Last modified on 12 June 2014, at 22:24

Marianne Moore

A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.

Marianne Moore (November 15, 1887February 5, 1972) was a Modernist American poet and writer. Her work Collected Poems (1951) earned her the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize.


  • Everything I have written is the result of reading or of interest in people.
    • As quoted in Pamela White Hadas, Marianne Moore, poet of affection, Syracuse University Press, 1977, p. 6
  • What I write could only be called poetry because there is no other category to put it.
    • Interview with Donald Hall November 1960. Paris Review
  • War is pillage versus resistance and if illusions of magnitude could be transmuted into ideals of magnanimity, peace might be realized.
    • "Comment" in The Dial No. 86 (April 1929)
  • O to be a dragon,
    a symbol of the power of Heaven — of silkworm
    size or immense; at times invisible.
    Felicitous phenomenon!
    • "O To Be A Dragon" in O To Be A Dragon (1957)
  • A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.
    • Interview in Writers at Work, Second Series, ed. George Plimpton (1963)

The Poems of Marianne Moore (2003)Edit

Though many of these are available in other volumes, these quotes are listed in the sequence in which they occur in The Poems of Marianne Moore (2003) edited by Grace Schulman, which arranges them in chronological sections. Dates provided are those of first publication, where known.
  • You are not male nor female, but a plan
    deep-set within the heart of man.
    • "Sun"
  • that which is impossible to force, it is impossible
    to hinder.
    • "Radical"
  • I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this
    Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
    it after all, a place for the genuine.
  • My father used to say "Superior people never make long visits."
    • "Silence"
  • The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
    not in silence, but restraint.
    • "Silence"
  • This is a strange fraternity — these sea lions and land lions,
    land unicorns and sea unicorns
    the lion civilly rampant,
    tame and concessive like the long-tailed bear of Ecuador —
    the lion standing up against this screen of woven air
    which is the forest:
    the unicorn also, on its hind legs in reciprocity.
    • "Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns"
  • So wary as to disappear for centuries and reappear
    but never caught,
    the unicorn has been preserved
    by an unmatched device
    wrought like the work of expert blacksmiths ...
    • "Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns"
  • He's not out
    seeing a sight but the rock
    crystal thing to see
    — the startling El Greco
    brimming with inner light — that
    covets nothing that it has let go. This then you may know
    as the hero.
    • "The Hero"
  • What is our innocence,
    what is our guilt? All are
    naked, none is safe.
    • "What Are Years?"
  • Beauty is everlasting
    and dust is for a time.
    • "In Distrust of Merits" (1944)
  • Some speak of things we know, as new;
    And you, of things unknown as things forgot.
    • "Quoting an Also Private Thought" (this poem is a very slight reworking of an earlier poem "As Has Been Said")
  • We Call Them the Brave
    who likely were reluctant to be brave.
    • "We Call Them the Brave" (the title of this poem is also obviously meant to be read as its first line, though set apart)
  • What of it? We call them brave
    perhaps? Yes; what if the time should come
    when no one will fight for anything
    and there's nothing of worth to save.
    • "We Call Them the Brave"
  • Maine should be pleased that its animal
    is not a waverer, and rather
    than fight, lets the primed quill fall.

    Shallow oppressor, intruder,
    insister, you have found a resister.
    • Of the porcupine, in "Apparition of Splendor"
  • A symbol from the first, of mastery,
    experiments such as Hippocrates made
    and substituted for vague
    speculation stayed
    the ravages of plague.
  • Staff and effigy of the animal
    which by shedding its skin
    is a sign of renewal —
    the symbol of medicine.
    • "The Staff of Aesculapius"
  • The problems is mastered — insupportably
    tiring when it was impending.
    Deliverance accounts for what sounds like axiom.

    The Gordian knot need not be cut.

    • "Charity Overcoming Envy"
  • Love, ah Love, when your slipknot's drawn,
    One can but say, "Farewell, good sense."
    • "The Lion in Love"
  • We are what we were at birth, and each trait has remained
    in conformity with earth's and with heaven's logic
    Be the devil's tool, resort to black magic,
    None can diverge from the ends which Heaven foreordained.
    • "The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid"

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