Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations

“Y” Quotations


  • A yawn is a silent shout. G. K. Chesterton, quoted in Leo Rosten, Infinite Riches: Gems from a Lifetime of Reading (1979)


(includes [OLD] YEAR and [PAST] YEAR and NEW YEAR’S DAY and [NEW YEAR’S] RESOLUTIONS; see also DAYS and DECADES and ERAS and MONTHS and TIME and YEARS)

  • May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions! Joey Adams, quoted in a 1987 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific issue undetermined)
  • New Year’s Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time. James Agate, in A Shorter Ego, Vol. 3 (1949)
  • Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go. Brooks Atkinson, “December 31, ” in Once Around the Sun (1951)
  • Keep young. Many men talk about being born again. Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Henry Ward Beecher, “A Completed Year” sermon; reprinted in Plymouth Pulpit: A Weekly Publication of Sermons Preached by Henry Ward Beecher, Vol. 5 (1882)

Beecher continued: “Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past.”

  • Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Hal Borland, “The Tomorrows—December 30,” in Sundial of the Seasons (1964)
  • Some people have a regular practice of making New Year resolutions—generally shattering them before January has hidden its cold head out of sight. Will Carleton, “Editorial Thoughts and Fancies”, in Every Where magazine (Dev. 1912–Jan. 1913)

Carleton continued: “Resolves, in order to be of any use, should be made every day in the year, and if necessary every hour in the day.”

  • The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year, it is that we should have a new soul. G. K. Chesterton, in The Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton (1911)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is almost always presented these days, but it was originally part of this fuller thought: “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year, it is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”

  • For last year’s words belong to last year’s language/And next year’s words await another voice. T. S. Eliot, the voice of the Ghost, in “Little Gidding” the fourth and final poem in Four Quartets (1942)
  • On New Year’s Day every calendar, large and small, has the same number of dates. But we soon learn that the years are of very different lengths. Dorothy Canfield Fisher, the voice of the narrator, in Bonfire (1933)

Fisher continued: “Nobody knows beforehand which ones will swing along at the steady pace of seasoned soldiers, which ones will caper past like children at play, and which will crawl by, dressed in black, headed for an open grave.”

  • Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (Dec., 1755)
  • I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. Neil Gaiman, in a blog post (Dec. 31, 2009)

Gaiman added that this was his wish for himself as well as for his fans. He continued: “Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.”

  • A new year is a gift, a small piece of infinity, to do with as we will. Things happen. We grow (we hope), and we learn willy nilly. Life moves around us, life moves through us to others, and the year gradually accepts its pattern. We give, we take, we resist, we flow. Jean Hersey, in The Shape of a New Year (1967)
  • New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday. Widely attributed to Charles Lamb, but never with a source cited

ERROR ALERT: Lamb never wrote these exact words, but he certainly subscribed to the sentiment. In the “New Year’s Eve” essay in Essays of Elia (1823), he wrote “Every man hath two birthdays,” the actual date of his birth and the first of January. In the essay, he went on to write: “No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.”

  • Of all sound of all bells…most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. Charles Lamb, “New Year’s Eve,” in Essays of Elia (1823)
  • Time has no division to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols. Thomas Mann, the voice of the narrator, in The Magic Mountain (1924)
  • Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals? Ogden Nash, in Good-bye, Old Year, You Oaf, or Why Don’t They Pay the Bonus? (1935)
  • A new year is a clean slate, a chance to suck in your breath, decide all is not lost and give yourself another chance. Sarah Overstreet, “Take Some Time to Smell the Flowers,” The Galveston Daily News (Jan. 7, 1991)
  • Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one. Brad Paisley, in a Tweet (Dec. 31, 2009)
  • We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. Edith Lovejoy Pierce, quoted in Jean Beaven Abernethy, Meditations for Women (1947)
  • And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to wife Clara Westhoff (Jan. 1, 1907)

ERROR ALERT: All over the Internet, this thought is mistakenly presented this way: “And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been before.“

  • Ring out the old, ring in the new,/Ring, happy bells, across the snow:/The year is going, let him go;/Ring out the false, ring in the true. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A. H. H.” (1850)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the origin of the expression about ringing in the new year.

  • Hope/Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,/Whispering, “It will be happier.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the character Robin Hood speaking, in The Foresters (1892)
  • New Year’s Day. Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Mark Twain, in letter to the Virginia City [Nevada Territory] Territorial Enterprise (Jan. 1, 1863)

Twain continued: “Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever…. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.”

  • Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. Oprah Winfrey, in O: The Oprah Magazine (Jan 1, 2004)


(see also DAYS and DECADES and ERAS and MONTHS and TIME and [New] YEAR)

  • The years shall run like rabbits,/For in my arms I hold/The Flower of the Ages,/And the first love of the world. W. H. Auden, in “As I Walked Out One Evening” (1937); in Another Time (1940)

QUOTE NOTE: To hear Auden recite the poem, go to Auden “One Evening” Poem.

  • Years teach us more than books Berthold Auerbach, quoted in Manford’s New Monthly Magazine (Nov., 1890)
  • Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • People forget years and remember moments. Ann Beattie, the voice of the narrator in the short story “Snow,” in Where You’ll Find Me: And Other Stories (1986)

The narrator preceded the thought by writing: “Who expects small things to survive when even the largest get lost?”

  • A minute’s success pays the failure of years. Robert Browning, in “Apollo and the Fates” (1886)
  • For years fleet away with the wings of the dove. Lord Byron (George Noel Gordon), “The First Kiss of Love,” in Stanzas for Music (1815)
  • Years steal/Fire from the mind as vigor from the limb. Lord Byron (George Noel Gordon), in Child Harold’s Pilgrimage, III (1816)
  • I could not prove that years had feet—/Yet confident they run. Emily Dickinson, opening lines of poem no. 674 (1862)
  • The years teach much which the days never know. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience,” in Essays: Second Series (1844)
  • All the years have their harvest. Anthony Gilbert (pen name of Lucy Beatrice Malleson), in Death in the Wrong Room (1947)
  • Not to hope for things to last forever is what the year teaches. Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), in Odes (1st c. B.C.)
  • Our years/Glide silently away. Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), in Odes (1st c. B.C.)
  • There are years that ask questions and years that answer. Zora Neale Hurston, in Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • Years in themselves mean nothing. How we live them means everything. Elisabeth Marbury, in My Crystal Ball: Reminiscences (1913)
  • After a certain number of years, our faces become our biographies. We get to be responsible for our faces. Cynthia Ozick, in Paris Review interview (Spring, 1987)
  • Years are only garments, and you either wear them with style all your life, or else you go dowdy to the grave. Dorothy Parker, in “The Middle or Blue Period,” (1944)) in The Portable Dorothy Parker (1988)
  • I have learned little from the years that fly; /But I have wrung the color from the years. Francis Pollock, “Soliloquy,” in The Canadian Poetry Magazine (1936; specific issue undetermined)

ERROR ALERT: A number of respected quotation anthologies have presented the author’s first name as Frances, mistakenly suggesting a female poet. Francis Pollock was a Canadian writer and poet whose literary efforts were heavily influenced by his passion for beekeeping. The sonnet continued: “And I have seen the red blood flow and tears,/And I have seen gold come and love pass by.”

  • Years following years steal something every day;/At last they steal us from ourselves away. Alexander Pope, in Imitations of Horace (1733–38)

QUOTE NOTE: Pope’s couplet was inspired by the following passage from Epistles of Horace (1st. c. B.C.): “The passing years steal from us one thing after another.”

  • And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way. John Steinbeck, the voice of the narrator, in East of Eden (1952)
  • Years grow cold to love. Virgil, in Georgics (1st. c. B.C.)
  • The years like great black oxen tread the world,/And God the herdsman goads them on behind,/And I am broken by their passing feet. William Butler Yeats, in The Countess Cathleen (1895)


* **There are three ingredients to the good life; learning, earning, and yearning.**  //Christopher Morley//, in //Pipefuls// (1930)


[Saying] YES

(see also AGREEMENT and ASSENT and DISAGREEMENT and DISSENT and [Saying] NO)


(see also AGREEMENT and ASSENT and DISAGREEMENT and DISSENT and [Saying] NO and [Saying] Yes)

  • One-half the troubles of this life can be traced to saying “Yes” too quick and not saying “No” soon enough. Josh Billings [Henry Wheeler Shaw], in Josh Billings’ Old Farmer’s Allminax (May, 1878)

QUOTE NOTE: The saying was originally presented in Billings’s characteristic phonetic dialect: “One half the troubles ov this life kan be traced to saying ‘Yes’ too quick, and not saying ‘No’ soon enuff.”

