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Moving On

June 2024
1min read

Thoughts on Travel From Jefferson to the Grateful Dead

In 1997 Penguin Books published the American Heritage Dictionary of American Quotations . Assembled by Margaret Miner and Hugh Rawson (who writes our “Why Do We Say …?” column), it immediately proved an invaluable resource to the editors here and, when not being consulted in the line of duty, a great pleasure just to read around in. Now the dictionary is back in a revised and enlarged edition, having shed our banner in favor of Oxford’s, alas, but nonetheless as stimulating and engrossing a reference book as you are likely to find. Here, to mark our current issue, are some of the entries under “Travel” from The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations .

[Traveling] makes men wise but less happy.

—Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 1787

No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby—so helpless and so ridiculous.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal, 1833

I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.

—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, 1851

Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl; it is the imagination of the traveler that does.

—Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods, 1864

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road,” in Leaves of Grass , 1855.

In our time the poet Louis Simpson asked:
Where are you, Walt? / The Open Road goes to the used-car lot.

—“Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain Bridge,” 1963

I can wish the traveller no better fortune than to stroll forth in the early evening with as large a reserve of ignorance as my own.

—Henry James, “A Summer in Europe,” published in The Nation , 1872

To forget pain is to be painless; to forget care is to be rid of it; to go abroad is to accomplish both.

—Mark Twain, letter to Dr. John Brown, 1876

I have discovered that most of the beauties of travel are due to the strange hours we keep to see them.

—William Carlos Williams, “January Morning: ‘Suite,’” in Al Que Quiere! , 1917

My heart is warm with friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.

—Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Travel,” in Second April , 1921

Winter is coming and tourists will soon be looking for a place to mate.

—Will Rogers, “Daily Telegram,” October 27, 1932.

Tourists bothered Rogers. He wrote to President Calvin Coolidge from Europe in 1926: “We, unfortunately, don’t make a good impression collectively. . . . There ought to be a law prohibiting over three Americans going anywhere abroad together.”

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

—T. S. Eliot, Four Quarters: Little Gidding , 1940

I rather expect that from now on I shall be travelling north until the end of my days.

—E. B. White, Stuart Little , 1945

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

—The Grateful Dead, “Truckin’,” words by Robert Hunter, first performed August 18, 1970

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