peano Axioms of the Natural Numbers
1. 0 is a number.
2. The immediate successor of a number is also a number.
3. 0 is not the immediate successor of any number.
4. No two numbers have the same immediate successor.
5. Any property belonging to 0 and to the immediate successor of any number that also has that property belongs to all numbers.
The Sleepy Giant
My age is three hundred and seventy-two,
And I think, with the deepest regret,
How I used to pick up and voraciously chew
The dear little boys whom I met.
I’ve eaten them raw, in their holiday suits;
I’ve eaten them curried with rice;
I’ve eaten them baked, in their jackets and boots,
And found them exceedingly nice.
But now that my jaws are too weak for such fare,
I think it exceedingly rude
To do such a thing, when I’m quite well aware
Little boys do not like being chewed.
And so I contentedly live upon eels,
And try to do nothing amiss,
And I pass all the time I can spare from my meals
In innocent slumber — like this.
It is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.
All men dream: but not equally, Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.
The whole world would have been destroyed if pity did not put an end to anger.
As I get older I get increasingly impatient of holidays they seem to me to be an entirely feminine conception based on an impotent dislike of every day life and the romantic notion that it will all be better in Frinton or Venice
A writer once said to me, If you ever go to America, go either to the East Coast or the West Coast: the rest is a desert full of bigots. That’s what I think I’d like: where if you help a girl trim the Christmas tree you’re regarded as engaged, and her brothers start oiling their shotguns if you don’t call on the minister.
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.
The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.
The best of ideas is hurt by uncritical acceptance and thrives on critical examination
Were all men equal to-night, some would get the start by rising an hour earlier to-morrow.
A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats.
Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.
is a straightforward process.
It’s easy enough
when you know what to do.
You simply combine
in appropriate doses
the blatantly false
and the patently true.
Details are all that matters: God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don’t struggle to get them right.
The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of.
There was a young fellow from Trinity,
Who took the square root of infinity.
But the number of digits,
Gave him the fidgets;
He dropped Math and took up Divinity.
A movement which is confined to philosophers and honest men can never exercise any real political influence: there are too few of them. Until a movement shews itself capable of spreading among brigands, it can never hope for a political majority.
His party was the Brotherhood of Brothers,
and there were more of them than of the others.
That is, they constituted that minority
which formed the greater part of the majority.
Within the party, he was of the faction
that was supported by the greater fraction.
And in each group, within each group, he sought
the group that could command the most support.
The final group had finally elected
a triumvirate whom they all respected.
Now, of these three, two had final word,
because the two could overrule the third.
One of these two was relatively weak,
so one alone stood at the final peak.
He was: THE GREATER NUMBER of the pair
which formed the most part of the three that were
elected by the most of those whose boast
it was to represent the most of the most
of most of most of the entire state –
or of the most of it at any rate.
He never gave himself a moment’s slumber
but sought the welfare of the greater number.
And all people, everywhere they went,
knew to their cost exactly what it meant
to be dictated to by the majority.
But that meant nothing, — they were the minority.
It’s is not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting
That which is static and repetitive is boring. That which is dynamic and random is confusing. In between lies art.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
From “The Real Thing”
ANNIE: You’re jealous of the idea of the writer. You want to keep it sacred, special, not something anybody can do. Some of us have it, some of us don’t. We write, you get written about. What gets you about Brodie is he doesn’t know his place. You say he can’t write like a head waiter saying you can’t come in here without a tie. Because he can’t put words together. What’s so good about putting words together?
HENRY: It’s traditionally considered advantageous for a writer.
ANNIE: He’s not a writer. He’s a convict. You’re a writer. You write because you’re a writer. Even you write about something, you have to think up something to write about just so you can keep writing. More well chosen words nicely put together. So what? Why should that be it? Who says?
HENRY: Nobody says. It just works best.
ANNIE: Of course it works. You teach a lot of people what to expect from good writing, and you end up with a lot of people saying you write well. Then somebody who isn’t in on the game comes along, like Brodie, who really has something to write about, something real, and you can’t get through it. Well, he couldn’t get through yours, so where are you? To you, he can’t write. To him, write is all you can do.
HENRY: Jesus, Annie, you’re beginning to appall me. There’s something scary about stupidity made coherent. I can deal with idiots, and I can deal with sensible argument, but I don’t know how to deal with you. Where’s my cricket bat?
ANNIE: Your cricket bat?
HENRY: Yes. It’s a new approach. [He heads out into the hall.]
ANNIE: Are you trying to be funny?
HENRY: No, I’m serious. [He goes out while she watches in wary disbelief. He returns with an old cricket bat.]
ANNIE: You better not be.
