Hoyt & Roberts, comps. Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations. 1922.


Poetry is itself a thing of God;
He made his prophets poets; and the more
We feel of poesie do we become
Like God in love and power,—under-makers.
Bailey—Festus. Proem. L. 5.

You speak
As one who fed on poetry.
Bulwer-Lytton—Richelieu. Act I. Sc. 1.

For rhyme the rudder is of verses,
With which, like ships, they steer their courses.
Butler—Hudibras. Pt. I. Canto I. L. 463.

Some force whole regions, in despite
O’ geography, to change their site;
Make former times shake hands with latter,
And that which was before come after;
But those that write in rhyme still make
The one verse for the other’s sake;
For one for sense, and one for rhyme,
I think’s sufficient at one time.
Butler—Hudibras. Pt. II. Canto I. L. 23.

Nor florid prose, nor honied lies of rhyme,
Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.
Byron—Childe Harold. Canto I. St. 3.

The fatal facility of the octosyllabic verse.
Byron—Corsair. Preface.

Poetry, therefore, we will call Musical Thought.
Carlyle—Heroes and Hero Worship. 3.

For there is no heroic poem in the world but is at bottom a biography, the life of a man; also, it may be said, there is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of its sort, rhymed or unrhymed.
Carlyle—Sir Walter Scott. London and Westminster Review. (1838).

In the hexameter rises the fountain’s silvery column:
In the pentameter aye falling in melody back.
Coleridge—The Ovidian Elegiac Metre.

Prose—words in their best order;—poetry—the best words in their best order.
Coleridge—Table Talk. July 12, 1827.

Made poetry a mere mechanic art.
Cowper—Table Talk. L. 654.

Feel you the barren flattery of a rhyme?
Can poets soothe you, when you pine for bread,
By winding myrtle round your ruin’d shed?
Crabbe—The Village. Bk. I.

Why then we should drop into poetry.
Dickens—Our Mutual Friend. Bk. I. Ch. V.

When the brain gets as dry as an empty nut,
When the reason stands on its squarest toes,
When the mind (like a beard) has a “formal cut,”—
There is a place and enough for the pains of prose;
But whenever the May-blood stirs and glows,
And the young year draws to the “golden prime,”
And Sir Romeo sticks in his ear a rose,—
Then hey! for the ripple of laughing rhyme!
Austin Dobson—The Ballad of Prose and Rhyme.

Doeg, though without knowing how or why,
Made still a blundering kind of melody;
Spurr’d boldly on, and dash’d through thick and thin,
Through sense and nonsense, never out nor in;
Free from all meaning whether good or bad,
And in one word, heroically mad.
Dryden—Absalom and Achitophel. Pt. II. L. 412. “Thick and thin.”

’Twas he that ranged the words at random flung,
Pierced the fair pearls and them together strung.
Eastwick—Anvari Suhaili. Rendering of Bidpai.

The true poem is the poet’s mind.
Emerson—Essays. Of History.

For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument that makes a poem.
Emerson—Essays. The Poet.

It does not need that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem.
Emerson—Essays. The Poet.

The finest poetry was first experience.

Oh love will make a dog howl in rhyme.
John Fletcher—Queen of Corinth. Act IV. Sc. 1.

What is a Sonnet? ’Tis the pearly shell
That murmurs of the far-off, murmuring sea;
A precious jewel carved most curiously;
It is a little picture painted well.
What is a Sonnet? ’Tis the tear that fell
From a great poet’s hidden ecstasy;
A two-edged sword, a star, a song—ah me!
Sometimes a heavy tolling funeral bell.
R. W. Gilder—The Sonnet.

To write a verse or two, is all the praise
That I can raise.
Herbert—The Church. Praise.

A verse may finde him who a sermon flies,
And turn delight into a sacrifice.
Herbert—The Temple. The Church Porch.

For dear to gods and men is sacred song.
Self-taught I sing; by Heaven and Heaven alone,
The genuine seeds of poesy are sown.
Homer—Odyssey. Bk. XXII. L. 382. Pope’s trans.

