see: "HUMOR" for other related links


At the opera in Milan with my daughter and me,
Needleman leaned out of his box and fell into the
orchestra pit. Too proud to admit it was a mistake,
he attended the opera every night for a month and
repeated it each time.
--Woody Allen [Allen Stewart Konigsberg] (b. 1935)
American actor, screenwriter, and director.
"Remembering Needleman" in _Side Effects_ [1980]

She was brought up in Darien, Connecticut and,
when she was younger, she had a little brother,
about six years old. the parents sent the kid to
military school. While he was there, he stole jam,
or something, and they caught him. They wanted
to do things right because it was a military school
so they held a court martial there. They found the
kid guilty. They shot him. They returned to his
parents half the tuition.
--Woody Allen [Allen Stewart Konigsberg] (b. 1935)
American actor, screenwriter, and director.
_The Illustrated Woody Allen Reader_ [1993]

Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is
perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible
exception of a moose singing "Embraceable You"
in spats.
--Woody Allen [Allen Stewart Konigsberg] (b. 1935)
American actor, screenwriter, and director.
"On Seeing a Tree in Summer" (essay)



[Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx):]
Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas, and
how he got in my pajamas I'll never know.
--"Animal Crackers" [1930 film]
Screenplay by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind.

[Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx):]
Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other
hand, water is water! And East is East and West
is West and if you take cranberries and stew them
like applesauce they taste much more like prunes
than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me
what you know.
--"Animal Crackers" [1930]
Screenplay by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind.


I conclude that there is as much sense in
nonsense as there is nonsense in sense.
--Anthony Burgess [John Burgess Wilson] (1917—1993)
English novelist and critic.
"New York Times Book Review" [9 August 1987]

To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life.
--Gelett Burgess (1866—1951)
American writer, poet, and humorist.
"The Sense of Humor" [1916]


"Father William"
by Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson] (1832—1898)
English writer and logician.

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple."

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you downstairs!"

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun.
The frumious Bandersnatch!
--Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson] (1832—1898)
English writer and logician.
_Thorough the Looking-Glass_, ch. I [1872]

"I beg your pardon?" said Alice.
"It isn't respectable to beg," said the King.
--Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson] (1832—1898)
English writer and logician.
_Thorough the Looking-Glass_ [1872]


If once a man indulges himself in Murder, very soon
he comes to think little of Robbing, and from Robbing
he comes next to Drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and
from that to Incivility and Procrastination.
--Thomas De Quincey (1785—1859)
English essayist and critic.
"On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts" [1839]

So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage leaf to make an apple
pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street
pops its head into the shop. 'What! no soap?' So he died, and she
very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the
Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Grand Panjandrum himself,
with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the
game of catch as catch can, till the gunpowder ran out at the heels
of their boots.
--Samuel Foote (1720—1777)
English dramatist and actor.
Nonsense written to test the boasted memory of Charles Macklin.

[Interview with Shelby Foote:]
My favorite story that Lincoln told was he described a
Union general out in front of his troops on horseback.
And they were having a review and the horse got to
kicking and prancing and jerking around, and somehow
or another, the horse got his rear foot hooked in the
stirrup and the general looked down at this ridiculous
situation and said to the horse, "If you're going to get
on, I'll get off."
--in Geoffrey C. Ward _The Civil War: An Illustrated
History_ [1990], ch. 3 "The Universe of Battle"

The learned fool writes his nonsense in better
language than the unlearned, but still 'tis nonsense.
--Benjamin Franklin (1706—1790)
American politician, inventor, and scientist.
_Poor Richard Improved_ [1748]

Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the
nonsense of those that think they talk sense.
--Robert Frost (1874—1963)
American poet.
Letter to Louis Untermeyer [7 August 1915] (Wikiquote)

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.
Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,
It's a way of looking at life through the
wrong end of a telescope. Which is what
I do. And that enables you to laugh at all
life's realities.
--attributed to Theodor Seuss Geisel [Dr. Seuss] (1904—1991)
American writer and illustrator of children's books.

The flowers that bloom in the spring,
Tra la,
Have nothing to do with the case.
--W. S. Gilbert (1836—1911)
English writer of comic and satirical verse.
_The Mikado_, act 2 [1885]

In my best social accent I addressed him. I said, 'It is most
extraordinary weather for this time of year!' He replied,
'Ah, it isn't this time of year at all."
--Oliver St John Gogarty (1878—1957)
Irish physician and writer of humerous verse.
_It Isn't This Time of Year at All_ [1954]


Samuel Goldwyn (1882—1974)
American film producer.

