I just recently heard about the passing of Mrs. (Robinson) McCullough, this past January, and decided to read her novel The Thorn Birds again. The first and only time I read this book was back in 1984, after having watched the TV mini-series, and I remember how much I enjoyed reading about that age-old problem of not being able to possess that which you truly desire. I have also read her Masters of Rome series which gave me a keener insight into Roman politics in the time of the Caesars.
There are some great quotes in this novel that I have come to understand and better appreciate at this point in my life… what a great read!
My ten favorite quotes from The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, (1977) are as follows:
Quotes cited from “The Thorn Birds” follow this format: (Chapter.Page Number.Paragraph)
1. “There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain… or so says the legend.” (Prologue) ∼ Colleen McCullough
Comment: After doing some research on this legend, this passage from The Thorn Birds is just that… a legend. However, it is a great analogy to some of the most distinguished and noteworthy individuals who have lived upon this earth and the contributions “they” have made to our civilizations, societies, and cultures.
2. “There are no ambitions noble enough to justify breaking someone’s heart.” ∼ Colleen McCullough
Comment: Let me add to ambitions; goals, objectives, lessons, agendas, ends, or revenge, etc.
3. “There was some justice in his pain.” ∼ Colleen McCullough (13.333.2)
Comment: There was a point in life that I took delight in this sentiment… that of seeing someone who “gets” what they deserve to get it when they have it coming. However, I have come to the realization that in the end, we will all “get” what we have coming and will deserve it.
4. “Each of us has something within us which won’t be denied, even if it makes us scream aloud to die. We are what we are, that’s all. Like the old Celtic legend of the bird with the thorn in its breast, singing its heart out and dying. Because it has to, its self-knowledge can’t affect or change the outcome, can it? Everyone singing his own little song, convinced it’s the most wonderful song the world has ever heard. Don’t you see? We create our own thorns, and never stop to count the cost. All we can do is suffer the pain, and tell ourselves it was well worth it…” ∼ Meggie (16.413.1)
Comment: As I look back on my life, I cannot count the number of foolish things I have done… because “they” were in my nature. I did suffer pain and remorse for many of my antics but always excused those actions with the thought that I have learned from those experiences and so “they” were worth it.
5. “Belief doesn’t rest on proof or existence… it rests on faith… without faith there is nothing.” ∼ Father Ralph Bricassart (7.145.7)
Comment: I would add to faith; hope, love, compassion, and forgiveness to that statement, “Without faith, hope, love, compassion, and forgiveness there is nothing.”
6. “The bird with the thorn in its breast, it follows an immutable law; it is driven by it knows not what to impale itself, and dies singing. At the very instant the thorn enters there is no awareness in it of the dying to come; it simply sings and sings until there is not the life left to utter another note. But we, when we put the thorns in our breasts, we know. We understand. And still we do it. Still we do it.” ∼ Colleen McCullough (19.560.3)
Comment: This is an altruistic and veridical principle and is what separates mankind from the animals.
7. “It’s not worth getting upset about, Mrs. Dominic. Down in the city they don’t know how the other half lives, and they can afford the luxury of doting on their animals as if they were children. Out here it’s different. You’ll never see man, woman or child in need of help go ignored out here, yet in the city those same people who dote on their pets will completely ignore a cry of help from a human being.” ∼ Paddy (9.199.1)
Comment: Don’t get me started on PETA.
Echo of Death
8. “What was sleep? A blessing, a respite from life, an echo of death, a demanding nuisance?” ∼ Meggie (13.333.1)
Comment: These two questions “echo” my sentiments concerning sleep and one of the main challenges of my life; dealing with my sleeping habits.
Love vs. Hate
9. “You still think love can save us. It’s more killing than hate. Hate is so clean, so simple. Like being in the ring. With hate, you just keep hitting. You hit until they stop hitting back. With love… they never stop.” ∼ Colleen McCullough
Comment: Hate is easy… love is hard! Why do you think true love (true love defined as desiring the happiness, health, and well-being of someone else in equal or even greater measure than for oneself and being willing to sacrifice one’s happiness, time, money, and comfort to bring this about without any expectations of getting something in return… even a “Thank You”) is so rare and difficult to come by or keep? Because it takes a concerted effort, lots of practice, and involves much pain and rejection in exercising it, and a little bit of providence.
10. “And gradually his memory slipped a little, as memories do, even those with so much love attached to them; as if there is an unconscious healing process within the mind which mends up in spite of our desperate determination never to forget.” ∼ Colleen McCullough (6.111.4)
Comment: I’ve experienced this loss of treasured memories and hence this journal.
Images – Post image: “Northern Red Bishop Weaver – or ’Orange” by w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Quotes – McCullough, C. (1977). The Thorn Birds. New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.