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Van Gogh, April 1882: 'Sorrow', by Vincent van Gogh - a drawing he made after Jean-François Millet; - quote of Vincent, June 1883: 'The work is an absolute necessity for me. I can't put it off..'
In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. ~ Ecclesiastes
The sorrowful dislike the gay, and the gay the sorrowful. ~ Horace
The harsh intoxication of drinking from the chalice of sorrow is a superb pleasure that only one who tears his soul to shreds by himself, with his own hands, is given to taste. ~ Bruno Filippi
In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Sorrow is a profound experience of unhappiness, woe, or sadness.


  • Night brings out stars as sorrow shows us truths.
  • Where does that sad moment begin/that drowned the dance of my spirit
    • ¿Dónde comienza aquel momento triste/que ahogó la danza de mi espíritu
    • Canción de la verdad sencilla/Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos translated by Jack Agüeros (1997)
  • For my errors loom over my head;
Like a heavy burden, they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds stink and fester
Because of my foolishness.
I am distressed and extremely downcast;
I walk around sad all day long.
  • Mes malheurs sont comblés, mais ma vertu me reste.
    • My sorrows are overwhelming, but my virtue is left to me.
    • Jean-François Ducis , Hamlet (1769), last lines.
  • Sorrow is better than laughter;
    when the face is sad, the heart grows wise.
    • Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 Verse 3 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)
  • I am destined to pass through this world, wandering like an invisible meteor. Precisely because I am superior, I will have to empty the entire cup of sorrow and distress with no joy to cheer me. But the harsh intoxication of drinking from the chalice of sorrow is a superb pleasure that only one who tears his soul to shreds by himself, with his own hands, is given to taste.
  • There's enough sorrow in the world, isn't there, without trying to invent it.
  • Every joy that some experience is paid for by the sorrow of others.
  • O, sorrow!
    Why dost borrow
    Heart's lightness from the merriment of May?
  • To Sorrow
    I bade good-morrow,
    And thought to leave her far away behind;
    But cheerly, cheerly,
    She loves me dearly:
    She is so constant to me, and so kind.
  • How beautiful, if sorrow had not made
    Sorrow more beautiful than Beauty's self.
  • The First Truth is an assertion that all manifested life is sorrow, unless man knows how to live it... the Cause of Sorrow is always desire. If a man has no desires, if he is not striving for place or power or wealth, then he is equally tranquil whether the wealth or position comes or whether it goes. He remains unruffled and serene.... Being human, he will of course wish for this or that, but always mildly and gently, so that he does not allow himself to be disturbed... the Noble Eightfold Path... can be taken at all levels. The man in the world, even the uneducated man, can take it in its lowest aspects and find a way to peace and comfort through it. And yet the highest philosopher may also take it and interpret it at his level and learn very much from it.
  • How often, for example, a young man desires affection from someone who cannot give it to him, who has it not to give! From such a desire as that comes often a great deal of sadness, jealousy and much other ill-feeling. You will say that such a desire is natural; undoubtedly it is, and affection which is returned is a great source of happiness. Yet if it cannot be returned, a man should have the strength to accept the situation, and not allow sorrow to be caused by the unsatisfied desire.
  • In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.
  • What is the light that can dispel this ignorance of ours and remove all sorrows? A. The knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, as the Buddha called them... How can we escape the sufferings which result from unsatisfied desires and ignorant cravings? A. By complete conquest over, and destruction of, this eager thirst for life and its pleasures, which causes sorrow.... By following the Noble Eight-fold Path which the Buddha discovered and pointed out...The man who keeps these... in mind and follows them will be free from sorrow and ultimately reach salvation.
  • Sorrows remembered sweeten present joy.
  • Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
    you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
  • In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
  • Solomon Eccesiastes, 1:18, King James Version
  • That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.
    • Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall (1835, published 1842), Stanza 38. Churton Collins, in Illustrations of Tennyson, p. 62, refers to Pindar, Pythian 4. 510, and Thucydides II. 44, as inspiring these lines.
  • O sorrow, wilt thou rule my blood,
    Be sometimes lovely, like a bride,
    And put thy harsher moods aside,
    If thou wilt have me wise and good.
