Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

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Often the fear of one evil leads us into a worse.

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1 November 1636 - 13 March 1711), commonly called Boileau, was a French poet and critic.

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Happy the poet who with ease can steer
From grave to gay, from lively to severe.
Virtue alone is the unerring sign of a noble soul.
  • Tant de fiel entre-t-il dans l'ame des devots?
    • Can such bitterness enter into the heart of the devout?
    • Le Lutrin (1683) I, 12
  • Pour soutenir tes droits, que le ciel autorise,
    Abime tout plutot; c'est l'esprit de l'Eglise.
    • To support those of your rights authorized by Heaven, destroy everything rather than yield; that is the spirit of the Church.
    • Le Lutrin (1683) I, 185
  • Let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
    • Epitres (1701) I, 61
  • Le chagrin monte en croupe et galope avec lui.
    • Trouble rides behind and gallops with him.
    • Epitres (1701) V, 44
  • Le temps fuit, et nous traine avec soi:
    Le moment ou je parle est deja loin de moi.
    • Time flies and draws us with it. The moment in which I am speaking is already far from me.
    • Epitres (1701) III, 47
  • 'Nothing but truth is lovely, nothing fair.
    • Epistle 9
  • The terrible burden of having nothing to do.
    • Epistle 11

L'Art Poetique (The Art of Poetry, 1674)

  • Tout ce qu'on dit de trop est fade et rebutant.
    • That which is repeated too often becomes insipid and tedious.
    • Canto I, l. 61
  • Souvent la peur d'un mal nous conduit dans un pire.
    • Often the fear of one evil leads us into a worse.
    • Canto I, l. 64
  • Heureux qui, dans ses vers, sait d'une voix legere
    Passer du grave au doux, du plaisant au severe.
    • Happy the poet who with ease can steer
      From grave to gay, from lively to severe.
    • Canto I, l. 75
  • Ce que l'on concoit bien s'enonce clairement,
    Et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisement.
    • Whatever is well conceived is clearly said,
      And the words to say it flow with ease.
    • Canto I, l. 153
  • Hatez-vous lentement; et, sans perdre courage,
    Vingt fois sur le metier remettez votre ouvrage.
    • Hasten slowly, and without losing heart,
      Put your work twenty times upon the anvil.
    • Canto I, l. 171
  • La verite n'a point cet air impetueux.
    • Truth has not such an urgent air.
    • Canto I, l. 198
  • Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire.
    • A fool always finds one still more foolish to admire him.
    • Variant A fool always finds a greater fool to admire him.
    • Canto I, l. 232
Honor is like an island, rugged and without a beach;
Once we have left it, we can never return.
  • Le vrai peut quelquefois n'etre pas vraisemblable.
    • At times truth may not seem probable.
    • Canto III, l. 48
  • Every age has its pleasures, its style of wit, and its own ways.
    • Canto III, l. 374
  • Un fat quelquefois ouvre un avis important.
    • A fop sometimes gives important advice.
    • Canto IV, l. 50

Satires (1716)

  • L'homme le plus sage est lui qui ne aime pas qu'il est ainsi du tout.
    • The wisest man is he who does not fancy that he is so at all.
    • Satire I, l. 46
Hasten slowly, and without losing heart,
Put your work twenty times upon the anvil.
  • Je ne puis rien nommer si ce n'est par son nom;
    J'appelle un chat un chat, et Rollet un fripon.
    • I can call nothing by name if that is not his name. I call a cat a cat, and Rollet a rogue.
    • Satire I, l. 51
  • Il plait a tout le monde et ne saurait se plaire.
    • He (Molière) pleases all the world, but cannot please himself.
    • Satire I, l. 94
  • In spite of every sage whom Greece can show,
    Unerring wisdom never dwelt below;
    Folly in all of every age we see,
    The only difference lies in the degree.
    • Satire 4, l. 37
  • Greatest fools are oft most satisfied.
    • Satire 4, l. 128

[[|thumb|144px|The wisest man is he who does not fancy that he is so at all.]]

  • La vertu d'un coeur noble est la marque certaine.
    • Virtue alone is the unerring sign of a noble soul.
    • Satire 5, l. 42
  • If your descent is from heroic sires,
    Show in your life a remnant of their fires.
    • Satire 5, l. 43
  • Of all the creatures that creep, swim, or fly,
    Peopling the earth, the waters, and the sky,
    From Rome to Iceland, Paris to Japan,
    I really think the greatest fool is man.
    • Satire 8, l. 1
  • L'or meme a la laideur donne un teint de beaute:
    Mais tout devient affreux avec la pauvrete.
    • Gold gives an appearance of beauty even to ugliness:
      But with poverty everything becomes frightful.
    • Satire 8, l. 209
If your descent is from heroic sires,
Show in your life a remnant of their fires.
  • But satire, ever moral, ever new,
    Delights the reader and instructs him, too.
    She, if good sense refine her sterling page,
    Oft shakes some rooted folly of the age.
    • Satire 8, l. 257
  • L'honneur est comme une ile escarpee et sans bords;
    On n'y peut plus rentrer des qu'on en est dehors.
    • Honor is like an island, rugged and without a beach; once we have left it, we can never return.
    • Satire 10, l. 167
  • Now two punctilious envoys, Thine and Mine,
    Embroil the earth about a fancied line;
    And, dwelling much on right and much on wrong,
    Prove how the right is chiefly with the strong.
    • Satire 11, l. 141

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