  • The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes. Tony Blair, quoted in Mail on Sunday (London; Oct. 2, 1994)
  • What is a rebel? A man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply renunciation. He is also a man who says yes, from the moment he makes his first gesture of rebellion. Albert Camus, the opening line of The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt (1951)

QUOTE NOTE: In discussing a slave’s first act of rebellion, Camus went on to write that “his no affirms the existence of a borderline” and that his stance “says yes and no simultaneously.”

QUOTATION CAUTION: Many internet sites and quotation anthologies present a truncated version of the thought: “What is a rebel? A man who says no.”

  • “No” and “Yes” are words quickly said, but they need a great amount of thought before you utter them. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • All the mistakes I ever made in my life were when I wanted to say no and said yes. Moss Hart, remark to Garson Kanin, quoted in Ruth Gordon, Myself Among Others (1971)
  • There is no meaningful yes unless the individual could also have said no. Rollo May, in Power and Innocence: A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972)
  • Learn to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best. John C. Maxwell, in The Power of Leadership (2001)
  • You start by saying “no” to requests. Then if you have to go to “yes,” okay. But if you start with “yes” you can’t get to “no.”

Mildred Perlman, quoted in The New York Times (Dec. 1, 1975)

Perlman described this as her “credo” when she retired as Director of Classification for New York City’s Civil Service Commission.



  • If you’re still hanging on to a dead dream of yesterday, laying flowers on its grave by the hour, you cannot be planting the seeds for a new dream to grow today. Joyce Chapman, in Live Your Dream: Discover and Achieve Your Life Purpose (2002)
  • We are all ghosts of yesterday, and the phantom of tomorrow awaits us alike in sunshine or in shadow, dimly perceived at times, never entirely lost. Daphne du Maurier, in Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer (1977)
  • Today is Yesterday’s Pupil. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (1751)
  • Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. William B. Given, Jr. in Brake Show Yardsticks (1949)

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, this saying—sometimes phrased with take up rather than use up—is mistakenly attributed to Will Rogers (and occasionally to John Wooden). Given, the president of the American Brake Shoe Company, expressed this and other observation about business and life in a pamphlet published by his own company. Thanks to master quotation researcher Barry Popik for his invaluable help in sourcing this quotation.

  • There is no distance on this earth as far away as yesterday. Robert Nathan, the voice of the narrator, in So Love Returns (1958)



  • Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness,/And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream. Kahlil Gibran, in The Prophet (1923)


  • Is there another word in the English language quite so useful, so hopeful, so truly pregnant as “yet”? Gore Vidal, in Sex, Death, and Money (1968)



  • If Hebrew was nobler and more dignified—the exterior of the coat—Yiddish was warmer and more comfortable—the lining of the coat. Shmarya Levin, in Childhood in Exile (1929)
  • Yiddish is a household tongue, and God, like other members of the family, is sweetly informal in it. Cynthia Ozick, in Metaphor and Memory (1989)
  • Yiddish is the Robin Hood of languages. It steals from the linguistically rich to give to the fledgling poor. It shows not the slightest hesitation in taking in houseguests—to whom it gives free room and board regardless of genealogy, faith, or exoticism. Leo Rosten, in Preface to The New Joys of Yiddish (2001)

Rosten went on to write: “Yiddish is a language of exceptional charm. Like any street gamin who has survived unnamable adversities, it is bright, audacious, mischievous. It has displayed immense resourcefulness, immenser resilience, and immensest determination not to die—properties whose absence has proved fatal to more genteel and languid languages. I think it a tongue that never takes its tongue out of its cheek.”

  • Yiddish has a down-to-earth quality that makes it remote from high-flown rhetoric, and it has a catch-as-catch-can charm derived from its stunning variety—of syntax, spelling, pronunciation, and vocabulary—from region to region. Israel Shenker, in Coat of Many Colors (1985)
  • In a figurative way, Yiddish is the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of frightened and hopeful Humanity. Israel Bashevis Singer, in Nobel Lecture (Dec. 8, 1978)

A bit earlier in his address, Singer said: “There is a quiet humor in Yiddish and a gratitude for every day of life, every crumb of success, each encounter of love. The Yiddish mentality is not haughty. It does not take victory for granted. It does not demand and command, but it muddles through, sneaks by, smuggles itself amidst the powers of destruction, knowing somewhere that God’s plan for Creation is still at the very beginning.”



