Reference > Quotations > John Bartlett, comp. > Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. > James Russell Lowell
John Bartlett (1820–1905).  Familiar Quotations, 10th ed.  1919.
James Russell Lowell. (1819–1891)
    Earth’s noblest thing,—a woman perfected.
    Be noble! and the nobleness that lies
In other men, sleeping but never dead,
Will rise in majesty to meet thine own.
          Sonnet iv.
    Great truths are portions of the soul of man;
Great souls are portions of eternity.
          Sonnet vi.
    To win the secret of a weed’s plain heart.
          Sonnet xxv.
    Two meanings have our lightest fantasies,—
One of the flesh, and of the spirit one.
          Sonnet xxxiv. (Ed. 1844).
    Who speaks the truth stabs Falsehood to the heart.
          L’ Envoi.
    His words were simple words enough
  And yet he used them so
That what in other mouths was rough
  In his seemed musical and low.
          Shepherd of King Admetus.
    All thoughts that mould the age begin
Deep down within the primitive soul.
          An Incident in a Railroad Car.
    It may be glorious to write
Thoughts that shall glad the two or three
High souls, like those far stars that come in sight
Once in a century.
          An Incident in a Railroad Car.
    No man is born into the world whose work
Is not born with him. There is always work,
And tools to work withal, for those who will;
And blessed are the horny hands of toil.
          A Glance behind the Curtain.
    They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak.
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.
          Stanzas on Freedom.
    Endurance is the crowning quality,
And patience all the passion of great hearts.
            One day with life and heart
Is more than time enough to find a world.
    Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
          The present Crisis.
    Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne. 1 
          The present Crisis.
    He’s true to God who’s true to man.
          The present Crisis.
    Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’t is prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified.
          The present Crisis.
    The birch, most shy and ladylike of trees.
          An Indian-Summer Reverie.
    The traitor to Humanity is the traitor most accurst.
          Interview with Miles Standish.
    Before man made us citizens, great Nature made us men.
          On the Capture of Fugitive Slaves near Washington.
    Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold.
          To the Dandelion.
    This child is not mine as the first was;
  I can not sing it to rest;
I can not lift it up fatherly,
  And bless it upon my breast.

Yet it lies in my little one’s cradle,
  And sits in my little one’s chair,
And the light of the heaven she’s gone to
  Transfigures its golden hair.
          The Changeling.
    The thing we long for, that we are
For one transcendent moment.
    She doeth little kindnesses
Which most leave undone, or despise.
          My Love. iv.
    Not only around our infancy
Doth heaven with all its splendors lie;
Daily, with souls that cringe and plot,
We Sinais climb and know it not.
          The Vision of Sir Launfal. Prelude to Part First.
      ’T is heaven alone that is given away;
’T is only God may be had for the asking.
          The Vision of Sir Launfal. Prelude to Part First.
    And what is so rare as a day in June?
  Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
  And over it softly her warm ear lays.
          The Vision of Sir Launfal. Prelude to Part First.
    Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it;
We are happy now because God wills it.
          The Vision of Sir Launfal. Prelude to Part First.
    Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how.
          The Vision of Sir Launfal. Prelude to Part First.
    Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,—
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.
          The Vision of Sir Launfal. Part Second. viii.
    A reading-machine, always wound up and going,
He mastered whatever was not worth the knowing.
          A Fable for Critics.
    There comes Emerson first, whose rich words, every one,
Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on;
Whose prose is grand verse while his verse the Lord knows
Is some of it pr— No, ’t is not even prose!
          A Fable for Critics.
    Nature fits all her children with something to do.
          A Fable for Critics.
    Ez fer war, I call it murder,—
  There you hev it plain an’ flat;
I don’t want to go no furder
  Than my Testyment fer that.
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
An’ you’ve gut to git up airly
  Ef you want to take in God.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. i.
    Laborin’ man an’ laborin’ woman
  Hev one glory an’ one shame;
Ev’y thin’ thet ’s done inhuman
  Injers all on ’em the same.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. i.
    This goin’ ware glory waits ye haint one agreeable feetur. 2 
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. ii.
    Gineral C. is a dreffle smart man;
  He’s ben on all sides thet give places or pelf;
But consistency still wuz a part of his plan,—
  He’s ben true to one party, an’ thet is himself.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. ii.
