- Alphabetized by author
- Because thou must not dream, thou needst not then despair!
- Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna (1852), Act I, scene ii.
- The very knowledge that he lived in vain,
That all was over on this side the tomb,
Had made Despair a smilingness assume.
- Despair is like forward children, who, when you take away one of their playthings, throw the rest into the fire for madness. It grows angry with itself, turns its own executioner, and revenges its misfortunes on its own head.
- To have fallen is not a grievous thing, but to remain prostrate after falling, and not to get up again; and, playing the coward and the sluggard, to conceal feebleness of moral purpose under the reasoning of despair.
- Saint John Chrysostom, Letters to Theodore After His Fall
- Despair is the conclusion of fools.
- Benjamin Disraeli, The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, Part 10, Chapter 17.
- There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and have recovered hope.
- George Eliot, Adam Bede (1859).
- Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim.
- Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter (1948), Book I, Part 1, Chapter 2.
Bid me despair, and I’ll despair,
Under that cypress tree:
Or bid me die, and I will dare
E’en Death, to die for thee.
Thou art my life, my love, my heart,
The very eyes of me:
And hast command of every part,
To live and die for thee.
- Robert Herrick, To Anthea, Who May Command Him Anything.
- In the dark night of despair, when every light has gone out for the sufferer, there is still one place where the light is kept burning – it is along this way the despairing one must go, which is the way out: when you love God. In the fearful moment of disconsolateness, when there is no more talk or thought of any concluding clause, but humanly speaking the meaning is ended – there is still one clause left, a courageous clause of comfort that intrepidly penetrates into the greatest terror and creates new meaning: when you love God. In the dreadful moment of decisiveness, when humanly speaking no turn is any longer possible, when there is everywhere only wretchedness wherever you turn and however you turn – there is still one more turn possible: it will miraculously turn everything into good for you: when you love God.
- Soren Kierkegasard, Christian Discourses 1848, Hong 1997 p. 195-196
- Despair is exactly a consumption of the self, but an impotent self-consumption not capable of doing what it wants. But what it wants is to consume itself, which it cannot do, and this impotence is a new form of self-consumption, but in which despair is once again incapable of doing what it wants, to consume itself. This is a heightened despair, or the law for the heightening of despair. This is the hot incitement or the cold fire of despair, this incessantly inward gnawing, deeper and deeper in impotent self-consumption. Far from its being any comfort to the despairer that the despair doesn’t consume him, on the contrary this comfort is just what torments him; this is the very thing that keeps the sore alive and life in the sore. For what he – not despaired of – despairs over is precisely this: that he cannot consume himself, cannot be rid of himself, cannot become nothing. This is the heightened formula of despair, the rising fever in this sickness of the self.
- Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death 1849 Hannay 1989 P. 48-49
- Just as a physician might say there isn’t a single human being who enjoys perfect health, so someone with a proper knowledge of man might say there is not a single human being who does not despair at least a little, in whose innermost being there does not dwell an uneasiness, an unquiet, a discordance, an anxiety about a possibility in life or an anxiety about himself, so that as a physician speaks of one’s going about with an illness in the body, he goes about with a sickness, goes about weighed down with a sickness of the spirit, which only now and then reveals its presence within, in glimpses, and with what is for him an inexplicable anxiety.
- Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death 1849 Hannay 1989 p. 52
- Despair is paralysis. It robs us of agency. It blinds us to our own power and the power of the earth.
- The First Truth is an assertion that all manifested life is sorrow, unless man knows how to live it... the Cause of Sorrow is always desire. If a man has no desires, if he is not striving for place or power or wealth, then he is equally tranquil whether the wealth or position comes or whether it goes. He remains unruffled and serene.... Being human, he will of course wish for this or that, but always mildly and gently, so that he does not allow himself to be disturbed... the Noble Eightfold Path... can be taken at all levels. The man in the world, even the uneducated man, can take it in its lowest aspects and find a way to peace and comfort through it. And yet the highest philosopher may also take it and interpret it at his level and learn very much from it.