  • What is Yoga? Yoga is self-conquest. Sri Chinmoy, in The Wisdom of Sri Chinmoy (2000)
  • Yoga is the study of balance, and balance is the aim of all living creatures. Rolf Gates, in Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga (2002; with Katrina Kenison)
  • Yoga is an exquisite form of bodywork that eliminates the residue that has become lodged in the tissue. Richard Miller, quoted in Amy Weintraub, “The Natural Prozac,” in Yoga Journal (Nov/Dec, 1999)

Miller, a clinical psychologist as well as a yoga therapist, was a founding editor of The Journal of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. According to Miller, “Depression is a somatic-based problem that has gotten into the tissues, and people who are depressed need bodywork.”

  • Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind. Patañjali, in The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali (2nd c. B.C.)

QUOTE NOTE: This passage is also commonly translated: “Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.”

  • Yoga is the poetry of movements. Amit Ray, in Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Life Style (2010)
  • When talk therapy and antidepressants aren’t enough, the yoga mat is a good place to turn to for help. Amy Weintraub, “The Natural Prozac,” in Yoga Journal (Nov/Dec, 1999)
  • Yoga: The Poetry of the Body. Rodney Yee, title of 2002 book



  • The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication. Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics (4th c. B.C.)
  • I’m not young enough to know everything. J. M. Barrie, the character Ernest speaking, in The Admirable Crichton (1902)
  • The young are an alien species. They won’t replace us by revolution. They will forget and ignore us out of existence. William S. Burroughs, in The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (1971)
  • Young people want to look like peas in a pod, and there is no use trying to make them look different. Ilka Chase, in Past Imperfect (1942)
  • The young always have the same problem—how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this problem by defying their elders and copying each other. Quentin Crisp, in The Naked Civil Servant (1968)
  • Young folks don’t want you to understand ’em. You’ve got no more right to understand them than you have to play their games or wear their clothes. They belong to themselves. Edna Ferber, the character Pansy speaking, in Great Son (1944)
  • Men grow to the stature to which they are stretched when they are young. Antony Jay, in Management and Machiavelli (1967)
  • It takes a very long time to become young. Pablo Picasso, quoted by Jean Cocteau, in The Hand of a Stranger (1953; first English ed. in 1956)

QUOTE NOTE: Picasso was fond of oxymoronic and paradoxical observations, and this is one of his best. In the original French version of his book, titled Journal d'un Inconnu (literally Diary of an Unknown), Cocteau presented the observation this way: “On met très longtemps à devenir jeune.”

  • Young men are apt to think themselves wise enough, as drunken men are apt to think themselves sober enough. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (Jan. 15, 1753)


(see also YOUNG and YOUNG & OLD and YOUTH & AGE)

  • Fairy tales can come true,/It can happen to you/If you’re young at heart. Caroline Leigh, lyric from the 1953 song “Young at Heart” (music by Johnny Leigh; first popularized by Frank Sinatra)

QUOTE NOTE: Leigh's lyrics for an instrumental song Richards had originally titled “Moonbeam” were so perfect that they changed the title. Frank Sinatra's version of the song was so popular that a film Sinatra was making at the time with Doris Day was changed to match the song title (the song was also used in the opening as well as the closing credits). The song went on to be recorded by countless others and is n ow considered an American standard.

  • You wake up one day and suddenly realize that your youth is behind you, even though you’re still young at heart. You’ve got to get through this lament for what was. Joni Mitchell, quoted in Stacy Luftig, The Joni Mitchell Companion: Four Decades of Commentary (2000)


(see YOUTH & AGE)


(see also PLURAL and SINGULAR)

  • “Youse” is the plural of “you.” Dashiell Hammett, from “Suggestions to Detective Story Writers,” in Crime Stories and Other Writings (2001; Steven Marcus, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: I loved this quotation from the moment I first discovered it a number of years ago. As soon as I began sharing it with others, though, I was surprised at the number of southern friends who quickly countered with, “No, the plural of you is Y’all!”



  • Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair. Mitch Albom, in The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2003)

Albom introduced the thought by writing: “All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped.”

