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


Poets are all who love,—who feel great truths,
And tell them.
Bailey—Festus. Sc. Another and a Better World.

A poet not in love is out at sea;
He must have a lay-figure.
Bailey—Festus. Sc. Home.

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.
Boileau—L’Art Poetique. 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.
A. B. Bragdon—Two Landscapes.

“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.
E. B. Browning—Aurora Leigh. Bk. VII. Probably Emerson—Epigram to History. “There is no great and no small.”

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.
E. B. Browning—Dead Pan. St. 39.

God’s prophets of the Beautiful,
These Poets were.
E. B. Browning—Vision of Poets. St. 98.

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.
Robert Buchanan—Poet Andrew. L. 161.

Poets alone are sure of immortality; they are the truest diviners of nature.
Bulwer-Lytton—Caxtoniana. Essay XXVII.

And poets by their sufferings grow,—
As if there were no more to do,
To make a poet excellent,
But only want and discontent.
Butler—Miscellaneous Thoughts.

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.”
Byron—Don Juan. Canto I. St. 42.

A Poet without Love were a physical and metaphysical impossibility.
Carlyle—Essays. Burns.

Most joyful let the Poet be;
It is through him that all men see.
William E. Channing—The Poet of the Old and New Times.

He koude songes make and wel endite.
Chaucer—Canterbury Tales. Prologue. L. 95.

Who all in raptures their own works rehearse,
And drawl out measur’d prose, which they call verse.
Churchill—Independence. L. 295.

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.
Abraham Cowley—On the Praise of Poetry. Ode I. L. 13.

And spare the poet for his subject’s sake.
Cowper—Charity. Last line.

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.
Cowper—Table Talk.

Greece, sound thy Homer’s, Rome thy Virgil’s name,
But England’s Milton equals both in fame.
Cowper—To John Milton.

There is a pleasure in poetic pains,
Which only poets know.
Cowper—The Task. Bk. II. L. 285. Same in Wordsworth—Miscellaneous Sonnets. Knight’s ed. VII. 160.

They best can judge a poet’s worth,
Who oft themselves have known
The pangs of a poetic birth
By labours of their own.
Cowper—To Dr. Darwin. St. 2.

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.
Sir John Denham—Cooper’s Hill.

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.
Sir John Denham—Progress of Learning. L. 61.

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.
Isaac D’Israeli—Literary Character of Men of Genius. Vers de Société.

For that fine madness still he did retain,
Which rightly should possess a poet’s brain.
Drayton—To Henry Reynolds. Of Poets and Poesy. L. 109.

Happy who in his verse can gently steer
From grave to light, from pleasant to severe.
Dryden—The Art of Poetry. Canto I. L. 75.

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.
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.
Emerson—Essays. Of Prudence.

All men are poets at heart.
Emerson—Literary Ethics.

“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.”
R. W. Gilder—Wanted, a Theme.

Wer den Dichter will verstehen
Muss in Dichters Lande gehen.
Whoever would understand the poet
Must go into the poet’s country.
Goethe—Noten auf West-O. Divans.

Neuere Poeten thun viel Wasser in die Tinte.
Modern poets mix too much water with their ink.
Goethe—Sprüche in Prosa. III. Quoting Sterne—Koran. 2. 142.

Thou best-humour’d man with the worst-humour’d muse.
Goldsmith—Retaliation. Postscript.

Singing and rejoicing,
As aye since time began,
The dying earth’s last poet
Shall be the earth’s last man.
Anastasius Grün—The Last Poet.

His virtues formed the magic of his song.
Inscription on the Tomb of Cowper. L. 10. See Hayley’s Life of Cowper. Vol. 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.
Paul H. Hayne—To Bryant, Dead.

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.
Holmes—Memorial Verses. Shakespeare.

Where go the poet’s lines?—
Answer, ye evening tapers!
Ye auburn locks, ye golden curls,
Speak from your folded papers!
Holmes—The Poet’s Lot. St. 3.

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.
Holmes—Songs of Many Seasons. Bryant’s Seventieth Birthday. St. 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. 372.

Poets, the first instructors of mankind,
Brought all things to their proper native use.
Horace—Of the Art of Poetry. L. 449. Wentworth Dillon’s trans.

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!
Samuel Johnson—Boswell’s Life of Johnson. (1774).

For a good poet’s made, as well as born.
Ben Jonson—To the Memory of Shakespeare. Trans. 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. Ch. 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.
Keats—Endymion. Bk. III. L. 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.
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.

For next to being a great poet is the power of understanding one.
Longfellow—Hyperion. Bk. II. Ch. III.

All that is best in the great poets of all countries is not what is national in them, but what is universal.
Longfellow—Kavanagh. Ch. XX.

For voices pursue him by day,
And haunt him by night,—
And he listens, and needs must obey,
When the Angel says: “Write!”
Longfellow—L’Envoi. The Poet and His Songs. St. 7.

