Saturday 20 June 2020

Quotations, stolen from Toma

I express my thanks to Toma, who comments regularly on my blog and who collected these and posted then on his.

The first quotation expresses what I feel British foreign policy should be.
We can regard the troubles of others with sympathy and patience. We hold out the hand of friendship and peace to every nation in Europe. But the affairs of Europe are not our concern. Every time we have involved ourselves in these affairs, it has brought us great burdens and great loss. We have prospered when we have kept clear of European politics.

Our one duty is to mind our own business. We should set an example of ordered freedom and sensible economics. These things are well within the genius of the British people, even if our Government finds them a bit difficult. For this, too, is one of the lessons of history: the British people are always a good deal wiser and more sensible than those who govern them.

A.J.P. Taylor

After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. 
Alexis de Tocqueville

“The way earlier societies seem obviously absurd and cruel gives a kind of horror at the forces that must be at work in our own, but suggests that any society must have dramatically satisfying and dangerous conventions; and people can put up with almost any political conditions, either because they are lazy or because they are ambitious.” 
William Empson

"A man who does not think for himself does not think at all. It is grossly selfish to require of one's neighbor that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.”

Oscar Wilde

The end of all method is to seem to have no method.

The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting

The necessity of setting the world at a distance from us, when we are to take a survey of ourselves, has sent many from high stations to the severities of a monastic life; and, indeed, every man deeply engaged in business, if all regard to another state be not extinguished, must have the conviction, though perhaps, not the resolution of Valdesso, who, when he solicited Charles the Fifth to dismiss him, being asked, whether he retired upon disgust, answered that he laid down his commission for no other reason but because there ought to be some time for sober reflection between the life of a soldier and his death.

Samuel Johnson

For to look at the man is but to court deception. We shall see the trunk from which he draws his nourishment; but he himself is above and abroad in the green dome of foliage, hummed through by winds and nested in by nightingales. And the true realism were that of the poets, to climb after him like a squirrel, and catch some glimpse of the heaven in which he lives. And the true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets: to find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. 
Robert Louis Stevenson

The Embankment

(The fantasia of a fallen gentleman on a cold, bitter night.)

Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy,
In the flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.
Now see I
That warmth’s the very stuff of poesy.
Oh, God, make small
The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.

T. E. Hulme

Ma jeunesse ne fut qu’un ténébreux orage,Traversé ça et là par de brillants soleils ;Le tonnerre et la pluie ont fait un tel ravage,Qu’il reste en mon jardin bien peu de fruits vermeils.
Voilà que j’ai touché l’automne des idées,Et qu’il faut employer la pelle et les râteauxPour rassembler à neuf les terres inondées,Où l’eau creuse des trous grands comme des tombeaux.
Et qui sait si les fleurs nouvelles que je rêveTrouveront dans ce sol lavé comme une grèveLe mystique aliment qui ferait leur vigueur ?
—Ô douleur ! ô douleur ! Le Temps mange la vie,Et l’obscur Ennemi qui nous ronge le cœurDu sang que nous perdons croît et se fortifie !

The Enemy

My youth was just rainstorms and shadows, shotThrough here and there by sunlight’s dazzling rays;Thunder and rain have so laid waste the plot,My garden boasts few ruddy fruits these days.

Now I’ve come to the autumn of the mind,And must work with the rake and spade to saveThe ruined muck those showers left behind,Where water digs troughs deep as any grave.

Who knows if the new flowers dreams impartWill find in this soil, washed like the seashore’s length,The mystic nutrient that brings them strength?

O Sorrow! Sorrow! Time devours our lives.And the secret Enemy who gnaws our heartGrows stronger on the blood we lose, and thrives!

Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Ryan Wilson

1 comment:

  1. ‘Thou greatest of men, I cannot express how happy you make me.’