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The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

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Men are never so good or so bad as their opinions.

‘Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy’ (1830) sect. 6 ‘Jeremy Bentham’

The Commons, faithful to their system, remained in a wise and masterly inactivity.

‘Vindiciae Gallicae’ (1791) sect. 1

1.26 Alexander Maclaren 1826-1910

‘The Church is an anvil which has worn out many hammers’, and the story of the first collision is, in essentials, the story of all.

‘Expositions of Holy Scripture: Acts of the Apostles’ (1907) ch. 4

1.27 Archibald MacLeish 1892-1982

A Poem should be palpable and mute As a globed fruit


As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone

Of casement ledges where the moss has grown— A poem should be wordless

As the flight of birds

‘Ars Poetica’ (1926)

A poem should not mean But be.

‘Ars Poetica’ (1926)

1.28 Murdoch McLennanfl. 1715

There’s some say that we wan, some say that they wan, Some say that nane wan at a’, man;

But one thing I’m sure, that at Sheriffmuir A battle there was which I saw, man:

And we ran, and they ran, and they ran, and we ran, And we ran; and they ran awa’, man!

‘Sheriffmuir’ in J. Woodfall Ebsworth (ed.) ‘Roxburghe Ballads’ vol. 6 (1889). In James Hogg ‘The Jacobite Relics of Scotland’ (1821) vol. 2, the last line reads: ‘But Florence ran fastest of a’, man’ (Florence being the Marquis of Huntley’s horse)

1.29 Fiona McLeod 1855-1905

My heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

‘The Lonely Hunter’ (1896)

1.30 Marshall McLuhan 1911-80

The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.

‘The Gutenberg Galaxy’ (1962) p. 31

The medium is the message.

‘Understanding Media’ (1964) ch. 1 (title)

The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.

‘Understanding Media’ (1964) p. 32

The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad and incomplete in the urban compound.

‘Understanding Media’ (1964) p. 217

1.31 Marèchal de Mac-Mahon 1808-93

J’y suis, j’y reste.

Here I am, and here I stay.

At the taking of the Malakoff fortress during the Crimean War, 8 September 1855; MacMahon later cast doubt on his having expressed himself so tersely. G. Hanotaux ‘Histoire de la France Contemporaine’ (1903-

8)vol. 2, ch. 1, sect. 1

1.32Harold Macmillan (first Earl of Stockton) 1894-1986

There ain’t gonna be no war.

At a London press conference, 24 July 1955, following the Geneva summit; in ‘News Chronicle’ 25 July 1955

Let us be frank about it: most of our people have never had it so good.

Speech at Bedford, 20 July 1957, in ‘The Times’ 22 July 1957; ‘You Never Had It So Good’ was the Democratic Party slogan in the US election campaign of 1952

I thought the best thing to do was to settle up these little local difficulties, and then turn to the wider vision of the Commonwealth.

Statement at London airport on leaving for a Commonwealth tour, 7 January 1958, following the resignation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others, in ‘The Times’ 8 January 1958

The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and, whether we like it or not, this growth of [African] national consciousness is a political fact.

Speech at Cape Town, 3 February 1960, in ‘Pointing the Way’ (1972) p. 475

First of all the Georgian silver goes, and then all that nice furniture that used to be in the saloon. Then the Canalettos go.

Speech on privatization to the Tory Reform Group, 8 November 1985, in ‘The Times’ 9 November 1985

Forever poised between a clichè and an indiscretion.

In ‘Newsweek’ 30 Apr. 1956 (on the life of a Foreign Secretary)

He [Aneurin Bevan] enjoys prophesying the imminent fall of the capitalist system and is prepared to play a part, any part, in its burial, except that of mute.

In Michael Foot ‘Aneurin Bevan’ (1962) pt. 1, ch. 5

I was determined that no British government should be brought down by the action of two tarts.

Comment on the Profumo affair, July 1963, in Anthony Sampson ‘Macmillan’ (1967) p. 243

There were three bodies no sensible man directly challenged: the Roman Catholic Church, the

Brigade of Guards and the National Union of Mineworkers.

Alan Watkins, quoting Macmillan, in ‘Observer’ 22 February 1981.

Even Mr Gladstone only had a suitcase named after him.

