Grooks by Piet Hein


There is
one art,
no more,
no less:
to do
all things
with art-


PROBLEMS Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by hitting back. --- THE ETERNAL TWINS Taking fun as simply fun and earnestness in earnest shows how thoroughly thou none of the two discernest. --- CONSOLATION GROOK Losing one glove is certainly painful, but nothing compared to the pain, of losing one, throwing away the other, and finding the first one again. ---
T. T. T. Put up in a place where it's easy to see the cryptic admonishment T. T. T. When you feel how depressingly slowly you climb, it's well to remember that Things Take Time. --- OMNISCIENCE Knowing what thou knowest not is in a sense omniscience. --- SIMPLY ASSISTING GOD I am a humble artist moulding my earthly clod, adding my labour to nature's, simply assisting God. Not that my effort is needed; yet somehow, I understand, my maker has willed it that I too should have unmoulded clay in my hand. --- HINT AND SUGGESTION Admonitory grook addressed to youth. The human spirit sublimates the impulses it thwarts; a healthy sex life mitigates the lust for other sports. ---
MANKIND Men, said the Devil, are good to their brothers: they donít want to mend their own ways, but each other's. --- NAIVE -- Naive you are if you believe life favours those who aren't naive. --- THE MIRACLE OF SPRING We glibly talk of nature's laws but do thing have a natural cause? Black earth turned into yellow crocus is undiluted hocus-pocus. --- DREAM INTERPRETATION Simplified. Everything's either concave or -vex, so whatever you dream will be something with sex. --- PRAYER to the sun above the clouds. Sun that givest all things birth, shine on everything on earth! If that's too much to demand, shine at least on this our land. If even that's too much for thee, shine at any rate on me. --- CIRCUMSCRIPTURE As Pastor X steps out of bed he slips a neat disguise on: that halo round his priestly head is really his horizon. --- SOCIAL MECHANISM When people always try to take the very smallest piece of cake how can it also always be that that's the one that's left for me? --- A TOAST The soul may be a mere pretence, the mind makes very little sense. So let us value the appeal of that which we can taste and feel. --- ON PROBLEMS Our choicest plans have fallen through, our airiest castles tumbled over, because of lines we neatly drew and later neatly stumbled over. --- AN ETHICAL GROOK I see and I hear and I speak no evil; I carry no malice within my breast; yet quite without wishing a man to the Devil one may be permitted to hope for the best. --- LILAC TIME The lilacs are flowering, sweet and sublime, with a perfume that goes to the head; and lovers meander in prose and rhyme, trying to say -- for the thousandth time -- wha's easier done than said. --- THE DOUBLE-DOOR EFFECT Double doors are justified because they're comfortably wide. Therefore you only half undo'em; and therefore nothing can get through 'em. --- FORETASTE WITH AFTERTASTE Corinna's scanty evening dress reveals her charms to an excess which makes a fellow lust for less. --- MAJORITY RULE His party was the Brotherhood of Brothers, and there were more of them than of the others. That is, they constituted that minority which formed the greater part of the majority. Within the party, he was of the faction that was supported by the greater fraction. And in each group, within each group, he sought the group that could command the most support. The final group had finally elected a triumvirate whom they all respected. Now, of these three, two had final word, because the two could overrule the third. One of these two was relatively weak, so one alone stood at the final peak. He was: THE GREATER NUMBER of the pair which formed the most part of the three that were elected by the most of those whose boast it was to represent the most of the most of most of most of the entire state -- or of the most of it at any rate. He never gave himself a moment's slumber but sought the welfare of the greater number. And all people, everywhere they went, knew to their cost exactly what it meant to be dictated to by the majority. But that meant nothing, -- they were the minority. --- EXPERTS Experts have their expert fun ex cathedra telling one just how nothing can be done. ---
