Piet Hein Quotes
Most popular Piet Hein Quotes
The road to wisdom? -- Well, it's plain and simple to express: Err and err and err again but less and less and less.
Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by hitting back.
Love is like a pineapple, sweet and undefinable.
Living is a thing you do now or never -- which do you?
He that lets the small things bind him leaves the great undone behind him.
There's an art of knowing when. Never try to guess. Toast until it smokes and then twenty seconds less.
He who aims to keep abreast is forever second best.
If a nasty jagged stone gets into your shoe, thank the Lord it came alone -- what if it were two?
MANKIND Men, said the Devil, are good to their brothers: they don't want to mend their own ways, but each other's.
I'd like to know what this whole show is about before it's out.
A TOAST The soul may be a mere pretence, the mind makes very little sense. So let us value the appeal of that which we can taste and feel.
It ought to be plain how little you gain by getting excited and vexed. You'll always be late for the previous train, and always in time for the next.
THOSE WHO KNOW Those who always know what's best are a universal pest.
Love while you've got love to give. Live while you've got life to live.
CONSOLATION GROOK Losing one glove is certainly painful, but nothing compared to the pain, of losing one, throwing away the other, and finding the first one again.
How instructive is a star! It can teach us from afar just how small each other are.
Nature, our father and mother, gave us all we have got. The state, our elder brother, swipes the lot.
A REPROOF In view of your manner of spending your days I hope you may learn, before ending them, that the effort you spend on defending your ways could be better spent on amending them.
NAIVE- Naive you are if you believe life favours those who aren't naive.
Put up in a place where it's easy to see the cryptic admonishment T. T. T. When you feel how depressingly slowly you climb, it's well to remember that Things Take Time.
A bit beyond perception's reach I sometimes believe I see that life is two locked boxes each containing the other's key.
HIDE NOTHING If your thoughts are rubbish merely, don't express yourself too clearly.
A TIP A tip to members of the literary profession Those who can write have a lot to learn from those bright enough not to.
If virtue can't be mine alone at least my faults can be my own.
OMNISCIENCE Knowing what thou knowest not is in a sense omniscience.
If you want to know where your money went, you must spend it quickly before it's spent.
BEARDS The reason why some people grow aggressive tufts of facial hair is that they do not like to show the chin that isn't there.
There is one art, no more, no less: to do all things with artlessness.
The universe may be as great as they say. But it wouldn't be missed if it didn't exist.
MANNERS Honestly, some people's manners repel you. Ask how they are and, god dammit, they tell you.
Small people often overrate the charm of being tall; which is, that you appreciate the charm of being small.
A bit of virtue will never hurt you.
HIGHBROW HUMOUR Half the laugh. Twice the price.
Wisdom is the booby prize given when you've been unwise.
Pills are useful against ills and against too many pills.
Shun advice at any price - that's what I call good advice.
You draw the near things nearer by making clear things queerer.
When your thirst and hunger cease, may your ashes rest in peace.
GOSPEL TRUTH People take for gospel things that are impossible.
Life makes senses and who could doubt it, if we have no doubt about it.
TWO WORDS Two words express My love galore: Nevertheless, Always More.
MISSING LINK Man's a kind of Missing Link, fondly thinking he can think.
A MOMENT'S THOUGHT As eternity is reckoned there's a lifetime in a second.
Does time exist? I gravely doubt it. But gosh, what should we do without it?
No cow's like a horse, and no horse like a cow. That's one similarity anyhow.
Anxieties yield at a negative rate, increasing in smallness the longer they wait.
MASQUERADE It's always wise to wear disguise; but hardly ever to look too clever.
The way to grow grand is not: to demand In life's every field you are what you yield.
A lifetime is more than sufficiently long for people to get what there is of it wrong.
GHOSTLY Ghosts are mist and moonshine mostly. That's the twist that makes them ghostly.
PITIABLE It's not very pretty in pitiful fashion to angle for pity: it merits compassion.
If they made diving boards six inches shorter - think how much sooner you'd be in the water.
EXPERTS Experts have their expert fun ex cathedra telling one just how nothing can be done.
