Best Quotes About The Past I Wish I Had Read

Are you looking for quotes about the past? If yes, you have come to the right place.

We have compiled a list of quotes about the past for you to read.


Quotes About The Past

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

― George Orwell, 1984


“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” 

― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited


“When we think of the past it’s the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.” 

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale


“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez


“Just remember who you are… The world will try to change you into someone else. Don’t let them. That’s the best advice anyone can give you.”

― Cinda Williams Chima, The Warrior Heir


“The reason a writer writes a book is to forget a book and the reason a reader reads one is to remember it.” 

― Thomas Wolfe


“When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.” 

Stephen King


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“I may not always be with you. But when we’re far apart Remember you will be with me Right inside my heart.”

― Marc Wambolt, Poems from the Heart


“I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I’m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”

― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited


“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

― Søren Kierkegaard


“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.”

― Cormac McCarthy


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“It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.” 

Edgar Allan Poe


“No people whose word for ‘yesterday’ is the same as their word for ‘tomorrow’ can be said to have a firm grip on the time.”

Salman Rushdie


Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events.

Adrienne Rich (1929-, American Poet)


The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955, German-born American Physicist)


The past does not equal the future.

Anthony Robbins (1960-, American Author, Speaker, Peak Performance Expert / Consultant)


It is not the literal past, the “facts” of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language.

Brian Friel (1929-, Irish Playwright, Author)


Many are always praising the by-gone time, for it is natural that the old should extol the days of their youth; the weak, the time of their strength; the sick, the season of their vigor; and the disappointed, the spring-tide of their hopes.

Caleb Bingham (1811-1879, American Painter)


I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes, so live not in your yesterdays, no just for tomorrow, but in the here and now. Keep moving and forget the post mortems; and remember, no one can get the jump on the future.

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967, American Poet)


To look back to antiquity is one thing, to go back to it is another.

Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832, British Sportsman Writer)


To design the future effectively, you must first let go of your past.

Charles J. Givens (American Businessman, Author, Trainer)


Those who do remember it will find new ways to screw it up.

Charles Wolfe


It’s linkage I’m talking about, and harmonies and structures, And all the various things that lock our wrists to the past.

Charles Wright


I cannot sing the old songs, Or dream those dreams again,

Charlotte Barnard


Study the past if you would divine the future.

Confucius (551-479 BC, Chinese Ethical Teacher, Philosopher)


All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put the past together again. So let’s remember: Don’t try to saw sawdust.

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955, American Author, Trainer)


The past is at least secure.

Daniel Webster (1782-1852, American Lawyer, Statesman)


Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present toward the future.

Denis Waitley (1933-, American Author, Speaker, Trainer, Peak Performance Expert)


The free world must not prove itself worthy of its own past.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969, Thirty-fourth President of the USA)


The function of posterity is to look after itself.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953, Welsh Poet)


The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet.

Edward Thomas


Yesterday is a canceled check: Forget it. Tomorrow is a promissory note: Don’t count on it. Today is ready cash: Use it!

Edwin C. Bliss (American Author)


We do NOT know the past in chronological sequence. It may be convenient to lay it out anesthetized on the table with dates pasted on here and there, but what we know we know by ripples and spirals eddying out from us and from our own time.

Ezra Pound (1885-1972, American Poet, Critic)


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The past always looks better than it was because it isn’t here.

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936, American Journalist, Humorist)


Antiquities are history defaced, or some remnants of history which have casually escaped the shipwreck of time.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626, British Philosopher, Essayist, Statesman)


Every man is his own ancestor, and every man his own heir. He devises his own fortune, and he inherits his own past.

Francis Herbert Hedge (1846-1924, British Philosopher)


The past but lives in written words: a thousand ages were blank if books had not evoked their ghosts, and kept the pale unbodied shades to warn us from fleshless lips.

François Fénelon (1651-1715, French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer)


We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895, American Abolitionist, Journalist)


The historian looks backward. In the end he also believes backward.



There is nothing new, but what has become antiquated.

