Aphorisms "Life Is Short, And The Art Long"
by Hippocrates

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"Life Is Short, And The Art Long"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: Hippocrates practiced medicine, so legend says, among the doctors of Greece, who dedicated their lives to Aesculapius, the God of Medicine. But his approach veered sharply from that of the other priest-physicians around him. He rejected the religious aspect of suffering and thus made a step toward modern medicine. Traditionally the father of the Hippocratic oath, which says that the physician will work "for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption," Hippocrates states his attitude toward life and the physician in this general aphorism. Many persons after Hippocrates have said the same thing: Chaucer in The Parlement of Foules (1380-1386, Proem, 1.1): "The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne"; Browning in The Ring and the Book (1868-1869): "Art's long, though time is short"; Longfellow in "A Psalm of Life" (1838, Stanza 4): "Art is long, and Time is fleeting." Hippocrates' original statement is:

Life is short, and the art long; the occasion fleeting; experience fallacious, and judgment difficult. The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants, and externals co-operate.