The HyperTexts

The Best Epigrams and Quotes from Literature, Poetry, Philosophy, Politics, Science, Sports and Religion

Epigram definition #1: a rhetorical device that is brief, concise, memorable, and often witty, humorous, ironic, paradoxical, cutting, scathing and/or satirical.
Epigram definition #2: a brief, memorable statement.

Related Pages: A Brief History of the Epigram, Examples of Epigrams, The Best Short Poems of All Time, Sports Shorts, Famous Insults and Zingers

Who produced the greatest epigrams and quotations of all time? It should come as no surprise that the greatest writers produced some of the greatest epigrams: Shakespeare, Homer, Sappho, Aristotle, Basho, Dante, Hafiz, Martial, Milton, Plato, Rumi, Socrates, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, et al. But there are surprises as well. Superb epigrammists include Muhammad Ali, Woody Allen, Yogi Berra, Warren Buffett, Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, Marilyn Monroe, Ogden Nash, Dolly Parton and Mae West. Here are some quick examples, to hopefully whet your appetite for the fleetest of the art forms ...

It ain't braggin' if you can back it up.—Muhammad Ali, who excelled at both
To err is human, but it feels divine.—Mae West
I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I'm not dumb, and also I'm not blonde.—Dolly Parton
It takes a smart brunette to play a dumb blonde.—Marilyn Monroe, who also was neither blonde nor dumb
A right delayed is a right denied.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Little sparks may ignite great flames.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.—Oscar Wilde
I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.—Mark Twain
The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I'll never be as good as a wall!—Mitch Hedberg
Raise your words, not their volume. Rain grows flowers, not thunder.—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch

Other accomplished epigrammatists include Ambrose Bierce, William Blake, Lenny Bruce, Albert Camus, George Carlin, Johnny Carson, Winston Churchill, Emily Dickinson, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, JFK, MLK, Abraham Lincoln, Groucho Marx, Michel de Montaigne, Ronald Reagan, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, Will Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR, Seneca, Jon Stewart, Jonathan Swift, Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters.

These epigrams, quotes and famous sayings were compiled by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust, Hiroshima, Trail of Tears and Nakba poetry.

—Gabby Giffords

The single-word epigram above was a strong rebuke of the NRA and its powerful gun lobby after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre left 26 children and educators dead. The author, Gabrielle Giffords, is still recovering from the debilitating injuries she suffered in another senseless massacre, after being shot in the head and losing part of her brain. Whether you agree with her position or not, it's hard to deny the power of that single-word epigram: "Enough."

After 17 students and educators were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one of the survivors, Emma Gonzalez, gave an impassioned speech in which she cited the lies and excuses of the NRA, punctuating each one with an emphatic "We call B.S.!" The student activists and their supporters then employed poignant epigrams as hashtags, such as #Enough and #NeverAgain. When the United States finally implements sane gun control laws, such epigrams will undoubtedly have played a role, in the form of calls to compassion, unity and action.

NOTE: Years after we made "Enough" our headline epigram for this page, the April 2, 2018 issue of TIME featured five MSD students with the caption "ENOUGH." Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., echoed her father's famous and world-shaking epigram when she said, "I have a dream that ENOUGH is ENOUGH!"

The right epigram at the right time can send chills down our spines. It can call us to take a stand, to chart a new course, to alter the future by learning from and avoiding the errors of the past.

Many hashtags and tweets are epigrams. Here's a poetic, rhyming tweet by one of the student-activists that I found to be clever, wise and moving:

Change is no longer near. Change is here.
@AAlhanti (Adam Alhanti)

I once tweeted a poetic epigram about tweets, apologies to Shakespeare:

a tweet
by any other name
would be as fleet!
@mikerburch (Michael R. Burch)

Epigrams Defined

But what, exactly, is an epigram, and what do the producers of great epigrams have in common? Well, "in short," epigrams are brief, pithy, hard-hitting sayings, and the great epigrammatists are keen students of humanity who know how to get their points across in the form of verbal wallops. So the best epigrams are often wise, funny or snide commentary on human nature, societies and beliefs. For example:

Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.—Dorothy Parker
The ballot is stronger than the bullet.—Abraham Lincoln
A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.—H. L. Mencken
Your children need your presence more than your presents.—Jesse Jackson

Here's an epigram in the form of a quatrain that seems just as pertinent today as the day it was written:

These Strangers, in a foreign World,
Protection asked of me―
Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven
Be found a Refugee.
—Emily Dickinson

Here's another with a similar theme:

The imbecile constructs cages for everyone he knows,
while the sage (who has to duck his headwhenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy, prison gang.
—Hafiz loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I just love the wisdom and spirit of Hafiz in this subversive (pardon the pun) little epigram. I can see Trump putting refugees in cages, while Hafiz goes around letting them out for a moondance!

Here are other powerful epigrams of the past:

Give me liberty, or give me death.—Patrick Henry
I have not yet begun to fight.—John Paul Jones
I WILL BE HEARD.—William Lloyd Garrison (an American abolitionist who risked his life to help end slavery)
WE SHALL OVERCOME.—the rallying cry of the American Civil Rights Movement
I have a dream.—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The piece below is, in my opinion, the greatest epigram of all time, and the most world-transforming poem. It was written by two accomplished poets, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, in ringing iambic pentameter (the same meter employed in the great blank verse of William Shakespeare and John Milton):

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights;
that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness.
—Thomas Jefferson, with Benjamin Franklin

And then there's this crazy bleeding-heart liberal do-gooder named Jesus, who is apparently still not getting through to his most fervent American disciples:

Whatsoever ye do unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.—Jesus Christ
Blessed are the peacemakers.—Jesus Christ
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: this is the Law and the Prophets.—Jesus Christ

Are Trump and his supporters doing unto others as they would have done to themselves? Aren't homeless refugee children the least of all our brethren? Would Jesus help white refugees of hurricanes, but not darker-skinned refugees of other catastrophes such as poverty and cancer? Should our compassion be "local" to our own tribe only, or should it encompass the world? A good epigram can force us to look in the mirror, think, and re-examine our beliefs about ourselves, our neighbors and the larger world. Here's another epigram I think people of faith should consider:

He does not believe, who does not live according to his belief.—Sigmund Freud (perhaps the all-time best definition of hypocrisy)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the stand-up comedian's one-liner is also a form of epigram. Here are current examples of the genre, taken from the 2016 American presidential campaign trail:

Donald Trump showed his birth certificate to reporters. Who cares about his birth certificate? I want to know if that thing on his head has had its vaccinations.―Craig Ferguson
Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick; Donald Trump speaks loudly and carries a big shtick.—Michael R. Burch
Donald Trump is "the kind of person who goes to the Super Bowl and thinks the people in the huddle are talking about him."―Eric Schneiderman

The Best Donald Trump Jokes, Puns, Tweets and Quotations

Here's some good advice an ancient poet might have written with someone like Donald Trump in mind:

Raise your words, not their volume. Rain grows flowers, not thunder.—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch

And with so much violence being triggered by bullying and the anger and resentment it produces, here are four marvelous epigrams that should be considered by the bullies and their victims:

Whatsoever ye do unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.—Jesus Christ
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.—Eleanor Roosevelt
To belittle, you must be little.—Kahlil Gibran
An unbending tree is easily broken.—Lao Tzu

Then of course there is the Golden Rule, which is common to many religions:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.—King James Bible

And here is a related gem of wisdom, delivered by someone who is "smarter than the average bear" ...

Another golden rule
is: don't lose your cool.
—Yogi Bear

As the United States once again prepares to take from the poor to give to the rich, in the form of a "tax cut," I am reminded of this epigram:

We all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free-market capitalism for the poor.—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I also like this little "prayer epigram" by one of the great souls:

Help me to fling my life like a flaming firebrand into the gathering darkness of the world.―Albert Schweitzer

Sometimes one epigram inspires another ...

Love is exquisite torture.—Michael R. Burch (written after reading "It's Only My Heart" by Mirza Ghalib)

On the lighter, brighter side, epigrams can be wonderfully witty, ironic, sarcastic, even hilarious. For example:

I wanted to be the first woman to burn her bra, but it would have taken the fire department four days to put it out.—Dolly Parton
I don't believe in astrology. I'm a Sagittarius and we're very skeptical.—Arthur C. Clarke
Through space, one thought kept crossing my mind: every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.—John Glenn

Here are ironic epigrams that I call "Redefinitions" ...

Fanatic: someone who can't change his mind or the subject.—Winston Churchill
Appeaser: someone who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.—Winston Churchill
Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage.—Ambrose Bierce
Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.—Oscar Wilde
Faith: falling into the same old claptrap.—Michael R. Burch
Religion: the ties that blind.—Michael R. Burch
Trickle down economics: an especially pungent golden shower.—Michael R. Burch

Introduction to Epigrams

It's no accident that many of my favorite epigrams are by women. After all, the first great lyric poet of antiquity was Sappho of Lesbos; she wrote poems that were set to the music of a lyre (hence, the term "lyric" for a short poem). Thus, Sappho is the mother of lyric poets and singer-songwriters like Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, Carole King, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon.

Some of the greatest epigrammists of all time were women: Sappho, Eleanor Roosevelt, Virginia Wolf, Emily Dickinson and others you will find on this page. Two of my personal favorites may surprise you—Mae West and Marilyn Monroe—but once you've read their insightful, wise and touching epigrams, I think you'll agree that they belong here.

