Reference > Quotations > W.C. Hazlitt, comp. > English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases
W.C. Hazlitt, comp.  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases.  1907.
In little  to  It is evil
In little meddling lieth much rest.
  See Dyce’s Skelton, ii. 332, and Paradyce of Daynty Devyses, 1578, repr. 135. Countryman’s New Commonwealth, 1647.
In love is no lack. HE.  5210
In love’s wars, he who flieth is conqueror.  5211
In March, / the birds begin to search;
In April, / the corn begins to fill;
In May, / the birds begin to lay.
In March, kill crow, pie, and cadow, / rook, buzzard, and, raven:
Or else go desire them / to seek a new haven. D.
In March, / the cuckoo starts;
in April, / a’ tune his bill;
in May, / a’ sing all day;
in June, / a’ change his tune;
in July, / away a’ fly;
in August, / away a’ must;
in September, / you’ll ollers remember;
in October, / ’ull never get over. E. Anglia.
  Notes and Queries, Jan. 23, 1869. Another version is current in South Devon:
        “In March, / he sits upon his parch:
In April, / he tunes his bill:
In May, / sings night and day:
In June, / alters his tune:
In July, / away he fly.”
  “Of the ‘change of tune’ alluded to in these verses, it has been remarked (Trans. Linn. Soc.), that in early season the cuckoo begins with the interval of a minor third, proceeds to a major third, then to a fourth, then to a fifth, after which the voice breaks, never attaining a minor sixth.”—Halliwell. The older notions respecting the cuckoo have been corrected by modern researches and observations, imprimis, his appearances in March. Yet in 1905 during an interval of warm weather I heard him in Richmond Park, on the side toward Kingston Bottom, in the last week of February, and I understood that he had been similarly observed elsewhere.
In meal or in malt.
  Either the money or the money’s worth. The saying is used of one who will have his due in some shape.
In mine eame’s peason.
  i.e., In my uncle’s peas. See the Merie Tales of Skelton (1567), in Old English Jest Books, iii. 16. The phrase appears to signify here to be drunk, like the French, Etre dans les vignes.
In much corn is some cockle.
  Summers Last Will and Testament, by T. Nash, 1600 (Dodsley’s O. P., ix. 78).
In Oldham brewis wet and warm,
And Rochdale puddings there’s no harm.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll., 212.
In pudding time. HE.
  Fulwell’s Likes will to Like, 1568; Walker’s Parœm., 1672, p. 31. Equivalent to, In time for dinner, since the pudding was formerly the first dish. In Taylor’s Discovery by Sea from London to Salisbury, 1623, this expression might almost seem to bear the meaning of our phrase In the nick of time.
In Radnorshire / is neither knight nor peer,
Nor park with deer, / nor gentleman with five hundred a year,
Except Sir William Fowler of Abbey Cwin Hir.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll., 174. By “peer” here must be understood “resident peer.”
In rain and sunshine cuckolds go to heaven.  5221
In Rochdale
strangers prosper, and natives fail.
In settling an island, the first building erected by a Spaniard would be a church; by a Frenchman, a fort; by a Dutchman, a warehouse; and by an Englishman, an alehouse.  5223
In silk and scarlet / walks many a harlot.
  This is sometimes accompanied by the couplet:
        By time and rule
Works many a fool.
In Sixti festo venti validi memor esto,
Si sit nulla quies, farra valere scies.
  Cole’s MSS. Coll., vol. 44.
In sleep, what difference is there between Solomon and a fool?  5226
In space cometh grace. HE.  5227
In spending lies the advantage. H.  5228
In sports and journeys men are known. H.  5229
In the coldest flint there is hot fire. CL.  5230
In the company of strangers silence is safe.  5231
In the deepest water is the best fishing.  5232
In the end / things will mend.  5233
In the fair tale is foul falsity.  5234
In the forehead and the eye / the lecture of the mind doth lie.
  Walker (1672).
In the grave, dust and bones jostle not for the wall.  5236
In the greatest ill the good man hath hope left.  5237
In the kingdom of a cheater the wallet is carried before. H.  5238
In the kingdom of blind men the one-eyed is king. H.
