The HyperTexts

Mark Twain: Poetry, Quotes and Epigrams

Was Mark Twain a poet, despite the fact that he claimed that he "detested" poetry? This page lets you be the judge. By the way, one may not be able to take Twain at face value, since in the same breath he claimed that he "detested" novels and yet many critics consider him to be the greatest American novelist! Also, let it be noted that during his writing career Twain produced at least 126 poems (95 humorous, 31 serious) and he seems to have turned to poetry at his moments of most intense grief, writing elegies for his departed loved ones. Furthermore, Twain began his writing career as a teenager by sneaking light verse into the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper edited by his brother Orion.

But in any case, Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens) is almost indisputably one of the greatest American writers of prose and will always be better known as a novelist and humorist. William Faulkner called Twain the "father of American literature." According to Ernest Hemingway, "All modern American literature comes from" Huckleberry Finn. Other novels by Twain, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and The Prince and the Pauper are generally considered to be classics.

Furthermore, Twain's career as a crowd-pleasing humorist may also have made him the father of modern stand-up comedy and the one-liner. After all, who were Will Rogers, Groucho Marx, Bill Cosby and Garrison Keillor emulating, if not the warm, witty, wise but irascible Twain?

Twain's remarkable ability to "brand" and market himself, in effect selling his personality and talents at staged events around the world, made him America's first performance superstar. He was the Babe Ruth of early American literature and humor. Twain is also highly regarded for his short stories, satires, travelogues, literary criticism and essays. And he was one of the best scholars and critics of the Bible and Christianity. I believe the case can be made that Twain was America's most prominent novelist, humorist and Bible critic: an impressive "hat trick." At various times in his life, Twain was a printer, typesetter, journalist, sailor, licensed riverboat pilot, traveling correspondent, soldier, deserter, Comstock Lode miner, prospector, entrepreneur, billiards fanatic, novelist, book publisher and globetrotting speaker/lecturer/comedian. He was also very briefly a Confederate Lieutenant, for two weeks at the outbreak of the Civil War, before deserting, perhaps because he hated racism and the institution of slavery. (His wife Olivia came from a liberal family and socialized with abolitionists; their next-door neighbor in Hartford, Connecticut was Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin has been credited with inspiring the Civil War. Twain himself had Huck Finn say that he would rather go to hell than turn in his friend, the escaped slave Jim.) Twain was also a technology buff and inventor, with three patents to his credit. But here we will consider Mark Twain as a poet and let you be the judge ...

compiled by Michael R. Burch

To Jennie

Good-bye! a kind good-bye,
I bid you now, my friend,
And though 'tis sad to speak the word,
To destiny I bend.

And though it be decreed by Fate
That we ne'er meet again,
Your image, graven on my heart,
Forever shall remain.

Aye, in my heart thou'lt have a place,
Among the friends held dear,
Nor shall the hand of Time efface
The memories written there.


It has been claimed that Mark Twain's poem "To Jennie" was written for his daughter Jean, who died from complications of epilepsy. However the poem was actually written in memory of his niece, Jennie Clemens, the only child of Twain's brother Orion Clemens. Jennie Clemens and Mark Twain shared a love of reading; he was her favorite uncle. When Jennie died of spotted fever in 1864, Twain was devastated. He considered her a friend, thus the reference in the poem.

Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight

Goodnight, Sweetheart, goodnight —
The stars are shining bright,
The snow is turning white,
Dim is the failing light,
Fast falls the glooming night, —
      All right!
      Sleep tight!

Twain turned to poetry as a salve for mourning once more in February of 1904 when Livy, his wife of thirty-four years, was on her deathbed in Florence. Olivia Langdon Clemens and her future husband had their first date at a reading by Charles Dickens in New York City in 1867. Clemens courted her throughout 1868, mainly by letter. She rejected his first proposal of marriage, but they became engaged two months later, in November 1868. Clemens was quoted later as saying, "I do believe that young filly has broken my heart. That only leaves me with one option, for her to mend it." The engagement was announced in February 1869, and in February 1870, they were married. Olivia Clemens helped her husband with the editing of his books, articles, and lectures. She was a "faithful, judicious, and painstaking editor," according to her famous husband. She continued to help him with his writing up until days before her death.