ATOMYRIADES Nature, it seems, is the popular name for milliards and milliards and milliards of particles playing their infinite game of billiards and billiards and billiards. --- ROAD SENSE God save us, now they're murdering another winding road, and another lovely countryside will take another load of pantechnicon and car and motorbike. They're busy making biger roads, and better roads and more, so that people can discover even faster than before that everything is everywhere alike. --- OUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT We must expect posterity to view with some asperity the marvels and the wonders we're passing on to it; but it should change its attitude to one of heartfelt gratitude when thinking of the blunders we didn't quite commit. --- THE TRUE DEFENCE The only defence that is more than pretence is to act on the fact that there is no defence. --- PAST PLUPERFECT The past, -- well, it's just like our Great-Aunt Laura, who cannot or will not perceive that though she is welcome, and though we adore her, yet now it is time to leave. ---
MY FAITH IN DOCTORS My faith in doctors is immense. Just one thing spoils it; their pretence of authorised omniscience. --- DEFENCE WANTED In International Consequences the players must reckon to reap what they've sown. We have a defence against other defences, but what's to defend us against our own? --- GETTING DOWN TO FUNDAMENTALS It will steadily shrink, our earthly abode, until antiode stands upon antipode. Then, soles together, the planet gone, we'll know the ground that we rest upon. --- GROOK TO STIMULATE GRATITUDE in sour rationalists. As things so very often are intelligence won't get you far. So be glad you've got more sense than you've got intelligence. --- MISSING LINK Man's a kind of Missing Link, fondly thinking he can think. --- THE ROAD TO WISDOM The road to wisdom? -- Well, it's plain and simple to express: Err and err and err again but less and less and less. --- THAT IS THE QUESTION Hamlet Anno Domini. Co-existence or no existence. --- BRIDGE OR TUNNEL? Channel project. A tunnel would be possible, a bridge would also do, but wouldn't it be better to amalgamate the two? Let bridge and tunnel undulate in waves from shore to shore, keeping green the memories of those who went before. --- LOSING FACE The noble art of losing face may one day save the human race and turn into eternal merit what weaker minds would call disgrace. --- A PSYCHOLOGICAL TIP Whenever you're called on to make up your mind, and you're hampered by not having any, the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find, is simply by spinning a penny. No -- not so that chance shall decide the affair while you're passively standing there moping; but the moment the penny is up in the air, you suddenly know what you're hoping. --- MORE HASTE -- Inscription for a monument at the crossroads. Here lies, extinguished in his prime, a victim of modernity: but yesterday he hadn't the time -- and now he has eternity. --- A WORD TO THE WISE Let the world pass in its time-ridden race; never get caught in its snare. Remember, the only acceptable case for being in any particular place is having no business there. --- MEETING THE EYE You'll probably find that it suits your book to be a bit cleverer than you look. Observe that the easiest method by far is to look a bit stupider than you are. --- IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN A poet should be of the old-fahioned meaningless brand: obscure, esoteric, symbolic, -- the critics demand it; so if there's a poem of mine that you do understand I'll gladly explain what it means till you don't understand it. --- THE CASE FOR OBSCURITY On Thoughts and Words I. If no thought your mind does visit, make your speech not too explicit. --- LEST FOOLS SHOULD FAIL True wisdom knows it must comprise some nonsense as a compromise, lest fools shouls fail to find it wise. --- GROOK ON LONG-WINDED AUTHORS Long-winded writers I abhor, and glib, prolific chatters; give me the ones who tear and gaw their hair and pens to tatters: who find heir writing such a chore they only write what matters. ---
OUT OF TIME A holiday thought. My old clock used to tell the time and subdivide diurnity; but now it's lost both hands and chime and only tells eternity. ---
AN ODE TO MODESTY Talking of successful rackets modesty deserves a mention. Exclamation marks in brackets never fail to draw attention. --- THE CURE FOR EXHAUSTION Sometimes, exhausted with toil and endeavour, I wish I could sleep for ever and ever; but then this reflection my longing allays: I shall be doing it one of these days. ---
I'D LIKE -- I'd like to know what this whole show is about before it's out. ---
