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


Few, save the poor, feel for the poor.

L. E. Landon.

Poverty is the stepmother of genius.

H. W. Shaw.

To have nothing is not poverty.


My poverty, but not my will, consents.


The poor man’s wisdom is despised.


Whose plenty made him pore.


And plenty makes us poor.


Steep’d me in poverty to the very lips.


Poverty often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue.

Benjamin Franklin.

The inevitable consequence of poverty is dependence.


A man guilty of poverty easily believes himself suspected.


Poverty is relative, and, therefore, not ignoble.


As society advances the standard of poverty rises.

Theodore Parker.

There is nothing perfectly secure but poverty.


  • Where penury is felt the thought is chain’d,
  • And sweet colloquial pleasures are but few.
  • Cowper.

    We think poverty to be infinitely desirable before the torments of covetousness.

    Jeremy Taylor.

    Who can speak broader than he that has no house to put his head in?—Such may rail against great buildings.


    The lack of wealth is easily repaired; but the poverty of the soul is irreparable.


    Poverty is the test of civility and the touchstone of friendship.


    No, madame, ’tis not so well that I am poor; though many of the rich are damned.


    Thou source of all my bliss and all my woe, that found’st me poor at first, and keep’st me so.


    There is a noble manner of being poor, and who does not know it will never be rich.


    The greatest hardship of poverty is that it tends to make men ridiculous.


    Poverty persuades a man to do and suffer everything that he may escape from it.


    To be poor, and to seem poor, is a certain method never to rise.


    If poverty is the mother of crimes, want of sense is the father of them.

    La Bruyère.

    He travels safe and not unpleasantly who is guarded by poverty and guided by love.

    Sir P. Sidney.

    Poverty makes people satirical, soberly, sadly, bitterly satirical.

    Haines Friswell.

    He had a prince’s mind imprisoned in a poor man’s purse.


    Poverty snatches the reins out of the hand of piety.


    It is the care of a very great part of mankind to conceal their indigence from the rest.

    Dr. Johnson.

    Poverty possesses this disease; through want it teaches a man evil.


    Perhaps a reasonable apprehension of poverty is more paralyzing than the reality.

    James Cotter Morison.

    Through tattered clothes small vices do appear; robes and furred gowns hide all.


    He is not poor who has the use of necessary things.


    The traveler without money will sing before the robber.


    They say, poor suitors have strong breaths.


    It is unmistakable madness to live in poverty only to die rich.


    They do not easily rise whose abilities are repressed by poverty at home.


    Poverty is shunned and persecuted all over the globe.


    Nor is there on earth a more powerful advocate for vice than poverty.


    I am as poor as Job, my lord, but not so patient.


    Rarely they rise by virtue’s aid who lie plunged in the depth of helpless poverty.


    Not be who has little, but he who wishes for more, is poor.


    The rich know not how hard it is to be of needful rest and needful food debarred.

    L. E. Landon.

  • This mournful truth is everywhere confessed,
  • Slow rises worth by poverty depressed.
  • Dr. Johnson.

  • Rattle his bones over the stones!
  • He’s only a pauper whom nobody owns!
  • Thomas Noel.

    The poor trying to imitate the powerful, perish.


  • If we from wealth to poverty descend,
  • Want gives to know the flatterer from the friend.
  • Dryden.

  • But to the world no bugbear is so great,
  • As want of figure and a small estate.
  • Pope.

  • O God! that bread should be so dear,
  • And flesh and blood so cheap!
  • Hood.

    Poverty, when it is voluntary, is never despicable, but takes an heroical aspect.


    Poverty is the only load which is the heavier the more loved ones there are to assist in supporting it.


  • Chill penury repress’d their noble rage,
  • And froze the genial current of the soul.
  • Gray.

  • Burns o’er the plough sung sweet his woodnotes wild;
  • And richest Shakespeare was a poor man’s child.
  • Ebenezer Elliott.

  • But poverty, with most who whimper forth
  • Their long complaints, is self-inflicted woe;
  • The effect of laziness, or sottish waste.
  • Cowper.

  • Most wretched men
  • Are cradled into poetry by wrong.
  • They learn in suffering what they teach in song.
  • Shelley.

  • Be honest poverty thy boasted wealth;
  • So shall thy friendships be sincere, tho’ few,
  • So shall thy sleep be sound, thy waking cheerful.
  • Havard.

    All this (wealth) excludes but one evil—poverty.

    Samuel Johnson.

    Poverty is a bitter weed to most women, and there are few indeed who can accept it with dignity.

    E. Lynn Linton.

  • Ay! idleness! the rich folks never fail
  • To find some reason why the poor deserve
  • Their miseries.
  • Southey.

  • Yes, child of suffering, thou may’st well be sure
  • He who ordained the Sabbath loves the poor.
  • O. W. Holmes.

    In one important respect a man is fortunate in being poor. His responsibility to God is so much the less.


    We like the fine extravagance of that philosopher who declared that no man was as rich as all men ought to be.


    It is a kind of blindness—poverty. We can only grope through life when we are poor, hitting and maiming ourselves against every angle.


