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 soul,
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).
Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
Her leaden scepter o'er a slumbering world.
Creation sleeps! 'Tis as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause;
An awful pause! prophetic of her end.
On reason build resolve,
that column of true majesty in man.
The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
But from its loss.
Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour.
An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave;
Legions of angels can't confine me there.
To waft a feather or to drown a fly.
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.
Be wise today; 'tis madness to defer.
Procrastination is the thief of time.
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.
And what its worth, ask death-beds; they can tell.
Thy purpose firm is equal to the deed:
Who does the best his circumstance allows
Does well, acts nobly; angels could no more.
"I've lost a day!"—the prince who nobly cried,
Had been an emperor without his crown.
Line 99. Suetonius says of the Emperor Titus: "Once at supper, reflecting that he had done nothing for any that day, he broke out into that memorable and justly admired saying, ‘My friends, I have lost a day!'" Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Cæsars (translation by Alexander Thomson).
Ah, how unjust to Nature and himself
Is thoughtless, thankless, inconsistent man!
Life's cares are comforts; such by Heav'n design'd;
He that hath none must make them, or be wretched.
The spirit walks of every day deceased.
Time flies, death urges, knells call, Heaven invites,
Whose yesterdays look backwards with a smile.
'Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,
And ask them what report they bore to heaven.
Thoughts shut up want air,
And spoil, like bales unopen’d to the sun.
A friend is worth all hazards we can run.
Friendship's the wine of life; but friendship new
(Not such was his) is neither strong nor pure.
How blessings brighten as they take their flight!
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.
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.
Ambition! powerful source of good and ill!
Much learning shows how little mortals know;
Much wealth, how little worldlings can enjoy.