Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Richard Francis Burton, fully Sir Richard Francis Burton

English Explorer, Geographer, Translator, Writer, Soldier, Orientalist, Cartographer, Ethnologist, Spy, Linguist, Poet, Fencer, Diplomat and Writer of Travel Books

"Temperance is a bridle of gold."

"How strange are the tricks of memory, which, often hazy as a dream about the most important events of a man's life, religiously preserve the merest trifles."

"One of the mistakes in the conduct of human life is to suppose that other men's opinions are to make us happy."

"A man that hoards up riches and enjoys them not, is like an ass that carries gold and eats thistles."

"A wise man will desire no more than he may get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly."

"Conquer thyself. Till you hast done this, thou are but a slave; for it is almost as well to be subjected to another's appetite as to thine own."

"Conscience is a great ledger book in which all our offenses are written and registered, and which time reveals to the sense and feeling of the offender."

"Employment, which Galen calls, "Nature's physician," is so essential to human happiness that indolence is justly considered as the mother of misery."

"Every other sin hath some pleasures annexed to it, or will admit of some excuse, but envy wants both. We should strive against it, for if indulged in it will be to us as a foretaste of hell upon earth."

"False friendship, like the ivy, decays and ruins the walls it embraces; but true friendship gives new life and animation to the object it supports."

"Idleness is the bane of body and mind, the nurse of naughtiness, the chief author of all mischief, one of the seven deadly sins, the cushion upon which the devil chiefly reposes, and a great cause not only of melancholy, but of many other diseases; for the mind is naturally active; and if it be not occupied about some honest business, it rushes into mischief or sinks into melancholy."

"If adversity hath killed his thousands, prosperity hath killed his ten thousands; therefore adversity is to be preferred. The one deceives, the other instructs; the one is miserably happy, the other happily miserable; and therefore many philosophers have voluntarily sought adversity and commend it in their precepts."

"Misery assails riches, as lightning does the highest towers; or as a tree that is heavy laden with fruits breaks its own boughs, so do riches destroy the virtue of their possessor."

"Sickness and disease are in weak minds the sources of melancholy; but that which is painful to the body, may be profitable to the soul. Sickness puts us in mind of our mortality, and, while we drive on heedlessly in the full career of worldly pomp and jollity, kindly pulls us by the ear, and brings us to a proper sense of duty."

"Ah! gay the day with shine of sun, and bright the breeze, and blithe the throng Met on the River-bank to play, when I was young, when I was young"

"All Faith is false, all Faith is true: Truth is the shattered mirror strown in myriad bits; while each believes his little bit the whole to own."

"And hold Humanity one man, whose universal agony Still strains and strives to gain the goal, where agonies shall cease to be. Believe in all things; none believe; judge not nor warp by Facts the thought; See clear, hear clear, tho' life may seem Mâyâ and Mirage, Dream and Naught. Abjure the Why and seek the How: the God and gods enthroned on high, Are silent all, are silent still; nor hear thy voice, nor deign reply.The Now, that indivisible point which studs the length of infinite line Whose ends are nowhere, is thine all, the puny all thou callest thine."

"And still the Weaver plies his loom, whose warp and woof is wretched Man Weaving th' unpattern'd dark design, so dark we doubt it owns a plan."

"As palace mirror'd in the stream, as vapour mingled with the skies, so weaves the brain of mortal man the tangled web of Truth and Lies."

"As threshing separates the wheat from the chaff, so does affliction purify virtue."

"Be ye Good Boys, go seek for Heav'en, come pay the priest that holds the key;So spake, and speaks, and aye shall speak the last to enter Heaven, — he."

"But what have we here? The original calamity was either caused by God or arose without leave of God, in either case degrading God to man. It is the old dilemma whose horns are the irreconcilable attributes of goodness and omniscience in the supposed Creator of sin and suffering. If the one quality be predicable, the other cannot be predicable of the same subject. Far better and wiser is the essayist's poetical explanation now apparently despised because it was the fashionable doctrine of the sage bard's day:— All nature is but art All discord harmony not understood ; All partial evil universal good."

"Cease, Man, to mourn, to weep, to wail; enjoy thy shining hour of sun; We dance along Death's icy brink, but is the dance less full of fun?"

