Five favourites: quotes or sayings

What constitutes a quote? Something short, snappy and meaningful? Or can it be long and eloquent — such as the soliloquy from Hamlet I recited at every ancient ampitheatre I came across when travelling in Greece, France and Italy?

Or maybe a quote from a favourite book — or a quote that inspired a favourite book?

So many to choose from! I collect quotes, write them down frequently, which only makes this harder. Here are five that have meaning for me:

1. From Hamlet Act 2, Scene ii

I have of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

(This is what I recited in all the ampitheatres all those years ago. I typed it out and stuck it into my travel diary, then later memorised it. It resonates with me mainly because of the scene at the end of the movie, Withnail & I . . . Richard E Grant with his soggy trench coat and dilapidated umbrella . . .)

2. From A man rides through, by Stephen Donaldson (chapter 32: The benefit of sons)

The metal of Geraden’s character had been tempered by bitterness, polished by dismay.

(From one of my all-time favourite fantasy series, this quote appeals because of the imagery and its appropriateness to my chosen field of study (which was the metallurgy of steels) . . . OMG I want to read it again now!)

3. From the Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce

Congratulation: The civility of envy.

(I had to have one from the Devil’s Dictionary here, but they’re all brilliant!)

4. Chinese proverb

A bit of perfume always clings to the hand that gives the rose.

5. Carl Jung (1875-1961)

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

(This one appeals to me for many reasons as a writer.)

So there you have it. Five very different quotes or sayings that resonate with me. What’s your favourite quote or saying? Why?

12 thoughts on “Five favourites: quotes or sayings

  1. Great quotes, Ellen! I have collected quotes since high school, when I started scribbling them into notebooks.

    One of my favorites…

    “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.” — Charles Dickens.


  2. Love these quotes, Ellen. What I so adore about a memorable quote, is the very thing that makes it memorable–great wisdom or intriguing thought packed into a handful of words. Just as Laird mentioned, I write them down when I find one I especially love. The most recent is old and familiar, but so very wonderful and wise:

    “Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.”


    1. I find it really difficult to memorise them. One of my favourite authors (from the 60s) is Mary Stewart and her characters mouth relevant quotes with regularity. I always wish I could do that!


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