Goldwyn is said to have been eagar to buy the
film rights to Radclyffe Hall's "The Well of Lonliness,"
a controversial novel dealing with lesbianism. 'You
can't film that,' a studio adviser said. 'It's about

'All right,' said Goldwyn, 'where they got lesbians,
we'll use Austrians.'

--_Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes_
edited by Clifton Fadiman and Andr้ Bernard [2000 ed.]


When Grandmama fell off the boat,
And couldn't swim (and wouldn't float),
Matilda just stood by and smiled.
I almost could have slapped the child.
--Harry Graham [pseud. Col. D. Streamer] (1874—1936)
British writer and journalist.
"Indifference" in _Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes_ [1899].

Swallow a Slug
By its tail or its snout
Feel it slide down
Feel it climb out
--David Greenberg,

If you lose your job, your marriage and your mind all
in one week, try to lose your mind first, because then
the other stuff won't matter that much.
--Jack Handey (b. 1949)
American comedian and comedy writer.
_The Lost Deep Thoughts_ [1998]

Every child who has the use
Of his senses knows a goose.
See them underneath the tree
Gather round the goose-girl's knee,
While she reads them by the hour
From the works of Scho-pen-hauer.
How patiently the geese attend!
But do they really comprehend
What Schopenhauer's driving at?
Oh, not at all; but what of that?
Neither do I; neither does she;
And, for that matter, nor does he.
--Oliver Herford (1863—1935)
American author and illustrator.
"Some Geese"

[Professor Wagstaff, (Groucho Marx) :]
I'd horsewhip you if I had a horse.
--"Horse Feathers" [1932 movie]
Screenplay by Will B. Johnstone, Bert Kalmar, S.J. Perelman, and Harry Ruby.

Who lives without folly is not so wise as he thinks.
--Fran็ois de La Rochefoucauld (1613—1680)
French classical author.
_Reflections; or, Sentences and Moral Maxims_ [1678], Maxim 209


The Seven young Guinea Pigs went into a garden
full of Gooseberry-bushes and Tiggory-trees, under
one of which they fell asleep. When they awoke,
they saw a large Lettuce which had grown out of the
ground while they had been sleeping, and which had
an immense number of green leaves. At which they
all exclaimed:

'Lettuce! O Lettuce!
'Let us, O let us,
'O Lettuce leaves,
'O let us leave this tree and eat
'Lettuce, O let us, Lettuce leaves!'

And instantly the Seven young Guinea Pigs rushed
with such extreme force against the Lettuce-plant,
and hit their heads so vividly against its stalk, that
the concussion brought on directly an incipient
transitional inflammation of their noses, which grew
worse and worse and worse and worse till it
incidentally killed them all Seven.

And that was the end of the Seven young Guinea Pigs.

--Edward Lear (1812—1888)
English landscape painter and writer of nonsense verse.
"The History of the Seven Families of Lake Pipple-popple"


The Soviet troops are assisting the Hungarian
people to retain their independence from
--The London _Daily Worker_ [7 November 1956]
(After the Hungarian uprising.)


... At that point Mandoline's lover, the Count de la
D้fense d'Afficher, rushed into the room. I had to
swallow the blueprints quick, and I must say they
were the worst I've ever tasted.

'Cochon,' cried the Count. 'What are you doing in
my fianc้e's apartment?'

'Well, right now I am trying to find a bicarbonate
of soda.'

He advanced and slapped me across the cheek with
his gloves. I could not let this challenge go unheeded.
I produced my card-case. 'Take one, Monsieur,' I

He did.

'What is it?' I said.

'Queen of spades.'

'Pay me — I drew the ace.'

This did not satisfy him, however, so I stalked away
to my motorcycle and drove off in low dungeon — I
couldn't make high on the gasoline we were getting
in those days.

--Groucho [Julius Henry] Marx (1895—1977)
American film comedian.
"How To Be a Spy" in _N.Y. Herald Tribune_ [16 February 1946].