"Christianity and Islamism have been on their trial for the last eighteen and twelve centuries. They have been ardent in proselytizing, yet they embrace only one-tenth and one-twentieth of the human race. Hâjî Abdû would account for the tardy and unsatisfactory progress of what their votaries call pure truths, by the innate imperfections of the same. Both propose a reward for mere belief, and a penalty for simple unbelief; rewards and punishments being, by the way, very disproportionate. Thus they reduce everything to the scale of a somewhat unrefined egotism; and their demoralizing effects become clearer to every progressive age."

"Do what thy manhood bids thee do, From none but self expect aplause; He noblest live and noblest dies Who makes and keeps his self-made laws."

"Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause; he noblest lives and noblest dies who makes and keeps his self-made laws. All other Life is living Death, a world where none but Phantoms dwell, a breath, a wind, a sound, a voice, a tinkling of the camel-bell."

"Faith mountains move I hear: I see the practice of the world unheed The foolish vaunt, the blatant boast that serves our vanity to feed. Faith stands unmoved; and why? Because man's silly fancies still remain, And will remain till wiser man the day-dreams of his youth disdain."

"Fools rush where Angels fear to tread! Angels and Fools have equal claim To do what Nature bids them do, sans hope of praise, sans fear of blame!"

"Friends of my youth, a last adieu! haply some day we meet again; Yet ne'er the self-same men shall meet; the years shall make us other men."

"From self-approval seek applause: What ken not men thou kennest, thou! Spurn ev'ry idol others raise: Before thine own Ideal bow: Be thine own Deus: Make self free, liberal as the circling air: Thy Thought to thee an Empire be; break every prison'ing lock and bar."

"Grant an Idea, Primal Cause, the Causing Cause, why crave for more? Why strive its depth and breadth to mete, to trace its work, its aid to íimplore? Unknown, Incomprehensible, whateíer you choose to call it, call; But leave it vague as airy space, dark in its darkness mystical."

"Haply the Law that rules the world allows to man the widest range; And haply Fate's a Theist-word, subject to human chance and change."

"Haply the Law that rules the world allows to man the widest range; And haply Fate's a Theist-word, subject to human chance and change. This I may find a future Life, a nobler copy of our own, Where every riddle shall be ree'd, where every knowledge shall be known; Where 'twill be man's to see the whole of what on Earth he sees in part; Where change shall ne'er surcharge the thought; nor hope defer'd shall hurt the heart."

"Hard to the heart is final death: fain would an Ens not end in Nil; Love made the senti'ment kindly good: the Priest perverted all to ill. While Reason sternly bids us die, Love longs for life beyond the grave: Our hearts, affections, hopes and fears for Life-to-be shall ever crave. Hence came the despot's darling dream, a Church to rule and sway the State; Hence sprang the train of countless griefs in priestly sway and rule innate. For future Life who dares reply? No witness at the bar have we; Save what the brother Potsherd tells, — old tales and novel jugglery. Who e'er return'd to teach the Truth, the things of Heaven and Hell to limn? And all we hear is only fit for grandam-talk and nursery-hymn."

"Hardly we find the path of love, to sink the self, forget the I, When sad suspicion grips the heart, when Man, the Man begins to die."

"He looks with impartial eye upon the endless variety of systems, maintained with equal confidence and self-sufficiency, by men of equal ability and honesty. He is weary of wandering over the world, and of finding every petty race wedded to its own opinions; claiming the monopoly of Truth; holding all others to be in error, and raising disputes whose violence, acerbity and virulence are in inverse ratio to the importance of the disputed matter. A peculiarly active and acute observation taught him that many of these jarring families, especially those of the same blood, are par in the intellectual processes of perception and reflection; that in the business of the visible working world they are confessedly by no means superior to one another; whereas in abstruse matters of mere Faith, not admitting direct and sensual evidence, one in a hundred will claim to be right, and immodestly charge the other ninety-nine with being wrong. Thus he seeks to discover a system which will prove them all right, and all wrong; which will reconcile their differences; will unite past creeds; will account for the present, and will anticipate the future with a continuous and uninterrupted development; this, too, by a process, not negative and distinctive, but, on the contrary, intensely positive and constructive. I am not called upon to sit in the seat of judgment; but I may say that it would be singular if the attempt succeeded. Such a system would be all-comprehensive, because not limited by space, time, or race; its principle would be extensive as Matter itself, and, consequently, eternal. Meanwhile he satisfies himself, — the main point."

"How shall the Shown pretend to ken aught of the Showman or the Show? Why meanly bargain to believe, which only means thou ne'er canst know? How may the passing Now contain the standing Now — Eternity? — An endless is without a was , the be and never the to-be?"

