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


  • Ah, pensive scholar, what is fame?
  • A fitful tongue of leaping flame:
  • A giddy whirlwind’s fickle gust,
  • That lifts a pinch of mortal dust;
  • A few swift years, and who can show
  • Which dust was Bill, and which was Joe?
  • And silence, like a poultice, comes
  • To heal the blows of sound.
  • Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
  • Long has it waved on high,
  • And many an eye has danced to see
  • That banner in the sky.
  • Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
  • As the swift seasons roll!
  • Leave thy low-vaulted past!
  • Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
  • Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
  • Till thou at length are free,
  • Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea.
  • Children of wealth or want, to each is given
  • One spot of green, and all the blue heaven!
  • Fast as the rolling seasons bring
  • The hour of fate to those we love,
  • Each pearl that leaves the broken string
  • Is set in Friendship’s crown above.
  • As narrower grows the earthly chain,
  • The circle widens in the sky;
  • These are our treasures that remain,
  • But those are stars that beam on high.
  • Grave is the Master’s look; his forehead wears
  • Thick rows of wrinkles, prints of worrying cares;
  • Uneasy lies the heads of all that rule,
  • His worst of all whose kingdom is a school.
  • Supreme he sits; before the awful frown
  • That binds his brows the boldest eye goes down;
  • Not more submissive Israel heard and saw
  • At Sinai’s foot the Giver of the Law.
  • His home! the Western giant smiles,
  • And turns the spotty globe to find it;—
  • This little speck the British Isles?
  • ’Tis but a freckle,—never mind it.
  • Immortal art! where’er the rounded sky
  • Bends o’er the cradle where thy children lie,
  • Their home is earth, their herald every tongue.
  • In dim cathedrals, dark with vaulted gloom,
  • What holy awe invests the sacred tomb!
  • There pride will bow, and anxious care expand,
  • And creeping avarice come with open hand;
  • The gay can weep, the impious can adore,
  • From morn’s first glimmerings on the chancel floor
  • Till dying sunset shed his crimson stains
  • Through the faint halos of the iris’d panes.
  • In his own verse the poet still we find,
  • In his own page his memory lives enshrined,
  • As in their amber sweets the smothered bees,—
  • As the fair cedar, fallen before the breeze,
  • Lies self-embalmed amidst the mouldering trees.
  • Nail to the mast her holy flag,
  • Set every threadbare sail,
  • And give her to the God of storms,
  • The lightning and the gale.
  • Not all the pumice of the polish’d town
  • Can smooth the roughness of the barnyard clown;
  • Rich, honor’d, titled, he betrays his race
  • By this one mark—he’s awkward in his face.
  • Old Time, in whose banks we deposit our notes,
  • Is a miser who always wants guineas for groats;
  • He keeps all his customers still in arrears
  • By lending them minutes and charging them years.
  • One flag, one land, one heart, one hand,
  • One Nation evermore!
  • One kindly deed may turn
  • The fountain of thy soul
  • To love’s sweet day-star, that shall o’er thee burn
  • Long as its currents roll.
  • One word can charm all wrongs away,—
  • The sacred name of Wife.
  • Our Union is river, lake, ocean, and sky:
  • Man breaks not the medal, when God cuts the die!
  • Though darkened with sulphur, though cloven with steel,
  • The blue arch will brighten, the waters will heal!
  • Poor conquer’d lion—from that haughty glance
  • Still speaks the courage unsubdued by time,
  • And in the grandeur of thy sullen tread
  • Lives the proud spirit of thy burning clime.
