SWIFT, Jonathan Quotes
(1667-1745), Irish satirist, Dean of Saint Patrick's
How is it possible to expect mankind to take advice when they will not so rauch as take warning?
Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.
No wise man ever wished to be younger.
Every one desires to live long, but no one would be old.
When men grow virtuous in their old age, they are merely making a sacrifice to God of the devil's leavings.
Ambition often puts men upon doing the meanest offices: so climbing is performed in the same posture as creeping.
Story-telling is subject to two unavoidable defects: frequent repetition and being soon exhausted; so that whoever values this gift in himself, has need of a good memory, and ought frequently to shift his company.
Argument, as usually managed, is the worst sort of conversation, as in books it is generally the worst sort of reading.
There are few wild beasts more to be dreaded than a talking man having nothing to say.
Men of great parts are often unfortunate in the management of public business, because they are apt to go out of the common road by the quickness of their imagination.
The affectation of some late authors to introduce and multiply cant words is the most ruinous corruption in any language.
Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.
There are but three ways for a man to revenge himself for the censure of the world: to despise it; to return the like; or to live so as to avoid it.—The first of these is usually pretended; the last is almost impossible; the universal practice is for the second.
One of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish had been left unsaid.
The corruptions of the country are closely allied to those of the town, with no difference but what is made by another mode of thought and living.
As credulity is a more peaceful possession of the mind than curiosity, so preferable is that wisdom which converses about the surface, to that pretended philosophy which enters into the depth of things, and then comes back gravely with the informations and discoveries that in the inside they are good for nothing.
It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death, should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.
The stoical schemes of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.
A fig for your bill of fare; show me your bill of company.
It is in disputes, as in armies, where the weaker side sets up false lights, and makes a great noise to make the enemy believe them more numerous and strong than they really are.
I never knew a man come to greatness or eminence who lay abed late in the morning.
Imaginary evils soon become real by indulging our reflections on them; as he who in a melancholy fancy sees something like a face on the wall or the wainscot, can, by two or three touches with a lead pencil, make it look visible, and agreeing with what he fancied.
Although the devil be the father of lies, he seems, like other great inventors, to have lost much of his reputation by the continual improvements that have been made upon him.
Nothing is so great an instance of ill-manners as flattery. If you flatter all the company, you please none; if you flatter only one or two, you affront the rest.
The only benefit of flattery is that by hearing what we are not, we may be instructed what we ought to be.
'Tis an old maxim in the schools, that flattery is the food of fools.—Yet now and then your men of wit will condescend to take a bit.
The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable, for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.
When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
There never appear more than five or six men of genius in an age, and if they were united the world could not stand before them.
One principal point of good-breeding is to suit our behavior to the three several degrees of men—our superiors, our equals, and those below us.
I have known some men possessed of good qualities which were very serviceable to others, but useless to themselves; like a sundial on the front of a house, to inform and benefit the neighbors and passengers, but not the owner within.
It may pass for a maxim in state, that the administration cannot be placed in too few hands, nor the legislation in too many.
The hypocrite pays tribute to God that he may impose upon man.
It is a miserable thing to live in suspense; it is the life of a spider.
Get thorough insight into the index, by which the whole book is governed.
'Men always grow vicious before they become unbelievers; but if you would once convince profligates by topics drawn from the view of their own quiet, reputation, and health, their infidelity would soon drop off.
He that calls a man ungrateful, sums up all the evil of which one can be guilty.
Invention is the talent of youth, as judgment is of age.
The example of a vicious prince will corrupt an age, but that of a good one will not reform it.
Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
Human brutes, like other beasts, find snares and poison in the provisions of life, and are allured by their appetites to their destruction.
As universal a practice as lying is, and as easy a one as it seems, I do not remember to have heard three good lies in all my conversation.
If a man had the art of second-sight for seeing lies as they have in Scotland for seeing spirits, how admirably he might entertain himself by observing the different shapes, sizes, and colors of those swarms of lies, which buzz about the heads of some people, like flies about a horse's ears in summer; or those legions hovering every afternoon so as to darken the air; or over a club of discontented grandees, and thence sent down in cargoes, to be scattered at elections.
Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse; whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy, is the best bred man in company.
Pride, ill nature, and want of sense are the three great sources of ill manners; without some one of these defects, no man will behave himself ill for want of experience, or what, in the language of fools, is called knowing the world.
The reason why so few marriages are happy is because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages.
It is hard to form a maxim against which an exception is not ready to start up: as "where the minister grows rich, the public is proportionately poor"; as "in a private family the steward always thrives the fastest when the lord is running out."
The two maxims of any great man at court are, always to keep his countenance, and never to keep his word.
A wise man is never less alone than when he is alone.
There are few, very few, that will own themselves in a mistake, though all the world see them to be in downright nonsense.
A wise man should have money in his head, not in his heart.
Money is the life blood of the nation.
A little grain of the romance is no ill ingredient to preserve and exalt the dignity of human nature, without which it is apt to degenerate into everything that is sordid, vicious, and low.
There are few, very few, that will own themselves in a mistake.
When men grow virtuous only in old age, they are merely making a sacrifice to God of the devil's leavings.
"That was excellently observed," say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.
If a man should register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, learning, etc., beginning from his youth, and so go on to old age, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last.
It is the first rule in oratory that a man must appear such as he would persuade others to be; and that can be accomplished only by the force of his life.
In oratory, the greatest art is to conceal art.
Our passions are like convulsion fits, which, though they make us stronger for the time, leave us the weaker ever after.
