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

Proverbs about Proverbs

A good maxim is never out of season. (English).

A man because of his own likeness should learn this saying: “As rain to the parched field, so is meat to one oppressed with hunger.” (Sanskrit).
Used in the Hitopadesa to enforce the truth as taught in the fable of “The Traveller and the Tiger.”

A man’s life is often builded on a proverb. (Hebrew).
“There is hardly a mistake which in the course of our lives we have committed but some proverb, had we known and attended to its lesson, might have saved us from it.”—Archbishop Trench.

A proverb deceives not; the heavens fall not. (German).

  • “The people’s voice the voice of God we call;
  • And what are proverbs but the people’s voice?
  • Coined first, and current made by common choice?
  • Then sure they must have weight and truth withal.”
  • Anonymous.
  • A proverb is an ornament to language. (Persian).
    “Proverbs serve not only for ornament and delight, but also for active and civil use; as being the edge tools of speech which cut and penetrate the knots of business and affairs.”—Bacon.
    “Proverbs are mental gems gathered in the diamond fields of the mind.”—W. R. Alger.

    A proverb is the horse of conversation; when the conversation is lost (i.e., flags), a proverb revives it. Proverbs and conversation follow each other. (Yoruba—West African).

    A proverb is to speech what salt is to food. (Arabic).
    “Language would be tolerable without spicy, epigrammatic sayings, and life could no doubt be carried on by means of plain language wholly bereft of ornament; but if we wish to relish language, if we wish to give it point and piquancy, and if we want to drive home a truth, to whip up the flagging attention of our listener, to point a moral or adorn a tale, we must flavour our speech with proverbs.”—John Christian.
    “Aphorism or maxim, let us remember that this wisdom of life is the true salt of literature; that those books, at least in prose, are most nourishing which are most richly stored with it; and that it is one of the great objects, apart from the mere acquisition of knowledge, which men ought to seek in the reading of books.”—John Morley.

    A proverb lies not; its sense only deceives. (German).

  • “Every proverb speaketh sooth
  • Dreams and omens mask the truth.”
  • As a thorn that goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools. (Hebrew).
    “As a thorny staff that riseth up in the hand of a drunkard, so is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.”—Lange’s Translation of Prov. xxvi:9.

    As the country, so the proverb. (German).
    “A nation’s proverbs are as precious as its ballads, as useful and perhaps more instructive.”—(London Quarterly Review, July, 1868.)
    “The genius, wit, and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs.”—Francis Bacon.
    “The proverbs of a nation furnish the index to its spirit and the results of its civilization.”—J. G. Holland.
    “Proverbs, like the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of the institutions.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    A wise man who knows proverbs reconciles difficulties. (Yoruba—West African).

    Don’t quote your proverb till you bring your ship into port. (Gaelic).

    Good sayings are like pearls strung together. (Chinese).

    He is the proverb of the age. (Persian).
    Applied to people of distinction, particularly to those who have become known because of the evil that they have done.

    He reads us proverbs about the wolf. (Osmanli).
    That is he carries out his purpose by trickery and by direct assault.

    If St. Swithin greets this year, the proverb says, the weather will be foul for forty days. (English).
    The Scotch rendering of this rhyme leaves out the words “this year.”
    St. Swithin’s day (July 15th) is observed as a festival day in honour of St. Swithin, Bishop of Winchester, England—A.D. 852–862.

    It is a proverb: “Can he be a man if the personage be a vizier?” (Osmanli).
    Can he be a man who receives favours from a vizier? Will not the vizier require of him a subserviency that will deprive him of his manliness?

    Proverbs are the children of experience. (English).
    “Proverbs are the daughters of daily experience.”(Dutch).

    Proverbs are the lamps to words. (Arabian).
    “As naething helps our happiness mair than to have the mind made up wi’ right principles, I desire you, for the thriving and pleasure of you and yours, to use your een and lend your lugs to these guid auld saws, that shine wi’ wail’d sense, and will as lang as the world wags.”—Allan Ramsay.

