Favorite quotations.

“The lack of personality always takes its revenge: a weakened, thin, extinguished personality, one that denies itself and its own existence, is no longer good for anything good- least of all for philosophy.  ‘Selflessness’ has no value in heaven or on earth; all great problems demand great love, and only strong, round, secure minds who have a firm grip on themselves are capable of that.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

“What men call love is a very small, restricted, feeble thing compared with this ineffable orgy, this divine prostitution of the soul giving itself entire, all its poetry and all its charity, to the unexpected as it comes along, to the stranger as he passes”

Charles Baudelaire, Crowds

“..but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself.”

“Clarissa once, going on top of an omnibus with him somewhere, Clarissa superficially at least, so easily moved, now in despair, now in the best of spirits, all aquiver in those days and such good company, spotting queer little scenes, names, people from the top of a bus, for they used to explore London and bring back bags full of treasures from the Caledonian market- Clarissa had a theory in those days-they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have.  it was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known.  For how could they know each other?  You met every day; then not for six months, or years.  it was unsatisfactory, they agreed , how little one knew people.  But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not ‘here, here, here’; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere.  She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue.  She was all that.  So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places.  Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoken to, some woman in the street, some man behind a counter-even trees, or barns.  It ended in a transcendental theory which, with her horror of death, allowed her to believe, or say that she believed (for all her skepticism), that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places after death… perhaps-perhaps.”

-Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“Whatever may be their use in civilised societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action.”

-Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

 “How then did it work out, all this? How did one judge people, think of them? How did one add up this and that and conclude that it was liking one felt, or disliking? And to those words, what meaning attached, atfer all? Standing now, apparently transfixed, by the pear tree, impessions poured in upon her of those two men, and to follow her thought was like following a voice which speaks too quickly to be taken down by one’s pencil, and the voice was her own voice saying without prompting undeniable, everlasting, contradictory things, so that even the fissures and humps on the bark of the pear tree were irrevocably fixed there for eternity.”

“It could not last, she knew, but at the moment her eyes were so clear that they seemed to go round the table unveiling each of these people, and their thoughts and their feelings, without effort like a light stealing under water so that its ripples and the reeds in it and the minnows balancing themselves, and the sudden silent trout are all lit up hanging, trembling.”

-Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

“I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye.  I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove.  Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness.  At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others- poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner- young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Earth, my dearest, I will.  Oh believe me, you no longer / need your springtimes to win me over- one of them, / ah, even one, is already too much for my blood. / Unspeakably I have belonged to you, from the first. / You were always right, and your holiest inspiration / is our intimate companion, Death.
Look, I am living.  On what?  Neither childhood nor future / grows any smaller…. Superabundant being / wells up in my heart.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

“I grow old… I grow old… / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? / I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. / I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me”

-T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

“You tossed a blanket from the bed, / You lay upon your back, and waited; / You dozed, and watched the night revealing / The thousand sordid images / Of which your soul was constituted; / They flickered against the ceiling. / And when all the world came back / And the light crept up between the shutters / And you heard the sparrows in the gutters, / You had such a vision of the street / As the street hardly understands; / Sitting along the bed’s edge, where / You curled the papers from your hair, / Or clasped the yellow soles of feet / In the palms of both soiled hands.”

-T.S. Eliot, The Preludes

“America you don’t really want to go to war. / America it’s them bad Russians. / Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. / And them Russians. / The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power / mad. She wants to take our cars from out our / garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers’ / Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. / Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-/ tions.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. / Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us / all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious. / America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set. / America is this correct? I’d better get right down to the job. / It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes / in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and / psychopathic anyway. / America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Allen Ginsberg, America

“I Am Vertical
But I would rather be horizontal. / I am not a tree with my root in the soil / Sucking up minerals and motherly love / So that each March I may gleam into leaf, / Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed / Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted, / Unknowing I must soon unpetal. / Compared with me, a tree is immortal / And a flower-head not tall, but more startling, / And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.
Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars, / The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors. / I walk among them, but none of them are noticing. / Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping / I must most perfectly resemble them- / Thoughts gone dim / It is more natural to me, lying down. / Then the sky and I are in open conversation, / And I shall be useful when I lie down finally: / Then the trees may touch me for once, and the / flowers have time for me.”

Sylvia Plath, I Am Vertical

“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the groud at my feet.”

-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“With her hand, when the float was level again, she wiped away a flat, wet band of hair from her eyes, and reported, ‘I just saw one.’
‘Saw what, my love?’
‘A bananafish.’
‘My God, no!’ said the young man. ‘Did he have any bananas in his mouth?’
‘Yes,’ said Sybil. ‘Six.’
The young man suddenly picked up one of Sybil’s wet feet, which were drooping over the end of the float, and kissed the arch.”

J.D. Salinger, A Perfect Day for Bananafish

“The smells of life and richness, of death and digestion, of decay and birth, burden the air.”

-John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

“And Peter almost with tears in his eyes late one night realized that other people were also strangers to themselves, and were lonely and troubled like him, and sought each other out cheerfully and with friendship, and perhaps even sometimes felt like he had felt the first night, like confessing everything, confessing all that was so dark and lonely and crazy and fearful in the heart. And he shook his head wincing at the thought of it. He had never felt anything like that before- yet somehow he knew that from now on he would always feel like that, always, and something caught at his throat as he realized what a strange sad adventure life might get to be, strange and sad and still much more beautiful than he could ever have imagined, so much more beautiful and amazing because it was really, strangely sad.”

