Poets

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Poets are all who love,—who feel great truths,
And tell them. ~ Philip James Bailey

Poets are people who write poetry for pleasure or as an occupation. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary greatly in different cultures and time periods.

Quotes[edit]

Poets and anarchists are always the first to go. Where. To the frontline. Wherever it is. ~ Giannina Braschi
I am no poet, but if you think for yourselves, as I proceed, the facts will form a poem in your minds. ~ Michael Faraday
The child alone a poet is: Spring and Fairyland are his. Truth and Reason show but dim, and all's poetry with him. ~ Robert Graves
  • A poet not in love is out at sea;
    He must have a lay-figure.
  • Always be a poet, even in prose.
  • Poets and anarchists are always the first to go. Where. To the frontline. Wherever it is.
  • "There's nothing great
    Nor small," has said a poet of our day,
    Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve
    And not be thrown out by the matin's bell.
  • Ovid's a rake, as half his verses show him,
    Anacreon's morals are a still worse sample,
    Catullus scarcely has a decent poem,
    I don't think Sappho's Ode a good example,
    Although Longinus tells us there is no hymn
    Where the sublime soars forth on wings more ample;
    But Virgil's songs are pure, except that horrid one
    Beginning with "Formosum Pastor Corydon."
  • For a man to become a poet (witness Petrarch and Dante), he must be in love, or miserable.
    • Lord Byron, Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron by Thomas Medwin (1823).
  • A great poet belongs to no country ; his works are public property, and his Memoirs the inheritance of the public.
    • Lord Byron, Conversations of Lord Byron with Thomas Medwin (1832).
  • A poet should leave traces of his passage, not proofs. Traces alone engender dreams.
    • René Char, as quoted in The French-American Review (1976) by Texas Christian University, p. 132
    • Variant translation: A poet must leave traces of his passage, not proofs. Only traces bring about dreams.
      • As quoted in Popular Dissent, Human Agency, and Global Politics (2000) by Roland Bleiker, p. 50.
  • The worst fate of a poet is to be admired without being understood.
  • A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.
  • To a poet, silence is an acceptable response, even a flattering one.
    • Colette, Paris From My Window (1944).
  • There is a pleasure in poetic pains,
    Which only poets know.
    • William Cowper, The Task (1785), Book II, line 285. Same in Wordsworth, Miscellaneous Sonnets. Knight's ed, VII. 160.
  • For that fine madness still he did retain
    Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.
  • You don't have to write anything down to be a poet. Some work in gas stations. Some shine shoes. I don't really call myself one because I don't like the word. Me? I'm a trapeze artist.
  • There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. … To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food.
  • Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
    • T. S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood (1920) "Philip Massinger".
  • I am no poet, but if you think for yourselves, as I proceed, the facts will form a poem in your minds.
    • Michael Faraday, in lecture notes of 1858, quoted in The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870) by Bence Jones, Vol. 2, p. 403.
  • The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.
  • To be a poet is a condition rather than a profession.
    • Robert Graves, in a reply to a questionnaire in “The Cost of Letters” in Horizon (September 1946).
  • Anthropologists are a connecting link between poets and scientists; though their field-work among primitive peoples has often made them forget the language of science.
    • Robert Graves, in "Mammon" an address at the London School of Economics (6 December 1963); published in Mammon and the Black Goddess (1965).
  • Even nowadays an archaic sense of love-innocence recurs, however briefly, among most young men and women. Some few of these, who become poets, remain in love for the rest of their lives, watching the world with a detachment unknown to lawyers, politicians, financiers, and all other ministers of that blind and irresponsible successor to matriarchy and patriarchy — the mechanarchy.
  • The prose writer drags meaning along with a rope, the poet makes it stand out and hit you.
  • Poets themselves, tho' liars by profession, always endeavour to give an air of truth to their fictions…
    • David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), section X.
  • A poet is the most unpoetical of anything in existence because he has no Identity-he is continually informing and filling some other body.
    • John Keats, letter to Richard Woodhouse (27 October 1818).
  • Perhaps no person can be a poet, or even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind.
  • All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.
  • At any rate, at his [the God of Love] touch every man becomes a poet "though formerly unvisited by the Muse".
    • Plato, The Symposium section 196.
  • While pensive poets painful vigils keep,
    Sleepless themselves to give their readers sleep.
  • Dulness! whose good old cause I yet defend,
    With whom my muse began, with whom shall end.
  • Poets like painters, thus unskill'd to trace
    The naked nature and the living grace,
    With gold and jewels cover every part,
    And hide with ornaments their want of art.
  • And as to the poets, those who go astray follow them.
  • A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.
  • He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life.
  • For ne'er
    Was flattery lost on Poet's ear;
    A simple race! they waste their toil
    For the vain tribute of a smile.
    • Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) canto IV, stanza 35.
  • Call it not vain: — they do not err,
    Who say that, when the Poet dies,
    Mute Nature mourns her worshipper,
    And celebrates his obsequies.
    • Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) canto V, stanza 1.
  • When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.—Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical.
  • 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.
  • Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
  • Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done; neither with pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet-smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make the too-much-loved earth more lovely; her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.
    • Philip Sidney, An Apology of Poetry, or The Defence of Poesy (1581).
  • Strange as these words may sound I often play with the idea that when all the social theories collapse and wars and revolutions leave humanity in utter gloom, the poet — whom Plato banned from his Republic — may rise up to save us all.
  • As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth. They go back to the upper Paleolithic: the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.
    • Gary Snyder, "Statement for the Paterson Society" (1961), as quoted in David Kherdian, Six Poets of the San Francisco Renaissance: Portraits and Checklists (1967), p. 52. Snyder repeated the first part of this quote (up to "… common work of the tribe.") in the introduction to the revised edition of Gary Snyder, Myths & Texts (1978), p. viii.
  • Dan Chaucer, well of English undefyled,
    On Fame's eternall beadroll worthie to be fyled.
    • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1589-96), Book IV, Canto II, Stanza 32.
  • A poet looks at the world somewhat as a man looks at a woman.
  • Unjustly poets we asperse:
    Truth shines the brighter clad in verse,
    And all the fictions they pursue
    Do but insinuate what is true.
  • It is worse than useless to deplore the irremediable; yet no man, probably, has failed to mourn the fate of mighty poets, whose dawning gave the promise of a glorious day, but who passed from earth while yet the light that shone in them was crescent.
    • John Addington Symonds, Percy Bysshe Shelley(1878), Ch. 1. Birth and Childhood
  • Any form of orthodoxy is just not part of a poet's province … A poet must be able to claim … freedom to follow the vision of poetry, the imaginative vision of poetry … And in any case, poetry is religion, religion is poetry. The message of the New Testament is poetry. Christ was a poet, the New Testament is metaphor, the Resurrection is a metaphor; and I feel perfectly within my rights in approaching my whole vocation as priest and preacher as one who is to present poetry; and when I preach poetry I am preaching Christianity, and when one discusses Christianity one is discussing poetry in its imaginative aspects. … My work as a poet has to deal with the presentation of imaginative truth.
    • R. S. Thomas, in "R. S. Thomas : Priest and Poet" (BBC TV, 2 April 1972).
  • A bard here dwelt, more fat than bard becomes
    Who void of envy, guile and lust of gain,
    On virtue still and nature's pleasing themes
    Poured forth his unpremeditated strain.
    • James Thomson, Castle of Indolence (1748), Canto I, Stanza 68. (Last line said to be "writ by a friend of the author.").
  • The poet… may be used as a barometer, but let us not forget that he is also part of the weather.
  • The poet is in command of his fantasy, while it is exactly the mark of the neurotic that he is possessed by his fantasy.
  • Poets lose half the praise they should have got,
    Could it be known what they discreetly blot.
    • Edmund Waller, Upon the Earl of Roscommon's Translation of Horace, Ars Poetica ll. 41.
  • The poet is in the end probably more afraid of the dogmatist who wants to extract the message from the poem and throw the poem away than he is of the sentimentalist who says, "Oh, just let me enjoy the poem."
  • A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer... He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring
  • To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too.
    • Walt Whitman, Notes Left Over (1892) "Ventures, on an Old Theme".
  • Many questions haven't been answered as yet. Our poets may be wrong; but what can any of us do with his talent but try to develop his vision, so that through frequent failures we may learn better what we have missed in the past.
    • William Carlos Williams, in an interview with Stanley Koehler (April 1962), in The Paris Review : Writers at Work, 3rd series, Viking Penguin, p. 29.
  • That mighty orb of song,
    The divine Milton.
  • We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
    But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.
  • A poet's autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 605-09.
  • Heureux qui, dans ses vers, sait d'une voix légère
    Passer du grave au doux, du plaisant au sévère.
    • Happy the poet who with ease can steer
      From grave to gay, from lively to severe.
    • Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, L'Art Poetique (1674), I, 75.
  • Ah, poet-dreamer, within those walls
    What triumphs shall be yours!
    For all are happy and rich and great
    In that City of By-and-by.
  • 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.
  • * One fine day,
    Says Mister Mucklewraith to me, says he,
    "So! you've a poet in your house," and smiled.
    "A poet? God forbid," I cried; and then
    It all came out: how Andrew slyly sent
    Verse to the paper; how they printed it
    In Poet's Corner.
  • Poets alone are sure of immortality; they are the truest diviners of nature.