Versibus exponi tragicis res comica non vult.
A comic matter cannot be expressed in tragic verse.
Horace—Ars Poetica. 89.

Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto.
It is not enough that poetry is agreeable, it should also be interesting.
Horace—Ars Poetica. 99.

Versus inopes rerum, nugæque canoræ.
Verses devoid of substance, melodious trifles.
Horace—Ars Poetica. 322.

Ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis
Offendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit natura.
Where there are many beauties in a poem I shall not cavil at a few faults proceeding either from negligence or from the imperfection of our nature.
Horace—Ars Poetica. 351.

Nonumque prematur in annum.
Let your poem be kept nine years.
Horace—Ars Poetica. 388.

Wheresoe’er I turn my view,
All is strange, yet nothing new:
Endless labor all along,
Endless labor to be wrong:
Phrase that Time has flung away;
Uncouth words in disarray,
Trick’d in antique ruff and bonnet,
Ode, and elegy, and sonnet.
Samuel Johnson—Parody of the style of Thomas Warton. See Croker’s note to Boswell’s Johnson. Sept. 18, 1777. Also in Mrs. Piozzi’s Anecdotes.

The essence of poetry is invention; such invention as, by producing something unexpected, surprises and delights.
Samuel Johnson—The Lives of the English Poets. Life of Waller.

Still may syllables jar with time,
Still may reason war with rhyme,
Resting never!
Ben Jonson—Underwoods. Fit of Rhyme Against Rhyme.

These are the gloomy comparisons of a disturbed imagination; the melancholy madness of poetry, without the inspiration.
Junius—Letter No. VII. To Sir W. Draper.

Facit indignatio versum.
Indignation leads to the making of poetry. Quoted “Facit indignatio versus”—i.e., verses.
Juvenal—Satires. I. 79.

The poetry of earth is never dead;
The poetry of earth is ceasing never.
Keats—On the Grasshopper and Cricket.

A drainless shower
Of light is poesy: ’tis the supreme of power;
’Tis might half slumbering on its own right arm.
Keats—Sleep and Poetry. L. 237.

There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
Kipling—In the Neolithic Age.

The time for Pen and Sword was when
“My ladye fayre,” for pity,
Could tend her wounded knight, and then
Grow tender at his ditty.
Some ladies now make pretty songs,
And some make pretty nurses:
Some men are good for righting wrongs,
And some for writing verses.
Frederick Locker-Lampson—The Jester’s Plea.

It [“The Ancient Mariner”] is marvellous in its mastery over that delightfully fortuitous inconsequence that is the adamantine logic of dreamland.
Lowell—Among My Books. Coleridge.

For, of all compositions, he thought that the sonnet
Best repaid all the toil you expended upon it.
Lowell—Fable for Critics. L. 368.

Never did Poesy appear
So full of heaven to me, as when
I saw how it would pierce through pride and fear
To the lives of coarsest men.
Lowell—Incident in a Railroad Car. St. 18.

These pearls of thought in Persian gulfs were bred,
Each softly lucent as a rounded moon;
The diver Omar plucked them from their bed,
FitzGerald strung them on an English thread.
Lowell—In a Copy of Omar Khayyam.

Musæo contigens cuncta lepore.
Gently touching with the charm of poetry.
Lucretius—De Rerum Natura. IV. 9.

The merit of poetry, in its wildest forms, still consists in its truth—truth conveyed to the understanding, not directly by the words, but circuitously by means of imaginative associations, which serve as its conductors.
Macaulay—Essays. On the Athenian Orators.

We hold that the most wonderful and splendid proof of genius is a great poem produced in a civilized age.
Macaulay—On Milton. (1825).

Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
Married to immortal verse,
Such as the meeting soul may pierce,
In notes, with many a winding bout
Of linkèd sweetness long drawn out.
Milton—L’Allegro. L. 136.

My unpremeditated verse.
Milton—Paradise Lost. Bk. IX. L. 24.

