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C.N. Douglas, comp.  Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical.  1917.
 
Blair
 
        Beauty! thou pretty plaything! dear deceit,
That steals so softly o’er the stripling’s heart
And gives it a new pulse unknown before!
  1
                But if there be an hereafter,
And that there is, conscience, uninfluenc’d
And suffer’d to speak out, tells every man,
Then must it be an awful thing to die;
More horrid yet to die by one’s own hand.
  2
        But know that thou must render up the dead,
And with high interest too! they are not thine
But only in thy keeping for a season,
Till the great promis’d day of restitution;
When loud diffusive sound of brazen trump
Of strong-lung’d cherub shall alarm thy captives,
And rouse the long, long sleepers into life,
Daylight and liberty.
  3
        But see! the well-plumed hearse comes nodding on, stately and slow;
      But tell us, why this waste?
Why this ado in earthing up a carcass
That’s fallen into disgrace, and in the nostrils smells horrible?
  4
        Cheerless, unsocial plant! that loves to dwell
’Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms:
Where light-heel’d ghosts, and visionary shades,
Beneath the wan cold moon (as fame reports)
Embodied, thick, perform their mystic rounds.
No other merriment, dull tree! is thine.
  5
        Friendship, mysterious cement of the soul,
Sweetener of life, and solder of society,
I owe thee much: thou hast deserv’d from me
Far, far beyond what I can ever pay.
  6
        Here all the mighty troublers of the earth,
Who swam to sov’reign rule through seas of blood;
Th’ oppressive, sturdy, man-destroying villains,
Who ravag’d kingdoms, and laid empires waste,
And in a cruel wantonness of power
Thinn’d states of half their people, and gave up
To want the rest; now, like a storm that’s spent,
Lie hush’d.
  7
        Here the o’erloaded slave flings down his burden
From his gall’d shoulders; and, when the cruel tyrant,
With all his guards and tools of power about him,
Is meditating new, unheard-of hardships,
Mocks his short arm, and, quick as thought, escapes
Where tyrants vex not, and the weary rest.
  8
        How shocking must thy summons be, O death!
To him that is at ease in his possessions;
Who, counting on long years of pleasure here,
Is quite unfurnish’d for that world to come!
  9
        O cursed lust of gold! when for thy sake
The fool throws up his interest in both worlds.
  10
        Oft in the lone churchyard at night I’ve seen,
By glimpse of moonshine, chequering through the trees,
The school-boy with his satchel in his hand,
Whistling aloud to bear his courage up;
And lightly tripping o’er the long flat stones,
(With nettles skirted, and with moss o’ergrown,
That tell in homely phrase who lie below;)
Sudden he starts! and hears, or thinks he hears,
The sound of something purring at his heels.
  11
        On this side and on that, men see their friends
Drop off like leaves in autumn.
  12
        Our time is fix’d; and all our days are number’d!
Haw long, how short, we know not: this we know
Duty requires we calmly wait the summons,
Nor dare to stir till heaven shall give permission.
  13
        See yonder maker of the dead man’s bed,
The sexton, hoary-headed chronicle,
Of hard, unmeaning face, down which ne’er stole
A gentle tear.
  14
        Strange things, the neighbours say, have happen’d there:
Wild shrieks have issued from the hollow tombs,
Dead men have come again, and walk’d about;
And the great bell has toll’d unrung, untouch’d.
Such tales their cheer at wake or gossiping,
When it draws near to ’witching time of night.
  15
        Sure ’tis a serious thing to die! My soul!
What a strange moment must it be, when, near
Thy journey’s end, thou hast the gulf in view!
That awful gulf, no mortal e’er repass’d
To tell what’s doing on the other side.
  16
        Th’ oppressive, sturdy, man-destroying villains,
Who ravag’d kingdoms, and laid empires waste,
And in a cruel wantonness of power,
Thinn’d states of half their people, and gave up
To want the rest.
  17
        The best-concerted schemes men lay for fame,
Die fast away; only themselves die faster.
The far-fam’d sculptor, and the laurell’d bard,
Those bold insurancers of deathless fame,
Supply their little feeble aids in vain.
  18
        They gather round, and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition, tall and ghostly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
O’er some new-open’d grave, and (strange to tell),
Evanishes at crowing of the cock.
