John Lyly

English politician

John Lyly (Lilly or Lylie) (c. 1553 – 1606) was an English writer, best known for his Euphues (1579).



  • Cupid and my Campaspe play'd
    At cards for kisses—Cupid paid:
    He stakes his quiver, bow, and arrows,
    His mother's doves, and team of sparrows;
    Loses them too; then down he throws
    The coral of his lips, the rose
    Growing on 's cheek (but none knows how);
    With these, the crystal of his brow,
    And then the dimple of his chin:
    All these did my Campaspe win.
    At last he set her both his eyes—
    She won, and Cupid blind did rise.
    O Love! has she done this for thee?
    What shall, alas! become of me?
    • Poem: Cupid and Campaspe.
  • How at heaven's gates she claps her wings,
    The morne not waking til she sings.
    • Cupid and Campaspe, Act v, Sc. 1. Compare: "Hark, hark! the lark at heaven's gat sings,/And Phœbus 'gins arise", William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, act ii, sc. 3.
  • There can no great smoke arise, but there must be some fire.
    • Euphues and his Euphœbus, p. 153, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "There is no fire without some smoke", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part ii, Chap. v.
  • A clere conscience is a sure carde.
    • Euphues, p. 207, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "This is a sure card", Thersytes, circa 1550.
  • As lyke as one pease is to another.
    • Euphues, p. 215, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

Euphues (Arber [1580])Edit

  • Be valyaunt, but not too venturous. Let thy attyre bee comely, but not costly.
    • P. 39. Compare: "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,/ But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy", William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act i, sc. 3.
  • Though the Camomill, the more it is trodden and pressed downe the more it spreadeth.
    • P. 46. Compare: "The camomile, the more it is trodden on the faster it grows", William Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4.
  • The finest edge is made with the blunt whetstone.
    • P. 47.
  • I cast before the Moone.
    • P. 78. Compare: "Feare may force a man to cast beyond the moone", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part i, Chap. iv.
  • It seems to me (said she) that you are in some brown study.
    • P. 80. Compare: "A brown study", Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation.
  • The soft droppes of rain perce the hard marble; many strokes overthrow the tallest oaks.
    • P. 81. Compare: "Water continually dropping will wear hard rocks hollow", Plutarch, Of the Training of Children; "Stillicidi casus lapidem cavat" (translation: "Continual dropping wears away a stone"), Lucretius, i. 314; "Many strokes, though with a little axe,/ Hew down and fell the hardest-timber'd oak", William Shakespeare, 3 Henry VI, act ii, sc. 1.
  • He reckoneth without his Hostesse. Love knoweth no lawes.
    • P. 84. Compare: "Reckeners without their host must recken twice", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part i, Chap. viii.
  • That honourable estate of Matrimony, which was sanctified in Paradise, allowed of the Patriarches, hallowed of the olde Prophets, and commended of al persons.
    • P. 86.
  • Did not Jupiter transforme himselfe into the shape of Amphitrio to embrace Alcmæna; into the form of a swan to enjoy Leda; into a Bull to beguile Io; into a showre of gold to win Danae?
    • P. 93. Compare: "Jupiter himself was turned into a satyr, a shepherd, a bull, a swan, a golden shower, and what not for love", Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, part iii, sec ii, mem. i, subs. 1.
  • I mean not to run with the Hare and holde with the Hounde.
    • P. 107. Compare: "To hold with the hare and run with the hound", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part i, Chap. x.
  • Rather fast then surfette, rather starue then striue to exceede.
    • P. 108.
  • Is it not true which Seneca reporteth, that as too much bending breaketh the bowe, so too much remission spoyleth the minde?
    • P. 112.
  • It is a world to see.
    • P. 116. Compare: "'T is a world to see", William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew, act ii, sc. 1.

In Popular CultureEdit

" Be valyaunt, but not too venturous " is quoted in Jeeves and Wooster, when Wooster is playing golf, and getting his ball into the rough once too often. In this, he refers to Lyly simply as " The Poet "

Euphues and his EnglandEdit

  • Goe to bed with the Lambe, and rise with the Larke.
    • P. 229. Compare: "To rise with the lark and go to bed with the lamb", Breton, Court and Country, 1618 (reprint, page 182); "Rise with the lark, and with the lark to bed", James Hurdis, The Village Curate.
  • A comely olde man as busie as a bee.
    • P. 252.
  • Maydens, be they never so foolyshe, yet beeing fayre they are commonly fortunate.
    • P. 279.
  • Where the streame runneth smoothest, the water is deepest.
    • P. 287. Compare: "Passions are likened best to floods and streams: The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb", Sir Walter Raleigh, The Silent Lover.
  • Your eyes are so sharpe that you cannot onely looke through a Milstone, but cleane through the minde.
    • P. 289.
  • I am glad that my Adonis hath a sweete tooth in his head.
    • P. 308.
  • For experience teacheth me that straight trees have crooked roots.
  • A Rose is sweeter in the budde than full blowne.
    • P. 314. Compare: "The rose is fairest when 't is budding new", Sir Walter Scott, Lady of the Lake, canto iii. st. 1.

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