  • The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. The pain that you create now is always some form of non acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind. The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it. In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. Or you may put it like this: the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering - and free of the egoic mind. p. 26
  • Your unhappiness is polluting not only your own inner being and those around you but also the collective human psyche of which you are an inseparable part. The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space. Either stop doing what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created around the situation and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to strengthen a false sense of self. Recognizing its futility is important. Negativity is never the optimum way of dealing with any situation. In fact, in most cases it keeps you stuck in it, blocking real change. Anything that is done with negative energy will become contaminated by it and in time give rise to more pain, more unhappiness. Furthermore, any negative inner state is contagious: Unhappiness spreads more easily than a physical disease. Through the law of resonance, it triggers and feeds latent negativity in others, unless they are immune - that is, highly conscious. Are you polluting the world or cleaning up the mess? You are responsible for your inner space; nobody else is... p. 53
  • How can we drop negativity, as you suggest? By dropping it. How do you drop a piece of hot coal that you are holding in your hand? How do you drop some heavy and useless baggage that you are carrying? By recognizing that you don't want to suffer the pain or carry the burden anymore and then letting go of it.
  • Deep unconsciousness, such as the pain-body, or other deep pain, such as the loss of a loved one, usually needs to be transmuted through acceptance combined with the light of your presence - your sustained attention. Many patterns in ordinary unconsciousness, on the other hand, can simply be dropped once you know that you don't want them and don't need them anymore, once you realize that you have a choice, that you are not just a bundle of conditioned reflexes. All this implies that you are able to access the power of Now. Without it, you have no choice.
  • Past sorrows, let us moderately lament them;
    For those to come, seek wisely to prevent them.
    • John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (1612-13), Act III, scene 2.
  • Sorrow is held the eldest child of sin.
    • John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (1612-13), Act V, scene 5.

William Shakespeare

  • Wherever sorrow is, relief would be:
    If you do sorrow at my grief in love,
    By giving love, your sorrow and my grief were both extermin'd.
  • When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
    But in battalions.
  • 'Tis better to be lowly born,
    And range with humble livers in content,
    Than to be perk'd up in a glistering grief,
    And wear a golden sorrow.
  • Each new morn,
    New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows
    Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds
    As if it felt with Scotland and yell'd out
    Like syllable of dolour.
  • Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
    Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.
  • Your cause of sorrow
    Must not be measur'd by his worth, for then
    It hath no end.
  • Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours,
    Makes the night morning, and the noon-tide night.
  • Eighty odd years of sorrow have I seen,
    And each hour's joy wrecked with a week of teen.
  • I have, as when the sun doth light a storm,
    Buried this sigh in wrinkle of a smile:
    But sorrow, that is couch'd in seeming gladness,
    Is like that mirth fate turns to sudden sadness.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 733-36.
  • Oh c'etait le bon temps, j'etais bien malheureuse.
    • Oh, that was a good time, when I was unhappy.
    • Sophie Arnould, the actress, accredited with the phrase. Quoted as hers by Rulhière—Épître à Monsieur de Cha—.
  • In omni adversitate fortunæ, infelicissimum genus est infortunii fuisse felicem.
    • In every adversity of fortune, to have been happy is the most unhappy kind of misfortune.
    • Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiæ, Book II, Part IV.
  • Sorrow preys upon
    Its solitude, and nothing more diverts it
    From its sad visions of the other world
    Than calling it at moments back to this.
    The busy have no time for tears.
  • Ah, don't be sorrowful, darling,
    And don't be sorrowful, pray;
    Taking the year together, my dear,
    There isn't more night than day.
  • For of Fortune's sharpe adversite,
    The worste kynde of infortune is this,
    A man to hav bent in prosperite,
    And it remembren whan it passed is.
    • Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, Troylus and Crysseyde, Book III, line 1,625.
  • Men die, but sorrow never dies;
    The crowding years divide in vain,
    And the wide world is knit with ties
    Of common brotherhood in pain.
  • The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
    Leads to the lands where sorrow is unknown
  • Nessun maggior dolore
    Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
    Nella miseria.
