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The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

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‘The Daemon Lover’

‘What hills are yon, yon pleasant hills, The sun shines sweetly on?’—

‘O yon are the hills o’ Heaven,’ he said, ‘Where you will never won.’

‘The Daemon Lover’

‘Let me have length and breadth enough, And under my head a sod;

That they may say when I am dead, —Here lies bold Robin Hood!’

‘The Death of Robin Hood’

There were three lords drinking at the wine On the dowie dens o’ Yarrow;

They made a compact them between They would go fight tomorrow.

‘Dowie Dens of Yarrow’ (dowie melancholy; den river valley)

O well’s me o’ my gay goss-hawk, That he can speak and flee!

He’ll carry a letter to my love, Bring another back to me.

‘The Gay Goss Hawk’

I am a man upon the land, I am a selkie in the sea;

When I am far and far from land, My home it is the Sule Skerry.

‘The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry’ (selkie seal)

A ship I have got in the North Country

And she goes by the name of the Golden Vanity, O I fear she will be taken by a Spanish Ga-la-lee, As she sails by the Low-lands low.

‘The Golden Vanity’

He bored with his augur, he bored once and twice,

And some were playing cards, and some were playing dice, When the water flowed in it dazzled their eyes,

And she sank by the Low-lands low.

‘The Golden Vanity’

I wish I were where Helen lies, Night and day on me she cries; O that I were where Helen lies, On fair Kirkconnell lea!

Curst be the heart that thought the thought, And curst the hand that fired the shot, When in my arms burd Helen dropt,

And died to succour me!

‘Helen of Kirconnell’

Blair Atholl’s mine, Jeanie, Little Dunkeld is mine, lassie,

St Johnston’s bower, and Huntingtower, And all that’s mine is thine, lassie.

‘Huntingtower’ (St Johnston Perth)

Where are your eyes that looked so mild When my poor heart you first beguiled? Why did you run from me and the child? Och, Johnny, I hardly knew ye!

‘Johnny, I hardly knew Ye’

I was but seven years auld When my mither she did die;

My father married the ae warst woman The warld did ever see.

For she has made me the laily worm

That lies at the fit o’ the tree

And my sister Masery she’s made

The machrel of the sea.

An’ evry Saturday at noon The machrel comes to me An’ she takes my laily head An’ lays it on her knee;

An’ she kaims it wi’ a siller kaim

An’ washes ’t in the sea.

‘The Laily Worm and the Machrel’ (laily worm loathsome serpent)

‘What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randal, my Son? What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?’ ‘I gat eels boil’d in broo’; mother, make my bed soon, For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.’

‘Lord Randal’

This ae nighte, this ae nighte, —Every nighte and alle,

Fire and fleet and candle-lighte, And Christe receive thy saule.

‘Lyke-Wake Dirge’ (fleet floor; other readings of fleet are sleet and salt)

From Brig o’ Dread when thou may’st pass, —Every nighte and alle,

To Purgatory fire thou com’st at last; And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gavest meat or drink, —Every nighte and alle,

The fire sall never make thee shrink

And Christe receive thy saule.

‘Lyke-Wake Dirge’

When captains courageous whom death could not daunt, Did march to the siege of the city of Gaunt,

They mustered their soldiers by two and by three, And the foremost in battle was Mary Ambree.

‘Mary Ambree’

For in my mind, of all mankind I love but you alone.

‘The Nut Brown Maid’

For I must to the greenwood go Alone, a banished man.

‘The Nut Brown Maid’

Marie Hamilton’s to the kirk gane Wi’ ribbons on her breast;

The King thought mair o’ Marie Hamilton Than he listen’d to the priest.

‘The Queen’s Maries’

Yestreen the Queen had four Maries, The night she’ll hae but three;

There was Marie Seaton, and Marie Beaton, And Marie Carmichael, and me.

‘The Queen’s Maries’

‘O what is longer than the wave? And what is deeper than the sea?