- How often, for example, a young man desires affection from someone who cannot give it to him, who has it not to give! From such a desire as that comes often a great deal of sadness, jealousy and much other ill-feeling. You will say that such a desire is natural; undoubtedly it is, and affection which is returned is a great source of happiness. Yet if it cannot be returned, a man should have the strength to accept the situation, and not allow sorrow to be caused by the unsatisfied desire.
My love is of a birth as rare
As ’tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by Despair
Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing,
Where feeble Hope could ne’er have flown
But vainly flapped its tinsel wing.
- Andrew Marvell, The Definition of Love (1681).
- Buddhism’s famed Four Truths are called noble because they liberate us from suffering.
- Melvin McLeod in "What Are the Four Noble Truths?" (12 March 2018)
- Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven.
- IT'S BETTER TO DIE IN THE FLESH OF HOPE
THAN TO LIVE IN THE SLIMNESS OF DESPAIR.
- Grace Nichols, The Fat Black Woman’s Poems (1984), "The Fat Black Woman's Motto on Her Bedroom Door".
- What is the light that can dispel this ignorance of ours and remove all sorrows? A. The knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, as the Buddha called them... How can we escape the sufferings which result from unsatisfied desires and ignorant cravings? A. By complete conquest over, and destruction of, this eager thirst for life and its pleasures, which causes sorrow.... By following the Noble Eight-fold Path which the Buddha discovered and pointed out...The man who keeps these... in mind and follows them will be free from sorrow
- Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving — it doesn't matter,
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times,
Come, come again, come.
- Rumi. as quoted in Sunbeams : A Book of Quotations (1990) by Sy Safransky, p. 67
- Variant translations:
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, idolator, worshipper of fire, come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,
Come, and come yet again. Ours is not a caravan of despair.
- As quoted in Muslim Narratives and the Discourse of English (2004) by Amin Malak, p. 151
- Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of living, it doesn't matter
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come even if you have broken your vow a thousand times,
Come, yet again, come, come.
- As quoted in Rumi and His Sufi Path of Love (2007) by M Fatih Citlak and Huseyin Bingul, p. 81.
- Only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.
- Bertrand Russell, A Free Man's Worship (1903).
- If either the absence or the presence of novelty is equally annoying, it would hardly seem that either could be the true cause of despair.
- Human life begins on the far side of despair.
- Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mouches (1943), Act III.
- I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul will pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?
- Reviewers, with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant race. As a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker in despair, so an unsuccessful author turns critic.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, in "Fragments of Adonais" in Relics of Shelley (1862) edited by Richard Garnett.
- I believe in evil. It is the property of all those who are certain of truth. Despair and fanaticism are only differing manifestations of evil.
- Edward Teller, as quoted in The Martians of Science : Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century (2006) by Istvan Hargittai, p. 251.
- Let despair be known
as my ebb-tide; but let prayer
have its springs, too, brimming,
disarming him; discovering somewhere
among his fissures deposits of mercy
where trust may take root and grow.
- R. S. Thomas, in "Tidal" in Mass for Hard Times (1992), p. 43.
- What is the light that can dispel this ignorance of ours and remove all sorrows? A. The knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, as the Buddha called them... How can we escape the sufferings which result from unsatisfied desires and ignorant cravings? A. By complete conquest over, and destruction of, this eager thirst for life and its pleasures, which causes sorrow.... By following the Noble Eight-fold Path which the Buddha discovered and pointed out...The man who keeps these... in mind and follows them will be free from sorrow and ultimately reach salvation.
- The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. The pain that you create now is always some form of non acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind. The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it. In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. Or you may put it like this: the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering - and free of the egoic mind. p. 26
- Your unhappiness is polluting not only your own inner being and those around you but also the collective human psyche of which you are an inseparable part. The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space. Either stop doing what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created around the situation and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to strengthen a false sense of self. Recognizing its futility is important. Negativity is never the optimum way of dealing with any situation. In fact, in most cases it keeps you stuck in it, blocking real change. Anything that is done with negative energy will become contaminated by it and in time give rise to more pain, more unhappiness. Furthermore, any negative inner state is contagious: Unhappiness spreads more easily than a physical disease. Through the law of resonance, it triggers and feeds latent negativity in others, unless they are immune - that is, highly conscious. Are you polluting the world or cleaning up the mess? You are responsible for your inner space; nobody else is... p. 53
- How can we drop negativity, as you suggest? By dropping it. How do you drop a piece of hot coal that you are holding in your hand? How do you drop some heavy and useless baggage that you are carrying? By recognizing that you don't want to suffer the pain or carry the burden anymore and then letting go of it.
