C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


Let us do or die.


Push on,—keep moving.

Thomas Morton.

There is only one proof of ability,—action.

Marie Ebner-Eschenbach.

To the valiant actions speak alone.


Action, so to speak, is the genius of nature.


We cannot all do all things.


The food of hope is meditative action.


Strong reasons make strong actions.


Time is short; your obligations are infinite.


Put his shoulder to the wheel.


A bold onset is half the battle.


The act of God injures no one.


Be great in act, as you have been in thought.


What the Puritans gave the world was not thought, but action.

Wendell Phillips.

And all may do what has by man been done.


Awake, arise, or be forever fall’n!


Gentle in method, resolute in action.

From the Latin.

It is well to think well: it is divine to act well.

Horace Mann.

It is better to wear out than to rust out.

Bishop Cumberland.

Do well and right, and let the world sink.


It is praiseworthy even to attempt a great action.

La Rochefoucauld.

Do not do what is already done.


Heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.


The thing done avails, and not what is said about it.


The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.

1 Samuel ii. 3.

Never do an act of which you doubt the justice or propriety.


Our actions are our own; their consequences belong to Heaven.


  • Only the actions of the just
  • Smell sweet and blossom in the dust.
  • James Shirley.

    How much easier do we find it to commend a good action than to imitate it.


  • Of every noble action the intent
  • Is to give worth reward—vice punishment.
  • Beaumont and Fletcher.

  • I profess not talking: only this,
  • Let each man do his best.
  • Shakespeare.

    The end of man is an action, and not a thought, though it were the noblest.


    Activity is the presence of function,—character is the record of function.


    The flighty purpose never is o’ertook unless the deed go with it.


    All power appears only in transition. Permanent power is stuff.


    Remember that in all miseries lamenting becomes fools, and action, wise folk.

    Sir P. Sidney.

    Our acts make or mar us,—we are the children of our own deeds.

    Victor Hugo.

    A stirring dwarf we do allowance give before a sleeping giant.


    The only true method of action in this world is to be in it, but not of it.

    Madame Swetchine.

    Our actions are like the terminations of verses, which we rhyme as we please.

    La Rochefoucauld.

    Speak out in acts; the time for words has passed, and deeds alone suffice.


    When we cannot act as we wish, we must act as we can.


    To be active is the primary vocation of man.


    Our actions must clothe us with an immortality loathsome or glorious.


    Be slow in considering, but resolute in action.


    Nothing is more terrible than to see ignorance in action.


    ’T is human actions paint the chart of time.


    Men do less than they ought unless they do all that they can.


    Action is the parent of results; dormancy, the brooding mother of discontent.

    Miss Mulock.

    Action is happiness here; and without action there can be no heaven.


    The life of action is nobler than the life of thought.

    Miss Mulock.

    Living requires but little life; doing requires much.


    The best way to keep good acts in memory is to refresh them with new.


    Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant are more learned than their ears.


    The manly part is to do with might and main what you can do.


    Active natures are rarely melancholy. Activity and melancholy are incompatible.


  • Our acts, our angels are, or good or ill,
  • Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.
  • John Fletcher.

  • So much one man can do,
  • That does both act and know.
  • Andrew Marvell.

  • Think that day lost whose (low) descending Sun
  • Views from thy hand no noble action done.
  • Jacob Bobart.

    A great mind is a good sailor, as a great heart is.


  • For good or evil must in our actions meet;
  • Wicked is not much worse than indiscreet.
  • Donne.

  • How my achievements mock me!
  • I will go meet them.
  • Shakespeare.

  • Not always actions show the man; we find
  • Who does a kindness is not therefore kind.
  • Pope.

  • Action is transitory, a step, a blow,
  • The motion of a muscle—this way or that.
  • Wordsworth.

    Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.


  • So smile the Heavens upon this holy act
  • That after hours with sorrow chide us not!
  • Shakespeare.

  • He is at no end of his actions blest
  • Whose ends will make him greatest and not best.
  • George Chapman.

  • If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well
  • It were done quickly.
  • Shakespeare.

    Celerity is never more admired than by the negligent.