Yea, marry, now it is somewhat, for now it is rhyme; before it was neither rhyme nor reason.
Sir Thos. More. Advising an author to put his MS. into rhyme. “Rhyme nor reason.” Said by Peele—Edward I. In As You Like It. Act III. Sc. 2. Comedy of Errors. Act II. Sc. 2. Merry Wives of Windsor. Act V. Sc. 5. Farce du Vendeur des Lieures. (16th Cen.) L’avocat Patelin (Quoted by Tyndale, 1530.) The Mouse Trap. (1606). See Beloe Anecdotes of Literature. II. 127. Also in MS. in Cambridge University Library, England. 2. 5. Folio 9b. (Before 1500).

An erit, qui velle recuset
Os populi meruisse? et cedro digna locutus
Linquere, nec scombros metuentia carmina nec thus.
Lives there the man with soul so dead as to disown the wish to merit the people’s applause, and having uttered words worthy to be kept in cedar oil to latest times, to leave behind him rhymes that dread neither herrings nor frankincense.
Persius—Satires. I. 41.

Verba togæ sequeris, junctura callidus acri,
Ore teres modico, pallentes radere mores
Doctus, et ingenuo culpam defigere ludo.
Confined to common life thy numbers flow,
And neither soar too high nor sink too low;
There strength and ease in graceful union meet,
Though polished, subtle, and though poignant, sweet;
Yet powerful to abash the front of crime
And crimson error’s cheek with sportive rhyme.
Persius—Satires. V. 14. Gifford’s trans.

A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Pope—Essay on Criticism. Pt. II. L. 156.

What woful stuff this madrigal would be,
In some starv’d hackney sonneteer or me!
But let a lord once own the happy lines,
How the wit brightens! how the style refines.
Pope—Essay on Criticism. Pt. II. L. 418.

The varying verse, the full resounding line,
The long majestic march, and energy divine.
Pope—Horace. Bk. II. Ep. I. L. 267.

Curst be the verse, how well soe’er it flow,
That tends to make one worthy man my foe,
Give virtue scandal, innocence a fear,
Or from the soft-eyed virgin steal a tear!
Pope—Prologue to Satires. L. 283.

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention.
Henry V. Chorus. L. 1.

The elegancy, facility, and golden cadence of poesy.
Love’s Labour’s Lost. Act IV. Sc. 2. L. 126.

I consider poetry very subordinate to moral and political science.
Shelley—Letter to Thomas L. Peacock. Naples. Jan. 26, 1819.

A poem round and perfect as a star.
Alex. Smith—A Life Drama. Sc. 2.

I was promised on a time,
To have reason for my rhyme;
From that time unto this season,
I received nor rhyme nor reason.
Spenser—Lines on His Promised Pension. See Fuller’s Worthies, by Nuttall. Vol. II. P. 379.

Jewels five-words-long,
That on the stretch’d forefinger of all Time
Sparkle for ever.
Tennyson—Princess. Pt. II. L. 355.

Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine poeta,
Quale sopor fessis in gramine.
Thy verses are as pleasing to me, O divine poet, as sleep is to the wearied on the soft turf.
Vergil—Eclogæ. V. 45.

One merit of poetry few persons will deny: it says more and in fewer words than prose.
Voltaire—A Philosophical Dictionary. Poets.

Old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good.
Izaak Walton—The Compleat Angler. Pt. I. Ch. IV.

And so no force, however great,
Can strain a cord, however fine,
Into a horizontal line
That shall be absolutely straight.
William Whewell. Given as an accidental instance of metre and poetry.

Give lettered pomp to teeth of Time,
So “Bonnie Doon” but tarry:
Blot out the epic’s stately rhyme,
But spare his Highland Mary!
Whittier—Burns. Last stanza.

The vision and the faculty divine;
Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse.
Wordsworth—The Excursion. Bk. I.

Wisdom married to immortal verse.
Wordsworth—The Excursion. Bk. VII.

There is in Poesy a decent pride,
Which well becomes her when she speaks to Prose,
Her younger sister.
Young—Night Thoughts. Night V. L. 64.