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

Ben Jonson

  • A soft lip
  • Would tempt you to eternity of kissing!
  • A valiant man
  • Ought not to undergo, or tempt a danger,
  • But worthily, and by selected ways.
  • He undertakes with reason, not by chance.
  • His valor is the salt t’ his other virtues,
  • They’re all unseason’d without it.
  • And where she went, the flowers took thickest root,
  • As she had sow’d them with her odorous foot.
  • Art thou a man, and shams’t thou not to beg,
  • To practice such a servile kind of life?
  • Why, were thy education ne’er so mean,
  • Having thy limbs, a thousand fairer courses
  • Offer themselves to thy election.
  • Either the wars might still supply thy wants,
  • Or service of some virtuous gentleman,
  • Or honest labour; nay, what can I name
  • But would become thee better than to beg?
  • But men of thy condition feed on sloth,
  • As doth the beetle on the dung she breeds in;
  • Not caring how the metal of your minds
  • Is eaten with the rust of idleness.
  • Now, after me, what e’er he be, that should
  • Believe a person of thy quality,
  • While thou insist in this loose desp’rate course,
  • I would esteem the sin not thine, but his.
  • As if the wind, not she, did walk,
  • Nor pressed a flower, nor bowed a stalk.
  • Chance will not do the work. Chance sends the breeze;
  • But if the pilot slumber at the helm,
  • The very wind that wafts us tow’rds the port
  • May dash us on the shoals. The steersman’s part
  • Is vigilance, or blow it rough or smooth.
  • Drink to me only with thine eyes,
  • And I will pledge with mine.
  • Each petty hand
  • Can steer a ship becalm’d; but he that will
  • Govern and carry her to her ends, must know
  • His tides, his currents, how to shift his sails;
  • What she will bear in foul, what in fair weathers;
  • Where her springs are, her leaks, and how to stop ’em;
  • What strands, what shelves, what rocks do threaten her.
  • Forbear, you things
  • That stand upon the pinnacles of state,
  • To boast your slippery height! when you do fall,
  • You dash yourselves in pieces, ne’er to rise:
  • And he that lends you pity, is not wise.
  • Follow a shadow, it still flies you,
  • Seem to fly it, it will pursue:
  • So court a mistress, she denies you;
  • Let her alone, she will court you.
  • Say are not women truly, then,
  • Styled but the shadows of us men?
  • For a good poet’s made, as well as born,
  • And such wast thou! Look how the father’s face
  • Lives in his issue; even so the race
  • Of Shakespeare’s mind and manners brightly shine
  • In his well-turned and true-filèd lines;
  • In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
  • As brandished at the eyes of ignorance.
  • Give me a look, give me a face,
  • That makes simplicity a grace:
  • Robes loosely flowing, hair as free;
  • Such sweet neglect more taketh me
  • Than all the adulteries of art;
  • They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
  • He was a man
  • Versed in the world as pilot in his compass;
  • The needle pointed ever to that interest
  • Which was his loadstar; and he spread his sails
  • With vantage to the gale of others’ passions.
  • I have heard they are the most lewd impostors,
  • Made of all terms and shreds, no less beliers
  • Of great men’s favours than their own vile medicines,
  • Which they will utter upon monstrous oaths;
  • Selling that drug for two pence ere they part,
  • Which they have valued at twelve crowns before.
  • I have no urns, no dusty monuments;
  • No broken images of ancestors,
  • Wanting an ear, or nose; no forged tales
  • Of long descents, to boast false honors from.
  • I oft have heard him say how he admir’d
  • Men of your large profession, that could speak
  • To every cause, and things mere contraries,
  • Till they were hoarse again, yet all be law.
  • If he were
  • To be made honest by an act of parliament
  • I should not alter in my faith of him.
  • If I freely may discover
  • What should please me in my lover,
  • I would have her fair and witty,
  • Savouring more of court than city;
  • A little proud, but full of pity;
  • Light and humorous in her toying,
  • Oft building hopes, and soon destroying,
  • Long, but sweet in the enjoying;
  • Neither too easy nor to hard;
  • All extremes I would have barr’d.
  • In the hope to meet
  • Shortly again, and make our absence sweet.
  • It is a note
  • Of upstart greatness to observe and watch
  • For these poor trifles, which the noble mind
  • Neglects and scorns.
  • It is not growing like a tree
  • In bulk, doth make man better be;
  • Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
  • To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
  • A lily of a day
  • Is fairer far in May,
  • Although it fall and die that night—
  • It was the plant and flower of Light.
  • Nature herself was proud of his designs,
  • And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines!
  • Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
  • As since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
  • Poor worms, they hiss at me, whilst I at home
  • Can be contented to applaud myself,***with joy
  • To see how plump my bags are and my barns.
  • Pray thee, take care, that tak’st my book in hand,
  • To read it well; that is to understand.
  • Princes that would their people should do well
  • Must at themselves begin, as at the head;
  • For men, by their example, pattern out
  • Their imitations, and regard of laws:
  • A virtuous court a world to virtue draws.
  • Sweet Swan of Avon! What a sight it were
  • To see thee in our water yet appear.
  • That I might live alone once with my gold!
  • O, ’tis a sweet companion! kind and true:
  • A man may trust it when his father cheats him,
  • Brother, or friend, or wife. O wondrous pelf!
  • That which makes all men false, is true itself.
  • The gods
  • Grow angry with your patience. ’Tis their care
  • And must be yours, that guilty men escape not:
  • As crimes do grow, justice should rouse itself.
  • The voice so sweet, the words so fair,
  • As some soft chime had stroked the air;
  • And though the sound had parted thence,
  • Still left an echo in the sense.
  • There is no bounty to be showed to such
  • As have real goodness: Bounty is
  • A spice of virtue; and what virtuous act
  • Can take effect on them that have no power
  • Of equal habitude to apprehend it?
  • This figure that thou here seest put,
  • It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,
  • Wherein the graver had a strife
  • With Nature, to outdo the life:
  • Oh, could he but have drawn his wit
  • As well in brass, as he has hit
  • His face, the print would then surpass
  • All that was ever writ in brass;
  • But since he cannot, reader, look
  • Not on his picture, but his book.
  • ’Tis no sin love’s fruits to steal;
  • But the sweet thefts to reveal;
  • To be taken, to be seen,
  • These have crimes accounted been.
  • ’Tis not the wholesome sharp morality,
  • Or modest anger of a satiric spirit,
  • That hurts or wounds the body of a state,
  • But the sinister application
  • Of the malicious, ignorant, and base
  • Interpreter, who will distort and strain
  • The general scope and purpose of an author
  • To his particular and private spleen.
  • To the old, long life and treasure;
  • To the young, all health and pleasure.
  • Underneath this stone doth lie
  • As much beauty as could die;
  • Which in life did harbor give
  • To more virtue than doth live.
  • If at all she had a fault,
  • Leave it buried in this vault.
  • When I would know thee***my thought looks
  • Upon thy well-made choice of friends and books;
  • Then do I love thee, and behold thy ends
  • In making thy friends books, and thy books friends.
  • Yet shall you have to rectify your palate,
  • An olive, capers, or some better salad
  • Ushering the mutton; with a short-legged hen,
  • If we can get her, full of eggs, and then,
  • Limons, and wine for sauce: to these a coney
  • Is not to be despaired of for our money;
  • And though fowl now be scarce, yet there are clerks,
  • The sky not falling, think we may have larks.
  • A good king is a public servant.

