Quotations about:
    eloquence


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All ways of expressing ourselves are good if they make us understood. Thus, if the clarity of our thoughts comes through better in a play of words, then the wordplay is good.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist, philosopher, essayist, poet
Pensées [Thoughts], 1805 (1850 ed.) [tr. Auster (1983)]
    (Source)

Analog not found in standard translations of the Pensees.
 
Added on 7-Feb-24 | Last updated 7-Feb-24
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It is a sad thing when men have neither enough intelligence to speak well nor enough sense to hold their tongues.
 
[C’est une grande misère que de n’avoir pas assez d’esprit pour bien parler, ni assez de jugement pour se taire.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 5 “Of Society and Conversation [De la Société et de la Conversation],” § 18 (5.18) (1688) [tr. Van Laun (1885)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

'Tis a sad thing when Men have neither Wit enough to speak well, nor Sense enough to hold their tongues.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

'Tis a sad thing when Men have neither Wit enough to speak well, nor Judgment enough to hold their Tongues.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

It is a sad Thing when Men have neither Wit to speak well, nor Judgment to hold their Tongues.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

It is a great misfortune to have neither wit enough to talk well nor sense enough to keep silence.
[tr. Stewart (1970)]

 
Added on 10-Jan-24 | Last updated 10-Jan-24
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The art of the parenthesis is one of the great secrets of eloquence in society.

[L’art de la parenthèse est un des grands secrets de l’éloquence dans la Société.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 3, ¶ 243 (1795) [tr. Sinicalchi]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The art of the parenthesis is one of the great secrets of social eloquence.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

The art of parenthesis is one of the great secrets of eloquence in society.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

 
Added on 16-Oct-23 | Last updated 16-Oct-23
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When a sensible man
has a good cause to defend, to be eloquent
is no great feat. Your tongue is so nimble
one might think you had some sense, but your words
contain none at all. The powerful man
who matches insolence with glibness is worst than a fool.
He is a public danger!

[ὅταν λάβῃ τις τῶν λόγων ἀνὴρ σοφὸς
καλὰς ἀφορμάς, οὐ μέγ᾽ ἔργον εὖ λέγειν:
σὺ δ᾽ εὔτροχον μὲν γλῶσσαν ὡς φρονῶν ἔχεις,
ἐν τοῖς λόγοισι δ᾽ οὐκ ἔνεισί σοι φρένες.
θράσει δὲ δυνατὸς καὶ λέγειν οἷός τ᾽ ἀνὴρ
κακὸς πολίτης γίγνεται νοῦν οὐκ ἔχων.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Bacchæ [Βάκχαι], l. 266ff [Tiresias/Τειρεσίας] (405 BC) [tr. Cacoyannis (1982)]
    (Source)

To Pentheus. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

When the wise man hath found a specious topic
On which to argue, he with ease may frame
An eloquent harangue. Your tongue indeed
Is voluble like theirs who reason well,
But in your language no discretion reigns.
He who possesses courage, sovereign power. A
And fluency of speech, if not endued
With wisdom, is an evil citizen.
[tr. Wodhull (1809)]

Whenever a wise man takes a good occasion for his speech, it is not a great task to speak well. You have a rapid tongue as though you were sensible, but there is no sense in your words. A man powerful in his boldness, one capable of speaking well, becomes a bad citizen in his lack of sense.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

'Tis easy to be eloquent, for him
That's skilled in speech, and hath a stirring theme.
Thou hast the flowing tongue of a wise man,
But there's no wisdom in thy fluent words;
For the bold demagogue, powerful in speech,
Is but a dangerous citizen lacking sense.
[tr. Milman (1865)]

When wise men reason from sound principles,
They find it no hard task to reason well.
Thy tongue’s as fluent as the wisest man’s,
And yet thy argument is void of sense.
[tr. Rogers (1872), l. 253ff]