  • Youth has the resilience to absorb disaster and weave it into the pattern of its life, no matter how anguishing the thorn that penetrates its flesh. Sholem Asch, the voice of the narrator, in East River (1946)
  • I’ve never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It’s probably because they have forgotten their own. Margaret Atwood, a reflection of the unnamed narrator, “Hair Jewelry.” in Dancing Girls (1982)
  • Youth is the pollen/That blows through the sky/And does not ask why. Stephen Vincent Benét, in John Brown’s Body (1928)
  • Youth is a disease that must be borne with patiently! Time, indeed, will cure it. Robert Hugh Benson, the voice of the narrator, in Come Rack! Come Rope! (1912)
  • To me it seems that youth is like spring, an overpraised season—delightful if it happens to be a favored one, but in practice very rarely favored and more remarkable, as a general rule, for biting east winds than genial breezes. Samuel Butler, the voice of the narrator, in The Way of All Flesh (1903)

Butler continued the contrast between youth and maturity by writing: “Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”

  • Youth is harmed by having wisdom thrust upon it. Youth must gather wisdom slowly, in laughter and tears. Mrs. Patrick Campbell, in My Life and Some Letters (1921)
  • Youth is so insatiable of happiness, and has such sublimely insane faith in its own power to make happy and be happy! Jane Welsh Carlyle, in letter to Miss Barnes (Aug. 25, 1859); reprinted in Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Vol. 2 (1883; James Anthony Froude, ed.)
  • Youth is to all the glad season of life; but often only by what it hopes, not by what it attains, or what it escapes. Thomas Carlyle, “Schiller,” in Fraser’s magazine (1831) reprinted in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1855)
  • The two things that nearly all of us have thoroughly and really been through are childhood and youth. And though we would not have them back again on any account, we feel that they are both beautiful, because we have drunk them dry. G. K. Chesterton, “The Contented Man,” in A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Chesterton preceded the observation by writing: “When you have really exhausted an experience you always reverence and love it.”

  • Youth: a time of great disturbance, folly, and distress, for which we are nostalgic the rest of our lives. Jim Collins

QUOTE NOTE: This was the winning entry in a 2016 “Youth Quotations Contest” sponsored through my weekly e-newsletter: Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week. To see the other top winners and twenty “Honorable Mentions” go Quotation Contest.

  • Your youth is like a water-wetted stone/Bright with a beauty that is not its own. Frances Cornford, “Susan to Diana,” in Autumn Midnight (1923)
  • Youth is but an insecure custodian. Edward Counsel, in Maxims: Political, Philosophical, and Moral (2nd ed., 1892)
  • It is better to waste one’s youth than to do nothing with it at all. Georges Courteline, in La Philosophie de Georges Courteline (1948)
  • All the good wine of life our drunken youth devours. Abraham Cowley, “To the New Year,” in The Works of Abraham Cowley (1678)
  • The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity. Benjamin Disraeli, the closing line of the novel, in Sybil (1845)
  • If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us. George Eliot, in Middlemarch (1871)

Eliot added: “For no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new.”

  • In youth, we clothe ourselves with rainbows, and go as brave as the zodiac. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Fate,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!/That Youth’s sweet-scented Manuscript should close! Edward Fitzgerald, in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1859)
  • Everybody’s youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness. F. Scott Fitzgerald, in The Diamond as Big as the Ritz (1922)
  • This is a youth-oriented society, and the joke is on them because youth is a disease from which we all recover. Dorothy Fuldheim, the opening line of “I Threw Jerry Rubin off My Show,” in A Thousand Friends (1974)
  • Youth’s the season made for joys. John Gay, in The Beggar’s Opera (1728)
  • It is the duty of youth to bring its fresh new powers to bear on social progress. Each generation of young people should be to the world like a vast reserve force to a tired army. They should lift the world forward. That is what they are for. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “What Young People Are For,” in The Forerunner: A Monthly Magazine (Jan., 1912 )
  • Youth is intoxication without wine. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in West-Eastern Divan (1819)
  • Youth is, after all, just a moment, but it is the moment, the spark that you always carry in your heart. Raisa M. Gorbachev, in I Hope (1991)
  • Youth itself is a talent—a perishable talent. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • Youth, even in its sorrows, always has a brilliancy of its own. Victor Hugo, in Les Misérables (1862)
  • Childhood does sometimes pay a second visit to man—youth never. Anna Brownell Jameson, quoted in Edward Parsons Day, Day’s Collacon: An Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations (1884)
  • The wine of youth does not always clear with advancing years; sometimes it grows turbid. Carl Jung, in The Stages of Life (1930)
  • Youth is full of sunshine and life. Youth is happy, because it has the ability to see beauty. When this ability is lost, wretched old age begins, decay, unhappiness. Franz Kafka, quoted in Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 2nd expanded ed., 1971)

A moment later, Kafka concluded the thought this way: “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” Some Kafka scholars have questioned the authenticity of these observations. See explanation in the Kafka ACHIEVEMENT entry.