SPEED IT UP To start in a hurry and finish in haste will minimize worry and maximize waste.
What with one thing and another people bother. With a third thing and a fourth it isn't worth it.
You'll conquer the present suspiciously fast if you smell of the future -- and stink of the past.
Foes of what's cooking see no worth behind it. Those that are looking for nothing - will find it.
MONEY Sure, money's all wrong, and the Devil decreed it! It doesn't belong to the people who need it.
To make a name for learning when other roads are barred, take something very easy and make it very hard.
We shall have to evolve problem-solvers galore-- since each problem they solve creates ten problems more.
People are self-centered to a nauseous degree. They will keep on about themselves while I'm explaining me.
DREAM INTERPRETATION Everything's either concave or -vex, so whatever you dream will be something with sex.
She gave me hope she gave me love, with bounty unalloyed. But what she had of faith, alas, she gave to Freud.
THE TRUE DEFENCE The only defence that is more than pretence is to act on the fact that there is no defence.
ANGEL FOOD Though men are no angels, they're better by far so long as they think that you think that they are.
To be brave is to behave bravely when your heart is faint. So you can be really brave only when you really ain't.
FAME Fame achieved by mere achievement scarce deserves the name. Proper fame is being famous simply for your fame.
Your steadfast character appeals to frequent toasts, methinks: you never eat except at meals -nor drink 'twixt drinks.
Stomach-ache can be a curse; heart-ache may be even worse; so thank Heaven on your knees if you've got but one of these.
MY FAITH IN DOCTORS My faith in doctors is immense. Just one thing spoils it; their pretence of authorised omniscience.
Here lies, extinguished in his prime, a victim of modernity: but yesterday he hadn't the time -- and now he has eternity.
A ETERNAL TWINS Taking fun as simply fun and earnestness in earnest shows how thoroughly thou none of the two discernest.
It's some sort of comfort to get the gist of certain impertinence I could list - so that you know what you haven't missed.
THE CASE FOR OBSCURITY On Thoughts and Words I. If no thought your mind does visit, make your speech not too explicit.
He's gallantry personified; in fact his brochures ought to read: SATISFACTION GUARANTEED - or your virginity returned intact.
FORETASTE WITH AFTERTASTE Corinna's scanty evening dress reveals her charms to an excess which makes a fellow lust for less.
DELUX We fondly believe in the fable that luxmeters cannot lie; forgetting: one lux on the table is better than ten in the eye.
We ought to live each day as though it were our last day here below. But if I did, alas, I know it would have killed me long ago.
LEST FOOLS SHOULD FAIL True wisdom knows it must comprise some nonsense as a compromise, lest fools should fail to find it wise.
WE DO OUR BEST Or do we? Modern man has the skill; he can do what he will. But alas - being man he will do what he can.
THE GIFT A gift of great utility is common copability: The knack of getting each thing done before the grind has spoiled the fun.
CIRCUMSCRIPTION As Pastor X steps out of bed he slips a neat disguise on: that halo round his priestly head is really his horizon.
SCOTCHED Some persistent person-watcher may eventually distinguish why a Scotsman's so much Scotcher than an Englishman is English.
COMMON GROUND There's matter for reflection in one's fellow-men's inanity: it strengthens one's conviction of belonging to humanity.
If you knew what you will know when your candle has burnt low, it would greatly ease your plight while your candle still burns bright.
OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD Yes, he was tempted, and he fell; but judge him not too hard. It does take character to sell elastic by the yard.
O TOAST! O Toast! What an exquisite yearning thy sounds and thy odors convey! O fragrant aroma of burning! O rhythmical scraping away!
OUT OF TIME My old clock used to tell the time and subdivide diurnity; but now it's lost both hands and chime and only tells eternity.
AN ODE TO MODESTY Talking of successful rackets modesty deserves a mention. Exclamation marks in brackets never fail to draw attention.
ECONOMY OF MIND Thinking gives a lot of pain. Talking doesn't cost a thing. Therefore, rest your weary brain and give your tongue a fling.
