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SOMETHING ABOUT PROVERBS.

BY GEORGE REDRICK PARDON.

"PAPA," said my little son to me one day, "What is a Proverb ?" Now, my son is an inquiring young gentleman of between eight and nine years of age, who will not be put off with a mere general answer. He wants to know the why and the wherefore of things, and is by no means content with the usual explanations offered to children. Other parents also have such sons, I have no doubt, whose questions they sometimes find it hard to reply to. I confess that the question rather puzzled me, simple as it looks. Not that there was any great difficulty in saying, off-hand, what was a proverb the difficulty was-how to frame an answer that should be as satisfactory to the mind of the child as to that of the man. thought for a moment of the clever definition of Erasmus, "Paramia est alebre dictum scita qúāpiam noritate insigne;" but then I recollected that many dicta might be included in that saying that were not really proverbs. I thought also of Lord John Russell's admirable definition-" Proverbs are the wisdom of many and the wit of one;" but then I considered the saying too deep for the mind of a child. At last, however, on the question being repeated, I said

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"A Proverb, Charley, is an adage, or wise saying, in which a special meaning is hidden."

But that scarcely satisfying him—or indeed, myself,-I went on to explain that Proverbs were short sentences commonly used; maxims in which wit and truth are mingled; generally-received sentences applied on particular occasions as rules of life or conduct; the unwritten wisdom of the people; the fruits of experience expressed in pithy phrases; "and in fact, my dear," I went on to say, finding it impossible to answer his question in a single sentence, "a Proverb is a witty or quaint saying, which on being uttered is recognised by its hearers as the expression of a truth or part of a truth. As such it receives by repetition the stamp of public credit or authority, and passes as the current coin of conversation."

Master Charley's blank look at this formidable answer to his simple question slightly amused me; but as he said no more I left him to his own thoughts.

The next day, however, he returned to his Proverbs, ard wished to know something more about them. I need not say that I was pleased to discover my child taking an interest in subjects generally thoughit beyond a child's powers of mind. I had, therefore, a long talk with him about Proverbs. The substance of our conversation I now give, in the form I think best adapted for the perusal of the young people into whose hands this book may happen to fall.

Proverbs are derived from a great variety of sources from the habits and natures of animals; from legends, oracles, and historical events; from the fancies of poets, and the observations of wise men, as seen in the Proverbs of Solomon; from the manners and customs common to all men in all places; from events or incidents occurring at particular times or places; and also from accidental circumstances, arising in various countries, and among various families and classes of people.

Many Proverbs express a whole truth; as for instance, "A royal crown, is no cure for the headache;" "All is not gold that glitters;" l'reven

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tion is better than cure." Some tell only half a truth, the other half being contained in another Proverb; as "Penny wise and pound foolish," and "Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves;"other Proverbs require local knowledge to render them intelligible; that about the Goodwin Sands and Tenterden Steeple, for instance. Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More was sent by King Henry the Eighth with a commission into Kent to find out, if possible, the cause of the Goodwin Sands, and the shelf or bar that stopped up Sandwich Haven. Among the witnesses examined was the "oldest inhabitant" of the district, who gave his evidence thus:-"I am an old man, and I remember the building of Tenterden Steeple, and I remember when there was no steeple there at all. And before that steeple was built there was no talk of any flats or sands that stopped up the Sandwich Haven, and I think that Tenterden Steeple is the cause of the Goodwin Sands." This proverb teaches us the absurdity of confounding coincidence with cause. Again, Proverbs convey a warning, as "Look before you leap ;" a reproof, as, "If you have too many irons in the fire some will be sure to burn your fingers;" a moral maxim, as "The beaten path is the best road;" a retort, as, "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones;" a gentle hint to idlers, as, "When the tree is down all go with their hatchets;" or a religious admonition, as, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, and the years draw nigh in which thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."

The essence of a good Proverb is its terseness, or the quality of being both brief and smooth-a quality that gives double force to the wisdom it contains. To uncultivated minds Proverbs stand in the place of quotations from the poets, historians, and orators to the learned. They contain the soul of wit and wisdom, and are therefore great favourites with the people. They are used as arguments by the ignorant, and are pleasant forms of speech for the scholar. They teach those who would not otherwise learn, and are of great use even to the wisest in presenting them with phrases common to, and understood by, all classes of men.

Proverbs are common to all languages, and many of the most familiar of them are found scattered over distant parts of the world. We say, that "It is useless to carry coals to Newcastle;" the Orientals say, that "It is waste labour to take oil to Damascus;" we say, "The burnt child dreads the fire;" the Hebrews say, "A scalded child dreads hot water," and so of many others. The Italians and Spaniards use a great many Proverbs in their conversation, as those who have read "Don Quixote" well know. Indeed, the great charm of this admirable book lies in the endless string of wise and witty sayings of honest Sancho Panza. The French, the Germans, the Dutch, the Russians and the Chinese possess a vast store of capital Proverbs; and even among the Red Indians of America and the savage islanders of the South Seas, the Proverb exercises an influence unknown among civilized nations. They are poems in little, sermons in sentences; maxims transmitted from generation to generation, and carried from land to land and language to language, till they link all mankind in one common bond of fellowship and truth-the

"touch of nature

That makes the world akin."