Jack Kerouac, The Town and The City

“I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea! / We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee; / And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky, / Has awaked in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.
A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose; / Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes, / Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew: / For I would we werer changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you!
I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore, / Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more; / Soon far from the rose and the lily, and fret of the flames would we be, / Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!”

William Butler Yeats, The White Birds

“I am stuck in traffic in a taxicab / which is typical / and not just of modern life
mud chambers up the trellis of my nerves / must lovers of Eros end up with Venus / muss es sein? es muss nicht sein, I tell you
how I hate disease, it’s like worrying / that comes true / and it simply must not be able to happen
in a world where you are possible / my love / nothing can go wrong for us, tell me”

-Frank O’Hara, Song (I’m stuck in traffic)

“oh god it’s wonderful / to get out of bed / and drink too much coffee / and smoke too many cigarettes / and love you so much”

-Frank O’Hara, Steps

“Have you forgotten what we were like then / when we were still first rate / and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
it’s no use worrying about Time / but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves / and turned some sharp corners
the whole pasture looked like our meal / we didn’t need speedometers / we could manage cocktails out of ice and water
I wouldn’t want to be faster / or greener than now if you were with me O you / were the best of all my days”

-Frank O’Hara, Animals

“I had asked her to marry me before she went away to Spain; and she laughed and I laughed but that, somehow, all the same, made it more serious for me, and I persisted; and then she said she would have to go away and think about it. And the very last night she was here, the very last time I saw her, as she was packing her bag, I told her that I had loved her once and I made myself believe it. But I wonder if I had. I was thinking, no doubt, of our nights in bed, of the peculiar innocence and confidence, which will never come again, which had made those nights so delightful, so unrelated to past, present, or anything to come, so unrelated, finally, to my life since it was not necessary for me to take any but the most mechanical responsibility for them. And these nights were being acted out under a foreign sky, with no one to watch, no penalties attached – it was this last fact which was our undoing, for nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom. I suppose this was why I asked her to marry me: to give myself something to be moored to. Perhaps this was why, in Spain, she decided that she wanted to marry me. But people can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.” 

-James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

“O sweet spontaneous / earth how often have / the / doting
fingers of prurient philosophers pinced / and / poked
thee / , has the naughty thumb / of science prodded / thy
beaty     . how / often have religions taken / thee upon their scraggy knees / squeezing and
bufferting thee that thou mightest conceive / gods / (but / true
to the imcomparable / couch of death thy / rhythmic / lover
thou answerest
them only with

-E. E. Cummings, O sweet spontaneous

“as if the earth under our feet / were / an excrement of some sky
and we degraded prisoners / destined / to hunger until we eat filth
while the imagination strains / after deer / going by fields of goldenrod in
the stifling heat of September / Somehow / it seems to destroy us
It is only in isolate flecks that / something / is given off
No one / to witness / and adjust, no one to drive the car”

-William Carlos Williams, To Elsie

“wade / through black jade. / Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps / adjusting the ash-heaps; / opening and shutting itself like
an / injured fan. / The barnacles which encrust the side / of the wave, cannot hide / there for the submerged shafts of the
sun, / split like spun / glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness / into the crevices- / in and out, illuminating
the / turquoise sea / of bodies. The water drives a wedge / of iron through the iron edge / of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
pink / rice-grains, ink- / bespattered jelly-fish, crabs like green / lilies, and submarine / toadstools, slide each on the other.
All / external / marks of abuse are present on this / defiant edifice- / all the physical features of / ac- / cident – lack / of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and / hatchet strokes, these things stand / out on it; the chasm-side is
dead / Repeated / evidence has proved that it can live / on what can not revive / its youth. The sea grows old in it.”

-Marianne Moore, The Fish

“I’ve been everywhere, but I still have a feeling I’ve missed it. I feel like I’m being laughed at, I don’t know what by, who by, it sounds silly. I think I may have missed the world, that the one I’ve seen is a decoy to get me off the scent. I feel as though I’m always on the brink of making sense of it and then I lose it again.”

“If you’re a hero you can be an idiot, behave badly, ruin your personal life, have any number of mistresses and talk about yourself all the time, and nobody minds.”

“I’ve never wanted to be an astronaut because of the helmets. If I were up there on the moon, or by the Milky Way, I’d want to feel the stars round my head. I’d want them in my hair the way they are in paintings of the gods. I’d want my whole body to feel the space, the empty space and points of light. That’s how dancers must feel, dancers, and acrobats, just for a second, that freedom.”

-Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry

“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so. / After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns, / we ourselves flash and yearn, / and moreover my mother told me as a boy / (repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored / means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no / inner resources, because I am heavy bored. / Peoples bore me, / literature bores me, especially great literature, / Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes / as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me. / And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag / and somehow a dog / has taken itself & its tail considerably away / into mountains or sea or sky, leaving / behind: me, wag.”

-John Berryman, The Dream Songs (song 14)

“As I sd to my / friend, because I am / always talking, -John, I
sd, which was not his / name, the darkness sur- / rounds us, what
can we do against / it, or else, shall we & / why not, buy a goddamn big car,
drive, he sd, for / christ’s sake, look / out where yr going.”

Robert Creeley, I Know a Man


2 Responses to “Favorite quotations.”

  1. Amy Says:

    hey alana. i love your site and your quotations page. i wonder where you go to school and if you’re a master’s student, and i wish i was a literature student, officially.

  2. Bridget Says:

    Those Room of One’s Own quotes are from To the Lighthouse, and vice versa I think. Anyway, nice selections.

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