What’s past is prologue.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616) British Playwright
Think twice before you speak, or act once, and you will speak or act the more wisely for it.
—Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) American Political Leader, Inventor, Diplomat
I’m not convinced that the world is in any worse shape than it ever was. It’s just that in this age of almost instantaneous communication, we bear the weight of problems our forefathers only read about after they were solved.
—Burton Hillis (William E. Vaughan) (1915–77) American Columnist, Author
The past is the best prophet of the future.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
—Soren Kierkegaard (1813–55) Danish Philosopher, Theologian
The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet
The past is our very being.
—David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973) Russian-born Israeli Head of State
Again at Park Corner. We came up to Kensington yesterday evening and drove down here. It was a beautiful evening and our drive was delightful. Besides, for me it had the charm of old scenes revisited. And when we came over the Irishtown hills and saw the beautiful gulf again and heard its low distant murmur, I thought of another evening long ago.
—Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874–1942) Canadian Novelist
Our ignorance of history makes us libel to our own times. People have always been like this.
—Gustave Flaubert (1821–80) French Novelist, Playwright, Short Story Writer
Sum up at night what thou hast done by day, and in the morning what thou hast to do. — Dress and undress thy soul; mark the decay and growth of it. — If with thy watch, that too be down, then wind up both; since we shall be most surely judged, make thine accounts agree.
—George Herbert (1593–1633) Welsh Anglican Poet, Orator, Clergyman
The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends.
There is one art of which every man should be a master — the art of reflection. — If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all?
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) English Poet, Literary Critic, Philosopher
The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.
—H. G. Wells (1866–1946) English Novelist, Historian, Social Thinker
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted; it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish Philosopher
No matter what we have come through, or how many perils we have safely passed, or how many imperfect and jagged – in some places perhaps irreparably – our life has been, we cannot in our heart of hearts imagine how it could have been different. As we look back on it, it slips in behind us in orderly array, and, with all its mistakes, acquires a sort of eternal fitness, and even, at times, of poetic glamour.
—Randolph Bourne (1886–1918) American Writer, Scholar
Despite some of the horrors and barbarisms of modern life which appall and grieve us, life in the twentieth century undeniably has-or has the potentiality of-such richness, joy and adventure as were unknown to our ancestors except in their dreams.
—Arthur Compton (1892–1962) American Physicist
Two things fill the mind with ever increasing wonder and awe. The more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.
—Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) Prussian German Philosopher, Logician
No past is dead for us, but only sleeping, love.
—Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–85) American Novelist, Civil Rights Activist
People of the world don’t look at themselves, and so they blame one another.
—Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207–73) Persian Muslim Mystic
Old times never come back and I suppose it’s just as well. What comes back is a new morning every day in the year, and that’s better.
—George Edward Woodberry (1855–1930) American Literary Critic, Poet
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.
—John Wayne (1907–79) American Actor, Director, Producer
Reflection is a flower of the mind, giving out wholesome fragrance; but revery is the same flower, when rank and running to seed.
—Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810–89) English Poet, Writer
People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
—Augustine of Hippo (354–430) Roman-African Christian Philosopher
Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.
—John Wooden (1910–2010) American Sportsperson
Better by far you should forget and smile, than that you should remember and be sad.
—Christina Rossetti (1830–94) English Poet, Hymn writer
Here lies my past, Goodbye I have kissed it; Thank you kids, I wouldn’t have missed it.
—Ogden Nash (1902–71) American Writer of Sophisticated Light Verse
That past which is so presumptuously brought forward as a precedent for the present, was itself founded on some past that went before it.
—Anne Louise Germaine de Stael (1766–1817) French Woman of Letters
When I wanted to understand what is happening today, I try to decide what will happen tomorrow; I look back, a page of history is worth a volume of logic.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841–1935) American Jurist, Author
We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.
—Frederick Douglass (1817–95) American Abolitionist, Author, Editor, Diplomat, Political leader
The good old days were never that good, believe me. The good new days are today, and better days are coming tomorrow. Our greatest songs are still unsung.
—Hubert Humphrey (1911–78) American Head of State, Politician
Many people dream of success. To me success can only be achieved through repeated failures and introspections. In fact, success represents 1% of your work that results from the 99% that is called failure.
—Soichiro Honda (1906–91) Japanese Inventor
We believe at once in evil, we only believe in good upon reflection. — Is not this sad?
—Dorothee Luzy Dotinville (1747–1830) French Dancer, Actress
The past is never dead, it is not even past.
—William Faulkner (1897–1962) American Novelist
The ages of seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting. It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse. As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armour themselves against wonder.
—Leonard Cohen (1934–2016) Canadian Singer, Songwriter, Poet, Novelist
Never look for the birds of this year in the nests of the last.
—Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616) Spanish Novelist
Whatever results you’re getting, be they rich or poor, good or bad, positive or negative, always remember that your outer world is simply a reflection of your inner world. If things aren’t going well in your outer life, it’s because things aren’t going well in your inner life. It’s that simple.
—T. Harv Eker American Motivational Speaker, Lecturer, Author
Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.
—Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) English Poet, Dramatist, Essayist, Novelist
We live in the present, we dream of the future, but we learn eternal truths from the past.
—Soong Mei-ling (1898–2003) Taiwanese First Lady, Politician, Painter
Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.
—Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) American Poet, Short Story Writer, Screenwriter, Socialist
A little reflection will enable any person to detect in himself that setness in trifles which is the result of the unwatched instinct of self-will and to establish over himself a jealous guardianship.
—Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–96) American Abolitionist, Author