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Archibald MacLeish

(7 May 1892 – 20 April 1982 / Glencoe, Illinois)

Quotations

  • ''Poets ... are literal-minded men who will squeeze a word till it hurts.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. As "Art and Law" in Riders on Earth (1978). "Apologia," Harvard Law Review (Cambridge, June 1972).
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  • ''The business of the law is to make sense of the confusion of what we call human life—to reduce it to order but at the same time to give it possibility, scope, even dignity.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. As "Art and Law" in Riders on Earth (1978). "Apologia," Harvard Law Review (Cambridge, June 1972).
  • ''It is not in the world of ideas that life is lived. Life is lived for better or worse in life, and to a man in life, his life can be no more absurd than it can be the opposite of absurd, whatever that opposite may be.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. In "Return from the Excursion," Riders on Earth (1978). "Heaven and Earth and the Cage of Form," Rockefeller University Forum (January-February 1968).
  • ''The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. "In Praise of Dissent," New York Times (Dec. 16, 1956).
  • ''Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, there is no reason either in football or in poetry why the two should not meet in a man's life if he has the weight and cares about the words.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. "Moonlighting on Yale Field," Riders on Earth (1978).
  • ''We are as great as our belief in human liberty—no greater. And our belief in human liberty is only ours when it is larger than ourselves.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. As "The Ghost of Thomas Jefferson" in Riders on Earth (1978). "Now Let Us Address the Main Question: Bicentennial of What?" New York Times (July 3, 1976).
  • ''To see the earth as we now see it, small and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the unending night—brothers who see now they are truly brothers.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. As "Bubble of Blue Air" in Riders on Earth (1978). "Riders on Earth Together, Brothers in Eternal Cold," New York Times (Dec. 25, 1968). Of the first pictures of the earth from the moon.
  • ''The American mood, perhaps even the American character, has changed. There are few manifestations any longer of the old American self-assurance which so irritated Dickens.... Instead, there is a sense of frustration so perceptible that even our politicians ... have attempted to exploit it.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. In Riders on Earth, as "Return from the Excursion" (1978). "The Great American Frustration," Saturday Review (New York, July 9, 1968).
  • ''What happened at Hiroshima was not only that a scientific breakthrough ... had occurred and that a great part of the population of a city had been burned to death, but that the problem of the relation of the triumphs of modern science to the human purposes of man had been explicitly defined.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. As "Return from the Excursion," in Riders on Earth (1978). "The Great American Frustration," Saturday Review (July 9, 1968).
  • ''What is more important in a library than anything else—than everything else—is the fact that it exists.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. In Riders on Earth, as "The Premise at the Center" (1978). "The Premise Of Meaning," American Scholar (Washington, DC, June 5, 1972).

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An Eternity

There is no dusk to be,
There is no dawn that was,
Only there's now, and now,
And the wind in the grass.

Days I remember of
Now in my heart, are now;
Days that I dream will bloom
White the peach bough.

Dying shall never be
Now in the windy grass;
Now under shooken leaves
Death never was.

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