Literary Quotations
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HOMER QUOTES


The Iliad (c. 7th century B.C.)

If you're all that strong, it's just a gift from some god.

--Book I

With them went Athena, holding her goatskin-tippet, precious, unfading, incorruptible, with a hundred dangling tassels of solid gold, neatly braided, worth each a hundred oxen. Through the host she passed, dazzling them with the vision, and filling each heart with courage to wage war implacable and unceasing. In a moment war became sweeter to them than to sail back safely to their own native land.

--Book II

One came to the war all over gold, like a girl. Poor fool! it did not save him from cruel death.

--Book II

Thick as autumnal leaves, or driving sand,
The moving squadrons blacken all the strand.

--Book II

Gods! How the son degenerates from the sire!

--Book IV

But loud clamorous cries resounded throughout the Trojan host: for they had not one speech and one language, but a confusion of tongues, since they were called from many lands. They were like a huge flock of ewes innumerable standing in a wide farmyard to be milked, which bleat without ceasing as they hear the cries of their lambs.

--Book IV

As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity. The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning. So one generation of men will grow while another dies.

--Book VI

Victory passes back and forth between men.

--Book VI

Inflaming wine, pernicious to mankind,
Unnerves the limbs, and dulls the noble mind.

--Book VI

’T is man’s to fight, but Heaven’s to give success.

--Book VI

Short is my date, but deathless my renown.

--Book IX

Clanless, lawless, homeless is he who is in love with civil war, that brutal ferocious thing.

--Book IX

A generous friendship no cold medium knows,
Burns with one love, with one resentment glows.

--Book IX

Injustice, swift, erect, and unconfin’d,
Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o’er mankind.

--Book IX

The other chiefs and princes slept soundly all the night long: but not Agamemnon. No sleeps visited his eyes; the lord and commander of that great host had too much to make him anxious. He groaned again and again from the bottom of his heart, and his spirit trembled within him. There was storm in his mind; as when Zeus Thunderer flashes the lightning and sends torrents of rain or hail, or covers the fields with snow, or when he opens the mouth of ravening war. So we may imagine the King puffing and groaning as thick as hail, when he looked out over the plain.

--Book X

Fate stands now upon the razor's edge.

--Book X

Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle, would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal, so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost, nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory. But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us in their thousands, no man can turn aside or escape them, let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.

--Book XII

Such were the calamities which the two mighty sons of Cronos brought upon the fighting hosts by their conflicting wills. Zeus willed victory to Hector and the Trojans.... Poseidon was for the Argives; he slipt out secretly from the sea and supported them because he was grieved at their discomfiture and indignant against Zeus.... So the two gripped the rope of war and tugged away over both armies with strong pulls, never breaking or loosing it while they loosed the knees of many a man.

--Book XIII

The best of things, beyond their measure, cloy;
Sleep’s balmy blessing, love’s endearing joy;
The feast, the dance; whate’er mankind desire,
Even the sweet charms of sacred numbers tire.
But Troy for ever reaps a dire delight
In thirst of slaughter, and in lust of fight.

--Book XIII

Zeus it seems has given us from youth to old age a nice ball of wool to wind-nothing but wars upon wars until we shall perish every one.

--Book XIV

For our country ’t is a bliss to die.

--Book XV

Words are potent in debate, deeds in war decide your fate.

--Book XVI

Among all creatures that breathe on earth and crawl on it there is not anywhere a thing more dismal than man is.

--Book XVII

The God of War will see fair play--he's often slain that wants to slay!

--Book XVIII

Men soon grow sick of battle; when Zeus the steward of warfare tilts the scales, and cold steel reaps the fields, the grain is very little but the straw is very much. The belly is a bad mourner, and fasting will not bury the dead. Too many are falling, man after man and day after day; how could one ever have a moment's rest from privations? No, we must harden our hearts, and bury the man who dies and shed our tears that day. But those who survive the horrors of war should not forget to eat and drink, and then we shall be better able to wear our armour, which never grows weary, and to fight our enemies for ever and ever.

--Book XIX

Who dies in youth and vigour, dies the best.

--Book XXII

Pity, while yet I live, these silver hairs;
While yet thy father feels the woes he bears,
Yet cursed with sense! a wretch, whom in his rage
(All trembling on the verge of helpless age)
Great Jove has placed, sad spectacle of pain!
The bitter dregs of fortune’s cup to drain:
To fill with scenes of death his closing eyes,
And number all his days by miseries!
My heroes slain, my bridal bed o’erturn’d,
My daughters ravish’d, and my city burn’d,
My bleeding infants dash’d against the floor;
These I have yet to see, perhaps yet more!
Perhaps even I, reserved by angry fate,
The last sad relic of my ruin’d state,
(Dire pomp of sovereign wretchedness!) must fall,
And stain the pavement of my regal hall;
Where famish’d dogs, late guardians of my door,
Shall lick their mangled master’s spatter’d gore.

--Book XXII

Thou know’st the o’er-eager vehemence of youth,
How quick in temper, and in judgement weak.

--Book XXIII

’T is true, ’t is certain; man though dead retains
Part of himself: the immortal mind remains.

--Book XXIII

The Odyssey (c. 7th century B.C.)

O prince, in early youth divinely wise,
Born, the Ulysses of thy age to rise!
If to the son the father's worth descends,
O'er the wide waves success thy ways attends:
To tread the walks of death he stood prepared;
And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared.

--Book 2, lines 307-12

For never, never, wicked man was wise.