HENRY: Right, you silly cow —
ANNIE: Don’t you bloody dare —
HENRY: Shut up and listen. This thing here, which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It’s for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds, and all you’ve done is give it a knock like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly… [He clucks his tongue to make the noise.] What we’re trying to do is to write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it might … travel … [He clucks his tongue again and picks up the script.] Now, what we’ve got here is a lump of wood of roughly the same shape trying to be a cricket bat, and if you hit a ball with it, the ball will travel about ten feet and you will drop the bat and dance about shouting Ouch! with your hands stuck into your armpits. This isn’t better because someone says it’s better, or because there’s a conspiracy by the MCC to keep cudgels out of Lords. It’s better because it’s better. You don’t believe me, so I suggest you go out to bat with this and see how you get on. [quoting from the play] You’re a strange boy, Billy, how old are you? Twenty, but I’ve lived more than you’ll ever live. Ooh, ouch! [He drops the script and hops about with his hands in his armpits, going Ouch! ANNIE watches him expressionlessly until he desists.]
[a few exchanges later]
HENRY: ……I can’t help somebody who thinks, or thinks he thinks, that editing a newspaper is censorship, or that throwing bricks is a demonstration while building tower blocks is social violence, or that unpalatable statement is provocation while disrupting the speaker is the exercise of free speech… Words don’t deserve that kind of malarkey. They’re innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they’re no good any more, and Brodie knocks corners off without knowing he’s doing it. So everything he writes is jerry-built. It’s rubbish. An intelligent child could push it over. I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you’re dead.
An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.
Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses –
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon –
Rationalists would wear sombreros.
I am neither an optimist nor pessimist, but a possibilist.
Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.
of Elbert Hubbard who died in the sinking of the Lusitania.
I can not say specifically where your father and Mrs. Hubbard were when the torpedoes hit, but I can tell you just what happened after that. They emerged from their room, which was on the port side of the vessel, and came on to the boat-deck.
Neither appeared perturbed in the least. Your father and Mrs. Hubbard linked arms — the fashion in which they always walked the deck — and stood apparently wondering what to do. I passed him with a baby which I was taking to a lifeboat when he said, “Well, Jack, they have got us. They are a damn sight worse than I ever thought they were.”
They did not move very far away from where they originally stood. As I moved to the other side of the ship, in preparation for a jump when the right moment came, I called to him, “What are you going to do?” and he just shook his head, while Mrs. Hubbard smiled and said, “There does not seem to be anything to do.”
The expression seemed to produce action on the part of your father, for then he did one of the most dramatic things I ever saw done. He simply turned with Mrs. Hubbard and entered a room on the top deck, the door of which was open, and closed it behind him.
It was apparent that his idea was that they should die together, and not risk being parted on going into the water.
There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.
The fly sat upon the axel-tree of the chariot-wheel and said, What a dust do I raise!
Change vs. more of the same
The economy, stupid
Don’t forget health care.
The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.
An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.
Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.
John Major: “What is the situation like in Russia”
Boris Yeltsin: “Good”
John Major: “Could you expand on that”
Boris Yeltsin: “Not Good”
Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slave of some defunct economist.
I have something that I call my Golden Rule. It goes something like this: ‘Do unto others twenty-five percent better than you expect them to do unto you.’ ….. The twenty-five percent is for error.
She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
“Winter is dead.”
Literature is the noblest of all the arts. Music dies on the air, or at best exists only as a memory; oratory ceases with the effort; the painter’s colors fade and the canvas rots; the marble is dragged from its pedestal and is broken into fragments.
There are more fools than knaves in the world, else the knaves would not have enough to live upon.
Shuffling is the only thing which Nature cannot undo.
Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not? This tangled doctrine might be nicknamed Plato’s beard; historically it has proved tough, frequently dulling the edge of Occam’s razor.
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
But when a rule is extremely complex, that which conforms to it passes for random.
Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind… Where it all will end, knows God!
The mathematicians know a great deal about very little and the physicists very little about a great deal.
It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.
Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.
The biggest human temptation is … to settle for too little.
“You told me what the first rule of wisdom is,” I said. “What is the second rule?”
“That can be answered,” he said. “There are five in all. Always ask any questions that are to be asked and never answer any. Turn everything you hear to your own advantage. Always carry a repair outfit. Take left turns as much as possible. Never apply your front brake first…If you follow them,” said the Sergeant, “you will save your soul and you will never get a fall on a slippy road.”
Every man has some reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has others which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But finally there are still others which a man is even afraid to tell himself, and every decent man has a considerable number of such things stored away. That is, one can even say that the more decent he is, the greater the number of such things in his mind.
I like this piece. I think you’d like it too.
We didn’t very often disagree
Back in the days when I sat here with you
And knew that you were coming home with me.
