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24 Empowering Quotes From World Literature

Self-help from the best of the best in literature.

A book is a companion, and an author an empath: when we have no hope, we turn to art, to poetry, to an artist that may have written down exactly what we're feeling. Throughout life's joys and sorrows, we find ourselves looking for a reflector, whether medieval or contemporary, to help us feel understood. Whether your taste lies in the classics or in popular books, there's something to be said for the literary greats and how they've reflected on the many aspects of existing.

Here's a list from literary greats, both present and past, to keep you grounded in your stormiest days.

For the Heartbroken

"What cannot be said will be wept."


― Sappho, Fragments


"There is always something left to love."

― Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude


"Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs."

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


"Love is so short, forgetting is so long."

― Pablo Neruda, Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines)

For the Changemakers

"All extremes of feeling are allied with madness."

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando


"So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing."

― T. S. Eliot, East Coker


"I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."

― Friedrich Nietzsche, Towards the Ubermensch


"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

― Anne Frank, Anne Frank's Tales from the Secret Annex

For the Overworked

"I am tired of myself tonight. I should like to be somebody else."


― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


"You're always in a rush, or else you're too exhausted to have a proper conversation. Soon enough, the long hours, the traveling, the broken sleep have all crept into your being and become part of you, so everyone can see it, in your posture, your gaze, the way you move and talk."

― Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go


"He had to keep busy; he had to keep moving so that the sinews connected behind his eyes did not slip loose and spin his eyes to the interior of his skull where the scenes waited for him."

― Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony


"How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home."

― William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

For the Depressed

"Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression."

― Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle


"So dull and dark are theNovember days. The lazy mist high up the evening curled, And now the morn quite hides in smoke and haze; The place we occupy seems all the world.

― John Clare, Collected Poems


"I sit up in the dark drenched in longing. / I am carrying over a thousand names for blue that I didn't have at dusk."

― Joy Harjo, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings


"I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between."

― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

For the Hopeless

"Here may indeed be torment, but not death."

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio


"Why should it be so difficult to carry something out right now when you think of it, to seize the instant?"

― Yoshida Kenkō, A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees


"It seems to me that we just keep learning the same f**king things over and over again.

I must say tho, that for a hopeless situation, we do pretty good at taking advantage of it."

Joe Brainard, What I Did This Summer


"oh, if only—
humans had
one, a shard, a fraction
of a single
angel wing—"

― Eve Packer

For the Intensely Happy

"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

"I sing and drink,
giving no thought to death;
with arms outspread
I fall upon the grass,
and if, in this wide world, I come to die,
then it's certain to be
from sheer joy that I live."


― Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Collected Poems

"It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living."

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and the Damned


"We're not our skin of grime, we're not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives, we're golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment."

Allen Ginsberg, Sunflower Sutra

That last one probably threw you off a bit, but even writers can be happy sometimes.