Tag Archives: wit

selections from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

‘I think,’ said Anna, toying with the glove she had taken off, ‘I think . . . if there are as many minds as there are men, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.’ Continue reading

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selections from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

“It’s only possible to betray where loyalty is due,” said Sandy. Continue reading

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selections from Oedipus the King and Antigone by Sophocles

sure, i’ve read them before, but this one has a different translator (Peter D. Arnott), so here are some of my favorite selections.

OEDIPUS THE KING

For city walls without their men are nothing,
Or empty ships, when once the crew has gone. (56-7)

Words will not scare a man when actions do not. (286)

My strength is in my truth. (345)

I am what I am. (425)

It takes men and money to make a revolution. (523)

I prefer not to talk about things I do not know. (550)

For time alone can tell an honest man
While one day is enough to show a villain. (595-6)

Hasty thoughts are dangerous. (598)

OEDIPUS: “Kings must still be obeyed.”
CREON: “Kings, but not tyrants.” (608-9)

And man turns his face away from heaven. (876)

When a man is old his life hangs by a thread. (927)

What has a man to fear, when life is ruled
By chance, and the future is unknowable?
The best way is to take life as it comes. (943-5)

Oh, oh, then everything has come out true.
Light, I shall not look on you again.
I have been born when I should not be born,
I have married where I should not marry,
I have killed whom I should not kill; now all is clear. (1144-8)

Time sees all. (1174)

Tears, ruin, death, disgrace, as many ills
As there are names for them; not one is lacking. (1243-4)

Oedipus is no more. (1301)

Nothing can kill me now. (1409)

There must be moderation in all things. (1468)

When I do not know, I do not speak. (1473)

That is why we wait until we see the final day,
Not calling anybody happy who is mortal
Until he has passed the last milestone without calamity. (1481-3)

ANTIGONE

Anything is better than to die a coward! (99)

Nor have I time for anyone who puts
His popularity before his country. (176-7)

The state keeps us afloat. (183)

CHORUS: No man is fool enough to ask for death.
CREON: That is what you would get. But hope of gain
Has often led men on to their destruction. (214-6)

Of all the institutions of mankind
The greatest curse is money. It destroys
Our cities, it takes men away from home,
Corrupts men’s honest minds, and teaches them
To enter on disreputable courses.
It shows them how to lead immortal lives
And flout the gods in everything they do. (290-6)

It’s in the hands of fortune now. (323)

The world is full of wonderful things
But none more so than man,
This prodigy who sails before the storm-winds,
Cutting a path across the sea’s gray face
Beneath the towering menace of the waves.
And Earth, the oldest, the primeval god,
Immortal, inexhaustible Earth,
She too has felt the weight of his hand
As year after year the mules are harnessed
And plows go back and forwards in the fields.

Merry birds and forest beasts,
Fish that swim in the deep waters,
Are gathered into the woven nets
Of man the crafty hunter.
He conquers with his arts
The beasts that roam in the wild hill-country,
He tames the horses with their shaggy manes
Throwing a harness around their necks,
And the tireless mountain bull.

Speech he has made his own, and thought
That travels swift as the wind,
And how to live in harmony with others
In cities, and how to shelter himself
From the piercing frost, cold rain, when the open
Fields can offer but a poor night’s lodging.
He is ever-resourceful; nothing that comes
Will find him unready, save Death alone.
Then he will call for help and call in vain,
Though often, when cure was despaired of, he has found one.

The wit of man surpasses belief,
It works for good and evil too;
When he honors his country’s laws, and the right
He is pledged to uphold, then city
Hold up your head; but the man
Who yields to temptation and brings evil home
Is a man without a city; he has
No place in the circle of my hearth,
Nor any part in my counsels. (327-64)

Nothing makes you happier than to get yourself
Out of trouble; but it’s quite another thing
To get friends into it. But there’s nothing
I wouldn’t do, to keep myself from harm. (425-8)

CREON: And yet you dared to go against the law?
ANTIGONE: Why not? It was not Zeus who gave the order,
And Justice living with the dead below
Has never given men a law like this.
Nor did I think that your pronouncements were
So powerful that mere man could override
The unwritten and unfailing laws of heaven.
These live, not for today and yesterday
But for all time; they came, no man knows whence.
There is no man’s resolve I fear enough
To answer to the gods for breaking these.
I knew that I must die–how could I help it?
Even without your edict; but if I die
Before my time is up, I count it gain.
For when a person lives as I do, in the midst
Of evils, what can death be but gain?
And so for me to happen on this fate
Is grief not worth a thought; but if I had left
My mother’s son to lie a homeless corpse,
Then had I grieved. I do not grieve for this.
If what I do seems foolish in your sight
It may be that a fool condemns my folly. (437-58)

In his wisdom, someone coined the famous saying
That when a god leads a man’s mind on
To destruction, sooner or later he comes
To believe that evil is good, good evil,
And then his days of happiness are numbered. (607-11)

Two heads are sometimes better than one. (670)

