Butterflies are mainly day-flying insects of the order Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths. Butterflies have large, often brightly coloured wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. Butterflies comprise the true butterflies (superfamily Papilionoidea), the skippers (superfamily Hesperioidea) and the moth-butterflies (superfamily Hedyloidea). All the many other families within the Lepidoptera are referred to as moths. Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts, and since ancient times, especially in relation to the myth of Cupid and Psyche, a symbol of the soul.
- But these are flowers that fly and all but sing.
- Butterflies … not quite birds as they were not quite flowers, mysterious and fascinating as are all indeterminate creatures.
- Elizabeth Goudge, The Child from the Sea (1970), Book II, Ch. 1
- Diaphanous, roseate,
Floating before us
Butterflies … butterflies —
Vibrations of the great Unknown.
- Blanche Shoemaker Wagstaff, "Butterflies", in Quiet Waters (New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1921), p. 78
- Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.
- Zhuangzi, as translated by Lin Yutang
- Alternative translations
- Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, a veritable butterfly, enjoying itself to the full of its bent, and not knowing it was Chuang Chou. Suddenly I awoke, and came to myself, the veritable Chuang Chou. Now I do not know whether it was then I dreamt I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man. Between me and the butterfly there must be a difference. This is an instance of transformation.
- As translated by James Legge, and quoted in The Three Religions of China: Lectures Delivered at Oxford (1913) by William Edward Soothill, p. 75
- Once Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a fluttering butterfly. What fun he had, doing as he pleased! He did not know he was Zhou. Suddenly he woke up and found himself to be Zhou. He did not know whether Zhou had dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly had dreamed he was Zhou. Between Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction. This is what is meant by the transformation of things.
- One night, Zhuangzi dreamed of being a butterfly — a happy butterfly, showing off and doing things as he pleased, unaware of being Zhuangzi. Suddenly he awoke, drowsily, Zhuangzi again. And he could not tell whether it was Zhuangzi who had dreamt the butterfly or the butterfly dreaming Zhuangzi. But there must be some difference between them! This is called 'the transformation of things'.
- Once upon a time, Chuang Chou dreamed that he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting about happily enjoying himself. He didn’t know that he was Chou. Suddenly he awoke and was palpably Chou. He didn’t know whether he were Chou who had dreamed of being a butterfly, or a butterfly who was dreaming that he was Chou.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 88.
- I'd be a butterfly, born in a bower,
Where roses and lilies and violets meet.
- Thomas Haynes Bayly, I'd be a Butterfly.
- Gray sail against the sky,
Have you a dream for going
Or are you only the blind wind's blowing?
- Dana Burnet, A Sail at Twilight.
- With the rose the butterfly's deep in love,
A thousand times hovering round;
But round himself, all tender like gold,
The sun's sweet ray is hovering found.
- Heinrich Heine, Book of Songs, New Spring, No. 7.
- Far out at sea,—the sun was high,
While veer'd the wind and flapped the sail,
We saw a snow-white butterfly
Dancing before the fitful gale,
Far out at sea.
- Richard Henry Horne, Genius.
- The gold-barr'd butterflies to and fro
And over the waterside wander'd and wove
As heedless and idle as clouds that rove
And drift by the peaks of perpetual snow.
- Joaquin Miller, Songs of the Sun-Lands, Isles of the Amazons, Part III, Stanza 41.
- And many an ante-natal tomb
Where butterflies dream of the life to come.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sensitive Plant.
- Much converse do I find in thee,
Historian of my infancy!
Float near me; do not yet depart!
Dead times revive in thee:
Thou bring'st, gay creature as thou art!
A solemn image to my heart.
- William Wordsworth, To a Butterfly.