This page also contains some of the greatest pithy sayings of all time—from Sappho to Shakespeare, from Yogi Bear to Yogi Berra, from Rock to Tweets—along with information about the various types of epigrams, their history, and the fascinating people who penned them. I have worked with the interests of students young and old in mind, so if you want to learn more about epigrams while reading the exemplars, I think you've discovered the right page. Here are a few quick examples:

The Top Ten Epigrams of All Time (in one person's opinion)

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.—Albert Camus
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.—Eleanor Roosevelt
If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning.—Catherine the Great
If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and his impersonators would be dead.—Johnny Carson
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.—Oscar Wilde
To err is human, but it feels divine.—Mae West
An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.—Mohandas Gandhi
For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.—Virginia Woolf
I don't approve of political jokes; I have seen too many of them get elected.—Jon Stewart
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.—Mark Twain

Here's another epigram that seems especially germane to the discussion at hand:

Improve yourself through others' writings, thus attaining more easily what they acquired through great difficulty.—Socrates, translation by Michael R. Burch

A major theme of this page is learning important lessons the Socratic way—by reading—rather than by dire, difficult, often-harrowing experience. Here's a similar quote by Scotland's greatest poet, who was recently nominated as the greatest Scotsman of all time in a Scottish TV poll:

I pick my favourite quotations and store them in my mind as ready armour, offensive or defensive, amid the struggle of this turbulent existence.—Robert Burns

Epigrams about Epigrams

What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole;
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.
—William Shakespeare

Epigrams are "short and well-seasoned."—Thomas Campion

To write an epigram, cram.
If you lack wit, scram!
Michael R. Burch

Certain brief sentences are peerless in their ability to give one the feeling that nothing remains to be said.—Jean Rostand
Epigrams succeed where epics fail.—Persian Proverb

Epigrammatic Poems

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds whipping desolate mountains,
uprooting oaks.
―Sappho, fragment 42, translation by Michael R. Burch

Little strokes
fell great oaks.
―Ben Franklin

is dandy,
but liquor
is quicker.
—Ogden Nash

Oh God of dust and rainbows, help us see
that without dust the rainbow would not be.
—Langston Hughes

Flayed without hope,
I held the man for nothing in my arms.
—James Wright

If you're interested in epigrammatic poems, you can find a stellar collection at The Best Short Poems of All Time. The hyperlinked page features poems by masters of humor, wit and irony, such as Ogden Nash, Edward Lear, Mother Goose, Martial, Hafiz, Li Po, Thomas Campion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, e. e. cummings, John Dryden and Alexander Pope.

Epigrams about Poetry and Writing

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.—Ernest Hemingway

Types of Epigrams

Adage, anecdote, antic, aphorism, apophthegm, axiom, banter, blurb, bon mot, boondoggle, buffoonery, burlesque, buzzword, byword, caper, caprice, catchphrase, chestnut, chiasmus, clowning, commonplace, couplet, daffodil, dictum, doggerel, double entendre, drollery, elegiac couplet, elegy, encomium, enthymeme, epitaph, epithet, equivoque, escapade, farce, folk wisdom, formula, frolic, gag, gambol, game, gnome, ha-ha, haiku, heroic couplet, hillbilly humor, homily, hoodwink, horseplay, humorous verse, insult, jape, jargon, jest, jingle, joke, lampoon, lark, laugh, leg-pulling, light verse, limerick, maxim, mischief, monkeyshines, moral, moralism, motto, mummery, one-liner, parody, payoff, platitude, play, pleasantry, politicism, prank, precept, preface, proverb, pun, put-on, quote, quip, quirk, raillery, rallying cry, repartee, revel, rib, ribbing, riddle, riposte, rule, rule of thumb, sally, saw, saying, sententia, sentiment, sermon, shenanigan, shibboleth, slogan, snow job, spoonerism, sport, spree, squib, stunt, syllogism, tomfoolery, trick, truism, tweet, twist, vagary, waggery, war cry, watchword, wisecrack, whimsy, wisdom saying, witticism, words of wisdom, word-play, yarn, zinger.


Here are a few more epigrams that demonstrate the tremendous diversity of the species, before we take a look at the history of epigrams:

Never tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon.—Unknown
The real danger lies not in aiming too high and falling short, but in aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo
You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way.—Lady Gaga
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.—William Blake
Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.—Robert Frost (this one makes me think of puppies and kittens)
What is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.—Ernest Hemingway
There is no instinct like that of the heart.—Lord Byron, the "bad boy" of English poetry
If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favourable to him.—Seneca the Younger
Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.—John F. Kennedy
If by a Liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people—their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties—someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a Liberal, then I'm proud to say I'm a Liberal.—John F. Kennedy

If you're looking for something in particular, you can use CTRL-F to find a word or phrase quickly, such as "pun," "aphorism," "chiasmus," "raillery," "bon mot," "love," "sex," "politics" or a writer's name. Otherwise, please allow me to begin with a question: What does this colorful crowd of characters have in common: Alexander the Great, Woody Allen, Aristotle, Yogi Berra, William Blake, Buddha, Churchill, Dante, Einstein, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, JFK, MLK, Lincoln, Michelangelo, Mohammed, Marilyn Monroe, Napoleon, Plato, Dolly Parton, Will Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Shakespeare, Socrates, Mark Twain, Mother Teresa, Voltaire and Oscar Wilde?

Answer: They all produced immortal epigrams! Now here, to further whet your appetite, are some of the most touching epigrams ever written:

Wonderfully Moving, Poetic Epigrams

The births of all things are weak and tender, therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.—Michel de Montaigne
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
We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels sing. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.—Anton Chekov
Life danced a jig on the sperm-whale's spout.—Robert Lowell
Always the soul says to us all, "Cherish your best hopes as a faith, and abide by them in action."—Margaret Fuller
The mountain violets have broken the rocks.—Tennessee Williams (slightly paraphrased; please see "The Evolution of Epigrams" below)

Happiness is like a butterfly:
the more you chase it, the more it will elude you.
But if you turn your attention to other things,
it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.
—Henry David Thoreau

I like not only to be loved but also to be told that I am loved.
The realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.
This is the world of light and speech.
And I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.
—George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Anne Evans)

I expect to pass this way but once;
any good therefore that I can do,
or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature,
let me do it now.
Let me not defer or neglect it,
for I shall not pass this way again.
—Etienne Griellet

It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before,
to test your limits,
to break through barriers.
And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
—Anaïs Nin

The heart is
The thousand-stringed instrument
That can only be tuned with

The Evolution of Epigrams

Epigrams can and do evolve over time. For example, Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) is often credited with the saying "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." However, long before Hendrix was born the liberal British statesman William Gladstone (1809-1898) said: "We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace." Later, Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) said: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then there will be true peace." Another good example of epigrams evolving over time is this one by George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There are now many variations of this saying, with the most common probably being: "Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it."

A Brief History of Epigrams

Ancient Greek epigrams may be the oldest genre of European literature and poetry. There are startling similarities between Greek epigrams and Oriental haiku. For example:

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
but go with good fortune:
I wish you a kinder sea.
—Plato, translation by Michael R. Burch

Deepening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue?
―Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch

Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel,
or a house when it's time to change residences,
even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.
―Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch

Some of the earliest Greek epigrams were gravestone inscriptions, or epitaphs. The epigram attributed to Plato above could easily have appeared on the headstone of an ancient mariner. Such early poems may have survived simply because they were carved in stone. The first uses of the term epigramma appear in the writings of Herodotus (circa 484–425 BC) and Thucydides (circa 460–395 BC), but the verses they cited may predate the references by three centuries or more. Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC) and Euripides (circa 480-406 BC) also alluded to verse inscriptions, so the epigram was firmly established no later than the fourth century BC, probably much earlier.

The epitaph is a form of epigram. Here are two epigrams gleaned from Greek graves, which I have paraphrased, under the heading Athenian Epitaphs:

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gull
in his high, lonely circuits, may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Was the first great poet a woman? Sappho (circa 630–570 BC) predates many of her celebrated male Greek peers. She remains stunningly fresh and relevant today. The poem below could have been written by a modern girl or woman doubtfully eying skimpy attire:

A short revealing frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!
―Sappho, fragment 155, translation by Michael R. Burch

Here is my interpretation of a poem by Simonides commemorating the Spartan heroes who died defending the "hot gates" of Thermopylae from invading Persians:

tell the Spartans we lie
dead at Thermopylae―
murdered at their word,
obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
—Simonides, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

If you're interested in reading more epigrams and epitaphs of the ancients, you can click here. If you prefer to dive into more modern epigrams, or prefer to receive your medicine with a dose of humor, please continue reading this page.

Sex Ed: Women and We Men (Wee Men?)