STRIKING A BALANCE Mere good intentions go for naught. The balance we must strike consists of liking what we ought and doing what we like.
THE VITAL PERCEPT One vital precept isn't taught sufficiently imperiously: that other people didn't ought to take themselves too seriously.
LOSING FACE The noble art of losing face may one day save the human race and turn into eternal merit what weaker minds would call disgrace.
A MAXIM FOR VIKINGS Here is a fact that should help you fight a bit longer: Things that don't actually kill you outright make you stronger.
ABOUT DENMARK Why not let us compromise about Denmark's proper size, which will truly please us all, since it's bigger than it's small.
THE ULTIMATE WISDOM Philosophers must ultimately find their true perfection in knowing all the follies of mankind -- by introspection.
THE SAME, DIFFERENT There's a neighbor's telephone with the same distinctive tone as it pleases mine to make... ...which I find I cannot take.
ON FALLING-FEET FOREMOST Some darling people you will meet are plain disaster-prone, and always fall on someone's feet, and never on their own.
NOVEMBER HEDGEROW The pale November sunshine shines, and spiders diligently ply arranging endless washing lines for dewdrops hanging out to dry.
MAKING THE BEST OF IT Don't despair of passing muster when your virtues don't suffice. You'll achieve an equal lustre with the obverse of a vice.
SOCIAL MECHANISM When people always try to take the very smallest piece of cake how can it also always be that that's the one that's left for me?
A PAINFUL NEWS ITEM Lord Y. was dying; but then he refused to give up the ghost. The first will be painful to many. The second will pain the most.
LIKE AND UNLIKE A baby's and a peacock's strike might make you think them much alike. But where comparisons will fail is in the color of the tail.
Professor Blobby doesn't see the fun in what his fellow-man call relaxation. He isn't ignorant of how it's done, but lacks the necessary application.
You're squandering spleen on your brothers, and wasting good self-pity too, if you think that there's sun on the others whenever it's raining on you.
ON PROBLEMS Our choicest plans have fallen through, our airiest castles tumbled over, because of lines we neatly drew and later neatly stumbled over.
Solutions to problems are easy to find: the problem's a great contribution. What's truly an art is to wring from your mind a problem to fit a solution.
FRIENDS IN NEED Why so sad and woebegone? Will the world not heed you? Courage! Even you have won friends you may rely upon when they really need you.
A fellow I know can get mountains to move and all opposition appeases: he preaches what God cannot help but approve, and does what the Devil he pleases.
GROOK TO STIMULATE GRATITUDE As things so very often are intelligence won't get you far. So be glad you've got more sense than you've got intelligence.
DO IT NOW! Why don't you stop pursuing things, and rushing round and doing things? Just think of all the things that you would suddenly find time to do!
A RAIN DROP With what adroitness Nature gleans sublime effects with modest means! A rain-drop streaks my window pane; then it is spring-time once again.
A philosophistry I am the Universe's Centre. No subtle sceptics can confound me; for how can other viewpoints enter, when all the rest is all around me?
THE MIRACLE OF SPRINGS We glibly talk of nature's laws but do things have a natural cause? Black earth turned into yellow crocus in undiluted hocus-pocus.
WANTING TO BE ABLE TO 'Impossibilities' are good not to attach that label to; since, correctly understood, if we wanted to, we would be able to be able to.
I concentrate on the concentric rings produced by my pen in the ink. The thing that distinguishes thoughts from things is that thoughts are harder to think.
TO SUM UP It may be observed in a general way that life would be better, distinctly, if more of the people with nothing to say were able to say it succinctly.
THE DOUBLE-DOOR EFFECT Double doors are justified because they're comfortably wide. Therefore you only half undo'em; and therefore nothing can get through 'em.
GLOBAL EGO Your understanding may be rough and your pretensions vanity; but underneath there's firmer stuff: your egoism is vast enough to comprehend humanity.
I see and I hear and I speak no evil; I carry no malice within my breast; yet quite without wishing a man to the Devil one may be permitted to hope for the best.
We are taught to live, we are taught to feel. We are taught to conform and conceal. We are taught so well what we ought to feel that we cannot feel what we feel.