- I can endure my own despair,
But not another’s hope.
- William Walsh, Song: Of All the Torments.
- Waking among the dead, one wondered if one was still alive. And yet real despair only seized us later. Afterwards. As we emerged from the nightmare and began to search for meaning.
- Elie Wiesel, on his experiences during the Nazi Holocaust, in "Hope, Despair, and Memory" his Nobel lecture (11 December 1986).
- Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair. I remember the killers, I remember the victims, even as I struggle to invent a thousand and one reasons to hope.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations Edit
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 189-90.
- I will indulge my sorrows, and give way
To all the pangs and fury of despair.
- Joseph Addison, Cato, A Tragedy (1713), Act IV, scene 3.
- Despair of ever being saved, "except thou be born again," or of seeing God "without holiness," or of having part in Christ except thou "love him above father, mother, or thy own life." This kind of despair is one of the first steps to heaven.
- Richard Baxter, Saint's Rest, Chapter VI.
- The world goes whispering to its own,
"This anguish pierces to the bone;"
And tender friends go sighing round,
"What love can ever cure this wound?"
My days go on, my days go on.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, De Profundis, Stanza 5.
- The name of the Slough was Despond.
- John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (1678), Part I, Chapter II.
- The nympholepsy of some fond despair.
- Darkness our guide, Despair our leader was.
- John Denham, Essay on Vergil's Æneid.
- Night was our friend, our leader was Despair.
- John Dryden, translation of Virgil's Æneid (29-19 BC), Book II. 487.
- Nil desperandum Teucro duce et auspice Teucro.
- Never despair while under the guidance and auspices of Teucer.
- Horace, Carmina, I, 7, 27.
- Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit
That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair.
- Thus repuls'd, our final hope
Is flat despair.
- Desperatio magnum ad honeste moriendum incitamentum.
- Despair is a great incentive to honorable death.
- Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni, IX, 5, 6.
- O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
- They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly.
But, bear-like, I must fight the course.
- For nothing canst thou to damnation add
Greater than that.
- Discomfort guides my tongue
And bids me speak of nothing but despair.
- Oh, break, my heart! poor bankrupt, break at once!
To prison, eyes, ne'er look on liberty!
Vile earth, to earth resign; end motion here;
And thou and Romeo press one heavy bier!
- Thou tyrant!
Do not repent these things, for they are heavier
Than all thy woes can stir: therefore, betake thee
To nothing but despair.
- No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound (1820), Act I, line 24.
- * * * then black despair,
The shadow of a starless night, was thrown
Over the world in which I moved alone.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, Revolt of Islam, Dedication, Stanza 6.
- Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
- John Greenleaf Whittier, Snow-Bound, line 204.
Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895) Edit
- Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
- Mr. Fearing had, I think, a slough of despond in his mind, a slough that he carried everywhere with him, or else he could never have been as he was.
- John Bunyan, p. 191.
- Despair is the damp of hell; rejoicing is the serenity of heaven.
- John Donne, p. 191.
- Disordered nerves are the origin of much religious despair, when the individual does not suspect it; and then the body and mind have a reciprocal influence upon each other, and it is difficult to tell which influences the other most. The physician is often blamed, when the fault lies with the minister. Depression never benefits body or soul. We are saved by hope.
- Ichabod Spencer, p. 191.
- It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent.
- Jeremy Taylor, p. 191.
Fictional Quotes Edit
- Every man who has rotted here over the centuries has looked up to the light and imagined climbing to freedom. So easy... So simple... And like shipwrecked men turning to sea water from uncontrollable thirst, many have died trying. I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope.
- Bane, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)