Frasi di Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

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Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Data di nascita: 29. Agosto 1809
Data di morte: 7. Ottobre 1894

Pubblicità

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. è stato un medico, insegnante e scrittore statunitense. Considerato dai suoi contemporanei come uno dei migliori scrittori del XIX secolo, fu uno dei membri dei Poeti del Focolare. Le sue opere in prosa più famose fanno parte della serie di Breakfast-Table, che ebbe inizio con The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table . Egli è stato anche riconosciuto come importante riformatore medico.

Nato a Cambridge, Massachusetts, Holmes studiò alla Phillips Accademy e all'Harvard College. Dopo il diploma ad Harvard nel 1829, si iscrisse alla facoltà di giurisprudenza per un breve periodo prima di avvicinarsi alla professione medica. Iniziò a scrivere poesie in giovane età; una delle opere più famose, Old Ironsides, fu pubblicata nel 1830. Dopo il tirocinio presso alcune prestigiose scuole di Parigi, ad Holmes fu conferita la laurea in medicina presso l'Harvard Medical School nel 1836. Insegnò presso l'istituto Dartmouth Medical School prima di tornare come insegnante ad Harvard e, per un periodo, ebbe lì anche il ruolo di rettore. Durante la sua lunga carriera di professore, difese diverse riforme mediche e inoltre espresse l'idea che fossero i medici a trasportare la febbre puerperale da paziente a paziente. Holmes si ritirò da Harvard nel 1882 e continuò a scrivere poesie, romanzi e saggi fino alla sua morte nel 1894.

Circondato dall'élite letteraria di Boston, che includeva amici-colleghi come Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow e James Russell Lowell, Holmes lasciò un'impronta indelebile nel mondo letterario del XIX secolo. Molte delle sue opere furono pubblicate nel The Atlantic Monthly, una rivista a cui egli stesso ha dato il nome. Per il suo talento letterario egli ricevette numerose lauree honoris causa da università in tutto il mondo. I suoi scritti spesso commemorano la zona della sua nativa area di Boston e buona parte di essi ha uno stile umoristico. Le idee espresse in alcuni dei suoi scritti medici, in particolare nel saggio del 1843 riguardo al contagio della febbre puerperale, furono considerate innovative per il periodo. Gli fu spesso chiesto di pubblicare poesie e poemi composti per un evento specifico, incluse diverse occasioni ad Harvard. Holmes rese popolari diversi termini, come ad esempio quello di “anestesia”.

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Frasi Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

„Credo fermamente che se tutti i medicinali, come sono utilizzati adesso, potessero essere risucchiati in fondo al mare, sarebbe tanto meglio per il genere umano e tanto peggio per i pesci.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
citato in Andrew Weil e Winifred Rosen, Dal cioccolato alla morfina. Tutto quello che dovete sapere sulle sostanze che alterano la mente, traduzione di Fabio Bernabei, Arcana, Roma, 2007, p. 175

Pubblicità

„Treat bad men exactly as if they were insane.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: I do not know in what shape the practical question may present itself to you; but I will tell you my rule in life, and I think you will find it a good one. Treat bad men exactly as if they were insane. They are in-sane, out of health, morally. Reason, which is food to sound minds, is not tolerated, still less assimilated, unless administered with the greatest caution; perhaps, not at all. Avoid collision with them, so far as you honorably can; keep your temper, if you can,—for one angry man is as good as another; restrain them from violence, promptly, completely, and with the least possible injury, just as in the case of maniacs,—and when you have got rid of them, or got them tied hand and foot so that they can do no mischief, sit down and contemplate them charitably...

„A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: Poets are never young, in one sense. Their delicate ear hears the far-off whispers of eternity, which coarser souls must travel towards for scores of years before their dull sense is touched by them. A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience. Ch. X.

„A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times. It has come to you over a new route, by a new and express train of associations.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: He must be a poor creature that does not often repeat himself. Imagine the author of the excellent piece of advice, "Know thyself," never alluding to that sentiment again during the course of a protracted existence! Why, the truths a man carries about with him are his tools; and do you think a carpenter is bound to use the same plane but once to smooth a knotty board with, or to hang up his hammer after it has driven its first nail? I shall never repeat a conversation, but an idea often. I shall use the same types when I like, but not commonly the same stereotypes. A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times. It has come to you over a new route, by a new and express train of associations.

„We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were early implanted in his imagination; no matter how utterly his reason may reject them, he will still feel as the famous woman did about ghosts, Je n'y crois pas, mais je les crains,—"I don't believe in them, but I am afraid of them, nevertheless".

„Death only grasps; to live is to pursue, —
Dream on! there 's nothing but illusion true!“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: Dream on! Though Heaven may woo our open eyes, Through their closed lids we look on fairer skies; Truth is for other worlds, and hope for this; The cheating future lends the present's bliss; Life is a running shade, with fettered hands, That chases phantoms over shifting sands; Death a still spectre on a marble seat, With ever clutching palms and shackled feet; The airy shapes that mock life's slender chain, The flying joys he strives to clasp in vain, Death only grasps; to live is to pursue, — Dream on! there 's nothing but illusion true! "The Old Player" (1861), in Songs in Many Keys (1862).

