John Denham

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Sir John Denham

Sir John Denham (1615 – March 10, 1669), poet, son of the Chief Baron of Exchequer in Ireland, was born in Dublin, and educated at Trinity College, Oxford and at Lincoln's Inn in London.


  • Actions o' th' last age are like almanacks o' th' last year.
    • The Sophy: A Tragedy, Act I, scene ii (1642).
  • Ambition is like love, impatient
    Both of delays and rivals.
    • The Sophy: A Tragedy, Act I, scene ii.
  • Such is our pride, our folly, or our fate,
    That few but such as cannot write, translate.
    • To Sir Richard Fanshaw, Upon his Translation of Pastor Fido, line 1 (1648).
  • Nor ought a genius less than his that writ
    Attempt translation.
    • To Sir Richard Fanshaw, Upon his Translation of Pastor Fido, line 9.
  • Books should to one of these four ends conduce,
    For wisdom, piety, delight, or use.
    • Of Prudence, line 83 (1668).
  • Youth, what man's age is like to be doth show,
    We may our ends by our beginnings know.
    • Of Prudence, line 225.
  • Search not to find what lies too deeply hid,
    Nor to know things, whose knowledge is forbid.
    • Of Prudence, line 231.
  • Though with those streams he no resemblance hold,
    Whose foam is amber and their gravel gold;
    His genuine and less guilty wealth t' explore,
    Search not his bottom, but survey his shore.
    • Cooper's Hill, Line 165.
  • Oh, could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
    My great example, as it is my theme!
    Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
    Strong without rage; without o'erflowing, full.
    • Cooper's Hill, Line 189.
  • But whither am I strayed? I need not raise
    Trophies to thee from other men's dispraise;
    Nor is thy fame on lesser ruins built;
    Nor needs thy juster title the foul guilt
    Of Eastern kings, who, to secure their reign,
    Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred slain.
    • On Mr. John Fletcher's Works. Compare: "Poets are sultans, if they had their will; For every author would his brother kill", Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, Prologues (republished in Dramatic Works, 1739); "Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne", Alexander Pope, Prologue to the Satires, line 197.


  • We're ne'er like angels till our passion dies.
    • Not by Denham, as often stated, but by Thomas Dekker. It is in his The Honest Whore Part 2, Act I, scene 2.

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