Some of the best epigrams are humorous (and wise) commentary on sex and human sexual relationships:

A man's got to do what a man's got to do. A woman must do what he can't.—Rhonda Hansome
Behind every successful man is a surprised woman.—Maryon Pearson
I'm not going to vacuum 'til Sears makes one you can ride on.—Roseanne Barr
When women are depressed they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country.—Elayne Boosler
Whatever women must do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.—Charlotte Whitton
Husbands are like fires: they go out if unattended.—Zsa Zsa Gabor
When women go wrong, men go right after them.—Mae West
Give a man a free hand and he'll run it all over you.—Mae West
I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy.—Tom Clancy
You know "that look" women get when they want sex? Me neither.—Steve Martin
The problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.—Robin Williams
Women may be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake entire relationships.—Sharon Stone
I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done.—Lucille Ball
I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered, except for the catalog description: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.—Eleanor Roosevelt

A husband is a guy who tells you when you've got on too much lipstick
and helps you with your girdle when your hips stick.
—Ogden Nash

More Stellar Examples of Epigrams

Imagine...—John Lennon
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.—Will Rogers
The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.—Albert Einstein
Politics is the second-oldest profession; it bears a very close resemblance to the first.—Ronald Reagan
I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.—"Give 'Em Hell" Harry S. Truman
It's called the "American Dream" because you have to be asleep to believe it.—George Carlin
If we don't end war, war will end us.—H. G. Wells
Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.—John F. Kennedy
War does not determine who is right, just who is left.—Unknown, associated by fans of Dan Fogelberg with his song "Ghosts"
Comedy is merely tragedy happening to someone else.—W. C. Fields
Men always want to be a woman's first love; women like to be a man's last romance.—Oscar Wilde
The problem with most women is that they get all excited about nothing, then marry him.—Cher
My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God. I didn't.—Unknown
Grace Kelly did everything Fred Astaire did: walking backwards, in high heels!—Unknown
I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.—Zsa Zsa Gabor
Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country and giving it to the rich people of a poor country.—Ron Paul
A word to the wise ain’t necessary, it's the stupid ones who need all the advice.—Bill Cosby
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.—Bil Keane
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.—Friedrich Nietzsche
If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.—Malcolm X
Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.—John F. Kennedy
A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.—Eleanor Roosevelt
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.—Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)
Live simply, so that others may simply live.—Mother Teresa
Be the change that you want to see in the world.—Mohandas Gandhi
I'm starting with the man in the mirror.—Michael Jackson
Our job is, first and foremost, to make sure our family is whole.—Michelle Obama
This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.—Barack Obama

Personal Sayings

Sometimes we can know a man rather intimately through his most concise sayings:

There is nothing impossible to him who will try.—Alexander the Great
Sex and sleep alone make me conscious that I am mortal.—Alexander the Great
I am dying with the help of too many physicians.—Alexander the Great
A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient.—Alexander the Great
To the strongest!—Alexander the Great [when asked who should inherit his empire]

If you want to understand how fascists think, consider the words of one who spoke honestly about himself and his beliefs:

A Constitution should be short and obscure.—Napoleon Bonaparte
History is a set of lies agreed upon.—Napoleon Bonaparte
Men are more easily governed through their vices than through their virtues.—Napoleon Bonaparte
I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.—Napoleon Bonaparte
I love power ... as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies.—Napoleon Bonaparte
Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me.—Napoleon Bonaparte
If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.—Napoleon Bonaparte
In politics never retreat, never retract, never admit a mistake.—Napoleon Bonaparte
Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.—Napoleon Bonaparte

As I watched Donald Trump assemble his cabinet, I was reminded of one of my own epigrams:

Fascists of a feather
flock together.
Michael R. Burch

Sages of the Ages: Words of Wisdom

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.—Sinclair Lewis
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.—Voltaire
If God created man in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.—Voltaire
Once fanaticism has gangrened brains the malady is usually incurable.—Voltaire, translation by Michael R. Burch
Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.—George Santayana
Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.—Hafiz
Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.—Hafiz   
It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved.—Galileo Galilei
Heresy is another word for freedom of thought.—Graham Greene
They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion; but they that dislike it, heresy; and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion.—Thomas Hobbes
Heretics are the only remedy against the entropy of human thought.—Yevgeny Zamyatin
The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.—Helen Keller
Read everything, listen to everything, but believe nothing until you've researched it yourself.—William Cooper
There are none so blind as those who will not see.—John Heywood (often attributed to Jonathan Swift)
We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient: that we are only six percent of the world's population; that we cannot impose our will upon the other ninety-four percent of mankind; that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity; and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.—John F. Kennedy

Peace Shorts

Never underestimate the power of pissed-off women.—Greta Berlin, co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement and co-editor of "Freedom Sailors"
I’m here for other children. I’m here because I care. I’m here because children everywhere are suffering.—Rachel Corrie, a slain peace activist, written at age ten
I don't think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her.—Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother

Cindy Corrie was responding to Judge Oded Gershon's comment that her daughter should have moved out of the way of the weaponized Israeli military Caterpillar D9 bulldozer (aka "killdozer") that took her life as she strove to protect the home of a Palestinian pharmacist and his family from being demolished. Since 1948 the Israeli military has destroyed hundreds of Palestinian and Bedouin villages, and tens of thousands of individual houses, leading Nobel Peace Prize laureates Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter to accuse Israel of practicing apartheid and ethnic cleansing. What, pray tell, is the "defensive" purpose of destroying so many houses, not to mention millions of olive trees and chickens?

Sports Shorts

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see.
—Muhammad Ali

It ain't bragging if you can back it up.—Muhammad Ali
Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.—Satchel Paige
All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.—Gordie Howe
Winners never quit and quitters never win.—Vince Lombardi
Toughen up, buttercup.—Pat Head Summitt
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.—Wayne Gretzky
Somebody's gotta win and somebody's gotta lose and I believe in letting the other guy lose.—Pete Rose
If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.—Ronnie Lott
If you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat.—Herschel Walker
The more I practice, the luckier I get.—Gary Player
Nobody roots for Goliath.—Wilt Chamberlain
I've never been afraid to fail.—Michael Jordan
If you win, you’re colorful. If you lose, you’re incompetent.—David Climer, a sports columnist

More Sports Shorts, mostly of the humorous variety

Stock Shorts

It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.—Warren Buffett
The stock market is designed to transfer money from the active to the patient.—Warren Buffett 

Famous Insults

I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.—Mark Twain
He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.—Winston Churchill
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.—Abraham Lincoln
Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.—Marilyn Monroe
Boy George is all England needs: another queen who can't dress.—Joan Rivers
Mick Jagger could French kiss a moose. He has child-bearing lips.—Joan Rivers
Thanks to politicians like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Donald Trump, we now have a duh-mock-racy.—Michael R. Burch
To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.—Thomas Paine, who apparently was thinking about people like Donald Trump

More Famous Insults

Famous Last Words

More light!—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Oh Wow!!! Oh Wow!!! Oh Wow!!!—Steve Jobs
'Tis well.—George Washington
It's very beautiful over there.—Thomas Edison
Beautiful!—Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The taste of death is upon my lips; I feel something that is not of this earth.—Mozart
Friends applaud, the comedy is over.—Ludwig van Beethoven
Drink to me!—Pablo Picasso
Don't disturb my equations!—Archimedes, to the soldier who killed him
It's better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, Love, Empathy.—Kurt Cobain, quoting Neil Young
Cool it, brothers.—Malcolm X
Love one another.—George Harrison
Don't mourn for me. Organize!—Joe Hill
Come on! Take action! Let's go!—Sitting Bull
Are you guys ready? Let's roll.—Todd Beamer, United Flight 93, September 11, 2001
God will forgive me. That is his profession.—Heinrich Heine
Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.—Voltaire, on his deathbed, when asked by a priest to denounce Satan

To read more, please click here: Famous Last Words.

Heaven (and how to get there)

The mystics of many religions, from Judaism to Christianity to Sufism, and even agnostics and atheists have at times have had visions of what seems to be heaven:

The lion shall lie down with the lamb and a little child shall lead them.—A common rephrasing of Isaiah 11:6-8
All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.—Julian of Norwich, hearing the voice of God in a vision
Be not dishearten'd—Affection shall solve the problems of Freedom yet; those who love each other shall become invincible.—Walt Whitman
Love suffers long, and is kind; envies not; seeks not her own; thinks no evil; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.—Saint Paul
Love never fails.—Saint Paul
If God is not love, he is nothing, and all the words of the Bible are just clanging gongs and tinkling cymbals.—Saint Paul (paraphrased)
And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.—Saint Paul, concluding his epistle on Divine Love
To love another person is to see the face of God.—Victor Hugo
The love of heaven makes one heavenly.—William Shakespeare
How can one live without grace? One has to do what Christianity never did: be concerned with the damned.—Albert Camus

I agree with Camus. If like me you have a hard time reconciling the idea of unconditional love, grace and forgiveness with an "eternal hell," you may be interested to learn what I discovered: There is no "Hell" in the Bible.


Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.—William Shakespeare
Love distills desire upon the eyes, love brings bewitching grace into the heart.—Euripides
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and commune with each other.—Rainer Maria Rilke
All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.—Leo Tolstoy
God is Love, and he who abides in Love abides in God, and God abides in him.—Saint John
Keep love in your heart. A life without love is like a sunless garden full of wilted flowers.—Oscar Wilde, slightly paraphrased
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.—Lao Tzu
Love does not dominate; it cultivates.—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.—Helen Keller
There is no remedy for love but to love more.—Henry David Thoreau
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.—Mother Teresa
Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable.—Mohandas Gandhi
A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.—Ingrid Bergman
The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.—Audrey Hepburn
What I feel for you seems less of earth and more of a cloudless heaven.—Victor Hugo
Perhaps love is the process of my gently leading you back to yourself.—Antoine de Saint-Exupery
You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.—Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)
Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost.—Kahlil Gibran
God is love, but get it in writing.—Gypsy Rose Lee

Love has the value
of gold, if it’s true;
if not, of rue.
Michael R. Burch

Love calls, everywhere and always.
We're sky bound.
Are you coming?

To read more, please click here: The Best Quotes and Epigrams about Love.