As I was walking up the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd stay away.
--Hughes Mearns (1875—1965)
American educator and poet.
_The Psyco-ed_ [1910]

The curse of man, and the cause of nearly
all his woes, is his stupendous capacity for
believing the incredible.
--H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (1880—1956)
American journalist and literary critic.
_In Defense of Women_ [1918]

No one is exempt from talking nonsense;
the misfortune is to do it solemnly.
--Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533—1592)
French moralist and essayist.
_Essais_ (Essays), bk. III, ch, I [pub. 1580—1588].


Bronko Nagurski (1908—1990)
Canadian-born U.S. football player and wrestler.

As a result of some horseplay with a teammate,
Nagurski once fell out of a second-floor window.
A crowd gathered. A policeman appeared. He
asked, 'What happened?' Replied Nagurski, 'I
don't know, I just got here myself.'

_Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes_
edited by Clifton Fadiman and Andr้ Bernard [2000]


I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist.
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."
--Ogden Nash (1902—1971)
American writer of humorous poetry.
"The Purist"


From the Blue Earth (Minn.) Faribault County Register.

About 18,000 deer in the state will take part in a
postcard survey asking them to report information
about wild turkey sightings while hunting.
--_New Yorker_ (magazine) [24 December 2007]


Antiphanes said merrily that in a certain city the cold was
so intense that words were congealed as soon as spoken,
but that after some time they thawed and became audible;
so that the words spoken in winter were articulated next
--Plutarch (A.D. 46?—119?)
Greek philosopher and biographer.
"Of Man's Progress in Virtue"

Now, it's quite simple to defend yourself against a man armed
with a banana. First of all you force him to drop the banana;
then, second, you eat the banana, thus disarming him. You
have now rendered him helpless.
--Monty Python [TV show]

Please mother,
Don't stab father
with the bread knife.
Remember, twas a gift
when you were wed.
But mother,
if you must stab father
with the bread knife,
Please Mother,
use another,
For the bread.
--Robert William Service (1874—1958)
British poet.
"The Bread-Knife Ballad" in _The Complete Poems of Robert Service_ [1944].


"Slithergadee" by Shel Silverstein (1930—1999)
American poet and songwriter.

The Slithergadee has crawled out of the sea.
He may catch all the others, but he won't catch me.
No you won't catch me, old Slithergadee,
You may catch all the others, but you wo-------


No matter how you slice it, it's still baloney.
--Alfred E. Smith (1873—1944)
American politician; four-time Democratic
governor of New York and the first Roman
Catholic to run for President of the U.S..
_Campaign speeches_ [1936]

Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies
will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life —
save only this — that if you work hard and intelligently
you should be able to detect *when a man is talking
rot,* and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole,
purpose of education.
--John Alexander Smith (1863—1939)
English philosopher.
In Harold Macmillan "Oxford Remembered" _The Times_ [18 October 1975].

You must not think me necessarily foolish because I
am facetious, nor will I consider you as necessarily
wise because you are grave.
--Sydney Smith (1771—1845)
English clergyman and essayist.
Letter to the Bishop of London, quoted
in "The Examiner" [6 September 1840].

He burned his bridges while they
were changing horses in midstream.
--Stanley Walker
"The Uncanny Knacks of Mr. Doherty"
In the _New Yorker_ [12 July 1941].

"Sir Jasper Finch-Farrowmere?" said Wilfred.
"finch-farrowmere," corrected the visitor, his
sensitive ear detecting the capital letters.
--P.G. [Pelham Grenville] Wodehouse (1881—1975)
English humorist; American citizen from 1955.
_Meet Mr. Mulliner_ [1927], "A Slice of Life"

The importance of 'nonsense' can hardly be overstated.
The more clearly we experience something as 'nonsense',
the more clearly we are experiencing the boundaries of
our own self-imposed cognitive structures. 'Nonsense'
is that which does not fit into the pre-arranged patterns
we have superimposed on reality. Nonsense is nonsense
only when we have not yet formed the point of view
from which it makes sense.
--Gary Zukav (b. 1942)
American author.
_The Dancing Wu Li Masters_ [1979]


Uncle George and Auntie Mabel
Fainted at the breakfast table.
This should be sufficient warning:
Never do it in the morning.
Ovaltine will set you right,
You can do it ev'ry night.
Uncle George is hoping soon
To do it in the afternoon.
O what joys Aunt Mabel's seen
With the help of Ovaltine.
--To be sung to the tune of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"—
the verse itself supposedly of WW2 vintage.