A MAXIM FOR VIKINGS Here is a fact that should help you fight a bit longer: Things that don't act- ually kill you outright make you stronger. --- MAKING SENSE Life makes senses and who could doubt it, if we have no doubt about it. --- A MOMENT'S THOUGHT As eternity is reckoned there's a lifetime in a second. ---
LIVING IS -- Living is a thing you do now or never -- which do you? --- (for Expo 67) We travel where ever mankind reigns and find good men in all the worlds domains and recognize them as a kind of Danes. ---
TAUGHT We are taught to live, we are taught to feel. We are taught to conform and conceal. We are taught so well what we ought to feel that we cannot feel what we feel. ---
THE LITTLE MERMAID'S LITTLE SISTER The Little Mermaid's Little Sister was also partly girl and cod though in a way which those who kissed her found odd. ...but which, well worth to mention, though at first sight absurd, I, with my fond intention, preferred. ---
THE TYRANNY OF THINGS I am trying to rule over ten thousand things which I thought belonged to me. All of a sudden a doubt take wings: Do they... or could it be..? A hardhanded hunch in my mind's ear rings from whence such suspicions may stem: that if you posses more than just eight things then y o u are possessed by t h e m ---
MOTIVATION OF TOASTS FOR A STEADFAST CHARACTER Your steadfast character appeals to frequent toasts, methinks: you never eat except at meals -nor drink 'twixt drinks. ---
LOOK AND THOU SHALT FIND Foes see no worth behind it. Those that are looking for nothing - will find it. --- WHAT ARE YOU? The way to grow grand   is not: to demand In life's every field   you are what you yield. --- THE EGOCENTRICS People are self-centered to a nauseous degree. They will keep on about themselves while I'm explaining me. --- THRIFT Nobody can be lucky all the time; don't think you've been abandoned in your prime, but rather that you're saving up your ration. --- CAPACITY A contribution to the psychology of disappointment Some people live  in a dream of what'll allow them to  live their dream: they solemnly hold out  a half-pint bottle and ask for  a pint of cream. --- THAT WEARY FEELING Do you know that weary feeling  when your mind is strangely strangled and your head is like a ball of wool  that's very, very tangled; and the tempo of your thinking  must be lenient and mild, as though you were explaining  to a very little child. --- ONE'S OWN WEATHER You're squandering  spleen on your brothers, and wasting  good self-pity too, if you think  that there's sun on the others whenever it's raining on you. ---
TWO PASSIVISTS Eradicate the optimist that human values will persist  no matter what we do. Annihilate the pessimist  whose ineffectual cry is that the goal's already missed  however hard we try. --- THE CENTRAL POINT A philosophistry I am the Universe's Centre. No subtle sceptics can confound me; for how can other viewpoints enter, when all the rest is all around me? --- MOUSE AND MAN A relativistic grook on co-existence A human being sharing with a mouse. Each thinks himself the master of the house. In fact, of course, each occupier's place is the other's insulating interspaces. --- THREE FACTS ABOUT TRAFFIC Three facts, quite easy,  should be known to all   would-be arrivers    who set out on wheels: that roads are greasy,  safety margins small,   and fellow drivers    fellow imbeciles. --- VITA BREVIS A lifetime is more than sufficiently long for people to get what there is of it wrong. --- ETERNITY AND THE CLOCK A homage to finity Eternity's one of those mental blocks-  the concept is inconceivable. The clock concedes it in ticks and tocks,  belittled, belaboured, believable. Each passing moment is seized and chewed  with argument incontestable. Premasticated, like baby food,  eternity is digestible. --- ASTRO-GYMNASTICS Do-it-yourself grook Go on a starlit night,  stand on your head, leave your feet dangling  outwards into space, and let the starry  firmament you tread be, for the moment,  your elected base. Feel Earth's colossal weight  of ice and granite, of molten magma,  water, iron, and lead; and briefly hold  this strangely solid planet balanced upon  your strangely solid head. --- TWIN MYSTERY To many people artists seem  undisciplined and lawless. Such laziness, with such great gifts,  seems little short of crime. One mystery is how they make  the things they make so flawless; another, what they're doing with  their energy and time. --- DRAWING NEAR To Saul Steinberg You draw the near things  nearer by making clear things  queerer. --- THOUGHTS AND THINGS I concentrate on  the concentric rings produced by my pen  in the ink. The thing that distinguishes  