Pity denotes a tender or sometimes a slightly contemptuous sorrow or empathy for the fates of people or other living things in states of misery, pain, poverty and other forms of distress or deprivation, which often engenders an inclination to acts of mercy.
- If you wish me well, do not stand pitying me, but lend me some succour as fast as you can; for pity is but cold comfort when one is up to the chin in water, and within a hair's breadth of starving or drowning.
- Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor.
And Mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we.
- William Blake, The Human Abstract (1794).
- Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won't suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow. But when the person looks back — and at some point everyone looks back — she will hear her heart, saying, "What have you done with the miracles that God planted in your days? What have you done with the talents God bestowed on you? You buried yourself in a cave because you were fearful of losing these talents. So this is your heritage: the certainty that you wasted your life."
Pitiful are the people who must realize this. Because when they are finally able to believe in miracles, their life's magic moments will have already passed them by.
- With downcast looks the joyless victor sate,
Revolving in his alter'd soul
The various turns of chance below;
And, now and then, a sigh he, stole,
And tears began to flow
The mighty master smiled to see
That Love was in the next degree,
'Twas but a kindred sound to move:
For Pity melts the mind to Love.
- John Dryden, Alexander's Feast (1697).
- More helpful than all wisdom is one draught of simple human pity that will not forsake us.
- George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860), Book VII, Ch. I.
- Yet, let it not be thought that I would exclude pity from the human mind. There are scarcely any that are not, to some degree, possessed of this pleasing softness; but it is at best but a short-lived passion, and seldom affords distress more than transitory assistance; with some it scarce lasts from the first impulse till the hand can be put into the pocket…
- Oliver Goldsmith, in "On the Use of Language" in The Bee, No. 3, (20 October 1759).
- When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity — that was a quality God's image carried with it. When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.
I pitied him in his blindness:
But can I boast "I see"?
Perhaps there walks a spirit
Close by, who pities me,—
A spirit who hears me tapping
The five-sensed cane of mind
Amid such unguessed glories
That I am worse than blind.
- Harry Kemp, in "Blind", in Theosophical Outlook (1918), Vol. 3, p. 263.
- Is there a spot where Pity’s foot,
Although unsandalled, fears to tread,
A silence where her voice is mute,
Where tears, and only tears, are shed?
It is the desolated home
Where Hope was yet a recent guest,
Where Hope again may never come,
Or come, and only speak of rest.
- Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1835 (1834), 'To Olinthus Gregory, L.L.D.,F.R.A.S., &c.' - “The following lines allude to Dr. Gregory’s late domestic calamity. Mr. Boswell Gregory, his eldest son, was drowned by the boat's upsetting as he was returning home by water to his father's house at Woolwich.”
- Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
- Matthew 18:33 (King James Version).
- Die Griechen haben ein eigenes Wort für die Empörung über das Unglück des andern: dieser Affekt war unter christlichen Völkern unstatthaft und hat sich wenig entwickelt, und so fehlt ihnen auch der Name für diesen männlicheren Bruder des Mitleidens.
- The Greeks have a word for indignation at another’s unhappiness: this affect was inadmissible among Christian peoples and failed to develop, so they also lack a name for this more manly brother of pity.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak, § 78
- To show pity is felt as a sign of contempt because one has clearly ceased to be an object of fear as soon as one is pitied.
- He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
- Proverbs 19:17 (King James Version).
- Pity is an emotion equally unpleasant to the bestower as to the recipient.
- We pity in others only those evils which we have ourselves experienced.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile: Or, On Education (1762).
- My pity hath been balm to heal their wounds,
My mildness hath allay'd their swelling griefs.
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubins, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind.
- Villain, thou know'st no law of God nor man
No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.
- My friend, I spy some pity in thy looks;
O, if thine eye be not a flatterer,
Come thou on my side, and entreat for me,
As you would beg, were you in my distress:
A begging prince what beggar pities not?
- Tear-falling pity dwells not in his eye.
- I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?
- Is there no pity sitting in the clouds,
That sees into the bottom of my grief?
- But, I perceive,
Men must learn now with pity to dispense;
For policy sits above conscience.
- Pity is the virtue of the law,
And none but tyrants use it cruelly.
- In the just and generous heart, the humble and the weak inspire compassion, and call for pity and forbearance.
- William Davis Shipman, as quoted in the Worcester Aegis and Transcript; December 7, 1861; pg. 1, col. 6.
- O, brother man! fold to thy heart thy brother;
Where pity dwells, the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.
- John Greenleaf Whittier, in "Worship", published in The Opal (1847).
- No obligation to justice does force a man to be cruel, or to use the sharpest sentence. A just man does justice to every man and to every thing; and then, if he be also wise, be knows there is a debt of mercy and compassion due to the infirmities of man's nature; and that is to be paid: and he that is cruel and ungentle to a sinning person, and does the worst to him, dies in his debt and is unjust. Pity, and forbearance, and long-sufferance, and fair interpretation, and excusing our brother, and taking in the best sense, and passing the gentlest sentence, are as certainly our duty, and owing to every person that does offend and can repent, as calling to account can be owing to the law, and are first to be paid; and he that does not so is an unjust person.
- Jeremy Taylor, as quoted in The Saturday Magazine (18 July 1835).
- The world is full of love and pity, I say. Had there been less suffering, there would have been less kindness.
- William Makepeace Thackeray, The Adventures of Philip (1862), Ch. XXV.
- So great was her sorrow, as the Music unfolded, that her song turned to lamentation long before its end, and the sound of mourning was woven into the themes of the World before it began. But she does not weep for herself; and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope.
- J. R. R. Tolkien, about Nienna, a goddess of sorrow, in The Silmarillion (published 1977).
- Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart.
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (published 1955).
- With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly....Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me.
- A pity beyond all telling
Is hid in the heart of love.
- William Butler Yeats, in "The Pity of Love" in The Rose (1893).
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 598.
- Of all the paths that lead to a woman's love
Pity's the straightest.
- Beaumont and Fletcher, Knight of Malta, Act I, scene 1, line 73.
- Pity, some say, is the parent of future love.
- Beaumont and Fletcher, Spanish Curate, Act V, scene 1.
- Pity speaks to grief
More sweetly than a band of instruments.
- Barry Cornwall, Florentine Party.
- For pity melts the mind to love.
Softly sweet, in Lydian measures,
Soon he sooth'd his soul to pleasures.
War, he sung, is toil and trouble;
Honour but an empty bubble.
- John Dryden, Alexander's Feast (1697), line 96.
- More helpful than all wisdom is one draught of simple human pity that will not forsake us.
- George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860), Book VII, Chapter I.
- Taught by that Power that pities me,
I learn to pity them.
- Oliver Goldsmith, The Hermit, Stanza 6.
- La plaincte et la commiseration sont meslees à quelque estimation de la chose qu'on plaind.
- Pity and commiseration are mixed with some regard for the thing which one pities.
- Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book I, Chapter L.
- At length some pity warm'd the master's breast
('Twas then, his threshold first receiv'd a guest),
Slow creaking turns the door with jealous care,
And half he welcomes in the shivering pair.
- Thomas Parnell, The Hermit, line 97.
- O God, show compassion on the wicked.
The virtuous have already been blessed by Thee in being virtuous.
- Prayer of a Persian Dervish.
- Soft pity never leaves the gentle breast
Where love has been received a welcome guest.
- Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The Duenna, Act II.
- Pity's akin to love; and every thought
Of that soft kind is welcome to my soul.
- Thomas Southerne, Oroonoko, Act II, scene 2, line 64.