  19
                        Under ground
Precedency’s a jest; vassal and lord,
Grossly familiar, side by side consume.
  20
 
 
        Who gather round, and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition, tall and ghastly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
O’er some new-open’d grave, and, strange to tell,
Evanishes at crowing of the cock.
  21
                  Ye undertakers, tell us,
’Midst all the gorgeous figures you exhibit,
Why is the principal conceal’d, for which
You make this mighty stir?
  22
  A cultivated taste increases sensibility to all the tender and humane passions by giving them frequent exercise, while it tends to weaken the more violent and fierce emotions.  23
  Action, so to speak, is the genius of nature.  24
  Affectation is certain deformity; by forming themselves on fantastic models, the young begin with being ridiculous, and often end in being vicious.  25
  All the principles which religion teaches, and all the habits which it forms, are favorable to strength of mind. It will be found that whatever purifies fortifies also the heart.  26
  Anxiety is the poison of human life. It is the parent of many sins, and of more miseries. In a world where everything is doubtful, where you may be disappointed, and be blessed in disappointment, what means this restless stir and commotion of mind? Can your solicitude alter the cause or unravel the intricacy of human events?  27
  Between levity and cheerfulness there is a wide distinction; and the mind which is most open to levity is frequently a stranger to cheerfulness.  28
  By indulging this fretful temper, you alienate those on whose affection much of your comfort depends.  29
  Compassion is an emotion of which we ought never to be ashamed. Graceful, particularly in youth, is the tear of sympathy, and the heart that melts at the tale of woe. We should not permit ease and indulgence to contract our affections, and wrap us up in a selfish enjoyment; but we should accustom ourselves to think of the distresses of human life, of the solitary cottage, the dying parent, and the weeping orphan. Nor ought we ever to sport with pain and distress in any of our amusements, or treat even the meanest insect with wanton cruelty.  30
  Conscience is too great a power in the nature of man to be altogether subdued; it may be for a time repressed and kept dormant; but conjectures there are in human life which awaken it, and when once reawakened, it flashes on the sinner’s mind with all the horrors of an invisible ruler and a future judgment.  31
  Dissimulation in youth is the forerunner of perfidy in old age; its first appearance is the fatal omen of growing depravity and future shame. It degrades parts and learning, obscures the luster of every accomplishment and sinks us into contempt. The path of falsehood is a perplexing maze. After the first departure from sincerity, it is not in our power to stop; one artifice unavoidably leads on to another, till, as the intricacy of the labyrinth increases, we are left entangled in our snare.  32
  Embellish truth only with a view to gain it the more full and free admission into your hearers’ minds; and your ornaments will, in that case, be simple, masculine, natural.  33
  Exercise is the chief source of improvement in all our faculties.  34
  Fretfulness of temper will generally characterize those who are negligent of order.  35
  Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manners.  36
  Gentleness, which belongs to virtue, is to be carefully distinguished from the mean spirit of cowards and the fawning assent of sycophants.  37
  Graceful, particularly in youth, is the tear of sympathy, and the heart that melts at the tale of woe; we should not permit ease and indulgence to contract our affections, and wrap us up in selfish enjoyment. But we should accustom ourselves to think of the distresses of human life, of the solitary cottage, the dying parent, and the weeping orphan. Nor ought we ever to sport with pain and distress in any of our amusements, or treat even the meanest insect with wanton cruelty.  38
  How blunt are all the arrows of thy quiver in comparison with those of guilt!  39
  In the eye of that Supreme Being to whom our whole internal frame is uncovered, dispositions hold the place of actions.  40
  In vain we attempt to clear our conscience by affecting to compensate for fraud or cruelty by acts of strict religious homage towards God.  41
  Industry is not only the instrument of improvement, but the foundation of pleasure. He who is a stranger to it may possess, but cannot enjoy; for it is labor only which gives relish to pleasure. It is the appointed vehicle of every good to man. It is the indispensable condition of possessing a sound mind in a sound body.  42
  It is difficult to descend with grace without seeming to fall.  43
  It is pride which fills the world with so much harshness and severity. We are rigorous to offenses as if we had never offended.  44
  Levity may be the forced production of folly or vice; cheerfulness is the natural offspring of wisdom and virtue only. The one is an occasional agitation; the other is a permanent habit. The one degrades the character; the other is perfectly consistent with the dignity of reason and the steady and manly spirit of religion.  45