French Proverb


Man… cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900, German Philosopher)


Because men really respect only that which was founded of old and has developed slowly, he who wants to live on after his death must take care not only of his posterity but even more of his past.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900, German Philosopher)


One must always maintain one’s connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it. To remain in touch with the past requires a love of memory. To remain in touch with the past requires a constant imaginative effort.

Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962, French Scientist, Philosopher, Literary Theorist)


Nothing is improbable until it moves into past tense.

George Ade (1866-1944, American Humorist, Playwright)


With memory set smarting like a reopened wound, a man’s past is not simply a dead history, an outworn preparation of the present: it is not a repented error shaken loose from the life: it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing shudders and bitter flavors and the tinglings of a merited shame.

George Eliot (1819-1880, British Novelist)


Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell (1903-1950, British Author, “Animal Farm”)


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana (1863-1952, American Philosopher, Poet)


It is not the literal past that rules us, save, possibly, in a biological sense. It is images of the past. Each new historical era mirrors itself in the picture and active mythology of its past or of a past borrowed from other cultures. It tests its sense of identity, of regress or new achievement against that past.

George Steiner (1929-, French-born American Critic, Novelist)


Nostalgia is a seductive liar.

George W. Ball (1909-1991, American Politician)


As lousy as things are now, tomorrow they will be somebody’s good old days.

Gerald Barzan


Nothing changes more constantly than the past; for the past that influences our lives does not consist of what actually happened, but of what men believe happened.

Gerald W. Johnson (1890-1980, American Author)


Nothing is as new as something which as been long forgotten.

German Proverb


The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.

Henri L. Bergson (1859-1941, French Philosopher)


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Clogged with yesterday’s excess, the body drags the mind down with it.

Horace (65-8 BC, Italian Poet)


The past should be a springboard, not a hammock.

Ivern Ball


We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.

Joan Didion (1934-, American Essayist)


There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the Best as the past withdraws.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832, German Poet, Dramatist, Novelist)


Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity.

John Adams (1735-1826, Second President of the USA)


The past grows gradually around one, like a placenta for dying.

John Berger (1926-, British Actor, Critic)


We live in a world where amnesia is the most wished-for state. When did history become a bad word?

John Guare (1938-, American Playwright)


The past, though it cannot be relived, can always be repaired.

John La Farge


They spend their time looking forward to the past.

John Osborne (1929-, British Playwright)


The people who get into trouble in our company are those who carry around the anchor of the past.

John Welch (1935-, American Businessman, Chairman of General Electric)


If you’re still hanging onto a dead dream of yesterday, laying flowers on its grave by the hour, you cannot be planting the seeds for a new dream to grow today.

Joyce Chapman (American Author)


It is one thing to learn about the past; it is another to wallow in it.

Kenneth Auchincloss


If you are carrying strong feelings about something that happened in your past, they may hinder your ability to live in the present.

Les Brown (1945-, American Speaker, Author, Trainer, Motivator Lecturer)


The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

Leslie P. Hartley (1895-1972, British Author)


The moments of the past do not remain still; they retain in our memory the motion which drew them towards the future, towards a future which has itself become the past, and draw us on in their train.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922, French Novelist)


To be able to look back upon one’s past life with satisfaction is to live twice.

Marcus Valerius Martial (40-104, Latin poet and epigrammatist)


If you’re going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now.

Marie Osmond


The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968, American Black Leader, Nobel Prize Winner, 1964)


Mr. Meant-to has a friend, his name is Didn’t-Do. Have you met them? They live together in a house called Never-Win. And I am told that it is haunted by the Ghost of Might-have-Been.

Marva Collins (African-American educator)


The past is only the present become invisible and mute; and because it is invisible and mute, its memorized glances and its murmurs are infinitely precious. We are tomorrow’s past.

Mary Webb (1881-1927, British Novelist)


In the maxim of the past you cannot go anywhere.

Maxim Gorky (1868-1936, Russian Novelist)


One’s past is what one is. It is the only way by which people should be judged.

