Hoyt & Roberts, comps. Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations. 1922.


To speak as the common people do, to think as wise men do.
Roger Ascham—Dedication to All the Gentlemen and Yeomen of England.

A wise man is out of the reach of fortune.
Sir Thos. Browne—Religio Medici. Quoted as “That insolent paradox.”

The wisdom of our ancestors.
Burke—Observations an a Late Publicatian on the Present State of the Nation. Vol. I. P. 516. Also in the Discussion on the Traitorous Correspondence Bill. (1793). Cicero—De Legibus. II. 2. 3. Lord Eldon—On Sir Samuel Romilly’s Bill. 1815. Sydney Smith—Plymley’s Letters. Letter V. Bacon said to be first user of the phrase. Ascribed also to Sir William Grant, in Jennings’ Anecdotal History of Parliament.

But these are foolish things to all the wise,
And I love wisdom more than she loves me;
My tendency is to philosophise
On most things, from a tyrant to a tree;
But still the spouseless virgin Knowledge flies,
What are we? and whence come we? what shall be
Our ultimate existence? What’s our present?
Are questions answerless, and yet incessant.
Byron—Don Juan. Canto VI. St. 63.

Wise men learn more from fools than fools from the wise.
Cato. In Plutarch’s Life of Cato.

Wisdom and goodness are twin-born, one heart
Must hold both sisters, never seen apart.
Cowper—Expostulation. L. 634.

Some people are more nice than wise.
Cowper—Mutual Forbearance.

But they whom truth and wisdom lead
Can gather honey from a weed.
Cowper—Pine-Apple and Bee. L. 35.

It seems the part of wisdom.
Cowper—Task. Bk. IV. L. 336.

Knowledge is proud that he has learn’d so much;
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.
Cowper—Task. Bk. VI. L. 96.

Who are a little wise the best fools be.
Donne—The Triple Fool.

In much wisdom is much grief.
Ecclesiastes. I. 18.

The words of the wise are as goads.
Ecclesiastes. XII. 11.

Man thinks
Brutes have no wisdom, since they know not his:
Can we divine their world?
George Eliot—The Spanish Gypsy. Bk. II.

Nequicquam sapere sapientem, qui ipse sibi prodesse non quiret.
The wise man is wise in vain who cannot be wise to his own advantage.
Ennius. I. Quoted by Cicero—De Officii. 3. 15.

No one could be so wise as Thurlow looked.
Charles James Fox. See Campbell’s Lives of the Lord Chancellors. Vol. V. P. 661; also 551. Said also of Webster.

Some are weather-wise, some are otherwise.
Benj. Franklin—Poor Richard. (1735).

Die Weisheit ist nur in der Wahrheit.
Wisdom is only found in truth.
Goethe—Sprüche in Prosa. III.

Wisdom makes but a slow defence against trouble, though at last a sure one.
Goldsmith—Vicar of Wakefield. Ch. XXI.

The heart is wiser than the intellect.
J. G. Holland—Kathrina. Pt. II. St. 9.

Chiefs who no more in bloody fights engage,
But, wise through time, and narrative with age,
In summer-days like grasshoppers rejoice,
A bloodless race, that send a feeble voice.
Homer—Iliad. Bk. III. L. 199. Pope’s trans.

For never, never, wicked man was wise.
Homer—Odyssey. Bk. II. L. 320. Pope’s trans.

In youth and beauty wisdom is but rare!
Homer—Odyssey. Bk. VII. L. 379. Pope’s trans.

How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!
Homer—Odyssey. Bk. XIII. L. 375. Pope’s trans.

Utiliumque sagax rerum et divina futuri.
Sagacious in making useful discoveries.
Horace—Ars Poetica. 218.

Sapere aude.
Dare to be wise.
Horace—Epistles. I. 2. 40.

Quis nam igitur liber? Sapiens qui sibi imperiosus.
Who then is free? The wise man who can govern himself.
Horace—Satires. II. 7. 83.

He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
Job. V. 13.

Wisdom shall die with you.
Job. XII. 2.

The price of wisdom is above rubies.
Job. XXVIII. 18.

Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.
Job. XXXII. 7.

Great men are not always wise.
Job. XXXII. 9.

Away, thou strange justifier of thyself, to be wiser than thou wert, by the event.
Ben Jonson—Silent Woman. Act II. Sc. 2. “Wise after the event.” Quoted by Sir George Staunton in speech replying to Sir James Graham’s resolution condemning the Melbourne ministry, House of Commons, April 7, 1840. Homer—Iliad. XVII. 32. Hesiod—Works and Days. V. 79 and 202. Sophocles—Antigone. V. 1270; and 1350. Fabius—Liv. XXII. 39. Erasmus—Epitome Chiliadum Adagiorum. (Ed. 1528). P. 55; 295.