    Act well at the moment, and you have performed a good action to all eternity.


  • Attempt the end, and never stand to doubt;
  • Nothing’s so hard but search will find it out.
  • Herrick.

    That action which appears most conducive to the happiness and virtue of mankind.

    Frances Hutcheson.

  • When desperate ills demand a speedy cure,
  • Distrust is cowardice, and prudence folly.
  • Samuel Johnson.

    Attack is the reaction; I never think I have hit hard unless it rebounds.

    Sam’l Johnson.

    I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.


    Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness, or oppose with firmness.


    The firefly only shines when on the wing; so is it with the mind; when once we rest, we darken.


    Men’s actions to futurity appear but as the events to which they are conjoined do give them consequence.

    Joanna Baillie.

    It is vain to expect any advantage from our profession of the truth, if we be not sincerely just and honest in our actions.

    Archbishop Sharpe.

    Thought and theory must precede all action that moves to salutary purposes. Yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.


    Hast thou not Greek enough to understand thus much: the end of man is an action and not a thought, though it were of the noblest.


    Toil, feel, think, hope. A man is sure to dream enough before he dies without making arrangements for the purpose.


    Action is the highest perfection and drawing forth of the utmost power, vigor, and activity of man’s nature.


    Advise well before you begin, and when you have maturely considered, then act with promptitude.


  • With devotion’s visage,
  • And pious action, we do sugar o’er
  • The devil himself.
  • Shakespeare.

    Idlers cannot even find time to be idle, or the industrious to be at leisure. We must always be doing or suffering.


  • We must not stint
  • Our necessary actions, in the fear
  • To cope malicious censurers.
  • Shakespeare.

  • Those graceful acts,
  • Those thousand decencies that daily flow
  • From all her words and actions.
  • Milton.

    Our grand business undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.


  • Prodigious actions may as well be done
  • By weaver’s issue, as by prince’s son.
  • Dryden.

  • Theirs not to make reply,
  • Theirs not to reason why,
  • Theirs but to do and die.
  • Tennyson.

    Although men flatter themselves with their great actions, they are not so often the result of a great design as of chance.

    La Rochefoucauld.

    Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.


    What is there that you enter upon so favorably as not to repent of the undertaking and the accomplishment of your wish?


  • For strong souls
  • Live like fire-hearted suns; to spend their strength
  • In furthest striving action.
  • George Eliot.

  • All our actions take
  • Their hues from the complexion of the heart,
  • As landscapes their variety from light.
  • W. T. Bacon.

  • Statesman, yet friend to truth! of soul sincere,
  • In action faithful, and in honour clear;
  • Who broke no promise, served no private end.
  • Pope.

    How slow the time to the warm soul, that, in the very instant it forms, would execute a great design!


    We should often be ashamed of our very best actions, if the world only saw the motives which caused them.

    La Rochefoucauld.

    A contemplative life has more the appearance of a life of piety than any other; but it is the Divine plan to bring faith into activity and exercise.


    I have lived to know that the secret of happiness is never to allow your energies to stagnate.

    Adam Clarke.

    Life is a short day; but it is a working-day. Activity may lead to evil; but inactivity cannot be led to good.

    Hannah More.

    Man is an animal that cannot long be left in safety without occupation; the growth of his fallow nature is apt to run into weeds.


    When our souls shall leave this dwelling, the glory of one fair and virtuous action is above all the ’scutcheons on our tomb, or silken banners over us.

    J. Shirley.

    Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.


    This world is but the vestibule of an immortal life. Every action of out lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.


    There is no secret of the heart which our actions do not disclose.


    There is no action so slight or so mean but it may be done to a great purpose, and ennobled thereby.


    Deeds always overbalance; and downright practice speaks more plainly than the fairest profession.


    No two things differ more than hurry and despatch. Hurry is the mark of a weak mind; despatch of a strong one.


    Press on! for in the grave there is no work and no device. Press on! while yet you may.

    N. P. Willis.

  • Let thy mind still be bent, still plotting, where,
  • And when, and how thy business may be done,
  • Slackness breeds worms; but the sure traveller,
  • Though he alights sometimes, still goeth on.
  • Herbert.