Good Night, Dear Heart, Good Night

Warm summer sun,
       shine brightly here, 
Warm southern wind,
       blow softly here,
Green sod above,
       lie light, lie light,
Good night, dear heart;
       good night, good night.

The lines above appear in Mark Twain's eulogy to his daughter Olivia Susan "Susy" Clemens, and also on her gravestone. The lines were adapted from the poem "Annette" by Robert Richardson. Albert Bigelow Paine, in his biography of Mark Twain, notes that over the years the lines on Susy's headstone were generally attributed to Twain himself. When this was reported to him, he ordered the name of the poet Robert Richardson to be cut into the stone beneath them. On January 22, 1907 when Twain was dictating portions of his autobiography, he recalled that he had forgotten the name of the author of the poem: "We had found them in a book in India, but had lost the book and with it the author's name. But in time an application to the editor of 'Notes and Queries' furnished me the author's name ... and it has been added to the verse upon the gravestone."

Love Came at Dawn

Love came at dawn, when all the world was fair,
When crimson glories, bloom and sun were rife;
Love came at dawn, when hope’s wings fanned the air,
      And murmured, “I am life.”

Love came at even when the day was done,
When heart and brain were tired, and slumber pressed;
Love came at eve, shut out the sinking sun,
      And whispered, “I am rest.”

It has been said that Mark Twain penned this meditation on love in 1896 as a loving tribute to his daughter Susy Clemens, who died of spinal meningitis at age 24, leaving Twain heartbroken. However, from what Twain wrote himself, it seems he believed that Susy had written the poem: "In one of her own books I find some verses which I will copy here. Apparently, she always put borrowed matter in quotation marks. These verses lack those marks, and therefore I take them to be her own." However, it appears that the poem was actually written by the Canadian poet William Wilfred Campbell, as it appears in his book Beyond the Hills of Dream.

A Marriage

Makes of two fractional lives a whole;
It gives to two purposeless lives a work
And doubles the strength of each to perform it
It gives to two questioning natures a reason for living,
And something to live for;
It will give a new gladness to the sunshine,
A new fragrance to the flowers,
A new beauty to the earth,
And a new mystery to life.

Mark Twain was writing free verse at a time when most American poets were writing formal poetry, so he was a man ahead of his time in that regard, as well as in many others.

Cushion First

When all your days are dark with doubt;
      And drying hope is at its worst;
When all life’s balls are scattered wide,
With not a shot in sight, to left or right,
Don’t give it up;
Advance your cue and shut your eyes,
      And take the cushion first.

Mark Twain was a self-professed billiards addict. That he was very familiar with the game is obvious from what he wrote himself: "I wonder why a man should prefer a good billiard-table to a poor one; and why he should prefer straight cues to crooked ones; and why he should prefer round balls to chipped ones; and why he should prefer a level table to one that slants; and why he should prefer responsive cushions to the dull and unresponsive kind. I wonder at these things, because when we examine the matter we find that the essentials involved in billiards are as competently and exhaustively furnished by a bad billiard outfit as they are by the best one. One of the essentials is amusement. Very well, if there is any more amusement to be gotten out of the one outfit than out of the other, the facts are in favor of the bad outfit. The bad outfit will always furnish thirty per cent. more fun for the players and for the spectators than will the good outfit. Another essential of the game is that the outfit shall give the players full opportunity to exercise their best skill, and display it in a way to compel the admiration of the spectators. Very well, the bad outfit is nothing behind the good one in this regard. It is a difficult matter to estimate correctly the eccentricities of chipped balls and a slanting table, and make the right allowance for them and secure a count; the finest kind of skill is required to accomplish the satisfactory result. Another essential of the game is that it shall add to the interest of the game by furnishing opportunities to bet. Very well, in this regard no good outfit can claim any advantage over a bad one. I know, by experience, that a bad outfit is as valuable as the best one; that an outfit that couldn't be sold at auction for seven dollars is just as valuable for all the essentials of the game as an outfit that is worth a thousand. ... Last winter, here in New York, I saw Hoppe and Schaefer and Sutton and the three or four other billiard champions of world-wide fame contend against each other, and certainly the art and science displayed were a wonder to see; yet I saw nothing there in the way of science and art that was more wonderful than shots which I had seen Texas Tom make on the wavy surface of that poor old wreck in the perishing saloon at Jackass Gulch forty years before."