Friendship and Self-Worth

If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.—J. K. Rowling
A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.—Elbert Hubbard
Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.—Albert Camus
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one!"—C. S. Lewis
You are the entire ocean in one drop.—Rumi
When you are lonely or in darkness, I wish I could show you the astonishing light of your being.—Hafiz

Tolerance and Diversity

Treat everyone you meet as if they are God in drag.—Ram Dass
I'm on the right track, baby, I was born this way.—Lady Gaga
Class is classlessness.—Tom Merrill
If you're being bullied, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.—Elizabeth Harris Burch
Whether you're gay, straight, Goth or geek, it's okay to be different, so take the power back! It belongs to you.—Elizabeth Harris Burch
When I was being bullied, I had to learn not to judge myself by the opinions of intolerant morons. Then I felt much better.—Michael R. Burch
The world is never as small as small people.—Janet Kenny
Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.—John F. Kennedy
Before every man can present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.—Albert Einstein
Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.—Robert Green Ingersoll
What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. Let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly.—Voltaire
Religion is like a pair of shoes. Find one that fits for you, but don't make me wear your shoes.—George Carlin
Certainly tolerance and acceptance were at the forefront of my music.—Bruce Springsteen
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.—Rumi
It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.—Thomas Jefferson
Atheism is a non-prophet organization.—George Carlin
All Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation.—Coretta Scott King
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kindness and Compassion

Unfading are the gardens of kindness.—Greek proverb
A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that dispenses roses.—Chinese proverb
Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.—Seneca the Younger  
Always be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.—a variation on Plato, John Watson and James M. Barrie
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, believing that one day someone might do the same for you.—Princess Diana
As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.—Albert Schweitzer
I'm going to be kind, because then it all just kind of spreads, and the world is a little nicer out there.—Ellen DeGeneres
Recompense injury with justice, and kindness with kindness.—Confucius
My life is unjust, but I can strive for justice. My life is unkind, but I can vote for kindness.—Vachel Lindsay
Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.—Mohammed
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.—Dalai Lama
He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.—Saint Basil

To read more, please click here: Best Kindness and Compassion Quotes and Epigrams.


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A right delayed is a right denied.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.—Eleanor Roosevelt
There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.—Mohandas Gandhi
That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed.—Algernon Sydney


Enslave the liberty of but one human being and the liberties of the world are put in peril.—William Lloyd Garrison
No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.—Frederick Douglas
I expose slavery because to expose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of those monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death.—Frederick Douglas
The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.—Frederick Douglas
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.—Frederick Douglas
When men sow the wind they will reap the whirlwind.—Frederick Douglas
I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more if they had known they were slaves.—Harriet Tubman
It's a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.—Harriet Beecher Stowe
Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.—Abraham Lincoln
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.—Abraham Lincoln
If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.—William Wilberforce

Wisdom and Virtue

Wisdom begins in wonder.—Socrates
Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.—David Starr Jordan
Cleverness is not wisdom.—Euripides
If the writing is honest, it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.—Tennessee Williams
Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life.—Confucius
Never get into a wrestling match with a pig; you both get dirty and the pig likes it.—John McCain
Civility is the ability to disagree agreeably.—Michael R. Burch

Beauty and Truth

Beauty awakens the soul to act.—Dante
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.—Oscar Wilde
In war, truth is the first casualty.—Aeschylus

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Its loveliness increases; it will never
pass into nothingness ...
―John Keats

The Thin Line Between Sanity, Genius and Madness

I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.—Sir Isaac Newton
Nothing is so useless as a general maxim.—Macaulay
Obsession is the wellspring of genius and madness.—Michel de Montaigne
Sanity is madness put to good use.—George Santayana
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.—G. B. Shaw

Faith, Belief, Courage and Action

Believe in God, but keep your powder dry.—Oliver Cromwell
Believe you can and you're halfway there.—Theodore Roosevelt
Change your thoughts and you change your world.—Norman Vincent Peale
The best way out is always through.—Robert Frost
Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.—Amelia Earhart 
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.—Michelangelo
Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.—Michelangelo
Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.—Clarence Darrow
The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom.—Clarence Darrow
I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure.—Clarence Darrow
I am an Agnostic because I am not afraid to think. I am not afraid of any god in the universe who would send me or any other man or woman to hell. If there were such a being, he would not be a god; he would be a devil.—Clarence Darrow

Epigrams can be Vehicles of Social Change and Progress

If we want to live in a better world here on earth—a world of equality, tolerance and peace rather than racism, intolerance and ceaseless violence—both the prophets and the great humanitarians have told us what we need to know, understand, and do:

Bigotry is the sacred disease.—Heraclitus
Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.—H. L. Menken
As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.—William Blake (an early proponent of free love)
We may have come in on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
First they [unjust rulers and governments] ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.—Mohandas Gandhi
Give peace a chance.—John Lennon
One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him.—Booker T. Washington
Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up.—Jesse Jackson
In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.—Confucius
Poverty must not be a bar to learning and learning must offer an escape from poverty.—President Lyndon B. Johnson

Ethical and Religious Epigrams

Some of the most important ethical teachings of major world religions have been passed down to the world in the form of epigrams:

To thy faith add knowledge, to thy actions, love, and thy presence among the people will be a benediction.—Order of the Amaranth
Blessed are the peacemakers.—Jesus
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: this is the Law and the Prophets.—Jesus
The most excellent jihad [struggle] is that for the conquest of self.—Mohammed
The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.—Mohammed
The rights of women are sacred. See that women are maintained in the rights assigned to them.—Mohammed
I like your Christ, but not Christianity. You Christians are so unlike your Christ.—Mohandas Gandhi
A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.—Nelson Mandela
Yesterday I was clever, that is why I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, that is why I am changing myself.—Sri Chinmoy
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who said it, even if I said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and common sense.—Buddha
Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.—Seneca the Younger

To read more please click here: Religious and Ethical Epigrams.


Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.—Douglas Adams
There is never enough time, unless you're serving it.—Malcolm Forbes
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.—George Santayana
We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it.—Michael R. Burch

Famous Flubs

Not all epigrams are wise, witty and wonderful. Here are some of the most "famous flubs" of all time:

This "telephone" ... is inherently of no value to us.—Western Union internal memo, 1876
Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?—H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927
I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.—Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943
Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.—Popular Mechanics, 1949
640K ought to be enough for anybody.—Bill Gates, 1981
I am not a crook!—President Richard M. Nixon
Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?—President George W. Bush
You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.—George W. Bush
You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.—George W. Bush
Our enemies never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.—George W. Bush
Deficits don't matter.―Dick Cheney
We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.―Dick Cheney, predicting a quick, easy American victory over Iraq
I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq will last five days, five weeks or five months, but it won't last any longer than that.―Donald Rumsfeld
Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect.—Sarah Palin
I don't see America having problems.—George W. Bush

The last two quotes suggest that America's worst enemies are politicians like Bush and Palin. You can find more at The Dumbest Things Ever Said and the Worst Predictions of All Time.

Here are some real head-scratchers from people who recently ran for President of the United States:

Corporations are people, my friend ... of course they are ... human beings, my friend."—Mitt Romney
Give the park police more ammo.—Newt Gingrich explaining what to do after a homeless person was shot in front of the White House
[The] right to privacy ... doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution.—Rick Santorum
The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions: I disagree with that.—Rick Santorum
One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is ... the dangers of contraception ... It's not okay.—Rick Santorum
The state has a right to do that [outlaw contraceptives], I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that.—Rick Santorum

Douglas McArthur

In these days when ending war is so vitally important, we ought to consider the words of one of the world's greatest generals, Douglas McArthur:

I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes.

It is my earnest hope—indeed the hope of all mankind—that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world found upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.

Could I have but a line a century hence crediting a contribution to the advance of peace, I would yield every honor which has been accorded by war.

The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative ... If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.

Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense. Our threat is from the insidious forces working from within which have already so drastically altered the character of our free institutions—those institutions we proudly called "the American way of life."

Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it.

It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear—kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor—with the cry of grave "national emergency."

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

The wisdom of General McArthur agrees with that of the great peacemakers, humanitarians and philosophers of the past:

In war, truth is the first casualty.—Aeschylus
The clatter of arms drowns out the voice of law.—Michel de Montaigne
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.—Albert Einstein
I don't know about World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.—Albert Einstein
Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.—John F. Kennedy
Anyone who thinks, must think of the next war as they would of suicide.—Eleanor Roosevelt
If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the military, nothing is safe.—Lord Salisbury
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?—Mohandas Gandhi


Hypocrisy has been called "bigoted prejudice with a neon halo," the "legacy of indecency," the "lubricant of society," "self-righteousness," "holy-roller-ism," "false sincerity" and "jealous indignation." Whatever we call it, hypocrisy is singularly unattractive, and when powerful nations like the United States practice it, hypocrisy can also be deadly. For instance, 9-11 was largely the result of the U.S. government acting unjustly and hypocritically in the Middle East for more than half a century. And yet how many American politicians have been willing to candidly discuss the real causes of 9-11? How can we correct incredibly serious problems if we can't even see or discuss them honestly? Here are epigrams about hypocrisy that bear consideration:

He does not believe, who does not live according to his belief.—Sigmund Freud
Hypocrite! First remove the log from your own eye, then you can help remove the speck from your brother’s eye.—Jesus
A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.—Benjamin Disraeli
Hypocrisy, the lie, is the true sister of evil, intolerance and cruelty.—Raisa M. Gorbachev
Don`t let the noise of others` opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.—Steve Jobs
There's nothing like the appearance of virtue to cloak the practice of vice.— T. Merrill
Hypocrisy may deceive the most perceptive adult, but the dullest child recognizes and is revolted by it, however ingeniously disguised.—Leo Tolstoy, translation by Michael R. Burch

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt was perhaps the most influential first lady in American history. After FDR's death, she was a delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1945 and 1952, a job for which she was appointed by President Harry S. Truman and confirmed by the United States Senate. During her time at the UN she chaired the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. President Truman called her the "First Lady of the World" in tribute to her human rights achievements. Her wit and wisdom shine through in the following epigrams:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
I can not believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.
It is not more vacation we need—it is more vocation.
It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.
Never allow a person to tell you "no" who doesn't have the power to say "yes."
When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

Modern Epigrams: Email Sign-Offs, Tweets, Personal Mottos, Slogans, etc.

a Tweet
by any other name
would be as fleet!