  • Let us then be up and doing,
  • With a heart for any fate;
  • Still achieving, still pursuing,
  • Learn to labor and to wait.
  • Longfellow.

    Remember you have not a sinew whose law of strength is not action; you have not a faculty of body, mind, or soul whose law of improvement is not energy.

    E. B. Hall.

    There is no action of man in this life which is not the beginning of so long a chain of consequences, as that no human providence is high enough to give us a prospect to the end.

    Thomas of Malmesbury.

    To live is not merely to breathe: it is to act; it is to make use of our organs, senses, faculties,—of all those parts of ourselves which give us the feeling of existence.


    The life of man is made up of action and endurance; and life is fruitful in the ratio in which it is laid out in noble action or in patient perseverance.

    H. P. Liddon.

    Those who labor to make human actions harmonize, find great difficulty in piecing them together; for, in general, they contradict each other.


    It is hard to personate and act a part long; for where Truth is not at the bottom, Nature will always be endeavoring to return, and will peep out and betray herself one time or other.


    Man, being essentially active, must find in activity his joy, as well as his beauty and glory; and labor, like everything else that is good, is its own reward.


  • Judge not of actions by their mere effect;
  • Dive to the centre, and the cause detect;
  • Great deeds from meanest springs may take their course,
  • And smallest virtues from a mighty source.
  • Pope.

    Let’s take the instant by the forward top; for we are old, and on our quickest decrees, the inaudible and noiseless foot of time steals, ere we can effect them.


  • That low man seeks a little thing to do,
  • Sees it and does it;
  • This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
  • Dies ere he knows it.
  • Robert Browning.

    Rightness expresses of actions, what straightness does of lines; and there can no more be two kinds of right action than there can be two kinds of straight line.

    Herbert Spencer.

    I do not say the mind gets informed by action, bodily action; but it does set earnestness and strength by it, and that nameless something that gives a man the mastership of his faculties.


    Unselfish and noble acts are the most radiant epochs in the biography of souls. When wrought in earliest youth, they lie in the memory of age like the coral islands, green and sunny, amidst the melancholy waste of ocean.

    Rev. Dr. Thomas.

    It is not to taste sweet things, but to do noble and true things, and vindicate himself under God’s heaven as a God-made man, that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs. Show him the way of doing that, the dullest day-drudge kindles into a hero.


    It is good policy to strike while the iron is hot; it is still better to adopt Cromwell’s procedure, and make the iron hot by striking. The master-spirit who can rule the storm is great, but he is much greater who can both raise and rule it.

    E. L. Magoon.

    Do not be afraid because the community teems with excitement. Silence and death are dreadful. The rush of life, the vigor of earnest men, the conflict of realities, invigorate, cleanse, and establish the truth.


    All the means of action—the shapeless masses, the materials—lie everywhere about us; what we need is the celestial fire to change the flint into transparent crystal, bright and clear.


    Let us, if we must have great actions, make our own so. All action is of infinite elasticity, and the least admits of being inflated with celestial air, until it eclipses the sun and moon.


    What a man knows should find its expression in what he does. The value of superior knowledge is chiefly in that it leads to a performing manhood.


    Actions rare and sudden do commonly proceed from fierce necessity, or else from some oblique design, which is ashamed to show itself in the public road.

    Sir W. Davenant.

    With a double vigilance should we watch our actions, when we reflect that good and bad ones are never childless, and that in both cases the offspring goes beyond the parent,—every good begetting a better, every bad a worse.


    You had that action and counteraction which in the natural and in the political world, from the reciprocal struggle of discordant powers, draws out the harmony of the universe.

    Edmund Burke.

    Every event that a man would master must be mounted on the run, and no man ever caught the reins of a thought except as it galloped by him.


    Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy. Action is no less necessary than thought to the instinctive tendencies of the human frame.


    Better that we should err in action than wholly refuse to perform. The storm is so much better than the calm, as it declares the presence of a living principle. Stagnation is something worse than death. It is corruption also.


    To do an evil action is base; to do a good action, without incurring danger, is common enough; but it is the part of a good man to do great and noble deeds, though he risks everything.


