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


Poets are far rarer birds than kings.

Ben Jonson.

All men are poets at heart.


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

Ben Jonson.

I learn life from the poets.

Mme. de Staël.

A poet must sing for his own people.


He koude songes make and wel endite.


To the poetic mind all things are poetical.


Who live on fancy, and can feed on air.


The true poem is the poet’s mind.


All great poets have been men of great knowledge.


To a poet nothing can be useless.


A poet is a painter of the soul.

Isaac Disraeli.

  • God’s prophets of the Beautiful,
  • These Poets were.
  • E. B. Browning.

    Nature, after all, is still the grand agent in making poets.


    Most of the poets of to-day have the spider’s talent of spinning, but not her art of weaving.


  • Poets are all who love,—who feel great truths,
  • And tell them.
  • Bailey.

    A poet is the translator of the silent language of nature to the world.

    R. W. Griswold.

    Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.


    A poet without love were a physical and metaphysical impossibility.


  • Most joyful let the Poet be;
  • It is through him that all men see.
  • William E. Channing.

    ’Tis a question whether adversity or prosperity makes the most poets.


  • There is a pleasure in poetic pains,
  • Which only poets know.
  • Cowper.

    For next to being a great poet is the power of understanding one.


    Poets alone are sure of immortality; they are the truest diviners of nature.


  • A poem’s life and death dependeth still
  • Not on the poet’s wits, but reader’s will.
  • Alexander Brome.

    It’s a man’s sincerity and depth of vision that makes him a poet.


  • The Poet’s leaves are gathered one by one,
  • In the slow process of the doubtful years.
  • Bayard Taylor.

    The poet who does not revere his art, and believe in its sovereignty, is not born to wear the purple.


  • Never durst poet touch a pen to write
  • Until his ink were temper’d with Love’s sighs.
  • Shakespeare.

    The poet’s labors are a work of joy, and require peace of mind.


    A poet’s soul must contain the perfect shape of all things good, wise and just. His body must be spotless and without blemish, his life pure, his thoughts high, his studies intense.

    Augustine Birrell.

    Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present.


    Show me one wicked man who has written poetry, and I will show you where his poetry is not poetry; or, rather, I will show you in his poetry no poetry at all.

    Elizabeth S. Shephard.

    The poet is a creator, not an iconoclast, and never will tamely endeavor to say in prose what can only be expressed in song.


  • Dan Chaucer, well of English undefyled,
  • On Fame’s eternall beadroll worthie to be fyled.
  • Spenser.

    I fancy the character of a poet is in every country the same,—fond of enjoying the present, careless of the future; his conversation that of a man of sense, his actions those of a fool.


    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.

    Ben Jonson.

  • For voices pursue him by day,
  • And haunt him by night,—
  • And he listens, and needs must obey,
  • When the Angel says: “Write!”
  • Longfellow.

  • Ages elapsed ere Homer’s lamp appear’d,
  • And ages ere the Mantuan swan was heard;
  • To carry nature lengths unknown before,
  • To give a Milton birth, ask’d ages more.
  • Cowper.

    To have read the greatest works any great poet, to have beheld or heard the greatest works of any great painter or musician, is a possession added to the best things of life.


    Poets should be law-givers; that is, the boldest lyric inspiration should not chide and insult, but should announce and lead the civil code, and the day’s work.


    The poet must be alike polished by an intercourse with the world as with the studies of taste; one to whom labor is negligence, refinement a science, and art a nature.

    Isaac Disraeli.

    Every poet, be his outward lot what it may, finds himself born in the midst of prose; he has to struggle from the littleness and obstruction of an actual world into the freedom and infinitude of an ideal.


    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.


    A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. His auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.


  • For his chaste Muse employed her heaven-taught lyre
  • None but the noblest passions to inspire,
  • Not one immortal, one corrupted thought,
  • One line, which dying he could wish to blot.
  • Lord Lyttleton.

    To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel that discernment is but a hand playing with finely ordered variety on the chords of emotion: a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge.

    George Eliot.

    One more royal trait properly belongs to the poet. I mean his cheerfulness, without which no man can be a poet,—for beauty is his aim. He loves virtue, not for its obligation, but for its grace; he delights in the world, in man, in woman, for the lovely light that sparkles from them. Beauty, the spirit of joy and hilarity, he sheds over the universe.


  • 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.
  • O. W. Holmes.

  • I can no more believe old Homer blind,
  • Than those who say the sun hath never shined;
  • The age wherein he lived was dark, but he
  • Could not want sight who taught the world to see.
  • Sir John Denham.

  • O brave poets, keep back nothing;
  • Nor mix falsehood with the whole!
  • Look up Godward! speak the truth in
  • Worthy song from earnest soul!
  • Hold, in high poetic duty,
  • Truest Truth the fairest Beauty.
  • E. B. Browning.

    Genius in the poet, like the nomad of Arabia, ever a wanderer, still ever makes a home where the well or the palm-tree invites it to pitch the tent. Perpetually passing out of himself and his own positive circumstantial condition of being into other hearts and into other conditions, the poet obtains his knowledge of human life by transporting his own life into the lives of others.


  • The source of each accordant strain
  • Lies deeper than the Poet’s brain.
  • First from the people’s heart must spring
  • The passions which he learns to sing;
  • They are the wind, the harp is he,
  • To voice their fitful melody,—
  • The language of their varying fate,
  • Their pride, grief, love, ambition, hate,—
  • The talisman which holds inwrought
  • The touchstone of the listener’s thought;
  • That penetrates each vain disguise,
  • And brings his secret to his eyes.
  • Bayard Taylor.

    All poets pretend to write for immortality, but the whole tribe have no objection to present pay, and present praise. Lord Burleigh is not the only statesman who has thought one hundred pounds too much for a song, though sung by Spenser; although Oliver Goldsmith is the only poet who ever considered himself to have been overpaid.


    There is nothing of which nature has been more bountiful than poets. They swarm like the spawn of codfish, with a vicious fecundity that invites and requires destruction. To publish verses is become a sort of evidence that a man wants sense; which is repelled, not by writing good verses, but by writing excellent verses.

    Sydney Smith.

  • The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
  • Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
  • And, as imagination bodies forth
  • The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
  • Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
  • A local habitation and a name.
  • Shakespeare.

  • O ye dead Poets, who are living still
  • Immortal in your verse, though life be fled,
  • And ye, O living Poets, who are dead
  • Though ye are living, if neglect can kill,
  • Tell me if in the darkest hours of ill,
  • With drops of anguish falling fast and red
  • From the sharp crown of thorns upon your head.
  • Ye were not glad your errand to fulfill?
  • Longfellow.