Whenso a man of wisdom finds a good topic for argument, it is no difficult matter to speak well; but thou, though possessing a glib tongue as if endowed with sense, art yet devoid thereof in all thou sayest. A headstrong man, if he have influence and a capacity for speaking, makes a bad citizen because he lacks sense.
[tr. Coleridge (1891)]

Whene'er a wise man finds a noble theme
For speech, 'tis easy to be eloquent.
Thou -- roundly runs thy tongue, as thou wert wise;
But in these words of thine sense is there none.
The rash man, armed with power and ready of speech,
Is a bad citizen, as void of sense.
[tr. Way (1898)]

Good words, my son, come easily, when he
That speaks is wise, and speaks but for the right.
Else come they never! Swift are thine, and bright
As though with thought, yet have no thought at all.
[tr. Murray (1902)]

Give a wise man an honest brief to plead
and his eloquence is no remarkable achievement.
But you are glib; your phrases come rolling out
smoothly on the tongue, as though your words were wise
instead of foolish. The man whose glibness flows
from his conceit of speech declares the thing he is:
a worthless and a stupid citizen.
[tr. Arrowsmith (1960)]

When a wise man chooses a sane basis
for his arguments, it is no great task to speak well;
but you have a glib tongue, as though in your right mind,
yet in your words there is no real sense.
The man who is influential by sheer aggressiveness, and knows how to speak,
proves to be a bad citizen -- for he lacks sanity.
[tr. Kirk (1970)]

When a clever man has a plausible theme to argue, to be eloquent is no great feat. But though you seem, by your glib tongue, to be intelligent, yet your words are foolish. Power and eloquence in a headstrong man can only lead to folly; and such a man is a danger to the state.
[tr. Vellacott (1973)]

Oh it's so easy for some to make speeches.
They pick a soft target and the words rush out.
Now listen you. Your tongue runs loose
Makes a plausible sound and might
Almost be taken for sense. But you have none.
Your glibness flows from sheer conceit.
Arrogant, over-confident and a gift -- yes --
A gift for phrases, and that makes you a great
Danger to your fellow men.
[tr. Soyinka (1973)]

A man who takes a fair basis for speaking,
a wise man, has no trouble speaking well;
you have a well-wheeled tongue, as though thinking,
but in the words you speak there is no thought.
A man empowered by daring and able to speak
becomes a bad citizen, devoid of reason.
[tr. Neuburg (1988)]

When some wise man has a fair cause
o present, to speak well is easy.
You have a tongue, glib like thought,
But no sense lies in your words.
The man that rashness prompts to speak
Proves an evil citizen and senseless.
[tr. Blessington (1993)]

Whenever a wise man sets out to argue an honest case
it's no great undertaking to argue well.
Your tongue runs smooth like a wheel, as if you were a man of reason,
but your words reveal no reason.
If he behaves recklessly, an able and articulate man
turns out to be a bad citizen because he lacks good sense.
[tr. Esposito (1998)]

When a prudent speaker takes up a noble cause, he’ll have no great trouble to speak well. You, on the other hand, have a tongue that runs on smoothly and sounds intelligent. But what it says is brainless. True, boldness can help a man speak powerfully, but he’ll turn out bad for the city because he'll have no sense.
[tr. Woodruff (1999)]

It's no great task to speak well, when a man's
Intelligent and starts well with good words.
But you: your tongue runs smoothly, as if you had
Some understanding. Yet your words are senseless.
A man like you, whose strength is that he's bold,
Who's good at speaking, too, can only make
a bad citizen -- for he lacks good sense.
[tr. Gibbons/Segal (2000)]

When a wise man has a good case to argue, eloquence is easy. As for you, though you think yourself clever and have a ready tongue, there is no intelligence in what you say. [A man whose power lies in brashness and who is a fluent speaker becomes a bad citizen if he lacks sense.]
[tr. Kovacs (2002)]

