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James Wood, comp. Dictionary of Quotations. 1899.


A man’s a man for a’ that.

A prince can mak’ a belted knight, / A marquis, duke, and a’ that; / But an honest man’s aboon his might, / Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that.

Anticipation forward points the view.

Ask why God made the gem so small, / And why so huge the granite? / Because God meant mankind should set / The higher value on it.

Auld Nature swears the lovely dears, / Her noblest work she classes, O; / Her ’prentice han’ she tried on man, / An’ then she made the lasses, O.

Aye free, aff-han’ your story tell, when wi’ a bosom crony; / But still keep something to yoursel’ / Ye scarcely tell to ony.

But facts are chiels that winna ding, / An’ douna be disputed.

But human bodies are sic fools, / For a’ their colleges and schools, / That, when nae real ills perplex them, / They make enow themsels to vex them.

But pleasures are like poppies spread, / You seize the flower, its bloom is shed; / Or, like the snowfall on the river, / A moment white—then melts for ever.

But to see her was to love her—love but her, and love for ever.

Chords that vibrate sweetest pleasure / Thrill the deepest notes of woe.

Contented wi’ little, an’ cantie (cheerily happy) wi’ mair.

Curst be the man, the poorest wretch in life, / The crouching vassal to the tyrant wife, / Who has no will but by her high permission; / Who has not sixpence but in her possession; / Who must to her his dear friend’s secret tell; / Who dreads a curtain lecture worse than hell. / Were such the wife had fallen to my part, / I’d break her spirit or I’d break her heart.

Deil tak’ the hin’most! on they drive, / Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve / Are bent like drums, / And auld guid man maist like to rive / “Bethankit” hums.

Dull, conceited hashes, / Confuse their brains in college classes; / They gang in stirks, and come oot asses, / Plain truth to speak.

Europe’s eye is fixed on mighty things, / The fall of empires and the fate of kings.

Even then a wish (I mind its power), / A wish that to my latest hour / Shall strongly heave my breast, / That I, for puir auld Scotland’s sake, / Some usefu’ plan or beuk could make, / Or sing a sang at least.At the plough.

Even thou who mourn’st the daisy’s fate, / That fate is thine—no distant date; / Stern Ruin’s ploughshare drives elate / Full on thy bloom, / Till crush’d beneath the farrow’s weight / Shall be thy doom.

Facts are chiels that winna ding, / And downa be disputed.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, / Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race! / Abune them a’ ye tak’ your place, / Paunch, tripe, or thairm; / Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace / As lang’s my a Haggis.

Far-off fowls hae feathers fair, / And aye until ye try them; / Though they seem fair, still have a care, / They may prove waur than I am.

Fare you weel, auld Nickie-ben! / O wad ye tak’ a thocht and men’! / Ye aiblins micht—I dinna ken— / Still hae a stake: / I’m wae to think upo’ yon den, / E’en for your sake.

Firmness, both in sufferance and exertion, is a character I would wish to possess. I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and the cowardly feeble resolve.

Food fills the wame and keeps us livin’; / Though life’s a gift no worth receivin’, / When heavy dragg’d wi’ pine and grievin’; / But oil’d by thee, the wheels o’ life gae doonhill scrievin’ / Wi’ rattlin’ glee.On Scotch drink.

For a’ that, and a’ that, / Our toils obscure, and a’ that; / The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, / The man’s the gowd for a’ that.

For gold the merchant ploughs the main, / The farmer ploughs the manor; / But glory is the soldier’s prize, / The soldier’s wealth is honour.

Freedom and whisky gang thegither! / Tak’ aff your dram.

Gather gear by every wile that’s justified by honour; / Not for to hide it in a hedge, nor for a train attendant; / But for the glorious privilege of being independent.

Gathering her brows like gathering storm, / Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

Gie me a canny hour at e’en, / My arms about my dearie, O, / An’ warl’ly cares an’ warl’ly men / May a’ gang tapsalteerie, O.