    Proverbs are the wisdom of the ages. (German).
    “Proverbs were anterior to books, and formed the wisdom of the vulgar, and in the earliest ages were the unwritten laws of morality.”—Isaac Disraeli.
    “Proverbs are the abridgments of wisdom.”—Joseph Joubert.
    “Books, like proverbs, receive their chief value from the stamp and esteem of ages through which they have passed.”—William Temple.
    “Centuries have not worm-eaten the solidity of this ancient furniture of the mind.”—Isaac Disraeli.
    “Despise not the discourse of the wise, but acquaint thyself with their proverbs, for of them thou shalt learn instruction, and how to serve great men with ease.”—Eccles. viii:8.

  • “In ancient days, tradition says,
  • When knowledge was much stinted—
  • When few could teach and fewer preach,
  • And books were not yet printed—
  • What wise men thought, by prudence taught,
  • They pithily expounded;
  • And proverbs sage, from age to age,
  • In every mouth abounded.
  • O Blessings on the men of yore,
  • Whom wisdom thus augmented,
  • And left a store of easy lore
  • For human use invented.”
  • Blackwood’s Magazine, 1864.
  • “I said that I loved the wise proverb,
  • Brief, simple, and deep;
  • For it I’d exchange the great poem
  • That sends us to sleep.”
  • Bryan Waller Procter.
  • Proverbs are the wisdom of the street. (English).

    Proverbs bear age and he who would do well may view himself in them as in a looking-glass. (Italian).

    Proverbs lie on the lips of fools. (English).

    Saith Solomon the wise, a good wife’s a good prize. (English).

    Solomon made a book of proverbs, but a book of proverbs never made Solomon. (English).

    The common sayings of the multitude are too true to be laughed at. (Welsh).

    The popular proverb says, “One root of grass has one root of grass’s dew to nourish it,” and again it is said “Forest birds have no stored grain, but heaven and earth are broad.” (Chinese).

    The fox has a hundred proverbs to tell about ninety-nine fowls. (Osmanli).
    Sometimes this saying is rendered, “The fox has a hundred proverbs; ninety-nine are about poultry,” the meaning being that men are most familiar with the proverbs that apply to matters with which they have had some experience.

    The legs of the lame hang loose; so is a parable in the mouth of fools. (Hebrew).
    “Take away the legs of a lame man; and so—a proverb which is in the mouth of fools.”—Stuart’s Translation of Prov. xxvi:7.

    The maxims of men disclose their hearts. (French).
    Maxims as distinguished from proverbs:
    The phrases most commonly used by men indicate their standards of morality and honour. Proverbs show the character of the nation or community, maxims the principles that govern the individual.
    “Many grubs never grow to butterflies; and a maxim is only a proverb in its caterpillar stage—a candidate for a wider sphere and larger flight than most are destined to attain.”—North British Review, February, 1858.
    “A man’s conversation is the mirror of his thoughts, so the maxims of a people may be considered as a medium which reflects with tolerable accuracy the existing state of their manners and ways of thinking.”—John Francis Davis.

    The old saying long proved true shall never be believed. (Gaelic).

    There are forty proverbs about the bear, and the forty are mere rubbish concerning him. (Osmanli).

    There is no proverb which is not true. (English).

    There is something wise in every proverb. (Arabian).
    Thomas Fuller said that a proverb “is much matter decocted into few words,” and that the few words were always counted to be “words of wisdom” and “dear to the true intellectual aristocracy of a nation,” is abundantly proved by their use and preservation.

    “To the old cat,” says the proverb, “give a tender mouse.” (Italian).

    We have many coarse proverbs but of good meaning. (German).

    What flowers are to gardens, spices to food, gems to a garment, and stars to heaven; such are proverbs interwoven in speech. (Hebrew).

    When a man makes a proverb he does not break it. (German).

    When a poor man makes a proverb it does not spread. (Oji—West-African).
    Generally throughout Africa poverty is considered not so much a misfortune as a crime; hence the words of the destitute, no matter how wise, are unheeded.

    When the occasion comes the proverb comes. (Oji—West-African).

    Wise men mak’ proverbs and fools repeat them. (Scotch).

    With the smooth-tongued it is proverbial that there is no fidelity. (Osmanli).