As for you -- your tongue is quick and your talk runs as if you had wit, but there is none in what you say. A man who confuses impudence with strength is a fool.
[tr. Rao/Wolf (2004)]

When a wise man is given the opportunity to speak, it’s no big problem to speak the truth. You, Pentheus, you are, of course an articulate man, or so you think, but your words lack logic. Audacity, strength and eloquence all on their own, make for a bad citizen -- a stupid one.
[tr. Theodoridis (2005)]

When a man who's wise in words starts his speech
from a proper course, it is no great task to speak well;
and you, spinning a tricky tongue, seem to make sense,
but there is no sense in what you are saying;
and a man who is bold, powerful and a clever speaker
makes for a bad citizen, if he has not the proper mind.
[tr. Valerie (2005)]

When a man of wisdom has good occasion to speak out and takes the opportunity, it's not that hard to give an excellent speech. You've got a quick tongue and seem intelligent, but your words don't make any sense at all. A fluent orator whose power comes from self-assurance and from nothing else makes a bad citizen, for he lacks sense.
[tr. Johnston (2008)]

When a wise man has an honest case to plead, then eloquence, I find, is very easy to achieve. You think yourself clever, and have a smooth tongue, but, your words are foolish. The man whose power lies in his conceit does not make a good citizen.
[tr. Robertson (2014)]

     It’s no great task for a wise man to speak well when the time comes, if he picks it carefully.      You hold yourself as if you’re one of these ready-tongued individuals. You’re not. Your words lack sense behind them.      Even the boldest speaker fails as a citizen when his words lack sense.
[tr. Pauly (2019)]

Wisdom from the wise surprises no one. But your clever tongue makes yuou seem wise when you have no understanding. Rash eloquence is society's disaster.
[tr. Behr/Foster (2019)]

Whenever a sophos man takes a good occasion for his speech, it is not a great task to speak well. You have a fluent tongue as though you are sensible, but there is no sense in your words. A bold and powerful man, one capable of speaking well, becomes a kakos citizen if he lacks sense.
[tr. Buckley/Sens/Nagy (2020)]

 
Added on 14-Feb-23 | Last updated 11-Jul-23
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More quotes by Euripides

By a pompous parade of words, some learned men have so managed it, that an unjust cause has often gained the victory, and reason submitted to sophistry and chicane.

[Gli uomini letterati, per pompa di parlare, fanno ben spesso che il torto vince, e che la ragione perde.]

Giovanni della Casa
Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) Florentine poet, author, diplomat, bishop
Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners [Il Galateo overo de’ costumi], ch. 29 (1558) [tr. Graves (1774)]
    (Source)

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

But, we see that Learned men have suche art and cunning to persuade, and such filed wordes to serve their turne: that wrong doth carry the cause away, and Reason cannot prevaile.
[tr. Peterson (1576)]

Men of letters, with their parade of high-flown language, very often make the wrong to prevail and the right to succumb.
[ed. Harbottle (1897)]

We find that learned men, through their grandiose talk, very often manage to have the wrong side win and reason lose.
[tr. Eisenbichler/Bartlett (1986)]

 
Added on 14-Dec-22 | Last updated 14-Dec-22
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Oh child, words well spoken might be false,
and with the beauty of words, might conquer truth;
yet this is not the surest test, that is character
and right; he who conquers with his fluency,
he is clever, but I hold facts mightier than words, always.

[ὦ παῖ, γένοιντ᾽ἂν εὖ λελεγµένοι λόγοι
ψευδεῖς, ἐπῶν δὲ κάλλεσιν νικῷεν ἂν
τἀληθές· ἀλλ᾽οὐ τοῦτο τἀκριβέστατον,
ἀλλ᾽ἡ φύσις καὶ τοὐρθόν· ὃς δ᾽εὐγλωσσίᾳ
νικᾷ, σοφὸς µέν, ἀλλ᾽ἐγὼ τὰ πράγµατα
κρείσσω νοµίζω τῶν λόγων ἀεί ποτε.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Antiope [Αντιοπη], frag. 206 (Kannicht) [Antiope/ΑΝΤΙΟΠΗ?] (c. 410 BC) [tr. Will (2015)]
    (Source)

(Source (Greek)). TGF frag. 205.
 
