This is a compilation I, um, compiled of some quotes on time, when I was thinking about what exactly time was, and how one could poetically define it. Thus, this. Enjoy. If you like it, comment or click the like button. Have a blessed day.


What is time? Trying to come up with a straightforward definition for it is like trying to grab oil. According to Merriam-Webster (something of an expert on the subject of definitions), time is “a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future.” Now, that’s a little ridiculous (and verbose). No one wants to say time is a nonspatial continuum, because although that is true, and fascinating, it is also a tad too mundane and logical. Time is much more than just a non-tangible concept of a numberline of history.

While I was considering a satisfactory definition of time, I searched out what others had to say about it. Getting differing opinions is always a good idea, because other people often have interesting insights to make your life more productive, pleasant, or at least interesting.

Bruce Lee put it simply by stating time is what life is made up of. Well, duh. Can we get a little deeper than that? William Penn said that “time is what we want most.” Also true, but that admission kind of leaves us stranded and pessimistic, don’t you think?

Theophrastus (whoever he is) tells us that time is the most valuable thing a man can spend. Now we’re getting more quotable. Jim Rohn (whoever he is) followed this line of thinking and pronounced, “Time is more valuable than money,” while Brian Tracy simply states “Time is your greatest resource.” Okay, great! The most valuable thing we can spend is… more valuable than money, and is our greatest resource. Got it. Harvey Mackay got a little wordplay in on this same “time is valuable” thing and wrote, “Time is free, but priceless.” Clever, but not super helpful.

Carl Sandburg also went with the “monetary” theme and said that time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. There’s a thought that is practical and hopeful. We are in control of our time; we can’t find it, we have to make it.

Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey agreed that time has a connection to material gain, but she had a somewhat darker outlook on the relationship. “Time is a cruel thief to rob us of our former selves,” she said.

Time is also apparently a schoolmaster. Pericles said it simply: “Time is the wisest counselor of all,” and Plutarch was similar in stating “Time is the wisest of all counselors.” (Plagiarism, anyone?) Well, Time’s been around for a while, so I guess he’s seen a lot, and these statements are technically true. Aeschylus, more poetically, wrote, “Time as he ages teaches many lessons.” This implies a more personal relationship, like time is relative to the life of every person. As we get older, we learn more (hopefully). As civilization ages, it progresses (hopefully). Hector Berlioz agrees that time is a teacher, but he adds facetiously, “unfortunately it kills all its pupils.”

Delmore Schwartz likes the teaching idea. He said time is “the school in which we learn; time is the fire in which we burn.” Well, okay, then. I mean, I guess in a sense we all burn out, and time is what measures how long we take.

Leo Tolstoy (and we all know how much he liked time – you ever see how long some of his novels are?) taught that time is one of the two most powerful warriors. The other was patience, and I think they kind of go hand-in-hand. If you have time, and you have patience, you can gain and win a lot.

Although, R. C. Sproul warns that time is “the great leveler,” meaning eventually that we’ll all break even with each other. So maybe too much time is to be avoided if you want to cut your losses? I dunno, I’m not a time-economist.

Simply put, time is eternity begun, as James Montgomery said. Albert Einstein declared “Time is an illusion.” (Talk about blanket statements). Fyodor Tyutchev once wrote to time, asking it to be still, but also seemed rather hopeless about the chances of his request being answered. Time doesn’t stop for us, obviously, and there’s another definition: Time is never still for a moment. Wow, helpful.

But again, all these maxims and tangible definitions for time aren’t quite enough. Time can’t truly be measured, divided, stored, burnt, trained, or forced to teach us. Time is more elusive and poetic than that, so what do the poets say about it?

Henry van Dyke summed it up like a pop song when he wrote, “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” Henry David Thoreau put it beautifully when he mused, “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” A pleasant thought, but not one I’m sure I fully understand.

Paracelsus said time is a brisk wind, “for each hour it brings something new.” Again, a nice quote to embroider on a pillow: time is a wind. Okay… Heraclitus was perhaps the most vague, and said sanguinely, “Time is a game played beautifully by children.” I won’t even try to decipher that one.

Fyodor Tyutchev tried again to be more poetic, and wrote that time sighs in prophetic farewell – a chilling thought, like time is clairvoyant, and yet still cares to say goodbye. Alexander Pushkin was straightforward with his metaphors and said time is the coachman who drives the troika of life, and “goads the horses on.” A simple simile, and one that we can easily relate to and agree with. Mikhail Lermontov declared that time wasn’t the coachman, but a horse, that ran “unbridled and lone,” while he was a captive, presumably stuck forever on his steed. A terrifying ride, perhaps, for both men barreling down the road with time in control.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had a lot to say on the subject, and his thoughts are possibly the most relatable and pleasant. Simply, he said time is fleeting (although art is long, and our hearts are stout and brave), which I’m sure we can all agree on. He also wrote about time being a corridor; a hallway that resounds with the footsteps of great men. Also true – what we do in life echoes in eternity, and famous men are long-remembered (that’s why they’re famous). But my favourite thought on time is what Longfellow says of its end: he writes that time, along with parting, pain, care, and death, shall disappear forever, and clocks are timepieces of eternity to remind us of that fact.

So, that’s what people have to say on the subject. Time is a subject that applies to every man, and yet one that isn’t sufficiently studied – it’s fascinating, and yet rather pointless to ponder. In this way, time is one of the most poetic things I can think of, and no single description of it is the whole story. Maybe Einstein was right, though, and time is an illusion – a concept created by man’s mind to describe the when. Because time isn’t really a force, but more of a measuring stick. Time itself does nothing – we use it, and it is under our power. With that in mind, then, I shall stop wasting my time writing this crazily-long and nonsensical essay and go take a nap.

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