The Last Meeting & Final Parting

When I meet you, I shall know you
By your halo I shall know you
Men shall know you, blameless man,
And you'll know me also, Larry,
When we meet, but may not tarry,
Yes, alas, alas, you'll know me by my fan.

Twain penned the poem above in the guest book of Laurence Hutton, literary editor of Harper's Magazine in the early 1890s. The poem is accompanied by a sketch of an angel (Hutton) dancing some sort of tango with the Devil (Twain). The poem has been called the "gayest" poem of the early 1890s. It was dated July 5, 1890.

October: this is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The other are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February.

Those Annual Bills

These annual bills! these annual bills!
How many a song their discord trills
Of "truck" consumed, enjoyed, forgot,
Since I was skinned by last year's lot!

Those joyous beans are passed away;
Those onions blithe, O where are they?
Once loved, lost, mourned? now vexing ILLS
Your shades troop back in annual bills!

And so 'twill be when I'm aground
These yearly duns will still go round,
While other bards, with frantic quills,
Shall damn and damn these annual bills!

It's not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that bother me, it's the parts I do understand.

These I Can Promise

I cannot promise you a life of sunshine;
I cannot promise you riches, wealth or gold;
I cannot promise you an easy pathway
That leads away from change or growing old.
But I can promise all my heart's devotion;
A smile to chase away your tears of sorrow.
A love that's true and ever growing;
A hand to hold in yours through each tomorrow.

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.

I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble.

If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be—a Christian.

There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing, and predatory as it is—in our country particularly and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree—it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime—the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of to-day, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor his Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilled.

There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matterit's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

O Lord, Our Father

O Lord, our father,
Our young patriots, idols of our hearts,
Go forth to battle—be Thou near them!
With them, in spirit, we also go forth
From the sweet peace of our beloved firesides
To smite the foe.

O Lord, our God,
Help us to tear their soldiers
To bloody shreds with our shells;
Help us to cover their smiling fields
With the pale forms of their patriot dead;
Help us to drown the thunder of the guns
With the shrieks of their wounded,
Writhing in pain.

Help us to lay waste their humble homes
With a hurricane of fire;
Help us to wring the hearts of their
Unoffending widows with unavailing grief;
Help us to turn them out roofless
With their little children to wander unfriended
The wastes of their desolated land
In rags and hunger and thirst,
Sports of the sun flames of summer
And the icy winds of winter,
Burdened in spirit, worn with travail,
Imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it—

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord,
Blast their hopes,
Blight their lives,
Protract their bitter pilgrimage,
Make heavy their steps,
Water their way with their tears,
Stain the white snow with the blood
Of their wounded feet!

We ask it in the spirit of love—
Of Him who is the source of love,
And Who is the ever-faithful
Refuge and Friend of all that are sore beset
And seek His aid with humble
and contrite hearts.


Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.


Genius, like gold and precious stones,
is chiefly prized because of its rarity.

Geniuses are people who dash off weird, wild,
incomprehensible poems with astonishing facility,
and get booming drunk and sleep in the gutter.

Genius elevates its possessor to ineffable spheres
far above the vulgar world and fills his soul
with regal contempt for the gross and sordid things of earth.