Like the river, swift and clear,
Flows his song through many a heart.
Longfellow—Oliver Basselin. St. 11.

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?
Longfellow—The Poets.

The clear, sweet singer with the crown of snow
Not whiter than the thoughts that housed below!
Lowell—Epistle to George William Curtis. L. 43. Postscript.

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!
Lowell—Fable for Critics. L. 73.

Sithe of our language he was the lodesterre.
Lydgate—The Falls of Princes. Referring to Chaucer.

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.
Lord Lyttleton—Prologue to Thomson’s Coriolanus. 17.

Non scribit, cujus carmina nemo legit.
He does not write whose verses no one reads.
Martial—Epigrams. 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. Bk. VIII. Ep. 49.

Poets are sultans, if they had their will:
For every author would his brother kill.
Orrery—Prologues. (According to Johnson.)

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. Bk. II. Sec. V.

Tamen poetis mentiri licet.
Nevertheless it is allowed to poets to lie. (Poetical license.)
Pliny the Younger—Epistles. Bk. VI. 21.

While pensive poets painful vigils keep,
Sleepless themselves to give their readers sleep.
Pope—Dunciad. Bk. I. L. 93.

Dulness! whose good old cause I yet defend,
With whom my muse began, with whom shall end.
Pope—Dunciad. Bk. I. L. 165.

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.
Pope—Essay on Criticism. L. 293.

Vain was the chief’s, the sage’s pride!
They had no poet, and they died.
Pope—Odes of Horace. Bk. IV. Ode 9.

Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme,
Happy to catch me, just at dinner-time.
Pope—Prologue to Satires. L. 13.

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.
Pope—Prologue to Satires. L. 179.

And he whose fustian’s so sublimely bad,
It is not poetry, but prose run mad.
Pope—Prologue to Satires. L. 185.

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. Bk. I.

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.

***For ne’er
Was flattery lost on Poet’s ear;
A simple race! they waste their toil
For the vain tribute of a smile.
Scott—Lay of the Last Minstrel. Canto IV. Last stanza.

Call it not vain:—they do not err,
Who say that, when the Poet dies,
Mute Nature mourns her worshipper,
And celebrates his obsequies.
Scott—Lay of the Last Minstrel. Canto V. St. 1.

I would the gods had made thee poetical.
As You Like It. Act III. Sc. 3. L. 15.

Never durst poet touch a pen to write
Until his ink were temper’d with Love’s sighs.
Love’s Labour’s Lost. Act IV. Sc. 3. L. 346.

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.
Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act V. Sc. 1. L. 12.

Most wretched men
Are cradled into poetry by wrong;
They learn in suffering what they teach in song.
Shelley—Julian and Maddalo. L. 556.

Dan Chaucer, well of English undefyled,
On Fame’s eternall beadroll worthie to be fyled.
Spenser—Faerie Queene. Bk. IV. Canto II. St. 32.

I learnt life from the poets.
Madame de Staël—Corinne. Bk. XVIII. Ch. V.

With no companion but the constant Muse,
Who sought me when I needed her—ah, when
Did I not need her, solitary else?
R. H. Stoddard—Proem. L. 87.

The Poet in his Art
Must intimate the whole, and say the smallest part.
W. W. Story—The Unexpressed.

Then, rising with Aurora’s light,
The Muse invoked, sit down to write;
Blot out, correct, insert, refine,
Enlarge, diminish, interline.
Swift—On Poetry.

Unjustly poets we asperse:
Truth shines the brighter clad in verse,
And all the fictions they pursue
Do but insinuate what is true.
Swift—To Stella.

Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother’s name.
Swinburne—Ballad of François Villon.

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.
Swinburne—Essays and Studies. Victor Hugo. L’Année Terrible.

The Poet’s leaves are gathered one by one,
In the slow process of the doubtful years.
Bayard Taylor—Poet’s Journal. Third Evening.

I do but sing because I must,
And pipe but as the linnets sing.
Tennyson—In Memoriam. XXI. 6.

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.
Tennyson—The Poet.

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.
Tennyson—To ——, after Reading a Life and Letters. St. 4.

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.
Thomson—Castle of Indolence. Canto I. St. 68. (Last line said to be “writ by a friend of the author.”)

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. L. 41.

God, eldest of Poets.
William Watson—England, my England.

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.
William Watson—Hood.

Threadbare his songs seem now, to lettered ken:
They were worn threadbare next the hearts of men.
William Watson—Longfellow.

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.
William Watson—The Tomb of Burns.

It was Homer who inspired the poet.
Wayland—The Iliad and the Bible.

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.
Byron Forceythe Willson—Autumn Song.

That mighty orb of song,
The divine Milton.
Wordsworth—Excursion. Bk. I. L. 252.

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.
Wordsworth—Miscellaneous Sonnets. Pt. II. Scorn not the Sonnet.

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!
Wordsworth—Personal Talk.

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.
Wordsworth—Resolution and Independence. St. 7.