Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich

American Author, Poet, Playwright, Novelist, Travel Writer and Editor

"A man is known by the company his mind keeps."

"True art selects and paraphrases, but seldom gives a verbatim translation."

"What is lovely never dies, but passes into other loveliness, star-dust, or sea-foam, flower or winged air."

"To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent - that is to triumph over old age."

"The rain has ceased, and in my room The sunshine pours an airy flood; And on the church's dizzy vane The ancient cross is bathed in blood. From out the dripping ivy leaves, Antiquely carven, gray and high, A dormer, facing westward, looks Upon the village like an eye. And now it glimmers in the sun, A globe of gold, a disk, a speck; And in the belfry sits a dove With purple ripples on her neck."

"At A Reading - The spare professor, grave and bald, Began his paper. It was called, I think, "A Brief Historic Glance At Russia, Germany, and France." A glance, but to my best belief 'T was almost anything but brief-- A wide survey, in which the earth Was seen before mankind had birth; Strange monsters basked them in the sun, Behemoth, armored glyptodon, And in the dawn's unpractised ray The transient dodo winged its way; Then, by degrees, through slit and slough, We reached Berlin--I don't know how. The good Professor's monotone Had turned me into senseless stone Instanter, but that near me sat Hypatia in her new spring hat, Blue-eyed, intent, with lips whose bloom Lighted the heavy-curtained room. Hypatia--ah, what lovely things Are fashioned out of eighteen springs! At first, in sums of this amount, The eighteen winters do not count. Just as my eyes were growing dim With heaviness, I saw that slim, Erect, elastic figure there, Like a pond-lily taking air. She looked so fresh, so wise, so neat, So altogether crisp and sweet, I quite forgot what Bismarck said, And why the Emperor shook his head, And how it was Von Moltke's frown Cost France another frontier town. The only facts I took away From the Professor's theme that day Were these: a forehead broad and low, Such as antique sculptures show; A chin to Greek perfection true; Eyes of Astarte's tender blue; A high complection without fleck Or flaw, and curls about her neck."

"IRST, two white arms that held him very close, And ever closer as he drew him back Reluctantly, the loose gold-colored hair A thousand delicate fibers reaching out Still to detain him; then some twenty steps Of iron stairs winding round and down, And ending in a narrow gallery hung With Goblin tapestries--Andromeda Rescued by Perseus, and the sleek Diana With her nymphs bathing; at the farther end A door that gave upon a starlit grove Of citron and clipt palm-trees; then a path As bleached as moonlight, with the shadow of leaves Stamped black upon it; next a vine-clad length Of solid masonry; and last of all A Gothic archway packed with night, and then-- A sudden gleaming dagger through his heart."

"Before The Rain - We knew it would rain, for all the morn A spirit on slender ropes of mist Was lowering its golden buckets down Into the vapory amethyst. Of marshes and swamps and dismal fens-- Scooping the dew that lay in the flowers, Dipping the jewels out of the sea, To sprinkle them over the land in showers. We knew it would rain, for the poplars showed The white of their leaves, the amber grain Shrunk in the wind--and the lightning now Is tangled in tremulous skeins of rain!"

"Echo Song - Who can say where Echo dwells? In some mountain-cave, methinks, Where the white owl sits and blinks; Or in deep sequestered dells, Where foxglove hangs its bells, Echo dwells. Echo! Echo! Phantom of the crystal Air, Daughter of sweet Mystery! Here is one has need of thee; Lead him to thy secret lair, Myrtle brings he for thy hair-- Hear his prayer, Echo! Echo! Echo lift thy drowsy head, And repeat each charm√ęd word Thou must needs have overheard Yestere'en ere, rosy-red, Daphne down the valley fled-- Words unsaid, Echo! Echo! Breathe the vows she since denies! She hath broken every vow; What she would she would not now-- Thou didst hear her perjuries. Whisper, whilst I shut my eyes, Those sweet lies, Echo! Echo!"

"Fredericksburg - The increasing moonlight drifts across my bed, And on the churchyard by the road, I know It falls as white and noiselessly as snow. . . . 'T was such a night two weary summers fled; The stars, as now, were waning overhead. Listen! Again the shrill-lipped bugles blow Where the swift currents of the river flow Past Fredericksburg; far off the heavens are red With sudden conflagration; on yon height, Linstock in hand, the gunners hold their breath; A signal rocket pierces the dense night, Flings its spent stars upon the town beneath: Hark!--the artillery massing on the right, Hark!--the black squadrons wheeling down to Death!"

"The folk who lived in Shakespeare's day And saw that gentle figure pass By London Bridge, his frequent way-- They little knew what man he was. The pointed beard, the courteous mien, The equal port to high and low, All this they saw or might have seen-- But not the light behind the brow! The doublet's modest gray or brown, The slender sword-hilt's plain device, What sign had these for prince or clown? Few turned, or none, to scan him twice. Yet 't was the King of England's kings! The rest with all their pomps and trains Are mouldered, half-remembered things-- 'T is he alone that lives and reigns!"

"Somewhere --in desolate wind-swept space-- In Twilight-land--in No-man's land-- Two hurrying Shapes met face to face, And bade each other stand. "And who are you?" cried one a-gape, Shuddering in the gloaming light. "I know not," said the second Shape, "I only died last night!""

"I held his letter in my hand, And even while I read The lightning flashed across the land The word that he was dead. How strange it seemed! His living voice Was speaking from the page Those courteous phrases, tersely choice, Light-hearted, witty, sage. I wondered what it was that died! The man himself was here, His modesty, his scholar's pride, His soul serene and clear. These neither death nor time shall dim, Still this sad thing must be-- Henceforth I may not speak to him, Though he can speak to me!"

