170 James Joyce Quotes on Love, Life, and Death

These top 170 James Joyce quotes will amaze you with his amazing storytelling and character monologues.

James Joyce read a lot during his college years. It motivated him to pursue the art of writing and experiment with languages. 

His first famous novel was published in 1922 titled, “Ulysses.” It is a book that parallels the Odyssey and tells the day of the three main characters in Dublin, June 16, 1904.

So, if you want to know more about his works and themes, then this collection is perfect for you!

Read the full collection below.

And make sure to check out these Albert Camus quotes.

Best James Joyce Quotes

1. “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.” 

2. “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”

3. “He tried to weigh his soul to see if it was a poet’s soul.”

4. “I wanted real adventure to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home. They must be sought abroad.” 

5. “There is no past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present.” 

6. “His heart danced upon her movements like a cork upon a tide. He heard what her eyes said to him from beneath their cowl and knew that in some dim past—whether in life or revery—he had heard their tale before.”

7. “Your battles inspired me—not the obvious material battles, but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.”

8. “Your mind will give back to you exactly what you put into it.”

9. “To learn, one must be humble. But life is the great teacher.”

10. “The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.”

11. “He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself—for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.”

12. “Love loves to love love.”

13. “Fall if you will, but rise you must.”

14. “Shut your eyes and see.”

15. “Life is too short to read a bad book.”

Famous James Joyce Quotes

16. “I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that, in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, fatherland, or church, and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can. Using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use—silence, exile, and cunning.”

17. “All Moanday, Tearday, Wailsday, Thumpsday, Frightday, Shatterday.”

18. “Shakespeare is the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance.”

19. “And then, I asked him with my eyes to ask again, ‘Yes.’ And then, he asked me, ‘Would I say yes,’ and his heart was going like mad, and yes. I said, ‘Yes.’ I will say ‘Yes.'”

20. “People trample over flowers, yet only to embrace a cactus.”

21. “One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

22. “God spoke to you by so many voices, but you would not hear.”

23. “History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” 

24. “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.”

25. “All fiction is autobiographical fantasy.”

26. “You made me confess the fears that I have. But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone, or to be spurned for another, or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake, and perhaps as long as eternity too.”

27. “The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works.”

28. “She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure, and fixed.”

29. “I care not if I live, but a day and a night, so long as my deeds live after me.”

30. “It is as painful perhaps to be awakened from a vision as to be born.”

James Joyce Quotes on Love

31. “First, we feel. Then we fall.”

32. “First kiss does the trick. The propitious moment. Something inside them goes pop.”

33. “I did not know whether I would ever speak to her, or not, or if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp, and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.”

34. “Men are governed by lines of intellect—women by curves of emotion.”

35. “Love between man and woman is impossible because there must not be sexual intercourse, and friendship between man and woman is impossible because there must be sexual intercourse.”

36. “My words in her mind—cold polished stones sinking through a quagmire.”

37. “They lived, and laughed, and loved, and left.”

38. “Man and woman, love, what is it? A cork and a bottle.”

39. “Love—understood as the desire of good for another—is in fact so unnatural a phenomenon that it can scarcely repeat itself. The soul being unable to become virgin again, and not having energy enough to cast itself out again into the ocean of another’s soul.”

40. “Why is it that words like these seem dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?”

James Joyce Quotes That Tell Us About His Views on Life

41. “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.”

42. “‘This race, and this country, and this life, produced me,’ he said. I shall express myself as I am.”

43. “Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.”

44. “His soul swooned slowly, as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

45. “Gabriel’s warm trembling fingers tapped the cold pane of the window.”

46. “All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light.”

47. “Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand.”

48. “The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.”

49. “The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within, or behind, or beyond, or above, his handiwork—invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.”

50. “There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.”

51. “Ask no questions, and you’ll hear no lies.”

52. “Time is, time was, but time shall be no more.”

53. “He found in the world, without as actual what was in his world within as possible.”