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.—Thomas Alva Edison

The Edison epigram above has become my personal motto. I've used it to "sign off" many an email and I've received a number of emails that end with epigrams. In fact, I first discovered two wonderfully touching epigrams by Michel de Montaigne and Anaïs Nin (below on this page) in emails sent to me by colleagues. A popular new form of epigram is the Tweet. Here's my favorite Tweet to date:

The Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight.—Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords is the Arizona congresswoman who was shot by a gun-wielding serial killer. Reading her highly poetic Tweet, I can actually see our nation's Capitol lit up at night, shining like a beacon, and I can feel her sincerity. As I write this, I am reminded of Gabby's favorite epigram, which appears on her Facebook page:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds.—Abraham Lincoln

To further demonstrate how epigrams can intersect our lives and perhaps influence our stars, Gabby's husband, the astronaut Mark Kelly, had inscribed on her wedding ring, "You're the closest to heaven that I've ever been"—words from a song by the Goo Goo Dolls that obviously have a very special meaning for them. The inscription is actually a short rhyming poem, an epigram for the ages:

You're the closest to heaven
that I've ever been.

Epigrams in Unexpected Places

As I worked on this page, I was struck by the sweetness, tenderness, honesty and wisdom of one of the world's most famous "dumb blondes." As a famous epigram suggests, perhaps we shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Please consider the wit and wisdom of Marilyn Monroe ...

Marilyn Monroe

What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course!
It's not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on.
Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature.
I've been on a calendar, but never on time.
If I'd observed all the rules I'd never have gotten anywhere.
I love to do the things the censors won't pass.
If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.
A wise girl kisses but doesn't love, listens but doesn't believe, and leaves before she is left.
If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
I don't mind making jokes, but I don't want to look like one.
I have too many fantasies to be a housewife. I guess I am a fantasy.
There was my name up in lights. I said, "God, somebody's made a mistake." But there it was, in lights. And I sat there and said, "Remember, you're not a star." Yet there it was, up in lights.

Puns, Word-Play, Raillery and Drollery

A pun is a form of word-play. Raillery has been defined as "light, teasing banter," "gentle mockery" and "good-humored satire or ridicule." Drollery is something whimsically comical. Examples:

There is no glory in outstripping donkeys.—Marcus Valerius Martial
As blushing may make a whore seem virtuous, so modesty may make a fool seem sensible.—Jonathan Swift
Religion is the opiate of the people.—Karl Marx
Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.—Michael R. Burch
If you think you're too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.—Edith Sitwell
If we don’t want to define ourselves by things as superficial as our appearances, we’re stuck with the revolting alternative of being judged by our actions.—Ellen DeGeneres

Here's a bit of rather gentle raillery of my own, called "Saving Graces," that I have dedicated to the Moral Majority or Religious Right:

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.
Michael R. Burch

My epigram is dedicated to Christians who claim they'll inherit heaven at the expense of everyone else. If you question the idea that Einstein and Gandhi will go to "hell," please read Why "hell" is vanishing from the Bible.

Waggery, Jests, Ribald Jokes

At the opposite end of the spectrum from raillery would be waggery (the wisecrack, the bald-faced jest, the ribald joke which is sexual, excretory or somehow offensive, to someone):

A man who says he can see through a woman is missing a lot.—Groucho Marx
A man's only as old as the woman he feels.—Groucho Marx

The One-Liner, or Zinger

Another name for Marx's method is "the zinger," a potent form of the comedian's one-liner. The zinger requires upsetting the applecart of our polite polities. But there are many other "flavors" of epigrams. One of my favorite categories is best exemplified by the Divine Oscar Wilde, who upsets the applecart in an entirely different way:

Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.—Oscar Wilde

The Bon Mot

What a wickedly scathing line! This is a wonderful example of the bon mot ("good word"), the best way of saying something. There has never been a better critic of gossip, innuendo and scandal-mongering than Oscar Wilde (perhaps because so many prudes, busybodies and gossips considered him to be scandalous, when the real scandal was that they refused to mind their own business):

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.—Oscar Wilde

Wilde is every moralist's worst nightmare, because he was wise in the ways of the world and human nature, while moralists are usually up to their eyeballs in hypocrisy. Centuries before Wilde, Aristotle proved the ancient Greeks could be just as scathing:

Wit is educated insolence.—Aristotle

But epigrams can also be wonderfully touching and moving:

The births of all things are weak and tender,
therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.
Michel de Montaigne

If we are to have real peace in the world,
we shall have to begin with the children.
―Mohandas Gandhi

As an Israeli, I have come to understand:
there is no way to love Israel and reject a two-state peace,
no way to love Israel and reject Palestine.
—Yael Dayan, daughter of Moshe Dayan, Israel's most famous general

If you would lift me you must be on higher ground.―Ralph Waldo Emerson

Epigrams can also be wise, and liberating:

It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.—Anaïs Nin

Shake off all fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.—Thomas Jefferson

The rank is but the guinea’s stamp; the man’s the gowd [gold] for a’ [all] that!—Robert Burns

Epigrams like the last one above helped fuel the American and French revolutions; Burns was saying that commoners had the same "mettle" and worth as royals and lords. Here's a similar epigram by another great poet:

I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
—Alexander Pope

Double Entendres

Another category of the epigram is the double entendre, in which two meanings of a word or phrase are exploited simultaneously:

When women go wrong, men go right after them.—Mae West
Give a man a free hand and he'll run it all over you.—Mae West
Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready to be institutionalized..—Mae West


Epigrams which convey essential truths or principles are called aphorisms:

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.―Unknown
A watched pot never boils.―Unknown
Life is short, art long.―Hippocrates
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The epigram is the simple, elegant black dress of literature; it leaves nearly everything bared and yet still temptingly open to the imagination. The best epigrammatists produce belle lettres ("beautiful letters" or "fine writing") en brief ("in brief"). But there is as much diversity among epigrammatists as there is in the sea. Take the one below from the master of relativity himself, Albert Einstein. Einstein, who was quite the ladies' man, was asked to explain relativity. He chose to describe the perception of time as an aspect of human nature and physical attraction:

Sit next to a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. Sit on a red-hot stove for a minute, it seems like an hour. That's relativity!—Albert Einstein

The Limerick

Another popular form of the epigram is the limerick. Here's one that delves into the zanier aspects of relativity:

There once was a woman named Bright
who traveled much faster than light.
She set out one day
in a relative way
and came back the previous night!

Leg-Pulling, Horseplay, Whimsy, Monkeyshines, etc.

Einstein's epigram might be assigned any of a number of sub-terms: leg-pulling, horseplay, whimsy, a monkeyshine ... perhaps even a hoodwink, boondoggle or snow job (since the "relativity" being discussed has little to do with physics, but much to do with physiques, body chemistry and sex). Still, Einstein's epigram, whatever we choose to call it, contains considerable wisdom. But sometimes epigrams can be entirely for amusement, such as this one of mine:

Nun Fun Undone

are not for excesses!
Michael R. Burch

An epigram like mine that is entirely for the sake of humor might earn sobriquets like: tomfoolery, buffoonery, mummery, a chestnut, a gag, a ha-ha, a jape, a jest, a lark, a rib, a sally, a quirk, a whim, a vagary.


A similar form of epigram is the comic's one-liner, or quip. One of the most famous one-liners is:

Take my wife ... please!—Henny Youngman, later "borrowed" by Rodney Dangerfield

The Chiasmus

The chiasmus repeats the same or very similar words in a different order:

It's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, it's the size of the fight in the dog.—Dwight D. Eisenhower
It's not the men in your life that count, it's the life in your men.—Mae West
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.—Maya Angelou
Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.—C. S. Lewis
Love is either wholly folly, or fully holy.—Michael R. Burch
I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.—Ronald Reagan
War does not determine who is right, just who is left.”—Unknown, associated by fans with the Dan Fogelberg song "Ghosts"


One of the more creative types of epigram is the spoonerism:

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me
than a frontal lobotomy.
Dorothy Parker

Absinthe makes the tart grow fonder.—Ernest Dowson

In effect, a spoonerism is an aural chiasmus: the sounds of words are reversed, rather than the same or similar words being reversed.


Another category of epigram is the anecdote, a brief account or narrative, often to make or stress an important point:

I came, I saw, I conquered.—Julius Caesar
I have not come to praise Caesar, but to bury him.—Brutus
Et tu, Bruté?—Julius Caesar [You too, Brutus?]