"Well, come along! I've got two spears,
And I'll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I've got besides two curling-stones,
And I'll crush you to bits, body and bones."
--"The Three Billy Goats Gruff", Norwegian folk tale

If an eel lunges out,
And it bites off your snout,
That's a Moray . . .
(Parody of 1952 song "That's Amore".)

I was much distressed by the next door people who
had twin babies and played the violin; but one of the
twins died, and the other has eaten the fiddle — so
all is peace.

Australia: Where men are men and sheep are nervous.

I have come to the conclusion
Having given it a test,
That of all my wife's relations,
I like myself the best.

There was an old man of Khartoum
Who kept a tame sheep in his room,
"To remind me," he said,
"Of someone who's dead,
But I never can recollect whom."

A remarkable baker was Hartz.
His life imitated his arts.
For every last son
Was a fruitcake (each one);
While his daughters were tasty young tarts.

A dreary young bank clerk named Fennis
Wished to foster an aura of menace;
To make people afraid
He wore gloves of grey suede
And white footgear intended for tennis.

see "LIMERICKS" for more

'Tis dog's delight to bark and bite
And little birds to sing,
And if you sit on a red-hot brick
It's a sign of an early spring.

Llewelyn Peter James McGuire,
Touched a live electric wire;
Back on his heels it sent him rocking —
his language (like the wire) was shocking.

Today is Today, and Tomorrow is Today that was Yesterday,
but Yesterday is not Today, and Tomorrow will not be Today
until Tomorrow. Even so, Yesterday was Tomorrow two days
ago, and Yesterday was Today twenty-four hours ago, and
was Tomorrow Yesterday, and Yesterday is Today Tomorrow.

Mary had a little lamb,
A lobster and some prunes,
A glass of wine, a piece of pie
A plate of macaroons.
She gobbled up a sponge cake,
And what else we don't know.
But when they carried Mary out
Her face was white as snow.



balderdash (noun) ['bal-d๊r-dๆsh]
A jumbled mix of meaningless words; malarkey; hog-wash; bunkum.

blarney (noun) ['blahr-nee]
Empty words, double-talk, fabrication, nonsense.
Etymology: An eponym from Blarney Village just outside the city of
Cork, Ireland. The world famous Blarney Stone is perched high up
in the battlements of Blarney Castle there.

blether (verb) ['ble-dh๊r]
To jabber blether (nonsense); to blabber nonsensically.

bosh [bosh], noun:
Absurd or foolish talk; nonsense.

flummery [FLUM-uh-ree], noun:
1. A name given to various sweet dishes made with milk,
eggs, flour, etc.
2. Empty compliment; unsubstantial talk or writing;
mumbo jumbo; nonsense.

maunder [MON-dur], intransitive verb:
1. To talk incoherently; to speak in a rambling manner.
2. To wander aimlessly or confusedly.

non sequitur (adjective) [nahn 'se-kwi-t๊r]
Literally, not following (logically), illogical, not connected to anything
previously said or (as a noun) a statement not following logically from
what was previously said. It originates in logic, where it refers to an
inference not following from the premise.


Also: codswallop, poppycock, horsefeathers,
rubbish, humbug, tripe, drivel.



see: "PLACES" for related links

North Dakota is a doomed state. In twenty years
it will revert to the Indian and the buffalo. We
must be moving on.
--an early settler, quoted in Frank P. Stockbridge
"The North Dakota Man Crop" _World's Work_ (mag.) [November 1912].


Someone must have told me about the Missouri
River at Bismarck, North Dakota, or I must have
read about it. In either case, I hadn't paid attention.
I came on it in amazement. ... Here is the boundary
between east and west. On the Bismarck side it is
eastern landscape, eastern grass, with the look and
smell of eastern America. Across the Missouri on
the Mandan side, it is pure west, with brown grass
and water scorings and small outcrops. The two
sides of the river might be a thousand miles apart.
--John Steinbeck (1902—1968)
American novelist.
_Travels With Charley_ [1962]

Presently I saw a man leaning on a two-strand barbed-wire
fence, the wires fixed not to posts but to crooked tree limbs
stuck in the ground. The man wore a dark hat, and jeans
and long jacket washed palest blue, with lighter places at
knees and elbows. His pale eyes were frosted with sun glare
and his lips scaly as snakeskin. A .22 rifle leaned against
the fence beside him and on the ground lay a little heap
of fur and feathers — rabbits and small birds. I pulled up
to speak to him, saw his eyes wash over Rocinante, sweep
up the details, and then retire into their sockets. And I
found I had nothing to say to him. The 'Looks like an
early winter' or 'Any good fishing hereabouts?' didn't
seem to apply. And so we simply brooded at each other.