    A good man will avoid the spot of any sin. The very aspersion is grievous, which makes him choose his way in his life, as he would in his journey.

    A tedious person is one a man would leap a steeple from.

    A thankful man owes a courtesy ever; the unthankful but when he needs it.

    About the noon of night.

    Affliction teacheth a wicked person some time to pray: prosperity, never.

    All concord’s born of contraries.

    All the gazers on the skies read not in fair heaven’s story expresser truth or truer glory than they might in her bright eyes.

    Ambition is a rebel both to the soul and reason, and enforces all laws, all conscience; treads upon religion, and offers violence to nature’s self.

    Ambition, like a torrent, never looks back.

    As it is a great point of art, when our matter requires it, to enlarge and veer out all sail, so to take it in and contract it is of no less praise when the argument doth ask it.

    Bad men excuse their faults, good men will leave them.

    Court a mistress, she denies you; let her alone, she will court you.

    Cut men’s throats with whisperings.

    Drink to me only with thine eyes, and I will pledge with mine.

    Envy sets the stronger seal on desert; if he have no enemies, I should esteem his fortune most wretched.

    Famine ends famine.

    Fear to do base, unworthy things is valor; if they be done to us, to suffer them is valor too.

    For a good poet’s made, as well as born.

    For he that once is good, is ever great.

    Give me a look, give me a face that makes simplicity a grace—robes loosely flowing, hair as free!

    Good men are the stars, the planets of the ages wherein they live, and illustrate the times.

    Good men but see death, the wicked taste it.

    Guilt’s a terrible thing.