This is the future. It arrived so fast.
When we were young it seemed so far away.
Our years together vanished like a day
At nightfall, sealed for ever in the past.
I can’t give up on music, just discard
The interest we shared because you died.
And so I come to concerts. But it’s hard.
Tonight I’m doing well. I haven’t cried.
My head aches. There’s a tightness in my throat.
And you will never hear another note.
To my extreme mortification, I grow wiser every day.
To be angry, is to revenge the fault of others upon ourselves.
As nothing is more easy than to think, so nothing is more difficult than to think well.
A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir’d at first Sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless Youth we tempt the Heights of Arts,
While from the bounded Level of our Mind,
Short Views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But more advanc’d, behold with strange Surprize
New, distant Scenes of endless Science rise!
So pleas’d at first, the towring Alps we try,
Mount o’er the Vales, and seem to tread the Sky;
Th’ Eternal Snows appear already past,
And the first Clouds and Mountains seem the last:
But those attain’d, we tremble to survey
The growing Labours of the lengthen’d Way,
Th’ increasing Prospect tires our wandering Eyes,
Hills peep o’er Hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer… He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring.
History does not repeat itself – but it rhymes.
That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best — make it all up — but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.
Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong — but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.
Cathedral Carol Service
Those of us who are not important enough
To have places reserved for us
And who turned up too late to get a seat at all,
Stand in the nave aisles, or perch on stone ledges.
We shiver in the draught from the west door.
We cannot see the choir, the altar or the candles.
We can barely see the words on our service sheets.
But we can hear the music. And we can sing
For the baby whose parents were not important enough
To have a place reserved for them,
And who turned up too late to get a room at all.
A Christmas Carol
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)
The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down
I’Yo Ho! my boys,” said Fezziwig. “No more work to-night! Christmas Eve, Dick! Christmas, Ebenezer! Let’s have the shutters up!” cried old Fezziwig with a sharp clap of his hands, “before a man can say Jack
Robinson. . . .”
“Hilli-ho!” cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk with wonderful agility. “Clear away, my lads, and let’s have lots of room here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Cheer-up, Ebenezer!”
Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn’t have cleared away, or couldn’t have cleared away with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life forevermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ballroom as you would desire to
see on a winter’s night.
In came a fiddler with a music book, and went up to the lofty desk and made an orchestra of it and tuned like fifty stomach aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Misses Fezziwig, beaming and lovable. In came the six followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid with her cousin the baker. In came the cook with her brother’s particular friend the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master, trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress; in they all came, any-how and every-how. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping, old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them.
When this result was brought about the fiddler struck up “Sir Roger de Coverley.” Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too, with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pairs of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance and had no notion of walking.
But if they had been thrice as many, oh, four times as many, old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that’s not high praise, tell me higher and I’ll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig’s calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn’t have predicted at any given time what would become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance, advance and retire; both hands to your partner, bow and courtesy, corkscrew, thread the needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig cut so deftly that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again with a stagger.
When the clock struck eleven the domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually, as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas!.
Many clever men like you have trusted to civilization. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilisation, what there is particularly immortal about yours?
I Saw a Peacock, with a fiery tail,
I saw a Blazing Comet, drop down hail,
I saw a Cloud, with Ivy circled round,
I saw a sturdy Oak, creep on the ground,
I saw a Pismire, swallow up a Whale,
I saw a raging Sea, brim full of Ale,
I saw a Venice Glass, Sixteen foot deep,
I saw a well, full of mens tears that weep,
I saw their eyes, all in a flame of fire,
I saw a House, as big as the Moon and higher,
I saw the Sun, even in the midst of night,
I saw the man, that saw this wondrous sight.
Originality exists in every individual becasue each of us differs from the others. We are all primary numbers divisible only by ourselves.
All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door.
I don’t mind your thinking slowly; I mind your publishing faster than you think.
On His Blindness
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
The books I haven’t written are better than the books other people have.
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
Friends are a group of people who share a mutual inability to take each other seriously.
Said of Herbert Morrison: “…he is his own worst enemy” to which Ernest Bevin immediately interjected “Not while I’m alive, he ain’t.”
A secret needs two faces to bounce between; a secret needs to see itself in another pair of eyes.
In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The kind of conversation I like is one in which you are prepared to emerge a slightly different person.
Grook on how to char for yourself
There’s an art of knowing when,
Never try to guess
Toast until it smokes and then
twenty seconds less.
The Destruction of Sennacherib
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
The study of beauty is a duel in which the artist cries out in terror before being defeated.
Duties are ours; events are God’s. This removes an infinite burden from the shoulders of a miserable, tempted, dying creature. On this consideration only, can he securely lay down his head, and close his eyes.