Added on 13-Dec-22 | Last updated 13-Dec-22
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Neither his inability to speak, who understands his subject but cannot set it forth in words, nor his ignorance, to whom substance is lacking though words abound, can merit commendation; and if I had to choose one of the two, I should prefer uneloquent good sense to loquacious folly.

[Neque infantiam eius, qui rem norit, sed eam explicare dicendo non queat, neque inscientiam illius, cui res non suppetat, verba non desint, esse laudandam; quorum si alterum sit optandum, malim equidem indisertam prudentiam quam stultitiam loquacem]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Oratore [On the Orator, On Oratory], Book 3, ch. 35 (3.35) / sec. 142 (55 BC) [tr. Watson (1860)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

A Knowledge of Things, without an Ability of expressing them, no more deserves the Name of Eloquence, than a Fluency of Words, join'd to an Ignorance of Things: For my part, were I to take my Choice, I should prefer good Sense, tho' uneloquent, to Nonsense, let it be ever so flowing.
[tr. Guthrie (1755)]

Neither a knowledge of things, without ability to express them, nor a fluency fo words, without ideas, be considered as deserving the name of eloquence: for my part, were I to take my choice, I should prefer good sense, though ineloquent, to nonsense, however flowing.
[Source (1808)]

Neither the ineloquence which cannot impart what it knows, nor the ignorance that is fluent without knowledge, be deemed a subject for commendation; though, if the alternative be unavoidable, I should very much prefer ineloquent information to ignorant loquacity.
[tr. Calvert (1870)]

If have to choose between the two, I would rather have sound common sense without eloquence, than folly with a fine flow of language.
[ed. Harbottle (1906)]

Neither the tongue-tied silence of the man who knows the facts but cannot explain them in language, nor the ignorance of the person who is deficient in facts but has no lack of words, is deserving of praise. And if one had to choose between them, for my part I should prefer wisdom lacking power of expression to talkative folly.
[tr. Rackham (1942)]

No praise is due to the dumbness of the person who has mastered the matter but cannot unfold it in speech, nor, conversely, to the ignorance of the one who does not have the subject matter at his command, but has no lack of words. If we must choose between these alternatives, I myself would prefer inarticulate wisdom to babbling stupidity.
[tr. May/Wisse (2001)]

 
Added on 1-Dec-22 | Last updated 1-Dec-22
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Now and in the time to be, I think it will pay for you to zero in on being precise with your language. Try to build and treat your vocabulary the way you are to treat your checking account. Pay every attention to it and try to increase your earnings. The purpose here is not to boost your bedroom eloquence or your professional success — although those, too, can be consequences — nor is it to turn you into parlor sophisticates. The purpose is to enable you to articulate yourselves as fully and precisely as possible; in a word, the purpose is your balance.

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) Russian-American poet, essayist, Nobel laureate, US Poet Laureate [Iosif Aleksandrovič Brodskij]
“Speech at the Stadium,” Commencement Address, University of Michigan (18 Dec 1988)
    (Source)
 
Added on 1-Jun-21 | Last updated 1-Jun-21
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Many perform the foulest deeds and rehearse the fairest words.

[Πολλοὶ δρῶντες τὰ αἴσχιστα λόγους ἀρίστους ἀσκέουσιν.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 53a (Diels) [tr. Barnes (1987)]
    (Source)

Diels citation "53a. (122 b N.) DEMOKRATES. 19.2. (Stob. II, 15, 33)" Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.