    We kind o’ thought Christ went agin war an’ pillage.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. iii.
                        But John P.
                    Robinson, he
Sez they did n’t know everythin’ down in Judee.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. iii.
    A marciful Providence fashioned us holler
O’ purpose that we might our principles swaller.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. iv.
    It ain’t by princerples nor men
  My preudent course is steadied;
I scent which pays the best, an’ then
  Go into it baldheaded.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. vi.
    I don’t believe in princerple,
  But oh I du in interest.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. vi.
        Of my merit
  On thet pint you yourself may jedge;
All is, I never drink no sperit,
  Nor I haint never signed no pledge.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. vii.
    Ez to my princerples, I glory
  In hevin’ nothin’ o’ the sort.
          The Biglow Papers. First Series. No. vii.
    God makes sech nights, all white and still,
  Fur’z you can look or listen.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    Zekle crep’ up quite unbeknown
  An’ peeked in thru’ the winder,
An there sot Huldy all alone,
  ’ith no one nigh to hender.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    The very room, coz she was in,
  Seemed warm from floor to ceilin’.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    ’T was kin’ o’ kingdom-come to look
  On sech a blessed cretur.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    She thought no v’ice hed sech a swing
  Ez hisn in the choir;
My! when he made Ole Hunderd ring
  She knowed the Lord was nigher.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    His heart kep’ goin’ pity-pat,
  But hern went pity-Zekle.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    To say why gals acts so or so,
  Or don’t, ’ould be persumin’;
Mebby to mean yes an’ say no
  Comes nateral to women. 3 
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    He stood a spell on one foot fust
  Then stood a spell on t’ other,
An’ on which one he felt the wust
  He could n’t ha’ told ye nuther.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    All kin’ o’ smily round the lips,
  An’ teary round the lashes.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    Like streams that keep a summer mind
  Snow-hid in Jenooary.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    My gran’ther’s rule was safer ’n ’t is to crow:
Don’t never prophesy—onless ye know.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    It ’s ’most enough to make a deacon swear.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    The one thet fust gits mad ’s ’most ollers wrong.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    Ef you want peace, the thing you’ve gut tu du
Is jes’ to show you’re up to fightin’, tu.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    No, never say nothin’ without you’re compelled tu,
An’ then don’t say nothin’ thet you can be held tu.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. The Courtin’.
    Our Pilgrim stock wuz pithed with hardihood.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. No. vi.
    Soft-heartedness, in times like these,
  Shows sof’ness in the upper story.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. No. vii.
    Earth’s biggest country ’s gut her soul,
  An’ risen up earth’s greatest nation.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. No. vii.
    Under the yaller pines I house,
  When sunshine makes ’em all sweet-scented,
An’ hear among their furry boughs
  The baskin’ west-wind purr contented.
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. No. x.
    Wut’s words to them whose faith an’ truth
  On war’s red techstone rang true metal;
Who ventered life an’ love an’ youth
  For the gret prize o’ death in battle?
          Biglow Papers. Second Series. No. x.
    From lower to the higher next,
Not to the top, is Nature’s text;
And embryo Good, to reach full stature,
Absorbs the Evil in its nature.
          Festina Lente. Moral.
    Though old the thought and oft exprest,
’T is his at last who says it best. 4 
          For an Autograph.
    Nature, they say, doth dote,
  And can not make a man
  Save on some worn-out plan,
Repeating us by rote.
          Ode at the Harvard Commemoration, July 21, 1865.
    What men call treasure and the Gods call dross.
          Ode at the Harvard Commemoration, July 21, 1865.
    Here was a type of the true elder race,
And one of Plutarch’s men talked with us face to face.
          Ode at the Harvard Commemoration, July 21, 1865.
    Darkness is strong, and so is Sin,
  But surely God endures forever.
          Villa Franca.
    Safe in the hallowed quiets of the past.
          The Cathedral.
    The one thing finished in this hasty world.
          The Cathedral.
    These pearls of thought in Persian gulfs were bred,
Each softly lucent as a rounded moon;
The diver Omar plucked them from their bed,
FitzGerald strung them on an English thread.
          In a Copy of Omar Khayyam.
