Quotes from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Rebecca West ·  1181 pages

Rating: (1.6K votes)


“Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“Were I to go down into the market-place, armed with the powers of witchcraft, and take a peasant by the shoulders and whisper to him, 'In your lifetime, have you known peace?' wait for his answer, shake his shoulders and transform him into his father, and ask him the same question, and transform him in his turn to his father, I would never hear the word 'Yes,' if I carried my questioning of the dead back for a thousand years. I would always hear, 'No, there was fear, there were our enemies without, our rulers within, there was prison, there was torture, there was violent death.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“I had come to Yugoslavia to see what history meant in flesh and blood.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“For the sake of my country, and perhaps a little for the sake of my soul, I have given up the deep peace of being in opposition.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“A great empire cannot bring freedom by its own decay to those corners in it where a subject people are prevented from discussing the fundamentals of life. The people feel like children turned adrift to fend for themselves when the imperial routine breaks down; and they wander to and fro, given up to instinctive fears and antagonisms and exaltation until reason dares to take control. I had come to Yugoslavia to see what history meant in flesh and blood. I learned now that it might follow, because an empire passed, that a world full of strong men and women and rich food and heady wine might nevertheless seem like a shadow-show: that a man of every excellence might sit by a fire warming his hands in the vain hope of casting out a chill that lived not in the flesh.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon



“At the top of a hill our automobile stuck in a snowdrift. Peasants ran out of a cottage near by, shouting with laughter because machinery had made a fool of itself, and dug out the automobile with incredible rapidity. They were doubtless anxious to get back and tell a horse about it.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“Allowed to cast themselves for great tragic roles, they were experiencing the exhilaration felt by great tragic actors. It was not lack of control, lack of taste, lack of knowledge that accounted for permission of what was not permitted in the West. Rather was it the reverse. Our people could not have handled patients full of the dangerous thoughts of death and love; these people had such resources that they did not need to empty their patients of such freight.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“As we passed by on the stony causeway, women looked up at us from the fields, their faces furrowed with all known distresses. By their sides, lambs skipped in gaiety and innocence, and goats skipped in gaiety but without innocence, and at their feet the cyclamens shone mauve; the beasts and flowers seemed fortunate because they are not human, as those who have passed within the breath of a plague and have escaped it.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“Behind it was that vast suspension bridge which always troubles me because it reminds me that in this mechanized age I am as little able to understand my environment as any primitive woman who thinks that a waterfall is inhabited by a spirit, and indeed less so, for her opinion might from a poetical point of view be correct.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“He probably wanted real power, the power to direct one's environment towards a harmonious end, and not fictitious power, the power to order and be obeyed; and he must have known that he had not been able to exercise real power over Rome. It would have been easier for him if what we were told when we were young was true, and that the decay of Rome was due to immorality. Life, however, is never as simple as that, and human beings rarely so potent.

There is so little difference between the extent to which any large number of people indulge in sexual intercourse, when they indulge in it without inhibitions and when they indulge in it with inhibitions, that it cannot often be a determining factor in history. The exceptional person may be an ascetic or a debauchee, but the average man finds celibacy and sexual excess equally difficult. All we know of Roman immorality teaches us that absolute power is a poison, and that the Romans, being fundamentally an inartistic people, had a taste for pornography which they often gratified in the description of individuals and families on which that poison had worked.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon



“I realized that if I had said to them, "You had that young man turned out of the carriage because he had a second-class ticket," they would have nodded and said, "Yes," and if I had gone on and said, "But you yourselves have only second-class tickets," they would not have seen that the second statement had any bearing on the first; and I cannot picture to myself the mental life of people who cannot perceive that connexion.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“There was also a daughter, very short, very plump, very gay, an amazing production for the Gregorievitches. It was as if two very serious authors had set out to collaborate and then had published a limerick.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“The word “idiot” comes from a Greek root meaning private person. Idiocy is the female defect: intent on their private lives, women follow their fate through a darkness deep as that cast by malformed cells in the brain. It is no worse than the male defect, which is lunacy: men are so obsessed by public affairs that they see the world as by moonlight, which shows the outlines of every object but not the details indicative of their nature.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“But we knew that when one goes into a shop and buys a cake one gets nothing but a cake, which may be very good, but is only a cake; whereas if one goes into the kitchen and makes a cake because some people one respects and probably likes are coming to eat at one’s table, one is striking a low note on a scale that is struck higher up by Beethoven and Mozart.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“Now King Alexander is driving down the familiar streets, curiously unguarded, in a curiously antique car. It can be seen from his attempt to make his stiff hand supple, from a careless flash of his careful black eyes, it can be seen that he is taking the cheers of the crowd with a childish seriousness. It is touching, like a girl putting full faith in the compliments that are paid to her at a ball.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon



“Goodness is adorable, and it is immortal. When it is trodden down into the earth it springs up again, and human beings scrabble in the dust to find the first green seedling of its return. The stock cannot survive save by the mutual kindness of men and women, of old and young, of state and individual. Hatred comes before love, and gives the hater strange and delicious pleasures, but its works are short-lived; the head is cut from the body before the time of natural death, the lie is told to frustrate the other rogue’s plan before it comes to fruit. Sooner or later society tires of making a mosaic of these evil fragments; and even if the rule of hatred lasts some centuries it occupies no place in real time, it is a hiatus in reality, and not the vastest material thefts, not world wide raids on mines and granaries, can give it substance.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“...the stumbling weighty hostility of bears, the incorporated rapacity of wolves..”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“I will be­lieve that the bat­tle of fem­i­nism is over, and that the fe­male has reached a po­si­tion of equal­ity with the male, when I hear that a coun­try has al­lowed it­self to be turned up­side-down and led to the brink of war by its pas­sion for a to­tally bald woman writer.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“The King and Queen hid in a secret cupboard in their bedroom for two hours, listening to the searchers grow cold, then warm, then cold again, then warm, and at last hot, and burning hot. The weakly King was hard to kill: when they threw him from the balcony they thought him doubly dead from bullet wounds and sword slashes, but the fingers of his right hand clasped the railing and had to be cut off before he fell to the ground, where the fingers of his left hand clutched the grass.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“A city that had learned to make good bread had learned to make good cake also. A city that built itself up by good sense and industry had formed a powerful secondary intention of elegance.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon



“Her question made me remember that the word ‘idiot’ comes from a Greek root meaning private person. Idiocy is the female defect: intent on their private lives, women follow their fate through a darkness deep as that cast by malformed cells in the brain. It is no worse than the male defect, which is lunacy: they are so obsessed by public affairs that they see the world as by moonlight, which shows the outlines of every object but not the details indicative of their nature.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“He is in his late sixties, but has the charm of extreme youth, for he comes to a pleasure and hails it happily for what it is without any bitterness accumulated from past disappointments, and he believes that any moment the whole process of life may make a slight switch-over and that everything will be agreeable for ever. His manners would satisfy the standards of any capital in the world, but at the same time he is exquisitely, pungently local.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“This soup is as cold as the sea!" But he was not shouting at the soup. He was shouting at the Turks, at the Venetians, at the Austrians, at the French, and at the Serbs (if he was Croat) or at the Croats (if he was a Serb).”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“but this did not appear to English eyes, largely because Austria was visited before the war only by our upper classes, who in no country noticed anything but horses,”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“Art is not a plaything, but a necessity, and its essence, form, is not a decorative adjustment, but a cup into which life can be poured and lifted to the lips and be tasted. If one’s own existence has no form, if its events do not come handily to mind and disclose their significance, we feel about ourselves as if we were reading a bad book.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon



“The walls of his last lodging were distempered in drab and ornamented with abstract designs in chocolate, grey, and bottle-green, such as Western plumbers and decorators loved to create in the latter half of the last century, and its windows were curtained with the intensely vulgar dark green printed velvet used in wagons-lits.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“Art covers not even a corner of life, only a knot or two here and there, far apart and without relation to the pattern. How could we hope that it would ever bring order and beauty to the whole of that vast and intractable fabric, that sail flapping in the contrary winds of the universe?”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“Honour often seems a highly artificial convention, but life in any level of society where it has been abandoned astonishes by its tortuousness”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“What is art? It is not decoration. It is the re-living of experience. The artist says, 'I will make that event happen again, altering its shape, which was disfigured by its contacts with other events, so that its true significance is revealed'; and his audience says, 'We will let that event happen again by looking at this man's picture or house, listening to his music or reading his book.' It must not be copied, it must be remembered, it must be lived again, passed through those parts of the mind which are actively engaged in life, which bleed when they are wounded and give forth the bland emulsions of joy, while at the same time it is being examined by those parts of the mind which stand apart from life. At the end of this process the roots of experience are traced; the alchemy by which they make a flower of joy or pain is, so far as is possible to our brutishness, detected. What is understood is mastered. If art could investigate all experiences then man would understand the whole of life, and could control his destiny.”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon


“They all sat, nodding and rocking, entranced by a vision of the warm goodness of”
― Rebecca West, quote from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon



About the author

Rebecca West
Born place: in London, The United Kingdom
Born date December 21, 1892
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