    Action hangs, as it were, “dissolved” in speech, in thoughts whereof speech is the shadow; and precipitates itself therefrom. The kind of speech in a man betokens the kind of action you will get from him.


    If you think you can temper yourself into manliness by sitting there over your books, it is the very silliest fancy that ever tempted a young man to his ruin. You cannot dream yourself into a character: you must hammer and forge yourself one.


    The activity of the young is like that of rail cars in motion,—they tear along with noise and turmoil, and leave peace behind them. The quietest nooks, invaded by them, lose their quietude as they pass, and recover it only on their departure. Time’s best gift to us is serenity.


    “There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight,” says Goethe. “I would open every one of Argus’ hundred eyes before I used one of Briareus’ hundred hands,” says Lord Bacon. “Look before you leap,” says John Smith, all over the world.


    Allowing the performance of an honorable action to be attended with labor, the labor is soon over, but the honor is immortal; whereas, should even pleasure wait on the commission of what is dishonorable, the pleasure is soon gone, but the dishonor is eternal.

    John Stewart.

    A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends; and that the most liberal professions of good-will are very far from being the surest marks of it.

    George Washington.

    Man is born for action; he ought to do something. Work, at each step, awakens a sleeping force and roots out error. Who does nothing, knows nothing. Rise! to work! If thy knowledge is real, employ it; wrestle with nature; test the strength of thy theories; see if they will support the trial; act!


    Not alone to know, but to act according to thy knowledge, is thy destination,—proclaims the voice of my inmost soul. Not for indolent contemplation and study of thyself, nor for brooding over emotions of piety,—no, for action was existence given thee; thy actions, and thy actions alone, determine thy worth.


    Act! the wise are known by their actions; fame and immortality are ever their attendants. Mark with deeds the vanishing traces of swift-rolling time. Let us make happy the circle around us,—be useful as much as we may. For that fills up with soft rapture, that dissolves the dark clouds of the day!


    Words are good, but there is something better. The best is not to be explained by words. The spirit in which we act is the chief matter. Action can only be understood and represented by the spirit. No one knows what he is doing while he is acting rightly, but of what is wrong we are always conscious.


    Newton’s great generalization, which he called the “third law of motion,” was that “Action and reaction are always equal to each other;” and that law has been one of the most pregnant of all truths about the mystery of force, one of the brightest windows through which modern eyes have looked into the world of Nature.

    Phillips Brooks.

    Wouldst thou know the lawfulness of the action which thou desirest to undertake, let thy devotion recommend it to Divine blessing: if it be lawful, thou shalt perceive thy heart encouraged by thy prayer; if unlawful, thou shalt find thy prayer discouraged by thy heart. That action is not warrantable which either blushes to beg a blessing, or, having succeeded, dares not present a thanksgiving.


    The only things in which we can be said to have any property are our actions. Our thoughts may be bad, yet produce no poison; they may be good, yet produce no fruit. Our riches may be taken away by misfortune, our reputation by malice, our spirits by calamity, our health by disease, our friends by death. But our actions must follow us beyond the grave; with respect to them alone, we cannot say that we shall carry nothing with us when we die, neither that we shall go naked out of the world.


    There are three sorts of actions: those that are good, those that are bad, and those that are doubtful; and we ought to be most cautious of those that are doubtful; for we are in most danger of these doubtful actions, because they do not alarm us; and yet they insensibly lead to greater transgressions, just as the shades of twilight gradually reconcile us to darkness.

    A. Reed.

  • Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
  • Is our destined end or way;
  • But to act, that each to-morrow
  • Finds us farther than to-day.
  • *****
  • Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
  • Let the dead Past bury its dead!
  • Act, act, in the living Present!
  • Heart within, and God o’erhead!
  • Longfellow.

    There is no word or action but may be taken with two hands,—either with the right hand of charitable construction, or the sinister interpretation of malice and suspicion; and all things do succeed as they are taken. To construe an evil action well is but a pleasing and profitable deceit to myself; but to misconstrue a good thing is a treble wrong,—to myself, the action, and the author.

    Bishop Hall.