Happy Father's Day! Here's a meaningful quote from Mario Cuomo
June 18, 2010 10:34 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a short inscription for a Father's Day card. The father in question likes literature, me, and not much else.

In searching for a quotation to put in my dad's Father's Day card, I'm running into the reverse of the problem I had looking for a Mother's Day quotation -- namely, whereas all the quotations about mothers were too sappy, all of the quotations I can find about fathers are bittersweet (or worse, downright negative). Google searching yields hundreds of quote-aggregating webpages that just seem to list every quotation that includes the word "father," which includes such heartwarming gems as "I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well" and "Father asked us what was God's noblest work. Anna said men, but I said babies. Men are often bad, but babies never are." So I'm turning to the hive mind, hoping that human intelligence will be more helpful than artificial intelligence for this particular task.

About my father: he amasses tons of books and loves classic literature, especially Melville, Joyce, and Dickens. His favorite poet is Wordsworth, and he also likes T.S. Eliot and E.E. Cummings. He has a somewhat sarcastic sense of humor. Basically, if the Joyce quote "Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother's love is not" were about fathers instead of mothers, it would be absolutely perfect. But alas, editing Joyce isn't something I can bring myself to do.

So I'm looking for an appropriate quotation, either explicitly about fathers or not. I've inherited his sense of humor and his intellectual streak, so something playing on either of those might be good. The shorter the quote, the better. Nothing religious, please. Finally, although I doubt this needs to be said, I'm not interested in cliched jokes about golf, tools, or fathers having empty wallets because their family takes all their money.

Oh, right, and I'm female, which means that quotes about fathers and sons are out. But we do NOT have a "daddy's little girl" dynamic going on, so most quotations about fathers and daughters are probably also out.
posted by pluckemin to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This might be a different angle on what you're looking for, but one of my favorite quotes from e.e. cummings comes not from one of his poems, but is simply a statement he made:

"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best to make you into everybody else, means to fight the hardest human battle ever and to never stop fighting."

You could then follow with something like, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how to be exactly the person I am." Or something along those lines.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:51 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nap a little. Play a little. Eat a lot. Scratch where it itches. Dogs have the right idea about life. It's your day. Do as you please.
posted by netbros at 10:55 PM on June 18, 2010

And when I said "might be a different angle" above, I really meant "might be too sappy"!
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:03 PM on June 18, 2010

What about the following from Albert Pine? It's not very sarcastic or funny, but it is literary, and I think it could work as a "thanks dad" without being directly that - or as with the first suggestion, you could follow it with - you've done a lot for me, dad (and you could include some sarcasm there, too).

"“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."
posted by mccn at 12:42 AM on June 19, 2010

The last two lines of the poem (my father moved through dooms of love) e. e. cummings wrote after the death of his father at a railroad crossing might serve:

because my father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

Be interesting to see if your dad can place it immediately. Reading that poem has certainly made the ghost of my own depthlessly kind and loving father walk, at least.

Wikipedia tells us that one of cummings' first known poems was written at age six to his father:


Pretty damned promising.
posted by jamjam at 12:45 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

From the concluding pages of Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maughm, and more a passage about family life than fathers, but as a father I find it inspirational:

He realised that he had deceived himself; it was no self sacrifice that had driven him to think of marrying, but the desire for a wife and a home and love; and now that it all seemed to slip through his fingers he was seized with despair. He wanted all that more than anything in the world. What did he care for Spain and its cities, Cordova, Toledo, Leon; what to him were the pagodas of Burmah and the lagoons of South Sea Islands? America was here and now. It seemed to him that all his life he had followed the ideals that other people, by their words or their writings, had instilled into him, and never the desires of his own heart. Always his course had been swayed by what he thought he should do and never by what he wanted with his whole soul to do. He put all that aside now with a gesture of impatience. He had lived always in the future, and the present always, always had slipped through his fingers. His ideals? He thought of his desire to make a design, intricate and beautiful, out of the myriad, meaningless facts of life: had he not seen also that the simplest pattern, that in which a man was born, worked, married, had children, and died, was likewise the most, perfect? It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.
posted by Edward L at 5:12 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love this from the Iliad

[Hector] stretched his arms towards his child, but the boy cried and nestled in his nurse's bosom, scared at the sight of his father's armour, and at the horse-hair plume that nodded fiercely from his helmet. His father and mother laughed to see him, but Hector took the helmet from his head and laid it all gleaming upon the ground. Then he took his darling child, kissed him, and dandled him in his arms, praying over him the while to Jove and to all the gods. "Jove," he cried, "grant that this my child may be even as myself, chief among the Trojans; let him be not less excellent in strength, and let him rule Ilius with his might. Then may one say of him as he comes from battle, 'The son is far better than the father.'
posted by shothotbot at 7:10 AM on June 19, 2010

By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong. ~ Charles Wadsworth

To be a successful father...there's one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don't look at it for the first two years. ~ Ernest Hemingway

It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was. ~ Anne Sexton
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:50 AM on June 19, 2010

"The best portion of a good man's life: his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love." —Wordsworth

You could add something about the way you remember them and always will.
posted by Pamelayne at 10:31 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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