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Ralph Iron

  • ... perhaps the old monks were right when they tried to root love out; perhaps the poets are right when they try to water it. It is a blood-red flower, with the color of sin; but there is always the scent of a god about it.

  • ... that anguish that sleeps all day on the heart like a heavy worm, and wakes up at night to feed.

  • The barb in the arrow of childhood's suffering is this: its intense loneliness, its intense ignorance.

  • I have noticed ... that it is only the made-up stories that end nicely ...

  • Not what we are taught, but what we see, makes us, and the child gathers the food on which the adult feeds to the end.

  • All that is buried is not dead.

  • The soul's life has seasons of its own; periods not found in any calendar, time that years and months will not scan, but which are as deftly and sharply cut off from one another as the smoothly arranged years which the earth's motion yields us.

  • The road to honor is paved with thorns; but on the path to truth, at every step you set your foot down on your own heart.

  • ... the attribute of all true art, the highest and the lowest, is this — that it says more than it says, and takes you away from itself. It is a little door that opens into an infinite hall where you may find what you please. Men, thinking to detract, say, 'People read more in this or that work of genius than was ever written in it,' not perceiving that they pay the highest compliment.

  • 'You speak so because you do not know men,' said Em, instantly assuming the dignity of superior knowledge so universally affected by affianced and married women in discussing man's nature with their uncontracted sisters.

  • ... I have discovered that of all cursed places under the sun, where the hungriest soul can hardly pick up a few grains of knowledge, a girls' boarding-school is the worst. They are called finishing schools, and the name tells accurately what they are. They finish everything but imbecility and weakness, and that they cultivate. They are nicely adapted machines for experimenting on the question, 'Into how little space a human soul can be crushed?' I have seen some souls so compressed that they would have fitted into a small thimble, and found room to move there — wide room.

  • It is delightful to be a woman; but every man thanks the Lord devoutly that he isn't one.

  • ... this one thought stands, never goes — if I might but be one of those born in the future; then, perhaps, to be born a woman will not be to be born branded.

  • Wisdom never kicks at the iron walls it can't bring down.

  • ... the world tells us what we are to be, and shapes us by the ends it sets before us. To you it says — work; and to us it says — seem!

  • We were equals once when we lay new-born babes on our nurse's knees. We will be equals again when they tie up our jaws for the last sleep.

  • If the bird does like its cage, and does like its sugar, and will not leave it, why keep the door so very carefully shut?

  • If two men climb one ladder, did you ever see the weakest anywhere but at the foot? The surest sign of fitness is success.

  • Men are like the earth and we are the moon; we turn always one side to them, and they think there is no other, because they don't see it — but there is.

  • The first six years of our life make us; all that is added later is veneer ...

  • There never was a great man who had not a great mother — it is hardly an exaggeration.

  • By our errors we see deeper into life.

  • ... words are gas till you condense them into pictures.

  • They talk of genius — it is nothing but this, that a man knows what he can do best, and does it, and nothing else.

  • The secret of success is concentration; wherever there has been a great life, or a great work, that has gone before. Taste everything a little, look at everything a little; but live for one thing.

  • A parent is only like to God: if his work turns out bad so much the worse for him; he dare not wash his hands of it. Time and years can never bring the day when you can say to your child, 'Soul, what have I to do with you?'

  • In the centre of all things is a Mighty Heart, which, having begotten all things, loves them; and, having born them into life, beats with great throbs of love towards them.

  • Of all the things I have ever seen, only the sea is like a human being; the sky is not, nor the earth. But the sea is always moving, always something deep in itself is stirring it. It never rests; it is always wanting, wanting, wanting.

  • ... sin looks much more terrible to those who look at it than to those who do it.

  • There are some wiser in their sleeping than in their waking.

  • There are as many kinds of loves as there are flowers: everlastings that never wither; speedwells that wait for the wind to fan them out of life; blood-red mountain-lilies that pour their voluptuous sweetness out for one day, and lie in the dust at night. There is no one flower has the charm of all ...

  • If you have a deadly fruit to give, it will not grow sweeter by keeping.

  • There is a love that begins in the head, and goes down to the heart, and grows slowly; but it lasts till death, and asks less than it gives. There is another love, that blots out wisdom, that is sweet with the sweetness of life and bitter with the bitterness of death, lasting for an hour; but it is worth having lived a whole life for that hour.

  • When a man sits in the warm sunshine, do you ask him for proof of it? He feels — that is all. And we feel — that is all. We want no proof of our God. We feel, we feel!

  • We are sparks, we are shadows, we are pollen, which the next wind will carry away. We are dying already; it is all a dream.

  • What has been done in small things can be done in large.

  • Ah! life is delicious; well to live long, and see the darkness breaking, and the day coming! The day when soul shall not thrust back soul that would come to it; when men shall not be driven to seek solitude, because of the crying out of their hearts for love and sympathy. Well to live long and see the new time breaking! Well to live long; life is sweet, sweet, sweet!

  • ... the large white snow-flakes as they flutter down, softly, one by one, whisper soothingly, 'Rest, poor heart, rest!' It is as though our mother smoothed our hair, and we are comforted.

  • There are only rare times when a man's soul can see Nature. So long as any passion holds its revel there, the eyes are holden that they should not see her. Go out if you will, and walk alone on the hill-side in the evening, but if your favorite child lies ill at home, or your lover comes to-morrow, or at your heart there lies a scheme for the holding of wealth, then you will return as you went out; you will have seen nothing.

  • ... the soul's fierce cry for immortality is this, — only this: — Return to me after death the thing as it was before. Leave me in the Hereafter the being I am to-day. Rob me of the thoughts, the feelings, the desires that are my life, and you have left nothing to take. Your immortality is annihilation, your Hereafter is a lie.

  • ... greatness is to take the common things of life and walk truly among them ...

  • ... holiness is an infinite compassion for others ...

  • Experience teaches us in a millennium what passion teaches us in an hour.

Ralph Iron, South African novelist, pacifist, social critic

(1855 - 1920)

Real name: Olive Emilie Albertina Schreiner.