Stuff and Nonsense: quotes

Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts


Autumn & the Geese are Calling

For years Granny Weatherwax had been contented enough with the challenge that village witchcraft could offer. And then she’d been forced to go travelling, and she’d seen a bit of the world, and it had made her itchy -- especially at this time of the year, when the geese were flying overhead and the first frost had mugged innocent leaves in the deeper valleys.

She looked around the kitchen. It needed sweeping. The washing-up needed doing. The walls had grown grubby. There seemed to be so much to do that she couldn’t bring herself to do any of it.

There was a honking far above, and a ragged V of geese sped over the clearing. They were heading for warmer weather in places Granny Weatherwax had only heard about.

It was tempting.
Excerpt from Maskerade by Terry Pratchett


Happy Birthday, Anna Sewell

I said, "I have heard people talk about war as if it was a very fine thing."
"Ah!" said he, "I should think they never saw it. No doubt it is very fine when there is no enemy, when it is just exercise and parade and sham fight. Yes, it is very fine then; but when thousands of good brave men and horses are killed or crippled for life, it has a very different look."
"Do you know what they fought about?" said I.
"No," he said, "that is more than a horse can understand, but the enemy must have been awfully wicked people, if it was right to go all that way over the sea on purpose to kill them."


There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham - all a sham, James, and it won't stand when things come to be turned inside out and put down for what they are. 
― Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

It's hard to believe, but there was a time when I could quote passages from Black Beauty. Indeed, I was so fond of some passages I wrote them down in purple ink in my special not-to-be-shared-with-anyone quotations book! (I wish I'd kept that book, but I tossed it in high school ... deciding it was both embarrassing and "not grown up").

I'd never been a horsey girl, but I picked up a copy of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty during an elementary school book fair -- I presume I liked the cover? Or maybe it was discounted with my copy of The Swiss Family Robinson? Regardless, I started reading Black Beauty on the way home from school ... and then I read it everywhere. Including, much to my mother's disapproval, the bathtub.

So happy birthday, Anna Sewell. You rocked my eleven-year-old world.


Oh, to be in England now that September's there

What a wondrous place this was -- crazy as fuck, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec and Farleigh Wallop, or a game like cricket that goes on for three days and never seems to start? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? ('Please Hardy, full on the lips, with just a bit of tongue.') What other nation in the world could possibly have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardners' Question Time and the chocolate digestive biscuit? None, of course.

All of this came to me in the space of a lingering moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like it here. I like it more than I can tell you.

— Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island)

Yes, I’m in England. Finally.


The Squirrel-Cage by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

"Don't you remember what Emerson says -- Melton's always quoting it -- 'Most of our expense is for conformity to men's ideas? It's for cake that the average man runs debt.' He must have everything that anyone else has, whether he wants it or not. A house ever so much bigger finer than he needs, with ever so many more things it than belong there. He must keep his wife idle and card-playing because other men's wives are. He must have his children do what everyone else's children do, whether it's bad for their characters or not. Ah! the children! That's the worst of it all! To bring them up so that these complications will be essentials of life to them! To teach them that health and peace of mind are not too high a price for a woman to pay for what is called social distinction, and that a man must -- if he can get it in no other way -- pay his self respect and the life of his individuality for what is called success --"

He broke off to say gloomily: "The devil of it is that we don't decide anything. We just slide along thinking of something else. If people would only give, just once in their lives, the same amount of serious reflection to what they want to get out of life that they give to the question of what they want to get out of a two weeks' vacation, there aren't many folks -- yes, even here in Endbury that seems so harmless to you because it's so familiar -- who wouldn't be horrified at the aimless procession of their busy days and the trivial false standards they subscribe to with their blood and sweat."

From The Squirrel-Cage by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
I've slowly been reading my way through Dorothy Canfield Fisher's novels this winter. A committed educational reformer and social activist, Canfield Fisher wrote with a deep, clear morality I find very appealing. Indeed, I find her novels to be so beautifully crafted and thought-provoking that I cannot believe they are not more widely read!

If you're interested in reading her novels, the young adult novel Understood Betsy is an excellent place to start. I also strongly recommend the coming-of-age novel The Bent Twig. While it's quite a lot longer and deals with darker topics, there's no doubting Betsy and Sylvia are sisters of a kind.


Swooning Over Persuasion: "You pierce my soul."

I finished re-reading Jane Austen's Persuasion yesterday and, even though I've read the novel three times now, Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne still makes me feel a bit swoony!