Victrix fortunæ sapientia.
Wisdom is the conqueror of fortune.
Juvenal—Satires. XIII. 20.

Il est plus aisé d’être sage pour les autres, que pour soi-même.
It is easier to be wise for others than for ourselves.
La Rochefoucauld—Maximes.

Ripe in wisdom was he, but patient, and simple, and childlike.
Longfellow—Evangeline. Pt. I. III. L. 11.

Quisquis plus justo non sapit, ille sapit.
Whoever is not too wise is wise.
Martial—Epigrammata. XIV. 10. 2.

Be wise;
Soar not too high to fall; but stoop to rise.
Massinger—Duke of Milan. Act I. Sc. 2. L. 45.

Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Matthew. X. 16.

Wisdom is justified of her children.
Matthew. XI. 19; Luke. VII. 35.

A little too wise they say do ne’er live long.
Thos. Middleton—The Phenix. Act I. Sc. 1.

Though wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps
At wisdom’s gate, and to simplicity
Resigns her charge, while goodness thinks no ill
Where no ill seems.
Milton—Paradise Lost. Bk. III. L. 686.

But to know
That which before us lies in daily life,
Is the prime wisdom.
Milton—Paradise Lost. Bk. VIII. L. 192.

Whom, well inspir’d, the oracle pronounc’d
Wisest of men.
Milton—Paradise Regained. Bk. IV. L. 274.

Il est bon de frotter et limer notre cervelle centre celle d’autrui.
It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.
Montaigne—Essays. Bk. I. Ch. XXIV.

The most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness: her state is like that of things in the regions above the moon, always clear and serene.
Montaigne—Essays. Bk. I. Ch. XXV.

Le sage vit tant qu’il doibt, non pas tent qu’il peut.
A wise man sees as much as he ought, not as much as he can.
Montaigne—Essays. Bk. II. Ch. III.

Qui aura esté une fois bien fol ne sera nulle aultre fois bien sage.
He who has once been very foolish will at no other time be very wise.
Montaigne—Essays. Bk. III. Ch. VI.

Seven wise men on an old black settle,
Seven wise men of the Mermaid Inn,
Ringing blades of the one right metal,
What is the best that a blade can win?
Alfred Noyes—Tales of The Mermaid Tavern. II.

Some men never spake a wise word, yet doe wisely; some on the other side doe never a wise deed, and yet speake wisely.
Sir Thomas Overbury—Crumms fal’n from King James Talk. In Works.

When swelling buds their od’rous foliage shed,
And gently harden into fruit, the wise
Spare not the little offsprings, if they grow
John Philips—Cider. Bk. I.

Feliciter sapit qui alieno periculo sapit.
He gains wisdom in a happy way, who gains it by another’s experience.
Plautus—Mercator. IV. 7. 40.

Nemo solus satis sapit.
No man is wise enough by himself.
Plautus—Miles Gloriosus. III. 3. 12.

Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit.
No one is wise at all times.
Pliny the Elder—Historia Naturalis. VII. 41. 2.

Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise?
’Tis but to know how little can be known,
To see all other’s faults, and feel our own.
Pope—Essay on Man. Ep. IV. L. 260.

Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the street.
Proverbs. I. 20.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding.
Proverbs. IV. 7.

Wisdom is better than rubies.
Proverbs. VIII. 11.

Be wisely worldly, but not worldly wise.
Quarles—Emblems. Bk. II. Em. 2.

Ce n’est pas être sage
D’être plus sage qu’il ne le faut.
It is not wise to be wiser than is necessary.

Afin que ne semblons es Atheniens, qui ne consultoient jamais sinon après le cas faict.
So that we may not be like the Athenians, who never consulted except after the event done.
Rabelais—Pantagruel. Ch. XXIV.

The power is yours, but not the sight;
You see not upon what you tread;
You have the ages for your guide,
But not the wisdom to be led.
Edwin Arlington Robinson—Cassandra.

Wouldst thou wisely, and with pleasure,
Pass the days of life’s short measure,
From the slow one counsel take,
But a tool of him ne’er make;
Ne’er as friend the swift one know,
Nor the constant one as foe.
Schiller—Proverbs of Confucius. E. A. Bowring’s trans.