  • Shun such as lounge through afternoons and eves,
  • And on thy dial write—“Beware of thieves!”
  • Felon of minutes, never taught to feel
  • The worth of treasures which thy fingers steal;
  • Pick my left pocket of its silver dime,
  • But spare the right,—it holds my golden time.
  • Stick to your aim; the mongrel’s hold will slip,
  • But only crow-bars loose the bull-dog’s lip;
  • Small as he looks, the jaw that never yields,
  • Drags down the bellowing monarch of the fields.
  • Stop not, unthinking, every friend you meet
  • To spin your wordy fabric in the street;
  • While you are emptying your colloquial pack,
  • The fiend Lumbago jumps upon his back.
  • Sweet shadows of twilight! how calm their repose,
  • While the dewdrops fall soft in the breast of the rose!
  • How blest to the toiler his hour of release
  • When the vesper is heard with its whisper of peace!
  • The clear, cold question chills to frozen doubt;
  • Tired of beliefs, we dread to live without;
  • O then, if reason waver at thy side,
  • Let humbler Memory be thy gentle guide,
  • Go to thy birth-place, and, if faith was there,
  • Repeat thy father’s creed, thy mother’s prayer.
  • The freeman casting, with unpurchased hand,
  • The vote that shakes the turrets of the land.
  • The ghost of many a veteran bill
  • Shall hover around his slumbers.
  • The morning light, which rains its quivering beams
  • Wide o’er the plains, the summits, and the streams,
  • In one broad blaze expands its golden glow
  • On all that answers to its glance below.
  • The summer’s throbbing chant is done
  • And mute the choral antiphon;
  • The birds have left the shivering pines
  • To flit among the trellised vines,
  • Or fan the air with scented plumes
  • Amid the love-sick orange blooms,
  • And thou art here alone—alone—
  • Sing, little bird! the rest have flown.
  • Thou, O my country hast thy foolish ways!
  • Too apt to purr at every stranger’s praise,
  • But if the stranger touch thy modes or laws,
  • Off goes the velvet and out come the claws.
  • Vain? Let it be so! Nature was her teacher,
  • What if a lovely and unsistered creature
  • Loved her own harmless gift of pleasing feature.
  • Wake in our breast the living fires,
  • The holy faith that warmed our sires;
  • Thy hand hath made our Nation free;
  • To die for her is serving Thee.
  • When darkness gathers over all,
  • And the last tottering pillars fall,
  • Take the poor dust Thy mercy warms,
  • And mould it into heavenly forms.
  • When o’er the street the morning peal is flung
  • From yon tall belfry with the brazen tongue,
  • Its wide vibrations, wafted by the gale,
  • To each far listener tell a different tale.
  • Winter is past; the heart of Nature warms
  • Beneath the wrecks of unresisted storms;
  • Doubtful at first, suspected more than seen,
  • The southern slopes are fringed with tender green.
  • Yes, child of suffering, thou may’st well be sure
  • He who ordained the Sabbath loves the poor.
  • Yet there are graves, whose rudely shapen sod
  • Bears the fresh footprints where the sexton trod;
  • Graves where the verdure has not dar’d to shoot,
  • Where the chance wildflower has not fix’d its root,
  • Whose slumbering tenants, dead without a name,
  • The eternal record shall at length proclaim
  • Pure as the holiest in the long array
  • Of hooded, mitred, or tiara’d clay!
  • You hear that boy laughing? You thing he’s all fun;
  • But the angels laugh, too, at the good he has done.
  • The children laugh loud, as they troop to his call,
  • And the poor man that knows him laughs loudest of all!
  • Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall:
  • A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.
  • A goose flies by a chart which the Royal Geographical Society could not mend.