    The wisest man could ask no more of Fate
Than to be simple, modest, manly, true,
Safe from the Many—honored by the Few;
To count as naught in World or Church or State;
But inwardly in secret to be great.
          Sonnet. Jeffries Wyman.
    The clear, sweet singer with the crown of snow
Not whiter than the thoughts that housed below.
          To George William Curtis.
    But life is sweet, though all that makes it sweet
Lessen like sound of friends’ departing feet;
And Death is beautiful as feet of friend
Coming with welcome at our journey’s end.
For me Fate gave, whate’er she else denied,
A nature sloping to the southern side;
I thank her for it, though when clouds arise
Such natures double-darken gloomy skies.
          To George William Curtis.
    In life’s small things be resolute and great
To keep thy muscle trained: know’st thou when Fate
Thy measure takes, or when she’ll say to thee,
“I find thee worthy; do this deed for me”?
    In vain we call old notions fudge,
  And bend our conscience to our dealing;
The Ten Commandments will not budge,
  And stealing will continue stealing.
          Motto of the American Copyright League. (Written Nov. 20, 1885).
    God, give us Peace! not such as lulls to sleep,
  But sword on thigh and brow with purpose knit!
And let our Ship of State to harbor sweep,
  Her ports all up, her battle lanterns lit,
And her leashed thunders gathering for their leap.
          The Washers of the Shroud.
      Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.
          Among my Books. First Series. Dryden.
      A wise scepticism is the first attribute of a good critic.
          Among my Books. First Series. Shakespeare once more.
      One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.
          Among my Books. First Series. Shakespeare once more.
      Aspiration sees only one side of every question; possession many.
          Among my Books. First Series. New England two Centuries ago.
      Truly there is a tide in the affairs of men; but there is no gulf-stream setting forever in one direction.
          Among my Books. First Series. New England two Centuries ago.
      There is no better ballast for keeping the mind steady on its keel, and saving it from all risk of crankiness, than business.
          Among my Books. First Series. New England two Centuries ago.
      Puritanism, believing itself quick with the seed of religious liberty, laid, without knowing it, the egg of democracy.
          Among my Books. First Series. New England two Centuries ago.
      It was in making education not only common to all, but in some sense compulsory on all, that the destiny of the free republics of America was practically settled.
          Among my Books. First Series. New England two Centuries ago.
      Talent is that which is in a man’s power; genius is that in whose power a man is.
          Rousseau and the Sentimentalists.
      There is no work of genius which has not been the delight of mankind, no word of genius to which the human heart and soul have not sooner or later responded.
          Rousseau and the Sentimentalists.
      Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.
          Rousseau and the Sentimentalists.
      Sentiment is intellectualized emotion,—emotion precipitated, as it were, in pretty crystals by the fancy.
          Rousseau and the Sentimentalists.
      No man can produce great things who is not thoroughly sincere in dealing with himself.
          Rousseau and the Sentimentalists.
      The only faith that wears well and holds its color in all weathers, is that which is woven of conviction and set with the sharp mordant of experience.
          My Study Windows. Abraham Lincoln, 1864.
      It is by presence of mind in untried emergencies that the native metal of a man is tested.
          My Study Windows. Abraham Lincoln, 1864.
      What a sense of security in an old book which Time has criticised for us!
          Library of Old Authors.
      There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat.
          Democracy and Addresses.
      Let us be of good cheer, however, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never come.
          Democracy and Addresses.
      The soil out of which such men as he are made is good to be born on, good to live on, good to die for and to be buried in.
      If I were asked what book is better than a cheap book, I should answer that there is one book better than a cheap book,—and that is a book honestly come by.
          Before the U. S. Senate Committee on Patents, Jan. 29, 1886.
Note 1.
Dryden: Art of Poetry, line 376: Showed Worth on foot and rascals in the coach. J. G. Holland: Wanted; Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps. [back]
Note 2.
See Moore, page 519: Go where glory wait thee! [back]
Note 3.
Mrs. Browning: The Lady’s “Yes”:
‘Yes,’ I answered you last night
  ‘No,’ this morning, sir, I say:
Color seen by candle-light
  Will not look the same by day…. [back]
Note 4.
See Emerson, page 621. [back]


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