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John Gay
English poet and dramatist

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I rage, I melt, I burn,
The feeble God has stabb'd me to the heart.
-- Acis and Galatea (1718), 2

Life is a jest, and all things show it.
I thought so once; but now I know it.
-- "My Own Epitaph" (1720)
(This epitaph is inscribed on Gay’s monument in Westminster Abbey.)

How, like a moth, the simple maid
Still plays about the flame.
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 1

How the mother is to be pitied who hath handsome daughters! Locks, bolts, bars, and lectures of morality are nothing to them: they break through them all. They have as much pleasure in cheating a father and mother, as in cheating at cards.
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 1

Do you think your mother and I should have liv'd comfortably so long together, if ever we had been married?
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 1

Money, wife, is the true fuller's earth for reputations, there is not a spot or a stain but what it can take out.
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 1

Were I laid on Greenland’s Coast,
And in my Arms embrac’d my Lass;
Warm amidst eternal Frost,
Too soon the Half Year’s Night would pass.
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 1

Macheath: And I would love you all the day,
Polly: Every night would kiss and play,
Macheath: If with me you’d fondly stray
Polly: Over the hills and far away
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 2

Fill ev'ry glass, for wine inspires us,
And fires us
With courage, love and joy.
Women and wine should life employ.
Is there ought else on earth desirous?
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 2

I must have women. There is nothing unbends the mind like them.
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 2

Man may escape from rope and gun;
Nay, some have outlived the doctor's pill:
Who takes a woman must be undone,
That basilisk is sure to kill.
The fly that sips treacle is lost in the sweets,
So he that tastes woman, woman, woman,
He that tastes woman, ruin meets.
How happy could I be with either,
Were t'other dear charmer away!
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 2

Macheath: How happy could I be with either,
Were t'other dear charmer away!
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 2

If the heart of a man is depressed with cares,
The mist is dispell'd when a woman appears;
Like the notes of a fiddle, she sweetly, sweetly
Raises the spirits, and charms our ears.
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 2

Lucy: How happy I am, if you say this from your heart! For I love thee so, that I could sooner bear to see thee hang'd than in the Arms of another.
-- The Beggar's Opera (1728), 2

She who has never lov'd, has never liv'd.
-- The Captives (1724), 2

Then nature rul'd, and love, devoid of art, Spoke the consenting language of the heart.
-- Dione, prologue

Remote from cities liv'd a swain,
Unvex'd with all the cares of gain;
His head was silver'd o'er with age,
And long experience made him sage.
-- Fables (1727), introduction

Whence is thy learning? Hath thy toil
O'er books consum'd the midnight oil?
-- Fables (1727), introduction

A Wolf eats sheep but now and then;
Ten thousands are devour'd by men.
An open foe may prove a curse,
but a pretend friend is worse.
-- Fables (1727), "The Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf"

I hate the man who builds his name
On ruins of another's fame.
Thus prudes, by characters o'erthrown,
Imagine that they raise their own.
Thus Scribblers, covetous of praise,
Think slander can transplant the bays.
-- Fables (1727), "The Poet and the Rose"

Love, then, hath every bliss in store;
'Tis friendship, and 'tis something more.
Each other every wish they give;
Not to know love is not to live.
-- Fables (1727), "Plutus, Cupid, and Time"

Is there no hope? the sick man said;
The silent doctor shook his head. (...)
-- Fables (1727), "The Sick Man and the Angel"

While there is life there 's hope, he cried."
-- Fables (1727), "The Sick Man and the Angel"

I know you lawyers can, with ease,
Twist words and meanings as you please;
That language, by your skill made pliant,
Will bend to favour ev'ry client.
-- Fables (1738), "The Dog and the Fox" I

Lighter than a feather.
-- A New Song of New Similes

Brown as a berry.
-- A New Song of New Similes

Sharp as a needle.
-- A New Song of New Similes

Happy as a king.
-- A New Song of New Similes

No, sir, tho' I was born and bred in England, I can dare to be poor, which is the only thing now-a-days men are ashamed of.
-- "Polly", 1

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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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