Friday, June 4, 2010

Pounds and Ounces

Henry Carey, in a play with the most memorable title of The Tragedy of Chrononhotonthologos: The Most Tragical Tragedy that ever was Tragediz'd by any Company of Tragedians (1734), wrote a bit of carnal wisdom:

One ounce of mirth, is worth a pound of sorrow.

Earlier, Richard Baxter in his Treatise of Self-Denial (1660), in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, Vol. 3, p. 476, had written in his famous Dialogue between the Spirit and the Flesh:


Why should I think of what will be to-morrow?
An ounce of mirth is worth a pound of sorrow.

To which Spirit replied:

But where's that mirth when sorrows overtake thee?
Will it then hold when life and God forsake thee?
Forgetting death or hell will not prevent it.
Now lose thy day, thou'lt then too late repent it.

Soon after which Flesh responds:

Must I be made the football of disdain?
And call'd a precise fool or puritan?

And Spirit answers:

Remember him that did despise the shame:
And for thy sake bore undeserved blame:

Baxter is often credited with the saying "An ounce of wit is worth of pound of sorrow," but a variation of this proverb appears in Thomas Fuller's Gnomologia (1732) as:

Ounce of wit that's bought is worth a pound that's taught.

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