Gie me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire! / That’s a’ the learning I desire; / Then though I drudge through dub and mire, / At pleugh or cart, / My Muse, though hamely in attire, / May touch the heart.

Gie wealth to some be-ledger’d cit, / In cent. per cent.; / But gie me real, sterling wit, / And I’m content.

God help the children of dependence!

God help the teacher, if a man of sensibility and genius, when a booby father presents him with his booby son, and insists on lighting up the rays of science in a fellow’s head whose skull is impervious and inaccessible by any other way than a positive fracture with a cudgel.

God knows I’m no the thing I should be, / Nor am I ev’n the thing I could be; / But twenty times I rather would be / An atheist clean, / Than under Gospel colours hid be, / Just for a screen.

Had we never loved sae kindly, / Had we never loved sae blindly, / Never met or never parted, / We had ne’er been broken-hearted!

Here lies Johnny Pigeon! / What was his religion, / Wha e’er desires to ken / To some ither warl’ / Maun follow the carl, / For here Johnny Pigeon had nane.

Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing.

How blest the humble cotter’s fate! / He woos his simple dearie; / The silly bogles, wealth, and state, / Can never make them eerie.

How little do the wantonly or idly officious think what mischief they do by their malicious insinuations, indirect impertinence, or thoughtless babblings!

How long I have lived, how much lived in vain! / How little of life’s scanty span may remain! / What aspects old Time in his progress has worn! / What ties cruel fate in my bosom has torn! / How foolish, or worse, till our summit is gain’d! / And downward, how weaken’d, how darken’d, how pain’d!

How wretched is the man that hangs on by the favours of the great!

However, an old song, though to a proverb an instance of insignificance, is generally the only coin a poet has to pay with.

I dare to be honest, and I fear no labour.

I gaed a waefu’ gate yestreen, / A gate, I fear, I’ll dearly rue; / I got my death frae twa sweet een, / Twa lovely een o’ bonnie blue.

I hae a penny to spend, / There—thanks to naebody; / I hae naething to lend— / I’ll borrow frae naebody.

I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint, and the cowardly, feeble resolve.

I have no idea of the courage that braves Heaven.

I jouk (duck aside) beneath misfortune’s blows / As well’s I may; / Sworn foe to sorrow, care, or prose, / I rhyme away.

I pick up favourite quotations and store them in my mind as ready armour, offensive or defensive, amid the struggle of this turbulent existence. Of these there is a very favourite one from Thomson: “Attach thee firmly to the virtuous deeds / And offices of life; to life itself, / With all its vain and transient joys, sit loose.”

I scorn the affectation of seeming modesty to cover self-conceit.

I think a lock and key a security at least equal to the bosom of any friend whatever.

I waive the quantum o’ the sin, / The hazard of concealing; / But oh! it hardens a’ within, / And petrifies the feeling.

I’m sure sma’ pleasure it can gie, / E’en to a deil, / To skelp an’ scaud (scald) puir dogs like me, / An’ hear us squeel.

If happiness ha’e not her seat / And centre in the breast, / We may be wise, or rich, or great, / But never can be blest.

If I’m designed yon lordling’s slave, / By Nature’s law designed, / Why was an independent wish / E’er planted in my mind?

If there’s a hole in a’ your coats, / I rede ye tent it: / A chiel’s amang you takin’ notes, / And faith he’ll prent it.(Of Capt. Grose.)

If ye gi’e a woman a’ her will, / Guid faith, she’ll soon o’ergang ye.

Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing, / That, in the merry months of spring, / Delighted me to hear thee sing, / What comes o’ thee? / Where wilt thou cower thy chittering wing, an’ close thy e’e?(“A Winter Night.”)

Indigestion is the devil—nay, ’tis the devil and all. It besets a man in every one of his senses.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! / What dangers thou canst make us scorn!

Is there for honest poverty / That hangs his head, and a’ that? / The coward slave we pass him by, / We dare be poor for a’ that.

It ne’er was wealth, it ne’er was wealth, / That coft contentment, peace, or pleasure; / The bands and bliss o’ mutual love, / O that’s the chiefest warld’s treasure!