    In a change of government the poor change nothing but the name of their masters.


    Gold gives an appearance of beauty even to ugliness; but with poverty everything becomes frightful.


    Chill penury weighs down the heart itself; and though it sometimes be endured with calmness, it is but the calmness of despair.

    Mrs. Jameson.

    Poverty, labor, and calamity are not without their luxuries, which the rich, the indolent, and the fortunate in vain seek for.


    We should not so much esteem our poverty as a misfortune, were it not that the world treats it so much as a crime.


    It requires a great deal of poetry to gild the pill of poverty, and then it will pass current only in theory; the reality is a dead failure.

    Madame Deluzy.

    Men praise poverty, as the African worships Mumbo Jumbo—from terror of the malign power, and a desire to propitiate it.

    Alexander Smith.

    Not to be able to bear poverty is a shameful thing, but not to know how to chase it away by work is a more shameful thing yet.


    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.

    Ben Jonson.

    Poverty sits by the cradle of all our great men, and rocks them up to manhood; and this meager foster-mother remains their faithful companion throughout life.


    Poverty often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue. It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright.


    An avowal of poverty is a disgrace to no man; to make no effort to escape from it is indeed disgraceful.


    Without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor.

    Dr. Johnson.

    We want fewer things to live in poverty with satisfaction, than to live magnificently with riches.

    St. Evremond.

    Nature makes us poor only when we want necessaries, but custom gives the name of poverty to the want of superfluities.


    Poverty palls the most generous spirits; it cows industry, and casts resolution itself into despair.


    Poverty is very good in poems, but it is very bad in a house. It is very good in maxims and sermons, but it is very bad in practical life.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    For a generous and noble spirit cannot be expected to dwell in the breast of men who are struggling for their daily bread.


    One solitary philosopher may be great, virtuous, and happy in the depth of poverty, but not a whole people.

    Isaak Iselin.

  • Want is a bitter and a hateful good,
  • Because its virtues are not understood;
  • Yet many things, impossible to thought,
  • Have been by need to full perfection brought.
  • Dryden.

  • Speak gently, kindly, to the poor;
  • Let no harsh term be heard;
  • They have enough they must endure
  • Without an unkind word.
  • David Bates.

  • O grant me, heav’n, a middle state,
  • Neither too humble nor too great;
  • More than enough for nature’s ends,
  • With something left to treat my friends.
  • Mallet.

  • His rawbone cheekes, through penurie and pine,
  • Were shronke into his jawes, as he did never dyne.
  • Spenser.

    That some of the indigent among us die of scanty food is undoubtedly true; but vastly more in this community die from eating too much than from eating too little.


    That man is to be accounted poor, of whatever rank he be, and suffers the pains of poverty, whose expenses exceed his resources; and no man is, properly speaking, poor, but he.


    It is impossible to diminish poverty by the multiplication of goods; for, manage as we may, misery and suffering will always cleave to the border of superfluity.


    What is even poverty itself, that a man should murmur under it? It is but as the pain of piercing a maiden’s ear, and you hang precious jewels in the wound.


    The extent of poverty in the world is much exaggerated. Our sensitiveness makes half our poverty; our fears—anxieties for ills that never happen—a greater part of the other half.


    The real wants of nature are the measure of enjoyments, as the foot is the measure of the shoe. We can call only the want of what is necessary poverty.

    St. Clement.

    No man is poor who does not think himself so. But if in a full fortune with impatience he desires more, he proclaims his wants and his beggarly condition.

    Jeremy Taylor.

    How like a railway tunnel is the poor man’s life, with the light of childhood at one end, the intermediate gloom, and only the glimmer of a future life at the other extremity!


    It would be a considerable consolation to the poor and discontented could they but see the means whereby the wealth they covet has been acquired, or the misery that it entails.


    Poverty is only contemptible when it is felt to be so. Doubtless the best way to make our poverty respectable is to seem never to feel it as an evil.


    Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable and others extremely difficult.


  • Stitch! stitch! stitch!
  • In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
  • And still with a voice of dolorous pitch,
  • Would that its tone could reach the Rich,
  • She sang this “Song of the Shirt!”
  • Hood.

  • O blissful poverty!
  • Nature, too partial to thy lot, assigns
  • Health, freedom, innocence, and downy peace.
  • Her real goods; and only mocks the great,
  • With empty pageantries.
  • Fenton.

  • Art thou so bare, and full of wretchedness,
  • And fear’st to die? famine is in thy cheeks,
  • Need and oppression starveth in thy eyes,
  • Content and beggary hang upon thy back,
  • The world is not thy friend, nor the world’s law.
  • Shakespeare.

    There is nothing keeps longer than a middling fortune, and nothing melts away sooner than a great one. Poverty treads upon the heels of great and unexpected riches.

    La Bruyère.

    Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are, that bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, how shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you from seasons such as these?


    Morality and religion are but words to him who fishes in gutters for the means of sustaining life, and crouches behind barrels in the street for shelter from the cutting blasts of a winter night.

    Horace Greeley.