On opening a building at Pembroke College, Oxford, which had been given his name; attributed

1.33 Leonard MacNally 1752-1820

This lass so neat, with smiles so sweet, Has won my right good-will,

I’d crowns resign to call thee mine, Sweet lass of Richmond Hill.

‘The Lass of Richmond Hill’; also attributed to W. Upton in The Oxford Song Book, and to W. Hudson in S. Baring-Gould English Minstrelsie (1895) vol. 3

1.34 Louis MacNeice 1907-63

Better authentic mammon than a bogus god.

‘Autumn Journal’ (1939) p. 49

It’s no go the merrygoround, it’s no go the rickshaw, All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow.

‘Bagpipe Music’ (1938)

It’s no go the picture palace, it’s no go the stadium, It’s no go the country cot with a pot of pink geraniums,

It’s no go the Government grants, it’s no go the elections,

Sit on your arse for fifty years and hang your hat on a pension.

‘Bagpipe Music’ (1938)

It’s no go my honey love, it’s no go my poppet;

Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit. The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall for ever,

But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.

‘Bagpipe Music’ (1938)

And under the totem poles—the ancient terror— Between the enormous fluted Ionic columns

There seeps from heavily jowled or hawk-like foreign faces The guttural sorrow of the refugees.

‘The British Museum Reading Room’ (1941)

Crumbling between the fingers, under the feet, Crumbling behind the eyes,

Their world gives way and dies

And something twangs and breaks at the end of the street.

‘Dèbâcle’ (1941)

Time was away and somewhere else,

There were two glasses and two chairs And two people with the one pulse (Somebody stopped the moving stairs): Time was away and somewhere else.

‘Meeting Point’

I am not yet born; O fill me

With strength against those who would freeze my humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton, would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with

one face, a thing, and against all those who would dissipate my entirety, would blow me like thistledown hither and thither or hither and thither

like water held in the hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me, Otherwise kill me.

‘Prayer Before Birth’ (1944)

World is crazier and more of it than we think, Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion

A tangerine and spit the pips and feel The drunkenness of things being various.

‘Snow’ (1935)

Down the road someone is practising scales,

The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails, Man’s heart expands to tinker with his car

For this is Sunday morning, Fate’s great bazaar.

‘Sunday Morning’ (1935)

The sunlight on the garden Hardens and grows cold, We cannot cage the minute Within its net of gold, When all is told

We cannot beg for pardon.

‘Sunlight on the Garden’ (1938)

Our freedom as free lances Advances towards its end; The earth compels, upon it Sonnets and birds descend; And soon, my friend,

We shall have no time for dances.

‘Sunlight on the Garden’ (1938)

So they were married—to be the more together— And found they were never again so much together, Divided by the morning tea,

By the evening paper,

By children and tradesmen’s bills.

‘Les Sylphides’ (1941)

By a high star our course is set, Our end is Life. Put out to sea.

‘Thalassa’ (1964)

1.35 Geoffrey Madan 1895-1947

King George, passing slowly in a closed car, looking like a big, rather worn penny in the window.

In J. A. Gere and John Sparrow ‘Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks’ (1981) p. 66 (of George V)

Warm lagoon of indolence and irreligion which seems to be the proper habitat of youth.

In J. A. Gere and John Sparrow ‘Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks’ (1981) p. 66

The great tragedy of the classical languages is to have been born twins.

In J. A. Gere and John Sparrow ‘Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks’ (1981) p. 67

Peers: a kind of eye-shade or smoked glass, to protect us from the full glare of Royalty.

In J. A. Gere and John Sparrow ‘Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks’ (1981) p. 70

Don’s room, like the nest of a foolish bird.

In J. A. Gere and John Sparrow ‘Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks’ (1981) p. 70

Conservative ideal of freedom and progress: everyone to have an unfettered opportunity of remaining exactly where they are.

In J. A. Gere and John Sparrow ‘Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks’ (1981) p. 70

The dust of exploded beliefs may make a fine sunset.

‘Livre sans nom: Twelve Reflections’ (privately printed 1934) no. 12

1.36 Salvador de Madariaga 1886-1978

Since, in the main, it is not armaments that cause wars but wars (or the fears thereof) that cause armaments, it follows that every nation will at every moment strive to keep its armament in an efficient state as required by its fear, otherwise styled security.