    A man’s opinions, look you, are generally of much more value than his arguments.

    A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times. It has come to you over a new route, by a new and express train of association.

    A very desperate habit; one that is rarely cured. Apology is only egotism wrong side out. Nine times out of ten, the first thing a man’s companion knows of his short-comings is from his apology.

    All is holy where devotion kneels.

    An artist that works in marble or colors has them all to himself and his tribe; but the man who moulds his thoughts in verse has to employ the materials vulgarized by everybody’s use, and glorify them by his handling.

    Apology is only egotism wrong side out.

    Beauty is the index of a larger fact than wisdom.

    Books are the negative pictures of thought, and the more sensitive the mind that receives their images, the more nicely the finest lines are reproduced.

    Boston State-house is the hub of the solar system. You couldn’t pry that out of a Boston man if you had the tire of all creation straightened out for a crow-bar.

    Conceit is just as natural a thing to human minds as a centre is to a circle. But little-minded people’s thoughts move in such small circles that five minutes’ conversation gives you an arc long enough to determine their whole curve. An arc in the movement of a large intellect does not differ sensibly from a straight line.

    Day hath put on his jacket, and around his burning bosom buttoned it with stars.

    Don’t be “consistent,” but be simply true.

    Easy-crying widows take new husbands soonest; there is nothing like wet weather for transplanting.

    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.

    Every library should try to be complete on something, if it were only the history of pin-heads.

    Every real master of speaking or writing uses his personality as he would any other serviceable material; the very moment a speaker or writer begins to use it, not for his main purpose, but for vanity’s sake, as all weak people are sure to do, hearers and readers feel the difference in a moment.

    Faith always implies the disbelief of a lesser fact in favor of a greater.

    Faith loves to lean on time’s destroying arm.

    Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else,—very rarely to those who say to themselves, “Go to, now let us be a celebrated individual!”

    Fashion is only the attempt to realize art in living forms and social intercourse.

    Freedom is the ferment of freedom. The moistened sponge drinks up water greedily; the dry one sheds it.

    Genius does not herd with genius.

    Genius grafted on womanhood is like to overgrow it and break its stem, as you may see a grafted fruit-tree spreading over the stock which cannot keep pace with its evolutions.

    Genius is always impatient of its harness; its wild blood makes it hard to train.

    Good-breeding is surface Christianity.

    Habit is the approximation of the animal system to the organic. It is a confession of failure in the highest function of being, which involves a perpetual self-determination, in full view of all existing circumstances.

    He knew how to weaken his divinity, on occasion, as well as an old housewife to weaken her tea, lest it should keep people awake.

    He who ordained the Sabbath loved the poor.

    Honest thinkers are always stealing from each other.

    How many people live on the reputation of the reputation they might have made!

    How many women are born too finely organized in sense and soul for the highway they must walk with feet unshod!

    Humility is the first of the virtues—for other people.

    I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind and all the worse for the fishes.

    I like books. I was born and bred among them, and have the easy feeling when I get in their presence, that a stable-boy has among horses.

    I say that conceit is just as natural a thing to human minds as a centre to a circle.

    I think most readers of Shakespeare sometimes find themselves thrown into exalted mental conditions like those produced by music.

    I think you will find that people who honestly mean to be true really contradict themselves much more rarely than those who try to be “consistent.”

    If a man really loves a woman, of course he wouldn’t marry her for the world, if he were not quite sure that he was the best person she could by any possibility marry.

    Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.

    It is the most momentous question a woman is ever called upon to decide, whether the faults of the man she loves are beyond remedy and will drag her down, or whether she is competent to be his earthly redeemer and lift him to her own level.

    Language! the blood of the soul, sir, into which our thoughts run, and out of which they grow.

    Laughter and tears are meant to turn the wheels of the same machinery of sensibility; one is wind-power, and the other water-power, that is all.

    Life, as we call it, is nothing but the edge of the boundless ocean of existence where it comes upon soundings.

    Literature is full of coincidences which some love to believe plagiarisms.

    Love is sparingly soluble in the words of men, therefore they speak much of it; but one syllable of woman’s speech can dissolve more of it than a man’s heart can hold.

    Love prefers twilight to daylight.

    Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up. That which was a weed in one intelligence becomes a flower in the other, and a flower again dwindles down to a mere weed by the same change.

    Men, like peaches and pears, grow sweet a little while before they begin to decay.

    Mountains have a grand, stupid, lovable tranquillity.

    Nature is in earnest when she makes a woman.

    Old books, as you well know, are books of the world’s youth, and new books are the fruits of its age.

    One of the greatest pleasures of childhood is found in the mysteries which it hides from the skepticism of the elders, and works up into small mythologies of its own.

    Our brains are seventy-year clocks. The angel of life winds them up at once for all, then closes the cases, and gives the key into the hand of the angel of resurrection. “Tic-tac, tic-tac!” go the wheels of thought; our will cannot stop them; madness only makes them go faster. Death alone can break into the case, and, seizing the ever-swinging pendulum which we call the heart, silence at last the clicking of the terrible escapement we have carried so long beneath, our aching foreheads.

    Our old mother nature has pleasant and cheery tones enough for us when she comes in her dress of blue and gold over the eastern hill-tops; but when she follows us upstairs to our beds in her suit of black velvet and diamonds, every creak of her sandals and every whisper of her lips is full of mystery and fear.