  Unoculus inter cæcos—the one-eyed monarch of the blind.—JOHNSON.
In the month of April,
the gowk comes over the hill,
  in a shower of rain;
and on the —— of June,
  he turns his tune again. Craven.
In the morning mountains: / in the evening fountains. H.  5241
In the nick.
  Or, as we now say. In the nick of time. The first is probably the original expression. Nick = notch, by which in some cases the time may have been formerly calculated. See Syr Gyles Goosecappe Knight, sign. C 4. verso, and Day’s Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, ed. Bullen, p. 88. In the very nick of time.—Walker.
In the old of the moon
a cloudy morning bodes a fair afternoon.
In the shoemaker’s stocks.  5244
In the time of affliction a vow; in the time of prosperity an inundation.  5245
In the time of mirth take heed.  5246
In the twinkling of a bedstaff.
  Walpole’s Letters, ed. Cunningham, i. 61 (Letter to R. West, 1740).
In the twinkling of an eye.
        “Than, and I make curtsie, and hold my tong,
He hath done with the twinklyng of an eye.”
Gestys of the Widow Edyth, 1525 (Old Engl. Jest Books, iii. 65).    
  Merchant of Venice, 1600, ii. 2.
In the world there be men,
that will have the egg and the hen. B. OF M. R.
In the world, who knows not to swim goes to the bottom. H.  5250
In things that must be, it is good to be resolute.  5251
In time comes he whom God sends. H.  5252
In time of prosperity friends will be plenty;
in times of adversity not one amongst twenty. HOWELL.
In too much dispute truth is lost.  5254
In trust is treason. HE.
  Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575 (Works, i. 436); Taylor’s Works, 1630.
In truth they must not eat, / that will not work in heat.  5256
In two cabs of dates there is one cab of stones, and more.  5257
In vain doth the mill clack, / if the miller his hearing lack. H.  5258
In vain he craves advice that will not follow it.  5259
In vain they rise early that used to rise late. DS.  5260
In Valentine / March lays her line.  5261
In Vino Veritas.
  Title of a tract printed in 1698. This is equivalent to our English, “When the drink goes in, the wit goes out.”
In war, hunting, and love,
men for one pleasure a thousand griefs prove. H.
In wealth beware of woe, whatso’ thee haps,
and bear thyself evenly for fear of after-claps.
  Caxton’s ed. of Lydgate Stans Puer ad Mensam, ad finem.
In wiving and thriving men should take counsel of all the world.  5265
Incidis in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim.
  This is as well known as most English proverbs. See Fournier (L’Esfrit des Autres, ed. 1861, p. 33). The line occurs in the Fifth Book of the Alexandreid of Philip Gautier of Lille, a poet of the 13th century, of whom all our knowledge is at present derived from Henri de Gand (Catalogus Virorum Illustrium, cap. 23). Cox, Bishop of Ely, in a letter to Queen Elizabeth, says, “Navigo inter Scyllam et Charybdim.”—Ellis’s Orig. Letters, 3rd S., iv. 72. But the passage between the two headlands has become gradually wider owing to the action of the waves and is no longer so dangerous as it was.
Inconvenient to my Lord Castlecomer.
  See Walpole’s Letters, ed. Cunningham, vi. 154, 163, and Sussex Arch. Coll., xi. 188.
Industry is Fortune’s right hand, and Frugality her left.  5268
Industry need not wish.
  Poor Richard Improved, 1758, by B. Franklin.
Infra dig[nitatem.]  5270
Ingratitude drieth up wells, / and time bridges fells. W.  5271
Ingratitude is the daughter of pride.  5272
Injuries don’t use to be written on ice.  5273
Injurious men brook no injuries.  5274
Inkhorn terms.
  Pedantic or affected phraseology. Nash’s Summers Last Will and Testament, 1600 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, viii. 70), and see the note.
Innocence itself sometimes hath need of a mask.  5276
Insolence is pride when her mask is pulled off.  5277
Into a mouth shut flies fly not. H.
  MS. Ashmole, 1153 (somewhat differently). This reminds us of Colonel Higgins and the Duke of Gloucester.
Into the mouth of a bad dog falls many a good bone.
  Souvent à mauvais chien tombe un bon os en gueule. Fr.—R.
