Monday, January 2, 2012

Cowper Quotations

   I have a fascination with William Cowper (1731-1800) and a great appreciation for his wit and wisdom. When I read his complete works a few years ago, I wrote down many of my favorite quotations. I often enjoy rereading them, and I like to share them with the world. I find, however, that many people don't understand his 18th century English. If you haven't absorbed yourself in his ways of thinking, you may not catch his delightful humor, and so these quotations pulled out of context may not strike you with the same effect that they have me. Nonetheless, for my sake, if for none other, I am posting a few of those most able to stand alone.

Quotations from William Cowper 

Culled from The Works of William Cowper, by T. S. Grimsawe, London 1865

~There is a roughness on a plum, which nobody that understands fruit would rub off, though the plum would be much more polished without it. 384 a-b

~The mercy that can forgive iniquity will never be severe to mark our frailties. 16b

~Remember the loss of those we love is the condition on which we live ourselves. 409a

~Fruit ripens only a short time before it rots; and man in general, arrives not at maturity of mental powers at a much earlier period. 414a

~I am not one of those sages who requires that young men should be as old as themselves before they have time to be so. 356a

~There is little good done by preachers til the world begins to abuse them. 423a

~People are never in reality happy when they boast much of being so. 243b

~Praise I find affects us as money does. The more a man gets of it, with the more vigilance he watches over and preserves it. 257a.

~There is a medium between truth and falsehood; and I believe the word mistake expresses it exactly. 353a

~He is the freeman whom the truth makes free, And all are slaves beside. 283b

~Ability is not wisdom. 302a

~We are not always the wiser for our knowledge. 321b

~A melancholy pleasure is better than none, nay, verily, better than most. 329a

~We would always withhold from the skies those who alone can reach them. 129b

~No man was ever scolded out of his sins. 135a

~There is no grace that the spirit of self can counterfeit with more success than a religious zeal. 135a

~It is ever the way of those who rule the earth to leave out of their reckoning Him who rules the universe. 143a

~Nothing is so apt to betray us into absurdity as too great a dread of it. 161b

~We miscarry through mere desire to excel. 161b

~It is comfortable to be of no consequence in a world, where one cannot exercise any without disobliging somebody. 165a

~By assuming an air of cheerfulness, we become cheerful in reality. 170a

~We are all good when we are pleased, but she is the good woman who wants not a fiddle to sweeten her. 356a

~He who neglects the world will be by the world neglected. 199a

~The unhappy, I believe, are always selfish. 212b

~Folly and innocence are so alike, The difference, though essential, fails to strike. 508b

~To follow foolish precedents, and wink With both our eyes, is easier than to think. 589b

~Might I not, like the Americans, emancipate myself from one master only to serve a score. 42b

~My troubles gushed from my eyes, and then I was better. 400b

~Fame is a commodity that daily sinks in value, in measure as the consummation of all things approaches. 313b


  1. "Fruit ripens only a short time before it rots; and man in general, arrives not at maturity of mental powers at a much earlier period."

    I think that was my favorite of them.