54. “I fear those big words which make us so unhappy.”

55. “No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.”

James Joyce Quotes on Nation and Nature

56. “When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart.”

57. “It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked looking-glass of a servant.”

58. “I was a flower of the mountain. Yes, when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used, or shall I wear a red. Yes, and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall, and I thought well, as well him as another.”

59. “A nation is the same people living in the same place.”

60. “Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.”

61. “When the Irishman is found outside of Ireland in another environment, he very often becomes a respected man. The economic and intellectual conditions that prevail in his own country do not permit the development of individuality. No one who has any self-respect stays in Ireland but flees afar as though from a country that has undergone the visitation of an angered Jove.”

62. “’No God for Ireland,’ he cried. ‘We have had too much God in Ireland. Away with God!’”

63. “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen.”

64. “I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth, it could be reconstructed out of my book.”

65. “Good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub.”

66. “The sea, the snot green sea, the scrotum tightening sea.”

67. “The heaven tree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”

68. “Let my country die for me.”

69. “Ireland sober is Ireland stiff.”

70. “Nations have their ego, just like individuals.”

James Joyce Quotes About Art and Writing

71. “My mouth is full of decayed teeth, and my soul of decayed ambitions.”

72. “The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is, is another question.”

73. “Irresponsibility is part of the pleasure of all art—it is the part the schools cannot recognize.”

74. “Poetry, even when apparently most fantastic, is always a revolt against artifice. A revolt, in a sense, against actuality. It speaks of what seems fantastic and unreal to those who have lost the simple intuitions which are the test of reality, and as it is often found at war with its age, so it makes no account of history, which is fabled by the daughters of memory.”

75. “A writer is a priest of eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life.” 

76. “Welcome, o life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul, the uncreated conscience of my race.”

77. “Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. The English reading public explains the reason why.”

78. “To discover the mode of life, or of art, whereby my spirit could express itself in unfettered freedom.” 

79. “‘We were always loyal to lost causes,’ the professor said. Success for us is the dark of the intellect and of the imagination.”

80. “There’s many a true word spoken in jest.”

Poetic James Joyce Quotes to Appreciate Every Day

81. “Secrets, silent, stony, sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts. Secrets weary of their tyranny. Tyrants willing to be dethroned.”

82. “Moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory.”

83. “You can still die when the sun is shining.”

84. “God made food. The devil cooks.”

85. “The important thing is not what we write, but how we write, and in my opinion, the modern writer must be an adventurer. Above all, willing to take every risk and be prepared to founder in his effort if need be. In other words, we must write dangerously.”

86. “Beware the horns of a bull, the heels of the horse, and the smile of an Englishman.”

87. “Thought is the thought of thought.”

88. “Jesus was a bachelor and never lived with a woman. Surely, living with a woman is one of the most difficult things a man has to do, and he never did it.”

89. “Me and me now.”

90. “He thought that he was sick in his heart if you could be sick in that place.”

91. “He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone, and young, and willful, and wild-hearted. Alone, amid a waste of wild air, and brackish waters, and the sea harvest of shells and tangle, and veiled grey sunlight.”

92. “Her lips touched his brain as they touched his lips, as though they were a vehicle of some vague speech, and between them, he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound, or odor.”

93. “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

94. “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”

95. “A father, Stephen said, battling against hopelessness is a necessary evil.”

Short James Joyce Quotes That Will Make You Feel Deeply

96. “Absence, the highest form of presence.”

97. “Too excited to be genuinely happy.”

98. “My heart is quite calm now. I will go back.”

99. “Have read little and understood less.”

100. “As you are now, so once were we.”

101. “Satan, really, is the romantic youth of Jesus re-appearing for a moment.”

102. “Every bond is a bond to sorrow.”

103. “Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother’s love is not.”

104. “The barometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot.”

105. “Grace before glutton. For what we are, gifs a gross if we are, about to believe.”

106. “Suck it yourself, sugar stick!”