--Book 2, line 320

All men need the gods.

--Book 3, line 55

But the great leveler, Death: not even the gods
can defend a man, not even one they love, that day
when fate takes hold and lays him out at last.

--Book 3, lines 269-71

Heroes in various climes myself have found,
For martial deeds and depths of thought renowned;
But Ithacus, unrivalled in his claim,
May boast a title to the loudest fame:
In battle calm, he guides the rapid storm,
Wise to resolve, and patient to perform.

--Book 4, lines 367-72

By the dire fury of a traitress wife,
Ends the sad evening of a stormy life:
Whence with incessant grief my soul annoy'd,
These riches are possess'd, but not enjoy'd!

--Book 4, lines 115-8

My wars, the copious theme of every tongue,
To you, your fathers have recorded long:
How favouring heaven repaid my glorious toils
With a sack'd palace, and barbaric spoils.

--Book 4, lines 119-22

A decent boldness ever meets with friends.

--Book 7, line 67

Oh, pity human woe!
’T is what the happy to the unhappy owe.

--Book 7, line 198

Hunger is insolent, and will be fed.

--Book 7, line 300

A generous heart repairs a slanderous tongue.

--Book 8, line 432

That is the gods' work, spinning threads of death
through the lives of mortal men,
an all to make a song for those to come.

--Book 8, lines 649-51

Odysseus then you are, o great contender,
of whom the glittering god with the golden wand
spoke to me ever, and foretold
the black swift ship would carry you from Troy.
Put up your weapon in the sheath. We two
shall mingle and make love upon our bed.
So mutual trust may come of play and love.

--Book 10, lines 371-77

I took the victims, over the trench I cut their throats
And the dark blood flowed in--and up out of Erebus they came,
flocking toward me now, the ghosts of the dead and gone ...
Brides and unwed youths and old men who had suffered much
And girls with their tender hearts freshly scarred by sorrow
And great armies of battle dead, stabbed by bronze spears,
men of war still wrapped in bloody armor--thousands
swarming around the trench from every side--
unearthly cries--blanching terror gripped me!

--Book 11, lines 40-8

Better, I say, to break sod as a farm hand
for some poor country man, on iron rations,
than lord it over all the exhausted dead.

--Book 11, lines 578-81

Now I the strength of Hercules behold,
A towering spectre of gigantic mould,
A shadowy form! for high in heaven's abodes
Himself resides, a god among the gods;
There, in the bright assemblies of the skies,
He nectar quaffs, and Hebe crowns his joys.
Here hovering ghosts, like fowl, his shade surround,
And clang their pinions with terrific sound;
Gloomy as night he stands, in act to throw
The aerial arrow from the twanging bow.
Around his breast a wondrous zone is roll'd,
Where woodland monsters grin in fretted gold:
There sullen lions sternly seem to roar,
The bear to growl, to foam the tusky boar;
There war and havoc, and destruction stood,
And vengeful murder red with human blood.
Thus terribly adorn'd the figures shine,
Inimitably wrought with skill divine.

Book 11, lines 741-58

Enough: in misery can words avail?
And what so tedious as a twice-told tale?

--Book 12, lines 537-8

How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!
Who, versed in fortune, fear the flattering show,
And taste not half the bliss the gods bestow.

--Book 13, lines 375-7

The gods
living in bliss are fond of no wrongdoing,
but honor discipline and right behavior.

--Book 14, lines 97-103

A guest remembers all of his days
that host who makes provisions for him kindly.

--Book 15, lines 68-75

If then my fortunes can delight my friend,
A story fruitful of events, attend:
Another's sorrow may thy ear enjoy,
And wine the lengthened intervals employ.
Long nights the now declining year bestows,
A part we consecrate to soft repose,
A part in pleasing talk we entertain;
For too much rest itself becomes a pain.
Let those, whom sleep invites, the call obey,
Their cares resuming with the dawning days
Here let us feast, and to the feast be joined
Discourse, the sweetest banquet of the mind;
Review the series of our lives, and taste
The melancholy joy of evil past:
For he who much has suffered, much will know;
And pleased remembrance builds delight on woe.

--Book 15, lines 422-37

Love deceives the best of womankind.

--Book 15, line 463

The fool of fate, thy manufacture, man,
With penury, contempt, repulse, and care,
The galling load of life is doom'd to bear.

--Book 20, lines 254-6

It is not right to glory in the slain.

--Book 22, line 412

Think of a catch that fishermen haul in to a halfmoon bay
in a fine-meshed net from the whit-caps of the sea:
how all are poured out on the sand, in throes for the salt- sea,
twitching their cold lives away in Helios' fiery air:
so lay the suitors heaped on one another.

--Book 22, lines 432-6

The royal pair mingled in love again
and afterward lay revelling in stories:
hers of the siege her beauty stood at home
from arrogant suitors, crowding on her sight,
and how they fed their courtships on his cattle
oxen and fat sheep, and drank up rivers
of wine out of the vats. Odysseus told
of what hard blows he had dealt to others
and of what blows he had taken--all that story.

--Book 23, lines 337-46

Now hear me, men of Ithaka.
When these hard deeds were done by Lord Odysseus
the immortal gods were not far off. I saw
with my own eyes someone divine who fought
beside him, in the shape and dress of Mentor;
it was a god who shone before Odysseus,
a god who swept the suitors down the hall
dying in droves.

--Book 24, lines 489-96

Each future day increase of wealth shall bring,
And o'er the past Oblivion stretch her wing.

--Book 24, lines 556-7