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I made my exit, and it was not until after I had done so that it occurred to me I had not actually offered her my condolences. I could well imagine the blow the news would be to her, her aunt having been, to all intents and purposes, like a mother to her, and I paused out in the corridor, wondering if I should go back, knock and make good my omission. But then it occurred to me that if I were to do so, I might easily intrude upon her private grief. Indeed, it was not impossible that Miss Kenton, at that very moment, and only a few feet from me, was actually crying. The thought provoked a strange feeling to rise within me, causing me to stand there hovering in the corridor for some moments. But eventually I judged it best to await another opportunity to express my sympathy and went on my way. Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
Can I see another’s woe.
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief
And not seek for kind relief? William Blake
I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson September 1816
Before the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran. Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon 1865
Extremity of griefs would make men mad. William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus IV i 19, Young Lucius
My crown I am, but still my griefs are mine.
You may glories and my state dispose,
But not my griefs; still am I king of those. William Shakespeare, Richard II IV i 181-183, Richard to Bolingbroke
’Tis very true: my grief lies all within,
And these external manner of laments
And merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul. ibid. IV i 285-288, Richard to Bolingbroke and Northumberland
Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows. ibid. II ii 14, Bushy to Queen and Bagot
For what is this world but grief and woe?
O God! Methinks it were a happy life
To be not better than a homely swain. ibid. II v 20-22, King Henry’s soliloquy
Nothing lives but crosses, cares and grief. William Shakespeare: The Hollow Crown: Richard II, starring Ben Whishaw & Rory Kinnear & Patrick Stewart & David Suchet & David Morrissey & Lindsay Duncan & Tom Hughes & James Purefoy & Clemence Poesy & Ferdinand Kinsley et al, director Rupert Goold, York, BBC 2012
My grief stretches itself beyond the hour of death. The Hollow Crown: Henry IV part II ***** starring Jeremy Irons & Simon Russell Beale & Tom Hiddleston & Alun Armstrong & David Bamber & Julie Walters & Niamh Cusack & David Dawson & Michaelle Dockery et al, director Richard Eyre, King, BBC 2012
What, wilt thou wash him from his grave with tears? ...
Some grief shows much of love,
But much of grief shows still some want of wit. William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet III v 70 & 72-73, Capulet’s wife to Juliet
Is there no pity sitting in the clouds
That sees into the bottom of my grief? ibid. III v 196-197, Juliet to self
I am not mad: this hair I tear is mine ...
O, if I could, what grief should I forget ...
I am not mad; too well, too well I feel
The different plague of each calamity. William Shakespeare, King John III 45 & 50 & 59-60, Constance
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form:
Then have I reason to be fond of grief. ibid. III iv 93
Be moderate, be moderate.
Why tell you me of moderation?
The grief is fine, full, perfect, that I taste,
And violenteth in a sense as strong
As that which causeth it: how can I moderate it? William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida IV iv 1
Well, every one can master a grief but he that has it. William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing III ii 28
Patch grief with proverbs. ibid.
But, O Grief,
Where hast thou led me? William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar I iii Cassius to Casca
’Tis unmanly grief. William Shakespeare, Hamlet I ii 94, Claudius
Fie! ’Tis a fault of heaven.
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd, whose common theme
Is death to fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corpse till he that died today,
’Tis must be so. ibid. I ii 101-106, Claudius
When remedies are past, the griefs are ended
By seeing the worst which late on hopes depended.
To mourn a mischief that is past and gone
In the next way to draw new mischief on.
What cannot be preserved when fortune takes,
Patience her injury a mockery makes.
The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief;
He robs himself that spends a bootless grief. William Shakespeare, Othello I iii @201, Duke
We lost it not so long as we can smile.
He bears the sentence well that nothing bears
But the free comfort which from thence he hears,
But he bears both the sentence and the sorrow
That, to pay grief, must of poor patience borrow. ibid. I iii @210
Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break. William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth IV iii 209
Sometimes her grief is dumb and hath no words,
Sometime ’tis mad and too much talk affords ...
For mirth doth search the bottom of annoy;
Sad souls are slain in merry company;
Grief best is pleased with grief’s society. William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece 1105-1105, 1109-1111
He ten times pines that pines beholding food;
To see the salve doth make the wound ache more;
Great grief grieves most at that would do it good. ibid. 1115-1117
And that deep torture may be called a hell
When more is felt than one hath power to tell. ibid. 1288-1289
Of course I did, thought Peter; it almost broke my heart too, he thought; and was overcome with his own grief, which rose like a moon looked at from a terrace, ghastly beautiful with light from the sunken day. I was more unhappy than I’ve ever been since, he thought. And as if in truth he were sitting there on the terrace he edged a little towards Clarissa; put his hand out; raised it; let it fall. There above them it hung, that moon. She too seemed to be sitting with him on the terrace, in the moonlight. Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
This world that was our home for a brief spell never brought us anything but pain and grief; it’s a shame that not one of our problems was ever solved. We depart with a thousand regrets in our hearts. Omar Khayyam
As far as you can avoid it, do not give grief to anyone. Never inflict your rage on another. If you hope for eternal rest, feel the pain yourself; but don’t hurt others. Omar Khayyam, Quatrains
She had a tall man’s height or more
No bonnet screened her from the heat
A long drab-coloured coat she wore
A mantle reaching to her feet
Before me begging did she stand
Pouring out sorrows like the sea
Grief after grief on English land
Such woes I knew could never be. William Wordsworth