    Poetry uses the rainbow tints for special effects, but always keeps its essential object in the purest light of truth.

    Poets are never young, in one sense. Their delicate ear hears the far-off whispers of eternity, which coarser souls must travel towards for scores of years before their dull sense is touched by them. A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.

    Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust.

    Science is a good piece of furniture for a man to have in an upper chamber, provided he has common sense on the ground floor.

    Science is the topography of ignorance.

    Science—in other words, knowledge—is not the enemy of religion; for, if so, then religion would mean ignorance. But it is often the antagonist of school-divinity.

    Silence! the pride of reason.

    Simple creatures, whose thoughts are not taken up, like those of educated people, with the care of a great museum of dead phrases, are very quick to see the live facts which are going on about them.

    Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.

    Society is a strong solution of books. It draws the virtue out of what is best worth reading, as hot water draws the strength of tea-leaves.

    Still singing as they shine.

    Stillness of person and steadiness of features are signal marks of good breeding. Vulgar persons can’t sit still, or, at least, they must work their limbs or features.

    Talk about conceit as much as you like, it is to human character what salt is to the ocean; it keeps it sweet and renders it endurable. Say rather it is like the natural unguent of the sea-fowl’s plumage, which enables him to shed the rain that falls on him and the wave in which he dips. When one has had all his conceit taken out of him, when he has lost all his illusions, his feathers will soon soak through, and he will fly no more.

    Talking is like playing on the harp; there is as much in laying the hands on the strings to stop their vibrations as in twanging them to bring out their music.

    Talking is one of the fine arts—the noblest, the most important, the most difficult—and its fluent harmonies may be spoiled by the intrusion of a single harsh note.

    Tears, except as a private demonstration, are an ill-disguised expression of self-consciousness and vanity, which is inadmissible in good society.

    The amen! of nature is always a flower.

    The bigot is like the pupil of the eye, the more light you put upon it, the more it will contract.

    The bore is the same eating dates under the cedars of Lebanon as over a plate of baked beans in Beacon Street.

    The brain is the palest of all the internal organs, and the heart the reddest. Whatever comes from the brain carries the hue of the place it came from, and whatever comes from the heart carries the heat and color of its birthplace.

    The brain women never interest us like the heart women; white roses please less than red.

    The first thing naturally when one enters a scholar’s study or library, is to look at his books. One gets a notion very speedily of his tastes and the range of his pursuits by a glance round his book-shelves.

    The flowering moments of the mind drop half their petals in our speech.

    The foolishest book is a kind of leaky boat on a sea of wisdom; some of the wisdom will get in anyhow.

    The lengthening shadows wait the first pale stars of twilight.

    The mind does not know what diet it can feed on until it has been brought to the starvation point.

    The more we examine the mechanism of thought, the more we shall see that the automatic, unconscious action of the mind enters largely into all its processes. Our definite ideas are stepping-stones; how we get from one to the other, we do not know; something carries us; we do not take the step.

    The one thing that marks the true artist is a clear perception and a firm, bold hand, in distinction from that imperfect mental vision and uncertain touch which give us the feeble pictures and the lumpy statues of the mere artisans on canvas or in stone.

    The sea drowns out humanity and time. It has no sympathy with either, for it belongs to eternity; and of that it sings its monotonous song forever and ever.

    The smaller the calibre of mind, the greater the bore of a perpetually open mouth.

    The smallest word has some unguarded spot, and danger lurks in i without a dot.

    The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a deal longer.

    The wisest woman you talk with is ignorant of something that you know, but an elegant woman never forgets her elegance.

    The world is always ready to receive talent with open arms. Very often it does not know what to do with genius. Talent is a docile creature. It bows its head meekly while the world slips the collar over it. It backs into the shafts like a lamb.

    The world’s great men have not commonly been great scholars, nor its great scholars great men.

    Then there is that glorious Epicurean paradox, uttered by my friend, the Historian, in one of his flashing moments: “Give us the luxuries of life, and we will dispense with its necessaries.”

