Top 71 Herman Melville Quotes

Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.


But vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound.


Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee, as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness.


Ah, happiness courts the light so we deem the world is gay. But misery hides aloof so we deem that misery there is none.


To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.


Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.


It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.


[T]hen all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.


The classification of the constituents of a chaos, nothing less is here essayed.


All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.


And the drawing near of Death, which alike levels all, alike impresses all with a last revelation, which only an author from the dead could adequately tell.


…for it is often to be observed of the shallower men, that they are the very last to despond. It is the glory of the bladder that nothing can sink it; it is the reproach of a box of treasure, that once overboard it must drown


Savage though he was, and hideously marred about the face-at least to my taste-his countenance yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot hide the soul.


[T]here is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.


Ahab and aguish lay stretched together in one hammock.


I’ll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.


You cannot spill a drop of American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world…. We are not a nation, so much as a world.


… an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.


… the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril,


Ahab still stood like an anvil, receiving every shock, but without the least quivering of his own.


Come what will, one comfort’s always left — that unfailing comfort is, it’s all predestinated.


A man thinks that by mouthing hard words he understands hard things.


So far gone am I in the dark side of earth, that its other side, the theoretic bright one, seems but uncertain twilight to me.


The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating them, till they are left living with half a heart and half a lung.


…then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul.


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.


Do not presume, well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed, to criticize the poor


I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.


I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.


I love to sail forbidden seas and land on barbarous coasts.


Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act’s immutably decreed. ‘Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates’ lieutenant, I act under orders.


To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous.


one captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow, had dashed at the whale, as an Arkansas duelist at his foe, blindly seeking with a six-inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale. That captain was Ahab.


For whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books.


Thought he, it’s a wicked world in all meridians; I’ll die a pagan.


I promise nothing complete; because any human thing supposed to be complete, must not for that very reason infallibly be faulty.


…flight from tyranny does not of itself insure a safe asylum, far less a happy home.


Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but disease.


War yet shall be, but warriors are now operatives; war’s made less grand than peace.


In one word, Queequeg, said I, rather digressively; hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling; and since then perpetuated through the hereditary dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans.


Nippers was a whiskered, sallow, and, upon the whole, rather piratical-looking young man of about five and twenty. I always deemed him the victim of two evil powers — ambition and indigestion.


Are not half our lives spent in reproaches for foregone actions, of the true nature and consequences of which we were wholly ignorant at the time?


Of all tools used in the shadow of the moon, men are the most apt to get out of order.


…the great floodgates of the wonder-world swung open…


Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form.


All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad.


All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.


how I wish I could fist a bit of old-fashioned beef in the fore-castle, as I used to when i was before the mast.


There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath…


You will generally observe that, of all Americans, your foreign-born citizens are the most patriotic – especially toward the Fourth of July.


Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure.


The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing, redundant days, were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up—flaked up, with rose-water snow.


Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness


We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.


They have provided a system which for terse comprehensiveness surpasses Justinian’s Pandects and the By-laws of the Chinese Society for the Suppression of Meddling with other People’s Business.


and yet a child’s utter innocence is but its blank ignorance, and the innocence more or less wanes as intelligence waxes.


…yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when once love comes to bend them.


He who has never failed somewhere that man cannot be great.


We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.


He offered a prayer so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea.


From without no wonderful effect is wrought within ourselves unless some interior responding wonder meets it.


Aye, aye, it must be so. I’ve oversailed him. How, got the start? Aye, he’s chasing ME now; not I, HIM–that’s bad


Hope is the struggle of the soul, breaking loose from what is perishable, and attesting her eternity.


To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.


Is there some principal of nature which states that we never know the quality of what we have until it is gone?


Let America first praise mediocrity even, in her children, before she praises… the best excellence in the children of any other land.


Friendship at first sight, like love at first sight, is said to be the only truth.


He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.


In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.


We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.


There are times when even the most potent governor must wink at transgression, in order to preserve the laws inviolate for the future.



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