Alternate translations:

  • "Many who do the basest deeds can make most learned speeches." [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "Many whose actions are most disgraceful practise the best utterances." [tr. Freeman (1948)].
  • "Many who do the worst things prepare the best speeches." [@sentantiq (2020), fr. 54]
 
Added on 9-Mar-21 | Last updated 9-Mar-21
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Many who have not learned wisdom live wisely.

[Πολλοὶ λόγον μὴ μαθόντες ζῶσι κατὰ λόγον. ]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 53 (Diels) [tr. Bakewell, 1907)]
    (Source)

Diels citation "53. (122a N.) DEMOKRATES. 19.1."; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium II, 15, 33. Often combined with fragment 53a. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.

Alternate translations:

  • "Many who have not learnt Reason, nevertheless live according to reason." [tr. Freeman (1948)].
  • "Many live according to reason even if they have not learned it." [tr. @sentantiq (2020)]
  • "Many do not learn reason but live in accordance with reason." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
 
Added on 29-Dec-20 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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Be both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.

[Μύθων τε ῥητῆρ’ ἔμεναι πρηκτῆρά τε ἔργων.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 9, l. 442 (9.442) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]
    (Source)

Phoenix, on what he was sent to teach Achilles as a child to become. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

That thou might'st speak, when speech was fit, and do, when deeds were done,
Not sit as dumb, for want of words, idle, for skill to move.
[tr. Chapman (1611)]

To shine in councils and in camps to dare.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Both elocution and address in arms.
[tr. Cowper (1791)]

An orator in words and a performer in deeds.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

Be both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

A speaker of words and one accomplished in action.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

A man of eloquence and action.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

A man of words, and a man of action, too.
[tr. Fagles (1990), l. 538]

To be both a speaker of words and a doer of actions.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

To be a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.
[tr. @Sentantiq (2016)]

 
Added on 24-Nov-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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As the stamp of great minds is to suggest much in a few words, so, contrariwise, little minds have the gift of talking a great deal and saying nothing.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammatist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #142 (1665) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
    (Source)
 
Added on 15-Mar-17 | Last updated 15-Mar-17
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He cannot speak well, that cannot hold his Tongue.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English physician, preacher, aphorist, writer
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #1820 (1732)
    (Source)
 
Added on 25-Sep-14 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Eloquence,” Letters and Social Aims (1876)
 
Added on 17-Dec-09 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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You are eloquent enough if truth speaks through you.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 861 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
 
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Put the argument into a concrete shape, into an image — some hard phrase, round and solid as a ball, which they can see and handle and carry home with them — and the cause is half-won.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Eloquence,” Society and Solitude (1870)
 
Added on 20-Nov-08 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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We must not conclude merely upon a man’s haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country. It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves.

Samuel Adams (1722-1803) American revolutionary, statesman
Essay, The Advertiser (1748)
    (Source)
 
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Already I had learned from thee that because a thing is eloquently expressed it should not be taken to be as necessarily true; nor because it is uttered with stammering lips should it be supposed false. Nor, again, is it necessarily true because rudely uttered, nor untrue because the language is brilliant. Wisdom and folly both are like meats that are wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or simple words are like town-made or rustic vessels — both kinds of food may be served in either kind of dish.

[Iam ergo abs te didiceram nec eo debere videri aliquid verum dici, quia eloquenter dicitur, nec eo falsum, quia incomposite sonant signa labiorum; rursus nec ideo verum, quia impolite enuntiatur, nec ideo falsum, quia splendidus sermo est, sed perinde esse sapientiam et stultitiam sicut sunt cibi utiles et inutiles, verbis autem ornatis et inornatis sicut vasis urbanis et rusticanis utrosque cibos posse ministrari.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions, Book 5, ch. 6 / ¶ 10 (5.6.10) (c. AD 398) [tr. Outler (1955)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Of Thyself therefore had I now learned, that neither ought any thing to seem to be spoken truly, because eloquently; nor therefore falsely, because the utterance of the lips is inharmonious; nor, again, therefore true, because rudely delivered; nor therefore false, because the language is rich; but that wisdom and folly are as wholesome and unwholesome food; and adorned or unadorned phrases as courtly or country vessels; either kind of meats may be served up in either kind of dishes.
[tr. Pusey (1838)]