'Yes, sir,' he said.

'Any place nearby where I can buy some eggs?'

'Not real close by 'less you want to go as far as Galva or
up to Beach.'

'I was set for some scratch-hen eggs.'

'Powdered,' he said. 'My Mrs gets powdered.'

'Lived here long?'


I waited for him to ask something or to say something
so we could go on, but he didn't. And as the silence
continued, it became more and more impossible to
think of something to say. I made one more try. 'Does
it get very cold here winters?'


'You talk too much.'

He grinned. 'That's what my Mrs says.'

'So long,' I said, and put the car in gear and moved along.
And in my rear-view mirror I couldn't see that he looked
after me. He may not be a typical Badlander, but he's
one of the few I caught.

--John Steinbeck (1902—1968)
American novelist.
_Travels With Charley_ [1962]




see: "FACE"
see: "SMELL"
see: "THE BODY" for other related links


A large nose is the mark of a witty, courteous,
affable, generous, and liberal man.
--Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac (1619—1655)
French satirist and dramatist.
_The Other World: States and Empires of the Moon_, ch. 8 [1656]

In cleaning the nose, the rules of cleanliness and decency
should be exactly followed, always turning a little to one
side, and making use of a handkerchief.
--St. John Baptiste De La Salle (1651—1719)
French educational reformer and father of modern pedagogy.
Attributed in "Forbes" [2001].

[Charlie McCarthy (Edgar Bergen) to Larson E. Whipsnade (W.C. Fields):]
Are you eating a tomato or is that your nose?
--"You Can't Cheat an Honest Man" [1939 film]
Screenplay by Everett Freeman.

Hold their noses to grindstone.
--John Heywood (1497—1580)
English playwright.
_Proverbs_ [1546]

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.
--"Lippincott's Monthly Magazine" [June 1901]


John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. (1837—1913)
American banker, financier, and benefactor of the arts.

Morgan's nose was disfigured by a skin disease that
made it swollen and fiery. People, while pretending
politely not to notice anything extraordinary, were
nonetheless mesmerized by it. There is the story of
the nervous hostess at the tea table , who inquired,
"Do you take nose in your tea, Mr. Morgan?"

--_Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes_
edited by Clifton Fadiman and Andr้ Bernard [2000 ed.]



Plain as a nose in a man's face.
--Fran็ois Rabelais (c. 1494— c. 1553)
French humanist, satirist, and physician.
_Gargantua and Pantagruel_, bk. 5 [1552]

& see:

As clear and as manifest as the nose in a man's face.
--Robert Burton (1577—1640)
English scholar, cleric, and author.
_The Anatomy of Melacholy_, pt. III, sec. III [1621-51]



A visitor to Picasso's studio found the artist gazing
disconsolately at a painting on the easel. 'It's a
masterpiece,' said the visitor, hoping to cheer
Picasso up.

'No, the nose is all wrong,' Picasso said. 'It throws
the whole picture out of perspective.'

'Then why not alter the nose?'

'Impossible,' Picasso said. 'I can't find it.'

_The Folio Book of Humorous Anecdotes_
Introduced by Edward Leeson [2005], "Art and Artists"


A large nose is in fact the sign of an
affable man, good, courteous, witty,
liberal, courageous, such as I am.
--Edmond Rostand (1868—1918)
French dramatist.
_Cyrano de Bergerac_ [1897]

My nose itched, and I knew I should
drink wine or kiss a fool.
--Jonathan Swift (1667—1745)
Anglo-Irish poet and satirist.
_A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation_ [1738]

There is nothing so difficult to marry
as a large nose, men don't like them.
--Oscar Wilde (1854—1900)
Anglo-Irish dramatist and poet.
_An Ideal Husband_, act 1 [1895]


