Monday, March 1, 2010

Jacula Prudentum

George Herbert -- who died on this date, March 1, 1633 -- is a favorite poet of mine. But his works are not limited to poetry. If you enjoy reading proverbs, take the opportunity to read his remarkable collection of "outlandish proverbs" entitled Jacula Prudentum. Originally compiled in 1632, it was first published posthumously in 1640, and then in expanded form in 1651. Although the credit assigned to him as the compiler of these proverbs has been challenged (in 1857 by James Yeowell), I think the historical attribution of Herbert as the editor has withstood the challenge.

Herbert was not the author then, of these proverbs, but the compiler, and the credit assigned to him is that of an editor whose collected proverbs have lived on even to our own day. If you recognize the following aphorisms or variations thereof, we owe much to Herbert's recording labors.

"Man proposeth, God disposeth." ["For man proposes, but God disposes." -- Thomas à Kempis]
"He loseth nothing, that loseth not God."
"Love, and a Cough, cannot be hid."
"He that will learn to pray, let him go to Sea."
"Love your neighbour, yet pull not down your hedge." ["Good fences make good neighbors." -- Robert Frost]
"Buy at a fair, but sell at home."
"God heals, and the Physician hath the thanks."
"Hell is full of good meanings and wishings." ["Hell is full of good desires." -- Bernard of Clairvaux]
"Sometimes the best gain is to lose."
"Knowledge is folly except grace guide it."
"Fear nothing but sin." ["Therefore, let us fear nothing so much as sin and transgression." -- John Chrysostom]
"All is not gold that glitters." ["But all thing which that schyneth as the gold / Ne is no gold, as I have herd it told." -- Geoffrey Chaucer]
"Be not a Baker, if your head be of butter."
"Good finds good."
"The greatest step is that out of doors." ["It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. -- J.R.R. Tolkien]
"Hope is the poor man's bread."
"On a good bargain think twice."
"Help thyself, and God will help thee." ["God helps those who help themselves." -- Benjamin Franklin]
"You may bring a horse to the river, but he will drink when and what he pleaseth."
"More have repented speech than silence."
"God's Mill grinds slow, but sure."
"Give not Saint Peter so much, to leave Saint Paul nothing."
"For want of a nail the shoe is lost, for want of a shoe the horse is lost, for want of a horse the rider is lost." [“The want of a nail loseth the shoe, the loss of a shoe troubles the horse, the horse endangereth the rider, the rider breaking his rank molests the company so far as to hazard the whole army.” -- Thomas Adams, 1629]
"A penny spared is twice got."
"Bear with evil, and expect good." ["I am ready for favourable events in every case, but I am prepared for evil." -- Seneca]
"Living well is the best revenge."
"Life is half spent before we know what it is."

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