Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
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S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
 
William Cowper
 
  For my own part, I found such friendships, though warm enough in their commencement, surprisingly liable to extinction; and of seven or eight whom I had selected for intimates out of about three hundred, in ten years’ time not one was left me. The truth is that there may be, and often is, an attachment of one boy to another that looks very like friendship, and, while they are in circumstances that enable them mutually to oblige and assist each other, promises well and bids fair to be lasting; but they are no sooner separated from each other, by entering into the world at large, than other connections and new employments, in which they no longer share together, efface the remembrance of what passed in earlier days, and they become strangers to each other forever. Add to this, the man frequently differs so much from the boy—his principles, manners, temper, and conduct undergo so great an alteration—that we no longer recognize in him our old playfellow, but find him utterly unworthy and unfit for the place he once held in our affections.
William Cowper.    
  1
 
  Lives spent in indolence, and therefore sad.
William Cowper.    
  2
 
  Judgment falls asleep upon the bench, while Imagination, like a smug, pert counsellor, stands chattering at the bar.
William Cowper.    
  3
 
  The art of poetry is to touch the passions, and its duty to lead them on the side of virtue.
William Cowper.    
  4
 
  Cowper declares that the Iliad and Odyssey in Pope’s hands “have no more the air of antiquity than if he had himself invented them.”
William Cowper.    
  5
 
  Quick is the succession of human events: the cares of to-day are seldom the cares of to-morrow; and when we lie down at night, we may safely say to most of our troubles, Ye have done your worst, and we shall meet no more.
William Cowper.    
  6
 
  Woman has, in general, much stronger propensity than man to the discharge of parental duties.
William Cowper.    
  7
 
  You do well to improve your opportunity; to speak in the rural phrase, this is your sowing time, and the sheaves you look for can never be yours, unless you make that use of it. The colour of our whole life is generally such as the three or four first years in which we are our own masters make it. Then it is that we may be said to shape our own destiny, and to treasure up for ourselves a series of future successes or disappointments.
William Cowper.    
  8
 
  How naturally does affliction make us Christians! and how impossible is it when all human help is vain, and the whole earth too poor and trifling to furnish us with one moment’s peace, how impossible is it then to avoid looking at the gospel!
William Cowper: Letter to Lady Hesketh, July 4, 1765.    
  9
 
  Alas! if my best Friend, who laid down his life for me, were to remember all the instances in which I have neglected Him, and to plead them against me in judgment, where should I hide my guilty head in the day of recompense? I will pray, therefore, for blessings upon my friends even though they cease to be so, and upon my enemies though they continue such.
William Cowper: To Lady Hesketh, April 4, 1766.    
  10
 
  A firm persuasion of the superintendence of Providence over all our concerns is absolutely necessary to our happiness. Without it, we cannot be said to believe in the Scripture, or practise anything like resignation to his will. If I am convinced that no affliction can befall me without the permission of God, I am convinced likewise that he sees and knows that I am afflicted: believing this, I must in the same degree believe that if I pray to him for deliverance, he hears me: I must needs know, likewise, with equal assurance, that if he hears, he will also deliver me, if that will upon the whole be most conducive to my happiness: and if he does not deliver me, I may be well assured that he has none but the most benevolent intention in declining it.
William Cowper: To Lady Hesketh, Sept. 4, 1765.    
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  The parable of the prodigal son, the most beautiful fiction that ever was invented; our Saviour’s speech to his disciples, with which he closes his earthly ministration, full of the sublimest dignity and tenderest affection, surpass everything that I ever read; and, like the Spirit by which they were dictated, fly directly to the heart.
William Cowper: To Lady Hesketh, August 1, 1765.    
  12
 
  How happy it is to believe, with a steadfast assurance, that our petitions are heard even while we are making them; and how delightful to meet with a proof of it in the effectual and actual grant of them!
William Cowper: To Lady Hesketh, Oct. 18, 1765.    
  13
 
  I agree with your Lordship that a translation perfectly close is impossible, because time has sunk the original strict import of a thousand phrases, and we have no means of recovering it. But if we cannot be unimpeachably faithful, that is no reason why we should not be as faithful as we can; and if blank verse affords the fairest chance, then it claims the preference.
William Cowper: To Lord-Chancellor Thurlow on Cowper’s Translation of Homer.    
  14
 
  Poetical reports of law cases are not very common, yet it seems to me desirable that they should be so. Many advantages would accrue from such a measure. They would, in the first place, be more commonly deposited in the memory, just as linen, grocery, or other such matters, when neatly packed, are known to occupy less room, and to lie more conveniently in any trunk, chest, or box to which they may be committed. In the next place, being divested of that infinite circumlocution, and the endless embarrassment in which they are involved by it, they would become surprisingly intelligible in comparison with their present obscurity.
William Cowper: To Rev. W. Unwin, Dec. 1780.    
  15
 
 
 
  The same work will wear a different appearance in the eyes of the same man, according to the different views with which he reads it: if merely for his amusement, his candour being in less danger of a twist from interest or prejudice, he is pleased with what is really pleasing, and is not over-curious to discover a blemish,—because the exercise of a minute exactness is not consistent with his purpose. But if he once becomes a critic by trade, the case is altered. He must then at any rate establish, if he can, an opinion in every mind of his uncommon discernment, and his exquisite taste. This great end he can never accomplish by thinking in the track that has been beaten under the hoof of public judgment. He must endeavour to convince the world that their favourite authors have more faults than they are aware of, and such as they have never suspected. Having marked out a writer universally esteemed, whom he finds it for that very reason convenient to depreciate and traduce, he will overlook some of his beauties, he will faintly praise others, and in such a manner as to make thousands, more modest though quite as judicious as himself, question whether they are beauties at all.
William Cowper: To Rev. W. Unwin, Jan. 17, 1782.    
  16
 
  I understand that in France, though the use of rouge be general, the use of white paint is far from being so. In England, she that uses one commonly uses both. Now, all white paints, or lotions, or whatever they may be called, are mercurial; consequently poisonous, consequently ruinous in time to the constitution. The Miss B—— above mentioned was a miserable witness of the truth, it being certain that her flesh fell from her bones before she died. Lady Coventry was hardly a less melancholy proof of it; and a London physician perhaps, were he at liberty to blab, could publish a bill of female mortality of a length that would astonish us.
William Cowper: To Rev. W. Unwin, May 3, 1784.    
  17
 
  With respect to the education of boys, I think they are generally made to draw in Latin and Greek trammels too soon. It is pleasing, no doubt, to a parent, to see his child already in some sort a proficient in those languages at an age when most others are entirely ignorant of them; but hence it often happens that a boy who could construe a fable of Æsop at six or seven years of age, having exhausted his little stock of attention and diligence in making that notable acquisition, grows weary of his task, conceives a dislike for study, and perhaps makes but a very indifferent progress afterwards.
William Cowper: To Rev. W. Unwin, Sept. 7, 1780.    
  18
 
  I have often wondered that Dryden’s illustrious epigram on Milton (in my mind the second-best that ever was made) has never been translated into Latin for the admiration of the learned in other countries. I have at last presumed to venture upon the task myself. The great closeness of the original [Three poets, in three distant ages born], which is equal in that respect to the most compact Latin I ever saw, made it extremely difficult.
William Cowper: To Rev. W. Unwin, July 11, 1780.    
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