  • It is not possible for civilization to flow backward while there is youth in the world. Helen Keller, in Midstream (1930)
  • Fond youth flatters itself that all must heed its prayer. Jean de La Fontaine, “The Old Cat and the Young Mouse,” in Fables (1668–94)
  • Youth as glimpsed by its elders is a story that comes from afar, showing itself as either lovely to look at or a torment to endure. Lewis H. Lapham, “Fortune’s Child,” in Lapham’s Quarterly: Youth (Summer 2014)
  • Youth is a perpetual intoxication; it is a fever of the mind François de la Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • I’ve always believed in the adage that the secret of eternal youth is arrested development. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, quoted in Howard Teichmann, Alice, The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1979)
  • If youth be a defect, it is one that we outgrow only too soon. James Russell Lowell, in speech at Harvard University (Nov. 8, 1886)
  • Youth is a religion from which one always ends up being converted. André Malraux, in The Royal Way (1930)

QUOTE NOTE: A 1935 Time magazine piece on Malraux’s work presented a slightly different translation: “Youth is a religion which, in the long run. a man has always to retract.”

  • What is youth anyway? Nothing but a tight skin. Frances Marion, in Off With Their Heads (1972)
  • Time, the subtle thief of youth. John Milton, in “Sonnet VII” (written 1631; first published 1645)

QUOTE NOTE: This phrase first appeared in a poem Milton wrote on the occasion of his twenty-third birthday and included in a letter he sent to a friend. Here is the full couplet in which the phrase appeared: “How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,/Stol’n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!”

  • You wake up one day and suddenly realize that your youth is behind you, even though you’re still young at heart. You’ve got to get through this lament for what was. Joni Mitchell, quoted in Stacy Luftig, The Joni Mitchell Companion: Four Decades of Commentary (2000)
  • Youth is a marvelous garment. Iris Murdoch, a reflection of protagonist Dora Greenfield, as she looks at a handsome young lad sitting nearby in a train car, in The Bell (1958)

QUOTE NOTE: As Dora looks at the young man—approximately eighteen years old—she is described by the narrator this way: “Dora recognized that look out of her own past as she contemplated the boy, confident, unmarked, and glowing with health, his riches still in store.”

  • Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question: what have you truly loved up to now, what has drawn your soul aloft, what has mastered it and at the same time blessed it? Friedrich Nietzsche, “Schopenhauer as Educator,” in Untimely Meditations (1874)

Nietzsche continued: “Set up these revered objects before you and perhaps their nature and their sequence will give you a law, the fundamental law of your own true self.” A traditional translation of the first portion of the quotation goes this way: “Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question, ‘What hast thou up to now truly loved, and what has drawn thy soul upward, mastered it and blessed it too?’”

  • Youth is the seed-time of good habits, as well in nations as in individuals. Thomas Paine, in Common Sense (1776)
  • Youth is a mortal wound. Katherine Paterson, in Jacob Have I Loved (1980)
  • In early youth, as we contemplate our coming life, we are like children in a theater before the curtain is raised, sitting there in high spirits and eagerly waiting for the play to begin. Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Sufferings of the World,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

Schopenhauer demonstrated his reputation as one of the great philosophical pessimists by adding: “It is a blessing that we do not know what is really going to happen. Could we foresee it, there are times when children might seem like innocent prisoners, condemned, not to death, but to life, and as yet all unconscious of what their sentence means.”

  • Youth’s a stuff will not endure. William Shakespeare, the character Feste, in a song, in Twelfth Night (1601)
  • He wears the rose/of youth upon him. William Shakespeare, Antony describing Caesar, in Antony and Cleopatra (1606)
  • My salad days,/When I was green in judgment. William Shakespeare, Cleopatra describing her youth, in Antony and Cleopatra (1606)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the origin of a popular metaphor for youthful inexperience and indiscretion. For more on the expression, and how the meaning has evolved to mean something close to glory days, go to “Salad Days”.

  • Don’t laugh at a youth for his affectations; he is only trying on one face after another to find a face of his own. Logan Pearsall Smith, in Afterthoughts (1931)
  • Youth should be a savings-bank. Anne Sophie Swetchine, in The Writings of Madame Swetchine (1869; Count de Falloux, ed.)
  • When I can look Life in the eyes/ Grown calm and very coldly wise, /Life will have given me the Truth,/And taken in exchange—my youth. Sara Teasdale, in Harper’s Magazine (Feb., 1917)
  • Youth has become a class. Roger Vadim, quoted in Marylin Bender, The Beautiful People (1967)
  • The deepest definition of Youth is, Life as yet untouched by tragedy. Alfred North Whitehead, in Adventures of Ideas (1933)

QUOTE NOTE: Whitehead went on to offer a set of reflections on youth that contained this famous observation: “The memories of youth are better to live through, than is youth itself. For except in extreme cases, memory is apt to count the sunny hours, Youth is not peaceful in any ordinary sense of that term.” To see the full discussion, go to Whitehead on Youth.