107. “Every jackass going the roads thinks he has ideas.”

108. “A corpse is meat gone bad. Well, and what’s cheese? Corpse of milk.”

109. “If Ireland is to become a new Ireland, she must first become European.”

110. “The men that is now is only all palaver, and what they can get out of you.”

Meaningful James Joyce Quotes to Shower You With Insightful Thoughts

111. “The glow of a late autumn sunset covered the grass plots and walks. It cast a shower of kindly, golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men who drowsed on the benches. It flickered upon all the moving figures—on the children who ran screaming, along the gravel paths, and on everyone who passed through the gardens.”

112. “Gazing up into the darkness, I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity, and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.”

113. “And if he had judged her harshly? If her life were a simple rosary of hours, her life simple and strange as a bird’s life—gay in the morning, restless all day, tired at sundown? Her heart, simple and willful as a bird’s heart?”

114. “What’s in a name? That is what we ask ourselves in childhood when we write the name that we are told is ours.”

115. “The movements which work revolutions in the world are born out of the dreams and visions in a peasant’s heart on the hillside.”

116. “He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances. He had an odd, autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind, from time to time, a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person, and a verb in the past tense.”

117. “His blood began to murmur in his veins, murmuring like a sinful city summoned from its sleep to hear its doom.”

118. “Damn it, I can understand a fellow being hard up, but what I can’t understand is a fellow sponging. Couldn’t he have some spark of manhood about him?”

119. “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that is the only way of ensuring one’s immortality.”

120. “You forget that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the kingdom of heaven is like a woman.”

121. “I think a child should be allowed to take his father’s or mother’s name at will on coming of age. Paternity is a legal fiction.”

122. “Christopher Columbus, as everyone knows, is honored by posterity because he was the last to discover America.”

123. “What did it avail to pray when he knew his soul lusted after its own destruction?”

124. “Drugs age you after mental excitement. Lethargy then, why? Reaction—lifetime in a night, gradually changes your character.”

125. “What incensed him the most was the blatant jokes of the ones that passed it all off as a jest, pretending to understand everything, and in reality not knowing their own minds.”

James Joyce Quotes on Friends and the Beauty of Existence

126. “There’s no friends like the old friends.”

127. “The soul has a slow and dark birth, more mysterious than the birth of the body. When the soul of a man is born in this country, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me, of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”

128. “The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.”

129. “Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.”

130. “When one reads these strange pages of one long gone, one feels that one is at one with one who once.”

131. “I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet, her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.”

132. “I suppose she was pious because no man would look at her.”

133. “While you have a thing, it can be taken from you. But when you give it, you have given it. No robber can take it from you. It is yours then forever when you have given it. It will be yours always. That is to give.”

134. “For the years, he felt had not quenched his soul or hers.”

135. “In the name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!”

136. “The sad, quiet, grey-blue glow of the dying day came through the window, and the open door, covering over and allaying quietly. A sudden instinct of remorse in Stephen’s heart. All that had been denied them had been freely given to him, the eldest—but the quiet glow of evening showed him in their faces no sign of rancor.”

137. “I resent violence or intolerance in any shape or form. It’s a patent absurdity on the face of it to hate people because they live around the corner, or speak another vernacular, so to speak.”

138. “Though their life was modest, they believed in eating well.”

139. “Like the tender fires of stars, moments of their life together that no one knew of, or would ever know of, broke upon and illuminated his memory.”

140. “I have left my book, I have left my room, for I heard you singing through the gloom.”

141. “Let us leave theories there and return to here’s here.”

142. “Lord, heap miseries upon us yet entwine our arts with laughters low.”

143. “In the particular is contained the universal.”

144. “By his monstrous way of life, he seemed to have put himself beyond the limits of reality. Nothing moved him or spoke to him from the real world unless he heard it in an echo of the infuriated cries within him.”

145. “If it is thus, I ask emphatically whence comes this thusness.”

Authentic James Joyce Quotes to Ponder On

146. “Write it, damn you, write it! What else are you good for?”

