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Vita Sackville-West

  • Serenity of spirit and turbulence of action — that should make up the sum of man's life.

  • Sweet are the flutes of night-time, sweet the truce / Lies between day and day.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Night," Orchard and Vineyard ()
  • I cannot bear that you / Should think me faithful, when I am untrue.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Ariane," Orchard and Vineyard ()
  • I'll fill your heaven with many colored moons / And hang such variable tides upon them / As strew the astonished fish along the shores.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "A Poet Speaks," Orchard and Vineyard ()
  • ... all the daily and the lovely things, / ... / These little things, these nimble shy delights, / With the quick magic of significance / I'll not despise to startle into being.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "A Poet Speaks," Orchard and Vineyard ()
  • Travel is the most private of pleasures. There is no greater bore than the travel bore. We do not not in the least want to hear what he has seen in Hong-Kong.

  • There is something intrinsically wrong about letters. For one thing they are not instantaneous. ... Nor is this the only trouble about letters. They do not arrive often enough. A letter which has been passionately awaited should be immediately supplemented by another one, to counteract the feeling of flatness that comes upon us when the agonizing delights of anticipation have been replaced by the colder flood of fulfilment.

  • ... a letter, by its arrival, defrauds us of a whole secret region of our existence, the only region indeed in which the true pleasure of life may be tasted, the region of imagination, creative and protean, the clouds and beautiful shapes of whose heaven are destroyed by the wind of reality.

  • ... to hope for Paradise is to live in Paradise, a very different thing from actually getting there.

  • Travel is in sad case. It is uncomfortable, it is expensive; it is a source of annoyance to our friends, and of loneliness to ourselves.

  • The true solitary ... will feel that he is himself only when he is alone; when he is in company he will feel that he perjures himself, prostitutes himself to the exactions of others; he will feel that time spent in company is time lost; he will be conscious only of his impatience to get back to his true life.

  • ... travel is a private pleasure, since it consists entirely of things felt and things seen ...

  • The wise traveler is he who is perpetually surprised.

  • How subtle is the relationship between the traveler and his luggage! He knows, as no one else knows, its idiosyncrasies, its contents ... and always some small nuisance which he wishes he had not brought; had known, indeed, before starting that he would regret it, but brought it all the same.

  • She walks among the loveliness she made, / Between the apple-blossom and the water - / She walks among the patterned pied brocade, / Each flower her son, and every tree her daughter.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Spring," The Land ()
  • There's no beginning to the farmer's year, / Only recurrent patterns on a scroll / Unwinding ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Spring," The Land ()
  • Everywhere bees go racing with the hours, / For every bee becomes a drunken lover, / Standing upon his head to sup the flowers.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Spring," The Land ()
  • For bees are captious folk / And quick to turn against the lubber's touch ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Spring," The Land ()
  • ... summer makes a silence after spring ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Summer," The Land ()
  • All craftsmen share a knowledge. They have held / Reality down fluttering to a bench ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Summer," The Land ()
  • Tools have their own integrity ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Summer," The Land ()
  • All tools inevitably planned, / Stout friends, with pledge / Of service; with their crotchets too / That masters understand ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Summer," The Land ()
  • Growth is exciting; growth is dynamic and alarming.

  • It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment.

  • Time was our banker once, and on our credit / Like an indulgent father let us draw. / Now he's turned sour, and our account does edit / And pounces on us with a usurer's claw.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Three Sonnets," King's Daughter ()
  • Among the many problems which beset the novelist, not the least weighty is the choice of the moment at which to begin his novel.

  • One never believes other people's experience, and one is only very gradually convinced by one's own.

  • Lucy laughed her most silvery laugh, the laugh that had made several men believe that she understood what they said.

  • ... not seeing is half-believing.

  • For a young man to start his career with a love affair with an older woman was quite de rigueur ... Of course, it must not go on for too long. An apprenticeship was a very different thing from a career.

  • ... he instantly despised his guests for being still asleep, in a rush of that superiority which afflicts all those who are astir earlier than other people.

  • Click, clack, click, clack, went their conversation, like so many knitting-needles, purl, plain, purl, plain, achieving a complex pattern of references, cross-references, Christian names, nicknames, and fleeting allusions ...

  • Life is so transitory, Lady Slane, that one must grab it by the tail as it flies past. No good in thinking of yesterday or to-morrow. Yesterday is gone, and to-morrow problematical.

  • I do not like January very much. It is too stationary. Not enough happens. I like the evidences of life, and in January there are too few of them.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "January," Country Notes ()
  • I suppose the pleasure of country life lies really in the eternally renewed evidences of the determination to live.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "A Country Life," Country Notes ()
  • Prose is a poor thing, a poor inadequate thing, compared with poetry which says so much more in shorter time.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "May," Country Notes ()
  • I like owls. I admire their intransigent spirit. I have respected them deeply ever since I met a baby owl in a wood, when it fell over dead, apparently from sheer temper, because I dared to approach it. It defied me first, and then died. I have never forgotten the horror and shame I experienced when that soft fluffy thing (towards which I had nothing but the most humanitarian motives) fell dead from rage at my feet.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Owls," Country Notes ()
  • The farmer and the gardener are both busy, the gardener perhaps the more excitable of the two, for he is more of the amateur, concerned with the creation of beauty rather than with the providing of food. Gardening is a luxury occupation; an ornament, not a necessity, of life.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "October," Country Notes ()
  • The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They are for ever planting, and for ever digging up.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "The Garden in October," Country Notes ()
  • ... how poor and disheartening a thing is experience compared with hope!