    • There is no greater sorrow
      Than to be mindful of the happy time
      In misery.
    • Dante Alighieri, Inferno, V. 121. Longfellow's Translation Same in Fortinguerra—Ricciardetto, Chapter XI, Stanza 83. Marino—Adone, Chapter XIV, Stanza 100.
  • In the bitter waves of woe,
    Beaten and tossed about
    By the sullen winds which blow
    From the desolate shores of doubt.
  • Ach! aus dem Glück entwickelt oft sich Schmerz.
  • Wer nie sein Brod mit Thränen ass,
    Wer nicht die kummervollen Nächte
    Auf seinem Bette weinend sass,
    Der kennt euch nicht, ihr himmlischen Mächte.
    • Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
      Who never spent the darksome hours
      Weeping, and watching for the morrow,—
      He knows ye not, ye gloomy Powers.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Book II, Chapter XIII.
  • Since sorrow never comes top late,
    And happiness too swiftly flies.
    • Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.
  • I walked a mile with Sorrow
    And ne'er a word said she;
    But, oh, the things I learned from her
    When Sorrow walked with me.
  • A happier lot were mine,
    If I must lose thee, to go down to earth,
    For I shall have no hope when thou art gone,—
    Nothing but sorrow. Father have I none,
    And no dear mother.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book VI, line 530. Bryant's translation.
  • Sinks my sad soul with sorrow to the grave.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book XXII, line 543. Pope's translation.
  • Oderunt hilarem tristes tristemque jocosi.
    • The sorrowful dislike the gay, and the gay the sorrowful.
    • Horace, Epistles, I. 18. 89.
  • When sparrows build and the leaves break forth
    My old sorrow wakes and cries.
  • Hang sorrow, care 'll kill a cat.
    • Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour, Act I, scene 3.
  • Our days and nights
    Have sorrows woven with delights.
  • will you believe that I regret/being an ambassador of sorrow?
    • Drunk from the Bitter Truth: The Poems of Anna Margolin translated from Yiddish by Shirley Kumove (2017)
  • Day-thoughts feed nightly dreams;
    And sorrow tracketh wrong,
    As echo follows song.
  • A grace within his soul hath reigned
    Which nothing else can bring;
    Thank God for all that I have gained
    By that high sorrowing.
  • Weep on; and, as thy sorrows flow,
    I'll taste the luxury of woe.
  • Ecoute, moribonde! Il n'est pire douleur
    Qu'un souvenir heureux dans les jour de malheur.
    • Listen, dying one! There is no worse sorrow than remembering happiness in the day of sorrow.
    • Alfred de Musset, Le Saule (The opposite opinion in his Un Souvenir).
  • Con dolor rimembrando il tempo lieto.
    • With sorrow remembering happy times.
    • Petrarch, Canzone, 46.
  • Do not cheat thy Heart and tell her,
    "Grief will pass away,
    Hope for fairer times in future,
    And forget to-day."
    Tell her, if you will, that sorrow
    Need not come in vain;
    Tell her that the lesson taught her
    Far outweighs the pain.
  • Die Leiden sind wie die Gewitterwolken; in der Ferne sehen sie schwartz aus, über uns kaum grau.
    • Sorrows are like thunderclouds—in the distance they look black, over our heads scarcely gray.
    • Jean Paul Richter, Hesperus, XIV.
  • Kurz ist der Schmerz, und ewig ist die Freude!
    • Brief is sorrow, and endless is joy.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Die Jungfrau von Orleans, V. 14. 44.
  • Quæ fuit durum pati,
    Miminisse dulce est.
    • Those things which were hard to bear, are sweet to remember.
    • Seneca the Younger, Hercules Furens, 656.
  • Curæ leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent.
    • Light sorrows speak, but deeper ones are dumb.
    • Seneca the Younger, Hippolytus, 607. Thucydides, Book VII, Chapter LXXV. Given as from Æschylus. Compare Æschylus—Agamemnon. 860. Ovid—Metamorphoses, VI. 301–312. Herodotus, VII. 147; also III. 14.
  • Nulla dies mærore caret.