thoughts from things is that thoughts are harder  to think. --- LAST THINGS FIRST Solutions to problems  are easy to find: the problem's a great  contribution. What's truly an art  is to wring from your mind a problem to fit  a solution. --- ON BEING ONESELF Good resolution grook If virtue can't be mine alone at least my faults can be my own. --- UNPLUMBED DEPTHS Grook on philo-sophistical and other -isms Philo-sophisticism  with hypnotic effect affects  the boobies that abound: being so bottomlessly  idiotic that even they  can see it profound. --- ORIGINALITY Original thought  is a straightforward process. It's easy enough  when you know what to do. You simply combine  in appropriate doses the blatantly false  and the patently true. --- WISDOM IS - Wisdom is the booby prize given when you've been unwise. --- THE OPPOSITE VIEW For many system shoppers it's  a good-for-nothing system that classifies as opposites  stupidity and wisdom. because by logic-choppers it's  accepted with avidity: stupidity's true opposite's  the opposite stupidity. --- WANTING TO BE ABLE TO 'Impossibilities' are good  not to attach that label to; since, correctly understood, if we wanted to, we would  be able to be able to. --- WHO IS LEARNED? A definition One who, consuming midnight oil in studies diligent and slow, teaches himself, with painful toil, the things that other people know. --- EVERYBODY'S WORTH KNOWING It's some sort of comfort  to get the gist of certain impertinents  I could list - so that you know what you  haven't missed. --- GROOK ABOUT FAITH, HOPE, ETC. She gave me hope she gave me love,  with bounty unalloyed. But what she had of faith, alas,  she gave to Freud. --- THE CIVILIZED ART Two types that had far better  leave to their betters the civilized art  of exchanging letters are those who disdain  to make any response, and those who infallibly  answer at once. --- PRESCRIPTION A bit of virtue will never hurt you. --- THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF GASTRONOMY There's a rule for proper doses in the dinner-eaters lore: one should stop the filling process while one still has room for more. And if someone at the table had reminded me before - Hallelujah! I'd be able to absorb a little more. --- HANDSOME IS - Portrait-grook He's gallantry personified;  in fact his brochures ought to read: SATISFACTION GUARANTEED - or your virginity returned  intact. --- IDLE FELLOW Portrait-grook Professsor Blooby doesn't see the fun in what his fellow-man call relaxation. He isn't ignorant of how it's done, but lacks the necessary application. --- A DIPLOMATIC COMPROMISE A fellow I know can get mountains to move and all opposition appeases: he preaches what God cannot help but approve, and does what the Devil he pleases. --- NOVELTY For me there is something ineffably new  in every new moment's arising; and even the things I habitually do  have qualities new and surprising. There's nothing that happens that happened before  in exactly that way in its life. When you're playing the piano, it's rather a bore;  but it's nice when you're kissing your wife. --- REMEDIES' REMEDIES Pills are useful against ills and against too many pills. --- WE DO OUR BEST Or do we? Modern man has the skill; he can do what he will. But alas - being man he will do what he can. --- CHEAP EATERY Whenever I'm scared by the state of my purse  I dine at the 'Gold-Digger's Claim', where the food is so out of comparison worse  you forget that the price is the same. --- SIMILARITY Commutative Law No cow's like a horse, and no horse like a cow. That's one similarity  anyhow. --- THE PARADOX OF LIFE Philosophical grook. A bit beyond perception's reach I sometimes believe I see that Life is two locked boxes, each containing the other's key. --- BUDGETING: THE FIRST LAW If you want to know where your money went, you must spend it quickly before it's spent. --- ON AN ASHTRAY When your thirst and hunger cease, may your ashes rest in peace. --- OH BOTHER! What with one thing  and another  people bother. With a third thing  and a fourth it  isn't worth it. --- TIME Does time exist? I gravely doubt it. But gosh, what should we do without it? --- CANDLE WISDOM If you knew what you will know when your candle has burnt low, it would greatly ease your plight while your candle still burns bright. ---
WHAT LOVE IS LIKE Love is like a pineapple, sweet and undefinable. ---
MEMENTO VIVERE Love while you've got love to give. Live while you've got life to live. ---
TIMING TOAST Grook on how to char for yourself There's an art of knowing when. Never try to guess. Toast until it smokes and then twenty seconds less. ---