    Hang sorrow, care ’ll kill a cat.

    Hang virtue!

    He that is respectless in his courses oft sells his reputation at cheap market.

    He that would have his virtue published, is not the servant of virtue, but glory.

    He was honest, and of an open and free nature.

    He was not of an age, but for all time.

    He who was taught only by himself had a fool for a master.

    Heaven prepares good men with crosses; but no ill can happen to a good man.

    Hell itself must yield to industry.

    Hope is such a bait, it covers any hook.

    How Fortune piles her sports when she begins to practise them!

    How near to good is what is fair!

    I am beholden to calumny, that she hath so endeavored and taken pains to belie me. It shall make me set a surer guard on myself, and keep a better watch upon my actions.

    I do hate him as I hate the devil.

    I have discovered that a famed familiarity in great ones is a note of certain usurpation on the less; for great and popular men feign themselves to be servants to others to make those slaves to them.

    I remember, the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, would he had blotted a thousand.

    I would have you not stand so much on your gentility, which is an airy and mere borrowed thing from dead men’s dust and bones; and none of yours except you make and hold it.

    If men will impartially, and not asquint, look toward the offices and function of a poet, they will easily conclude to themselves the impossibility of any man’s being a good poet without first being a good man.

    Ill-fortune never crushed that man whom good fortune deceived not.

    It is virtue that gives glory; that will endenizen a man everywhere.

    Laugh and be fat, sir.

    Let argument bear no unmusical sound.

    Let them call it mischief; when it is past and prospered, it will be virtue.

    Many might go to heaven with half the labor they go to hell, if they would venture their industry the right way.

    Money never made any man rich, but his mind. He that can order himself to the law of nature, is not only without the sense, but the fear of poverty.

    My thoughts and I were of another world.

    No man is so foolish but he may give another good counsel sometimes, and no man so wise but he may easily err, if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that was taught only by himself had a fool for a master.

    Nothing is a courtesy unless it be meant us, and that friendly and lovingly. We owe no thanks to rivers that they carry our boats, or winds that they be favoring and fill our sails, or meats that they be nourishing; for these are what they are necessarily. Horses carry us, trees shade us; but they know it not.

    Nothing is more short-lived than pride.

    Or leave a kiss, but in the cup, and I’ll not look for wine.

    Out of clothes out of countenance, out of countenance out of wit.

    Poets are far rarer birds than kings.

    Prevent your day at morning.

    Rich apparel has strange virtues; it makes him that hath it without means esteemed for an excellent wit; he that enjoys it with means puts the world in remembrance of his means.

    See and to be seen.

    Silence in woman is like speech in man.

    Small Latin, and less Greek.

    Soul of the age! the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage.

    Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.

    That old bald cheater, Time.

    The burnt child dreads the fire.

    The devil is an ass, I do acknowledge it.

    The dignity of truth is lost with much protesting.

    The good need fear no law; it is his safety, and the bad man’s awe.

    The poet is the nearest borderer upon the orator.

    The soul of man is infinite in what it covets.

    The two chief things that give a man reputation in counsel, are the opinion of his honesty, and the opinion of his wisdom; the authority of those two will persuade.

    The world knows only two, that’s Rome and I.

    They say princes learn no art truly, but the art of horsemanship. The reason is, the brave beast is no flatterer. He will throw a prince as soon as his groom.

    They talk as they are wont, not as I merit; traduce by custom, as most dogs do bark.

    They that know no evil will suspect none.

    They utter all they think with violence.

    Those whose tongues are gentlemen ushers to their wit, and still go before it.

    ***Thou hadst small Latin and less Greek.

    ’T is no shame to follow the better precedent.

    ’T is virtue which they want; and, wanting it, honor no garment to their backs can fit.

    True gladness doth not always speak; joy bred and born but in the tongue is weak.

    Very few men are wise by their own counsel, or learned by their own teaching; for he that was only taught by himself had a fool to his master.

    When a virtuous man is raised, it brings gladness to his friends, grief to his enemies, and glory to his posterity.

    When affliction thunders over our roofs, to hide our heads, and run into our graves, shows us no men, but makes us fortune’s slaves.

    Where it concerns himself, who is angry at a slander makes it true.

    Who falls for love of God, shall rise a star.

    Whom the disease of talking still once possesseth, he can never hold his peace. Nay, rather than he will not discourse he will hire men to hear him.

    Whosoever loves not picture is injurious to truth, and all the wisdom of poetry. Picture is the invention of heaven, the most ancient and most akin to nature. It is itself a silent work, and always one and the same habit.