  • Each time we love,
    We turn a nearer and a broader mark
    To that keen archer, Sorrow, and he strikes.
  • When sorrow sleepeth, wake it not,
    But let it slumber on.
  • Time, thy name is sorrow, says the stricken
    Heart of life, laid waste with wasting flame
    Ere the change of things and thoughts requicken,
    Time, thy name.
  • What shall be done for sorrow
    With love whose race is run?
    Where help is none to borrow,
    What shall be done?
  • Joy was a flame in me
    Too steady to destroy.
    Lithe as a bending reed,
    Loving the storm that sways her—
    I found more joy in sorrow
    Than you could find in joy.
  • Smit with exceeding sorrow unto Death.
  • When I was young, I said to Sorrow,
    "Come and I will play with thee!"
    He is near me now all day,
    And at night returns to say,
    "I will come again to-morrow—
    I will come and stay with thee."
  • Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.
  • Hang sorrow, care will kill a cat,
    And therefore let's be merry.
  • Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
    That has been and may be again.
  • So joys remembered without wish or will
    Sharpen the keenest edge of present ill.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • How fast we learn in the day of sorrow! Scripture shines out in a new effulgence; every verse seems to contain a sunbeam, every promise stands out in illuminated splendor; things hard to be understood become in a moment plain.
  • Earth may embitter, not remove.
    The love divinely given;
    And e'en that mortal grief shall prove
    The immortality of love,
    And lead us nearer heaven.
  • If man were sufficient for man, there would be no need for religion. If there were no evils from which man could not rescue his brother, there would be no need for a Saviour; if no sorrows under which man could not sustain his fellow man, there would be no need of a Divine Comforter. But it is a grief, a care like yours, which makes religion a reality. Carry it to the throne of grace, and see if there you do not find mercy to pardon and grace to help in time of need.
  • From the very summit of his sorrows, where he had gone to die, Moses, for the first time in his life, caught a view of the land of Canaan. He did not know, as he went over the rocks, torn and weary, how lovely the prospect was from the top. In this world, it frequently happens that when man has reached the place of anguish, God rolls away the mist from his eyes, and the very spot selected as the receptacle of his tears, becomes the place of his highest rapture.
  • Not till the everlasting day break, and the shadows flee away, and the Lord Himself shall be our light, and our God our glory, can we do without the cloud in the sunshine, the shade of sorrow in the bright light of joy, and the curtain of night for the deepening of the sleep which God gives His beloved.
  • Vital is the relation between earthly sorrow and eternal satisfaction. The travail to which God's saints are subjected results in the birth of nobler natures and more sanctified spirits. Pain always promotes progress, and suffering invariably ensures success.
  • Sorrows humanize our race;
    Tears are the showers that fertilize this world.
  • There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
  • I really believe if, instead of shutting ourselves into our sorrows and keeping all the light of heaven out of our souls, we opened them to receive Him, Christ would so come to us that the season of our deepest grief and anguish would become one of the richest and most precious of our whole lives.
  • As the Christian's sorrows multiply, his patience grows, until, with sweet, unruffled quiet, he can confront the ills of life, and, though inwardly wincing, can calmly pursue his way to the restful grave, while his old, harsh voice is softly cadenced into sweetest melody, like the faint notes of an angel's whispered song. As patience deepens,charity and sympathy increase.
  • God gives us power to bear all the sorrows of His making; but He does not give us power to bear the sorrows of our own making, which the anticipation of sorrow most assuredly is.
  • Most of the Beatitudes which the Infinite Compassion pronounced have the sorrows of earth for their subject, but the joys of earth for their completion.
  • When we feel how God was in our sorrows, we shall trust the more blessedly that He will be in our deaths.
  • It is not in the bright, happy day, but only in the solemn night, that other worlds are to be seen shining in their long, long distances. And it is in sorrow — the night of the soul — that we see farthest, and know ourselves natives of infinity, and sons and daughters of the Most High.
  • Has it never occurred to us, when surrounded by sorrows, that they may be sent to us only for our instruction, as we darken the cages of birds when we wish to teach them to sing?

See also

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