Some Old Proverbs

“Discreet women have neither eyes nor ears.”

In an old book that is one of my treasures, having been published in the year 1737, I find much wisdom that is applicable to our conduct in everyday life. It purports to be a “Compleat Collection of English Proverbs; also the most celebrated Proverbs of the Scotch, Italian, French, and Other Languages.” Very early in the volume comes the saying that “Discreet women have neither eyes nor ears.” Have we not all to practise this kind of discretion in our home dealings? In vulgar parlance, we “wink at” much that goes on in the kitchen, and profit largely in the matter of peace and quiet by doing so. Should we hear the servants disagree, a convenient deafness seizes us; for we know very well that if we were to inquire into the bearings of the business a slightly boisterous wind would very soon develop into a hurricane. And does not the exercise of tact in many cases compel us to shut our eyes to the traces of tears on dear faces when we know that any reference to the cause would upset composure and bring with it the feeling of humiliation that follows loss of self-control before others. The happiest homes are those in which “discreet women have neither eyes nor ears,” except when vigilance is thoroughly in season.

“A great dowry is a bed of brambles.”

From the Spanish comes the proverb, “A great dowry is a bed full of brabbles.” Was there ever an heiress yet who did not find it so? Who did not, at least once in her life, long to be rid of the riches that made life so difficult for her, obscuring true love, and making the parting of the ways so impossibly difficult of choice? And even when the disinterested lover is chosen there are many, many unhappy hours caused by the miserable money. A man loves his pride far more than he loves any woman, and often sacrifices home happiness to it. There is no lack of “brabbles” (brambles) in any woman’s life who possesses wealth. Riches might be supposed to be a great easement to existence, but if the poorly endowed could but realise their immunity from cares of a heavy kind they would, like the psalmist, choose “neither riches nor poverty.” Even a small dowry serves to bring the sharks round a girl, and she is far safer without more than the merest competence. To have to do some work in the world is good for her, and many a devoted parent who works hard to leave his girls well provided for would have done far better for them if he had equipped them with the means of earning their own living. There would be fewer “brabbles” in their path. There are thousands and thousands of discontented women in England now who are weighted with their own idle and selfish lives, and owe it all to the selfless affection of a father who worked himself into his grave in order to place them beyond the reach of want.

Oh! The waste of beautiful things in this weary world! The bootless love that blindly strives for the welfare of the loved ones! The endless pains and self-denial that elicit nothing but ingratitude! Who has not read “Père Goriot”? Have any of us forgotten King Lear? Fathers, do not burden your daughters with great dowries. Life is hard enough on women without adding the penalty of great riches to the weird they have to dree.

“The best mirror is an old friend.”

“The best mirror is an old friend.” Most truly ’tis so. There are we safe from flattery. We sometimes see in our looking-glasses rather what we wish to see than what is really reflected. Du Maurier had once in Punch a portrait of Mrs. Somebody as she really was, another sketch of the lady as she appeared to herself, and a third as her husband saw her. The husband represented the “old friend” in this instance, and his idea of his wife was far from flattering. It is so with many husbands; but not with all. Quite recently there was published a sonnet, written by an eminent man on seeing his wife’s portrait when she was well on into middle age. The expression of surprise in discovering that any one could see an elderly woman in the wife of his youth, in whom he saw always, when he looked at her, her own young face, was exquisitely put, and the whole sonnet most touchingly conveyed the truth that some “old friends” see dear but faded faces through a glamour of affection, that equals that of even vanity itself.

“An hungry man is an angry man.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.