„It will take you a hundred or two more years to get decently humanized, after so many centuries of de-humanizing celibacy.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: You inherit your notions from a set of priests that had no wives and no children, or none to speak of, and so let their humanity die out of them. It didn't seem much to them to condemn a few thousand millions of people to purgatory or worse for a mistake of judgment. They didn't know what it was to have a child look up in their faces and say 'Father!' It will take you a hundred or two more years to get decently humanized, after so many centuries of de-humanizing celibacy.

Pubblicità

„If a man has a genuine, sincere, hearty wish to get rid of his liberty, if he is really bent upon becoming a slave, nothing can stop him.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: If a man has a genuine, sincere, hearty wish to get rid of his liberty, if he is really bent upon becoming a slave, nothing can stop him. And the temptation is to some natures a very great one. Liberty is often a heavy burden on a man. It involves that necessity for perpetual choice which is the kind of labor men have always dreaded. In common life we shirk it by forming habits, which take the place of self-determination. In politics party-organization saves us the pains of much thinking before deciding how to cast our vote.

„Call him not old whose visionary brain
Holds o’er the post its undivided reign“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: Call him not old whose visionary brain Holds o’er the post its undivided reign, For him in vain the envious seasons roll, Who bears eternal summer in this soul. "The Old Player" (1861), in Songs in Many Keys (1862).

„Lord of all being, thronèd afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Center and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: Lord of all being, thronèd afar, Thy glory flames from sun and star; Center and soul of every sphere, Yet to each loving heart how near! Sun of our life, Thy quickening ray, Sheds on our path the glow of day; Star of our hope, Thy softened light Cheers the long watches of the night. "Lord Of All Being" (1848).

„The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men, — from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men, — from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms. It is in their hearts that the "sentimental" religion some people are so fond of sneering at has its source. The sentiment of love, the sentiment of maternity, the sentiment of the paramount obligation of the parent to the child as having called it into existence, enhanced just in proportion to the power and knowledge of the one and the weakness and ignorance of the other, — these are the "sentiments" that have kept our soulless systems from driving men off to die in holes like those that riddle the sides of the hill opposite the Monastery of St. Saba, where the miserable victims of a falsely-interpreted religion starved and withered in their delusion. Ch. V.

Pubblicità

„You can never be too cautious in your prognosis, in the view of the great uncertainty of the course of any disease not long watched, and the many unexpected turns it may take.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: You can never be too cautious in your prognosis, in the view of the great uncertainty of the course of any disease not long watched, and the many unexpected turns it may take. I think I am not the first to utter the following caution : — Beware how you take away hope from any human being. Nothing is clearer than that the merciful Creator intends to blind most people as they pass down into the dark valley. Without very good reasons, temporal or spiritual, we should not interfere with his kind arrangements. It is the height of cruelty and the extreme of impertinence to tell your patient he must die, except you are sure that he wishes to know it, or that there is some particular cause for his knowing it. I should be especially unwilling to tell a child that it could not recover; if the theologians think it necessary, let them take the responsibility. God leads it by the hand to the edge of the precipice in happy unconsciousness, and I would not open its eyes to what he wisely conceals. Valedictory Address to medical graduates at Harvard University (10 March 1858), published in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal Vol. LVIII, No. 8 (25 March 1858), p. 158; this has also been paraphrased "Beware how you take away hope from another human being".

„Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked. Good mental machinery ought to break its own wheels and levers, if anything is thrust among them suddenly which tends to stop them or reverse their motion. A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves a man from going mad.

„Beware how you take away hope from any human being.“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: You can never be too cautious in your prognosis, in the view of the great uncertainty of the course of any disease not long watched, and the many unexpected turns it may take. I think I am not the first to utter the following caution : — Beware how you take away hope from any human being. Nothing is clearer than that the merciful Creator intends to blind most people as they pass down into the dark valley. Without very good reasons, temporal or spiritual, we should not interfere with his kind arrangements. It is the height of cruelty and the extreme of impertinence to tell your patient he must die, except you are sure that he wishes to know it, or that there is some particular cause for his knowing it. I should be especially unwilling to tell a child that it could not recover; if the theologians think it necessary, let them take the responsibility. God leads it by the hand to the edge of the precipice in happy unconsciousness, and I would not open its eyes to what he wisely conceals. Valedictory Address to medical graduates at Harvard University (10 March 1858), published in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal Vol. LVIII, No. 8 (25 March 1858), p. 158; this has also been paraphrased "Beware how you take away hope from another human being".

„It is by little things that we know ourselves“

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes
Context: It is by little things that we know ourselves; a soul would very probably mistake itself for another, when once disembodied, were it not for individual experiences which differ from those of others only in details seemingly trifling.

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