TRANSMUTATION I may be stupid; but I don't see how the time that's here contrives to get away. How can what only yesterday was now be now already only yesterday?
WHO IS LEARNED? A definition One who, consuming midnight oil in studies diligent and slow, teaches himself, with painful toil, the things that other people know.
One paramount truth our society smothers in petty concern with position and pelf: It isn't enough to exasperate others; you've got to remember to gladden yourself.
Power corrupts, where as sound opposition builds up our free democratic tradition. One thing would make a democracy flower: having a strong opposition -- in power.
MAKING AN EFFORT Our so-called limitations, believe, apply to faculties we don't apply. We don't discover what we can't achieve until we make an effort not to try.
Whenever I'm scared by the state of my purse I dine at the 'Gold-Digger's Claim', where the food is so out of comparison worse you forget that the price is the same.
HINT AND SUGGESTION Admonitory grook addressed to youth. The human spirit sublimates the impulses it thwarts; a healthy sex life mitigates the lust for other sports.
Some people cower and wince and shrink, owing to fear of what people may think. There is one answer to worries like these: people may think what the devil they please.
THE OPTIMIST'S OBELISK I go past a stone by the road twice a day in my regular toing and froing. The sight of it tells me I'm over halfway — whether I'm coming or going.
Three facts, quite easy, should be known to all would-be arrivers who set out on wheels: that roads are greasy, safety margins small, and fellow drivers fellow imbeciles.
FREE CHOICE People are meant to hold various views; which has been construed to mean that Rulers should give them the freedom to choose, and one thing to choose between.
COMPARATIVE SENSE Which of us doesn't accept as a rule that anyone dumber than us is a fool? But how many of us can wholly subdue the feeling that anyone smarter is, too?
The heavens are draining, it's raining and raining, and everything couldn't be wetter, and things are so bad that we ought to be glad: because now they can only get better.
Original thought is a straightforward process. It's easy enough when you know what to do. You simply combine in appropriate doses the blatantly false and the patently true.
Nobody can be lucky all the time; so when your luck deserts you in some fashion don't think you've been abandoned in your prime, but rather that you're saving up your ration.
ATOMYRIADES Nature, it seems, is the popular name for milliards and milliards and milliards of particles playing their infinite game of billiards and billiards and billiards.
MEETING THE EYE You'll probably find that it suits your book to be a bit cleverer than you look. Observe that the easiest method by far is to look a bit stupider than you are.
ON RATIONALIZATION Many are the problems for which we find a cure, and many are the snags that arise. Rationalization is rational for sure; but is it also sure that it's wise?
Two types that had far better leave to their betters the civilized art of exchanging letters are those who disdain to make any response, and those who infallibly answer at once.
DEFENCE WANTED In International Consequences the players must reckon to reap what they've sown. We have a defence against other defences, but what's to defend us against our own?
A THOUGHT ABROAD It's all very well to play up the allure of whatever it is you are selling; but it's over the odds when a sight-seeing tour turns out to be mainly smell-smelling.
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children. She didn't know what to do. But try as she would she could never detect which was the cause and which the effect.
CONVERSATION PEACE There is a certain labor-saving notion, dear to a lazy-minded generation, that if you can but keep your mouth in motion, then every breath you take is conversation.
PAST PLUPERFECT The past, -- well, it's just like our Great-Aunt Laura, who cannot or will not perceive that though she is welcome, and though we adore her, yet now it is time to leave.
Long-winded writers I abhor, and glib, prolific chatters; give me the ones who tear and gaw their hair and pens to tatters: who find heir writing such a chore they only write what matters.
A GROOK FOR CHRISTMAS In pagan ages, Yuletide was a feast not of the spirit, but of meat and drink. Think about that this Christmas; or at least as soon thereafter as you're fit to think.
GETTING DOWN TO FUNDAMENTALS It will steadily shrink, our earthly abode, until antiode stands upon antipode. Then, soles together, the planet gone, we'll know the ground that we rest upon.
COME, TIME... Now the November woods are clear and cold and fragile snowflakes tremble in the air. If the year's waning be like growing old, come, Time, and sprinkle snowflakes in my hair.
A WORD TO THE WISE Let the world pass in its time-ridden race; never get caught in its snare. Remember, the only acceptable case for being in any particular place is having no business there.
THE CURE FOR EXHAUSTION Sometimes, exhausted with toil and endeavour, I wish I could sleep for ever and ever; but then this reflection my longing allays: I shall be doing it one of these days.
PRAYER Sun that givest all things birth, shine on everything on earth! If that's too much to demand, shine at least on this our land. If even that's too much for thee, shine at any rate on me.
A contribution to the psychology of disappointment Some people live in a dream of what'll allow them to live their dream: they solemnly hold out a half-pint bottle and ask for a pint of cream.
A relativistic grook on co-existence A human being sharing with a mouse. Each thinks himself the master of the house. In fact, of course, each occupier's place is the other's insulating interspaces.
UNPLUMBED DEPTHS Grook on philo-sophistical and other -isms Philo-sophisticism with hypnotic effect affects the boobies that abound: being so bottomlessly idiotic that even they can see it profound.
Eradicate the optimist who takes the easy view that human values will persist no matter what we do. Annihilate the pessimist whose ineffectual cry is that the goal's already missed however hard we try.
Where the woods and ploughlands of tradition and modernity run into the never-ending deserts of eternity, there I have my daily task while time smoothly passes, spooning the eternal sands into hourglass.
IMAGINATION AND FANCY To imagine himself is the poet's art; for his theme must grow out of his innermost heart. But alas, there are poets enough on my shelves who think it sufficient to fancy themselves.
LILAC TIME The lilacs are flowering, sweet and sublime, with a perfume that goes to the head; and lovers meander in prose and rhyme, trying to say — for the thousandth time -- what's easier done than said.
IS IT ART? As for art, what can a halfway-honest man do to distinguish things that are from things that aren't? For there's little art in doing what one can do, and there's none at all in doing what one can't.
For many system shoppers it's a good-for-nothing system that classifies as opposites stupidity and wisdom. because by logic-choppers it's accepted with avidity: stupidity's true opposite's the opposite stupidity.
STEPWISE Down from my attic room I swerve in one smooth, spiral, clockwise curve. The staircase happens to be wound, I'm glad to say, the same way round: for if it happened not to be, it couldn't keep in step with me.
The Little Mermaid's Little Sister was also partly girl and cod though in a way which those who kissed her found odd. ...but which, well worth to mention, though at first sight absurd, I, with my fond intention, preferred.
There's a rule for proper doses in the dinner-eaters lore: one should stop the filling process while one still has room for more. And if someone at the table had reminded me before - Hallelujah! I'd be able to absorb a little more.
To many people artists seem undisciplined and lawless. Such laziness, with such great gifts, seems little short of crime. One mystery is how they make the things they make so flawless; another, what they're doing with their energy and time.
THINK BEFORE YOU THINK BEFORE YOU ACT We're taught to think, and act upon our second thought. We might as well, in fact, rely on second sight. In view of how we're placed the thing we should be taught is how to act in haste— and do it right.
Do you know that weary feeling when your mind is strangely strangled and your head is like a ball of wool that's very, very tangled; and the tempo of your thinking must be lenient and mild, as though you were explaining to a very little child.
OUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT We must expect posterity to view with some asperity the marvels and the wonders we're passing on to it; but it should change its attitude to one of heartfelt gratitude when thinking of the blunders we didn't quite commit.
SIMPLY ASSISTING GOD I am a humble artist moulding my earthly clod, adding my labour to nature's, simply assisting God. Not that my effort is needed; yet somehow, I understand, my maker has willed it that I too should have unmoulded clay in my hand.
IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN A poet should be of the old-fashioned meaningless brand: obscure, esoteric, symbolic, -- the critics demand it; so if there's a poem of mine that you do understand I'll gladly explain what it means till you don't understand it.
BRIDGE OR TUNNEL? Channel project. A tunnel would be possible, a bridge would also do, but wouldn't it be better to amalgamate the two? Let bridge and tunnel undulate in waves from shore to shore, keeping green the memories of those who went before.