Invite not a Jew either to pig or pork.  5280
Irish brogues for English dogs.
  Boullaye-le-Gouz (1644) mentions this as a proverb in his time in his Travels, folio, 1657. A brogue was an Irish shoe.
Is it an emperor’s business to catch flies?  5282
Is no coin good silver but your penny?  5283
Is the wind at that door? HE.
  Gascoigne’s Works, by Hazlitt, i. 223.
Is there no mean but fast or feast?  5285
It becomes him as well as a sow doth a cart saddle.  5286
It comes by kind: it costs him nothing.  5287
It comes from Needingworth. CL.  5288
It costs more to revenge injuries than to bear them.  5289
It does not rain but it pours.  5290
It early pricks that will be a thorn.  5291
It falls not under every one’s cap.
  North’s Life of Lord Keeper Guilford, 1740, ed. 1826, p. 87.
It goes down like chopped hay.  5293
It goeth against the grain.
  The grain, pecten ligni, longways the wood, as the fibres run. To go transversely to these fibres is to go against the grain.—R.
It hangs together as pebbles in a withe. CL.  5295
It happeth in one hour that happeth not in seven years. HE.
  It changeth in an hour, that happeneth not in seven years. C.
        “Plus enim fati valet hora benigni,
Quàm si te veneris commendet epistola Marti.—Horat.
Every man is thought to have some lucky hour, wherein he hath an opportunity offered him of being happy all his life, could he but discern it, and embrace the occasion. Accasca in un punto quel che non accasca in cento anni. Ital. Donde menos se piensa, salta la liébre. Span.”—R. There is a tide in the affairs of men, &c., as Shakespeare says (Julius Cæsar, iv. 3).
It is a bad action that success cannot justify.  5297
It is a bad bargain where both are losers.  5298
It is a bad cloth that will take no colour. HE.  5299
It is a base thing to tear a dead lion’s beard off.  5300
It is a blind goose that knows not a fox from a fern bush.  5301
It is a blind man’s question to ask why those things are loved which are beautiful.  5302
It is a cunning part to play the fool well.  5303
It is a dear collop that is cut out of one’s own flesh. HE.  5304
It is a fair degree of plenty to have what is necessary.  5305
It is a fine moon, God bless her! D.  5306
It is a foolish bird that stayeth the laying salt upon her tail.
  I recollect that, when I was a child, I was sent from a house at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, where I was staying, with a few pinches of salt to catch birds.
It is a fortunate head that never ached.  5308
It is a good divine that follows his own instructions.  5309
It is a good dog that can catch anything.  5310
It is a good friend that is always giving, though it be never so little.  5311
It is a good horse that never stumbles,
and a good wife that never grumbles.
  The first part is in Heywood’s Works, 1563, cap. viii. (copied by Camden); and in Walker, 1672, p. 37. “A good horse that trippeth not once in a journey.”—Three Proper and Wittie Familiar Letters, 1580, repr. p. 299.
It is a good hunting-bout that fills the belly.  5313
It is a good knife, ’twas made at Dull-edge.  5314
It is a goodly thing to take two pigeons with one bean. B. OF M. R.  5315
It is a great act of life to sell air well.  5316
It is a great journey to life’s end.  5317
It is a great point of wisdom to find out one’s own folly.  5318
It is a great savouriness to dine and not pay the reckoning.
  MS. Ashmole, 1153.
It is a great way to the bottom of the sea.
  Breton’s Crossing of Proverbs, 1616. “Not so,” is the crossing; “it is but a stone’s cast.”
It is a hard-fought field where no man escapeth unkilled. HE.  5321
It is a hard thing to have a great estate and not fall in love with it.  5322
It is a hard winter when dogs eat dogs.  5323
It is a little comfort to the miserable to have companions.
  Kempe’s Nine Daies Wonder, 1600. But this is only a various reading of a saying reported elsewhere, and the latter is from the Latin.
It is a long lane that has no turning.
  “Som tyme an ende ther is on every deed.”—Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ed. Wright, p. 36 (1 vol. edit.) Hay says: ’Tis a long run that never turns.
