Alexander Pope Quotes

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About Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) is considered one of the greatest English poets of the eighteenth century.

Born: May 21st, 1688

Died: May 30th, 1744

Categories: English poets, Satirists, 1740s deaths, Vegetarians, Translators

Quotes: 126 sourced quotes total (includes 9 misattributed, 5 about)

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To err is human, to forgive divine.
Happy the man whose wish and care A few paternal acres bound, Content to breathe his native air In his own ground.
Histories are more full of Examples of the Fidelity of dogs than of Friends.
Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, "Let Newton be!" and all was light.
I am his Highness' dog at Kew; Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
"Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed" was the ninth Beatitude which a man of wit (who, like a man of wit, was a long time in gaol) added to the eighth.
Alexander Pope
• Letter, written in collaboration with John Gay, to William Fortescue (23 September 1725).
 • A similar remark was made in a letter to John Gay (16 October 1727): "I have many years magnify'd in my own mind, and repeated to you a ninth Beatitude, added to the eight in the Scripture: Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll; Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.
What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease.
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.
They shift the moving toyshop of their heart.
Let spades be trumps! she said, and trumps they were.
A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring: There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.
A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.
The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang that jurymen may dine.
The most positive men are the most credulous…
Say, is not absence death to those who love?
Hark! they whisper; angels say, Sister spirit, come away!
Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike, And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Father of all! in every age, In every clime adored, By saint, by savage, and by sage, Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Ye Gods! annihilate but space and time, And make two lovers happy.
Alexander Pope
Martinus Scriblerus on the Art of Sinking in Poetry, Chap. xi, reported in William Warburton, The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq (1751) p. 196.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare, And beauty draws us with a single hair.
Alexander Pope
• Canto II, line 27. Compare: "No cord nor cable can so forcibly draw, or hold so fast, as love can do with a twined thread", Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part iii, Section 2, Membrane 1, Subsection 2.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes, The Rape of the Lock (1712, revised 1714 and 1717))
For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight; His can't be wrong whose life is in the right.
"Boast not my fall (he cried), insulting foe! Thou by some other shalt be laid as low; Nor think to die dejects my lofty mind; All that I dread is leaving you behind! Rather than so, ah let me still survive, And burn in Cupid's flames — but burn alive."
At every word a reputation dies.
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?
Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain, And the nice conduct of a clouded cane.
If to her share some female errors fall, Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.
How vast a memory has Love!
They dream in Courtship, but in Wedlock wake.
And binding Nature fast in fate, Left free the human will.
Of Manners gentle, of Affections mild; In Wit, a Man; Simplicity, a Child.
Alexander Pope
• "Epitaph on Gay" (1733), lines 1-2. Reported in The Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt, sixth edition (Yale University Press, 1970), p. 818. Compare: "Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child", John Dryden, Elegy on Mrs. Killegrew, line 70.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Ambition first sprung from your blest abodes; The glorious fault of Angels and of Gods.
Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.
Thou Great First Cause, least understood Who all my sense confined To know but this, that Thou art good And that myself am blind.
What dire offence from amorous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things!
Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake, And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake.
Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies, And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.
Coffee, which makes the politician wise, And see through all things with his half-shut eyes.
On all the line a sudden vengeance waits, And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates.
Not louder shrieks to pitying heav'n are cast, When husbands, or when lapdogs, breathe their last.
Who ne'er knew joy but friendship might divide, Or gave his father grief but when he died.
True politeness consists in being easy one's self, and in making every one about one as easy as one can.
Here am I, dying of a hundred good symptoms.
Alexander Pope
• Pope's reply when told by his physician that he was better, on the morning of his death (30 May 1744), as quoted by Owen Ruffhead in The Life of Alexander Pope; With a Critical Essay on His Writings and Genius (1769), p. 475.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Party is the madness of many, for the gain of a few.
Alexander Pope
• From Roscoe's edition of Pope, vol. v. p. 376; originally printed in Motte's Miscellanies (1727). In the edition of 1736 Pope says, "I must own that the prose part (the Thought on Various Subjects), at the end of the second volume, was wholly mine. January, 1734".
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes, Thoughts on Various Subjects (1727): Published in Swift's Miscellanies (1727).)
