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 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about 3:00 AM


I seldom went to bed before two or three o'clock in the morning, on the theory that if anything of interest were to happen to a young man it would almost certainly happen late at night. ~E. B. White (1899–1985)

It's 3 a.m. — the bridge between night and day. And a perfect time for self-reflection. ~Being Erica, "A River Runs Through It... It Being Egypt," 2009, teleplay by James Hurst and Shelley Scarrow  [S2, E9, Dr. Tom]

Now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering — this is an all-weather beatitude for gloom in general and fairly salutory day-time advice for everyone. But at three o'clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn't work — in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1936

Three o'clock in the morning. The soft April night is looking in at my windows and caressingly winking at me with its stars. I can't sleep, I am so happy! ~Anton Chekhov (1860–1904), "Love," translated by Constance Garnett, 1931

This election is about you, your hopes, your dreams, your fears, and what wakes you up at 3 a.m. ~Kamala Harris, 2019 three o'clock at night I never can be logical. ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island, 1915

Excuse this letter's being like a hotch-potch. It's incoherent, but I can't help it. Sitting in an hotel room one can't write better. Excuse its being long, It's not my fault. My pen ran away with me — besides, I wanted to go on talking to you. It's three o'clock in the night. My hand is tired. The wick of the candle wants snuffing, I can hardly see. ~Anton Chekhov (1860–1904), letter, 1890, translated by Constance Garnett, 1920

Three o'clock! There was a terror in every ash that dropped out of the fire. Florence paced her room and looked out at the moon with a new fancy of her likeness to a pale fugitive hurrying away and hiding her guilty face. ~Charles Dickens, "The Thunderbolt," Dombey and Son, 1846

Here's to the Clock!
Whose hands, we pray heaven,
When we come home at three,
Have stopped at eleven!
~Oliver Herford, "To the Clock"

Under Nux vomica, the prover is very sleepy and dull in the evening, cannot sit up long; goes to bed early, and goes to sleep immediately; sleeps well until about three A.M.; then wakes and lies awake, thinking, etc., with mind quite clear and active till five A.M.; then dozes and sleeps an hour, and wakes more tired then when he woke at three A.M., and often with a headache. ~Carroll Dunham, M.D. (1828–1877), "Aconitum Napellus"

Much poetry happens in the silence of 3 AM. ~Terri Guillemets

I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o'clock in the morning. ~John Barrymore, unverified

There is one ghastly hour, between the midnight and the dawn, an hour through which I have passed again and again, when the veils of seeming and circumstance are stripped away from the soul, and one sees oneself as one is, and not as one appears to the outer world. It is after a first sleep, I think, that these wakeful moments of an over-stimulated consciousness are most overwhelming. On laying our heads upon the pillow at the beginning of night, we are still possessed by images of the cheerful day: soothed by not unflattering intercourse with friends, our souls narcotised, so to speak, by the influences of music, art and literature — "drawing the curtain of our fancy close between us and the coldness of the world." But that first short sleep puts a blank between us and the day. We start straight out of nothingness, and face ourselves. And then we see ourselves indeed. We remember the inexpressible meannesses of which we have been guilty, the base, ignoble deeds, the failures of our will, the weaknesses of our heart, the cowardice, the bitter, ingrained badness of our whole nature, and bad as we are, we stand appalled at the revelation. The anger of God and the contempt of man lie upon us with a weight heavier than we can bear. It seems as if our hearts lay open, naked and ashamed, to the eye of the whole human race. At such moments — not unknown I think, to most of us — we surely suffer something of what is meant by the pains of hell. ~Adeline Sergeant, The Story of a Penitent Soul: Being the Private Papers of Mr. Stephen Dart, Late Minister at Lynnbridge in the County of Lincoln, 1892

three o'clock—
anxiety, regret
in the depths of worry
swept away in the
whirlwind of nothing—
a horrible nothing
~Terri Guillemets, "Insomnia ticking," 2019, blackout poetry created from Octave Mirbeau, The Diary of a Chambermaid, 1891–1900, page 6

This morn, I hear as the clock strikes three
      A lingering chime, while the house is still;
I hear, and I know it is God's decree
      That some of my blood obey death's will.
            Relentless beat, with swift repeat,
            Never late, and ever complete...
The hour is three, the clock out-calls;
      The hour is three! screams the chanticleer;
The hour is three, from the death-bell falls,
      And it falls to summon my kindred dear.
            Relentless beat, with swift repeat,
            Never late, and ever complete...
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "The Death-Bell," Come for Arbutus, and Other Wild Bloom, 1882

      He had not slept a whole night for a week. Tonight he had gone to bed sternly resolved on a while of annihilation. Anything for the brief sweet death with the morning of resurrection.
      And then she had quarreled with him. And now he was awake, and he felt that he would not sleep.
      He wondered what the hour was. He was tempted to rise and make a light and look at his watch, but he felt that the effort and the blow of the glare on his eyes might confirm his insomnia. He lay and wondered, consumed with curiosity as to the hour — as if that knowledge could be of value.
      By and by, out of the stillness and the widespread black came the slumbrous tone of a far-off town clock. Three times it rumored in the air as if distance moaned faintly thrice.
      Three o'clock! He had had but two hours' sleep, and would have no more! And he needed ten!... He lay supine, trying not to clench a muscle, seeking to force his surrender to inanition; but he could not get sleep though he implored his soul for it, prayed God for it.
      At length he ceased to try to compel slumber. He lay musing. It is a strange thing to lie musing in the dark. He soul seemed to tug and waver outside his body... His soul seemed to be under his forehead, pushing at it as against a door. He felt that if he had a larger, freer forehead he would have more soul and more room for his mind to work.
      Then the great fear came over him again. In these wakeful moods he suffered ecstasies of fright.
      He was appalled with life. He felt helpless, bodyless, doomed.
      On his office wall hung a calendar with a colored picture showing fishermen in a little boat in a fog looking up to see a great Atlantic liner just about to run them down. So the universe loomed over him now, rushed down to crush him. The other people of the world were asleep in their places; his creditors, his rivals were resting, gaining strength to overwhelm him on the morrow, and he must face them unrefreshed...
      His only rest would come when he died. If he did not sleep soon he would assuredly die or go mad. Perhaps he was going mad already. ~Rupert Hughes, "And This Is Marriage," In a Little Town, 1917

The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism, but February... Spring is too far away to comfort even by anticipation, and winter long ago lost the charm of novelty. This is the very three a.m. of the calendar. ~Joseph Wood Krutch

Three A.M. is when
all the quiet things
become loud —
the drip in the sink,
that clock on the wall,
our hearts, our minds.
~Terri Guillemets, "Tempus nunquam dormit," 2006

A clock is ticking
in my living room —
I never even noticed
that it makes noise —
my mind is ticking,
my heart is ticking.
Everything quiet
is audible at 3 a.m.
~Terri Guillemets, "Blaring quiet," 2007

No living thing is indestructible, except the mosquito that you try to swat in your bedroom at 3 o'clock in the morning. ~George Gobel

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published 2006 Jan 17
revised 2018 Jan 17
last saved 2024 Jan 1