Black Spring quotes

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The following quotes are from Henry Miller’s 1936 story collection Black Spring. Page numbers correspond to the 1963 Grove Press edition.

The Fourteenth Ward
  • “In youth we were whole and the terror and pain of the world penetrated us through and through. There was no sharp separation between joy and sorrow: they fused into one, as our waking life fuses with dream and sleep. We rose one being in the morning and at night we went down into an ocean, drowned out completely, clutching the stars and the fever of the day.” (Page 10)
Third or Fourth Day of Spring
  • “Nobody thinks anymore how marvelous it is that the whole world is diseased. No point of reference, no frame of health. God might just as well be typhoid fever. No absolutes. Only light years of deferred progress.” (Page 22)
  • “I regard myself not as a book, a record, a document, but as a history of our time–the history of all time.” (Page 23)
  • “If I was unhappy in America, if I craved more room, more adventure, more freedom of expression, it was because I needed these things. I’m grateful to America for having made me realize my needs. I served my sentence there.” (Page 23)
  • “I am a man of God and a man of the Devil. To each his due. Nothing eternal, nothing absolute.” (Page 24)
  • “Today, sitting here in the sun, I tell you it doesn’t matter a damn whether the world is going to the dogs or not; it doesn’t matter whether the world is right or wrong, good or bad. It is –and that suffices.” (Page 25)
  • “When each thing is lived through to the end there is no death and no regrets, neither is there a false springtime; each moment lived pushes open a greater, wider horizon from which there is no escape save living.” (Page 26)
  • “What little I have learned about writing amounts to this: it is not what people think it is. It is an absolutely new thing each time with each individual.” (Page 30)
A Saturday Afternoon
  • “I am delirious because I am dying so fast. Every second counts. I do not hear the second that has just ticked off–I am clinging like a madman to this second which has not yet announced itself.” (Page 39)
  • “Now is the thinnest veil between madness and sanity. Now is everything so simple that it mocks one.” (Page 39 – 40)
  • “Every Middle Age is good, whether in man or history. It is full sunlight and the roads extend in every direction, and all the roads are downhill. I would not level the road nor remove any of the bumps.” (Page 42)
  • “To relieve a full bladder is one of the great human joys.” (Page 44)
  • “No harm, I say, can ever be done a great book by taking it with you to the toilet. Only the little books suffer thereby. Only the little books make ass wipers.” (Page 50)
  • “I want a classic purity, where dung is dung and angels are angels.” (Page 51)
The Angel Is My Watermark!
  • “To get nowhere you must traverse every known universe: you must be everywhere in order to be nowhere. To have disorder you must destroy every form of order. To go mad you must have a terrific accumulation of sanities.” (Page 77)
Jabberwhorl Cronstadt
  • “People must live places and eat bread and butter.  For the sake of the future. That’s the way it was in the past. That’s the way it will be in the future. The present? There’s no such thing as the present. There’s a word called Time, but nobody is able to define it. There’s a past and there is a future, and Time runs through it like an electric current. The present is an imaginary condition, a dream state…an oxymoron.(Page 143 – 144)
  • “You think a poem must have covers around it. The moment you write a thing the poem ceases. The poem is the present which you can’t define. You live it. Anything is a poem if it has time in it. You don’t have to take a ferry boat or go to China to write a poem.” (Page 151-152)
Walking Up and Down in China
  • “I am not a traveler, not an adventurer. Things happened to me in my search for a way out. Up till now I had been working away in a blind tunnel, burrowing in the bowels of the earth for light and water. I could not believe, being a man of the American continent, that there was a place on earth where a man could be himself.” (Page 191)
  • “Every living man is a museum that houses the horrors of the race. Each man adds a new wing to the museum.” (Page 194)
  • “As man we contain all the elements which make the earth, its real substance and its myth; we carry with us everywhere and always our changing geography, our changing climate.” (Page 197)
  • “I look to the right of me and there on a slanting street is precisely the Paris I’ve always been searching for. You might know every street in Paris and not know Paris, but when you have forgotten where you are and the rain is softly falling, suddenly in the aimless wandering you come to the street to which you have walked time and again in your sleep and this is the street you are now walking through.” (Page 205 – 206)
  • If I am not dreaming than I am insane. And what is worse, if I am insane I shall never be able to prove whether I was dreaming or awake.” (Page 207)
  • “There isn’t a thing in the world America won’t do for you if you ask for it like a man. You can sit in the electric chair and while the juice is being turned on you can read about your own execution; you can look at a picture of yourself sitting in the electric chair while you are waiting to be executed.” (Page 230)
Megalopolitan Maniac
  • “The earth knows no God, no charity, no love. The earth is a womb which creates and destroys. And man is not of the earth, but of God. To God then let him go, naked, broken, corrupt, divided, lonelier than the deepest gulch.” (Page 246)

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