A touch of cold in the Autumn night –
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.
You can’t change anything by fighting or resisting it. You change something by making it obsolete through superior methods.
Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.
A good book is never exhausted. It goes on whispering to you from the wall.
The scientist has marched in and taken the place of the poet. But one day somebody will find the solution to the problems of the world and remember, it will be a poet, not a scientist.
Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things.
Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind — even if your voice shakes.
Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The Quest Quotient has always interested me more than the Intelligence Quotient.
The Old Man’s Comforts
and how he gained them
You are old, Father William the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason, I pray.
In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember’d that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first,
That I never might need them at last.
You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And pleasures with youth pass away;
And yet you lament not the days that are gone,
Now tell me the reason, I pray.
In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember’d that youth could not last;
I thought of the future, whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.
You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And life must be hastening away;
You are cheerful, and love to converse upon death,
Now tell me the reason, I pray.
I am cheerful, young man, Father William replied,
Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember’d my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age.
Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.
No faith in the hour of betrayal
No scorning of lions’ jaws,
No heart of grace in the battle-field,
No faith in a faithless cause,
No hope in the days of bondage
Has ever more valiant shone
Than the hope that hopes for a taxi,
When the last bus has gone.
Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.
You are the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm washed up on an empty beach three and a half billion years ago. You are the blind and arbitrary product of time, chance, and natural forces. You are a mere grab-bag of atomic particles, a conglomeration of genetic substance. You exist on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in an empty corner of a universe. You are a purely biological entity, different only in degree but not in kind from a microbe, virus, or amoeba. You have no essence beyond your body, and at death you will cease to exist entirely. In short you come from nothing and are going to nowhere.
You are the special creation of a good and all-powerful God. You are created in His image; with capacities to think, feel, and worship that set you above all other life forms. You differ from the animals not simply in degree but in kind. Not only is your kind unique, but you are unique among you kind. Your Creator loves you so much and so intensely desires you companionship and affection that he has a perfect plan for you life. In addition God gave the life of His only son that you might spend eternity with Him. If you are willing to accept his gift of salvation, you can become a child of God.
The main problem with punctuality is that there is rarely anyone there to appreciate it.
Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors, played by someone I do not know.
In a great business there is nothing so fatal as cunning management.
You cannot make a man by standing a sheep on its hind legs. But by standing a flock of sheep in that position you can make a crowd of men.
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
The beauty of a move lies not in its’ appearance but in the thought behind it.
Be not a bubble, be solid like God and let all thy worth be within.
Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?
Most of what matters in your life takes place in your absence.
If I could live again my life,
In the next – I’ll try,
- to make more mistakes,
I won’t try to be so perfect,
I’ll be more relaxed,
I’ll be more full – than I am now,
In fact, I’ll take fewer things seriously,
I’ll be less hygenic,
I’ll take more risks,
I’ll take more trips,
I’ll watch more sunsets,
I’ll climb more mountains,
I’ll swim more rivers,
I’ll go to more places – I’ve never been,
I’ll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I’ll have more real problems – and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives –
each minute of his life,
Offcourse that I had moments of joy – but,
if I could go back I’ll try to have only good moments,
If you don’t know – thats what life is made of,
Don’t lose the now!
I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,
If I could live again – I will travel light,
If I could live again – I’ll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I’ll ride more carts,
I’ll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live – but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying …
The habitually punctual make all their mistakes right on time.
The biggest human temptation … is to settle for too little.
The dearest ambition of a slave is not liberty but to have a slave of his own.
What did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of about Down Under up for.
I begin [...] with an almost inconceivable assertion: I was born at home.
For the benefit of those of you who can’t imagine what the word “home” implies, or what a home could possibly have been like, I should explain that the idea of home is the idea of privacy. But again–what is privacy? You probably never heard of it. Even supposing that (from time to time) walls exist around you, those walls are no longer walls; they are merest pseudosolidities, perpetually penetrated by the perfectly predatory collective organs of sight and sound. Any apparent somewhere which you may inhabit is always at the mercy of a ruthless and omnivorous everywhere. The notion of a house, as one single definite particular and unique place to come into, from the anywhereish and everywhereish world outside–that notion must strike you as fantastic. You have been brought up to believe that a house, or a universe, or a you, or any other object, is only seemingly solid: really (and you are realists, whom nobody and nothing can deceive) each seeming solidity is a collection of large holes–and, in the case of a house, the larger the holes the better; since the principal function of a modern house is to admit whatever might otherwise remain outside. You haven’t the least or feeblest conception of being here, and now, and alone, and yourself. Why (you ask) should anyone want to be here, when (simply by pressing a button) anyone can be in fifty places at once? How could anyone want to be now, when anyone can go whening all over creation at the twist of a knob? What could induce anyone to desire aloneness, when billions of soi-disant dollars are mercifully squandered by a good and great government lest anyone anuywhere should ever for a single instant be alone? As for being yourself–why on earth should you be yourself; when instead of being yourself you can be a hundred, or a thousand, or a hundred thousand thousand, other people? The very thought of being oneself in an epoch or interchangeable selves must appear supremely ridiculous.