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "The Garden in October," Country Notes ()
  • Yours is the year that counts no season; / I can never be sure what age you are.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • dedication, The Garden ()
  • I felt your love as a benediction / In tranquil branches above me spread, / Over my sometimes troubled head ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • dedication, The Garden ()
  • A tomb of life, not death, / Life inward, true, / Where the world vanishes / And you are you.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Winter," The Garden ()
  • The fingers of the Winter drip. / They weaken into water, as a heart / Melted by love.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Winter," The Garden ()
  • But you, oh gardener, poet that you be / Though unaware, now use your seeds like words / And make them lilt with color nicely flung ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Winter," The Garden ()
  • We know that the ultimate vex is the same for all: / The discrepancy / Between the vision and the reality.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Spring," The Garden ()
  • April the angel of the months, the young / Love of the year.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Spring," The Garden ()
  • Autumn in felted slipper shuffles on, / Muted yet fiery ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Autumn," The Garden ()
  • Not the white hairs, but oh the end, the end!

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Autumn," The Garden ()
  • Oh bolting Time, rough pony of my days, / Halt by the hedgerow of my life to graze.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Autumn," The Garden ()
  • See the last orange roses, how they blow / Deeper and heavier than in their prime, / In one defiant flame before they go ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "Autumn," The Garden ()
  • I have come to the conclusion, after many years of sometimes sad experience, that you cannot come to any conclusion at all.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "May," In Your Garden Again ()
  • A man convinced against his will, / is of the same opinion still ...

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "September," In Your Garden Again ()
  • A good start in life is as important to plants as it is to children: they must develop strong roots in a congenial soil, otherwise they will never make the growth that will serve them richly according to their needs in their adult life.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "November," In Your Garden Again ()
  • Still, no gardener would be a gardener if he did not live in hope.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • "December," In Your Garden Again ()
  • Violence, passion, indignation, loyalty, integrity, incorruptibility, shameless egoism, generosity, excitability, energy, a hundred horse-power drive — none of it very subtle: Ethel [Smyth] didn't deal in pastel shades, she went for the stronger colors, the blood-red, anything deep and pumping out of the arteries of the heart.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • in Christopher St. John, Ethel Smyth ()
  • There are no signposts in the sea.

  • [On writing:] The most egotistic of occupations, and the most gratifying while it lasts.

  • I cannot abide the Mr. and Mrs. Noah attitude towards marriage; the animals went in two by two, forever stuck together with glue.

  • There is nothing more lovely in life than the union of two people whose love for one another has grown through the years from the small acorn of passion to a great rooted tree. Surviving all vicissitudes, and rich with its manifold branches, every leaf holding its own significance.

  • ... that pathetic short-cut suggested by Nature the supreme joker as a remedy for our loneliness, that ephemeral communion which we persuade ourselves to be of the spirit when it is in fact only of the body — durable not even in memory!

  • Ambition, old as mankind, the immemorial weakness of the strong.

  • A flowerless room is a soulless room, to my way of thinking; but even one solitary little vase of a living flower may redeem it.

  • I have walked on air all day since getting your letter.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • letter to Virginia Woolf (1924), in Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska, eds., The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf ()
  • ... however many resolutions one makes, one's pen, like water, always finds its own level, and one can't write in any way other than one's own.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • letter to Virginia Woolf (1928), in Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska, eds., The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf ()
  • Dear God! The heart, the very heart of me / That plays and strays a truant in strange lands / Always returns and finds its inward peace / Here ...

    • Vita Sackville-West
  • When, and how, and at what stage of our development did spirituality and our strange notions of religion arise? the need for worship which is nothing more than our frightened refuge into propitiation of a Creator we do not understand? A detective story, the supreme Who-done-it, written in indecipherable hieroglyphics, no Rosetta stone supplied by the consummate Mystifier to tease us poor fumbling unravellers of his plot.

  • The public, as a whole, finds reassurance in longevity, and, after the necessary interlude of reaction, is disposed to recognize extreme old age as a sign of excellence. The long-liver has triumphed over at least one of man's initial handicaps: the brevity of life.

  • It is terrible to be twenty, Lady Slane. It is as bad as being faced with riding over the Grand National course. One knows one will almost certainly fall into the Brook of Competition, and break one's leg over the Hedge of Disappointment, and stumble over the Wire of Intrigue, and certainly come to grief over the Obstacle of Love.

  • She supposed that she was not in love with Henry, but, even had she been in love with him, she could see therein no reason for foregoing the whole of her own separate existence. Henry was in love with her, but no one proposed that he should forego his. On the contrary, it appeared that in acquiring her he was merely adding something extra to it. He would continue ... to enjoy his free, varied, and masculine life, with no ring upon his finger or difference in his name to indicate the change in his estate ...

  • ... all the small squalors of the body, known only to oneself, insignificant in youth, easily dismissed, in old age became dominant and entered into fulfilment of the tyranny they had always threatened.

  • There was just time, in this reprieve before death, to indulge herself to the full. ... She could lie back against death and examine life.

  • Rich they were, rich as a fig broken open, soft as a ripened peach, freckled as an apricot, coral as pomegranate, bloomy as a bunch of grapes.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • in forward to Graham Thomas, The Old Shrub Roses ()

Vita Sackville-West, English writer, poet, critic

(1892 - 1962)

Full name: The Honorable Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson.