Content with poverty my soul I arm,
And virtue, though in rags, will keep me warm.

Horace (trans. Dryden) »

It is said (though not confirmed) that Otto von Bismarck challenged Rudolf Virchow to a duel. As the challenged party had the choice of weapons, Virchow chose two sausages, one of which had been inoculated with cholera. Bismarck is said to have called off the duel at once. »

So the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the town hall hecklers – these are “either” the genuine grass roots or evil conspirators staging scenes for YouTube? The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair, the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president – too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters’ signs – too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don’t understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can’t understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.

In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition
Rick Perlstein, The Washington Post »

There is in every village a torch – the teacher: and an extinguisher – the clergyman.

Victor Hugo »

To be fair, most of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird.

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion »

The Troy of history was a dirty little town in Asia Minor, full of quarrelsome and small people living in mean and dark and inconvenient houses. But the Troy of poetry is a city of topless walls, of splendid men and women doing splendid deeds of strength and tenderness, a shining city that has actually built better cities over the face of the earth. The geographic Troy is not the real one. The Troy of literature is the real one. That is what literature means.

From “General aspects of literature” in this monolithic single-volume library I just got. »

Every thing in this world is big with jest,–and has wit in it, and instruction too,–if we can but find it out.

Lawrence Sterne, Tristram Shandy »

To suggest that the first cause, the great unknown which is responsible for something existing rather than nothing, is a being capable of designing the universe and talking to a million people simultaneously, is a total abdication of the responsibility to find an explanation. It is a dreadful exhibition of self-indulgent, thought-denying skyhookery.

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion »

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act on them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.

Thomas Jefferson »

According to the best accounts which I have been able to obtain, this Chimaera was nearly, if not quite, the ugliest and most poisonous creature, and the strangest and unaccountablest, and the hardest to fight with, and the most difficult to run away from, that ever came out of the earth’s inside. It had a tail like a boa-constrictor; its body was like I do not care what; and it had three separate heads, one of which was a lion’s, the second a goat’s, and the third an abominably great snake’s. And a hot blast of fire came flaming out of each of its three mouths! Being an earthly monster, i doubt whether it had any wings; but, wings or no, it ran like a goat and a lion, and wriggled along like a serpent, and thus contrived to make about as much speed as all the three together.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys »

And now, conscience, I defy thee!

Young Fashion in The Relapse, John Vanbrugh »

O my sweet little people, you have no idea what a weight there was in that same blue sky, which looks so soft and aerial above our heads! And there, too, was the bluster of the wind, and the chill and watery clouds, and the blazing sun, all taking their turns at making Hercules uncomfortable! He began to be afraid that the giant would never come back. He gazed wistfully at the world beneath him, and acknowledged to himself that it was a far happier kind of life to be a shepherd at the foot of a mountain, than to stand on its dizzy summit, and bear up the firmament with his might and main.

Hawthorne, A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys »

Let the chips fall where they may – as long as it’s in my mouth.

Me »

Can it be possible that this planet has actually spawned such things; that human eyes can have truly seen, as objective flesh, what man has hitherto known only in febrile fantasy and tenuous legend?

And yet I saw them in a limitless stream – flopping, hopping, croaking, bleating – surging inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare.

H.P. Lovecraft »

Seems that human folks has got a kind o’ relation to sech water-beasts – that everything alive come aout o’ the water onct, an’ only needs a little change to go back agin. Them things told the Kanakys that ef they mixed bloods there’d be children as ud look human at fust, but later turn more’n more like the things, till finally they’d take to the water an jine the main lot o’ things daown har. An’ this is the important part, young feller – them as turned into fish things an’ went into thre water wouldn’t never die. Them things never died excep’ they was kilt violent.

Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth »

In this manuscript (which, as I have explained – for legal reasons as well as reasons of honour – I intend to seal away from all eyes for more than one hundred years after his death and my own), I shall answer the question which perhaps no one else alive in our time knew to ask – “Did the famous and loveable Charles Dickens plot to murder an innocent person and dissolve away his flesh in a pit of caustic lime and secretly inter what was left of him, mere bones and a skull, in the crypt of an ancient cathedral that was an important part of Dickens’s own childhood? And did Dickens then scheme to scatter the poor victim’s spectacles, rings, stickpins, shirt studs, and pocket watch in the River Thames? And if so, or even if Dickens only dreamed he did these things, what part did a very real phantom named Drood have in the onset of such madness?”

Dan Simmons (in the character of Wilkie Collins), Drood »

…So mighty is their love for flowers,
and such their glory in making honey.

Virgil’s Georgics, book IV (on bees) »

…I now found Barnard to be a disembodied spirit, or a fiction, and his inn the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for Tom-cats.

We entered this haven through a wicket-gate, and were disgorged by an introductory passage into a melancholy little square that looked to me like a flat burying-ground. I thought it had the most dismal trees in it, and the most dismal sparrows, and the most dismal cats, and the most dismal houses (in number half a dozen or so), that I had ever seen. I thought the windows of the sets of chambers into which those houses were divided were in every stage of dilapidated blind and curtain, crippled flower-pot, cracked glass, dusty decay, and miserable makeshift; while To Let, To Let, To Let, glared at me from empty rooms, as if no new wretches ever came there, and the vengeance of the soul of Barnard were being slowly appeased by the gradual suicide of the present occupants and their unholy interment under the gravel. A frowzy mourning of soot and smoke attired this forlorn creation of Barnard, and it had strewn ashes on its head, and was undergoing penance and humiliation as a mere dust-hole. Thus far my sense of sight; while dry rot and wet rot and all the silent rots that rot in neglected roof and cellar,–rot of rat and mouse and bug and coaching-stables near at hand besides–addressed themselves faintly to my sense of smell, and moaned, “Try Barnard’s Mixture.”

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations »

An Oyster of the old school, whom nobody can open.

Dickens again »

The plaintive–so Mrs. Piper insists on calling the deceased–was reported to have sold himself. Thinks it was the plaintive’s air in which that report originatinin. See the plaintive often and considered as his air was feariocious and not to be allowed to go about some children being timid (and if doubted hoping Mrs. Perkins may be brought forard for she is here and will do credit to her husband and herself and family). Has seen the plaintive wexed and worrited by the children (for children they will ever be and you cannot expect them specially if of playful dispositions to be Methoozellers which you was not yourself).

Dickens, Bleak House »