It’s aye the cheapest lawyer’s fee / To taste the barrel.

It’s hardly in a body’s power / To keep, at times, frae being sour, / To see how things are shared.

It’s no in titles nor in rank; / It’s no in wealth like London bank, / To purchase peace and rest: / It’s no in makin’ muckle mair, / It’s no in books, it’s no in lear, / To mak’ us truly blest.

Kings may be bless’d, but Tam was glorious, / O’er a’ the ills o’ life victorious.

Labour endears rest, and both together are absolutely necessary for the proper enjoyment of human existence.

Lang syne, in Eden’s bonny yaird, / When youthfu’ lovers first were pair’d, / And all the soul of love they shared, / The raptured hour, / Sweet on the fragrant flowery swaird, / In shady bower, / Then you, ye auld sneck-drawing (latch-lifting) dog, / Ye cam’ to Paradise incog, / And play’d on man a cursèd brogue, / (Black be your fa’) / And gied the infant warld a shog (shake), / Maist ruin’d a’.(To the Deil.)

Lay the proud usurpers low! / Tyrants fall in every foe! / Liberty’s in every blow! / Forward! let us die.

Learn taciturnity; let that be your motto.

Leeze me o’ drink; it gies us mair / Than either school or college; / It kindles wit, it waukens lair (learning), / It pangs (stuffs) us fu’ o’ knowledge.

Let prudence number o’er each sturdy son, / Who life and wisdom at one race begun.

Let us th’ important “now” employ, / And live as those who never die.

Let wealth shelter and cherish unprotected merit, and the gratitude and celebrity of that merit will richly repay it.

Life is a fairy scene: almost all that deserves the name of enjoyment or pleasure is only a charming delusion; and in comes repining age, in all the gravity of hoary wisdom, and wretchedly chases away the bewitching phantom.

Life is all a variorum; / We regard not how it goes; / Let them cant about decorum / Who have characters to lose. / A fig for those by law protected! / Liberty’s a glorious feast; / Courts for cowards were erected, / Churches built to please the priest.(“Jolly Beggars.”)

Life’s but a day at most.

Light is the burden love lays on; / Content and love brings peace and joy, / What mair hae queens upon a throne?

Lord, help me through this warld o’ care, / I’m weary sick o’t late and air; / Not but I hae a richer share / Than mony ithers; / But why should ae man better fare, / And a’ men brithers?

Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.

Man’s true, genuine estimate, / The grand criterion of his fate, / Is not—Art thou high or low? / Did thy fortune ebb or flow?

Mankind are unco’ weak, / And little to be trusted; / If self the wavering balance shake, / It’s rarely right adjusted.

Mankind in general agree in testifying their devotion, their gratitude, their friendship, or their love, by presenting whatever they hold dearest.

Mankind is a science that defies definitions.

May cauld ne’er catch you but a hap, / Nor hunger but in plenty’s lap.

May never wicked fortune touzle (tease) him! / May never wicked man bamboozle him! / Until a pow as auld’s Methusalem / He canty (cheerily) claw, / Then to the blessed New Jerusalem / Fleet wing awa’!

Misery and ruin to thousands are in the blast that announces the destructive demon (war).

Misery is like love; to speak its language truly, the author must have felt it.

Modest demeanour’s the jewel of a’!

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here.

Nae man can tether time or tide.

Nae treasures nor pleasures / Could mak’ us happy lang, / The heart aye’s the part aye / That mak’s us right or wrang.

Nature smiles as sweet, I ween, / To shepherds as to kings.

Ne’er grudge and carp, / Though fortune use you hard and sharp.

No man can say in what degree any other person, besides himself, can be, with strict justice, called wicked.

No more of your titled acquaintances boast, / And in what lordly circles you’ve been: / An insect is still but an insect at most, / Though it crawl on the head of a queen.

No two virtues, whatever relation they claim, / Nor even two different shades of the same, / Though like as was ever twin-brother to brother, / Possessing the one shall imply you’ve the other.

