May Quotes

Greeting the month of May. As we wait to re-open our libraries, we’ll place a new daily quote here.  Cheer and broadening perspectives for us all, if not quite a dance around the May pole.

Today’s quote: The beginning of corruption is wanting things.

— Cus D’Amato

May 28: The best horse in the world has some fault.

— Anthony Trollope, The Prime Minister


May 27: It seems to me a kind of ingratitude not to care about the plants that grow around about our dwellings, since we see them every day and they nourish us.

— John Aubrey

May 26: Here and there, our kind has gone on doing what it ought not to do till it nearly died of it, but there would not be so many of us alive today if our forefathers had not obeyed a deep-seated instinct to stop before it was too late.

— Rebecca West, The New Meaning of Treason

May 25: I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fighting — its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands and fathers. . . . it is only those who have never hear a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated . . . that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.

— Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

May 24: Some people are born to lift heavy weights. Some are born to juggle golden balls.

— Max Beerbohm

May 23: Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.

— John Maynard Keynes

May 22: Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half the people are right more than half the time.

— E.B. White

May 21: We say of some things that they can’t be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do — we do it all the time.

— Alice Munro

May 20:  Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle, another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

May 19: The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

Eleanor Roosevelt

May 18:  Reason is powerless against the obstinate love of fiction.

— Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler

May 17: Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.

— Gustav Mahler

May 16: One of the hardest things for new activists to learn is that politics involves them constantly in antagonistic relations with other people.

— Michael Walzer, Political Action

May 15: The effort to define the shape and significance of events requires words and concepts that elude us when we are entranced by visual stimuli.

— Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny

May 14: The ultimate object of all reading must be the improvement of the mind.

— John Quincy Adams, Diaries 1779-1821

May 13: History is like therapy for the present: It makes it talk about its parents.

— Maya Jasanoff, The Dawn Watch

May 12: How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

George Washington Carver

May 11: All creation, from Mother Earth and Father Sky to the animals, those who live in water, those who fly and plant life have their own laws, and have rights and freedom to exist.

The Natural Laws of the Navajo People

May 10:  Apple trees soften and humanize the wildest country scene.

— Alice Morse Earle, Old Time Gardens

May 9: To follow a trade, and not to love and delight in it, is a slavery, a bondage, not a business.

— Daniel Defoe, The Complete English Tradesman

May 8:  Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so.

— Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

May 7:  If man is not to live by bread alone, what is better worth doing well than the planting of trees?

— Frederick Law Olmsted, quoted in A Clearing in the Distance by Witold Rybczynski

May 6: The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.

— Abraham Lincoln, annual message to Congress, 1862

May 5: Gentlemen (of the jury), the world is dark. But it is not hopeless.

— Clarence Darrow, closing argument, Wisconsin v. Kidd

May 4: This does not mean that I hold my opinions to be all true. I do not. Nor do I consider them to be permanent. I am both submissive to facts and amenable to argument. 

–Virgil Thompson, music critic

May 3: We often decide that an outcome is extremely unlikely or impossible because we are unable to imagine any chain of events that could cause it to occur. The defect, often, is our imagination.   — Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky

From The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

May 2:From Gertrude Jekyll,  writing in The Gardener’s Essential Gertrude Jekyll, Elizabeth Lawrence, ed.

   All good gardening is the reward of well-directed and strongly sustained effort.

May 1: From Samuel Johnson, writing in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland:    Established custom is not easily broken, till some great event shakes the whole system of things, and life seems to recommence upon new principles.