- In records that defy the tooth of time.
- The Statesman's Creed.
- Ah! what is human life?
How, like the dial's tardy-moving shade,
Day after day slides from us unperceiv'd!
The cunning fugitive is swift by stealth;
Too subtle is the movement to be seen;
Yet soon the hour is up—and we are gone.
- Busiris (1719), Act V, sc. i.
- Great let me call him, for he conquered me.
- The Revenge (1721), Act I, sc. i.
- Life is the desert, life the solitude;
Death joins us to the great majority.
- The Revenge, Act IV, sc. i.
- Souls made of fire, and children of the sun,
With whom revenge is virtue.
- The Revenge, Act V, sc. ii.
- The blood will follow where the knife is driven,
The flesh will quiver where the pincers tear.
- The Revenge, Act V, sc. ii.
- In youth, what disappointments of our own making: in age, what disappointments from the nature of things.
- A Vindication of Providence; or, A True Estimate of Human Life (1728).
- The man that makes a character makes foes.
- To Mr. Pope, epistle I, l. 28 (1730).
- Their feet through faithless leather met the dirt,
And oftener chang'd their principles than shirt.
- To Mr. Pope, epistle I, l. 277.
- As Love alone can exquisitely bless,
Love only feels the marvellous of pain;
Opens new veins of torture in the foul,
And wakes the nerve where agonies are born.
- The Brothers (1753), Act V, scene i.
- There is something in Poetry beyond Prose-reason; there are Mysteries in it not to be explained, but admired.
- Conjectures on Original Composition (1759) p. 28.
- Too low they build who build beneath the stars.
- Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 206.
- He weeps! the falling drop puts out the sun; He sighs! the sigh earth's deep foundation shakes. If in His love so terrible, what then His wrath inflamed?
- Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 271.
- Accept a miracle instead of wit,—
See two dull lines with Stanhope's pencil writ.
- Lines written with the Diamond Pencil of Lord Chesterfield; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
- Time elaborately thrown away.
- The Last Day, book i; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
- There buds the promise of celestial worth.
- The Last Day, book iii; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
- And friend received with thumps upon the back.
- Universal Passion; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
Love of Fame (1725-1728)
- When the Law shows her teeth, but dares not bite.
- Satire I, l. 17.
- The love of praise, howe'er concealed by art,
Reigns more or less, and glows in ev'ry heart.
- Satire I, l. 51.
- Some for renown, on scraps of learning dote,
And think they grow immortal as they quote.
- Satire I, l. 89.
- Titles are marks of honest men, and wise;
The fool or knave that wears a title lies.
- Satire I, l. 145.
- They that on glorious ancestors enlarge,
Produce their debt instead of their discharge.
- Satire I, l. 147.
- None think the great unhappy but the great.
- Satire I, l. 238.
- Unlearned men of books assume the care,
As eunuchs are the guardians of the fair.
- Satire II, l. 83.
- The booby father craves a booby son,
And by Heaven’s blessing thinks himself undone.
- Satire II, l. 165.
- Where Nature’s end of language is declin’d,
And men talk only to conceal the mind.
- Satire II, l. 207.
- Be wise with speed;
A fool at forty is a fool indeed.
- Satire II, l. 282.
- And waste their music on the savage race.
- Satire V, l. 228.
- With skill she vibrates her eternal tongue,
Forever most divinely in the wrong.
- Satire VI, l. 105.
- For her own breakfast she'll project a scheme,
Nor take her tea without a strategem.
- Satire VI, l. 187.
- Think naught a trifle, though it small appear;
Small sands the mountain, moments make the year,
And trifles life.
- Satire VI, l. 208.
- One to destroy, is murder by the law;
And gibbets keep the lifted hand in awe;
To murder thousands takes a specious name,
War's glorious art, and gives immortal fame.
- Satire VII, l. 55.
- How commentators each dark passage shun,
And hold their farthing candle to the sun.
- Satire VII, l. 97.
Night Thoughts (1742-1745)
- Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep!
- Line 1.
- Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
Her leaden scepter o'er a slumbering world.
- Line 18.
- Creation sleeps! 'Tis as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause;
An awful pause! prophetic of her end.
- Line 23.
- On reason build resolve,
that column of true majesty in man.
- Line 30.
- The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
But from its loss.
- Line 55.
- Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour.
- Line 67.
- An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave;
Legions of angels can't confine me there.
- Line 89.
- To waft a feather or to drown a fly.
- Line 154.
- Insatiate archer! could not one suffice?
Thy shaft flew thrice, and thrice my peace was slain;
And thrice, ere thrice yon moon had filled her horn.
- Line 212.
- Be wise today; 'tis madness to defer.
- Line 390.
- Procrastination is the thief of time.
- Line 393.
- At thirty, man suspects himself a fool;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves; then dies the same.