If you don't remember the scene (how could you not?) Anne and Captain Harville have been at the window embrasure, discussing the constancy of love, while Captain Wentworth is seated some little distance behind them, ostensibly writing a letter on behalf of Captain Harville. When the men prepare to leave, Captain Wentworth seems quite eager to be gone, but then suddenly pops back to collect his "forgotten" gloves and present Anne with ...

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
F. W.
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never.

Who could resist such a letter?


Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther

We watched Mrs Miniver last night and I liked it so much I ended up tracking down an e-text of the "real" Mrs. Miniver -- before it was an award-winning movie, it was a very popular book, and before it was a book, it was column written by Jan Struther's for The Times.

I am enjoying Mrs. Miniver immensely so far -- Struther's descriptions of even the most mundane things read like poetry and Mrs. Miniver's zest for life is so appealing and sympathetic one cannot help fall in love with her a little. I fancy she would be a kindred spirit to Mrs. Dalloway and Mrs. Dr. Dear.

Some passages I've particularly enjoyed:

It was a Wedgwood day, with white clouds delicately modelled in relief against a sky of pale pure blue. The best of England, thought Mrs. Miniver, as opposed to countries with reasonable climates, is that it is not only once a year that you can say, "This is the first day of spring."
She went back into the house. It had already begun to acquire that out-at-grass, off-duty look which houses get as soon as their owners go away; it was quite obviously preparing to take off its stays and slip into something loose.
At such times, she knew, you must just put on spiritual dungarees and remain in them until things are running smoothly again. Every morning you awake to the kind of list which begins: -- Sink-plug. Ruffle-tape. X-hooks. Glue . . . and ends: -- Ring plumber. Get sweep. Curse laundry. Your horizon contracts, your mind's eye is focused upon a small circle of exasperating detail. Sterility sets in; the hatches of your mind are battened down. Your thoughts, once darling companions, turn into club bores, from which only sleep can bring release. When you are in this state, to be kept waiting for half an hour in somebody else's house is nothing but the purest joy. At home the footstool limps, legless, thirsting for its glue; the curtain material lies virginally unruffled; the laundry, unconscious of your displeasure, dozes peacefully at Acton: while you yourself are free. Yet you have not played truant: truancy has been thrust upon you, thanks to the fact that elderly professors so obligingly live up to their reputation for absent-mindedness.

Next, I should like to read Joyce Dennys's Henrietta's War, a funny little epistolary novel set in rural WWII Devonshire.  Alas, Bloomsbury isn't releasing it in the United States for a few more weeks so I imagine it will be a little while before I find a copy in a local library.

Oh, well, there's always Mrs. Dalloway ...


"I am a draper mad with love."

"I am a draper mad with love. I love you more than all the flannelette and calico, candlewick, dimity, crash and merino, tussore, cretonne, crepon, muslin poplin, ticking and twill in the whole Cloth Hall of the world. I have come to take you away to my Emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires. Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast."

(I was researching some types of cloth mentioned in the later Betsy-Tacey books when I found this quotation from Dylan Thomas's Under Milkwood ... of course, I saved it up for Valentine's Day!)


"This is what you shall do ..."

When The Husband placed our Christmas card order with Blue Barn House, I casually mentioned that I really liked the Whitman Broadside. I never thought he would add a copy to our order -- and yet there it sits on a chair in our dining room, waiting for the day I frame it and hang it on a wall. It's a beautiful quotation beautifully rendered and looking at it makes me so happy.

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem ...

Punctuation for the above quote taken from my Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass: The First (1855) Edition (Penguin, 2005) with it's sexy French flaps and excellent introduction by Harold Bloom. Punctuation in other editions (and on the broadside) varies.


"We are led to Believe a Lie ..."

Saturday night, we were kvetching our way through Neverwas when the Gabriel Finch character started spouting gibberish which sounded really familiar to me. And well it should, as it was an excerpt from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence:

A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.

ENGL 211 ftw!

Oh, and Neverwas? Fail.


That Anne-Girl!

I've been listening to Anne of Green Gables on a Playaway while I do the treadmill thing. I've not been listening to it very long -- Matthew is just fetching Anne home from the Bright River station. I'm plodding along, only half listening while Anne chatters away, when I am struck by this passage:

Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive-- it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?

Right there, that's the whole reason for living. Certainly, it was a good reason for becoming a librarian.