Quotes

Ideas that burst on you at three o’clock in the morning, looking as if they will change your life, have a despicable habit of losing their luster in daylight. But very occasionally – once or twice in a lifetime – they fulfill their promise, right to the end.
– Colin Fletcher
The Thousand-Mile Summer

I know I am solid and sound.
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
– Walt Whitman
“Song of Myself”
Leaves of Grass

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.
– Louis Brandeis
Quoted in Labor, Oct. 14, 1941

The most vicious fantasy of all is the endlessly publicized notion that the net profit of the coal companies somehow represents the net profit of the whole society.
– Wendell Berry
A Continuous Harmony

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters.
This struggle may be a moral one; it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical. But it must be a struggle.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong, which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.
– Frederick Douglass
August 4, 1857

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.
– Maggie Kuhn

Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.
– Satchel Paige

It is my fear that if we allow the freedom of the hills and the last of the wilderness to be taken from us, then the very idea of freedom may die with it.
– Edward Abbey
Down the River, “Thus I Reply to Rene Dubos”

Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hands made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord.
– Isaiah 66:1-2

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars…
– Walt Whitman
“Song of Myself”
Leaves of Grass

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.
– Henry David Thoreau
Walden, “The Pond in Winter”

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired so long as we can see far enough.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Nature”

We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
– Wallace Stegner
The Sound of Mountain Water, “Coda: Wilderness Letter”

The great centralized economic entities of our time do not come into rural places in order to improve them by “creating jobs.” They come to take as much of value as they can take, as cheaply and as quickly as they can take it.
– Wendell Berry
Another Turn of the Crank

Advice to a Prophet

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all words of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us? —
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the wordless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak tree close.
– Richard Wilbur
“Advice to a Prophet” 1961, 1963

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
– Will Rogers

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.
– Proverbs 4:7

I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.
– Annie Dillard
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, “Seeing”

Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.
– Wendell Berry
Citizenship Papers

Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.
– Henry David Thoreau
“On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”

Be of good cheer. All may yet be well. There’s many a fork, I think, in the road from here to destruction.
– Edward Abbey
Down the River, “Floating”

A song of the rolling earth, and of words according,
Were you thinking those were the words, those upright lines, those curves, angles, dots?
No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the ground and sea,
They are in the air, they are in you.
– Walt Whitman
“A Song of the Rolling Earth”
Leaves of Grass