  • And poets by their sufferings grow,—
    As if there were no more to do,
    To make a poet excellent,
    But only want and discontent.
  • A Poet without Love were a physical and metaphysical impossibility.
  • Most joyful let the Poet be;
    It is through him that all men see.
  • He koude songes make and wel endite.
  • Who all in raptures their own works rehearse,

    And drawl out measur'd prose, which they call verse.
  • Adhuc neminem cognovi poetam, qui sibi non optimus videretur.
    • I have never yet known a poet who did not think himself super-excellent.
    • Cicero, Tusculanarum Disputationum, V, 22.
  • Poets by Death are conquer'd but the wit
    Of poets triumphs over it.
  • And spare the poet for his subject's sake.
  • Ages elapsed ere Homer's lamp appeared,
    And ages ere the Mantuan Swan was heard;
    To carry nature lengths unknown before,
    To give a Milton birth, asked ages more.
  • Greece, sound thy Homer's, Rome thy Virgil's name,
    But England's Milton equals both in fame.
  • They best can judge a poet's worth,
    Who oft themselves have known
    The pangs of a poetic birth
    By labours of their own.
  • Sure there are poets which did never dream
    Upon Parnassus, nor did taste the stream
    Of Helicon; we therefore may suppose
    Those made not poets, but the poets those.
  • 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.
  • The poet must be alike polished by an intercourse with the world as with the studies of taste; one to whom labour is negligence, refinement a science, and art a nature.
  • For that fine madness still he did retain,
    Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.
  • Happy who in his verse can gently steer
    From grave to light, from pleasant to severe.
  • Three poets in three distant ages born,
    Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
    The first in loftiness of thought surpass'd;
    The next, in majesty; in both, the last.
    The force of nature could no further go;
    To make a third, she join'd the former two.
    • John Dryden, Under Mr. Milton's Picture, Homer, Virgil, Milton.
  • 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.
  • "Give me a theme," the little poet cried,
    "And I will do my part,"
    "'Tis not a theme you need," the world replied;
    "You need a heart."
  • Wer den Dichter will verstehen
    Muss in Dichters Lande gehen.
  • 'Neuere Poeten thun viel Wasser in die Tinte.
    • Modern poets mix too much water with their ink.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Sprüche in Prosa, III. Quoting Sterne—Koran. 2. 142.
  • Thou best-humour'd man with the worst-humour'd muse.
  • Singing and rejoicing,
    As aye since time began,
    The dying earth's last poet
    Shall be the earth's last man.
  • His virtues formed the magic of his song.
    • Inscription on the Tomb of William Cowper, line 10. See Hayley's Life of Cowper, Volume IV, p. 189.
  • Lo! there he lies, our Patriarch Poet, dead!
    The solemn angel of eternal peace
    Has waved a wand of mystery o'er his head,
    Touched his strong heart, and bade his pulses cease.
  • We call those poets who are first to mark
    Through earth's dull mist the coming of the dawn,—
    Who see in twilight's gloom the first pale spark,
    While others only note that day is gone.
  • Where go the poet's lines?—
    Answer, ye evening tapers!
    Ye auburn locks, ye golden curls,
    Speak from your folded papers!
  • 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.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Songs of Many Seasons, Bryant's Seventieth Birthday, Stanza 17 and 18. For same idea see Ant, Fly, Spider.
  • Mediocribus esse poetis
    Non homines, non di, non concessere columnæ.
    • Neither men, nor gods, nor booksellers' shelves permit ordinary poets to exist.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 372.
  • Poets, the first instructors of mankind,
    Brought all things to their proper native use.
    • Horace, Of the Art of Poetry, line 449. Wentworth Dillon's translation.
  • Quod si me lyricis vatibus inseris,
    Sublimi feriam sidera vertice.
    • If you rank me with the lyric poets, my exalted head shall strike the stars.
    • Horace, Carmina, I, 1, 35.
  • Genus irritabile vatum.
    • The irritable tribe of poets.
    • Horace, Epistles, II. 2. 102.
  • Disjecti membra poetæ.
    • The scattered remnants of the poet.
    • Horace, Satires, I. 4. 62.
  • Aut insanit homo, aut versus facit.
    • The man is either mad or he is making verses.
    • Horace, Satires, II. 7. 117.
  • Was ever poet so trusted before!
  • For a good poet's made, as well as born.
    • Ben Jonson, To the Memory of Shakespeare. Translation of Solus aut rex aut poeta non quotannis nascitur. Florus—De Qualitate Vitæ. Fragment, VIII. Poeta nascitur non fit. The poet is born not made. Earliest use in Cælius Rhodiginus—Lectiones Antiquæ. I, VII, Chapter IV, p. 225. (Ed. 1525).
  • O 'tis a very sin
    For one so weak to venture his poor verse
    In such a place as this.