So wear an open mind; do not suppose
That you are right, and everyone else is wrong.
A man who thinks he has monopoly
Of wisdom, no rival in speech or intellect,
Will turn out hollow when you look inside him.
However wise he is, it is no disgrace
To learn, and give way gracefully.
You see how trees that bend to winter floods
Preserve themselves, save every twig unbroken,
But those that stand rigid perish root and branch,
And also how the man who keeps his sails
Stretched taut, and never slackens them, overturns
And finishes his voyage upside down.
Let your anger rest; allow us to persuade you.
If a young man may be permitted his opinion
I should say it would be best for everyone
To be born omniscient; but otherwise–
And things have a habit of falling out differently–
It is also good to learn from good advice. (688-706)

There is no state, when one man is its master. (720)

Love, whom we fight but never conquer,
Love, the ravager of proud possessions
Who keep eternal vigilance
In the softness of a young girl’s cheek,
You go wherever the wide seas go
And among the cottages of country-dwellers.
None of the immortal gods can escape you,
Nor man, whose life is as a single day,
And, to whoever takes you in, comes madness.

The minds of honest men you lead
Out of the paths of virtue to destruction.
Father is at odds with son
And it is you who set this quarrel in their hearts.
One glance from the eyes of a ready bride
Bright with desire, and a man is enslaved.
On the throne of the eternal laws
Love has a place, for there the goddess Aphrodite
Decides men’s fates, and there is no withstanding her. (764-81)

To err is human,
But when we err, then happy is the man
Who is not stubborn, and has sense enough
To remedy the fault he has committed. (974-7)

No human being can defile the gods. (994)

Truth is always best. (1230)

I am crushed beneath my fate. (1268)

To be happy it is first of all necessary
To be wise, and always remember
To give the gods their due.
The measure of a proud man’s boasting
Shall be the measure of his punishment
And teach him late in life
The nature of true wisdom. (1269-75) Continue reading

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pizza pizza

“so you going to work?” asked the cabbie. it was the first word to be spoken, and we were already halfway to my destination.

“thinking about it,” i replied a couple seconds later. the day before, our CEO had said we could take friday morning off so that we would really indulge in our thursday night holiday party. indulge, i did.

“where do you work?”

“a startup.”

he laughed… “like everyone in this city.”

“yeah. you either work at a tech startup, an ad agency, or you’re an artist.”

“right.”

couple moments of silence, i didn’t even realize that bermuda is the perfect amalgamation of those three professions i had just listed. me, the tech marketer. Chris, the ad producer. and Alex, the artist… or something.

“what does your startup do?”

“oh, you’re going to love this. we do social media.”

he laughed even harder the first time, but i wasn’t done yet. i’d been through this before, you know.

“yeah, it gets better. i work on the marketing team doing social media. so, basically, i do social media for the company that helps other companies do social media.”

he laughed his hardest at the tech fuckfest sitting in his backseat. good times.

i love when the thing is the thing. like when the couplet about true wit is itself witty:

True Wit is Nature to advantage dress’d
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d

or when the saying is short enough to be so:

Brevity is the soul of wit.

i love when music is about music. Continue reading

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favorites from the Devil’s Dictionary

DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.

RONALD, adj. The qualia suiting deeply aesthetic personal resonance; attitude that serves as an immediate cofactor in progression toward existential bliss, a result of ballerhood.

“I was being all RONALD last night and then BAM, it hit me, I …AM the ape man.” Continue reading

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La Voz [archive]

can you tell i have too much time on my hands?

What the Bullet Sang — Bret Harte

O joy of creation
To be!
O rapture to fly
And be free!
Be the battle lost or won,
Though its smoke shall hide the sun,
I shall find my love–The one
Born for me!

I shall know him where he stands,
All alone,
With the power in his hands
Not o’erthrown;
I shall know him by his face,
By his god-like front and grace;
I shall hold him for a space,
All my own!

It is he–O my love!
So bold!
It is I–All thy love
Foretold!
It is I. O love what bliss!
Dost thou answer to my kiss?
Oh! sweetheart, what is this!
Lieth there so cold!

The Poet — Yone Noguchi

Out of the deep and the dark,
A sparkling mystery, a shape,
Something perfect,
Comes like the stir of the day:
One whose breath is an odor,
Whose eyes show the road to stars,
The breeze in his face,
The glory of heaven on his back.
He steps like a vision hung in air,
Diffusing the passion of eternity;
His abode is the sunlight of morn,
The music of eve his speech:
In his sight,
One shall turn from the dust of the grave,
And move upward to the woodland.

I Have Cast the World — Yone Noguchi

I have cast the world,
and think me as nothing.
Yet I feel cold on snow-falling day,
And happy on flower day.

A Rational Anthem — Ambrose Bierce

My country, ’tis of thee
Sweet land of felony,
Of thee I sing–
Land where my fathers fried
Young witches and applied
Whips to the Quaker’s hide
And made him spring.

My knavish country, thee,
Land where the thief is free,
Thy laws I love;
I love thy thieving bills
That tap the people’s tills;
I love thy mob whose will’s
All laws above.

Let Federal employees
And rings rob all they please,
The whole year long.
Let office-holders make
Their piles and judges rake
Our coin. For Jesus’ sake,
Let’s all go wrong! Continue reading

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