It is probably on account of this
that people who have genius
do not pay their board, as a general thing.

Geniuses are very singular.

If you see a young man who has frowsy hair
and distraught look, and affects eccentricity in dress,
you may set him down for a genius.

If he sings about the degeneracy of a world
which courts vulgar opulence
and neglects brains,
he is undoubtedly a genius.

If he is too proud to accept assistance,
and spurns it with a lordly air
at the very same time
that he knows he can't make a living to save his life,
he is most certainly a genius.

If he hangs on and sticks to poetry,
notwithstanding sawing wood comes handier to him,
he is a true genius.

If he throws away every opportunity in life
and crushes the affection and the patience of his friends
and then protests in sickly rhymes of his hard lot,
and finally persists,
in spite of the sound advice of persons who have got sense
but not any genius,
persists in going up some infamous back alley
dying in rags and dirt,
he is beyond all question a genius.

But above all things,
to deftly throw the incoherent ravings of insanity into verse
and then rush off and get booming drunk,
is the surest of all the different signs
of genius.

Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.

Ode to Stephen Bowling Dots, Dec'd

And did young Stephen sicken,
And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
And did the mourners cry?

No; such was not the fate of
Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
'Twas not from sickness' shots.

No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
Nor measles drear, with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
Of Stephen Dowling Bots.

Despised love struck not with woe
That head of curly knots,
Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
Young Stephen Dowling Bots.

O no. Then list with tearful eye,
Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly,
By falling down a well.

They got him out and emptied him;
Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
In the realms of the good and great.

There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.

In May 1889, as Whitman was approaching his seventieth birthday, Mark Twain wrote this letter of congratulations to Whitman in which he conveys honor and love ...

Hartford, May 24/89

To Walt Whitman:

You have lived just the seventy years which are greatest in the world’s history & richest in benefit & advancement to its peoples. These seventy years have done much more to widen the interval between man & the other animals than was accomplished by any five centuries which preceded them. What great births you have witnessed! The steam press, the steamship, the steel ship, the railroad, the perfected cotton-gin, the telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the photograph, photo-gravure, the electrotype, the gaslight, the electric light, the sewing machine, & the amazing, infinitely varied & innumerable products of coal tar, those latest & strangest marvels of a marvelous age. And you have seen even greater births than these; for you have seen the application of anesthesia to surgery-practice, whereby the ancient dominion of pain, which began with the first created life, came to an end in this earth forever; you have seen the slave set free, you have seen the monarchy banished from France, & reduced in England to a machine which makes an imposing show of diligence & attention to business, but isn’t connected with the works. Yes, you have indeed seen much—but tarry yet a while, for the greatest is yet to come. Wait thirty years, & then look out over the earth! You shall see marvels upon marvels added to these whose nativity you have witnessed; & conspicuous above them you shall see their formidable Result—Man at almost his full stature at last!—& still growing, visibly growing while you look. In that day, who that hath a throne, or a gilded privilege not attainable by his neighbor, let him procure his slippers & get ready to dance, for there is going to be music. Abide, & see these things! Thirty of us who honor & love you, offer the opportunity. We have among us 600 years, good & sound, left in the bank of life. Take 30 of them—the richest birth-day gift ever offered to poet in this world—& sit down & wait. Wait till you see that great figure appear, & catch the far glint of the sun upon his banner; then you may depart satisfied, as knowing you have seen him for whom the earth was made, & that he will proclaim that human wheat is worth more than human tares, & proceed to organize human values on that basis.

The Aged Pilot Man

On the Erie Canal, it was,
All on a summer's day,
I sailed forth with my parents
Far away to Albany.

From out the clouds at noon that day
There came a dreadful storm,
That piled the billows high about,
And filled us with alarm.

A man came rushing from a house,
Saying, "Snub up your boat I pray,
Snub up your boat, snub up, alas,
Snub up while yet you may."

Our captain cast one glance astern,
Then forward glanced he,
And said, "My wife and little ones
I never more shall see."

