The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Fireflies,
Lightning Bugs, & Glowworms

Welcome to my page of quotations about glowing insects and bioluminescent bugs. I've never seen a magical night of fireflies in person, but it's on my bucket list! –ღTerri

Few insects in our climes vie in popular fame with the Glow-worm, that curious little animal which, to celebrate the little joys of life, kindles a beacon at its tail-end... Who has not seen it roam amid the grass, like a spark fallen from the moon at its full? ~J. Henri Fabre, The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, 1919

Scorn not thy narrow task. For He who made
The brilliant stars and moon to gild the night,
Placed the small glow-worm in earth's woodland shade,
And bade her too shed forth her tiny light.
~Fanny Charlotte Wyndham Montgomery (1820–1893), "When with a tired soul," 1846

Fireflies should have a more poetic name. I often wonder what is the physiological explanation of the luminosity of the lightning-bug or the glowworm, that intermittent, palpitant lamp that seems miraculous yet is a myriad nightly spectacle. There is no spectacle more beautiful than a dark lawn on a Southern night, when countless fireflies are showing their dartling golden beams, like little living stars that lose their way and waver in a futile search for it. ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919  [a little altered –tg]

A little light is going by,
      Is going up to see the sky,
      A little light with wings.
I never could have thought of it,
      To have a little bug all lit
      And made to go on wings.
~Elizabeth Madox Roberts (1881–1941), "Firefly (A Song)," c. 1920

No child but must remember laying his head in the grass, staring into the infinitesimal forest, and seeing it grow populous with fairy armies. ~Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays in The Art of Writing

I wish I were a glow worm,
A glow worm’s never glum.
’Cuz how can you be grumpy
When the sun shines out your bum?
~Author unknown

To a child's eye a lightning-bug outshines the brightest fixed star. ~O. P. Fitzgerald, "Started in the World," Judge Longstreet: A Life Sketch, 1891

O voyager of that universe which lies
Between the four walls of this garden fair,—
Whose constellations are the fireflies
That wheel their instant courses everywhere,—
'Mid fairy firmaments wherein one sees
Mimic Boötes and the Pleiades,
Thou steerest like some fairy ship-of-air.
~Madison J. Cawein (1865–1914), "A Twilight Moth"

And through the trees, yon failing ray
Will scantly serve to guide our way.
Yet mark! as fade the upper skies,
Each thicket opens ten thousand eyes.
Before, beside us, and above,
The fire-fly lights his lamp of love,
Retreating, chasing, sinking, soaring,
The darkness of the copse exploring...
~Reginald Heber (1783–1826), "An Evening Walk in Bengal," in The Ladies' Monthly Museum, February 1828

The Sun's Great Beacon gives the Planets Day;
A Firefly's Lantern lights a Firefly's Way.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Stars," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

a lightning bug got
in here the other night a
regular hick from
the real country he was
awful proud of himself you
city insects may think
you are some punkins
but i don t see any
of you flashing in the dark
like we do in
the country...
~Archy, the free-verse cockroach, "Lightning Bug," 1916, titled by Don Marquis

How wonderful if we human beings could have such power of emitting light as do the fireflies, — a sort of personal flash to be turned on at will! How it would aid one on dark streets at night, how advantageous for finding lost articles in the hall closet, how tremendously helpful for locating the elusive keyhole at midnight! Yet maybe the cost of upkeep for that light would be too great. Before I had it installed in me, I should wish to have an estimate as to how much of my vitality would be expended to keep it burning. We have no power of knowing what that firefly sacrifices to furnish illumination. ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919

"Please don't go!" I called,
but the fireflies flashed away
deep into darkness.
~Onitsura, translated by Harry Behn, 1971

The amount of light produced by some luminescent animals is amazing. Many fireflies produce as much light, in terms of lumens per square centimeter, as fluorescent lamps. Different animals emit lights of different colors — red, green, yellow or blue. The "railroad worm" of Uruguay... is remarkable in being able to produce two different colors: it has a row of green lights along each side of the body, and a pair of red lights at the head end. ~Claude Alvin Villee, Jr., Biology, 1954

The fireflies o'er the meadow
In pulses come and go...
O wild and wondrous midnight,
There is a might in thee...
~James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), "Midnight," 1842

The lightning bug is brilliant,
      But he hasn't any mind;
      He blunders through existence
      With his headlight on behind...
But the measuring worm is different,
      When he starts after pelf,
      He stretches to the limit,
      And then he humps himself.
~Author unknown, c. 1898

Fireflies flicker in the tops of trees,
Flicker in the lower branches,
Skim along the ground.
Over the moon-white lilies
Is a flashing and ceasing of small, lemon-green stars.
As you lean against me,
The air all about you
Is slit, and pricked, and pointed with sparkles of lemon-green flame
Starting out of a background of vague, blue trees.
~Amy Lowell, "July Midnight," Pictures of the Floating World, 1919

Don't mistake vivacity for wit, thare iz about az much difference az thare iz between lightning and a lightning bug. ~Josh Billings, "Hash on Toast," Josh Billings’ Farmers’ Allminax, January 1871

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. ~Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 1888

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published 2004 May 23
revised Jul 2016, Oct 2019
last saved 2023 Aug 15