The thoughts of Poets must be quick, yet so as they must go even without jostling, strong without striving, nimble without stumbling, for their thoughts must be as an Instrument well strung, and justly tuned to Harmony.
Great schollars are not excellent poets
Scholars are never good Poets, for they incorporate too much into other men, which makes them become less themselves; in which great scholars are metamorphosed or transmigrated into as many several shapes, as they read Authors, which makes them monstrous, and their head is nothing but a lumber stuft with old commodities, so it is worse to be a learned Poet, than a Poet unlearned, but that which makes a good Poet, is that which makes a good Privie Councellor, which is, observation, and experience, got by time and company.
They are not mistaken that think all Poets wits: but those are mistaken that think there is no other wit but in Poets, or to think wit lies in mere jests, or only in words, or Method, or scholastical knowledge, for many may be very wise, and knowing, yet have not much wit: not but wit may be in every one of these before mentioned, for wit makes use of all things, but wit is the purest element, and swiftest motion of the brain: it is the essence of thoughts, it encircles all things: and true wit is like the Elixir, that keeps nature always fresh and young.
Some think wit no wit, when it is not understood, but surely, a fool makes not the wit the less, although it loseth its aim, if none knows it but the author.
So have I loitered my life away, reading books, looking at pictures, going to plays, hearing, thinking, writing on what pleased me best. I have wanted only one thing to make me happy; but wanting that, have wanted everything!
It is sufficient that I have several Thoughts on a Subject, without troubling my self to range them in such order, that they may seem to grow out of one another, and be disposed under the proper Heads.
I know not what it is makes me so prone to this posture of musing, which is between melancholy fits and those doting visions that use to rock men asleep whose souls or bodies are distempered with disease or passion.
We have within ourselves memories and fancies; and it depends on our companion, on a word, a glance, a gesture, that only the sweet and profitable ones, thoughts of kindness and dignity, should be stirred up.
Women and Fools are taken with Tales; but none but Wits are taken one with another.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.