There was a young man from Kent,
Whose nose was terribly bent.
Some days, I suppose,
He would follow his nose,
And no one would know where he went.


olfaction, n.
The faculty of perceiving odors; sense of smell.

fetid [FET-id; FEE-tid], adjective:
Having an offensive smell; stinking.

rhinorrhea (noun) [rI-n๊-'ree-๊]
A runny nose.



see: "HISTORY"
see: "PAST (THE)"

Memory can glean, but can never renew. It brings us
joys faint as is the perfume of the flowers, faded and
dried, of the summer that is gone.
--Henry Ward Beecher (1813—1887)
American Congregational minister; brother of
Harriet Beecher Stowe, son of Lyman Beecher.
In Henry Ward Beecher and Edna Dean Proctor, _Life Thoughts: Gathered From
the Extemporaneous Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher_, p. 27 [1858].

The dreams of childhood — its airy fables;
it's graceful, beautiful, humane, impossible
adornments of the world beyond: so good
to be believed in once, so good to be
remembered when outgrown.
--Charles Dickens (1812—1870)
English novelist.
_Hard Times_, bk. II, ch. 9 [1854]

[Referring to her estranged brother:]
His years with others must the sweeter be
For those brief days he spent in loving me.
--George Eliot [Mary Ann Evans] (1819—1880)
English novelist.
"Brother and Sister", st. IX [1869]

Can anybody remember when times were
not hard and money not scarce?
--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882)
American philosopher and poet.
_Society and Solitude_ [1870] "Works and Days"

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands;
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
--Eugene Field (1850—1895)
American journalist and writer of children's verse.
_Little Boy Blue_, Stanza 1
(Written about his son's death.)

Days I knew as happy sweet sequester'd days.
Olden days,
Golden days,
Days of mad romance and love.
Then gay youth was mine,
Truth was mine,
Joyous, free and flaming life forsooth was mine.
Sad am I,
Glad am I,
For today I'm dreaming of
--Otto Harbach (1873—1963)
American lyricist.
"Yesterdays" [1933 song], music by Jerome Kern.


Verse 1

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older.
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?


Sunrise, sunset,
Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days;
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflow'rs,
Blossoming even as we gaze.
Sunrise, sunset,
Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years;
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears.

Verse 2

Now is the little boy a bridegroom,
Now is the little girl a bride.
Under the canopy I see them,
Side by side.
Place the gold ring around her finger,
Share the sweet wine and break the glass;
Soon the full circle will have come to pass.

--Sheldon Harnick (b. 1924)
American lyricist.
"Sunrise, Sunset" 1964 song from the stage production
of _Fiddler on the Roof_ w/music by Jerry Bock.


Every man who has lived for fifty years has buried a whole
world or even two; he has grown used to its disappearance
and accustomed to the new scenery of another act: but
suddenly the names and faces of a time long dead appear
more and more often on his way, calling up series of shades
and pictures kept somewhere, "just in case," in the endless
catacombs of the memory, making him smile or sigh, and
sometimes almost weep.
--Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen [or Hertzen] (1812—1870)
Russian political thinker, activist, and writer.
_My Past and Thoughts_ [1861-67]


Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

--A.E. [Alfred Edward] Houseman (1859—1936)
English classical scholar and poet.
"A Shropshire Lad" no. 40, l. 5 [1896]


How we delight to build our recollections upon some basis
of reality — a place, a country, a local habitation — how
the events of life, as we look back upon them, have grown
into the well-remembered background of the places where
they fell upon us; — Here is some sunny garden or summer
lane, beautified and canonized forever, with the flood of a
great joy; and here are dim and silent places, rooms always
shadowed and dark to us, whatever they may be to others,
where distress or death came once, and since then dwells
--Charles William Meredith van de Velde (1818—1898)
Dutch lieutenant, painter, and author.
_Narrative of a journey through Syria and Palestine
in 1851 and 1852_ [1854] "The Holy Land"

Ah tell me not that memory
Sheds gladness o'er the past;
What is recalled by faded flowers
Save that they did not last?
Were it not better to forget,
Than but remember and regret?
--Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802—1838)
British poet and novelist.
_Ethel Churchill; Or, The Two Brides_ [1837]

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed,
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall,
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all.
--John Lennon (1940—1980) & Paul McCartney (b. 1942)
English pop singers and songwriters
"In My Life" [song] released on _Rubber Soul_ [1965 album].