Then there are "dead serious" epigrams, called epitaphs. These are the inscriptions that appear on headstones. Here's one of mine called "Epitaph for a Palestinian Child":

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
Michael R. Burch

Sometimes the lines blur. Here's an epitaph that is also a chiasmus, from the headstone of the famous boxer Jack Dempsey:

A gentle man and a gentleman.—Unknown


The epigram above is also an example of encomium (praise or eulogy). The opposite type of epigram, when offered as invective, is the epithet. An epithet defines or characterizes someone or something. In Homer's day epithets were often complimentary. But today epithets are usually non-complimentary, if not downright offensive. Modern epithets often descend into derogatory slang and racial invective. But in the hands of a master epigrammatist like Will Rogers, they can still be sublime in effect:

An economist's guess is liable to be as good as anybody else's.—Will Rogers
Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.—Will Rogers
A fool and his money are soon elected.—Will Rogers

Political Epigrams

Political epigrams can be equally scathing, whether aimed at liberals, conservatives or politicians in general:

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.—John F. Kennedy
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society.—John F. Kennedy
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.—John F. Kennedy
Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.—Mark Twain
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.—Mark Twain
My choices in life were to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!—Harry S. Truman
It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours.—Harry S. Truman
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.—Albert Einstein

To read more please click here: The Best Political Poems and Epigrams.

Ethnic Humor

A sub-genre of the epithet consists of racial, ethnic or cultural ribbing. Southerners often poke fun at themselves and their neighbors with "hillbilly humor":

You might be a redneck if your family tree don't fork.—Unknown
You might be a redneck if your cars sit on blocks and your house has wheels.—Unknown
You might be a redneck if you think "loading the dishwasher" means getting your wife drunk.—Jeff Foxworthy

Parody and Lampooning

Another genre of epigrams engages in parody and lampooning. Here's one I hope to someday include it in a book of poems to be titled Why I Left the Religious Right:

I've got Jesus's name on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of my shirt
and I uphold the Law,
for grace has a flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt!
Michael R. Burch

Proverbs and Wisdom Sayings

Yet another type of epigram has any number of names. Let's begin with "proverb" and a famous illustration by one of the world's best-known epigrammatists:

Early to bed, early to rise
makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
—Ben Franklin

Miguel de Cervantes defined a proverb as "a short sentence based on long experience." There are, it seems, a bazillion other names for such bits of homey wisdom: adage, moral, homily, bromide, aphorism, apophthegm, axiom, dictum, maxim, motto, folk wisdom, platitude, motto, precept, saw, saying, truism, catchphrase, formula, gnome, pithy saying, etc.

Sometimes the epigram is the salvo a  battle-savvy cynic launches against human ignorance, intolerance, cruelty and insanity:

There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.—Mark Twain

To determine the truth of Twain's remark, just inquire with any black American slave, or any Native American who walked the Trail of Tears, or any Palestinian who's been herded inside the walled ghetto of Gaza and had the gates slammed shut in his face. None of them will praise the white man's self-avowed "democratic ideals" or his "Judeo-Christian ethics." Here are more words from the wise:

I don't know what weapons will be used in World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.—Albert Einstein
Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.—John F. Kennedy
Anyone who thinks must think of the next war as they would of suicide.—Eleanor Roosevelt

The history of such epigrams goes "way back" in time. In the 6th century B.C. the legendarily rich King Croesus of Lydia said:

In peace sons bury their fathers, but in war fathers bury their sons.—Croesus

When we consider the expensive, bloody follies of the U.S. government in the Middle East, we can only wish American politicians had heeded Will Rogers:

If there is one thing that we do worse than any other nation, it is try and manage somebody else's affairs.― Will Rogers

And a great French essayist can explain why American freedoms seem to be vanishing:

The clatter of arms drowns out the voice of law.—Michel de Montaigne

Following in the same vein of questioning whether human beings are using their advanced brains to "think" when they do such things as wage war, here are two related epigrams by one of my favorite contemporary writers:

Thinking is often claimed but seldom proven.— T. Merrill
It must be hard being brilliant with no way to prove it.— T. Merrill


The great epigrammatists often arise from the ranks of the disaffected and oppressed. Oscar Wilde, the greatest epigrammatist of them all, served time in Reading Gaol for "indecency" (he had the temerity to be flamboyantly gay). Twain wrote volumes exposing and expounding on the massive illogic of orthodox Christianity (he had the temerity to be a heretic, but had to hold up the publication of his anti-Christian opus Letters from the Earth for fifty years after his death, in order to protect his family from fire-breathing Christian fundamentalists). Einstein produced many of his epigrams against the backdrop of Nazi Germany (he had the temerity to be a brilliant Jew).  Today many of our best epigrammatists are women who combine sharp minds with even sharper tongues:

A male gynecologist is like an auto mechanic who never owned a car.—Carrie Snow
The phrase "working mother" is redundant.—Jane Sellman
If high heels were so wonderful, men would still be wearing them.—Sue Grafton
If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.—Margaret Thatcher

Here's a similar epigram that I absolutely love, although it creates something of a dichotomy:

When women are depressed they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country.—Elayne Boosler

Female politicians like Margaret Thatcher may be somewhat at odds (or loose ends) with female comedians like Elayne Boosler, since Thatcher wasn't above an invasion herself (of the Falkland Islands). But Boosler hammers the human funnybone nonetheless. She doesn't have to be perfect, just witty and succinct enough to make us blink, then think.

The stupendous epigrams above prove women's brains are every bit as good as men's, as they extract Eve's revenge at the expense of men's prehistoric prejudices. Here's my favorite epigram in this genre:

Whatever women must do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.—Charlotte Whitton

A great female epigrammatist can use her razor-sharp wit to deflate bigotry:

I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I'm not dumb, and also I'm not blonde.—Dolly Parton

Has anyone ever made a better case for the combinatory advantages of brains, wigs and peroxide? (I will refrain from mentioning Dolly's other, even more glamorous advantages.)


Socrates suggested that we define our terms, so for my purposes here I will use the primary term "epigram" and define it with Webster as a "terse, sage or witty and often paradoxical saying." Paradox can be both enlightening and amusing. Here's a stellar example by a contemporary writer:

Nowadays we make quick work of our courtships; it's our divorces that we spend a lot of time on.—Richard Moore

Paradoxical, indeed! But some epigrams are so paradoxical they seem to be best taken for purposes of amusement and bemusement only:

You can observe a lot just by watching.—Yogi Berra
There are some people who, if they don't already know, you can't tell 'em.—Yogi Berra
Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.—Yogi Berra
I know you heard what you thought I said, but what I said isn’t what I meant.—Richard Nixon
More and more of our imports come from overseas.—President George W. Bush


To give us the most possible good material to work with, I will construe the term "epigram" to include one-liners, zingers, spoonerisms, witticisms, aphorisms, saws, pithy sayings, epitaphs, epithets, proverbs, doggerel, the chiasmus (I decline to use the strange plural: chiasmi), brief quotes, short poems, hillbilly humor, maxims, truisms, the wisdom of the ages, etc. I will take as my motto and my guiding light:

Brevity is the soul of wit.—William Shakespeare

One takes one's literary life into one's own hands when one attempts to go beyond the Masters, but then again "nothing ventured, nothing gained" (an epigram and a perfectly good truism), so please allow me to suggest that:

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.
Michael R. Burch

But then a good epigrammatist won't let us wriggle easily off the hook of a quick assumption:

Brevity is the soul of lingerie.—Dorothy Parker

The great epigrammatists will invariably do one of two things: they will either amuse and bemuse us into wisdom, or they will scathe us into wisdom. Here are some wonderful examples of the former:

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.—Unknown

To be safe on the Fourth,
Don't buy a fifth on the third.
—James H Muehlbauer

The epigrams above certainly amuse and bemuse, and while most people are unlikely to heed them, they point out the perils of drinking too much: the loss of brain cells, hangovers, fireworks that explode in our hands, etc. Other epigrams may be less overtly funny, but still entertaining and enlightening:

I can resist everything except temptation.—Oscar Wilde
The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.—Oscar Wilde
Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.—William Blake
There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.—Mark Twain
To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.—Michel de Montaigne
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.—Mark Twain
Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.—Mark Twain
Must I do all the evil I can before I learn to shun it? Is it not enough to know the evil to shun it? If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up.—Mohandas Gandhi

What some of the world's greatest writers and wits seem to be telling us, if I apprehend them correctly, is that orthodox morality is dubious at best, if it is morality at all. The great wits listen to sermons about sex being a "sin" and roll their eyeballs toward the heavens, then write scathing epigrams as a way of possibly curing man of his folly. They know the preacher who lectures his flock on the "evils" of sex is just as randy as the rest of them, and probably less inhibited (unless he's a septuagenarian and his hormones have "petered" out, pun intended). Wilde, Blake and Twain understood human nature and were honest about it, and themselves. Twain pointed out that any red-blooded man would give up any possible shot at heaven for a few blissful seconds with the Eve of his dreams. Anyone who claims the Holy Spirit cures human beings of sexual desire is obviously wrong, because human sexuality is not a "disease." But I digress. To continue ... on these pages you will find some of the wittiest, funniest, pithiest and scathingest things human beings have said, to this late date, on our planet.

