Careful Words

strain (n.)

strain (v.)

  Blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

New Testament: Matthew xxiii. 24.

When his veering gait

And every motion of his starry train

Seem governed by a strain

Of music, audible to him alone.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850): The Triad.

It is no act of common passage, but

A strain of rareness.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Cymbeline. Act iii. Sc. 4.

Soft is the strain when zephyr gently blows,

And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;

But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,

The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar.

When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,

The line too labours, and the words move slow:

Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,

Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744): Essay on Criticism. Part ii. Line 166.

Till old experience do attain

To something like prophetic strain.

John Milton (1608-1674): Il Penseroso. Line 173.

Then welcome each rebuff

That turns earth's smoothness rough,

Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand, but go!

Be our joys three-parts pain!

Strive, and hold cheap the strain;

Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

Robert Browning (1812-1890): Rabbi Ben Ezra.

If music be the food of love, play on;

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.

That strain again! it had a dying fall:

O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound

That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odour!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Twelfth Night. Act i. Sc. 1.

When thus the heart is in a vein

Of tender thought, the simplest strain

Can touch it with peculiar power.

Thomas Moore (1779-1852): Evenings in Greece. First Evening.