THOUGHTS ON A STATION PLATFORM It ought to be plain how little you gain by getting excited and vexed. You'll always be late for the previous train, and always in time for the next ---
ABREAST He who aims to keep abreast is for ever second best. ---
THE FINAL STEP If they made diving boards six inches shorter - think how much sooner you'd be in the water. ---
WHAT PEOPLE MAY THINK Some people cower and wince and shrink, owing to fear of what people may think. There is one answer to worries like these: people may think what the devil they please. ---
GOOD ADVICE Shun advice at any price - that's what I call good advice --- (on Denmark) Denmark seen from a foreign land looks but like a grain of sand. Denmark as we Danes conceive it is so big you wonít believe it. ---
THOSE WHO KNOW Those who always know whatís best are a universal pest. ---
SATURATION The heavens are draining, itís raining and raining, and everything couldnít be wetter, and things are so bad that we ought to be glad: because now they can only get better. --- (?) Those who have no wisedom yet count their wealth by what they get. you who have the grace to live: count your wealth by what you give! --- ABOUT DENMARK Why not let us compromise about Denmark's proper size, which will truly please us all, since it's bigger than it's small. --- NOTHING IS INDESPENSABLE Grook to warn the universe against megalomania The universe may be as great as they say. But it wouldn't be missed if it didn't exist. --- TIME AND ETERNITY Where the woods and ploughlands of tradition and modernity run into the never-ending deserts of eternity, there I have my daily task while time smoothly passes, spooning the eternal sands into hour glass. --- INVESTMENT POLICY Anxieties yield at a negative rate, increasing in smallness the longer they wait. --- A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT Stomach-ache can be a curse; heart-ache may be even worse; so thank Heaven on your knees if you've got but one of these. --- THE WISDOM OF THE SPHERES How instructive is a star! It can teach us from afar just how small each other are. --- IT ISN'T ENOUGH One paramount truth our society smothers in petty concern with position and pelf: It isn't enough to exasperate others; you've got to remember to gladden yourself. --- SMALL THINGS AND GREAT He that lets the small things bind him leaves the great undone behind him. --- BRAVE To be brave is to behave bravely when your heart is faint. So you can be really brave only when you really ain't. --- THE STATE Nature, our father and mother, gave us all we have got. The state, our elder brother, swipes the lot. --- PRESENCE OF MIND You'll conquer the present suspiciously fast if you smell of the future -- and stink of the past. --- MAKING AN EFFORT Our so-called limitations, believe, apply to faculties we don't apply. We don't discover what we can't achieve until we make an effort not to try. --- CONSTITUTIONAL POINT Power corrupts, where as sound opposition builds up our free democratic tradition. One thing would make a democracy flower: having a strong opposition -- in power. --- RHYME AND REASON There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children. She didn't know what to do. But try as she would she could never detect which was the cause and which the effect. --- WIDE ROAD To make a name for learning when other roads are barred, take something very easy and make it very hard. --- THE ONLY SOLUTION We shall have to evolve problem-solvers galore-- since each problem they solve creates ten problems more. --- REFLECTION ON SIZE Small people often overrate the charm of being tall; which is, that you appreciate the charm of being small. --- A REPROOF Grook in answer to a long explanitory letter In view of your manner of spending your days I hope you may learn, before ending them, that the effort you spend on defending your ways could be better spent on amending them. --- STONE IN SHOE If a nasty jagged stone gets into your shoe, thank the Lord it came alone -- what if it were two? --- THE UNATTAINABLE IDEAL We ought to live each day as though it were our last day here below. But if I did, alas, I know it would have killed me long ago. --- A TIP to members of the literary profession Those who can write have a lot to learn from those bright enough not to. --- THE ULTIMATE WISDOM Philosophers must ultimately find their true perfection in knowing all the follies of mankind -- by introspection.
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