    If rich, it is easy enough to conceal our wealth; but, if poor, it is not quite so easy to conceal our poverty. We shall find that it is less difficult to hide a thousand guineas than one hole in our coat.


    It is only luxury and avarice that make poverty grievous to us; for it is a very small matter that does our business, and when we have provided against cold, hunger, and thirst, all the rest is but vanity and excess.


    Poverty must make a match, or make an assignation, or make some bargain scandalous to the man who drives it. More shillings conceded to the making of a shirt would double the religion of mankind.

    John Weiss.

    Rags, which are the reproach of poverty, are the beggar’s robes, and graceful insignia of his profession, his tenure, his full dress, the suit in which he is expected to show himself in public.


    Poverty is dishonorable, not in itself, but when it is a proof of laziness, intemperance, luxury, and carelessness; whereas in a person that is temperate, industrious, just and valiant, and who uses all his virtues for the public good, it shows a great and lofty mind.


    It is the great privilege of poverty to be happy unenvied, to be healthy without physic, secure without a guard, and to obtain from the bounty of nature what the great and wealthy are compelled to procure by the help of art.


    Things come to the poor that can’t get in at the door of the rich. Their money somehow blocks it up. It is a great privilege to be poor—one that no man covets, and but a very few have sought to retain, but one that yet many have learned to prize.

    George MacDonald.

    The poor man is a kind of money that is not current; the subject of every idle housewife’s chat; the off-scum of the people; the dust of the street, first trampled under foot and then thrown on the dunghill; in conclusion, the poor man is the rich man’s ass.


    That poverty which is not the daughter of the spirit is but the mother of shame and reproach; it is a disreputation that drowns all the other good parts that are in man; it is a disposition to all kind of evil; it is man’s greatest foe.


    Wealth and poverty are seen for what they are. It begins to be seen that the poor are only they who feel poor, and poverty consists in feeling poor. The rich, as we reckon them, and among them the very rich, in a true scale would be found very indigent and ragged.


    It is not poverty so much as pretence that harasses a ruined man—the struggle between a proud mind and an empty purse—the keeping up a hollow show that must soon come to an end. Have the courage to appear poor, and you disarm poverty of its sharpest sting.

    Mrs. Jameson.

    Poverty is, except where there is an actual want of food and raiment, a thing much more imaginary than real. The shame of poverty—the shame of being thought poor—it is a great and fatal weakness, though arising in this country, from the fashion of the times themselves.


    Few things in this world trouble people more than poverty, or the fear of poverty; and indeed it is a sore affliction; but, like all other ills that flesh is heir to, it has its antidote, its reliable remedy. The judicious application of industry, prudence, and temperance is a certain cure.

    Hosea Ballou.

    Poverty has, in large cities, very different appearances. It is often concealed in splendor, and often in extravagance. It is the care of a very great part of mankind to conceal their indigence from the rest. They support themselves by temporary expedients, and every day is lost in contriving for to-morrow.


  • Leave the poor
  • Some time for self-improvement. Let them not
  • Be forced to grind the bones out of their arms
  • For bread, but have some space to think and feel
  • Like moral and immortal creatures.
  • Bailey.

    All I desire is, that my poverty may not be a burden to myself, or make me so to others; and that is the best state of fortune that is neither directly necessitous nor far from it. A mediocrity of fortune, with gentleness of mind, will preserve us from fear or envy; which is a desirable condition; for no man wants power to do mischief.


  • And mark the wretch, whose wanderings never knew
  • The world’s regard, that soothes, though half untrue;
  • Whose erring heart the lash of sorrow bore,
  • But found not pity when it err’d no more.
  • Yon friendless man, at whose dejected eye
  • Th’ unfeeling proud one looks, and passes by;
  • Condemn’d on penury’s barren path to roam,
  • Scorn’d by the world, and left without a home.
  • Campbell.

  • Few save the poor feel for the poor;
  • The rich know not how hard
  • It is to be of needful rest
  • And needful food debarr’d:
  • They know not of the scanty meal,
  • With small pale faces round;
  • No fire upon the cold damp hearth
  • When snow is on the ground.
  • Miss Landon.

    There is not such a mighty difference as some men imagine between the poor and the rich; in pomp, show, and opinion there is a great deal, but little as to the pleasures and satisfactions of life; they enjoy the same earth and air and heavens; hunger and thirst make the poor man’s meat and drink as pleasant and relishing as all the varieties which cover the rich man’s table; and the labor of a poor man is more healthful, and many times more pleasant, too, than the ease and softness of the rich.


  • Want is a bitter and a hateful good,
  • Because its virtues are not understood;
  • Yet many things, impossible to thought,
  • Have been by need to full perfection brought.
  • The daring of the soul proceeds from thence,
  • Sharpness of wit, and active diligence;
  • Prudence at once, and fortitude it gives;
  • And, if in patience taken, mends our lives.
  • Dryden.

    Lord God, I thank Thee that Thou hast been pleased to make me a poor and indigent man upon earth. I have neither house nor land nor money, to leave behind me. Thou hast given me wife and children, whom I now restore to Thee. Lord, nourish, teach, and preserve them as Thou hast me.