    • John Keats, Endymion (1818), Book III, line 965.
  • Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne,
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He stared at the Pacific,—and all his men
    Look'd at each other with a wild surmise,—
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
    • John Keats. On first looking into Chapman's Homer. Cortez confused with Balboa.
  • Je chantais comme l'oiseau gémit.
    • I was singing as a bird mourns.
    • Lamartine, Le Poète Mourant.
  • All that is best in the great poets of all countries is not what is national in them, but what is universal.
  • For voices pursue him by day,
    And haunt him by night,—
    And he listens, and needs must obey,
    When the Angel says: "Write!"
  • 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?
  • The clear, sweet singer with the crown of snow
    Not whiter than the thoughts that housed below!
  • A terrible thing to be pestered with poets!
    But, alas, she is dumb, and the proverb holds good,
    She never will cry till she's out of the wood!
  • Sithe of our language he was the lodesterre.
  • For his chaste Muse employed her heaven-taught lyre
    None but the noblest passions to inspire,
    Not one immoral, one corrupted thought,
    One line, which dying he could wish to blot.
  • Non scribit, cujus carmina nemo legit.
    • He does not write whose verses no one reads.
    • Martial, Epigrams (c. 80-104 AD), III. 9. 2.
  • You admire, Vacerra, only the poets of old and praise only those who are dead. Pardon me, I beseech you, Vacerra, if I think death too high a price to pay for your praise.
    • Martial, Epigrams (c. 80-104 AD), Book VIII, Epigram 49.
  • Valeant mendacia vatum.
    • Good-bye to the lies of the poets.
    • Ovid, Fasti, VI. 253.
  • Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.
    • Plato, The Republic, Book II, Section V.
  • Tamen poetis mentiri licet.
    • Nevertheless it is allowed to poets to lie. (Poetical license).
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistles, Book VI. 21.
  • Vain was the chief's, the sage's pride!
    They had no poet, and they died.
  • Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme,
    Happy to catch me, just at dinner-time.
  • The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown,
    Who turns a Persian tale for half a crown,
    Just writes to make his barrenness appear,
    And strains from hard-bound brains eight lines a year.
  • And he whose fustian's so sublimely bad,
    It is not poetry, but prose run mad.
  • For pointed satire I would Buckhurst choose,
    The best good man with the worst-natured muse.
    • Earl of Rochester. An allusion to Horace—Satire X, Book I.
  • Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They're always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.
  • Græcia Mæonidam, jactet sibi Roma Maronem
    Anglia Miltonum jactat utrique parem.
    • Greece boasts her Homer, Rome can Virgil claim;
      England can either match in Milton's fame.
    • Salvaggi, Ad Joannem Miltonum.
  • Most wretched men
    Are cradled into poetry by wrong;
    They learn in suffering what they teach in song.
  • With no companion but the constant Muse,
    Who sought me when I needed her—ah, when
    Did I not need her, solitary else?
  • The Poet in his Art
    Must intimate the whole, and say the smallest part.
  • Then, rising with Aurora's light,
    The Muse invoked, sit down to write;
    Blot out, correct, insert, refine,
    Enlarge, diminish, interline.
  • To have read the greatest works of 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.
  • The Poet's leaves are gathered one by one,
    In the slow process of the doubtful years.
  • The poet in a golden clime was born,
    With golden stars above;
    Dower'd with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn,
    The love of love.
  • For now the Poet cannot die,
    Nor leave his music as of old,
    But round him ere he scarce be cold
    Begins the scandal and the cry.
  • Poets lose half the praise they should have got,
    Could it be known what they discreetly blot.
    • Edmund Waller, Miscellanies; upon the Earl of Roscommon's Translation of Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), line 41.
  • He saw wan Woman toil with famished eyes;
    He saw her bound, and strove to sing her free.
    He saw her fall'n; and wrote "The Bridge of Sighs";
    And on it crossed to immortality.
  • Threadbare his songs seem now, to lettered ken:
    They were worn threadbare next the hearts of men.
  • A dreamer of the common dreams,
    A fisher in familiar streams,
    He chased the transitory gleams
    That all pursue;
    But on his lips the eternal themes
    Again were new.
  • It was Homer who inspired the poet.
  • In Spring the Poet is glad,
    And in Summer the Poet is gay;
    But in Autumn the Poet is sad,
    And has something sad to say.
  • And, when a damp
    Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
    The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
    Soul-animating strains,—alas! too few.
  • Blessings be with them, and eternal praise,
    Who gave us nobler loves, and nobler cares,—
    The Poets, who on earth have made us heirs
    Of truth and pure delight by heavenly lays!
  • I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
    The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
    Of him who walked in glory and in joy,
    Following his plough, along the mountain side.

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