The Italian seemes wise, and is wise; the Spaniard seemes wise, and is a foole; the French seemes a foole, and is wise; and the English seemes a foole and is a foole.
Quoted as a common proverb by Thos. Scot, in The Highwaies of God and the King. P. 8. (1623).

Wisdom does not show itself so much in precept as in life—in a firmness of mind and mastery of appetite. It teaches us to do, as well as to talk; and to make our actions and words all of a color.
Seneca—Epistles. XX.

Nulli sapere casu obtigit.
No man was ever wise by chance.
Seneca—Epistolæ Ad Lucilium. LXXVI.

Melius in malis sapimus, secunda rectum auferunt.
We become wiser by adversity; prosperity destroys our appreciation of the right.
Seneca—Epistolæ Ad Lucilium. XCIV.

Full oft we see
Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
All’s Well That Ends Well. Act I. Sc. 1. L. 115.

Wisdom and fortune combating together,
If that the former dare but what it can,
No chance may shake it.
Antony and Cleopatra. Act III. Sc. 13. L. 79.

Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.
King Lear. Act I. Sc. 5. L. 48.

To that dauntless temper of his mind,
He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour
To act in safety.
Macbeth. Act III. Sc. 1. L. 52.

Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.
Twelfth Night. Act I. Sc. 5. L. 14.

As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.
Socrates. In Plato—Phaedrus. Sec. CCXXXV.

A short saying oft contains much wisdom.
Sophocles—Aletes. Frag. 99.

Happy those
Who in the after-days shall live, when Time
Hath spoken, and the multitude of years
Taught wisdom to mankind!
Southey—Joan of Arc. Bk. I.

The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.
Spurgeon—Gleanings among the Sheaves. The First Lesson.

By Wisdom wealth is won;
But riches purchased wisdom yet for none.
Bayard Taylor—The Wisdom of Ali.

“The Prophet’s words were true;
The mouth of Ali is the golden door
Of Wisdom.”
When his friends to Ali bore
These words, he smiled and said: “And should they ask
The same until my dying day, the task
Were easy; for the stream from Wisdom’s well,
Which God supplies, is inexhaustible.”
Bayard Taylor—The Wisdom of Ali.

’Tis held that sorrow makes us wise.
Tennyson—In Memoriam. Pt. CVIII.

Nor is he the wisest man who never proved himself a fool.
Tennyson—Locksley Hall Sixty Years After. St. 124.

Isthuc est sapere non quod ante pedes modo est
Videre sed etiam illa, quæ futura sunt
True wisdom consists not in seeing what is immediately before our eyes, but in foreseeing what is to come.
Terence—Adelphi. III. 3. 32.

The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
I Timothy. XVI. 8.

Wisdom alone is true ambition’s aim
Wisdom the source of virtue, and of fame,
Obtained with labour, for mankind employed,
And then, when most you share it, best enjoyed.
W. Whitehead—On Nobility.

Wisdom sits alone,
Topmost in heaven:—she is its light—its God;
And in the heart of man she sits as high—
Though grovelling eyes forget her oftentimes,
Seeing but this world’s idols. The pure mind
Sees her forever: and in youth we come
Fill’d with her sainted ravishment, and kneel,
Worshipping God through her sweet altar fires,
And then is knowledge “good.”
N. P. Willis—The Scholar of Thibet. Ben Khorat. Pt. II. L. 93.

Wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age.
Wisdom of Solomon. IV. 8.

Wisdom is ofttimes nearer when we stoop
Than when we soar.
Wordsworth—The Excursion. Bk. III. L. 232.

And he is oft the wisest man
Who is not wise at all.
Wordsworth—The Oak and the Broom.

On every thorn, delightful wisdom grows,
In every rill a sweet instruction flows.
Young—Love of Fame. Satire I. L. 249.

Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push’d out of life.
Young—Night Thoughts. Night I. L. 390.

Wisdom, though richer than Peruvian mines,
And sweeter than the sweet ambrosial hive,
What is she, but the means of happiness?
That unobtain’d, than folly more a fool.
Young—Night Thoughts. Night II. L. 496.

The man of wisdom is the man of years.
Young—Night Thoughts. Night V. L. 775.

But wisdom, awful wisdom! which inspects,
Discerns, compares, weighs, separates, infers,
Seizes the right, and holds it to the last.
Young—Night Thoughts. Night VIII. L. 1,253.

Teach me my days to number, and apply
My trembling heart to wisdom.
Young—Night Thoughts. Night IX. L. 1,312.