Monday, April 15, 2024

Herman Melville Best 100 Quotes

Share

1.“With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship”

2.I am, as I am; whether hideous, or handsome, depends upon who is made judge.

3.“I would prefer not to.”

4.It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.

5.For though consciences are as unlike as foreheads, every intelligence, not including the Scriptural devils who “believe and tremble” has one.

6.“But if I know not even the tail of this whale, how understand his head? much more, how comprehend this face, when face he has none? Thou shalt see my back parts, my tail, he seems to say, but my face shall not be seen. But I cannot completely make out his back parts; and hint what he will about his face, I say again he has no face.”

7.It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.

8.“It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation. He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great. Failure is the true test of greatness.”

9.He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.

10.Book! You lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places. You’ll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts.

11.“as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastedly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul.”

12.All experience teaches that, whenever there is a great national establishment, employing large numbers of officials, the public must be reconciled to support many incompetent men; for such is the favoritism and nepotism always prevailing in the purlieus of these establishments, that some incompetent persons are always admitted, to the exclusion of many of the worthy.

13.“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”

14.I am, as I am; whether hideous, or handsome, depends upon who is made judge.

15.I will frankly confess that after passing a few weeks in the valley of the Marquesas, I formed a higher estimate of human nature than I had ever before entertained. But, alas, since then I have been one of the crew of a man-of- war, and the pent-up wickedness of five hundred men has nearly overturned all my previous theories.

16.“What could be more full of meaning?—for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favourable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”

17.Meditation and water are wedded for ever.

18.“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

19.It is not down in any map; true places never are.

20.We are not a nation, so much as a world; for unless we claim all the world for our sire, like Melchisedec, we are without father or mother.

21.“Some certain significance lurk in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the Milky Way.”

22.It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation. He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great. Failure is the true test of greatness.

23.“To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee; For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.”

24.To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.

25.So long as a man-of-war exists, it must ever remain a picture of much that is tyrannical and repelling in human nature.

26.“But by her still halting course and winding, woeful way, you plainly saw that this ship that so wept with spray, still remained without comfort. She was Rachel, weeping for her children, because they were not.”

27.We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.

28.“Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.”

29.Poor fish of Rodondo! in your victimized confidence, you are of the number of those who inconsiderately trust, while they do not understand, human nature.

30.Where do murderers go, man! Who’s to doom, when the judge himself is dragged to the bar?

31.“Wild rumours abound, wherever there is any adequate reality for them to cling to.”

32.A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.

33.“For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life.”

34.At sea a fellow comes out. Salt water is like wine, in that respect.

35.We talk of the Turks, and abhor the cannibals; but may not some of them, go to heaven, before some of us?

36.“…truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast.”

37.To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.

38.“Until we understand that our grief outweighs a thousand joys, we will never understand what Christianity is all about.”

39.Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges.

40.Let us pray that the great historic tragedy of our time may not have been enacted without instructing our whole beloved country through terror and pity; and may fulfillment verify in the end those expectations which kindle the bards of Progress and Humanity.

41.Some dying men are the most tyrannical; and certainly, since they will shortly trouble us so little for evermore, the poor fellows ought to be indulged.

42.“Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia’s Dismal Swamp, nor Rome’s accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the million miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true — not true, or undeveloped.”

43.for there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men

44.“Failure is the true test of greatness.”

45.Yet habit – strange thing! what cannot habit accomplish?

46.Evil is the chronic malady of the universe, and checked in one place, breaks forth in another.

47.“Man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes.”

48.A book in a man’s brain is better off than a book bound in calf – at any rate it is safer from criticism.

49.“Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.”

50.Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has to do with aught that looks like death.

51.Father Mapple paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit’s bows, folded his large brown hands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered a prayer so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea.

52.“Oh! my friends, but this is man-killing! Yet this is life.”

53.Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.

54.“There’s magic in the water that draws all men away form the land, that leads them over hills, down creeks and streams and rivers to the sea.”

55.There is a touch of divinity even in brutes, and a special halo about a horse, that should forever exempt him from indignities.

56.Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship’s decks, like hungry dogs round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down every killed man that is tossed to them.

57.“Midwifery should be taught in the same course with fencing and boxing, riding and rowing.”

58.Hope is the struggle of the soul, breaking loose from what is perishable, and attesting her eternity.

59.“Friendship at first sight, like love at first sight, is said to be the only truth.”

60.There are some persons in this world, who, unable to give better proof of being wise, take a strange delight in showing what they think they have sagaciously read in mankind by uncharitable suspicions of them.

61.God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates.

62.“So fare thee well, poor devil of a Sub-Sub, whose commentator I am. Thou belongest to that hopeless, sallow tribe which no wine of this world will ever warm; and for whom even Pale Sherry would be too rosy-strong; but with whom one sometimes loves to sit, and feel poor-devilish, too; and grow convivial upon tears; and say to them bluntly, with full eyes and empty glasses, and in not altogether unpleasant sadness—Give it up, Sub-Subs! For by how much the more pains ye take to please the world, by so much the more shall ye for ever go thankless!”

63.Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.

64.“Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; it is but the first salutation to the possibilities of the immense Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored.”

65.The march of conquest through wild provinces, may be the march of Mind; but not the march of Love.

66.If I had been downright honest with myself, I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.

67.“am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it—would they let me—since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in. By”

68.You cannot spill a drop of American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world…. We are not a nation, so much as a world.

69.They talk of the dignity of work. The dignity is in leisure.

70.There is all of the difference in the world between paying and being paid.

71.I feel that the Godhead is broken up like the bread at the Supper, and that we are the pieces. Hence this infinite fraternity of feeling.

72.“In fact, tell him I’ve diddled him, and perhaps somebody else.”

73.They talk of the dignity of work. The dignity is in leisure.

74.“We should, if possible, prove a teacher to posterity, instead of being the pupil of by-gone generations. More shall come after us than have gone before; the world is not yet middle-aged.”

75.There is sorrow in the world, but goodness too; and goodness that is not greenness, either, no more than sorrow is.

76.Let America first praise mediocrity even, in her children, before she praises… the best excellence in the children of any other land.

77.“I myself am a savage, owning no allegiance but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready at any moment to rebel against him.”

78.For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life.

79.“I try all things, I achieve what I can.”

80.A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.

81.“Yet habit—strange thing! what cannot habit accomplish?—Gayer”

82.A smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities.

83.“I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

84.Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.

85.“Best, therefore, withhold any amazement at the strangely gallied whales before us, for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”

86.The most mighty of nature’s laws is this, that out of Death she brings Life.

87.“Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more?”

88.He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.

89.“With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

90.Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Me thinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.

91.“Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

92.Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

93.“Born in throes, ‘t is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be it, then!”

94.You know nothing till you know all; which is the reason we never know any thing.

95.“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

96.In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.

97.“Heaven have mercy on us all—Presbyterians and Pagans alike— for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”

98.At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a sharp, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into night, we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor.

99.“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.”

100.“Thus, gentlemen, though an inlander, Steelkilt was wild-ocean born, and wild-ocean nurtured; as much of an audacious mariner as any.”

Read more

Local News