Of Thyself, therefore, had I now learned that neither ought anything to seem to be spoken truly, because eloquently; nor therefore falsely, because the utterance of the lips is inharmonious; nor, again, therefore true, because rudely delivered; nor therefore false, because the language is rich; but that wisdom and folly are as wholesome and unwholesome food; and adorned or unadorned phrases, as courtly or country vessels: either kind of meats may be served up in either kind of dishes.
[ed. Shedd (1860)]

From Thee, therefore, I had now learned, that because a thing is eloquently expressed, it should not of necessity seem to be true; nor, because uttered with stammering lips, should it be false nor, again, perforce true, because unskillfully delivered; nor consequently untrue, because the language is fine; but that wisdom and folly are as food both wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or simple words as town-made or rustic vessels, -- and both kinds of food may be served in either kind of dish.
[tr. Pilkington (1876)]

I had learned, then, from Thee, that neither ought a thing to be regarded as true because it is eloquently uttered, nor on the other hand false because awkwardly expressed; neither is it true because the diction is ungraceful, nor false because clothed in glowing language; but that truth and folly are like wholesome and hurtful food, and language ornate and bald like fine and plain dishes, and either kind of meat may be served in either kind of dish.
[tr. Hutchings (1890)]

Already I had learned from Thee, that nothing ought to seem true because it is well expressed, nor false because the word-symbols are inelegant; yet again, that nothing is true because rudely delivered, nor false because the diction is brilliant; but that wisdom and folly are like meats that are wholesome or unwholesome, and that either kind of meat can be served up in silver or in delf, that is to say, in courtly or in homely phrase.
[tr. Bigg (1897), 5.6.2]

From You then I learned that a thing was not bound to be true because uttered eloquently, nor false because the utterance of the lips is ill-arranged; but that on the other hand a thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently. For it is with wisdom and folly as with wholesome and unwholesome food: just as either kind of food can be served equally well in rich dishes or simple, so plain or beautiful language may clothe either wisdom or folly indifferently.
[tr. Sheed (1943)]

Already, therefore, I had learned from you that nothing should be held true merely be-cause it is eloquently expressed, nor false because its signs sound harsh upon the lips. Again, I learned that a thing is not true because rudely uttered, nor is it false because its utterance is splendid. I learned that wisdom is like wholesome food and folly like unwholesome food: they can be set forth in language ornate or plain, just as both kinds of food can be served on rich dishes or on peasant ware.
[tr. Ryan (1960)]

But in your wonderful, secret way, my God, you had already taught me that a statement is not necessarily true because it is wrapped in fine language or false because it is awkwardly expressed. I believe that it was you who taught me this, because it is the truth and there is no other teacher of the truth besides yourself, no matter how or where it comes to light. You had already taught me this lesson and the converse truth, that an assertion is not necessarily true because it is badly expressed or false because it is finely spoken. I had learnt that wisdom and folly are like different kinds of food. Some are wholesome and others are not, but both can be served equally well on the finest china dish or the meanest earthenware. In just the same way, - wisdom and folly can be clothed alike in plain words or the finest flowers of speech.
[tr. Pine-Coffin (1961)]

I had now learned this from you: that a thing is not necessarily true for being expressed eloquently, nor necessarily false if the sounds made by the lips are imperfectly pronounced; nor, on the other hand, is a thing true simply because it is expressed in a rough and ready way, nor false because it is uttered in a fine style. For with wisdom and folly the same thing holds good as with wholesome and unwholesome food. You can have silver or earthenware dishes on the table, just as you can have a decorated or undecorated use of language; either kind of food can be served in either kind of dish.
[tr. Warner (1963)]