"How melancholy a thing is success. Whilst failure inspirits a man, attainment reads the sad prosy lesson that all our glories "Are shadows, not substantial things." Truly said the sayer, "disappointment is the salt of life" a salutary bitter which strengthens the mind for fresh exertion, and gives a double value to the prize."

"How Thought is imp'otent to divine the secret which the gods defend, The Why of birth and life and death, that Isis-veil no hand may rend. Eternal Morrows make our day; our is is aye to be till when Night closes in; 'tis all a dream, and yet we die, — and then and then? And still the Weaver plies his loom, whose warp and woof is wretched Man Weaving th' unpattern'd dark design, so dark we doubt it owns a plan."

"I am an individual … a circle touching and intersecting my neighbours at certain points, but nowhere corresponding, nowhere blending. Physically I am not identical in all points with other men. Morally I differ from them: in nothing do the approaches of knowledge, my five organs of sense (with their Shelleyan interpenetration), exactly resemble those of any other being. Ergo, the effect of the world, of life, of natural objects, will not in my case be the same as with the beings most resembling me. Thus I claim the right of creating or modifying for my own and private use, the system which most imports me; and if the reasonable leave be refused to me, I take it without leave. But my individuality, however all-sufficient for myself, is an infinitesimal point, an atom subject in all things to the Law of Storms called Life. I feel, I know that Fate is. But I cannot know what is or what is not fated to befall me. Therefore in the pursuit of perfection as an individual lies my highest, and indeed my only duty, the I being duly blended with the We. I object to be a self-less man, which to me denotes an inverted moral sense. I am bound to take careful thought concerning the consequences of every word and deed. When, however, the Future has become the Past, it would be the merest vanity for me to grieve or to repent over that which was decreed by universal Law."

"I was surrounded at the time by about a dozen of the enemy, whose clubs rattled upon me without mercy, and the strokes of my sabre were rendered uncertain by the energetic pushes of an attendant who thus hoped to save me."

"If you can’t laugh together in bed, the chances are you are incompatible, anyway. I’d rather hear a girl laugh well than try to turn me on with long, silent, soulful, secret looks. If you can laugh with a woman, everything else falls into place."

"Is not man born with a love of change — an Englishman to be discontented — an Anglo-Indian to grumble?"

"Man remembers and combines but does not create."

"Man worships self: his God is Man; the struggling of the mortal mind to form its model as 'twould be, the perfect of itself to find."

"Now the last hookah has gone out, and the most restless of our servants has turned in. The roof of the cabin is strewed with bodies anything but fragrant, indeed, we cannot help pitying the melancholy fate of poor Morpheus, who is traditionally supposed to encircle such sleepers with his soft arms. Could you believe it possible that through such a night as this they choose to sleep under those wadded cotton coverlets, and dread not instantaneous asphixiation?"

"Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Civilization, man feels once more happy."

"One death to a man is a serious thing: a dozen neutralize one another."

"Presently our fire being exhausted, and the enemy pressing on with spear and javelin, the position became untenable; the tent was nearly battered down by clubs, and had we been entangled in its folds, we should have been killed without the power of resistance. I gave the word for a rush, and sallied out with my sabre, closely followed by Lieut. Herne, with Lieut. Speke in the rear. The former was allowed to pass through the enemy with no severer injury than a few hard blows with a war club. The latter was thrown down by a stone hurled at his chest and taken prisoner, a circumstance which we did not learn till afterwards. On leaving the tent I thought that I perceived the figure of the late Lieut. Stroyan lying upon the ground close to the camels. I was surrounded at the time by about a dozen of the enemy, whose clubs rattled upon me without mercy, and the strokes of my sabre were rendered uncertain by the energetic pushes of an attendant who thus hoped to save me. The blade was raised to cut him down: he cried out in dismay, and at that moment a Somali stepped forward, threw his spear so as to pierce my face, and retired before he could be punished. I then fell back for assistance, and the enemy feared pursuing us into the darkness. Many of our Somalis and servants were lurking about 100 yards from the fray, but nothing would persuade them to advance. The loss of blood causing me to feel faint, I was obliged to lie down, and, as dawn approached, the craft from Aynterad was seen apparently making sail out of the harbour."

"Reason and Instinct! How we love to play with words that please our pride; Our noble race's mean descent by false forged titles seek to hide! For gift divine I bid you read the better work of higher brain, From Instinct diff'ering in degree as golden mine from leaden vein."