Said Dollinger the pilot man,
In noble words, but few,?
"Fear not, but lean on Dollinger,
And he will fetch you through."

The boat drove on, the frightened mules
Tore through the rain and wind,
And bravely still, in danger's post,
The whip-boy strode behind.

"Come 'board, come 'board," the captain cried,
"Nor tempt so wild a storm;"
But still the raging mules advanced,
And still the boy strode on.

Then said the captain to us all,
"Alas, 'tis plain to me,
The greater danger is not there,
But here upon the sea.

So let us strive, while life remains,
To save all souls on board,
And then if die at last we must,
Let . . . . I cannot speak the word!"

Said Dollinger the pilot man,
Tow'ring above the crew,
"Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
And he will fetch you through."

"Low bridge! low bridge!" all heads went down,
The laboring bark sped on;
A mill we passed, we passed church,
Hamlets, and fields of corn;
And all the world came out to see,
And chased along the shore
Crying, "Alas, alas, the sheeted rain,
The wind, the tempest's roar!
Alas, the gallant ship and crew,
Can nothing help them more?"

And from our deck sad eyes looked out
Across the stormy scene:
The tossing wake of billows aft,
The bending forests green,
The chickens sheltered under carts
In lee of barn the cows,
The skurrying swine with straw in mouth,
The wild spray from our bows!

"She balances!
She wavers!
Now let her go about!
If she misses stays and broaches to,
We're all"?then with a shout,]
"Huray! huray!
Avast! belay!
Take in more sail!
Lord, what a gale!
Ho, boy, haul taut on the hind mule's tail!"
"Ho! lighten ship! ho! man the pump!
Ho, hostler, heave the lead!

"A quarter-three!?'tis shoaling fast!
Three feet large!?t-h-r-e-e feet!?
Three feet scant!" I cried in fright
"Oh, is there no retreat?"

Said Dollinger, the pilot man,
As on the vessel flew,
"Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
And he will fetch you through."

A panic struck the bravest hearts,
The boldest cheek turned pale;
For plain to all, this shoaling said
A leak had burst the ditch's bed!
And, straight as bolt from crossbow sped,
Our ship swept on, with shoaling lead,
Before the fearful gale!

"Sever the tow-line! Cripple the mules!"
Too late! There comes a shock!
Another length, and the fated craft
Would have swum in the saving lock!

Then gathered together the shipwrecked crew
And took one last embrace,
While sorrowful tears from despairing eyes
Ran down each hopeless face;
And some did think of their little ones
Whom they never more might see,
And others of waiting wives at home,
And mothers that grieved would be.

But of all the children of misery there
On that poor sinking frame,
But one spake words of hope and faith,
And I worshipped as they came:
Said Dollinger the pilot man,?
(O brave heart, strong and true!)?
"Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
For he will fetch you through."

Lo! scarce the words have passed his lips
The dauntless prophet say'th,
When every soul about him seeth
A wonder crown his faith!

And count ye all, both great and small,
As numbered with the dead:
For mariner for forty year,
On Erie, boy and man,
I never yet saw such a storm,
Or one't with it began!"

So overboard a keg of nails
And anvils three we threw,
Likewise four bales of gunny-sacks,
Two hundred pounds of glue,
Two sacks of corn, four ditto wheat,
A box of books, a cow,
A violin, Lord Byron's works,
A rip-saw and a sow.

A curve! a curve! the dangers grow!
Hard-a-port, Dol!?hellum-a-lee!
Haw the head mule!?the aft one gee!
Luff!?bring her to the wind!"

For straight a farmer brought a plank,?
(Mysteriously inspired)?
And laying it unto the ship,
In silent awe retired.

Then every sufferer stood amazed
That pilot man before;
A moment stood. Then wondering turned,
And speechless walked ashore.

A person with a new idea is a crank, until it succeeds.

Poets as Policemen

Mr. Clemens was one of the speakers at the Lotos Club dinner to Governor Odell, March 24, 1900. The police problem was referred to at length.

