IR Folks from Times Past

IR Folks from Times Past

Friday, September 27, 2013


Nature is immovable. Euripides, Electra, c. 415

Whatever befalls in the course of nature should be considered good. Cicero, De senectute, xix, c. 78 B.C.

Nature without education has oftener raised man to glory and virtue than education without natural abilities. Cicero, Pro archia poeta, 62 B.C.

Nature resolves everything into its component elements, but annihilates nothing. Lucretius, De rerum natura, I, 57 B.C.

Those things are better which are perfected by nature than those which are finished by art. Cicero, De natura deorum, ii, 45 B.C.

Drive out nature with a pitchfork, and she will always come back. Horace, Satires, c. 25 B.C.

God made the beauties of nature like a child playing in the sand. Ascribed to Apollonius of Tyana (c. 10 B.C.-80 A.D.)

It is difficult to change nature. (Naturam mutare difficile est.) Seneca, De Ira, c. 43

It is hard to make out whether [nature] is a kind parent or a harsh stepmother to man. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, VII, c. 79

Nature is the art of God Eternal. Dante, De monarchia, c. 1320

Nature never breaks her own laws. Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks, c. 1500

The prodigality of nature. Shakespeare, Richard III, I, c. 1592

Such is the nature of the beast. English Saying, traced to the 17th century

To hold, as 't were, the mirror up to nature. Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, c. 1601

Nothing in nature is unserviceable, No, not even inutility itself. John Marston, Sophonisba, 11, 1606

In nature's infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read.
Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, c. 1606

Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. Francis Bacon, Essays, xxxviii, 1612

Nature is not governed except by obeying her. Francis Bacon, De augmentis scientiarum, iii, 1623

Nature seldom gives us the very best; for that we must have recourse to art. Baltarsar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom, xii, 1647

Accuse not nature, she hath done her part;
Do thou but thine!
John Milton, Paradise Lost, viii, 1667

Nature has some perfections, to show that she is the image of God; and some defects, to show that she is only His image. Blaise Pascal, Pensées, xxiv, 1670

Nature has no goal in view, and final causes are only human imaginings. Baruch de Spinoza, Ethics, i, 1677.

The beauty, symmetry, regularity and order seen in the universe are the effects of a blind, unintelligent nature. Pierre Bayle, Pensées diverses, 1680

I always think of nature as a great spectacle, somewhat resembling the opera. Bernard de Fontenelle, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes, i, 1686

Nature, like liberty, is but restrained
By the same laws which first herself ordained.
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, I, 1711

In nature there can never be two beings which are exactly alike. G. W. Leibniz, The Monadology, ix, 1714

Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever. David Hume, Essays Moral and Political, I, 1741

There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me. Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Martha Jefferson Randolph, 1790

The nearer we get to any natural object the more incomprehensible it becomes. A grain of sand is undoubtedly not what I take it to be. G. C. Lichtenberg, Reflections, 1799

I must confess that I am not romance-hit about nature. The earth, the sea, and sky (when all is said) is but as a house to dwell in. Charles Lamb, Letter to Thomas Manning, Nov. 28, 1800

Nature has an etiquette all her own. Ludwig van Beethoven, Letter to Breitkopf and Haertel, Sept. 17, 1812

Nature is not lavish of her beauties; they are widely scattered, and occasionally displayed, to be selected with care, and gathered with difficulty. Byron, Letter to John Murray, Feb. 7, 1821

Nature goes her own way, and all that to us seems an exception is really according to order. J.W. Goethe, Conversations with Eckerman, Dec. 9, 1824

Nature is the term in which we comprehend all things that are representable in the forms of time and space, and subjected to the relations of cause and effect: and the cause of the existence of which, therefore, is to be sought for perpetually in something antecedent. S. T. Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, 1825

There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. R.W. Emerson, Circles, 1841

Nature hates monopolies and exceptions. R.W. Emerson, Compensation, 1841

Nature is an endless combination and repetition of a very few laws. She hums the old well-known air through innumerable variations. R.W. Emerson, History, 1841

Nature red in tooth and claw. Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam, lvi, 1850

Down with pulpit, down with priest,
And give us nature's teaching.
J.G. Whittier, A Sabbath Scene, 1850

Our old mother nature has pleasant and cheery tones enough for us when she comes in her dress of blue and gold over the eastern hilltops; but when she follows us upstairs to our beds in her suit of black velvet and diamonds, every creak of her sandals and whisper of her lips is full of mystery and fear. O. W. Holmes, The Professor at the Breakfast-Table, vii, 1859

I wonder nature don't retire
From public life disgusted.
W. S. Gilbert, Margate, c 1865

As the nature of any given thing is in the aggregate of its powers and properties, so nature in the abstract is the aggregate of the powers and properties of all things. Nature means the sum of all phenomena, together with the causes which produce them; including not only all that happens, but all that is capable of happening. J.S. Mill, Three Essays on Religion, iv, 1874

The more we study art, the less we care for nature. What art really reveals to us is nature's lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition. Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying, 1889

Nature has no one distinguishable ultimate tendency with which it is possible to feel a sympathy. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, xx, 1902

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Source: Mencken, Dictionary of Quotations, 835-839