Oscar Wilde (1856-1900, British Author, Wit)


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The good of other times let people state; I think it lucky I was born so late.

Ovid (43 BC-18 AD, Roman Poet)


May you look back on the past with as much pleasure as you look forward to the future.

Paul Dickson


There is a way to look at the past. Don’t hide from it. It will not catch you — if you don’t repeat it.

Pearl Bailey (1918-1990, American Vocalist, Movie and Stage Actress)


The next day is never so good as the day before.

Publilius Syrus (1st Century BC, Roman Writer)


Posterity will pay everyone their due.

Publius Cornelius Tacitus (55-117 AD, Roman Historian)


You must never regret what might have been. The past that did not happen is as hidden from us as the future we cannot see.

Richard Martin Stern


Always look at what you have left. Never look at what you have lost.

Robert H. Schuller (1926-, American Minister (Crystal Cathedral), Author, Social Leader)


If the only new thing we have to offer is an improved version of the past, then today can only be inferior to yesterday. Hypnotized by images of the past, we risk losing all capacity for creative change.

Robert Hewison (1943-, British Cultural Historian)


Look to the past for guidance into the future.

Robert Jacob Goodkin


While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.

Ronald Reagan (1911-, Fortieth President of the USA, Actor)


If the past cannot teach the present and the father cannot teach the son, then history need not have bothered to go on, and the world has wasted a great deal of time.

Russell Hoban (1925-, American Author)


Living in the past has one thing going for it; it’s cheaper!



I love my past, I love my present. I am not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I no longer have it.

Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954, French Author)


Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Simone Signoret (1921-, French Film Actor)


The destruction of the past is perhaps the greatest of all crimes.

Simone Weil (1910-1943, French Philosopher, Mystic)


A safe but sometimes chilly way of recalling the past is to force open a crammed drawer. If you are searching for anything in particular you don’t find it, but something falls out at the back that is often more interesting.

Sir James M. Barrie (1860-1937, British Playwright)


Fearfulness, contrary to all other vices, maketh a man think the better of another, the worse of himself.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586, British Author, Courtier)


Who so desireth to know what will be hereafter, let him think of what is past, for the world hath ever been in a circular revolution; whatsoever is now, was heretofore; and things past or present, are no other than such as shall be again: Redit orbis in orbem9.

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618, British Courtier, Navigator, Writer)


Look back, and smile at perils past.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832, British Novelist, Poet)


I never look back, I look forward.

Steffi Graf (Born 1969, German Tennis Player)


The past itself, as historical change continues to accelerate, has become the most surreal of subjects –making it possible… to see a new beauty in what is vanishing.

Susan Sontag (1933-, American Essayist)


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Only by acceptance of the past, can you alter it.

S. Eliot (1888-1965, American-born British Poet, Critic)


The past is all holy to us; the dead are all holy; even they that were wicked when alive.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881, Scottish Philosopher, Author)


Don’t brood on the past, but don’t forget it either.

Thomas H. Raddal


Your past is important, but it is not nearly as important to your present as the way you see your future.

Tony Campolo (American Sociologist, Theologian)


The Past — the dark unfathomed retrospect! The teeming gulf –the sleepers and the shadows! The past! the infinite greatness of the past! For what is the present after all but a growth out of the past?

Walt Whitman (1819-1892, American Poet)


The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.

Walter Benjamin (1982-1940, German Critic, Philosopher)


The investor of today does not profit from yesterday’s growth.

Warren Buffett (1930-, American Investment Entrepreneur)


What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.

William Least Heat Moon


Some are so very studious of learning what was done by the ancients that they know not how to live with the moderns.

William Penn (1644-1718, British Religious Leader, Founder of Pennsylvania)


We have seen better days.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616, British Poet, Playwright, Actor)


Things without remedy, should be without regard; what is done, is done.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616, British Poet, Playwright, Actor)


What is past is prologue.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616, British Poet, Playwright, Actor)


That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind. 

William Wordsworth (1770-1850, British Poet)

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