‘Morning Without Noon’ (1974) pt. 1, ch. 9

1.37 Samuel Madden 1686-1765

Words are men’s daughters, but God’s sons are things.

‘Boulter’s Monument’ (1745) l. 377.

1.38 James Madison 1751-1836

Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an ailment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

‘The Federalist’ (1787) no. 10

The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results.

‘The Federalist’ (1787) no. 10

1.39 Maurice Maeterlinck 1862-1949

Il n’y a pas de morts.

There are no dead.

‘L’Oiseau bleu’ (1909) act 4

1.40 Archbishop Magee 1821-91

It would be better that England should be free than that England should be compulsorily sober.

Speech on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill in ‘Hansard’, House of Lords, 2 May 1872, col. 86

1.41 Magna Carta 1215

Quod Anglicana ecclesia libera sit.

That the English Church shall be free.

Clause 1

Nullius liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut dissaisiatur, aut utlagetur, aut exuletur, aut aliquo modo destruator, nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittemus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum vel per legem terrae.

No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed, or outlawed or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him, nor will we send against him except by the lawful judgement

of his peers or by the law of the land.

Clause 39

Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus aut differemus, rectum aut justitiam.

To no man will we sell, or deny, or delay, right or justice.

Clause 40

1.42 Alfred T. Mahan 1840-1914

Those far distant, storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never looked, stood between it and the dominion of the world.

‘The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire 1793-1812’ (1892) vol. 2, ch. 15

1.43 Gustav Mahler 1860-1911

Fortissimo at last!

On seeing Niagara Falls, in K. Blaukopf ‘Gustav Mahler’ (1973) ch. 8

1.44 Derek Mahon 1941—

‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ The others nod, pretending not to know.

At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

‘Antarctica’ (1985) title poem.

1.45 Norman Mailer 1923—

Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.

‘Cannibals and Christians’ (1966) p. 51

The horror of the Twentieth Century was the size of each event, and the paucity of its reverberation.

‘A Fire on the Moon’ (1970) pt. 1, ch. 2

So we think of Marilyn who was every man’s love affair with America, Marilyn Monroe who was blonde and beautiful and had a sweet little rinky-dink of a voice and all the cleanliness of all the clean American backyards.

‘Marilyn’ (1973) p. 15

Ultimately a hero is a man who would argue with the Gods, and so awakens devils to contest his vision.

‘The Presidential Papers’ (1976) Special Preface to the 1st Berkeley Edition

Hip is the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle.

‘Voices of Dissent’ (1959) ‘The White Negro’

1.46 Sir Henry Maine 1822-88

The movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract.

‘Ancient Law’ (1861) ch. 5

So great is the ascendancy of the Law of Actions in the infancy of Courts of Justice, that substantive law has at first the look of being gradually secreted in the interstices of procedure; and the early lawyer can only see the law through the envelope of its technical forms.

‘Dissertations on Early Law and Custom’ (1883) ch. 11

Except the blind forces of Nature, nothing moves in this world which is not Greek in its origin.

‘Village Communities’ (3rd ed., 1876) p. 238

1.47 Joseph de Maistre 1753-1821

Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mèrite.

Every country has the government it deserves.

‘Lettres et Opuscules Inèdits’ (1851) vol. 1, letter 53, 15 August 1811

1.48 Bernard Malamud 1914-86

The past exudes legend: one can’t make pure clay of time’s mud. There is no life that can be recaptured wholly; as it was. Which is to say that all biography is ultimately fiction.

‘Dubin’s Lives’ (1979) p. 20

1.49 Stèphane Mallarmè 1842-98

La chair est triste, hèlas! et j’ai lu tous les livres.

The flesh, alas, is wearied; and I have read all the books there are.

‘Brise Marin’

Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui.

That virgin, vital, fine day: today.

‘Plusieurs Sonnets’

Un coup de dès jamais n’abolira le hasard.

A throw of the dice will never eliminate chance.

‘Cosmopolis’ May 1897

1.50 David Mallet (or Malloch) c.1705-65

O grant me, Heaven, a middle state, Neither too humble nor too great; More than enough, for nature’s ends, With something left to treat my friends.

