Herman Melville Quotes

Small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Moby-Dick (1851), ch. 32, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 6, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1988). Spoken by the narrator, Ishmael.
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It is plain and demonstrable, that much ale is not good for Yankee, and operates differently upon them from what it does upon a Briton; ale must be drank in a fog and a drizzle.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Redburn (1849), ch. 28, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 4, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1969).
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Standing navies, as well as standing armies, serve to keep alive the spirit of war even in the meek heart of peace. In its very embers and smoulderings, they nourish that fatal fire, and half-pay officers, as the priests of Mars, yet guard the temple, though no god be there.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. White-Jacket (1850), ch. 49, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 5, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1969).
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The sailor is frankness, the landsman is finesse. Life is not a game with the sailor, demanding the long head—no intricate game of chess where few moves are made in straight-forwardness and ends are attained by indirection, an oblique, tedious, barren game hardly worth that poor candle burnt out in playing it.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Billy Budd, Sailor (posthumous), ch 16, eds. Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Sealts, Jr. (1962).
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Think you, my lord, there is no sensation in being a tree? feeling the sap in one's boughs, the breeze in one's foliage?
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Mardi (1849), ch. 143, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 3, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1970). Spoken by Babbalanja, the philosopher.
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Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Moby-Dick (1851), ch. 114, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 6, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1988).
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In some things, we Americans leave to other countries the carrying out of the principle that stands at the head of our Declaration of Independence.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Redburn (1849), ch. 41, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 4, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1969). Referring to the equal treatment afforded black people in England.
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Be mine the tomb that swallowed up Pharaoh and all his hosts; let me lie down with Drake, where he sleeps in the sea.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. White-Jacket (1850), ch. 19, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 5, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1969).
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Forty years after a battle it is easy for a noncombatant to reason about how it ought to have been fought. It is another thing personally and under fire to have to direct the fighting while involved in the obscuring smoke of it.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Billy Budd, Sailor (posthumous), ch 21, eds. Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Sealts, Jr. (1962). A sham quotation.
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Eternity is not ours by right; and, alone, unrequited sufferings here, form no title thereto.
Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Mardi (1849), ch. 175, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 3, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1970). Spoken by Babbalanja, the philosopher.
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