I've seen the smiling of Fortune beguiling, I've felt all its
favours and found its decay; Sweet was its
blessing, kind its caressing, But now it is fled,
fled far, far away. Richard Cobden 'The Flowers of the Forest'.
Awit should no more be sincerethana woman constant; one argues a decay
of parts, as t'other of beauty. William Congreve The Way of the World, act1, sc.6.
All human things are subject to decay, And, when fate
summons, monarchs must obey. John Dryden MacFlecknoe (published1682), l.1^2.
Words strain, Crack and sometimes
break, under the burden, Under the tension,
slip, slide, perish, Decay with
imprecision, will not stay in place, Will not stay
still. T(homas) S(tearns) Eliot Four Quartets,'Burnt Norton', pt.5.
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey Where wealth
accumulates and men decay: Princes and lords
may flourish or may fade; A breath can make
them, as a breath has made; But a bold
peasantry, their country's pride, When once
destroyed, can never be supplied. Oliver Goldsmith The Deserted Village, l.51^6.
My God, I heard this day, That none doth
build a stately habitation, But that he means
to dwell therein. What house more
stately hath there been, Or can be, than is
Man? to whose creation All things are in
decay. George Herbert 'Man', collected in
The Temple, Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations
Iamnot yet so lost inlexicographyastoforgetthat words arethe daughters of
earth, and thatthings arethesons of heaven. Language is
only the instrument of science, and words are but
thesigns of ideas: Iwish, however, that the instrument might be
less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent,
like the things which they denote. Samuel known as Dr Johnson Johnson A Dictionary of the English Language, preface.
An accountof the decadence occupying the trough between the two
world wars introduces us to a moronic inferno of
insipidityand decay. (Percy) Wyndham Lewis Rude Assignment, ch.31.
have always looked upon decayas being just as wonderful an
expression of life as growth. Henry Valentine Miller The Wisdom of the Heart,'Reflections on Writing'.
Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the
playing- fields of Eton, but
the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost
there.One of the dominant facts in English life during
the past three-quarters of a century has been the decay
of ability in the ruling class. George pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair Orwell The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English
Earth has waited for them, All the time of
their growth Fretting for their
decay: Now she has them at
last. Isaac Rosenberg 'Dead Man's Dump'.
Can a society in which thought and technique are scientific persist
for a long period, as, for example, ancient Egypt
persisted, or does it necessarily contain within itself
forces which must bring either decay or explosion? Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell 'Can a Scientific Community Be Stable?', Lloyd Roberts
lecture to the
Royal Society of Medicine, 29 Nov.
People can say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the
religious system that produced green Chartreuse can
never really die. Saki pseudonym of Hector Hugh Munro Reginald,'Reginald on Christmas Presents'.
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works,
ye Mighty, and despair!' Nothing beside
remains. Round the decay Of that colossal
wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level
sands stretch far away. Percy Bysshe Shelley 'Ozymandias'.
To that high Capital, where kingly Death Keeps his pale
court in beauty and decay, He came. Percy Bysshe Shelley Adonais, stanza 7.
We took away their countryand their means of support, broke up their mode
of living, their habits of life, introduced disease
and decayamong them and it was for this and
against this they made war.Could anyone expect less? Philip Henry Sheridan c.1870 Quoted inThomas C Leonard Above the Battle (1978).
So passeth, in the passing of a day, Of mortal life the
leaf, the bud, the flower, No more doth
flourish after first decay, That erst was
sought to deck both bed and bower, Of manya lady, and
many a paramour: Gather therefore
the rose, whilst yet is prime, For soon comes age,
that will her pride deflower: Gather the rose of
love, whilst yet is time, Whilst loving thou
mayst love' d be with equal crime. Edmund Spenser The Faerie Queen, bk.2, canto12, stanza 75.
One day I wrote her name upon the strand, But came the waves
and washe' d it away; Again I wrote it
with a second hand, But came the tide,
and made my pains his prey. 'Vain man,'said
she,'that doest in vain assay A mortal thing so
to immortalise, For I my self shall
like to this decay, And eke my name be wipe' d out
likewise.' 'Not so,'quod
I,'let baser things devise To die in dust, but
you shall live by fame: My verse your
virtues rare shall eternise, And in the heavens
write your glorious name. Where when as death
shall all the world subdue, Our love shall
live, and later life renew.' Edmund Spenser Amoretti, sonnet 75.
What man that sees the ever-whirling wheel Of Change, the
which all mortal things doth sway, But that thereby
doth find, and plainly feel, How mutability in
them doth play Her cruel sports,
to many men's decay? Edmund Spenser The Faerie Queen,'Mutability', canto 6, stanza1.
The woods decay, the woods decayand fall, The vapours weep
their burthen to the ground, Man comes and tills
the field and lies beneath, And after manya
summer dies the swan. Me only cruel
immortality Consumes: I wither
slowly in thine arms, Here at the quiet
limit of the world. Tennyson 'Tithonus' (revised1864),1.1^7.
am very glad that I see Rome while it yet exists; before a great number of
years are elapsed, I question whether it will be worth
seeing. Between the ignorance and poverty of the
present Romans, every thing is neglected and falling to
decay. Horace, 4th Earl of Orford Walpole Letter. Collected in P Cunningham (ed) The Letters
Fourth Earl of Orford (1857^9).
Ispenttwo hourswiththat great man,Dr Johnson, who is sinking into the
grave bya gentle decay. John Wesley Journal entry,18 Dec.