We spake of many a vanished scene,
Of what we once had thought and said,
Of what had been, and might have been,
And who was changed, and who was dead;
And all that fills the hearts of friends,
When first they feel, with secret pain,
Their lives thenceforth have separate ends,
And never can be one again.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807—1882)
American poet.
"The Fire of Drift-Wood", l. 13 in _The Seaside and the Fireside_ [1850].

Oft in the stilly night,
Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me:
The smiles, the tears
Of boyhood's years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimm'd and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken.
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.
--Thomas Moore (1779—1852)
Irish poet, satirist, composer, and musician.
_National Airs_ [1815] "Oft in the Stilly Night" st. 1


I come back to the cottage in
Santa Monica Canyon where
Andree and I were poor and
Happy together. Sometimes we
Were hungry and stole vegetables
From the neighbors' gardens.
Sometimes we went out and gathered
Cigarette butts by flashlight.
But we went swimming every day,
All year round. We had a dog
Called Proclus, a vast yellow
Mongrel, and a white cat named
Cyprian. We had our first
Joint art show, and they began
To publish my poems in Paris.
We worked under the low umbrella
Of the acacia in the dooryard.
Now I get out of the car
And stand before the house in the dusk.
The acacia blossoms powder the walk
With little pills of gold wool.
The odor is drowsy and thick
In the early evening.
The tree has grown twice as high
As the roof. Inside, an old man
And woman sit in the lamplight.
I go back and drive away
To Malibu Beach and sit
With a gray haired childhood friend and
Watch the full moon rise over the
Long rollers wrinkling the dark bay.
--Kenneth Rexroth (1905—1982)
American poet.
"Only Years"

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! When I last saw the place,
The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;
The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot
Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot.
And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—
But never again will theyr shade shelter me!
And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,
And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin'-hole.
--James Whitcomb Riley (1849—1916)
American poet.
"The Old Swimmin' Hole", st. 5 [1883]


Thanks for the memory
Of candlelight and wine,
Castles on the Rhine,
The Parthenon and moments on the Hudson River Line.
How lovely it was!
Thanks for the memory
Of rainy afternoons,
Swingy Harlem tunes,
And motor trips and burning lips and burning toast and prunes.
How lovely it was!
Many's the time that we feasted,
And many's the time that we fasted.
Oh well, it was swell while it lasted;
We did have fun
And no harm done.
And thanks for the memory
Of sunburns at the shore,
Nights in Singapore.
You might have been a headache but you never were a bore,
So thank you so much.
Awf'ly glad I met you,
Cheerio and toodle-oo,
And thank you so much!
Thanks for the memory
Of sentimental verse,
Nothing in my purse,
And chuckles when the preacher said "For better or for worse."
How lovely it was!
Thanks for the memory
Of lingerie with lace,
Pilsner by the case,
And how I jumped the day you trumped my one and only ace.
How lovely it was!
We said good-bye with a highball,
Then I got as high as a steeple.
But we were intelligent people,
No tears, no fuss,
Hurray for us.
So thanks for the memory,
And strictly entre nous,
Darling, how are you?
And how are all the little dreams that never did come true?
Awf'ly glad I met you,
Cheerio and toodle-oo,
And thank you so much!

--Leo Robin (1900—1984)
American songwriter.
"Thanks For The Memory" [1937 song], music by Ralph Rainger.


Am I the person who used to wake in the middle
of the night and laugh with the joy of living? Who
worried about the existence of God, and danced
with young ladies till long after daybreak? Who
sang "Auld Lang Syne" and howled with sentiment,
and more than once gazed at the full moon through
a blur of great. romantic tears?
--Logan Pearsall Smith (1865—1946)
American-born man of letters.
_More Trivia_ [1934] "Last Words"

That sign of old age, extolling the past at the expense of the present.
--Sydney Smith (1771—1845)
English clergyman and essayist, in 1802 cofounded "The Edinburgh Review."
In Lady Holland (Smith's daughter) _A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith_ [1855].