Proverbs often convey hints of national peculiarities, and there are no people who have not some which belong solely to them. The English lay claim to about ten thousand; the French to three thousand; but the Spaniards possess the largest stock of all, their book of Proverbs containing nearly thirty thousand wise and witty sayings. The Scotch proverb, "Count money after your father," betrays the prudence and caution of their

national character. The French say, "A man at the shambles (butchers' shops) has no more credit than a dog," and "Cut out thongs from other people's leather"-two sentences that do no great honour to French morals. The Spaniards say,, "War with the World and peace with England," a proverb that may have had its rise from the memory of the failure of their great Armada in the time of Queen Elizabeth. The Russians say, "Prayer to God and service to the Czar," an evidence of the state of subjection in which the people of that country have been kept for centuries. Again, they say, "Give to the judge, lest thou get into prison," a practical sarcasm on the administration of law in Russia. How different from the German Proverb:-"Liberty, sings the bird, though the prison be a golden cage." The Arabs know little of gratitude, and this fact they illustrate by the Proverb-"Eat the present and break the dish." Some of the Chinese Proverbs are quaint and truthful:,, Large fowls do not eat small meals;" "The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man purified without affliction ;" "It is as wrong in the king as in the people to break the laws;" "Let every man sweep the snow from his own door before he thinks about his neighbour's tiles," a hint to busy-bodies; "The man in boots does not see the man in shoes," a saying true of the proud and haughty in all countries; "Look not a gift horse in the mouth," a saying that has found its way into many languages, and the opposite of which we recognize in the Russian Proverb-"Give a man a shirt, and he will exclaim, How coarse it is."

Many of the Italian Proverbs are extremely quaint. Of old bachelors they say,

"Lazy if tall,

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Cross-grained if small;
If handsome, vain ;
Shocking if plain."

Though strict Catholics, many of their sayings partake of what we should call heresy; as, for example: "To fast is good, but to forgive better;" "The gate of heaven is not to be forced with a golden hammer;" "Shrouds have no pockets,"—a homily in a sentence;

"He that keeps fast, and else does naught but evil,
Has bread to spare, but straight goes to the devil."

Some of their Proverbs are very severe upon the morality of their governing classes:-"Old rogues make new spies ;" "Good order is bread, but disorder starvation;""The fish begins to stink from the head;" "Bread and Saints' days stop the mouths of the people." But the best and noblest of them teaches a lesson that we may all take to heart

"Work as if thou hadst to live for aye;

Worship as if thou hadst to die to day."

Some French Proverbs about women are curious: "There are only two good wives in the world; the one is lost and the other is not to be found;" a saying the opposite of ours, "There is only one good husband, and one beautiful child in the kingdom, and every good wife possesses them." The French character is well shown in the following: "Tell a woman that she is pretty, and Satan will tell her the same thing twenty times a day;" "Choose a wife by your ears, and not by your eyes; ""A pretty woman is like an ill-defended city, easy to take but hard to keep ;" "The wind and a woman are difficult to master;" "Smoke and a woman drive a man out of doors;""Every man fears two things, his wife and thunder;" "Women and cats are best at home;" "Wives are always better next year, but next year, like to-morrow, never comes;" "Two things a woman cannot keep, her reputation and a secret ;" "A woman hides from her lover only that which she does not know."

tion is better than cure." Some tell only half a truth, the other half being contained in another Proverb; as "Penny wise and pound foolish," and "Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves;" other Proverbs require local knowledge to render them intelligible; that about the Goodwin Sands and Tenterden Steeple, for instance. Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More was sent by King Henry the Eighth with a commission into Kent to find out, if possible, the cause of the Goodwin Sands, and the shelf or bar that stopped up Sandwich Haven. Among the witnesses examined was the "oldest inhabitant" of the district, who gave his evidence thus:-"I am an old man, and I remember the building of Tenterden Steeple, and I remember when there was no steeple there at all. And before that steeple was built there was no talk of any flats or sands that stopped up the Sandwich Haven, and I think that Tenterden Steeple is the cause of the Goodwin Sands." This proverb teaches us the absurdity of confounding coincidence with cause. Again, Proverbs convey a warning, as "Look before you leap ;" a reproof, as, "If you have too many irons in the fire some will be sure to burn your fingers;" a moral maxim, as "The beaten path is the best road;" a retort, as, "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones;" a gentle hint to idlers, as, "When the tree is down all go with their hatchets;" or a religious admonition, as, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, and the years draw nigh in which thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."