A condition which of declension would indicate a devil, may of growth indicate a saint.
Too many young people itch for what they want without scratching for it.
A man who has made up his mind on a given subject twenty-five years ago and continues to hold his political opinions after he has been proved to be wrong is a man of principle; while he who from time to time adapts his opinions to the changing circumstances of life is an opportunist.
In the world to come, I shall not be asked, “Why were you not Moses?” I shall be asked, “Why were you not Zusya?”
Sir, I am a better judge of mutton than any sheep.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too-
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
and light a cigarette.
There’s coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly write it backwards,
then it would.
Aristotle taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking. This is true only of certain persons.
Life is mostly froth and bubble;
Two things stand like stone:
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in our own.
Don’t expect too much and don’t attempt too little.
1) The Three Good Things
a) Certainty held in Reserve.
b) Unexpected Praise from and Artist.
c) Discovery of Nobility in Oneself.
2) The Three Bad Things
a) Unworthiness crowned.
b) Unconscious Infraction of the the Laws of Behaviour.
c) Friendly Condescension of the Imperfectly Educated.
3) The Three Things of both Good and Bad Effect
a) Triumphant Anger.
b) Banquets of the Rich.
c) Honour preserved.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is not part of the Christian faith.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
The poet who writes “free” verse is like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island: he must do all his cooking, laundry and darning for himself. In a few exceptional cases, this manly independence produces something original and impressive, but more often the result is squalor – dirty sheets on the unmade bed and empty bottles on the unswept floor.
The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.
In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity.
A small task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules.
When we were kids we fought in the mock battle
With Ned Kelly cap guns and we opened the cold bottle
Of Shelley’s lemonade with a Scout belt buckle.
We cracked the passion fruit and sipped the honeysuckle.
When we were kids we lit the Thundercracker
Under the fruit tin and we sucked the all day sucker.
We opened the shoe box to watch the silk-worms spinning
Cocoons of cirrus with oriental cunning.
When we were kids we were sun-burned to a frazzle.
The beach was a griddle, you could hear us spit and sizzle.
We slept face down when our backs came out in blisters.
Teachers were famous for throwing blackboard dusters.
When we were kids we dive-bombed from the tower.
We floated in the inner tube, we bowled the rubber tyre.
From torn balloons we blew the cherry bubble.
Blowing up Frenchies could get you into trouble.
When we were kids we played at cock-a-lorum.
Gutter to gutter the boys ran harum-scarum.
The girls ran slower and their arms and legs looked funny.
You weren’t supposed to drink your school milk in the dunny.
When we were kids the licorice came in cables.
We traded Hubba-Hubba bubblegum for marbles.
A new connie-agate was a flower trapped in crystal
Worth just one go with a genuine air pistol.
When we were kids we threw the cigarette cards
Against the wall and we lined the Grenadier Guards
Up on the carpet and you couldn’t touch the trifle
Your Aunt Marge made to go in the church raffle.
When we were kids we hunted the cicada.
The pet cockatoo bit like a barracuda.
We were secret agents and fluent in pig Latin.
Gutsing on mulberries made our lips shine like black satin.
When we were kids we caught the Christmas beetle.
Its brittle wings were gold-green like the wattle.
Our mothers made bouquets from frangipani.
Hard to pronounce, a pink musk-stick cost a penny.
When we were kids we climbed peppercorns and willows.
We startled the stingrays when we waded in the shallows.
We mined the sand dunes in search of buried treasure,
And all this news pleased our parents beyond measure.
When we were kids the pus would wet the needle
When you dug out splinters and a piss was called a piddle.
The scabs on your knees would itch when they were ready
To be picked off your self-renewing body.
When we were kids a year would last forever.
Then we grew up and were told it was all over.
Now we are old and the memories returning
Are like the last stars that fade before the morning.
Person in a street near near Carnegie Hall: “Pardon me sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?”
Arthur Rubinstein: “Practice, practice, practice.”
Anyone who can handle a needle convincingly can make us see a thread which is not there.
To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend.
I believe no one qualification is so likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts.
In mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.
I’m definitely the best king in England at the moment.
The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.
Man weeps to think that he will die so soon; woman, that she was born so long ago.
