Fugitive Verses
Popular Reprinted Poetry from Nineteenth Century Newspapers

A Literary Curiosity

Source of witness transcribed: The New Orleans Crescent (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Date of witness transcribed: 8 March 1868

Notes about this poem: "A Literary Curiosity" was printed in at least 224 newspapers during the nineteenth century. It can be found using ID 589905 in this table of most widely-reprinted poems.


The following remarkable little poem is a contribution to the San Francisco Times, from the pen of Mrs. H. A. Deming. The reader will notice that each line is a quotation from some one of the standard authors of England and America. This is the result of a year's laborious search among the voluminous writings of thirty-eight leading poets of the past and present. The number of each line refers to the author below:


  • 1—Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour?
  • 2—Life’s a short summer, man a flower;

  • 3—By turns we catch the vital breath and die—
  • 4—The cradle and the tomb, alas, so nigh.

  • 5—To be is better far than not to be,
  • 6—Though all man’s life may seem a tragedy;

  • 7—But light cares speak when mighty griefs are dumb,
  • 8—The bottom is but shallow when they come.

  • 9—Your fate is but the common fate of all;
  • 10—Unmingled joys, here, to no man befall,

  • 11—Nature to each allots his proper sphere,
  • 12—Fortune makes folly her peculiar care;

  • 13—Custom does not often reason overrule,
  • 14—And throw a cruel sunshine on a fool.

  • 15—Live well, how long or short permit to heaven.
  • 16—They who forgive most, shall be most forgiven.

  • 17—Sin may be clasped so close we cannot see its face—
  • 18—Vile intercourse where virtue has no place;

  • 19—Then keep each passion down, however dear,
  • 20—Thou pendulum, betwixt a smile and tear;

  • 21—Her sensual snares, let faithless pleasures lay,
  • 22—With craft and skill, to ruin and betray;

  • 23—Soar not too high to fall, but stoop to rise,
  • 24—We masters grow of all that we despise.

  • 25—O, then, renounce that impious self-esteem;
  • 26—Riches have, wings, and grandeur is a dream.

  • 27—Think not ambition wise because ‘tis brave,
  • 28—The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

  • 29—What is ambition?—’tis a glorious cheat!—
  • 30—Only destructive to the brave and great.

  • 31—What’s all the gaudy glitter of a crown?
  • 32—The way to bliss lies not on beds of down.

  • 33—How long we live, not years, but actions, tell;
  • 34—That man lives twice who lives the first life well.

  • 35—Make, then, while yet we may, your God your friend.
  • 36—Whom Christians worship, yet not comprehend.

  • 37—The trust that’s given guard; and to yourself be just;
  • 38—For, live we how we can, yet die we must.

1, Young; 2, Dr. Johnson; 3, Pope; 4, Prior; 5, Sewel; 6, Spenser; 7, Daniel; 8, Sir Walter Raleigh; 9, Longfellow; 10, Southwell; 11, Congreve; 12, Churchill; 13, Rochester; 14, Armstrong; 15, Milton; 16, Baily; 17, Trench; 18, Somerville; 19, Thompson; 20, Byron; 21, Smollett; 22, Crabbe; 23, Massinger; 24, Cowley; 25, Beattie; 26, Cowper; 27, Sir Walter Davenant; 28, Grey; 29, Willis; 30, Addison; 31, Dryden; 32, Francis/Quarles; 33, Watkins; 34, Herrick; 35, William Mason; 36, Hill; 37, Dana; 38, Shakspeare.