Novelty has something in it that inebriates the fancy, and not unfrequently dissipates and fumes away like other intoxication, and leaves the poor patient, as usual, with an aching heart.

Now farewell light, thou sunshine bright, / And all beneath the sky! / May coward shame distain his name, / The wretch that dares not die.(“M’Pherson’s Farewell.”)

Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

O life! how pleasant is thy morning, / Young Fancy’s rays the hills adorning! / Cold-pausing Caution’s lessons scorning, / We frisk away, / Like schoolboys at th’ expected warning, / To joy and play.

O life! thou art a galling load / Along a rough, a weary road, / To wretches such as I!(Despondency).

O wad some pow’r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us! / It wad frae mony a blunder free us, / And foolish notion; / What airs in dress and gait wad lea’e us, / And e’en devotion!

O’ guid advisement comes nae ill.

Oh, Death! the poor man’s dearest friend— / The kindest and the best! / Welcome the hour my aged limbs / Are laid with thee at rest! / The great, the wealthy fear thy blow, / From pomp and pleasure torn! But oh! a bless’d relief to those / That weary-laden mourn!

Oh, what is death but parting breath? / On mony a bloody plain / I’ve dared his face, and in this place / I scorn him yet again.(“M’Pherson’s Farewell.”)

Oh, whistle and I’ll come to ye, my lad.

Oh, woman, lovely woman! Heaven designed you / To temper man! We had been brutes without you.

Oh, would they stay aback frae courts, / And please themsels wi’ country sports, / It wad for every ane be better, / The laird, the tenant, and the cottar.

Oppress’d with grief, oppress’d with care, / A burden more than I can bear, / I sit me down and sigh; / O Life, thou art a galling load, / Along a rough and weary road, / To wretches such as I.

Out upon the tempest of anger, the acrimonious gall of fretful impatience, the sullen frost of lowring resentment, or the corroding poison of withered envy! They eat up the immortal part of a man!… like traitor Iscariot, betray their lord and master.

Petitioners for admittance into favour must not harass the condescension of their benefactor.

Pleasure is a wanton trout; / An ye drink but deep ye’ll find him out.

Pleasures are like poppies spread, / You seize the flower, its bloom is shed; / Or, like the snowflake in the river, / A moment white, then melts for ever.

Poor tenant bodies, scant o’ cash, / How they maun thole (bear) a factor’s snash; / He’ll stamp and threaten, curse and swear, / He’ll apprehend them, poind their gear; / While they maun (must) stan’, wi’ aspect humble, / An’ hear it a’, and fear and tremble!

Princes and lords are but the breath of kings, / “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.”

Quick to learn and wise to know.

Rank is but the guinea’s stamp, / The man’s the gowd for a’ that.

Reader, attend—whether thy soul / Soars fancy’s flights beyond the pole, / Or darkling grubs this earthly hole / In low pursuit; / Know, prudent, cautious self-control / Is wisdom’s root.

Sae rantingly, sae wantonly, / Sae dauntingly gaed he; / He play’d a spring, and danced it round, / Beneath the gallows-tree.

Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled, / Scots, wham Bruce has aften led, / Welcome to your gory bed, / Or to victory! / Now’s the day and now’s the hour; / See the front o’ battle lour; / See approach proud Edward’s power, / Chains and slavery.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, / And never brought to mind? / Should auld acquaintance be forgot, / And days o’ lang syne?

So dawning day has brought relief— / Fareweel our night o’ sorrow.

Some books are lees frae end to end, / And some big lees were never penn’d; / E’en ministers they hae been kenn’d, / In holy rapture, / A rousing whid at times to vend, / And nail’t wi’ Scripture.

Some hae meat that canna eat, / And some would eat that want it; / But we hae meat and we can eat, / Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Some wee short hours ayont the twal.

Stern Ruin’s ploughshare drives elate / Full on thy bloom.

Suspense is worse than disappointment.

Syne as ye brew,… / Keep mind that ye maun drink the yill.