Clopton’s Law: For every credibility gab, there is a gullibility fill.
Being a pacifist between wars is as easy as being a vegetarian between meals.
A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron.
He who is not a socialist at 19, has no heart. He who is still a socialist at 30, has no brain.
In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed-
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.
Ah! what is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?
That holy dream- that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam
A lonely spirit guiding.
What though that light, thro’ storm and night,
So trembled from afar-
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth’s day-star?
He trusted neither of them as far as he could spit, and he was a poor spitter, lacking both distance and control.
The person that turns over the most rocks wins the game.
You don’t get anything clean without getting something else dirty.
One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.
What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole, its body brevity, and wit its soul.
That we may truly say this spoild the state.
Youthful counsel!, private gaine, partiail hate.
The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.
Mathematics is the science which draws necessary conclusions.
There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.
The Cherry Trees
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.
Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth.
Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out … and perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.
It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone!
So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!
Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.
The natural tendency of every government is to grow steadily worse – that is, to grow more satisfactory to those who constitute it and less satisfactory to those who support it.
To be angry, is to revenge the fault of others upon ourselves.
My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.
Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.
One thing about poetry’s eternally true:
The best reminds us of what we forgot we knew.
On The Role Of The Next Century’s Poet Laureate
Opium of the masses
Feed their habit
Feed their habit
For the working classes
Let ‘em have it
Let ‘em have it
Raise your champagne glasses
Chitter chat it
Chitter chat it
For the lads and lasses
Twitter chav it
Twitter chav it
With OAP bus passes
Zimmer jab it
Zimmer jab it
Opium of the masses
Live it, gab it
Give it, fab it
Skit it, scat it
Brit it, bat it!
on the appointment of Carol Ann Duffy as Poet Laureate
Where there is discord, may you bring euphony
Where there is error, may you bring scansion
Where there is doubt, may you bring rhyme
And where there are royal weddings
May you bring sonnets of sterling sincerity
(Or, failing that, limericks.)
The tiger, on the other hand,
Is kittenish and mild,
And makes a pretty playfellow
For any little child.
And mothers of large families
(Who claim to common sense)
Will find a tiger well repays
The trouble and expense.
I’m a pessimist about probabilities; I’m an optimist about possibilities.
Mutability is our tragedy, but it’s also our hope.
Some other Just Ones
a footnote to Borges
The printer who sets this page with skill, though he may not admire it.
Singers of solo expertise who defer and find harmonies instead.
Anyone whose skeleton is susceptible to music.
She who, having loved a book or record, instantly passes it on.
Whose heart lilts at a span of vacant highway, the fervent surge of acceleration, psalm of the tires.
Adults content to let children bury them in sand or leaves.
Those for whom sustaining hatred is a difficulty.
Surprised by tenderness on meeting, at a reunion, the persecutors of their youth.
Likely to forget debts owed them but never a debt they owe.
Apt to read Plutarch or Thich Naht Hahn with the urgency of one reading the morning news.
Frightened ones who fight to keep fear from keeping them from life.
The barber who, no matter how long the line, will not rush the masterful shave or cut.
The small-scale makers of precious obscurios – pomegranate spoons, conductors’ batons, harpsichord tuning hammers, War of 1812 re-enactors’ ramrods, hand-cranks for hurdy-gurdies.
The gradeschool that renewed the brownfields back of the A & P and made them ample miraculous May and June.
The streetgang that casts no comment as they thin out to let Bob the barking man squawk past them on the sidewalk.
The two African medical students in Belgrade, 1983, who seeing a traveller lost and broke took him in and fed him rice and beans cooked over a camp stove in their cubicle of a room and let him sleep there while one of them studied all night at the desk between the beds with the lamp swung low.
Those who sit on front porches, not in fenced privacy, in the erotic inaugural summer night steam.
Who redeem from neglect a gorgeous, long-orphaned word.
Who treat dogs with a sincere and comical diplomacy.
Attempt to craft a decent wine in a desperate climate.
Clip the chain of consequence by letting others have the last word.
Master the banjo.
Are operatically loud in love.
These people, without knowing it, are saving the world.
The mayor of London was asked by an interviewer about “power”:
Q: Does power corrupt
A: Power reveals
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.
Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.
It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
The way to do research is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment.
Substance is a convenient word for a gap in our thoughts.
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
of someone’s politics
…further to the left than the soup spoon
of a referee, perhaps
…blinder than a welder’s dog
Admiration, n Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.
A Clear Midnight
This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou
Night, sleep, and the stars.
Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said, ‘Listen, mate, “life” has surface noise.’
There is nothing that sharpens a man’s senses so acutely as to know that bitter and determined enemies are in pursuit of him night and day.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted.
Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.
The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.
1831 Business Failled
1832 Lost job Defeated for state legislature
1833 Failed in business
1836 Had nervous breakdown
1838 Defeated for legislature
1844 Defeated for Congress
1846 Defeated for Congress
1848 Defeated for Congress
1849 Rejected for land officer
1855 Defeated for U.S. Senate
1856 Defeated for nomination for Vice President
1858 Defeated for U.S. Senate
1860 Elected President
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other thing
All greatness is unconscious, or it is little and naught.
The Sun Rising
Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, “All here in one bed lay.”
She’s all states, and all princes I;
Nothing else is;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.
Today is the anniversary of John Donne’s death in 1631
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased
In vast quantities it has been remaindered.
There is a world which I alone rule, but it ends at my fingertips.
This you have to understand. There’s only one way to hurt a man who’s lost everything. Give him back something broken.
Never invoke the gods unless you really want them to appear. It annoys them very much.
I said: “A tiger does not proclaim his tigritude, he pounces”. In other words: a tiger does not stand in the forest and say: “I am a tiger”. When you pass where the tiger has walked before, you see the skeleton of the duiker, you know that some tigritude has been emanated there.
The description is not the described; I can describe the mountain, but the description is not the mountain, and if you are caught up in the description, as most people are, then you will never see the mountain.
Between too early and too late, there is never more than a moment.
Printer’s ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries.
A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it.
It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
The Planter’s Daughter
When night stirred at sea
And the fire brought a crowd in,
They say that her beauty
Was music in mouth
And few in the candlelight
Thought her too proud,
For the house of the planter
Is known by the trees.
Men that had seen her
Drank deep and were silent,
The women were speaking
Wherever she went -
As a bell that is rung
Or a wonder told shyly,
And O she was the Sunday
In every week.
‘Are the gods not just?’
‘Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?’
The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutang trying to play the violin.
It turns out we can do this not only practically but also theoretically.
Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
When I say “Yes”, it does not mean that I agree; it means only that you should go on.
The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them–the ship; and so is their country–the sea.
The mere brute pleasure of reading the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing.
In a war of ideas it is people who get killed.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln was born 10 score years ago today.
Apart from cheese and tulips, the main product of the country is advocaat, a drink made from lawyers.
… he give her a look that you could pour on a waffle.
Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
We trained hard . . . but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.
Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult.
Rough Wind, that moanest loud
Grief too sad for song;
Wild wind, when sullen cloud
Knells all the night long;
Sad storm, whose tears are vain,
Bare woods, whose branches strain,
Deep caves and dreary main, _
Wail, for the world’s wrong!
When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy.
Music can be used to stimulate mass emotion, while mathematics cannot.
Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.
today is the 200th anniversary of Horace Walpole’s first coining of the word Serendipity
Believe in fate but lean forward where fate can see you.
Let’s say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine.
He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves.
They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else. And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: ”Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”
And then there is silence in the car.
To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.
And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.
And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?
And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let’s see …February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means . . . lemme check the odometer . . . Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.
And Elaine is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed — even before I sensed it — that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.
And Roger is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t carewhat those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a goddamn garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.
And Elaine is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.
And Roger is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90- day warranty. That’s exactly what they’re gonna say, the scumballs.
And Elaine is thinking: maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on hiswhite horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.
And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a goddamn warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their…. .
”Roger,” Elaine says aloud.
”What?” asks Roger, startled.
”Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. ”Maybe I should never have . .Oh God, I feel so…..” (She breaks down, sobbing.)
”What?” says Roger.
”I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs.
”I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”
”There’s no horse?” says Roger.
”You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Elaine says.
”No!” says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.
”It’s just that . . . It’s that I . . . I need some time,” Elaine says.
(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)
”Yes,” he says.
(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)
”Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?” she says.
”What way?” says Roger.
”That way about time,” says Elaine.
”Oh,” says Roger. ”Yes.”
(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)
”Thank you, Roger,” she says.
”Thank you,” says Roger.
Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of.
A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures. it’s better if he doesn’t think about it. (This is also Roger’s policyregarding world hunger.)
The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.
Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: ”Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?’
I like relativity and quantum theories
Because I don’t understand them
And they make me feel as if space shifted
About like a swan that can’t settle
Refusing to sit still and be measured
And as if the atom were an impulsive thing
Always changing its mind.
The blazing evidence of immortality is our dissatisfaction with any other solution.
Asking “who ought to be the boss” is like asking “who ought to be the tenor in the quartet?” Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.
The cosmos is about the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in.
“That is another of your odd notions,” said the Prefect, who had a fashion of calling everything “odd” that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived amid an absolute legion of “oddities”.