There is a pedantry in manners, as in all arts and sciences, and sometimes in trades. Pedantry is properly the overrating any kind of knowledge we pretend to, and if that kind of knowledge be a trifle in itself, the pedantry is the greater.
All fits of pleasure are balanced by an equal degree of pain or languor; 'tis like spending this year, part of the next year's revenue.
Whatever the poets pretend, it is plain they give immortality to none but themselves: it is Homer and Virgil we reverence and admire, not Achilles or AEneas.
The man who can make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, grow on the spot where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and render more essential service to the country, than the whole race of politicians put together.
Positiveness is a good quality for preachers and orators, because whoever would obtrude his thoughts and reasons upon a multitude will convince others the more, as he appears convinced himself.
It is pleasant to observe how free the present age is in laying taxes on the next. "Future ages shall talk of this; they shall be famous to all posterity"; whereas their time and thoughts will be taken up about present things, as ours are now.
Arbitrary power is the natural object of temptation to a prince; as wine of women to a young fellow, or a bribe to a judge, or avarice to old age, or vanity to a woman.
The more accomplished way of using books at present, is to serve them as some do lords—learn their titles, and then boast of their acquaintance.
Though Diogenes lived in a tub, there might have been, for aught I know, as much pride under his rags, as in the fine-spun garments of the divine Plato.
If a proud man makes me keep my distance, the comfort is that he keeps his at the same time.
Whoever reads only to transcribe or quote shining remarks without entering into the genius and spirit of the author, will be apt to be misled out of a regular way of thinking, and the product of all this will be found to be a manifest incoherent piece of patchwork.
Abstracts, abridgments, summaries, etc., have the same use as burning glasses, to collect the diffused rays of wit and learning in authors, and make them point with warmth and quickness upon the reader's imagination.
Fine words!—I wonder where you stole them.
It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.
An idle reason lessens the weight of the good ones you gave before.
How often do we contradict the right rules of reason in the course of our lives! Reason itself is true and just, but the reason of every particular man is weak and wavering, perpetually swayed and turned by his interests, his passions, and his vices.
Mere rhetoric, in serious discourses, is like flowers in corn, pleasing to those who look only for amusement, but prejudicial to him who would reap profit from it.
Nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want.
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders generally discover everybody's face but their own; which is the chief reason for the reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.
It is as hard to satirize well a man of distinguished vices, as to praise well a man of distinguished virtues.
No man ever made an ill figure who understood his own talents, nor a good one, who mistook them.
Most actions, good or bad, may be resolved into the love of ourselves; but the self-love of some men inclines them to please others, and the self-love of others is wholly employed in pleasing themselves. This makes the great distinction between virtue and vice.
I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.
The worthiest people are the most injured by slander, as it is the best fruit which the birds have been pecking at.
A wise man is never less alone than when he is alone.
The common fluency of speech in many men, and most women, is owing to a scarcity of matter and a scarcity of words; for whoever is a master of language and has a mind full of ideas, will be apt in speaking to hesitate upon the choice of both; whereas common speakers have only one set of ideas, and one set of words to clothe them in; and these are always ready at the mouth; so people come faster out of a church when it is almost empty, than when a crowd is at the door.
Story-telling is subject to two unavoidable defects—frequent repetition and being soon exhausted; so that whoever values this gift in himself, has need of a good memory, and ought frequently to shift his company.
Although men are accused of not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps a few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.
Style may be defined, "proper words in proper places."
It is a miserable thing to live in suspense: it is the life of a spider.
I have known some men possessed of good qualities which were very serviceable to others, but useless to themselves, like a sundial on the front of a house, to inform the neighbors and passengers, but not the owner within.
Brisk talkers are usually slow thinkers. There is, indeed, no wild beast more to be dreaded than a communicative man having nothing to communicate. If you are civil to the voluble they will abuse your patience; if brusque, your character.
The common fluency of speech in many men, and most women, is owing to a scarcity of matter and a scarcity of words, for whoever is a master of language and has a mind full of ideas, will be apt, in speaking, to hesitate upon the choice of his words.
No preacher is listened to but time; which gives us the same train and turn of thought that elder people have tried in vain to put into our heads.
Time is painted with a lock before, and bald behind, signifying thereby that we must take time by the forelock, for when it is once passed there is no recalling it.
The chameleon, who is said to feed upon nothing but air, has of all animals the nimblest tongue.
Usually speaking, the worst bred person in company is a young traveller just returned from abroad.
Small causes are sufficient to make a man uneasy when great ones are not in the way. For want of a block he will stumble at a straw.
Some modern zealots appear to have no better knowledge of truth, nor better manner of judging it, than by counting noses.
The strongest passions allow us some rest, but vanity keeps us perpetually in motion. What a dust do I raise! says the fly upon a coach-wheel. And at what a rate do I drivel says the fly upon the horse's back.
There is no vice or folly that requires so much nicety and skill to manage as vanity; nor any which by ill management makes so contemptible a figure.
When men grow virtuous in old age they are merely making an offering to God of the devil's leavings.
The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.
War! that mad game the world so loves to play.
Wealth has now all the respect paid to it which is due only to virtue and to talent, but we can see what estimate God places upon it, since he often bestows it on the meanest and most unworthy of all his creatures.
Perpetual aiming at wit is a very bad part of conversation. It is done to support a character; it generally fails; it is a sort of insult to the company, and a restraint upon the speaker.
Violent zeal even for truth has a hundred to one odds to be either petulancy, ambition, or pride.