The Monterey Peninsula [ ... ] is a beautiful place, clean,
well run, and progressive. The beaches are clean where
once they festered with fish guts and flies. The canneries
which once put up a sickening stench are gone, their places
filled with restaurants, antique shops, and the like. They fish
for tourists now, not pilchards, and that species they are not
likely to wipe out. And Carmel, begun by starveling writers
and unwanted painters, is now a community of the well-to-
do and the retired. If Carmel's founders should return, they
could not afford to live there, but it wouldn't go that far.
They would be instantly picked up as suspicious characters
and deported over the city line.

The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away
I had not changed with it. In my memory it stood as it once
did and its outward appearance confused and angered me.

What I am about to tell must be the experience of very many
in this nation where so many wander and come back. I called
on old and valued friends. I thought their hair had receded a
little more than mine. The greetings were enthusiastic. The
memories flooded up. Old crimes and old triumphs were
brought out and dusted. And suddenly my attention wandered,
and looking at my ancient friend, I saw that his wandered also.
And it was true what I had said to Johnny Garcia — I was the
ghost. My town had grown and changed and my friend along
with it. Now returning, as changed to my friend as my town
was to me, I distorted his picture, muddied his memory. When
I went away I had died, and so became fixed and unchangeable.
My return caused only confusion and uneasiness. Although
they could not say it, my oId friends wanted me gone so that
I could take my proper place in the pattern of remembrance —
and I wanted to go for the same reason. Tom Wolfe was right.
You can't go home again because home has ceased to exist
except in the mothballs of memory.

--John Ernst Steinbeck (1902—1968)
American novelist.
_Travels With Charley_ [1962]


So here I sit in the early candle-light of old
age — I and my book — casting backward
glances over our travel'd road.
--Walt Whitman (1819—1892)
American poet.
"November Boughs" [1888]

Nostalgia is like an anesthetic; you experience no
pain, only a beautiful haze. When you grow older,
what matters is not the way it was, but the way
you remember it.
--Roger Whittaker (b. 1936)
British singer-songwriter.
_So Far, So Good_ [1986], co-written with Natalie Whittaker (wife).

My, wasn't life awful — and wonderful.
--Thornton Wilder (1897—1975)
American novelist and dramatist.
_Our Town_ [1938]

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower.
--William Wordsworth (1770—1850)
English poet.
"Ode: Imitations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood", l. 177 [1807]


Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find
the present tense and the past perfect.



see: "WRITING"

A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket and
write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come
unsought for are commonly the most valuable, and should
be secured, because they seldom return.
--Francis Bacon (1561—1626)
English philosopher and essayist.
Attributed in _Extracts from Ancient and Modern
Authors_ [E. Bridgewater, London, 1828].

Look sharply after your thoughts. They come unlooked
for, like a new bird seen on your trees, and, if you turn
to your usual task, disappear; and you shall never find
that perception again; never, I say — but perhaps years,
ages, and I know not what events and worlds may lie
between you and its return!
--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882)
American philosopher and poet.
_Journals_ (entry of 1871) [pub. in 10 vols., 1910-14]

A notebook I carry around with me wherever I
go. When it is full, I review it. Any quotation
or thought worth preserving is copied out.
--Eric Hoffer (1902—1983)
American longshoreman, philosopher, and author who
received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982.
_Working and Thinking on the Waterfront_ [1969]

The finest thought runs the risk of being irrevocably
forgotten if we do not write it down.
--Arthur Schopenhauer (1788—1860)
German philosopher.
"The Art of Literature: On Thinking For One's Self,"
_Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer_, tr. T. Bailey Saunders [1851]


evanescent [ev-uh-NES-uhnt], adjective:
Liable to vanish or pass away like vapor; fleeting.

Click picture to ZOOM


see: "AUTUMN"
see: "FALL"
see: "TIME" for other related links

November is the most disagreeable
month in the whole year.
--Louisa May Alcott (1832—1888)
American novelist; daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott.
_Little Women_ [1868]

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member—
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,—
--Thomas Hood (1799—1845)
English poet and humorist.
"No!" [1844]

A tedious season they await
Who hear November at the gate.
--Alexander Pushkin (1799—1837)
Russian poet.
"Eugene Onegin" [1833]

How sad would be November if we had no knowledge of the spring!
--Edwin Way Teale (1899—1980)
American naturalist, writer, and photographer.
_Circle of the Seasons_ [1953], "November 21"

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