Literary Quotations
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Life is a Dream (1636)

Once more, you savage heavens, I ask of you—
I, looking up to those relentless eyes
That, now the greater lamp is gone below,
Begin to muster in the listening skies;
In all the shining circuits you have gone
About this theatre of human woe,
What greater sorrow have you gazed upon
Than down this narrow chink you witness still;
And which, did you yourselves not fore-devise,
You registered for others to fulfil!
Thus then what I for misadventure blamed,
Directly draws me where my wishes aim'd.
You and the world who have surnamed me "Sage"
Know that I owe that title, if my due,
To my long meditation on the book
Which ever lying open overhead—
The book of heaven, I mean—so few have read.
For, sure and certain prophets as the stars,
Although they err not, he who reads them may.
The curtain is undrawn,
And each must play his part out manfully,
Leaving the rest to heaven.
Why, now I think on't, I have read of such
A silver-hair'd magician with a wand,
Who in a moment, with a wave of it,
Turn'd rags to jewels, clowns to emperors,
By some benigner magic than the stars
Spirited poor good people out of hand
From all their woes; in some enchanted sleep
Carried them off on cloud or dragon-back
Over the mountains, over the wide Deep,
And set them down to wake in Fairyland.
Oh, those stars,
Those stars, that too far up from human blame
To clear themselves, or careless of the charge,
Still bear upon their shining shoulders all
The guilt men shift upon them!
Like sire, like son.
What some precocious warmth may spill,
May not an early frost as surely kill?
Beware! Beware!
Subdue the kindled Tiger in your eye!
Ay—wondrous how
Imagination in a sleeping brain
Out of the uncontingent senses draws
Sensations strong as from the real touch;
That we not only laugh aloud, and drench
With tears our pillow; but in the agony
Of some imaginary conflict, fight
And struggle—ev'n as you did; some, 'tis thought,
Under the dreamt-of stroke of death have died.
By the false spirits' nice contrivance thus
A little truth oft leavens all the false,
The better to delude us.
Imagination, once lit up within
And unconditional of time and space,
Can pour infinities.
Once the dreamer begins to dream he dreams,
His foot is on the very verge of waking.
Dreams are rough copies of the waking soul.
And yet, and yet, in these our ghostly lives,
Half night, half day, half sleeping, half awake,
How if our waking life, like that of sleep,
Be all a dream in that eternal life
To which we wake not till we sleep in death?
One man—like this—but only so much longer
As life is longer than a summer's day,
Believed himself a king upon his throne,
And play'd at hazard with his fellows' lives,
Who cheaply dream'd away their lives to him.
The sailor dream'd of tossing on the flood:
The soldier of his laurels grown in blood:
The lover of the beauty that he knew
Must yet dissolve to dusty residue:
The merchant and the miser of his bags
Of finger'd gold; the beggar of his rags:
And all this stage of earth on which we seem
Such busy actors, and the parts we play'd,
Substantial as the shadow of a shade,
And Dreaming but a dream within a dream!
Was it not said, sir,
By some philosopher as yet unborn,
That any chimney-sweep who for twelve hours
Dreams himself king is happy as the king
Who dreams himself twelve hours a chimney-sweep?
What odds, when Fate is one's antagonist!
Whether wake or dreaming, this I know,
How dream-wise human glories come and go;
Whose momentary tenure not to break,
Walking as one who knows he soon may wake,
So fairly carry the full cup, so well
Disorder'd insolence and passion quell,
That there be nothing after to upbraid
Dreamer or doer in the part he play'd,
Whether To-morrow's dawn shall break the spell,
Or the Last Trumpet of the eternal Day,
When Dreaming with the Night shall pass away.


The Mayor of Zalamea (1642)

I can't call a woman a woman unless she's clean about the hands and fetlocks, and otherwise well appointed--a lady in short.


Better stumble on a pebble than run your head against a post.


If a pretty woman only knew how anger improved her beauty! Her complexion needs no other paint than indignation.

Don Mendo

Preach not to a beggar till
The beggar's empty hide you fill.


Upon thy life now dost think there's a soul who doesn't know that I'm no gentleman at all, but just a plain farmer? What's the use of my buying a patent of Gentility, if I can't buy the gentle blood along with it! Will anyone think me a bit more of a gentleman for buying fifty patents? Not a whit; I should only prove I was worth so many thousand royals, not that I had gentle blood in my veins, which can't be bought at any price. If a fellow's been bald ever so long, and buys him a fine wig, and claps it on; will his neighbours think it is his own hair a bit the more? No, they will say, "So and so has a fine wig; and, what's more, he must have paid handsomely for it too." But they know his bald pate is safe under it all the while. That's all he gets by it.


It is my principle to swear with the swearer, and pray with the saint; all things to all men.


'Tis not the price of the gift, but the good will of the giver makes its value.

Don Lope

How many have done away with the memory of a defect by carrying themselves modestly; while others again have gotten a blemish only by being too proud of being born without one.


Be courteous in thy manner, and liberal of thy purse; for 'tis the hand to the bonnet and in the pocket that makes friends in this world; of which to gain one good, all the gold the sun breeds in India, or the universal sea sucks down, were a cheap purchase.


Speak no evil of women; I tell thee the meanest of them deserves respect; for of women do we not all come?


Oh, fleeting morning star, mightest thou never yield to the dawn that even now presses on thy azure skirts! And thou, great Orb of all, do thou stay down in the cold ocean foam; let night for once advance her trembling empire into thine!


'Tis the horse redeems the saddle.