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D.E. Marvin, comp. Curiosities in Proverbs. 1916.

Graceful Proverbs

A closed fist is the lock of heaven and the open hand is the key of mercy. (Persian).

A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man perfected without trials. (Chinese).

A generation is like a swift horse passing a crevice. (Chinese).

A harvest of peace is produced from a seed of contentment. (Kashmiri).
J. Hinton Knowles in referring to this proverb gives the following information:
“This proverb is credited to a holy and clever Pandit called Nand Ram, who lived at Bawan, a sacred Hindu village in Kashmir. This man wrote many rather clever verses in praise of Krishna. He seems to have been terribly dunned by the officials of Bawan, if one may judge from the following lines:

  • ‘Nand Ram was a husbandman,
  • And he paid his debts; but there was always somebody after him (for money),
  • He never knew what it was to live freely in his own house, but was continually obliged to lodge in the house of another,
  • (Never mind), from the seed of contentment a harvest of peace will be reaped.’
  • The piece of poetry from which the above proverb is taken is the following:
  • ‘You should sow the seed of destiny in the soil of Dharma (i.e., virtue, religion, duty, law, moral and religious truth according to the Vedas and the law).
  • From the seed of contentment a harvest of peace will be reaped.
  • Plough with the two oxen of the two breaths day and night,
  • Strike them hard with the whip of extreme meditation;
  • Endeavour so that not a spot of ground will remain unploughed.
  • From the seed of contentment a harvest of peace is reaped.
  • Break the clods with the staff of love,
  • That the damp of envy may not remain beneath:
  • From the seed of contentment a harvest of peace is reaped.’”
  • A learned assembly is a living library. (Arabian).

    A loving disposition is a river without a ripple. (Tamil).

    An old friend is a mount for a black day. (Osmanli).
    “A friend is best found in adversity.” (English). “A good friend is better than silver and gold.” (Dutch). “A true friend is known in the day of adversity.” (Turkish). “An old friend is better than two new ones.” (German and Russian). “Familiar paths and old friends are the best.” (German). “My friend is he who helps me in time of need.” (German). “Old friends and old ways ought not to be disdained.” (Danish).

    An old man in love is like a flower in winter. (Portuguese).
    The German saying, “The old man who is loved is winter with flowers,” is equally graceful and picturesque.

    A poor man without patience is like a lamp without oil. (Arabian).

    As the rivers pour their waters back again into the sea, so what a man has lent is returned to him again. (Chinese).
    This proverb refers not so much to the loaning of money in business, as the loaning for reasons of benevolence. (Ps. xxxvii:25, 26; cxii:5; Prov. xix:17; Luke vi:34, 35). A similar thought is expressed in the Turkish axiom: “Who gives alms sows one and reaps one thousand.”

    A widow is a rudderless boat. (Chinese).

    A woman without religion, a flower without perfume. (German).
    “A man without religion is like a horse without a bridle.” (Latin).

    Broad is the shadow of generosity. (Arabian).

    Death is a black camel which kneels at every man’s gate. (Turkish).
    The camel kneels to receive its burden. Here death is represented as a camel that is sure at some time to stop before every man’s door to receive and bear away his body for burial.

    Enjoyment is the grace of God. (Hindustani).

    Even the heart has its boundaries. (Japanese).

    Every blade of grass has its share of the dews of heaven. (Chinese).
    “Ilka blade o’ grass keps its ain drap o’ dew.” (Scotch).

    Experience is the looking-glass of the intellect. (Arabian).

    Falsehood is the darkness of faith. (Persian).
    “Modesty is the light of faith.” (Turkish).

    Flowers open without choosing the rich man’s ground, the moon shines bright on mountains and rivers; only within the heart of men is evil; all other things must resolve themselves into heaven’s parental care of the human race. (Chinese).

    Fortune is the good man’s prize, but the bad man’s bane. (Chinese).

    God is the guardian of a blind man’s wife. (Hindustani).

    God lights him that keeps silence. (Persian).

    God’s club makes no noise. (Persian).
    This proverb refers to oppression that one has to endure from others, indicating that the cruelty and injustice that falls to one’s lot should be borne with patience as the chastisement of God.

    God’s help is nearer than the door. (Irish).

    Good words are like a string of pearls. (Chinese).

    Grey hairs are death’s blossoms. (English, German).
    “Old age is a crown of nettles; youth a crown of roses.” (Hebrew). “Hoary hairs are death’s messengers.” (Arabian).

    Heaven is at the feet of mothers. (Persians).
    Children who are obedient to their mothers will enter heaven.

    He flings a noose on the star in heaven. (Osmanli).