Imitation of Horace.

And thrice he called on Margaret’s name, And thrice he wept full sore:

Then laid his cheek to her cold grave. And word spake never more.

‘William and Margaret’ l. 65

1.51 George Leigh Mallory 1886-1924

Because it’s there.

Explaining why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, in ‘New York Times’ 18 March 1923

1.52 Sir Thomas Malory d. 1471

Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise King born of all England.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (finished 1470, printed by Caxton 1485) bk. 1, ch. 4

This beast went to the well and drank, and the noise was in the beast’s belly like unto the questing of thirty couple hounds, but all the while the beast drank there was no noise in the beast’s belly.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 1, ch. 19 (questing yelping)

Me repenteth, said Merlin; because of the death of that lady thou shalt strike a stroke most dolorous that ever man struck, except the stroke of our Lord, for thou shalt hurt the truest knight and the man of most worship that now liveth, and through that stroke three kingdoms shall be in great poverty, misery and wretchedness twelve years, and the knight shall not be whole of that wound for many years.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 2, ch. 8

Ah, my little son, thou hast murdered thy mother! And therefore I suppose thou that art a murderer so young, thou art full likely to be a manly man in thine age...When he is christened let call him Tristram, that is as much to say as a sorrowful birth.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 8, ch. 1

Meanwhile came Sir Palomides, the good knight, following the questing beast that had in shape like a serpent’s head and a body like a leopard, buttocked like a lion and footed like a hart. And in his body there was such a noise as it had been twenty couple of hounds questing, and such noise that beast made wheresomever he went.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 9, ch. 12

God defend me, said Dinadan, for the joy of love is too short, and the sorrow thereof, and what cometh thereof, dureth over long.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 10, ch. 56

Now I thank God, said Sir Launcelot, for His great mercy of that I have seen, for it sufficeth me. For, as I suppose, no man in this world hath lived better than I have done, to achieve that I have done.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 17, ch. 16

Fair lord, salute me to my lord, Sir Launcelot, my father, and as soon as ye see him, bid him remember of this unstable world.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 17, ch. 22

Thus endeth the story of the Sangreal, that was briefly drawn out of French into English, the which is a story chronicled for one of the truest and the holiest that is in this world.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 17, ch. 23

The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 18, ch. 25

Therefore all ye that be lovers call unto your remembrance the month of May, like as did Queen Guenevere, for whom I make here a little mention, that while she lived she was a true lover, and therefore she had a good end.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 18, ch. 25

Through this man and me hath all this war been wrought, and the death of the most noblest knights of the world; for through our love that we have loved together is my most noble lord slain.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 21, ch. 9

Wherefore, madam, I pray you kiss me and never no more. Nay, said the queen, that shall I never do, but abstain you from such works: and they departed. But there was never so hard an hearted man but he would have wept to see the dolour that they made.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 21, ch. 10

And Sir Launcelot awoke, and went and took his horse, and rode all that day and all night in a forest, weeping.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 21, ch. 10

Then Sir Launcelot never after ate but little meat, ne drank, till he was dead.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 21, ch. 12

I saw the angels heave up Sir Launcelot unto heaven, and the gates of heaven opened against him.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 21, ch. 12

Said Sir Ector...Sir Launcelot...thou wert never matched of earthly knight’s hand; and thou wert the courteoust knight that ever bare shield; and thou wert the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrad horse; and thou wert the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman; and thou wert the kindest man that ever struck with sword; and thou wert the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights; and thou wert the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.

‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ (1485) bk. 21, ch. 13

1.53 Andrè Malraux 1901-76

La Condition humaine.

Title of book (1933)

L’art est un anti-destin.

Art is a revolt against fate.

‘Les Voix du silence’ (1951) pt. 4, ch. 7

1.54 Thomas Robert Malthus 1766-1834

Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence only increases in an arithmetical ratio.

‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ (1798) ch. 1

The perpetual struggle for room and food.

‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ (1798) ch. 3

1.55 Lord Mancroft (Baron Mancroft) 1914—

Cricket—a game which the English, not being a spiritual people, have invented in order to give themselves some conception of eternity.

‘Bees in Some Bonnets’ (1979) p. 185

1.56 W. R. Mandale

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