My favorite epigrammatists are Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain. Other famous wits sampled herein include Aristotle, Ambrose Bierce, Martial, Ogden Nash and Plato, just to drop a few good names. You won't find many platitudes like "neither a borrower nor a lender be" because my preference is for wince-and-wisdom-inducing humor. After all, Shakespeare was undoubtedly poking fun at Polonius, the banal moralist, whose own children were basket cases. T. S. Eliot "got it," as evidenced by his Prufrock. Most readers don't. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Repartee and Rejoinders

One of my all-time favorite epigrams consists of this exchange of repartee between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor:

Lady Astor: "Winston, you're drunk!"
Winston Churchill: "But I shall be sober in the morning and you, madam, will still be ugly."
Lady Astor: "Mr. Churchill, if you were my husband, I'd put poison in your tea."
Winston Churchill: "Madam, if I were your husband, I'd drink it."

One Good Epigram Deserves Another

God doesn't play dice with the Universe.—Albert Einstein
No, but he sure plays a mean game of hide-and-seek!—Woody Allen

Motivational Calls to Action

But a good epigram can also be a call to action:

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.—Thomas Alva Edison

An epigram can also be a call to compassion, empathy and kindness:

Always be kinder than necessary,
for everyone you meet is fighting
some kind of battle.
—attributed to T.H. Thompson and John Watson

Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.—Native American proverb

The Method Behind the Madness

Robert Frost, probably America's last major poet, said "poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom." I would like to paraphrase him, if I may, and say:

Epigrams delight us into wisdom.—Michael R. Burch

In brief, the epigram is the Harry Houdini of literature. Here are a few more of my all-time favorite epigrams:

I can't live without you or with you.—Ovid
Take it from me, marriage isn't a word, it's a sentence!—Vidor King
Our existence is a short circuit of light between two eternities of darkness.—Vladimir Nabokov
The secret of getting things done is to act!—Dante Alighieri
Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!—Dorothy (played by Judy Garland)
Houston, we have a problem.—Jim Lovell
Before Elvis, there was nothing.—John Lennon
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.—John Lennon

Epigrams in Popular Music: Rock, Country, Folk, Soul, R&B, Hip-Hop, Rap, etc.

Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try; no hell below us; above us, only sky.—John Lennon
A change is gonna come.—Sam Cooke
War is not the answer, because only love can conquer hate.—Marvin Gaye
Love is a battlefield.—Pat Benatar
I'm so lonesome, I could cry.—Hank Williams Sr.
Only the good die young.—Billy Joel
I am a rock; I am an island.—Paul Simon
I ain't no fortunate one.—John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival
It's better to burn out, than fade away.—Neil Young
Who wants to live forever?—Freddy Mercury of Queen
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.—Don McLean
And though you want to last forever, you know you never will, and the good-bye makes the journey harder still.—Cat Stevens
The answer is blowin' in the wind.—Bob Dylan
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.—Kris Kristofferson/Janis Joplin
My mama ain't raise no fool because my mama ain't raise me, fool!—Sean Price
Baby, we were born to run.—Bruce Springsteen
Because you're mine, I walk the line.—Johnny Cash

I love you in a place where there's no space or time;
I love you for my life, 'cause you're a friend of mine.
—Leon Russell

There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.—Leonard Cohen
Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.—Leonard Cohen
Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.—Leonard Cohen
I don't consider myself a pessimist at all. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel completely soaked to the skin.—Leonard Cohen

An Epigram about Epigrams, giving Honor where Honor is Due

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.
Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker is both succinct and correct: If I hear a really good epigram and can't immediately identify its source, my first guess will almost invariably be the Divine Oscar Wilde. So without further ado, let's kick off this show by surrendering the stage to the greatest epigrammatist of them all ...

The Oscar Goes to Wilde: Epigrams by the Divine Oscar Wilde

Wilde Advice on Vice:

One should always play fairly, when one has the winning cards.
The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes them to live.

Going Wilde on God, Religion and Morality:

I believe God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.
Self-denial is the shining sore on the leprous body of Christianity.
Always forgive your enemies: nothing annoys them so much.
There is no sin except stupidity.
Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Going Wilde on Fashion, Fads, Fame, Society, Culture and the Arts:

The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable we are compelled to alter it every six months.
America is the only country that went from barbarism to decencies without civilization in between.
Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
Do not speak ill of society ... only people who can't get in do that.
It is a much cleverer thing to talk nonsense than to listen to it.
Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everyone in good society holds exactly the same opinion.

Going Wilde on Love, Relationships, Women and Men:

Woman begins by resisting a man's advances and ends by blocking his retreat.
Women are made to be loved, not understood.
A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction.
How marriage ruins a man! It is as demoralizing as cigarettes, and far more expensive.
Men always want to be a woman's first love; women like to be a man's last romance.
Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.

Going Wilde on Time, Aging and Human Nature:

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.
The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
To get back my youth I would do anything except exercise, get up early, or be respectable.

Wilde Truths:

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.

Wilde on Oscar:

I have nothing to declare except my genius. [To a customs officer.]
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read.
Why was I born with such contemporaries?

Wilde Last Words:

I suppose I shall have to die beyond my means. [Upon learning he needed an operation.]
Either that wallpaper goes, or I do. [His final words.]

To read more Oscar Wilde epigrams please click here: Oscar Wilde Quips, Quotes and Epigrams

If every witty thing that’s said was true,
Oscar Wilde, the world would worship You!
Michael R. Burch

The Twain Well Met: Epigrams by Mark Twain

Twain on God, Religion, Morality, Death, Heaven and Hell:

It's not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that bother me, it's the parts I do understand.
I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble.
To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and less trouble.
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
Always do right. That will gratify some of the people, and astonish the rest.
I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell; I have friends in both places.
Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.
Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.
The Christian's Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes.

Twain on Truth and Veracity:

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.
Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain't so.
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you do know that ain't so.

Twain on Money:

Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed.
Put all your eggs in one basket, then: watch the basket!

Twain on Wit, Literature and the Arts:

A classic is something that everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read.
The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.
The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.

Twain on Men, Women and Marriage:

Familiarity breeds contempt, and children.
What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.

Twain on Politics:

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.
What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.
In our country we have three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.

Twain on Youth, Health and the Dubious Joys of Aging:

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting.
Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I've done it thousands of times.

Twain on Animals:

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.

Twain on Racism, Culture, Custom, Habit and Human Contrariness:

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Good breeding means concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of others.
There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.

Twain on Ignorance and Human Nature:

It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.
If at first you don't succeed, try again. Then quit; there's no use being a damn fool about it.
A person with a new idea is a crank, until it succeeds.
Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.
Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied.

To read more Mark Twain epigrams please click here: Mark Twain Poems and Epigrams

Shocked by Voltaire

Poverty enervates courage.
Ask nothing of anyone; need no one.
Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent people.
There are no sects in geometry.
Sect and error are synonymous.
The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.
Common sense is not so common.

Pierced by Bierce: the "Redefinition" Epigrams of Ambrose Bierce

Applause, n. The echo of a platitude.
Bigot, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.
Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
Wit, n. A faculty never to be missed in a friend.

A Brief Take on Blake: Epigrams by William Blake

As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.
As the air to a bird or the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible.
Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Folly is the cloak of knavery.
Shame is Pride's cloak.
Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion.
The soul of sweet delight can never be defiled.
Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are the roads of Genius.
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
Expect poison from standing water.
What is now proved was once only imagined.
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.

The Elegant Epigrams and Side-Splitting Spoonerisms of Dorothy Parker

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me
than a frontal lobotomy.

Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.

Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika.
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.
If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised.
The only 'ism' Hollywood believes in is plagiarism.
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
I've never been a millionaire but I just know I'd be darling at it.
Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

Mae Day: the Wit and Wisdom of Mae West

To err is human, but it feels divine.
She's the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong.
When women go wrong, men go right after them.
Virtue has its own reward, but not at the box office.
Give a man a free hand and he'll run it all over you.
A hard man is good to find.
Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can't figure out what from.
I believe that it's better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked.
I didn't discover curves; I only uncovered them.
I'm no model lady. A model's just an imitation of the real thing.
Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready to be institutionalized.
The best way to hold a man is in your arms.
The score never interested me, only the game.
Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.
When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before.
When I'm good I'm very, very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A right delayed is a right denied.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal."
We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.
It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important.
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.
It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.
Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail they become dams that block the flow of social progress.
When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.
If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.
The Negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the Negro to free him from his guilt.
The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Mohandas Gandhi

Peace is its own reward.
Poverty is the worst form of violence.
A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes.
An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.
Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.
Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.
Be the change that you want to see in the world.
Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.
Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.
Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.
Every formula of every religion has, in this age of reason, to submit to the acid test of reason and universal assent.
Faith ... must be enforced by reason ... when faith becomes blind it dies.
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won't presume to probe into the faults of others.
I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality.
I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.
I would heartily welcome the union of East and West provided it is not based on brute force.
If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.
Imitation is the sincerest flattery.
In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
We win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party.
What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea.
You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Walt Whitman

Resist much. Obey little.
I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.
I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.
If you done it, it ain't bragging.
In the faces of men and women, I see God.
Argue not concerning God … re-examine all that you have been told at church or school or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your soul …
The real war will never get in the books.
Battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
Peace is always beautiful.
And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles.
I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained.
The powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
There is no God any more divine than Yourself.
To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.
Be not dishearten'd—Affection shall solve the problems of Freedom yet; those who love each other shall become invincible.

Albert Camus

We all have a weakness for beauty.
We have exiled beauty; the Greeks took up arms for her.
In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown.
A punishment that penalizes without forestalling [i.e., hell] is called revenge.
How can one live without grace? One has to do what Christianity never did: be concerned with the damned.