    Husband and wife in perfect accord are the music of the harp and lute. (Chinese).

    In the hum of the market there is money, but under the cherry tree there is rest. (Japanese).

    Kisses are the messengers of love. (Danish).

    Life is a light before the wind. (Japanese).
    “Man is a bubble.” (Greek). “As wave follows wave, so new men take old men’s places.” “Men live like birds together in a wood; when the time comes each takes his flight.” “A generation is like a swift horse passing a crevice.” “When we take off our boots and stockings today, that we shall wear them tomorrow who can tell?” “Man’s life is like a candle in the wind or hoar-frost on the tiles.” (Chinese).
    See Job vii:6, 7; Ps. lxxviii:39; ciii:15, 16; James iv:14.

  • “Look at the heavens, how they roll on,
  • And look at man, how soon he’s gone;
  • A breath of wind and then no more—
  • A world like this should man deplore.”
  • Abul Kasim Mansur.
  • Life is like the moon; now dark, now full. (Polish).

    Memory is a falcon, that, if it be caught, is not held; affection is a sparrow’s nest, that, if it be crushed, is not made. (Osmanli).
    Memory is soon lost; love is fragile and must be tenderly treated lest it be destroyed.

    Mild speech enchains the heart. (Arabian).

    Nightly prayer makes the day to shine. (Arabian).
    “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” (English).

    Patience is a tree whose root is bitter, but its fruit very sweet. (Persian, German).
    “A moment’s patience is a ten-years’ comfort.” (Modern Greek). “An hour’s patience will procure a long period of rest.” “The remedy for hard times is to have patience.” (Arabian). “Every misfortune is to be subdued by patience.” “Patience is a plaster for all sores.” “Patience conquers the world.” “Patience perforce is a medicine for a mad dog.” “Patient waiters are no losers.” “Patience is a flower that grows not in every garden.” (English). “Patience is the greatest prayer.” (Hindoo). “Patience is the key of Paradise.” (Persian, Turkish). “Patience excels learning.” “An ounce of patience is worth a pound of brains.” “He that can be patient finds his foe at his feet.” (Dutch). “Have patience, Cossack, thou wilt come to be a hetman.” (Russian). “He who ends with patience is a conqueror.” (Latin). “Patience and the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.” (Chinese). “Patience devours the devil.” “Patience is a bitter plant but it has sweet fruit.” “‘Patience is a good plant but it doesn’t grow in my garden,’ said the hangman.” “Patience is the door of joy.” (German). “Patience, time, and money overcome everything.” “Who has patience sees his revenge.” (Italian). “To wait and be patient soothes many a pang.” (Danish). “Verjuice with patience becomes wine, and the mulberry leaf becomes satin.” (Turkish). “He that has patience has fat thrushes for a farthing.” (English, Italian).

    Prayer is the pillow of religion. (Arabian).

    Sacred is the earth when it comes over a grave. (Bulgarian).

    Silence is the ornament of the ignorant. (Sanskrit).
    “Silence is the sweet medicine of the heart.” “Silence is the cloak of ignorance.” (Arabian).

    Talent without virtue like silver without a master. (Chinese).

    Tears of man for fear of God are the lustre of the eye. (Arabian).

    The almond tree is in flower. (Hebrew).
    The flower of the almond tree is used in referring to the silver locks of the aged. The simile was probably borrowed from Eccles. xii:5. The blossoms which appear in midwinter after the leaves have fallen, are from an inch to an inch and a half broad. When the branches of the tree are leafless and apparently dead and dry the flowers suddenly make their appearance. They are at first tinged with red or of a flesh color at the base, but are white at the tips, and when full blown cover the tree as with a massive bank of white that is both beautiful and impressive. When the petals fall, the ground beneath the branches is covered as though a snow-storm had visited the spot.
    The Hebrew word for almond signifies “waker” or “one who is sleepless.” (Jer. i:11, 12). As the almond tree is the first tree to awake or put on the appearance of life it is regarded as the harbinger of spring.

  • “The hope in dreams of a happier hour,
  • That alights on Misery’s brow,
  • Springs out of the silvery almond flower,
  • That blooms on a leafless bough.”
  • The ardour of parental affection consumes the heart with its fire. (Arabian).

    The bending of the humble is the graceful droop of the branches laden with fruit. (Persian).
    “The heaviest ear of corn is the one that lowliest bends its head.” (Irish). “Fruitful trees bend down; the wise stoop; a dry stick and a fool can be broken, not bent.” (Sanskrit). “The humble man is like the earth which alike kisses the feet of the king and of the beggar.” (Persian).