The essence of a good Proverb is its terseness, or the quality of being both brief and smooth-a quality that gives double force to the wisdom it contains. To uncultivated minds Proverbs stand in the place of quotations from the poets, historians, and orators to the learned. They contain the soul of wit and wisdom, and are therefore great favourites with the people. They are used as arguments by the ignorant, and are pleasant forms of speech for the scholar. They teach those who would not otherwise learn, and are of great use even to the wisest in presenting them with phrases common to, and understood by, all classes of men.

Proverbs are common to all languages, and many of the most familiar of them are found scattered over distant parts of the world. We say, that "It is useless to carry coals to Newcastle ; "the Orientals say, that "It is waste labour to take oil to Damascus;" we say, "The burnt child dreads the fire;" the Hebrews say, "A scalded child dreads hot water," and so of many others. The Italians and Spaniards use a great many Proverbs in their conversation, as those who have read "Don Quixote" well know. Indeed, the great charm of this admirable book lies in the endless string of wise and witty sayings of honest Sancho Panza. The French, the Germans, the Dutch, the Russians and the Chinese possess a vast store of capital Proverbs; and even among the Red Indians of America and the savage islanders of the South Seas, the Proverb exercises an influence unknown among civilized nations. They are poems in little, sermons in sentences; maxims transmitted from generation to generation, and carried from land to land and language to language, till they link all mankind in one common bond of fellowship and truth-the

"touch of nature

That makes the world akin."

Proverbs often convey hints of national peculiarities, and there are no people who have not some which belong solely to them. The English lay claim to about ten thousand; the French to three thousand; but the Spaniards possess the largest stock of all, their book of Proverbs containing nearly thirty thousand wise and witty sayings. The Scotch proverb, "Count money after your father," betrays the prudence and caution of their

national character. The French say, "A man at the shambles (butchers' shops) has no more credit than a dog," and "Cut out thongs from other people's leather"-two sentences that do no great honour to French morals. The Spaniards say, "War with the World and peace with England," a proverb that may have had its rise from the memory of the failure of their great Armada in the time of Queen Elizabeth. The Russians say, "Prayer to God and service to the Czar," an evidence of the state of subjection in which the people of that country have been kept for centuries. Again, they say, "Give to the judge, lest thou get into prison," a practical sarcasm on the administration of law in Russia. How different from the German Proverb:-"Liberty, sings the bird, though the prison be a golden cage." The Arabs know little of gratitude, and this fact they illustrate by the Proverb-"Eat the present and break the dish." Some of the Chinese Proverbs are quaint and truthful:,, Large fowls do not eat small meals;" "The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man purified without affliction;" "It is as wrong in the king as in the people to break the laws;" "Let every man sweep the snow from his own door before he thinks about his neighbour's tiles,” a hint to busy-bodies; "The man in boots does not see the man in shoes," a saying true of the proud and haughty in all countries; "Look not a gift horse in the mouth," a saying that has found its way into many languages, and the opposite of which we recognize in the Russian Proverb-"Give a man a shirt, and he will exclaim, How coarse it is."

Many of the Italian Proverbs are extremely quaint. Of old bachelors they say,

"Lazy if tall,
Cross-grained if small;
If handsome, vain ;
Shocking if plain."

Though strict Catholics, many of their sayings partake of what we should call heresy; as, for example: "To fast is good, but to forgive better;" "The gate of heaven is not to be forced with a golden hammer;" "Shrouds have no pockets,"—a homily in a sentence;

"He that keeps fast, and else does naught but evil,
Has bread to spare, but straight goes to the devil."

Some of their Proverbs are very severe upon the morality of their governing classes :-" Old rogues make new spies;" "Good order is bread, but disorder starvation ;" "The fish begins to stink from the head;" "Bread and Saints' days stop the mouths of the people." But the best and noblest of them teaches a lesson that we may all take to heart

"Work as if thou hadst to live for aye;

Worship as if thou hadst to die to-day."

Some French Proverbs about women are curious: "There are only two good wives in the world; the one is lost and the other is not to be found;" -a saying the opposite of ours, "There is only one good husband, and one beautiful child in the kingdom, and every good wife possesses them." The French character is well shown in the following: "Tell a woman that she is pretty, and Satan will tell her the same thing twenty times a day;" "Choose a wife by your ears, and not by your eyes; ""A pretty woman is like an ill-defended city, easy to take but hard to keep;" "The wind and a woman are difficult to master;" "Smoke and a woman drive a man out of doors;" "Every man fears two things, his wife and thunder;" "Women and cats are best at home;" "Wives are always better next year, but next year, like to-morrow, never comes;" "Two things a woman cannot keep, her reputation and a secret ;" "A woman hides from her lover only that which she does not know."

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