The 50 most moving lines in literature

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Nicola Rachel Colyer
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Our most treasured books are a place of solace in times of need, a calm oasis when life gets rough, or a world in which we can sail away on elated spirits as our favourite authors and poets take us deep into the lives of our literary friends. 

Whether we need to laugh or cry, nothing beats curling up with a cup of tea and whiling away an afternoon swept up in a beautiful love story or a heart-breaking tragedy.

From Homer to Hemingway, grab a tissue and read on for our round-up of the most beautiful examples of the written word:

  • Beeny Cliff

    By Thomas Hardy

    "What if still in chasmal beauty looms that wild weird western shore,
    The woman now is - elsewhere - whom the ambling pony bore, 
    And nor knows nor cares for Beeny, and will laugh there nevermore."

  • The Fault in Our Stars

    By John Green

    "There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful."

  • The Little Mermaid

    By Hans Christian Andersen

    “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.” 

  • A Moveable Feast

    By Ernest Hemingway

    “You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.” 

  • King Lear

    By William Shakespeare

    "Howl, howl, howl, howl! O! you are men of stones:
    Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
    That heaven's vaults should crack. She's gone for ever!"

  • Jane Eyre

    By Charlotte Brontë

    "...I have for the first time found what I can truly love — I have found you. You are my sympathy — my better self — my good angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring of life, wraps my existence about you — and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one."

  • Funeral Blues

    By W. H. Auden

    “He was my North, my South, my East and West,
    My working week and my Sunday rest,
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.”

  • The Odyssey

    By Homer

    "Now from his breast into his eyes the ache of longing mounted, and he wept at last, his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms, longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer spent in rough water where his ship went down under Poseidon’s blows, gale winds and tons of sea. Few men can keep alive through a big surf to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind: and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband, her white arms round him pressed as though forever."

  • The History of Love

    By Nicole Krauss

    “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” 

  • The Great Gatsby

    By F. Scott Fitzgerald

    “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning –

    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

  • 1984

    By George Orwell

    “If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.” 

  • East of Eden

    By John Steinbeck

    “When a child first catches adults out ─ when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just ─ his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child's world is never quite whole again.”

  • The Poisonwood Bible

    By Barbara Kingsolver 

    "My little beast, my eyes, my favorite stolen egg. Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.” [sic]

  • Memoirs of a Geisha

    By Arthur Golden

    “He was like a song I'd heard once in fragments but had been singing in my mind ever since.” 

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns

    By Khaled Hosseini

    “She remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how people like us suffer, she’d said. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.” 


  • Wuthering Heights

    By Emily Brontë

    "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.” 

  • The House at Pooh Corner

    By A. A. Milne

    “Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 
    "Pooh!" he whispered.
    "Yes, Piglet?"
    "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you.” 

  • Atlas Shrugged

    By Ayn Rand

    “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.”

  • And Still I Rise

    By Maya Angelou

    "Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise
    I rise
    I rise.” 

  • Persuasion

    By Jane Austen

    “I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.”

  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

    By Jonathan Safran Foer

    “...sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.”

  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    By J. K. Rowling

    “It's going to be all right, sir," Harry said over and over again, more worried by Dumbledore's silence than he had been by his weakened voice. "We're nearly there ... I can Apparate us both back ... don't worry ..."
    "I am not worried, Harry," said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. "I am with you.” 


  • Macbeth

    By William Shakespeare

    "Out, out, brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing."

  • One Day

    By David Nicholls

    “These days grief seems like walking on a frozen river; most of the time he feels safe enough, but there is always that danger that he will plunge through.” 

  • Untitled

    By E. E. Cummings

    “yours is the light by which my spirit's born: 
    yours is the darkness of my soul's return 
    -you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars”

  • P.S. I Love You

    By Cecelia Ahern

    “Finding someone you love and who loves you back is a wonderful, wonderful feeling. But finding a true soul mate is an even better feeling. A soul mate is someone who understands you like no other, loves you like no other, will be there for you for ever, no matter what. They say that nothing lasts forever, but I am a firm believer in the fact that for some, love lives on even after we're gone.” 

  • The Bell Jar

    By Sylvia Plath

    "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart; I am, I am, I am."

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    By Lewis Carroll

    "I could tell you my adventures — beginning from this morning,' said Alice a little timidly; 'but it's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then."

  • A Farewell to Arms

    By Ernest Hemingway

    “If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” 

  • After Great Pain a Formal Feeling Comes

    By Emily Dickinson

    "This is the Hour of Lead –
    Remembered, if outlived,
    As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
    First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –"

  • Camino Real

    By Tennessee Williams

    “When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.” 

  • The Four Loves

    By C. S. Lewis

    “Friendship, I have said, is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ."

  • Pride and Prejudice

    By Jane Austen

    “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” 

  • The Diary of a Young Girl

    By Anne Frank

    "It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."

  • Wild Swans

    By Jung Chang

    “When he asked my grandmother if she would mind being poor, she said she would be happy just to have her daughter and himself: 'If you have love, even plain cold water is sweet.” 

  • When You Are Old

    By W. B. Yeats

    "And bending down beside the glowing bars,
    Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
    And paced upon the mountains overhead
    And hid his face amid a crowd of stars."

  • The Twits

    By Roald Dahl

    “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” 

  • The Time Keeper

    By Mitch Albom

    "Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralysing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” 

  • A prayer for Owen Meany

    By John Irving

    "When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time - the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers.”

  • Great Expectations

    By Charles Dickens

    “...when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.”

  • The Notebook

    By Nicholas Sparks

    “The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and will be. Maybe we've lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we've found each other. And maybe each time, we've been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this goodbye is both a goodbye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come.” 

  • Gerontion

    By T. S. Eliot

    "Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
    Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain."

  • Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight

    By Galway Kinnell

    "You scream, waking from a nightmare.

    When I sleepwalk
    into your room, and pick you up,
    and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
    as if clinging could save us. I think
    you think
    I will never die, I think I exude
    to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
    even as
    my broken arms heal themselves around you."

  • The Amber Spyglass

    By Philip Pullman

     “I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again…”

  • Lolita

    By Vladimir Nabokov

    "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

    She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita."

  • The Time Traveler's Wife

    By Audrey Niffenegger

    “Sleep is my lover now, my forgetting, my opiate, my oblivion.” 

  • South of the Border, West of the Sun

    By Haruki Murakami

    "But here she is, all mine, trying her best to give me all she can. How could I ever hurt her?

    But I didn’t understand then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.” 

  • Charlotte's Web

    By E. B. White

    “Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart.”

  • The Goldfinch

    By Donna Tartt

    “A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.” 

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    By Stephen Chbosky

    “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”


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Nicola Rachel Colyer

Nicola Colyer is a freelance writer and ex-corporate girl. A francophile and relapsing sugar-free graduate, she'll often be found seeking out the best places for brunch or struggling to choose between a green juice and a G&T.