- Line 417.
- All men think all men mortal but themselves.
- Line 424.
- He mourns the dead who lives as they desire.
- Line 24.
- And what its worth, ask death-beds; they can tell.
- Line 51.
- Thy purpose firm is equal to the deed:
Who does the best his circumstance allows
Does well, acts nobly; angels could no more.
- Line 90.
- "I've lost a day!"—the prince who nobly cried,
Had been an emperor without his crown.
- Ah, how unjust to Nature and himself
Is thoughtless, thankless, inconsistent man!
- Line 112.
- Life's cares are comforts; such by Heav'n design'd;
He that hath none must make them, or be wretched.
- Line 160.
- The spirit walks of every day deceased.
- Line 180.
- Time flies, death urges, knells call, Heaven invites,
- Line 292.
- Whose yesterdays look backwards with a smile.
- Line 334.
- 'Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,
And ask them what report they bore to heaven.
- Line 376.
- Thoughts shut up want air,
And spoil, like bales unopen’d to the sun.
- Line 466.
- A friend is worth all hazards we can run.
- Line 571.
- Friendship's the wine of life; but friendship new
(Not such was his) is neither strong nor pure.
- Line 582.
- How blessings brighten as they take their flight!
- Line 602.
- The chamber where the good man meets his fate
Is privileg’d beyond the common walk
Of virtuous life, quite in the verge of heaven.
- Line 633.
- A death-bed ’s a detector of the heart.
- Line 641.
- Virtue alone has majesty in death.
- Line 650.
- Woes cluster. Rare are solitary woes;
They love a train, they tread each other’s heel.
- Line 63.
- Beautiful as sweet!
And young as beautiful! and soft as young!
And gay as soft! and innocent as gay.
- Line 81.
- Lovely in death the beauteous ruin lay;
And if in death still lovely, lovelier there;
Far lovelier! pity swells the tide of love.
- Line 104.
- Heaven’s Sovereign saves all beings but himself
That hideous sight,—a naked human heart.
- Line 226.
- The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave,
The deep damp vault, the darkness and the worm.
- Line 10.
- Man makes a death which Nature never made.
- Line 15.
- And feels a thousand deaths in fearing one.
- Line 17.
- Wishing, of all employments, is the worst.
- Line 71.
- Man wants little, nor that little long.
- Line 118.
- A God all mercy is a God unjust.
- Line 233.
- ’Tis impious in a good man to be sad
- Line 676.
- A Christian is the highest style of man.
- Line 788.
- Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die.
- Line 843.
- By night an atheist half believes a God.
- Line 177.
- Less base the fear of death than fear of life.
- Line 441.
- A soul without reflection, like a pile
Without inhabitant, to ruin runs.
- Line 596.
- Early, bright, transient, chaste as morning dew,
She sparkled, was exhal'd and went to heaven.
- Line 600.
- We see time’s furrows on another’s brow,
And death intrench’d, preparing his assault;
How few themselves in that just mirror see!
- Line 627.
- Like our shadows,
Our wishes lengthen as our sun declines.
- Line 661.
- While man is growing, life is in decrease;
And cradles rock us nearer to the tomb.
Our birth is nothing but our death begun.
- Line 717.
- That life is long which answers life's great end.
- Line 773.
- The man of wisdom is the man of years.
- Line 775.
- Death loves a shining mark, a signal blow.
- Line 1011.
- Revere thyself, and yet thyself despise.
- Line 128.
- Pygmies are pygmies still, though percht on Alps;
And pyramids are pyramids in vales.
Each man makes his own stature, builds himself.
Virtue alone outbuilds the Pyramids;
Her monuments shall last when Egypt’s fall.
- Line 309.
- Ambition! powerful source of good and ill!
- Line 399.
- Much learning shows how little mortals know;
Much wealth, how little worldlings can enjoy.
- Line 519.
- And all may do what has by man been done.
- Line 606.
- The man that blushes is not quite a brute.
- Line 496.
- What ardently we wish we soon believe.
- Line 1311.
- Too low they build who build beneath the stars.
- Line 215.
- Truth never was indebted to a lie.
- Line 587.
- Prayer ardent opens heaven.
- Line 721.
- The house of laughter makes a house of woe.
- Line 757.
- A man of pleasure is a man of pains.
- Line 793.
- To frown at pleasure, and to smile in pain.
- Line 1045.
- Final Ruin fiercely drives
Her plowshare o'er creation.
- Line 167. Compare Robert Burns, To a Mountain Daisy: "Stern Ruin's ploughshare drives elate / Full on thy bloom".
- 'T is elder Scripture, writ by God's own hand,—
Scripture authentic! uncorrupt by man.
- Line 644.
- An undevout astronomer is mad.
- Line 771.
- The course of Nature is the art of God.
- Line 1267.