147. “No one would think he’d make such a beautiful corpse.”

148. “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is my own.”

149. “The intellectual imagination! With me all or not at all. Non serviam!”

150. “Read your own obituary notice. They say you live longer, gives you second wind, new lease of life.”

151. “I am other I now.”

152. “I’ll tickle his catastrophe.”

153. “Be just before you are generous.”

154. “People could put up with being bitten by a wolf, but what properly riled them was a bite from a sheep.”

155. ”Does nobody understand?”

156. “I am proud to be an emotionalist.”

157. “You behold in me, Stephen said, with grim displeasure, a horrible example of free thought.”

158. ”We are an unfortunate priest-ridden race, and always were, and always will be, tell the end of the chapter, a priest-ridden God forsaken race.”

159. “Once upon a time, and a very good time , there was a moocow coming down along the road, and this moocow that was coming down, along the road, met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.”

160. “A way, a lone, a last, a loved, a long, the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s. From swerve of shore, to bend of the bay brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”

More James Joyce Quotes From His Greatest Works

161. “Her antiquity in preceding and surviving succeeding tellurian generations. Her nocturnal predominance, her satellitic dependence, her luminary reflection, her constancy under all her phases, rising, and setting by her appointed times, waxing and waning. The forced invariability of her aspect, her indeterminate response to inaffirmative interrogation, her potency over effluent and refluent waters, her power to enamor, to mortify, to invest with beauty, to render insane, to incite to and aid delinquency, the tranquil inscrutability of her visage, the terribility of her isolated dominant resplendent propinquity, her omens of tempest and of calm, the stimulation of her light, her motion, and her presence. The admonition of her craters, her arid seas, her silence, her splendor, when visible, her attraction, when invisible.”

162. “Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird! There is one lovely word, darling, you have underlined to make me pull myself off better. Write me more about that, and yourself, sweetly, dirtier, dirtier.”

163. “But we are living in a skeptical, and if I may use the phrase, a thought-tormented age, and sometimes I fear that this new generation—educated or hyper educated, as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humor which belonged to an older day.”

164. “It was cold autumn weather, but in spite of the cold, they wandered up and down the roads of the Park for nearly three hours.”

165. “Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and color? Or was it that, being as weak of sight, as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language many-colored and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid, supple, periodic prose?”

166. “Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crust crumbs, fried hen cods’ roes. Most of all, he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

167. “I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women.”

168. “I’d love to have the whole place swimming in roses.”

169. “And you’ll miss me more as the narrowing week’s wing by—someday duly, one day truly, twosday newly, till whensday.”

170. “Redheaded women buck like goats.”

Which of These James Joyce Quotes Helped You Learn More About Yourself?

The culture of social media often hinders us from self-reflection and meaningful reading. Our constant attempts to distract ourselves from our own thoughts give way to shallowness.

James’ writings enlighten us on the importance of introspection. It is what made his works well known and what each one of us needs.

Living with passion and sense of purpose is a life well-lived. After all, our mortality is a call to act upon changing our reality and changing other people.

So, which James Joyce quote is your personal favorite? What other modernist novels do you like? Join the comment section below!

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Karen Danao

Hi, I’m Karen, a content curator and writer for Quote Ambition; I’m also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, I’m someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics I love writing about! However, my true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.

With the many places I’ve been to, I found that love, inspiration, and happiness are some things that bring people together. No matter how different we are on the outside, I’m a true believer that our emotions don’t lie; if you dig deep into our psyche, we’re all the same inside.

This belief was further amplified when I joined Quote Ambition. Through the quotes I’ve read, collected, organized, and written about, I found that humans are resilient, creative, and compassionate.

We take from each others’ hearts and courage, and it’s through our individual experiences that we learn how to rise above our challenges and pain. In so many ways, Quote Ambition is a platform that allows people from all over the world to gain the inspiration they need anytime, anywhere!

You can find me on MuckRack and LinkedIn.