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Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire. ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Fire is a phenomenon of the heat and light energy released during a chemical reaction, in particular a combustion reaction. Depending on the substances involved, and any impurities within, the color and intensity of the flames of fire will vary. It is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. This page is for quotes referring to fire in literal or metaphorical ways.


Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! ~ Saint ames the Just
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn. ~ Delmore Schwartz
This man … must look upon the fire, smell of it, warm his hands by it, stare into its heart, or remain forever ignorant. ~ Roger Zelazny in Lord of Light
  • Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.
  • "Regions Caesar never knew
    Thy posterity shall sway;
    Where his eagles never flew,
    None invincible as they."

    Such the bard's prophetic words,
    Pregnant with celestial fire,
    Bending as he swept the chords
    Of his sweet but awful lyre.

  • The pain was maddening. You should pray to God when you're dying, if you can pray when you're in agony. In my dream I didn't pray to God, I thought of Roger and how dearly I loved him. The pain of those wicked flames was not half so bad as the pain I felt when I knew he was dead. I felt suddenly glad to be dying. I didn't know when you were burnt to death you'd bleed. I thought the blood would all dry up in the terrible heat. But I was bleeding heavily. The blood was dripping and hissing in the flames. I wished I had enough blood to put the flames out. The worst part was my eyes. I hate the thought of gong blind. It's bad enough when I'm awake but in dreams you can't shake the thoughts away. They remain. In this dream I was going blind. I tried to close my eyelids but I couldn't. They must have been burnt off, and now those flames were going to pluck my eyes out with their evil fingers, I didn't want to go blind. The flames weren't so cruel after all. They began to feel cold. Icy cold. It occurred to me that I wasn't burning to death but freezing to death.
  • The sinners in Zion are in dread;
Trembling has seized the apostates:
‘Who of us can live where there is a consuming fire?
Who of us can live with unquenchable flames?’
  • Combustion is the hidden principle behind every artifact we create. The making of a fishhook, manufacture of a china cup, or production of a television programme, all depend on the same process of combustion. …From the earliest times, human civilization has been no more than a strange luminescence growing more intense by the hour, of which no one can say when it will begin to wane and when it will fade away.
    • W.G. Sebald, Tr. Michael Hulse, The Rings of Saturn (1995)
  • I came to set fire to the earth, and I wish it were already on fire!
    • Jesus, Luke 12:49 (CEV)
  • It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the sun
    And pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men
    But Prometheus, torn by the claws and beaks whose task is never done,
    Would be tortured another eternity to go stealing fire again.
    • Joyce Kilmer in "The Proud Poet" in Main Street and Other Poems (1917).
  • When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.
    • Shunryu Suzuki, quoted in Enter the Heart of the Fire : A collection of Mystical Poems (1981) by Mary E. Giles and Kathryn Hohlwein.
  • A thing happens once that has never happened before. Seeing it, a man looks upon reality. He cannot tell others what he has seen. Others wish to know, however, so they question him saying, 'What is it like, this thing you have seen?' So he tries to tell them. Perhaps he has seen the very first fire in the world. He tells them, 'It is red, like a poppy, but through it dance other colors. It has no form, like water, flowing everywhere. It is warm, like the sun of summer, only warmer. It exists for a time upon a piece of wood, and then the wood is gone, as though it were eaten, leaving behind that which is black and can be sifted like sand. When the wood is gone, it too is gone.' Therefore, the hearers must think reality is like a poppy, like water, like the sun, like that which eats and excretes. They think it is like to anything that they are told it is like by the man who has known it. But they have not looked upon fire. They cannot really know it. They can only know of it. But fire comes again into the world, many times. More men look upon fire. After a time, fire is as common as grass and clouds and the air they breathe. They see that, while it is like a poppy, it is not a poppy, while it is like water, it is not water, while it is like the sun, it is not the sun, and while it is like that which eats and passes wastes, it is not that which eats and passes wastes, but something different from each of these apart or all of these together. So they look upon this new thing and they make a new word to call it. They call it 'fire.'
    If they come upon one who still has not seen it and they speak to him of fire, he does not know what they mean. So they, in turn, fall back upon telling him what fire is like. 'As they do so, they know from their own experience that what they are telling him is not the truth, but only a part of it. They know that this man will never know reality from their words, though all the words in the world are theirs to use. He must look upon the fire, smell of it, warm his hands by it, stare into its heart, or remain forever ignorant. Therefore, 'fire' does not matter, 'earth' and 'air' and 'water' do not matter. 'I' do not matter. No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 272-73.
  • Yet in oure asshen olde is fyr yreke.
  • E'en from the tomb the voice of nature cries,
    E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.
  • Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire.
  • A crooked log makes a straight fire.
  • Well may he smell fire, whose gown burns.
  • Tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet.
    • Your own property is concerned when your neighbor's house is on fire.
    • Horace, Epistles, I, 18, 84.
  • The burnt child dreads the fire.
    • Ben Jonson, The Devil Is an Ass (performed 1616; published 1631), Act I, scene 2.
  • Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.
  • There can no great smoke arise, but there must be some fire.
    • John Lyly, Euphues and his Emphœbus, p. 153 (Arber's Reprint).
  • All the fatt's in the fire.
  • They lepe lyke a flounder out of a fryenge panne into the fyre.
    • Thomas More, Dial, Book II, Chapter I. Folio LXIII. b.
  • Dare pondus idonea fumo.
    • Fit to give weight to smoke.
    • Persius, Satires, V, 20.
  • Out of the frying pan into the fire.
    • Idea in Plato, De Repub., VIII, p. 569. B. Theodoret, Therap., III, 773.
  • Flamma fumo est proxima.
    • Flame is very near to smoke.
    • Plautus, Curculio, Act I, 1, 53.
  • Divert her eyes with pictures in the fire.
    • Alexander Pope, Epistle to Mrs. Teresa Blount, on her leaving the Town after the Coronation.
  • Heap coals of fire upon his head.
    • Proverbs, XXV. 22.
  • Parva sæpe scintilla contempta magnum excitavit incendium.
    • A spark neglected has often raised a conflagration.
    • Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandria Magni, VI, 3, 11.
  • In ashes of despaire, though burnt, shall make thee live.
  • O joy! that in our embers
    Is something that doth live.

See also[edit]

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