Edward Young

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Edward Young

Edward Young (1683April 5, 1765) was an English poet, best remembered for Night-Thoughts.


  • 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)[edit]

  • 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)[edit]

Edward Young Night-Thoughts 1743.jpeg

Night I[edit]

  • 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.

Night II[edit]

  • 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.
    • 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!
    • 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,
    Hell threatens.
    • 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.

Night III[edit]

  • 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.

Night IV[edit]

  • 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.

Night V[edit]

  • 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.

Night VI[edit]

  • 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.

Night VII[edit]

  • The man that blushes is not quite a brute.
    • Line 496.
  • What ardently we wish we soon believe.
    • Line 1311.

Night VIII[edit]

  • 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.

Night IX[edit]

  • 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.


  • By all means use some time to be alone.
    • A slight misquotation of George Herbert "The Church Porch", line 145: "By all means use sometimes to be alone", in The Temple (1633).
  • The future... seems to me no unified dream but a mince pie, long in the baking, never quite done.
    • Widely attributed to Edward Young, but in fact written by E. B. White in Harper's Magazine (December 1940), and reprinted in his One Man's Meat (1942).
  • Tomorrow is a satire on today,
    And shows its weakness.
    • This is a quotation from "The Old Man's Relapse", a poem addressed to Edward Young, but written by Lord Melcombe.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
  • Edward Young, The Poetical Works of Edward Young, Vol. I, Vol. II, London: Bell and Daldy, 1858.