Quotations about   caution

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EPOPS: You’re mistaken: men of sense often learn from their enemies. Prudence is the best safeguard. This principle cannot be learned from a friend, but an enemy extorts it immediately. It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn the lesson of building high walls and ships of war. And this lesson saves their children, their homes, and their properties.

CHORUS [LEADER]: It appears then that it will be better for us to hear what they have to say first; for one may learn something at times even from one’s enemies.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Birds, l. 375ff (414 BC) [tr. Anon. (1812), Ramage (1864)]
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Alt. trans. [Hickie (1853)]:
EPOPS: Yet, certainly, the wise learn many things from their enemies; for caution preserves all things. From a friend you could not learn this, but your foe immediately obliges you to learn it. For example, the states have learned from enemies, and not from friends, to build lofty walls, and to possess ships of war. And this lesson preserves children, house, and possessions.
CHORUS [LEADER]: It is useful, as it appears to me, to hear their arguments first; for one might learn some wisdom even from one's foes.

Alt. trans. [O'Neill (1938)]:
EPOPS: The wise can often profit by the lessons of a foe, for caution is the mother of safety. It is just such a thing as one will not learn from a friend and which an enemy compels you to know. To begin with, it's the foe and not the friend that taught cities to build high walls, to equip long vessels of war; and it's this knowledge that protects our children, our slaves and our wealth.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS: Well then, I agree, let us first hear them, for that is best; one can even learn something in an enemy's school.
Added on 1-Apr-20 | Last updated 1-Apr-20
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“We canna just rush in, ye ken.”

A big bearded Feegle raised his hand. “Point ‘o order, Big Man. Ye can just rush in. We always just rush in.”

“Aye, Big Yan, point well made. But ye gotta know where ye’re just gonna rush in. Ye cannae just rush in anywhere. It looks bad, havin’ to rush oout again straight awa’.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Wee Free Men, ch. 5 (2003)
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Added on 7-Feb-20 | Last updated 7-Feb-20
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A wise Man will keep his Suspicions muzzled, but he will keep them awake.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Caution and Suspicion,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
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Added on 28-Dec-16 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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The better part of valour is discretion.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry IV, Part 1, Act 4, sc. 4 (1598)
Added on 12-Jul-16 | Last updated 12-Jul-16
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He that is overcautious will accomplish nothing.

[Wer gar zu viel bedenkt, wird wenig leisten.]

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) German poet, playwright, critic [Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller]
Wilhelm Tell (1804)
Added on 5-Jul-16 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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It is a good thing to learn caution by the misfortunes of others.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
(Attributed)

Cited by Sir Richard Steele, The Guardian, #147 (29 Aug 1713).
Added on 21-Jun-16 | Last updated 21-Jun-16
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When a rogue kisses you, count your teeth.

[Ven a ganef kusht, darf men zikh di tseyn ibertseyln.]

[װען אַ גנבֿ קושט, דאַרף מען זיך די צײן איבערצײלן.]

Other Authors and Sources
Yiddish proverb
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Alt. trans.: "When a thief kisses you, count your teeth."
Added on 17-Jun-16 | Last updated 17-Jun-16
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Caution is the eldest child of wisdom.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Jun-16 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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Distrust and caution are the parents of security.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Jul 1733)
Added on 7-Jun-16 | Last updated 7-Jun-16
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Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, sc.3 (1595-96)
Added on 3-Jun-16 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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When young, we trust ourselves too much, and we trust others too little when old. Rashness is the error of youth, timid caution of age.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, #363 (1820)
Added on 24-May-16 | Last updated 24-May-16
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He is free from danger who, even when safe, is on his guard.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings]
Added on 20-May-16 | Last updated 31-May-16
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Chance generally favors the prudent.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées, # 147 (1838) [tr. Atwell]

Variant: "Chance generally favors the prudent man."
Added on 13-May-16 | Last updated 13-May-16
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I think perhaps we want a more conscious life. We’re tired of drudging and sleeping and dying. We’re tired of seeing just a few people able to be individualists. We’re tired of always deferring hope till the next generation. We’re tired of hearing politicians and priests and cautious reformers (and the husbands!) coax us, “Be calm! Be patient! Wait! We have the plans for a Utopia already made; just wiser than you.” For ten thousand years they’ve said that. We want our Utopia now — and we’re going to try our hands at it.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street, ch. 16 [Carol] (1920)
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Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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If we need fear to keep us safe, we also need to apply reason to fear to make sure it’s serving us, not the other way around.

Graham Ericsson (b. 1947) American writer, aphorist
What Have You Done To Me Lately?, ch. 5 (2014)
Added on 28-Jul-15 | Last updated 28-Jul-15
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It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) Swedish diplomat, author, UN Secretary-General (1953-61)
Speech, 180th Anniversary of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Williamsburg (15 May 1956)
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Added on 22-Jul-14 | Last updated 22-Jul-14
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Any manifest error on the part of an enemy should make us suspect some stratagem.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Discourses on Livy, Book 3, ch. 48 (1517) [tr. Detmold (1882)]
Added on 22-Apr-11 | Last updated 27-Jan-20
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He that will not set sail till all dangers are over must never put out to sea.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia, #2353 (1732)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-May-16
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And, to conclude, he that leaveth nothing to Chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Caution and Suspicion,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
    (Source)

Sometimes incorrectly attributed to Edward Wood, Earl of Halifax (1881-1959).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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When you want to test the depths of a stream, don’t use both feet.

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Chinese proverb
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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