"My mind lets go a thousand things, Like dates of wars and deaths of kings, And yet recalls the very hour-- 'T was noon by yonder village tower, And on the last blue noon in May-- The wind came briskly up this way, Crisping the brook beside the road; Then, pausing here, set down its load Of pine-scents, and shook listlessly Two petals from that wild-rose tree."

"That face which no man ever saw And from his memory banished quite, With eyes in which are Hamlet's awe And Cardinal Richelieu's subtle light, Looks from this frame. A master's hand Has set the master player here, In the fair temple that he planned Not for himself. To us most dear This image of him! "It was thus He looked; such pallor touched his cheek; With that same grace he greeted us-- Nay, 't is the man, could it but speak!" Sad words that shall be said some day-- Far fall the day! O cruel Time, Whose breath sweeps mortal things away, Spare long this image of his prime, That others standing in the place Where, save as ghosts, we come no more, May know what sweet majestic face The gentle Prince of Players wore!"

"Song From The Persian - Ah, sad are they who know not love, But, far from passion's tears and smiles, Drift down a moonless sea, beyond The silvery coasts of fairy isles. And sadder they whose longing lips Kiss empty air, and never touch The dear warm mouth of those they love -- Waiting, wasting, suffering much. But clear as amber, fine as musk, Is life to those who, pilgrim-wise, Move hand in hand from dawn to dusk, Each morning nearer Paradise. Ah, not for them shall angels pray! They stand in everlasting light, They walk in Allah's smile by day, And slumber in his heart by night. "

"A glance, a word -- and joy or pain befalls.... How slight the links are in the chain that binds us to our destiny!"

"A mighty wind, like a leviathan, ploughed through the brine, and from these solitudes sent silence frightened."

"After a debauch of thundershower, the weather takes the pledge and signs it with a rainbow."

"All the best sands of my life are somehow getting into the wrong end of the hourglass. If I could only reverse it! Were it in my power to do so, would I?"

"All the panes are hung with frost wild wizard-work of silver lace."

"All's one to her; above her fan she'd make sweet eyes to Caliban."

"And who are you? cried one agape, Shuddering in the gloaming light. I know not said the second Shape, I only died last night."

"At the beginning of the twentieth century barbarism can throw off its gentle disguise, and burn a man at the stake as complacently as in the Middle Ages."

"Black Tragedy lets slip her grim disguise and shows you laughing lips and roguish eyes; but when, unmasked, gay Comedy appears, how wan her cheeks are, and what heavy tears!"

"Books that have become classics -- books that have had their day and now get more praise than perusal -- always remind me of retired colonels and majors and captains who, having reached the age limit, find themselves retired on half pay."

"But I, in the chilling twilight stand and wait at the portcullis, at thy castle gate, longing to see the charmed door of dreams turn on its noiseless hinges, delicate sleep!"

"But when the sun in all his state, illumed the eastern skies, she passed through glory's morning gate, and walked in Paradise."

"Civilization is the lamb's skin in which barbarism masquerades."

"Come watch with me the shaft of fire that glows in yonder West: the fair, frail palaces, the fading Alps and archipelagoes, and great cloud-continents of sunset-seas."

"Conway would give me no rest until I fought him. I felt it was ordained ages before our birth that we should meet on this planet and fight."

"Day is a snow-white Dove of heaven that from the East glad message brings."

"Dear Lord, though I be changed to senseless clay, and serve the Potter as he turn his wheel, I thank Thee for the gracious gift of tears!"

"Everyone has a bookplate these days, and the collectors are after it. The fool and his bookplate are soon parted. To distribute one's ex libris is inanely to destroy the only significance it has, that of indicating the past or present ownership of the volume in which it is placed."

"Fell over the prostrate steersman, and there we all lay in a heap, two or three of us quite picturesque with the nosebleed."

"For the poplars showed the white of their leaves, the amber grain shrunk in the wind--and the lightning now is tangled in tremulous skeins of rain."

"Good night! I have to say good night, to such a host of peerless things!"

"Gracious to all, to none subservient, without offense he spoke the word he meant."

"Great orators who are not also great writers become very indistinct historical shadows to the generation immediately following them. The spell vanishes with the voice."

"Great thoughts in crude, unshapely verse set forth lose half their preciousness, and ever must, unless the diamond with its own rich dust be cut and polished, it seems little worth."

"Have you not heard the poets tell How came the dainty Baby Bell into this world of ours?"

"Hebe's here, May is here! The air is fresh and sunny; and the miser-bees are busy hoarding golden honey."

"Here is woe, a self and not the mask of woe."

"How fugitive and brief is mortal life between the budding and the falling leaf."

"I am perplext, and often stricken mute. Wondering which attained the higher bliss, the wing'd insect, or the chrysalis It thrust aside with unreluctant foot."

"I hope he and she that was Miss Wang Wang are very happy together, sitting cross-legged over diminutive cups of tea in a sky-blue tower hung with bells."

"I like not lady-slippers, not yet the sweet-pea blossoms, not yet the flaky roses, red or white as snow; I like the chaliced lilies, the heavy Eastern lilies, the gorgeous tiger-lilies, that in our garden grow."

"I like to have a thing suggested rather than told in full. When every detail is given, the mind rests satisfied, and the imagination loses the desire to use its own wings. The partly draped statue has a charm which the nude lacks. Who would have those marble folds slip from the raised knee of the Venus of Melos?"

"If my best wines mislike thy taste, and my best service win thy frown, then tarry not, I bid thee haste; there's many another Inn in town."

"Imagine all human beings swept off the face of the earth, excepting one man. Imagine this man in some vast city, New York or London. Imagine him on the third or fourth day of his solitude sitting in a house and hearing a ring at the door-bell!"