Take the Muses’ servants by the hand; / … And where ye justly can commend, commend them; / And aiblins when they winna stand the test, / Wink hard, and say the folks hae done their best.

Tam lo’ed him like a vera brither; / They had been fou for weeks thegither.

The attraction of love is in an inverse proportion to the attraction of the Newtonian philosophy.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley, / And lea’e us naught but grief and pain / For promised joy.

The captive bands may chain the hands, / But love enslaves the man.

The fear o’ hell’s the hangman’s whip, / To haud the wretch in order; / But when ye feel yer honour grip, / Let that be aye yer border.

The goods of this world cannot be divided without being lessened; but why be a niggard of that which bestows bliss on a fellow-creature, yet takes nothing from our own means of enjoyment?

The heart aye’s the part aye / That mak’s us right or wrang.

The heart benevolent and kind / The most resembles God.

The honest heart that’s free frae a’ / Intended fraud or guile, / However Fortune kick the ba’, / Has aye some cause to smile.

The honest man, though e’er so poor, / Is king o’ men for a’ that.

The insolence of condescension.

The irreligious poet is a monster.

The lenient hand of time is daily and hourly either lightening the burden or making us insensible to the weight.

The man of consequence and fashion shall richly repay a deed of kindness with a nod and a smile, or a hearty shake of the hand; while a poor fellow labours under a sense of gratitude, which, like copper coin, though it loads the bearer, is yet of small account in the currency and commerce of the world.

The necessities of my heart always give the cold philosophisings the lie.

The present moment is our ain, / The neist we never saw.

The question is not at what door of fortune’s palace shall we enter in, but what doors does she open to us?

The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, / The man’s the gowd for a’ that.

The rough material of fine writing is certainly the gift of genius; but I as firmly believe that the workmanship is the united effort of pains, attention, and repeated trial.

The social, friendly, honest man, / Whate’er he be, / ’Tis he fulfils great Nature’s plan, / And none but he.

The tender flower that lifts its head, elate, / Helpless, must fall before the blasts of fate, / Sunk on the earth, defaced its lovely form, / Unless your shelter ward th’ impending storm.

The tender heart o’ leesome luve / The gowd and siller canna buy.

The warl’ly race may riches chase, / And riches still may flee them; / And though at last they catch them fast, / Their hearts can ne’er enjoy them.

The weary night o’ care and grief / May hae a joyful morrow.

The wisest man the warl’ e’er saw, / He dearly lo’ed the lasses O.

The world … may overlook most of us; but “reverence thyself.”

The world is not our peers, so we challenge the jury.

The world is so busied with selfish pursuits, ambition, vanity, interest, or pleasure, that very few think it worth their while to make any observation on what passes around them, except where that observation is a sucker, or branch of the darling plant they are rearing in their fancy.

Then fare-ye-weel, auld Nickie Ben, / Oh wad ye tak’ a thought and men’. / Ye aiblins (perhaps) might—I dinna ken, / Still hae a stake; / I’m wae to think upon yon den / E’en for your sake.

Then gently scan your brother man, / Still gentler sister woman; / Though they may gang a kennin’ wrang, / To step aside is human.

Then let us pray that come it may, / As come it will for a’ that, / That sense an’ worth, o’er a’ the earth, / May bear the gree and a’ that.

There is a great deal of folly in talking unnecessarily of one’s private affairs.

There is a time of life beyond which we cannot form a tie worth the name of friendship.

There is no sporting with a fellow-creature’s happiness or misery.

These moving things, ca’ed wife and weans, / Wad move the very heart o’ stanes.

This day’s propitious to be wise in.

This world is a busy scene, and man a creature destined for a progressive struggle.

Those who are elevated enough in life to reason and to reflect, yet low enough to keep clear of the venal contagion of a court—these are a nation’s strength!

Those who seem to doubt or deny us what is justly ours, let us either pity their prejudice or despise their judgment.

Thou of an independent mind, / With soul resolved, with soul resigned; / Prepared Power’s proudest frown to brave, / Who wilt not be, nor have a slave; / Virtue alone who dost revere, / Thy own reproach alone dost fear, / Approach this shrine (Independence), and worship here.