  • Youth smiles without any reason. It is one of its chiefest charms. Oscar Wilde, the narrator describing the title character as he was awakened by one of his servants, in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
  • Youth is the Lord of Life. Oscar Wilde, Lord Illingworth speaking, in A Woman of No Importance (1893)



  • Young men have a passion for regarding their elders as senile. Henry Brooks Adams, in The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
  • Young men soon give and soon forget affronts;/Old age is slow in both. Joseph Addison, in Cato, A Tragedy (1713)
  • Old men tend to forget what thought was like in their youth; they forget the quickness of the mental jump, the daring of the youthful intuition, the agility of the fresh insight. Isaac Asimov, the voice of the narrator, in Pebble in the Sky (1950)

The narrator continued: “They become accustomed to the more plodding varieties of reason, and because this is more than made up by the accumulation of experience, old men think themselves wiser than the young.”

  • The arrogance of age must submit to be taught by youth. Edmund Burke, in letter to Fanny Burney (July 29, 1782)
  • Youth has its romance, and maturity its wisdom, as morning and spring have their freshness, noon and summer their power, night and winter their repose. Each attribute is good in its own season. Charlotte Brontë, writing as Currer Bell in a “letter to an unknown admirer” (May 23, 1850), in Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, Vol. 2 (1857)
  • Every street has two sides, the shady side and the sunny. When two men shake hands and part, mark which of the two takes the sunny side; he will be the younger man of the two. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, epigraph to Chapter XV, What Will He Do With It? (1858)
  • The excesses of our youth are drafts upon our old age, payable with interest, about thirty years after date. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • Learning acquired in youth arrests the evil of old age. And if you understand that old age has wisdom for its food, you will conduct yourself in youth that your old age will not lack for nourishment. Leonardo da Vinci, a circa 1500 notebook entry, in Leonardo da Vinci’s Note-Books (1906, Edward MacCurdy, ed.)
  • In youth we learn, in age we understand. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880-93)
  • Eyes of youth have sharp sight, but commonly not so deep as those of elder age. Queen Elizabeth I, quoted in Leah S. Marcus, et al., Elizabeth I: Collected Works (2002)
  • If youth knew; if age could. Henri Estienne, in Les Prémices (1594)
  • At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide. F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” in Saturday Evening Post (May, 1920); reprinted in Flappers and Philosophers (1920)
  • Say “no” to the fountain of youth and turn on the fountain of age. Betty Friedan, quoted in Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Jan. 30, 1993)
  • Just as darkness is sometimes defined as the absence of light, so age is defined as the absence of youth. Age is assessed not by what it is, but by what it is not. Betty Friedan, in The Fountain of Age (1993)
  • Autumn can be golden, milder and warmer than summer, and is the most productive season of the year. Germaine Greer, in The Change: Women, Aging, and the Menopause (1991)
  • Youth finds no value in the views it disagrees with, but maturity includes discovering that even an opinion contrary to ours may contain a vein of truth we could profitably assimilate to our own views. Sydney J. Harris, in Pieces of Eight (1982)
  • Youth lives on hope, old age on remembrance. George Herbert, in Jacula Prudentum (1651)
  • Is this the final treachery of time, that the old become a burden upon the young? Winifred Holtby, a reflection of the character Agnes Sigglesthwaite, in South Riding (1936)
  • It’s hard for a young girl to have patience for old age sitting and chewing all day over the past. Fannie Hurst, the character Mrs. Coblenz speaking, in “Get Ready the Wreaths” (1917) a short story in Gaslight Sonatas (1918)
  • The young are so much more vulnerable than the old—the stuff is still warm and malleable, it takes impressions. Storm Jameson, in No Time Like the Present (1933)
  • So different are the colors of life, as we look forward to the future, or backward to the past . . . that the conversation of the old and young ends generally with contempt or pity on either side. Samuel Johnson, in The Rambler (London; Nov. 13, 1750)

QUOTE NOTE: I’ve shortened this keen and insightful observation by ellipsis to make more comprehensible. The full passage is as follows: “So different are the colors of life, as we look forward to the future, or backward to the past, and so different the opinions and sentiments which this contrariety of appearance naturally produces, that the conversation of the old and young ends generally with contempt or pity on either side.”

