Home  »  Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men  »  Edmund Waller

S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Edmund Waller

  • [An English poet; born in Hertfordshire, 1605; educated at Cambridge; member of the Long Parliament; deserted the popular cause; member of Parliament after the Restoration; died 1687.]
  • Poets succeed better in fiction than in truth.

  • In reply to Charles II., who complained that Waller’s eulogy on Cromwell was finer than his congratulations on the Restoration. The French tell the same story of a poet who complimented Louis XVIII. after having flattered Napoleon. Of the former, Dr. Johnson says, “It is not possible to read without some contempt and indignation poems of the same author, ascribing the highest degree of power and piety to Charles I., then transferring the same power and piety to Oliver Cromwell; now inviting Oliver to take the crown, and then congratulating Charles II. on his recovered right.”—Life of Waller.
  • When James II. showed him a portrait of his daughter, the Princess of Orange, Waller said she was like the greatest woman in the world, meaning Queen Elizabeth. “I wonder,” replied the king, “you should think so, but I must confess she had a wise council.”—“And, sir,” rejoined Waller, “did you ever know a fool choose a wise one!”—Ibid.
  • On hearing of the engagement of Waller’s daughter to Dr. Birch, a clergyman, James expressed surprise that he could marry his daughter to a falling church. “The king,” replied the poet, “does me great honor in taking notice of my domestic affairs; but I have lived long enough to observe that this falling church has got a trick of rising again.”—Ibid. Theodore de Beza (1519–1605), when demanding, before a council at Monceaux, punishment for the murderers of Protestants at Vassy, said to the king of Navarre, father of Henry IV., “I speak for a faith which is better skilled in suffering than in avenging wrong; but remember, sire, that ’tis an anvil on which many a hammer has been broken in pieces” (C’est une enclume qui a usé beaucoup de marteaux).