    The eye is a window that looks upon the heart. (Osmanli).
    “The eyes are a balance of which the heart forms the weight.” (Turkish). “If the eye do not admire, the heart will not desire.” “The eve is blind if the mind is absent.” (Italian). “The eye is the mirror of the soul.” “The heart’s letter is read in the eyes.” “In the forehead and the eye the lecture of the mind doth lie.” (English). “What the eyes see the heart believes.” (German).

    The fall of a leaf is a whisper to the living. (Russian).

    The fear of God makes the heart shine. (Arabian).

    The gravity of old age is fairer than the flower of youth. (Arabian).

    The Great Way is very easy, but all love the by-paths. (Chinese).

    The heart has its summer and its winter. (Osmanli).

    The image of friendship is truth. (Arabian).
    See Grouping Proverbs: “If a man commit these three things, etc.”
    This proverb is Arabian though used in Egypt. Referring to it J. L. Burckhardt said: “It is to be wished that the Egyptians would take this maxim as their guide. Truth in friendship does not occur in the East. I can at least conscientiously declare that neither in Syria nor Egypt did any instance of its appearing under difficult circumstances ever come within my observation; but, on the contrary, numerous cases were those who called themselves friends, betrayed each other on the slightest prospect of gain or through fear or some other base motive.”

    The ladder of knowledge reaches beyond the ladder of life.” (Arabian).

    The lamp of a dark house: a son. (Hindustani).
    “A good son is the light of his family.” (Telugu). “Who has no son has no satisfaction.” (Cingalese).

    The nest of a blind bird is made by God. (Turkish).
    Sometimes the Turks in referring to strangers say, “God makes the nest of the bird from foreign parts.”

    The pine stands afar and whispers to its own forest. (Russian).
    In this proverb one seems to hear the moaning of the wind among the pines, so familiar to the ears of the people of Russia.

    The pious need no memorial; their deeds are their memorial. (Hebrew).

    There is a road from heart to heart. (Osmanli).

    The sandal tree perfumes the axe that fells it. (Indian).
    This proverb is intended to inculcate the duty of returning good for evil.

    The ship of him who confides in God founders not. (Osmanli).

    The soul is the ship, reason is the helm, the oars are the soul’s thoughts, and truth is the port. (Turkish).

    The stars make no noise. (Irish).

    The tiles which protect thee in the wet season were fabricated in the dry. (Chinese).
    “Provision in season makes a bein (comfortable) house.” (Scotch).

    The water of God for the pines of the wood. (Kashmiri).
    The cedar, pine, and spruce are common on the Himalayas, so that the proverb would be natural to the Kashmiri people in speaking of God’s care.

    The withered rose of a poor tendril. (Osmanli).

    The woof of old age and the warp of death are the same. (Persian).

    They divided the flowers; the rose fell to the lot of the thorn. (Osmanli).
    “Among thorns grow roses.” “Pluck the rose and leave the thorn.” “Every rose has its thorn.” (Italian). “Without thorns no roses.” “No house without a mouse, no barn without corn, no rose without a thorn.” “Under the thorn grow the roses.” (German). “For the rose the thorn is often plucked.” “A rose between two thorns.” “Gather the rose and leave the thorn behind.” “Roses have thorns.” (English). “He who would gather roses must not fear thorns.” “Roses fall but the thorns remain.” (Dutch). “From the thorn springs the rose, and from the rose the thorn.” (Modern Greek).

    Though the birds of the forest have no garners, the wide world is before them. (Chinese).

    Though the sky of this tear-stained world is overcast with clouds, the light of truth shines in the heart. (Japanese).

    Time flies like an arrow, days and months as a shuttle. (Chinese).
    See Job vii:6; Isa. xxxviii:12.

    Today is the elder brother of tomorrow, and a copious dew is the elder brother of the rain. (Yoruba—West-African).

    To light a lamp in the house is like the flowering of the lotus on the lake. (Kashmiri).

    To meet an old friend in a distant country is like the delight of rain after a long draught. (Chinese).

    Truth has a handsome countenance but torn garments. (German).

    Truth is the gate of justice. (Osmanli).

    Unfading are the gardens of kindness. (Modern Greek).

    Unpolished pearls never shine. (Japanese).

    When folly passes by, reason draws back. (Japanese).

    When the hand ceases to scatter, the mouth ceases to praise. (Irish).

    When the heart within is enlightened with cheer and brightness it is heaven’s hall; when the heart within is dark and gloomy, then it is earth’s prison. (Chinese).

    We are full of sins, and Thou (O God) art an ocean of mercy. (Persian).

    With opposing warriors, he who has pity conquers. (Chinese).

    Youth is a crown of roses, old age a crown of willows. (Hebrew).