  Life will frequently languish, even in the hands of the busy, if they have not some employment subsidiary to that which forms their main pursuit.  46
  Men shiver when thou art named; nature appalled shakes off her wonted firmness.  47
  Nothing leads more directly to the breach of charity, and to the injury and molestation of our fellow-creatures than the indulgence of an ill temper.  48
  Nothing, except what flows from the heart, can render even external manners truly pleasing.  49
  People first abandon reason, and then become obstinate; and the deeper they are in error the more angry they are.  50
  Pride makes us esteem ourselves; vanity makes us desire the esteem of others.  51
  Prosperity is often an equivocal word denoting merely affluence of possession.  52
  Refined taste forms a good critic; but genius is further necessary to form the poet or the orator.  53
  Sentiment and principle are often mistaken for each other, though, in fact, they widely differ. Sentiment is the virtue of ideas, and principle the virtue of action. Sentiment has its seat in the head; principle, in the heart. Sentiment suggests fine harangues and subtle distinctions; principle conceives just notions, and performs good actions in consequence of them. Sentiment refines away the simplicity of truth, and the plainness of piety, and, as Voltaire, that celebrated wit, has remarked of his no less celebrated contemporary, Rousseau, “gives us virtue in words, and vice in deeds.” Sentiment may be called the Athenian who knew what was right; and principle, the Lacedemonian who practiced it.  54
  Silence is one of the great arts of conversation, as allowed by Cicero himself, who says “there is not only an art, but an eloquence in it”; and this opinion is confirmed by a great modern, Lord Bacon. For a well-bred woman may easily and effectually promote the most useful and elegant conversation without speaking a word. The modes of speech are scarcely more variable than the modes of silence.  55
  Such is the infatuation of self-love, that, though in the general doctrine of the vanity world all men agree, yet almost everyone flatters himself that his own case is to be an exception from the common rule.  56
  Taste consists in the power of judging; genius in the power of executing.  57
  That reproach of modern times, that gulf of time and fortune, the passion for gaming, which is so often the refuge of the idle sons of pleasure and often, alas! the last resource of the ruined.  58
  The fatal fondness of indulging in a spirit of ridicule, and the injurious and irreparable consequences which sometimes attend the too severe reply, can never be condemned with more asperity than it deserves. Not to offend is the first step towards pleasing. To give pain is as much an offence against humanity as against good-breeding, and surely it is as well to abstain from an action because it is sinful, as because it is unpolite.  59
  The grave—dread thing!—men shiver when thou art named; Nature, appalled, shakes off her wonted firmness.  60
  The great standard of literature as to purity and exactness of style is the Bible.  61
  The least degree of ambiguity which leaves the mind in suspense as to the meaning ought to be avoided with the greatest care.  62
  The prevailing manners of an age depend, more than we are aware of, or are willing to allow, on the conduct of the women; this is one of the principal things on which the great machine of human society turns.  63
  The spirit of true religion breathes gentleness and affability; it gives a native, unaffected ease to the behavior; it is social, kind, cheerful; far removed from the cloudy and illiberal disposition which clouds the brow, sharpens the temper, and dejects the spirit.  64
  The tapering pyramid,—whose spiky top has wounded the thick cloud.  65
  Throughout the whole vegetable, sensible, and rational world, whatever makes progress towards maturity, as soon as it has passed that point, begins to verge towards decay.  66
  Time hurries on with a resistless, unremitting stream, yet treads more soft than e’er did midnight thief, that slides his hand under the miser’s pillow and carries off the prize.  67
  ’Tis long since death had the majority.  68
  True gentleness is founded on a sense of what we owe to Him who made us, and to the common nature which we all share. It arises from reflection on our own failings and wants, and from just views of the condition and the duty of man. It is native feeling heightened and improved by principle.  69
  We ought never to sport with pain and distress in any of our amusements, or treat even the meanest insect with wanton cruelty.  70
  We should ever have it fixed in our memories that, by the character of those whom we choose for our friends, our own is likely to be formed, and will certainly be judged by the world. We ought, therefore, to be slow and cautious in contracting intimacy; but when a virtuous friendship is once established, we must ever consider it a sacred engagement.  71
  You may discover tribes of men without policy, or laws, or cities, or any of the arts of life; but nowhere will you find them without some form of religion.  72
 
 
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