The Quote Garden
 “I dig old books.”
 Est. 1998

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Quotations about the Past

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NOTE:  Some of the quotes on this page were submitted to me by visitors, and not all have been verified for original source or wording. I'm working hard to confirm everything, but in the meantime please be aware of the possibility for errors.  —ღ Terri, March 2021

And it is often in the past that the secret of the future lies! ~Bram Stoker, The Man, 1905

There is comfort to me in the thought that we may be deceived in our present and absurdly wrong in all our speculations about the future, but our past belongs to us, completely, wholly, and we always have everything we have put into it. ~Dorothy Thompson, letter to Rose Wilder Lane, 1928, edited by William V. Holtz

A man cannot free himself from the past more easily than he can from his own body. ~André Maurois

The Past's a Book wherein some Truths are found,
But not a Chain by which Men's Feet are bound.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Progress," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

And yet, if we are not bound by the past, neither are we to discard it.... We are to learn how, out of the past, to evolve an instrumentation useful for to‑day. ~Lyman Abbott, "Out of the Past," sermon preached in Appleton Chapel, Harvard College, Sunday evening, March 26, 1899

The past is not a package one can lay away. ~Emily Dickinson

If you have made great achievements, if you have done splendid work, if you stand high in other people's esteem, and especially in your own, do not stop to write bulletins of victory to yourself or others. The only reward worth the having for having done good work yesterday is a chance to do a better work to‑morrow. ~Lyman Abbott, "Out of the Past," sermon preached in Appleton Chapel, Harvard College, Sunday evening, March 26, 1899

The past is never where you think you left it. ~Katherine Anne Porter

Best not to mix the past with the present. The present paints the past with gold. The past paints the present with lead. ~Henry Rollins

Praises for our past triumphs are as feathers to a dead bird. ~Paul Eldridge

The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. ~Lesley P. Hartley, The Go-Between, 1953

Old realities have become shadows, but these shadwows still torment me. ~John Addington Symonds

We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us. Ideas of the Stone Age exist side by side with the latest scientific thought. Only a fraction of mankind has emerged from the Dark Ages... ~Bergen Evans, "Adam's Navel," The Natural History of Nonsense, 1946

And why should I rekindle these smoking embers? Why call up from their casements the ghosts of the dead? ~Thomas Jefferson, 1820

Peace to the ashes of his sin. ~Octave Mirbeau, "The Mission," The Torture Garden, 1899, translated from the French by Alvah C. Bessie, 1931

The Past lies upon the Present like a giant's dead body. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables

Yesterday's weaving is as irrevocable as yesterday. I may not draw out the threads, but I may change my shuttle. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), My Little Book of Life, 1912

Our past is like a footprint. It only confirms we were there. No burden on our future does it bear. Bring the rain, clear the pane of clutter. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson

The one charm of the past is that it is the past. ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

The past is the long tail of time, which often coils about our memories and strangles hope. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

The flowers of the past are dead — but their wilted beauty and potpourri aroma enrich the present with memories. ~Terri Guillemets

The past does not have the power to undermine your future. Only you can do that. ~Dodinsky

The divine gift is ever the instant life, which receives and uses and creates, and can well bury the old in the omnipotency with which Nature decomposes all her harvest for recomposition. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876

The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. ~Wendell Berry

Let us fly from the Past on the wings of Faith. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title. ~Virginia Woolf

The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings. ~Ralph Blum

Here's to the past,
Too happy to last...
~James Clarence Harvey, "To the Past," Over the Nuts & Wine, 1906

My soul is not a palace of the past... ~James Russell Lowell, "A Glance Behind the Curtain"

But a queer thing is — this is personal — however painful a thing has been when I look back it is no longer painful, or no more painful than music is. In fact it is just that. ~Katherine Mansfield

There is a ghost here. A lonely, heartbroken spirit. The ghost of everything that could've been and never was. ~Jennifer Donnelly, The Tea Rose

I find in old age that it's possible to revisit the past, the one requirement being that you come as you are. ~Robert Brault,

What is the past? — A picture in the mind! ~Charles Searle, Look Here!, 1885

Bring the past only if you are going to build from it. ~Doménico Cieri Estrada

Words of snow, which fell last year. ~German saying

The past does not repeat itself but it often rhymes. ~Author unknown

In a new love, it's easy to live for the moment because there is no past. The more past you accumulate, the harder it is not to live there — and that's true whether it's good or bad. ~Terri Guillemets, "Stories of the future," 1995

One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present. ~Golda Meir

Shall I regret having had a dream that never came true? No, no more than I would regret having had a lifelong friend who died. ~Robert Brault,

At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past. ~Maurice Maeterlinck

Hindsight —
      I was a fool,
      such a fool!
~Terri Guillemets

I know you will be true as steel to your conscience and principles of right, but don't marry any man with the quixotic idea of reforming him; remember, what a man is before marriage he will, in all likelihood, be after; if he has sown wild oats he—and others, too, unfortunately—must reap them. No man that has a past to bury can keep it below ground; the revenant will be constantly obtruding itself; he cannot lay it. ~M. Amelia Fytche, Kerchiefs to Hunt Souls, 1895

Out, damned spot! ~William Shakespeare, Macbeth, c.1605  [V, 1, Lady Macbeth]

I say there are spots that don't come off... Spots that never come off, d'you know what I mean? ~J.K. Rowling, "The Egg and The Eye," Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000  [Mad-Eye Moody —tg]

The past falls away like wilted petals... ~Terri Guillemets  [I've removed the second line of this couplet because I found it too pessimistic. But sometimes I still think it's funny: "New things will come, probably nettles." —tg]

God has no power over the past except to cover it with oblivion. ~Pliny the Elder

We need not destroy the past. It is gone. ~John Cage

What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new. Right now. ~Author Unknown

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Last saved 2021 Apr 26 Mon 14:02 PDT

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