200th anniversary of Poe’s birth
After an access cover has been secured by 16 hold-down screws, it will be discovered that the gasket has been omitted.
If the prophet Job were to walk into the room at this moment, I could sit swapping hard-luck stories with him till bedtime.
You know your lover by looking into their eyes and heart. You know your friends by reading, arguing, praying, playing, speaking, etc. with them.
Call alligator long-mouth
call alligator saw-mouth
call alligator pushy-mouth
call alligator scissors-mouth
call alligator raggedy-mouth
call alligator bumpy-bum
call alligator all dem rude word
but better wait
….. till you cross river.
I leave this rule for others when I’m dead
Be always sure you’re right – THEN GO AHEAD!
Ending his career as journalist and politician with a 5 year prison sentence for fraud, Bottomley was approached whilst stitching mailbags by a prison visitor who asked him:
to which he simply replied:
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos’ turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don’t eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I’m on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.
Turkeys just wanna play reggae
Turkeys just wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
‘I cannot wait for de chop’,
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.
I once knew a turkey called – Turkey
He said “Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?”,
I said “I am not too sure turkey
But it’s nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash’.
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey’ll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends ‘FOR LIFE’.
from The Perils of the Pushy Parents
One Christmas in the usual way
The school put on a touching play
To mark Our Lord’s nativity
Young Molly was enthralled to be
Elected by her cheering class
To play the reasr end of the ASS
‘What DO you mean?’ cried Molly’s mum.
‘They’ve made you act a donkey’s bum?
How dare they force my little lass
to imitate as ass’s ass?
We rather hoped the BBC
Would hire you as a news trainee.
And after that it’s our intent
To shove you into parliament.
Up the greasy pole – and then
Propel you into Number 10!
But as it is your school, God rot ‘em.
Potrays you as some dobbin’s bottom.
What kind of university
Wants “donkey bum” on your CV?’
Before the girl could disabuse her
Mum had found the show’s producer
And as a stork devours a frog
She seized the trembling pedagogue.
Quite what she whispered in his ear
I cannot say and yet I fear
It must have been extremely scary
He sacked the pupil playing Mary
And handing her a donkey’s tail
He hushed her unbelieving wail:
‘Can it kiddo, you’re a gonner.
We’re casting Molly as Madonna!’
Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.
I am at heart a propagandist, a tremendous hater, a tiresome nag, complacently positive that there is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.
The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.
What One Approves, Another Scorns
What one approves,
his nature each discloses.
You find the rosebush
full of thorns,
I find the
thornbush full of roses.
We think in generalities, but we live in detail.
My obsession with computers (what an infancy they’re in, and how it charms) is a kind of nostalgia for the future. I long to be-half man half-desk.
The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usually a poor judge of distance.
Here is dust remembers it was a rose
one time and lay in a woman’s hair.
Here is dust remembers it was a woman
one time and in her hair lay a rose.
Oh things one time dust, what else now is it
you dream and remember of old days?
on being asked in a restaurant if there was anything he would like the orchestra to play…
The time not to become a father is eighteen years before a war.
Down the Stream the Swans All Glide
Down the stream the swans all glide;
It’s quite the cheapest way to ride.
Their legs get wet,
Their tummies wetter:
I think after all
The bus is better.
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
Odes, Book 3, Verse 29: Happy the Man
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
On Winston Churchill
He has devoted the best years of his life to preparing his impromptu speeches.
The Flute Tutor
A tooter who tooted a flute
tried to tutor two tooters to toot.
Said the two to the tooter,
“Is it harder to toot, or
to tutor two tooters to toot?”
…poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,
under unbearable duress and only with the hope
that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.
To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.
May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this
Every man is wise when attacked by a mad dog; fewer when pursued by a mad woman; only the wisest survive when attacked by a mad notion.
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
A gentleman’s agreement is an agreement which is not an agreement, made between two people neither of whom are gentlemen, whereby each expects the other to be strictly bound without himself being bound at all.
They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn
Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad;
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad.
Eliminate absolutely, positively all extraneous words
A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.
To be positive: To be mistaken at the top of one’s voice.
his stock reply to angry letters:
You may be right.
H L Mencken
I loathe the expression “What makes him tick.” It is the American mind, looking for simple and singular solution, that uses the foolish expression. A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm.
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.
Nietzsche is pietzche
But Sartre is smartre.
To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it; to go through intrigue spotless; to forego even ambition when the end is gained – who can say this is not greatness?
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work-
I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work.
The secret to winning is very simple: do everything reasonably well and make no mistakes.
They said that it could not be done:
With a laugh he went right to it.
He tackled the thing that couldn’t be done –
And couldn’t do it.