  • Youth is full of sunshine and life. Youth is happy, because it has the ability to see beauty. When this ability is lost, wretched old age begins, decay, unhappiness. Franz Kafka, quoted in Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 2nd expanded ed., 1971)

A moment later, Kafka concluded the thought this way: “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” Some Kafka scholars have questioned the authenticity of these observations. See explanation in the Kafka ACHIEVEMENT entry.

  • Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art. Garson Kanin, quoted in The New York Times Book Review (Feb. 26, 1978)
  • You are young, and then you are middle-aged, but it is hard to tell the moment of passage from one state to the next. Then you are old, but you hardly know when it happened. Doris Lessing, a reflection of protagonist Kate Brown, in The Summer Before the Dark (1973)
  • In youth all doors open outward; in old age they all open inward. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • Youth wrenches the sceptre from old age, and sets the crown on its own head before it is entitled to it. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • There is no “trick” in being young: it happens to you. But the process of maturing is an art to be learned, an effort to be sustained. Marya Mannes, in More in Anger: Some Opinions, Uncensored and Unteleprompted (1958)

Mannes added: “By the age of fifty you have made yourself what you are, and if it is good, it is better than your youth.”

  • From the earliest times the old have rubbed it into the young that they are wiser than they, and before the young had discovered what nonsense this was they were old too, and it profited them to carry on the imposture. W. Somerset Maugham, the voice of the narrator, William Ashenden, in Cakes and Ale (1930)
  • When I was young I was amazed at Plutarch’s statement that the elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Partial View (1954)

Maugham continued: “In old age the taste improves and it is possible to enjoy art and literature without the personal bias that in youth warps the judgment.”

  • The sins of youth are paid for in old age. Proverb (Latin)
  • Both the young and the old are almost completely useless in our modern society, and are made keenly aware of that uselessness. They have no place. They are private, isolated—and hopeless. Carl Rogers, in A Way of Being (1980)
  • Age and youth have the same appetites but not the same teeth. Magdalena Samozwaniec, quoted in Jacek Galazka and ‎Barbara Świdzińska, A Treasury of Polish Aphorisms (1997)
  • The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool. George Santayana, in Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
  • The younger rises when the old doth fall. William Shakespeare, the character Edmund speaking, in King Lear (1605-06)
  • The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists the circulation of their blood. Logan Pearsall Smith, in All Trivia (1933)
  • Old and young, we are all on out last cruise. Robert Louis Stevenson, “Crabbed Age and Youth,” in The Cornhill Magazine (March, 1878); reprinted in Crabbed Age and Youth: And Other Essays (1878)
  • To see a young couple loving each other is no wonder; but to see an old couple loving each other is the best sight of all. William Makepeace Thackeray, the voice of the narrator, in The History of Henry Esmond (1852)
  • Next to the very young, I suspect the very old are the most selfish. William Makepeace Thackeray, the voice of the narrator, in The Virginians (1857-59)
  • The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them. Henry David Thoreau, a journal entry (July 14, 1852)
  • One imagines, when young, that everything desirable must be obtained in spite of the adult world, against its grain. John Updike, in Self-Consciousness: Memoirs (1989)
  • It is so easy for a middle-aged person, in the presence of youth, to be deluded about his own age. The young faces are so exactly like the one he saw in his own mirror—only day before yesterday, it seems. The young, on the other hand, look into visages dull-eyed, long-toothed, wattle-necked, and chop-fallen, something they have never been and which they cannot imagine ever being. Jessamyn West, in To See the Dream (1956)

West preceded this thought by writing: “There are two barriers that often prevent communication between the young and their elders. The first is middle-aged forgetfulness of the fact that they themselves are no longer young. The second is youthful ignorance of the fact that the middle aged are still alive.”

  • Youth, large, lusty, loving—Youth, full of grace, force, fascination!/Do you know that Old Age may come after you, with equal grace, force, fascination? Walt Whitman, in Leaves of Grass (1860 edition)
  • The middle-aged are mortgaged to Life. The old are in Life’s lumber-room. Youth is the Lord of Life. Oscar Wilde, Lord Illingworth speaking, in A Woman of No Importance (1893)

Page Tools