Let us abolish policemen who carry clubs and revolvers, and put in a squad of poets armed to the teeth with poems on Spring and Love. I would be very glad to serve as commissioner, not because I think I am especially qualified, but because I am too tired to work and would like to take a rest. Howells would go well as my deputy. He is tired too, and needs a rest badly. I would start in at once to elevate, purify, and depopulate the red-light district. I would assign the most soulful poets to that district, all heavily armed with their poems. Take Chauncey Depew as a sample. I would station them on the corners after they had rounded up all the depraved people of the district so they could not escape, and then have them read from their poems to the poor unfortunates. The plan would be very effective in causing an emigration of the depraved element.

The Twain Well Met: the Quotes and Epigrams of Mark Twain

Twain on God, Religion, Morality, Death, Heaven and Hell:

It's not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that bother me, it's the parts I do understand.
To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and less trouble.
Always do right. That will gratify some of the people, and astonish the rest.
By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.
Providence protects children and idiots. I know because I have tested it.
I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.
I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell; I have friends in both places.
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.
Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.
Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins.
No sinner is ever saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon.
Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.
There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.
Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.
Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
The Christian's Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes.

Twain on Truth and Veracity:

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.
Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain't so.
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
Facts are stubborn; statistics are more pliable.
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you do know that ain't so.
Don't tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish.

Twain on Money:

I can live for two months on a good compliment.
Honesty is the best policy, when there is money in it.
Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed.
Prosperity is the best protector of principle.
Put all your eggs in one basket, then: watch the basket!
I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.
Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.

Twain on Wit, Literature and the Arts:

Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which were previously unrelated.
Classic: something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.
Once you've put one of his [Henry James] books down, you simply can't pick it up again.
The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.
Anyone who can only think of only one way to spell a word lacks imagination.
If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do, you are misinformed.
The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.
The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning.

Twain on Education and Experience:

Don't let schooling interfere with your education.
Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.
Don’t, like the cat, try to get more out an experience than there is in it. The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. Nor upon a cold stove lid.

Twain on Men, Women and Marriage:

Familiarity breeds contempt, and children.
What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.

Twain on Politics:

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
There is probably no distinctly American criminal class, except Congress.
Reader, suppose you were an idiot. Now suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.
The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.
In our country we have three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.

Twain on Youth, Health and the Dubious Joys of Aging:

When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.
Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough.
I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting.
Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I've done it thousands of times.
There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.
The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after, he knows too little.
When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it's obvious you're getting old.
Life would be infinitely happier if we were born at age eighty and gradually approach eighteen.
Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

Twain on Animals (Man among them):

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.
It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
It is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races.
Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.
It is just like man's vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

Twain on Racism, Culture, Custom, Habit and Human Contrariness:

The educated Southerner has no use for an 'R', except at the beginning of a word.
To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do it.
Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else; this is not advice, merely custom.
Habit is not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
Good breeding means concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of others.
There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.

Twain on Himself:

I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; sometimes it takes me a week to make it up.
It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.
I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.

Twain on Ignorance and Human Nature (which he seemed to believe were inseparable):

It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.
If at first you don't succeed, try again. Then quit; there's no use being a damn fool about it.
Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.
It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.
Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old secondhand diamonds than none at all.
Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident.
Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
Repartee is something we think of twenty-four hours too late.
The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.
There are lies, damned lies and statistics.
To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal.
Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.
Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
A person with a new idea is a crank, until it succeeds.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
Courage is resistant to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
Each person is born to one possession which outvalues all the others: his last breath.
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied.
Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist but you have ceased to live.
It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.
There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one: keep from telling their happiness to the unhappy.

Related Pages: Marilyn Monroe Poems, Muhammad Ali Poems, Albert Einstein Poems Abraham Lincoln Poems, Mark Twain Poems, Nelson Mandela Poems, Pope Francis Poems, Ronald Reagan Poems,

The HyperTexts