Highland Hijinks: the Epigrams of Robert Burns, The Bard of Scotland

O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us! [written after seeing a louse on a churchgoer's fancy bonnet]
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men gang aft agley [go oft awry].
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp; the man’s the gowd [gold] for a’ [all] that!
Suspicion is a heavy armor and with its weight it impedes more than it protects.

William Lloyd Garrison (an American abolitionist who risked his life to help abolish slavery)

Enslave the liberty of but one human being and the liberties of the world are put in peril.
Liberty for each, for all, and forever!
The success of any great moral enterprise does not depend upon numbers.
Wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or complexion.
With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.
I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice.
On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation.
No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher.
I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD.
If your Constitution does not guarantee freedom for all, it is not a Constitution I can ascribe to.

Virginia Woolf

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.
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.
Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious; the best prose is that which is most full of poetry.
Really I don't like human nature unless all candied over with art.

The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Wilson Reagan

I know it's hard when you're up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp.
In America, our origins matter less than our destination, and that is what democracy is all about.
I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.

To read more please click here: The Epigrams of Ronald Reagan

Moore Succinct: the Epigrams of Richard Moore

Richard Moore is one of my favorite contemporary poets and epigrammatists. You can find a larger collection of his humorous and philosophical epigrams by clicking on his hyperlinked name, then going to the bottom of his poetry page. Here's a small handful of his funniest and pithiest zingers:

Logic, like Rilke's angel, is beautiful but dangerous.
Nowadays we make quick work of our courtships; it's our divorces that we spend a lot of time on.
One has to take risks, as the capitalists say, and I have staked my life—as we all must—on my hunches.
When I read Homer, I sometimes have the feeling that we have been starving to death for 3,000 years.
It's amazing what modern arts audiences nowadays will put up with. What a little pretentiousness won't do!

Genius Squared: The Epigrams of Albert Einstein

Never lose a holy curiosity.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.
Morality is of the highest importance—but for us, not for God.
Whoever set himself up as a judge of Truth is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the former.
The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.
Information is not knowledge.
Our technology has exceeded our humanity.
I don't know about World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.
The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.
To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.
There are two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.
Sit next to a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. Sit on a red-hot stove for a minute, it seems like an hour. That's relativity.
A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.
An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.
Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.
Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
As far as I'm concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.
Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.

Epigrams Reign: Michel de Montaigne

The clatter of arms drowns out the voice of law.
Man cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen.
To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.
Obsession is the wellspring of genius and madness.
A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.
No man is a hero to his own valet.
The only thing certain is that nothing is certain.
There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees.
There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.
The way of the world is to make laws, but follow custom.
It is not death, it is dying that alarms me.
I have never seen a greater monster or miracle in the world than myself.

Abraham Lincoln

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.
Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors to bullets.
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
The people will save their government, if the government itself will allow them.
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.
To give victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary.
When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.
Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

H. G. Wells

Our true nationality is mankind.
If we don't end war, war will end us.
Advertising is legalized lying.

William Shakespeare

Brevity is the soul of wit.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Love is too young to know what conscience is.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions.
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.
Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.
Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.
Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
This above all; to thine own self be true.
To be, or not to be: that is the question.

Muhammad Ali

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.
It ain't bragging if you can back it up.
It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe.
Superman don't need no seat belt.
Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.

John F. Kennedy

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society.
If we cannot end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.
The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.
Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.
Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.

The Church Gets the Burch Rod

How can the Bible be "infallible" when from Genesis to Revelation slavery is commanded and condoned, but never condemned?—Michael R. Burch
Most Christians make God seem like the Devil. Atheists and agnostics at least give him the "benefit of the doubt."—Michael R. Burch
If one screams below, what the hell is “Above”?—Michael R. Burch
The best tonic for other people's bad ideas is to think for oneself.—Michael R. Burch
Hell hath no fury like a fundamentalist whose God condemned him for having "impure thoughts."—Michael R. Burch
Religion is the difficult process of choosing the least malevolent invisible friends.—Michael R. Burch
An ideal that cannot be realized is, in the end, just wishful thinking.—Michael R. Burch

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
Michael R. Burch

If God has the cattle on a thousand hills,
why does he need my tithes to pay his bills?
Michael R. Burch

God and his "profits" could never agree
on any gospel acceptable to an intelligent flea.
Michael R. Burch

A Word to the Wise, by the Wordwise

It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.—Aristotle
Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.—Adlai Stevenson

Art Smart

Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.—Leonardo da Vinci
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

Sagely Aging

Old age ain't no place for sissies.—Bette Davis
Being "over the hill" is much better than being under it.—Unknown
The reward of suffering is experience.—Aeschylus
The hardest years in life are those between ten and seventy.—Helen Hayes
Adults are just obsolete children.—Dr. Seuss

Sports Shorts by Yogi Berra

You can observe a lot just by watching.—Yogi Berra
There are some people who, if they don't already know, you can't tell 'em.—Yogi Berra
Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.—Yogi Berra
The future ain't what it used to be.—Yogi Berra
I didn't really say all the things I said.—Yogi Berra
It's déjà vu all over again.—Yogi Berra
It ain't over till it's over.—Yogi Berra
We make too many wrong mistakes.—Yogi Berra
Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical.—Yogi Berra
So I'm ugly. So what? I never saw anyone hit with his face.—Yogi Berra
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.—Yogi Berra
It gets late early out here.—Yogi Berra
A nickel ain't worth a dime any more.—Yogi Berra
The similarities between me and my father are different.—Dale Berra (Yogi Berra's son)

A Smidgen of Religion

Don't give up. Moses was once a basket case.—Unknown
Forbidden fruit creates many jams.—Unknown
God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.—Voltaire

Funny Money

It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.―Aeschylus
Money is the wise man's religion.—Euripides
When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.—Voltaire
If you'd know the power of money, go and borrow some.—Ben Franklin

Greek Speak

Bigotry is the sacred disease.—Heraclitus
By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.—Socrates

Will Rogers

An economist's guess is liable to be as good as anybody else's.
Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.
A fool and his money are soon elected.
Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.
The United States never lost a war or won a conference.
If there's one thing we do worse than any other nation, it's managing somebody else's affairs.
I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
Congress in session is like when the baby gets hold of a hammer.
You can't say civilization don't advance: in every war they kill you some new way.
A remark generally hurts in proportion to its truth.
An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out.
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.
Everything is changing. People are taking comedians seriously and politicians as a joke.
Get someone else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as far.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in.
Liberty doesn't work as well in practice as it does in speeches.
The income tax has made liars out of more Americans than golf.
What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.
You've got to go out on a limb sometimes because that's where the fruit is.
I have a scheme for stopping war: no nation can enter a war till it's paid for the last one.

Woody Allen

Eighty percent of success is showing up.
I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.
If only God would give me some clear sign! Like a large deposit in a Swiss bank.
Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering—and it's all over much too soon.
Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.
My education was dismal. I went to a series of schools for mentally disturbed teachers.
Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends.
To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.
If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. The worst you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.

Jonathan Swift

Every dog must have his day.
Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
A tavern is a place where madness is sold by the bottle.
As blushing may make a whore seem virtuous, so modesty may make a fool seem sensible.
Government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery.
I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.
Men are happy to be laughed at for their humor, but not for their folly.
Politics, as the word is commonly understood, are nothing but corruptions.
Power is no blessing in itself, except when it is used to protect the innocent.
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own.
We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.

Martial Law: the Epigrams of Marcus Valerius Martial

There is no glory in outstripping donkeys.
Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.
If fame is to come only after death, I am in no hurry for it.
Gifts are hooks.

Douglas Adams

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
You live and learn. Or at any rate, you live.
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Anyone capable of getting made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news.

John Adams

You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.
In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.

Nota Bene: the Notable Epigrams of Ben Franklin

Little strokes fell great oaks.
Plough deep while sluggards sleep.
Vessels large may venture more, but little boats should keep near shore.
There never was a good war nor a bad peace.
A man between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain, and most fools do.
Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.
Fish and visitors smell after three days.
He that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing.
He who multiplies riches multiplies cares.
Necessity never made a good bargain.
Never confuse motion with action.
Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
To find out a girl's faults, praise her to her girl friends.
Well done is better than well said.
We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

To be great is to be misunderstood.
For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure.
If you would lift me, you must be on higher ground.

Miscellanea: Assorted Epigrams

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who lack it.—George Bernard Shaw
Quoting one is plagiarism; quoting many is research.—Unknown
If God had intended us to fly he would have made it easier to get to the airport.—Jonathan Winters
The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer but rather what they miss.—Thomas Carlyle
When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.—Franklin D. Roosevelt
A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.—Henrik Ibsen
The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray.—Robert G. Ingersoll
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.—Rudyard Kipling
Art is long, life is short.—Goethe
If I have seen a little farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.—Sir Isaac Newton

Related pages: The Greatest Epigrammatists, A Brief History of Epigrams with Examples, Famous Epigraphs and Literary Borrowings, Puns and Wordplay, Political Epigrams, Epigrams about Sex and Marriage, Humorous Epigrams, One-Liners and Zingers, Chiasmus, Tweets, Love Epigrams, Zionist Quotes, Tax Quotes of the Rich and Famous, The Dumbest Things Ever Said, The Best Insults Ever, Famous Last Words, The Best Epigrams, Mitt Romney Quotes, Paul Ryan Quotes, The Best Symbols, The Best Metaphors and Similes, The Best Donald Trump Jokes, Is there a Republican War on Women?, The Best Muhammad Ali Poetry

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