    There are a good many real miseries in life that we cannot help smiling at, but they are the smiles that make wrinkles and not dimples.

    There are inscriptions on our hearts which, like that on Dighton rock, are never to be seen except at dead-low tide.

    There are many things which we can afford to forget which it is yet well to learn.

    There are those who hold the opinion that truth is only safe when diluted,—about one-fifth to four-fifths lies,—as the oxygen of the air is with its nitrogen. Else it would burn us all up.

    There are three wicks you know to the lamp of a man’s life: brain, blood, and breath. Press the brain a little, its light goes out, followed by both the others. Stop the heart a minute, and out go all three of the wicks. Choke the air out of the lungs, and presently the fluid ceases to supply the other centers of flame, and all is soon stagnation, cold, and darkness.

    There comes a time when the souls of human beings, women more even than men, begin to faint for the atmosphere of the affections they are made to breathe.

    There is infinite pathos in unsuccessful authorship. The book that perishes unread is the deaf-mute of literature. The great asylum of Oblivion is full of such, making inaudible signs to each other in leaky garrets and unattainable dusty upper shelves.

    There is no possible success without some opposition as a fulcrum; force is always aggressive, and crowds something or other, if it does not hit and trample upon it.

    They govern the world, these sweet-lipped women, because beauty is the index of a larger fact than wisdom.

    To hear him (Emerson) talk was like watching one crossing a brook on stepping-stones. His noun had to wait for its verb or its adjective until he was ready; then his speech would come down upon the word he wanted, and not Worcester nor Webster could better it from all the wealth of their huge vocabularies.

    To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly.

    To know whether a minister, young or still in flower, is in safe or dangerous paths, there are two psychometers, a comparison between which will give as infallible a return as the dry and wet bulks of the ingenious “Hygrodeik.” The first is the black broadcloth forming the knees of his pantaloons; the second the patch of carpet before his mirror. If the first is unworn and the second is frayed and threadbare, pray for him; if the first is worn and shiny, while the second keeps its pattern and texture, get him to pray for you.

    Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day, like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

    Unpretending mediocrity is good, and genius is glorious; but the weak flavor of genius in a person essentially common is detestable.

    Vulgar people can’t be still.

    War is a child that devours its nurses one after another, until it is claimed by its true parents.

    We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.

    We must have a weak spot or two in a character before we can love it much. People that do not laugh or cry, or take more of anything than is good for them, or use anything but dictionary words, are admirable subjects for biographies. But we don’t always care most for those flat-pattern flowers that press best in the herbarium.

    What a blessed thing it is that nature, when she invented, manufactured and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left!

    What a comfort a dull but kindly person is, to be sure, at times! A ground-glass shade over a gas lamp does not bring more solace to our dazzled eyes than such a one to our minds.

    What a strange thing an old dead sin laid away in a secret drawer of the soul is? Must it some time or other be moistened with tears, until it comes to life again, and begins to stir in our consciousness, as the dry wheat-animalcule, looking like a grain of dust, becomes alive if it is wet with a drop of water?

    What gems of painting or statuary are in the world of art, or what flowers are in the world of Nature, are gems of thought to the cultivated and thinking.

    What would be the state of the highway of life, if we did not drive our thought-sprinklers through them, with valve open, sometimes.

    When a strong brain is weighed with a true heart, it seems to me like balancing a bubble against a wedge of gold.

    When I think of talking, it is of course with a woman; for, talking at its best being an inspiration, it wants a corresponding divine quality of receptiveness, and where will you find this but in woman?

    When the last reader reads no more.

    When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those who come after us if not for ourselves.

    Wisdom is the abstract of the past.

    Wit throws a single ray, separated from the rest,—red, yellow, blue, or any intermediate shade,—upon an object; never white light; that is the province of wisdom. We get beautiful effects from wit,—all the prismatic colors,—but never the object as it is in fair daylight.

    Writing or printing is like shooting with a rifle; you may hit your reader’s mind, or miss it—but talking is like playing at a mark with the pipe of an engine; if it is within reach, and you have time enough, you can’t help hitting it.

    Yellow japanned buttercups and star-disked dandelions—just as we see them lying in the grass, like sparks that have leaped from the kindling sun of summer.