PRO BONO... You sit at the dentist's, your mouth open wide, and the dentist has moved half his workshop inside to gild you and glaze you and tin you. It is not, I admit, my idea of a lark; but you must keep your skeleton up to the mark as long as you've still got it in you.
CAN YOU IMAGINE IT? We haven't much imagination: it even overstrains our powers to see our neighbour's tribulation as any real concern of ours. We have too much imagination: enough to credit, without fuss, that all is well with all creation whenever things are well with us.
REALLY As people keep reminding you the horrid things that people do are superficial merely. They're really not like that at all. It's quite unjust of one and all to judge them so severely. It would be grand, it seems to me, if people really were to be as nice as they are really.
PRETENDERS Yes, people pretend to be hurt, or delighted, or angry, or sorry, or flattered, or slighted, or artlessly simple, or artfully deep,— and all these pretences are easy and cheap. There's just one pretence that is worth our endeavor: and that is pretending to nothing whatever.
A homage to finity Eternity's one of those mental blocks the concept is inconceivable. The clock concedes it in ticks and tocks, belittled, belaboured, believable. Each passing moment is seized and chewed with argument incontestable. Premasticated, like baby food, eternity is digestible.
ROAD SENSE God save us, now they're murdering another winding road, and another lovely countryside will take another load of pantechnicon and car and motorbike. They're busy making bigger roads, and better roads and more, so that people can discover even faster than before that everything is everywhere alike.
LEST-LOST-LAST-LISTLESSNESS DEPRESS YOU When too many errands accrue it's useful to make out a list. You're certain to lose it, it's true; but somewhere, the thing will exist. And then, when some accident brings the list you have lost into view, at least you've a list of the things you've meanwhile forgotten to do.
For me there is something ineffably new in every new moment's arising; and even the things I habitually do have qualities new and surprising. There's nothing that happens that happened before in exactly that way in its life. When you're playing the piano, it's rather a bore; but it's nice when you're kissing your wife.
THE TYRANNY OF THINGS I am trying to rule over ten thousand things which I thought belonged to me. All of a sudden a doubt take wings: Do they...or could it be..? A hardhanded hunch in my mind's ear rings from whence such suspicions may stem: that if you posses more than just eight things then you are possessed by them.
Go on a starlit night, stand on your head, leave your feet dangling outwards into space, and let the starry firmament you tread be, for the moment, your elected base. Feel Earth's colossal weight of ice and granite, of molten magma, water, iron, and lead; and briefly hold this strangely solid planet balanced upon your strangely solid head.
A PSYCHOLOGICAL TIP Whenever you're called on to make up your mind, and you're hampered by not having any, the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find, is simply by spinning a penny. No — not so that chance shall decide the affair while you're passively standing there moping; but the moment the penny is up in the air, you suddenly know what you're hoping.
SPRING'S HARBINGER The cold ploughed field seems empty of any living thing; but overhead there hangs a lark, suspended on a string. It's pouring out, its thrilling trills. It tills the air with trilling thrills, so palpable and plastic— absurdly bobbing up and down because the string's elastic till, duty done, and Spring harbinged, it's whisked into the air, and lowered in another place to spring it on them there.
MAJORITY RULE His party was the Brotherhood of Brothers, and there were more of them than of the others. That is, they constituted that minority which formed the greater part of the majority. Within the party, he was of the faction that was supported by the greater fraction. And in each group, within each group, he sought the group that could command the most support. The final group had finally elected a triumvirate whom they all respected. Now, of these three, two had final word, because the two could overrule the third. One of these two was relatively weak, so one alone stood at the final peak. He was: THE GREATER NUMBER of the pair which formed the most part of the three that were elected by the most of those whose boast it was to represent the most of the most of most of most of the entire state -- or of the most of it at any rate. He never gave himself a moment's slumber but sought the welfare of the greater number. And all people, everywhere they went, knew to their cost exactly what it meant to be dictated to by the majority. But that meant nothing, -- they were the minority.