What is greener than the grass?

And what is more wicked than a woman once was?...’

‘Love is longer than the wave, And hell is deeper than the sea.

Envy’s greener than the grass,

And the de’il more wicked than a woman e’er was.’

As soon as she the fiend did name,

He flew awa’ in a bleezing flame.

‘Riddles Wisely Expounded’

There are twelve months in all the year, As I hear many men say,

But the merriest month in all the year Is the merry month of May.

‘Robin Hood and the Widow’s Three Sons’

Fight on, my men, sayes Sir Andrew Bartton, I am hurt but I am not slain;

Ile lay mee downe and bleed a while And then Ile rise and fight againe.

‘Sir Andrew Bartton’

The king sits in Dunfermline town Drinking the blude-red wine.

‘Sir Patrick Spens’

‘To Noroway, to Noroway, To Noroway o’er the faem;

The king’s daughter o’ Noroway, ’Tis thou must bring her hame.’

The first word that Sir Patrick read So loud, loud laughed he;

The neist word that Sir Patrick read

The tear blinded his e’e.

‘Sir Patrick Spens’

‘I saw the new moon late yestreen Wi’ the auld moon in her arm; And if we gang to sea master,

I fear we’ll come to harm.’

‘Sir Patrick Spens’

Go fetch a web o’ the silken claith, Another o’ the twine,

And wap them into our ship’s side, And let nae the sea come in.

‘Sir Patrick Spens’ (wap wrap)

O laith, laith were our gude Scots lords To wat their cork-heel’d shoon;

But lang or a’ the play was play’d They wat their hats aboon.

‘Sir Patrick Spens’

O lang, lang may the ladies sit,

Wi’ their fans into their hand,

Before they see Sir Patrick Spens

Come sailing to the strand!

And lang, lang may the maidens sit

Wi’ their gowd kames in their hair,

A-waiting for their ain dear loves!

For them they’ll see nae mair.

Half-owre, half-owre to Aberdour, ’Tis fifty fathoms deep;

And there lies good Sir Patrick Spens,

Wi’ the Scots lords at his feet!

‘Sir Patrick Spens’

And she has kilted her green kirtle A little abune her knee;

And she has braided her yellow hair A little abune her bree.

‘Tam Lin’ st. 5

‘But what I ken this night, Tam Lin, Gin I had kent yestreen,

I wad ta’en out thy heart o’ flesh, And put in a heart o’ stane.’

‘Tam Lin’ st. 50

She’s mounted on her milk-white steed, She’s ta’en true Thomas up behind.

‘Thomas the Rhymer’ st. 8

‘And see ye not yon braid, braid road, That lies across the lily leven?

That is the Path of Wickedness,

Though some call it the Road to Heaven.’

‘Thomas the Rhymer’ st. 12

It was mirk, mirk night, there was nae starlight, They waded thro’ red blude to the knee;

For a’ the blude that’s shed on the earth Rins through the springs o’ that countrie.

‘Thomas the Rhymer’ st. 16

There were three ravens sat on a tree, They were as black as they might be. The one of them said to his make, ‘Where shall we our breakfast take?’

‘The Three Ravens’

God send every gentleman

Such hounds, such hawks, and such leman.

‘The Three Ravens’

As I was walking all alane,

I heard twa corbies making a mane: The tane unto the tither did say, ‘Where sall we gang and dine the day?’

‘—In behint yon auld fail dyke

I wot there lies a new—slain knight; And naebody kens that he lies there

But his hawk, his hound, and his lady fair.

‘His hound is to the hunting gane,

His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame, His lady’s ta’en anither mate,

So we may make our dinner sweet.

‘Ye’ll sit on his white hause-bane, And I’ll pike out his bonny blue e’en: Wi’ ae lock o’ his gowden hair

We’ll theek our nest when it grows bare.’