Though all his works abroad, / The heart benevolent and kind / The most resembles God.

Though losses and crosses / Be lessons right severe, / There’s wit there ye’ll get there, / Ye’ll find nae ither where.

Though stars in skies may disappear, / And angry tempests gather, / The happy hour may soon be near / That brings us pleasant weather.

Though you had the wisdom of Newton or the wit of Swift, garrulousness would lower you in the eyes of your fellow-creatures.

To catch dame Fortune’s golden smile, / Assiduous wait upon her; / And gather gear by ev’ry wile / That’s justified by honour; / Not for to hide it in a hedge, / Nor for a train attendant, / But for the glorious privilege / Of being independent.

To mak’ a happy fireside clime / To weans and wife, / That’s the true pathos and sublime / O’ human life.

To no man, whatever his station in life, or his power to serve me, have I ever paid a compliment at the expense of truth.

To plough and sow, to reap and mow, my father bred me early, / For one, he said, to labour bred, was a match for fortune fairly.

To see her is to love her, / And love but her for ever.

To step aside is human.

Tocher’s nae word in a true lover’s parle.

Veneering oft outshines the solid wood.

We wander there, we wander here, / We eye the rose upon the brier, / Unmindful that the thorn is near, / Amang the leaves.

We wrap ourselves up in the cloak of our own better fortune, and turn away our eyes, lest the wants and woes of our brother-mortals should disturb the selfish apathy of our souls.

Wealth imparts a birdlime quality to the possessor, at which the man in his native poverty would have revolted.

Wee modest crimson-tipped flower, / Thou’s met me in an evil hour; / For I maun crush amang the stour / Thy slender stem; / To spare thee now is past my power, / Thou bonny gem.

Wha’ does the utmost that he can, / Will whyles (sometimes) do mair.

What is this day’s strong suggestion? / “The passing moment’s all we rest on!”

What signifies the life o’ man / An’ twerna for the lasses, O?

What though on hamely fare we dine, / Wear hodden gray, and a’ that? / Gie fools their silk, and knaves their wine, / A man’s a man for a’ that.

What trifling silliness is the childish fondness of the every-day children of the world! ’Tis the unmeaning toying of the younglings of the fields and forests.

What’s done we partly may compute, / But know not what’s resisted.

Whatever mitigates the woes or increases the happiness of others, this is my criterion of goodness; and whatever injures society at large, or any individual in it, this is my measure of iniquity.

When matters are desperate, we must put on a desperate face.

When on life we’re tempest driven, / A conscience but a canker, / A correspondence fixed wi’ heaven / Is sure a noble anchor.

When soon or late they reach that coast, / O’er life’s rough ocean driven, / May they rejoice, no wanderer lost, / A family in heaven.

Whistle, and I’ll come to ye, my lad.

Who loves his own sweet shadow in the streets / Better than e’er the fairest she he meets.

Who made the heart, ’tis He alone / Decidedly can try us; / He knows each chord, its various tone, / Each spring, its various bias. / Then at the balance let’s be mute, / We never can adjust it; / What’s done we partly may compute, / But know not what’s resisted.

Who make poor “will do” wait upon “I should;” / We own they’re prudent, but who owns they’re good?

Who shall say that Fortune grieves him, / While the star of hope she leaves him?

Why am I loth to leave this earthly scene? / Have I so found it full of pleasing charms? / Some drops of joy with draughts of ill between; / Some gleams of sunshine ’mid renewing storms.

Woman is the blood-royal of life; let there be slight degrees of precedency among them, but let them be all sacred.

Women have a kind of sturdy sufferance which qualifies them to endure beyond, much beyond, the common run of men, but … they are by no means famous for seeing remote consequences in all their real importance.

Ye’ll find mankind an unco squad, / And muckle they may grieve ye.

You who follow wealth and power with unremitting ardour, / The more in this you look for bliss, you leave your view the farther.