And bear about the mockery of woe To midnight dances and the public show.
A god without dominion, providence, and final causes, is nothing else but Fate and Nature.
For he lives twice who can at once employ The present well, and e'en the past enjoy.
Let such, such only tread this sacred floor, Who dare to love their country and be poor.
Alexander Pope
• Inscription on the entrance to his grotto in Twickenham, published in "Verses on a Grotto by the River Thames at Twickenham, composed of Marbles, Spars and Minerals", line 14, (written 1740, published 1741); also quoted as "Who dared to love their country, and be poor."
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
I never knew any man in my life who could not bear another's misfortunes perfectly like a Christian.
When men grow virtuous in their old age, they only make a sacrifice to God of the devil's leavings.
There, take (says Justice), take ye each a shell: We thrive at Westminster on fools like you; 'T was a fat oyster,—live in peace,—adieu.
Alexander Pope
• Reported in The Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt, sixth edition (Yale University Press, 1970), p. 832: "Verbatim from Boileau", written c. 1740, published 1741.. Compare: "Tenez voilà", dit-elle, "à chacun une écaille, Des sottises d'autrui nous vivons au Palais; Messieurs, l'huître étoit bonne. Adieu. Vivez en paix", Nicholas Boileau-Despreaux, Epître II. (à M. l'Abbé des Roches).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Oft, as in airy rings they skim the heath, The clam'rous lapwings feel the leaden death; Oft, as the mounting larks their notes prepare, They fall, and leave their little lives in air.
To wake the soul by tender strokes of art, To raise the genius, and to mend the heart; To make mankind, in conscious virtue bold, Live o'er each scene, and be what they behold: For this the Tragic Muse first trod the stage.
Ignobly vain, and impotently great.
Passions…are the gales of life…
Alexander Pope
• As quoted by Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke in a letter to Jonathan Swift (29 March 1730).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Attributed)
Never find fault with the absent.
Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay.
Absent or dead, still let a friend be dear.
Proud Nimrod first the bloody chase began A mighty hunter, and his prey was man.
The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole Can never be a mouse of any soul.
Alexander Pope
• "The Wife of Bath her Prologue, from Chaucer" (c.1704, published 1713), lines 298-299. Compare: "I hold a mouses wit not worth a leke, That hath but on hole for to sterten to", Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, "The Wif of Bathes Prologue", line 6154; "The mouse that hath but one hole is quickly taken", George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
The garlands fade, the vows are worn away; So dies her love, and so my hopes decay.
You beat your pate, and fancy wit will come; Knock as you please, there's nobody at home.
Misattributed to Alexander Pope
• Credited as Epigram: An Empty House (1727), or On a Dull Writer; alternately attributed to Jonathan Swift in John Hawkesworth, The Works of Jonathan Swift, D.D., Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin (1754), p. 265. Compare: "His wit invites you by his looks to come, But when you knock, it never is at home", William Cowper, Conversation, line 303.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Misattributed)
A work of art that contains theories is like an object on which the price tag has been left.
Misattributed to Alexander Pope
Une oeuvre où il y a des théories est comme un objet sur lequel on laisse la marque du prix.
• Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, part VII: Time Regained, chapter III, "An Afternoon Party at the House of the Princesse de Guermantes" (French version and English translation).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Misattributed)
Vital spark of heav'nly flame! Quit, oh quit, this mortal frame: Trembling, hoping, ling'ring, flying, Oh the pain, the bliss of dying!
Let not this weak, unknowing hand Presume Thy bolts to throw, And deal damnation round the land On each I judge Thy foe.
It is with narrow-souled people as with narrow necked bottles: the less they have in them, the more noise they make in pouring it out.
Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law, Or some frail China jar receive a flaw, Or stain her honour, or her new brocade, Forget her prayers, or miss a masquerade.
A brave man struggling in the storms of fate, And greatly falling with a falling state. While Cato gives his little senate laws, What bosom beats not in his country's cause?
Alexander Pope
• Line 21. Pope also uses the reference, "Like Cato, give his little Senate laws", in his Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1734), Prologue to Imitations of Horace.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes, Prologue to Mr. Addison's Cato (1713))
Let me tell you I am better acquainted with you for a long Absence, as men are with themselves for a long affliction: Absence does but hold off a friend, to make one see him the truer.
Alexander Pope
• Letter, written in collaboration with Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, to Jonathan Swift, December 14, 1725.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain, Here earth and water seem to strive again, Not chaos-like together crushed and bruised, But, as the world, harmoniously confused: Where order in variety we see, And where, though all things differ, all agree.
Is it, in Heav'n, a crime to love too well? To bear too tender, or too firm a heart, To act a lover's or a Roman's part? Is there no bright reversion in the sky, For those who greatly think, or bravely die?
Luxurious lobster-nights, farewell, For sober, studious days!
Know, sense, like charity, begins at home.
This is the Jew That Shakespeare drew.
Alexander Pope
