William Alexander Percy

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William Alexander Percy

William Alexander Percy (May 14, 1885 – January 21, 1942) was an American Southern poet and memoirist from the Mississippi Delta region.

Quotes[edit]

Lanterns on the Levee (1941)[edit]

  • Only one thing never changes – the human heart. Revolutions and ideologies may lacerate it, even break it, but they cannot change its essence. After Fascism and Communism and Capitalism and Socialism are over and forgotten as completely as slavery and the old South, that same headstrong human heart will be clamoring for the old things it wept for in Eden – love and a chance to be noble, laughter and a chance to adore something, someone, somewhere. (Ch. 3)
  • I never heard them over their juleps express a philosophy of life, and if I had it would have been incomprehensible to me, but a philosophy was implicit in all their thoughts and actions. It probably made the Southern pattern. Perhaps it is all contained in a remark of Father's when he was thinking aloud one night and I sat at his feet eavesdropping eagerly: "I guess a man's job is to make the world a better place to live in, so far as he is able – always remembering the results will be infinitesimal – and to attend to his own soul." (Ch. 7)
  • One night Jakie Smith rushed into my room with the sudden illumination: "I know what it is! The law is common sense plus clear English!" I've never heard a better definition of what the law should be and isn't. (Ch. 11)
  • Delta girls are born dancing and never stop, which is as it should be, for surely it is the finest form of human amusement except tennis and talking. (Ch. 12)
  • Our woods are not made for walking because the vines and bushes are too rampant and the rattlesnakes too much at home. But the high levee is perfect for a stroll, which you can extend, if so minded, a hundred miles in either direction. (Ch. 12, on Greenville, Mississippi)
  • What I wrote seemed to me more essentially myself than anything I did or said. It often gushed up almost involuntarily like automatic writing, and the difficulty lay in keeping the hot gush continuous and unselfconscious while at the same time directing it with cold intellect into form. I never could write in cold blood. The results were intensely personal, whatever their other defects. (Ch. 12, on writing poetry)
  • That short period of my life spent in the line is the only one I remember step by step – as if it moved sub specie aeternitatis. Not that I enjoyed it; I hated it. Not that I was fitted for it by temperament or ability, I was desperately unfitted; but it, somehow, had meaning, and daily life hasn't: it was part of a common endeavor, and daily life is isolated and lonely. (Ch. 17, on his service on the Western Front in World War I)
  • Whenever you are just about to decide that Americans are selfish, unpatriotic, and unintelligent, they always prove themselves the most liberal and lovable people in the world. You simply can't stay disgusted with them. What a pity they are not disciplined enough to survive! (Ch. 20)
  • Honor and honesty, compassion and truth are good even if they kill you, for they alone give life its dignity and worth. (Ch. 24)

External links[edit]

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