‘The Twa Corbies’ (corbies ravens, fail turf, hause neck, theek thatch)

‘The wind doth blow to-day, my love, And a few small drops of rain;

I never had but one true love; In cold grave she was lain.

‘I’ll do as much for my true-love As any young man may;

I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave

For a twelvemonth and a day.’

‘The Unquiet Grave’

O waly, waly, up the bank, And waly, waly, doun the brae, And waly, waly, yon burn-side,

Where I and my Love wont to gae!

I lean’d my back unto an aik,

I thocht it was a trustie tree;

But first it bow’d and syne it brake—

Sae my true love did lichtlie me.

O waly, waly, gin love be bonnie

A little time while it is new!

But when ’tis auld it waxeth cauld,

And fades awa’ like morning dew.

‘Waly, Waly’

But had I wist, before I kist, That love had been sae ill to win,

I had lock’d my heart in a case o’ gowd, And pinn’d it wi’ a siller pin.

And O! if my young babe were born, And set upon the nurse’s knee;

And I mysel’ were dead and gane,

And the green grass growing over me!

‘Waly, Waly’

‘Tom Pearse, Tom Pearse, lend me your grey mare, All along, down along, out along, lee.

For I want for to go to Widdicombe Fair,

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davey, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all. Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.’

‘Widdicombe Fair’

2.15 Whitney Balliett 1926—

A critic is a bundle of biases held loosely together by a sense of taste.

‘Dinosaurs in the Morning’ (1962) introductory note

The sound of surprise.

Title of book on jazz (1959)

2.16 Pierre Balmain 1914-82

The trick of wearing mink is to look as though you were wearing a cloth coat. The trick of wearing a cloth coat is to look as though you are wearing mink.

In ‘Observer’ 25 December 1955

2.17 George Bancroft 1800-91

Calvinism [in Switzerland]...established a religion without a prelate, a government without a king.

‘History of the United States’ (1855 ed.) vol. 3, ch. 6

2.18 Richard Bancroft 1544-1610

Where Christ erecteth his Church, the devil in the same churchyard will have his chapel.

Sermon at Paul’s Cross, 9 February 1588.

2.19 Edward Bangs

Yankee Doodle came to town Riding on a pony;

Stuck a feather in his cap And called it Macaroni.

‘Yankee Doodle’. Nicholas Smith ‘Stories of Great National Songs’

2.20 Tallulah Bankhead 1903-68

I’m as pure as the driven slush.

In ‘Saturday Evening Post’ 12 April 1947 (quoted by Maurice Zolotow)

There is less in this than meets the eye.

Describing a revival of Maeterlinck’s play Aglavaine and Selysette, in Alexander Woollcott ‘Shouts and Murmurs’ (1922) ch. 4

2.21 Nancy Banks-Smith

If you have to keep the lavatory door shut by extending your left leg, it’s modern architecture.

‘Guardian’ 20 February 1979

2.22 Thèodore Faullain de Banville 1823-91

Jeune homme sans mèlancolie, Blond comme un soleil d’Italie, Garde bien ta belle folie.

Young man untroubled by melancholy, fair as an Italian sun, take good care of your fine


‘A Adolphe Gaiffe’

Licences poètiques. Il n’y en a pas.

Poetic licence. There’s no such thing.

‘Petit traitè de poèsie française’ (1872) ch. 4

2.23 Imamu Amiri Baraka (Everett LeRoi Jones) 1934—

A man is either free or he is not. There cannot be any apprenticeship for freedom.

‘Kulchur’ Spring 1962 ‘Tokenism’

God has been replaced, as he has all over the West, with respectability and airconditioning.

‘Midstream’ (1963) p. 39

2.24 Anna Laetitia Barbauld 1743-1825

If e’er thy breast with freedom glowed, And spurned a tyrant’s chain,

Let not thy strong oppressive force A free-born mouse detain.

‘The Mouse’s Petition to Doctor Priestley Found in the Trap where he had been confined all Night’ l. 9

Beware, lest in the worm you crush A brother’s soul you find.

