Robert Penn Warren Quotes (25 Quotes)


    They say you are not you except in terms of relation to other people. If there weren't any other people there wouldn't be any you because what you do, which is what you are, only has meaning in relation to other people.

    Upon my return I found the call in my box. It was Anne's number, then Anne's voice on the wire, and, as always, the little leap and plunk in my heart like a frog jumping into a lily pool. With the ripples spreading round.

    And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good and bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.

    We wrote every day, but the letters began to seem like checks drawn on the summer's capital. There had been a lot in the bank, but it is never good business practice to live on your capital, and I had the feeling, somehow, of living on the capital and watching something dwindle.

    How life is strange and changeful, and the crystal is in the steel at the point of fracture, and the toad bears a jewel in its forehead, and the meaning of moments passes like the breeze that scarcely ruffles the leaf of the willow.


    Process as process is neither morally good nor morally bad. We may judge results but not process. The morally bad agent may perform the deed which is good. The morally good agent may perform the deed which is bad. Maybe a man has to sell his soul to get the power to do good.

    Lois looked edible, and you know it was tender all the way through, a kind of mystic combination of filet mignon and a Georgia peach aching for the tongue and ready to bleed gold.

    Politics is a matter of choices, and a man doesn't set up the choices himself. And there is always a price to make a choice. You know that. You've made a choice, and you know how much it cost you. There is always a price.


    That summer we had been absolutely alone, together, even when people were around, the only inhabitants of the kind of floating island or magic carpet which being in love is.

    Then after a long time Annie wasn't a little girl anymore. She was a big girl and I was so much in love with her that I lived in a dream. In the dream my heart seemed to be ready to burst, for it seemed that the whole world was inside it swelling to get out and be the world. But that summer came to an end. Time passed and nothing happened that we had felt so certain at one time would happen.


    There was only the sound of the July-flies, which seems to be inside your head like it is the grind and whirr of the springs and cogs which are you and which will not stop no matter what you say until they are good and ready.

    Poets, we know, are terribly sensitive people, and in my observation one of the things they are most sensitive about is money.

    I think the greatest curse of American society has been the idea of an easy millennialism -- that some new drug, or the next election or the latest in social engineering will solve everything.

    The end of man is knowledge but theres one thing he cant know. He cant know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he cant know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasnt got and which if he had it would save him.

    The urge to write poetry is like having an itch. When the itch becomes annoying enough, you scratch it.

    A young man's ambition is to get along in the world and make a place for himself half your life goes that way, till you're 45 or 50. Then, if you're lucky, you make terms with life, you get released.

    Most writers are trying to find what they think or feel.... not simply working from the given, but toward the given, saying the unsayable and steadily asking, 'What do I really feel about this'

    For what is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding: it is the deepest part of autobiography.

    The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see-it is, rather, a light by which we may see-and what we see is life.


    What if angry vectors veer Round your sleeping head, and form. There's never need to fear Violence of the poor world's abstract storm.

    I've been to a lot of places and done a lot of things, but writing was always first. It's a kind of pain I can't do without.

    I don't expect you'll hear me writing any poems to the greater glory of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.


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    Literature - Life - Poetry - People - World - Place - Ambition - Letters - Woman - Summer - History - Poets - Emotions - Dreams - Man - America - Time - Idea - Politics - View All Robert Penn Warren Quotations

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