I believe that because you taught me and I had already learned from you that nothing should be deemed truly spoken because it is eloquently spoken, nor false because the indications of the lips are ill-arranged. Conversely, uncouth expression does not make something true, nor polished delivery make truth false. As with wholesome and unwholesome food, so it is with wisdom and folly, and as with adorned and unadorned language, so good food and bad can be served up in elegant or rustic dishes.
[tr. Blaiklock (1983)]

 
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KING: ’Tis well said again,
And ’tis a kind of good deed to say well.
And yet words are no deeds.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry VIII, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 195ff (3.2.195-197) (1613)
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If I speak in the tongues of humans and of angels but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

The Bible (The New Testament) (AD 1st - 2nd C) Christian sacred scripture
1 Corinthians 13:1 [NRSV (1989)]
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Alternate translations:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
[KJV (1611)]

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
[Jerusalem (1966)]

I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell.
[GNT (1976)]

 
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VOLUMNIA: Action is eloquence.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Coriolanus, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 95 (3.2.95) (c. 1608)
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After all, when the day of judgement comes we shall be examined about what we have done, not about what we have read; whether we have lived conscientiously, not whether we have turned fine phrases.

[Certe adveniente die judicii, non quæretur a nobis quid legimus, sed quid fecimus; nec quam bene diximus, sed quam religiose viximus.]

Thomas von Kempen
Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471) German-Dutch priest, author
The Imitation of Christ [De Imitatione Christi], Book 1, ch. 3, v. 5 (1.3.5) (c. 1418-27) [tr. Knox-Oakley (1959)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

At the day of judgment it shall not be asked of us what we have read, but what we have done: nor how well we have said, but how religiously we have lived.
[tr. Whitford/Raynal (1530/1871)]

On the day of judgment we will not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have discoursed, but how religiously we have lived.
[tr. Whitford/Gardiner (1530/1955)]

Assuredly at the day of judgment we shall not be examined how many bookes we have read, but how many good workes we have done; not how rhetorically we have spoken, but how religiously we have lived.
[tr. Page (1639), 1.3.22]

A Day of Judgment there will come, where in Measures will be taken very different form ours; when the Enquiry, upon which our Affairs must all turn, will be, not how much we have Heard or Read, but how much we have done; not how Eloquent our Expressions, but how Pure and Devout our Lives; how much our Manners, not our Capacity or Breeding, our Wit or Rhetorick, distinguished us from common Men.
[tr. Stanhope (1696; 1706 ed.)]

Assuredly, in the approaching day of universal judgment, it will not be enquired what we have read, but what we have done; not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.
[tr. Payne (1803)]

Truly, at the day of judgment we shall not be examined what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how religiously we have lived.
[ed. Parker (1841)]

Assuredly, in the approaching day of judgment, it will not be inquired of us what we have read, but what we have done; not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.
[tr. Dibdin (1851)]

Verily, when the day of judgment comes, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; nor how well we have spoken, but how religiously we have lived.
[ed. Bagster (1860)]

Of a surety, at the Day of Judgment it will be demanded of us, not what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.
[tr. Benham (1874)]

Truly, at the day of judgment we shall not be examined as to what we have read, but as to what we have done; not as to how well we have spoken, but as to how religiously we have lived.
[tr. Anon. (1901)]

On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.
[tr. Croft/Bolton (1940)]

Surely on coming to the day of judgment we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done: not how well we talked but how religiously we lived.
[tr. Daplyn (1952)]

At the Day of Judgement, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.
[tr. Sherley-Price (1952)]

When the day of judgment comes, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done, not if we made fine speeches, but if we lived religious lives.
[tr. Knott (1962)]

When the day of judgement comes we will be asked not what books we read, but what deeds we did, not how well we spoke, but how religiously we lived.
[tr. Rooney (1979)]

Surely, when the day of judgment comes we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done, not how well we have spoken but how devoutly we have lived.
[tr. Creasy (1989)]

 
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