‘The Mouse’s Petition’ l. 33

Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right!

‘The Rights of Woman’ l. 1

2.25 W. N. P. Barbellion (Bruce Frederick Cummings) 1889-1919

Give me the man who will surrender the whole world for a moss or a caterpillar, and impracticable visions for a simple human delight. Yes, that shall be my practice. I prefer Richard Jefferies to Swedenborg and Oscar Wilde to Thomas á Kempis.

‘Enjoying Life and Other Literary Remains’ (1919) ‘Crying for the Moon’

Am writing an essay on the life-history of insects and have abandoned the idea of writing on ‘How Cats Spend their Time’.

‘Journal of a Disappointed Man’ (1919) 3 Jan. 1903

I can remember wondering as a child if I were a young Macaulay or Ruskin and secretly deciding that I was. My infant mind even was bitter with those who insisted on regarding me as a normal child and not as a prodigy.

‘Journal of a Disappointed Man’ (1919) 23 Oct. 1910

2.26 Mary Barber c.1690-1757

What is it our mammas bewitches

To plague us little boys with breeches?

‘Written for My Son, and Spoken by Him at His First Putting on Breeches’ l. 1

A husband’s first praise is a Friend and Protector; Then change not these titles for Tyrant and Hector.

‘Conclusion of a Letter to the Revd Mr C—’ l. 67

2.27 John Barbour c.1320-95

Storys to rede ar delitabill,

Suppos that thai be nocht bot fabill.

‘The Bruce’ (1375) bk. 1, l. 1

A! fredome is a noble thing! Fredome mayse man to haiff liking.

‘The Bruce’ (1375) bk. 1, l. 225

2.28 Revd R. H. Barham (Richard Harris Barham) 1788-1845

Though I’ve always considered Sir Christopher Wren, As an architect, one of the greatest of men;

And, talking of Epitaphs,—much I admire his,

‘Circumspice, si Monumentum requiris’; Which an erudite Verger translated to me,

‘If you ask for his Monument, Sir—come—spy—see!’

‘The Ingoldsby Legends’ (First Series, 1840) ‘The Cynotaph’.

What was to be done?—’twas perfectly plain That they could not well hang the man over again; What was to be done?—The man was dead! Nought could be done—nought could be said; So—my Lord Tomnoddy went home to bed!

‘The Ingoldsby Legends’ (First Series, 1840) ‘Hon. Mr Sucklethumbkin’s Story’

The Jackdaw sat on the Cardinal’s chair! Bishop, and abbot, and prior were there;

Many a monk, and many a friar, Many a knight, and many a squire,

With a great many more of lesser degree,— In sooth a goodly company;

And they served the Lord Primate on bended knee. Never, I ween,

Was a prouder seen,

Read of in books, or dreamt of in dreams, Than the Cardinal Lord Archbishop of Rheims!

‘The Ingoldsby Legends’ (First Series, 1840) ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’

And six little Singing-boys,—dear little souls! In nice clean faces, and nice white stoles.

‘The Ingoldsby Legends’ (First Series, 1840) ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’

He cursed him in sleeping, that every night

He should dream of the devil, and wake in a fright.

‘The Ingoldsby Legends’ (First Series, 1840) ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’

Never was heard such a terrible curse! But what gave rise

To no little surprise,

Nobody seemed one penny the worse!

‘The Ingoldsby Legends’ (First Series, 1840) ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’

Heedless of grammar, they all cried, ‘That’s him!’

‘The Ingoldsby Legends’ (First Series, 1840) ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’

Here’s a corpse in the case with a sad swelled face, And a ‘Crowner’s Quest’ is a queer sort of thing!

‘The Ingoldsby Legends’ (First Series, 1840) ‘A Lay of St Gengulphus’ (in later editions: ‘a Medical Crowner’s a queer sort of thing!’)

So put that in your pipe, my Lord Otto, and smoke it!

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