• As quoted in various reports, including Charles Wells Moulton, The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors (1901), p. 342; William Dunlap, The Life of George Frederick Cooke (1815), p. 26 (quoting an apparently contemporaneous journal account by the subject). Bartlett's Quotations, 10th edition (1919), reports that on the 14th of February, 1741, Macklin established his fame as an actor in the character of Shylock, in the "Merchant of Venice". Macklin's performance of this character so forcibly struck a gentleman in the pit that he, as it were involuntarily, exclaimed,—
“This is the Jew
That Shakespeare drew!”
It has been said that this gentleman was Mr. Pope, and that he meant his panegyric on Macklin as a satire against Lord Lansdowne", Biographia Dramatica, vol. i. part II. p. 469.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Attributed)
To be angry, is to revenge the fault of others upon ourselves.
What beck'ning ghost, along the moonlight shade Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?
Such were the notes thy once lov'd poet sung, Till death untimely stopp'd his tuneful tongue.
Alexander Pope
• "Epistle to Robert, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer" preface to Thomas Parnell's Poems on Several Occasions (1721).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Nor Fame I slight, nor her favors call; She comes unlooked for, if she comes at all.
Our passions are like convulsion-fits, which, though they make us stronger for the time, leave us the weaker ever after.
Teach me to feel another's woe, To right the fault I see; That mercy I to others show, That mercy show to me.
Alexander Pope
• Stanza 10; this extends upon the theme evident in the lines of Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene (1596), Book V, Canto ii, Stanza 42: "Who will not mercie unto others show, How can he mercy ever hope to have?"
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes, The Universal Prayer (1738))
For, as blushing will sometimes make a whore pass for a virtuous woman, so modesty may make a fool seem a man of sense.
He who tells a lie, is not sensible how great a task he undertakes; for he must be forced to invent twenty more to maintain that one.
Good God! how often are we to die before we go quite off this stage? in every friend we lose a part of ourselves, and the best part.
Alexander Pope
• Letter, written in collaboration with Dr John Arbuthnot, to Jonathan Swift (December 5, 1732) upon the death of John Gay.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Vain was the chief's, the sage's pride! They had no poet, and they died. In vain they schem'd, in vain they bled! They had no poet, and are dead.
Alexander Pope
Odes, Book iv, Ode 9, reported in William Warburton, The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq (1751) p. 31.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed, By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed, By foreign hands thy humble grave adorned, By strangers honored, and by strangers mourned.
Some old men, by continually praising the time of their youth, would almost persuade us that there were no fools in those days; but unluckily they are left themselves for examples.
Well, if our author in the wife offends He has a husband that will make amends; He draws him gentle, tender, and forgiving, And sure such kind good creatures may be living.
The flying Rumours gather'd as they roll'd, Scarce any Tale was sooner heard than told; And all who told it, added something new, And all who heard it, made Enlargements too, In ev'ry Ear it spread, on ev'ry Tongue it grew.
Wikiquote: An Essay on Criticism
Let opening roses knotted oaks adorn, And liquid amber drop from every thorn.
But when mischief mortals bend their will, How soon they find fit instruments of ill!
Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown; O grant an honest fame, or grant me none!
To endeavour to work upon the vulgar with fine sense, is like attempting to hew blocks with a razor.
Genius creates, and taste preserves. Taste is the good sense of genius; without taste, genius is only sublime folly.
The stoic husband was the glorious thing. The man had courage, was a sage, 'tis true, And lov'd his country.
Dear, damned, distracting town, farewell! Thy fools no more I'll tease: This year in peace, ye critics, dwell, Ye harlots, sleep at ease!
Not chaos-like together crush'd and bruis'd, But as the world, harmoniously confus'd, Where order in variety we see, And where, though all things differ, all agree.
If I am right, Thy grace import Still in the right to stay; If I am wrong, oh teach my heart To find that better way!
The meeting points the sacred hair dissever From the fair head, forever, and forever! Then flashed the living lightning from her eyes, And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies.
So unaffected, so compos'd a mind; So firm, yet soft; so strong, yet so retin'd; Heav'n, as its purest gold, by tortures try'd; The saint sustain'd it, but the woman died.
How loved, how honored once, avails thee not, To whom related, or by whom begot; A heap of dust alone remains of thee; 'Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be!
The sick in body call for aid: the sick In mind are covetous of more disease; And when at worst, they dream themselves quite well. To know ourselves diseased, is half our cure.
A person who is too nice an observer of the business of the crowd, like one who is too curious in observing the labour of the bees, will often be stung for his curiosity.
Where'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade, Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade: Where'er you tread, the blushing flow'rs shall rise, And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.
Lo these were they, whose souls the Furies steel'd, And curs'd with hearts unknowing how to yield. Thus unlamented pass the proud away, The gaze of fools, and pageant of a day! So perish all, whose breast ne'er learn'd to glow For others' good, or melt at others' woe.
Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own because they resemble the Ancients, may as well say our faces are not our own, because they are like our Fathers: And indeed it is very unreasonable, that people should expect us to be Scholars, and yet be angry to find us so.
I would not be like those Authors, who forgive themselves some particular lines for the sake of a whole Poem, and vice versa a whole Poem for the sake of some particular lines. I believe no one qualification is so likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts.
I find myself just in the same situation of mind you describe as your own, heartily wishing the good, that is the quiet of my country, and hoping a total end of all the unhappy divisions of mankind by party-spirit, which at best is but the madness of many for the gain of a few.
Alexander Pope
• Letter to Edward Blount (27 August 1714); a similar expression in "Thoughts on Various Subjects" in Swift's Miscellanies (1727): Party is the madness of many, for the gain of a few.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad Poets. What we call a Genius, is hard to be distinguish'd by a man himself, from a strong inclination: and if his genius be ever so great, he can not at first discover it any other way, than by giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken.
There various news I heard of love and strife, Of peace and war, health, sickness, death, and life, Of loss and gain, of famine and of store, Of storms at sea, and travels on the shore, Of prodigies, and portents seen in air, Of fires and plagues, and stars with blazing hair, Of turns of fortune, changes in the state, The fall of favourites, projects of the great, Of aid mismanagements, taxations new: All neither wholly false, nor wholly true.
Of all his works he was most proud of his garden.
About Alexander Pope
• Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 2nd edition, Vol. 4 (London, 1782), p. 295.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes about Pope)
Who is this Pope that I hear so much about? I cannot discover what is his merit. Why will not my subjects write in prose?
Lull'd in the countless chambers of the brain, Our thoughts are link'd by many a hidden chain. Awake but one, and lo, what myriads rise! Each stamps its image as the other flies!
The world recedes; it disappears! Heav'n opens my eyes! my ears With sounds seraphic ring! Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly! O grave! where is thy victory? O death! where is thy sting?
The verses, when they were written, resemble nothing so much as spoonfuls of boiling oil, ladled out by a fiendish monkey at an upstairs window upon such passers-by whom the wretch had a grudge against.
I think it was a generous thought, and one that fow'd from an exalted mind, that it was not improbable but God might be delighted with the various methods of worshipping him, which divided the whole world.
Pope was not content to satisfy; he desired to excel, and therefore always endeavoured to do his best: he did not court the candour, but dared the judgement of his reader, and, expecting no indulgence from others, he shewed none to himself. He examined lines and words with minute and punctilious observation, and retouched every part with indefatigable diligence, till he had left nothing to be forgiven.
From old Belerium to the northern main.
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, Dost sometimes counsel take — and sometimes tea.
Methinks God has punish'd the Avaritious as he often punishes sinners, in their own way, in the ver sin itself: the thrist of gain was their crime, that thrist continued became their punishment and ruin. As for the few who have the good fortune to remain with half of what they imagined they had (among whom is your humble servantl, I would have them sensible of their felicity, and convinced of the truth of old Hesiod's maxim, who, after half his estate was swallowed by the Directors of those days, resolv'd, that half to be more than the whole.
I am growing fit, I hope, for a better world, of which light of the sun is but a shadow: for I doubt not but God's works here, are what comes nearest to his works there; and that a true relish of the beauties of nature is the most easy preparation and gentlest transition to an enjoyment of those of heaven; as on the contrary a true town life of hurry, confusion, noise, slander, and dissension, is a fort of apprenticeship to hell and its furies... The separation of my soul and body is what I could think of with less pain; for I sm very sure he that made it will take care of it, and in whatever state he pleases it shall be, that state must be right; but I cannot think without tears of beingseparated from my friends, when their condition is so douubtful, that they may want even such assistance as mine
Alexander Pope
• In a 1715 letter (LXXVII), as found in Letters of Mr. Alexander Pope: And Several of His Friends. 1737.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Alexander Pope" (Quotes)
Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted to each other, all the qualities that constitute genius. He had Invention, by which new trains of events are formed and new scenes of imagery displayed, as in The Rape of the Lock, and by which extrinsick and adventitious embellishments and illustrations are connected with a known subject, as in the Essay on Criticism; he had Imagination, which strongly impresses on the writer's mind and enables him to convey to the reader the various forms of nature, incidents of life, and energies of passion, as in his Eloisa, Windsor Forest, and the Ethick Epistles; he had Judgement, which selects from life or nature what the present purpose requires, and, by separating the essence of things from its concomitants, often makes the representation more powerful than the reality; and he had colours of language always before him ready to decorate his matter with every grace of elegant expression, as when he accommodates his diction to the wonderful multiplicity of Homer's sentiments and descriptions.

End Alexander Pope Quotes