Billy Budd: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. "Not that he preached to them or said or did anything in particular, but a virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones."

    Captain Graveling of the Rights-of-Man, speaking about the effect Billy Budd had on his quarrelsome crew. Chapter 1

  2. "But the might-have-been is but boggy ground to build on."

    The narrator's comments on attempts by historians to reduce the stature of Admiral Nelson by speculating on what might have happened had Nelson behaved differently. Chapter 4

  3. "Handsomely done, my lad! And handsome is as handsome did it too!"

    Claggart's apparently friendly words to Billy Budd after Billy has spilled the soup. Chapter 10

  4. "Pale ire, envy and despair."

    The narrator's description of Claggart's state of mind. Epigraph, Chapter 13

  5. "Why, Jimmy Legs is down on you!"

    The old Dansker tells Billy for the second time why he is having trouble on the ship. Chapter 16

  6. "Yes, as a class, sailors are in character a juvenile race."

    The narrator's comments. Chapter 17

  7. "Struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang!"

    Captain Vere's exclamation after Billy Budd has killed Claggart. Chapter 20

  8. "How can we adjudge to summary and shameful death a fellow creature innocent before God, and whom we feel to be so?"

    Captain Vere addresses the officers that comprise the drumhead court. Chapter 22

  9. "God bless Captain Vere!"

    Billy Budd's last words. Chapter 26

  10. "Fathoms down, fathoms down, how I'll dream fast asleep.
    I feel it stealing now. Sentry, are you there?
    Just ease these darbies at the wrist,
    And roll me over fair!
    I am sleepy, and the oozy weeds about me twist!
    From the ballad, "Billy in the Darbies." Chapter 31