It is a mad hare that will be caught with a tabor.  5326
It is a poor dog that does not know “come out.” E. Anglia.
  i.e., that does not know when to desist.—Forby.
It is a poor dog that is not worth whistling. HE.  5328
It is a poor family that hath neither a whore nor a thief in it.  5329
It is a poor heart that never rejoices.  5330
It is a poor sport that is not worth the candle. H.  5331
It is a rank courtesy, when a man is forced to give thanks for what is his own.  5332
It is a reproach to be the first gentleman of his race, but it is a greater to be the last.  5333
It is a sad burthen to carry a dead man’s child.  5334
It is a sad house where the hen crows louder than the cock.  5335
It is a shame to steal, but a worse to carry home.  5336
It is a sheep of Beery: it is marked on the nose. H.
  Applied to those that have a blow.—Notes and Queries, 3rd S., xii. 414. A sheep is often marked on the nose to show to what barn it belongs. The saying might be rendered, He belongs to the Beery lot; he is marked on the nose.—Mr. G. V. Irving (ibid., 488).
It is a silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait.  5338
It is a silly flock where the ewe bears the bell.  5339
It is a silly goose that comes to a fox’s sermon.  5340
It is a silly horse that can neither whinny nor wag his tail.  5341
It is a sin against hospitality to open your doors and shut up your countenance.  5342
It is a sin to belie the devil.  5343
It is a sorry goose that will not baste itself.  5344
It is a strange salt fish that no water can make fresh.  5345
It is a strange wood that has never a dead bough in it.  5346
It is a sweet sorrow to buy a termagant wife.  5347
It is a tight tree that has neither knap nor gaw.  5348
It is a very ill cock that will not crow before he be old.
  Lyly’s Euph. and his Engl., 1580, repr. 1868, p. 366.
It is a wicked thing to make a dearth one’s garner.  5350
It is a wise child that knows its own father. CL.
  Merchant of Venice, 1600, ii. 2. He will be a wise child that knows his right father.—Howell’s Letters, ed. 1754, p. 404, letter dated 1646.
It is a wonder if a crab catch a fowl.
  Englishmen for my Money, 1616 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, x. 502).
It is a world to see.
  Interlude of the Four Elements (1519), Hazlitt’s Dodsley, i. 35; Interlude of the Disobedient Child, by T. Ingelend, 1563, edit. 1848, p. 27; Lyly’s Euph., 1579, repr. 1868, p. 116.
It is absurd to warm one in his armour. H.  5354
It is all along o’ Colly Weston. Northamptonshire.
  Miss Baker’s Northampt. Gloss., p. 137.
It is all one a hundred years hence.  5356
It is always term time in the court of conscience.  5357
It is an alm’s-deed to punish him.
  Earle, in his character of a Baker (Micro-cosmographic 1628, No. 27), says: “No man verifies the Prouerbe more, that it is an Almes-deed to punish him: for his penalty is a Dole, and do’s the Beggers as much good as their Dinner.”
It is an easy thing to find a staff to beat a dog.
  Or, a stone to throw at a dog. Qui veut battre son chien trouve assez de batons. Fr. Malefacere qui vult nusquam non causam invenit.—Pub. Mimus. [Greek]. To do evil, a slight pretence or occasion will serve men’s turns.—R.
It is an equal failing to trust everybody and to trust nobody.  5360
It is an evil cook that cannot lick his own fingers.
  Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique, 1553, edit. 1584, p. 222. Celui gouverne bien mal le miel qui n’en taste, et ses doigts n’en leche. Fr.
It is an ill air where nothing is to be gained.  5362
It is an ill battle where the devil carries the colours.  5363
It is an ill-bred dog that will beat a bitch.  5364
It is an ill dog that deserves not a crust.
  Digna canis pabulo. [Greek]. Eras. ex Suida.—R.
It is an ill procession where the devil holds the candle.  5366
It is an ill sack that will abide no clouting. HE.  5367
It is an ill sign to see a fox lick a lamb.  5368
It is an ill stake that cannot stand one year in a hedge. HE.  5369
It is an ill wind that blows no man to good. HE.
        “An yll wynd that blowth no man good,
  The blower of wych blast is she;
The lyther lustes bred of her broode
  Can no way brede good propertye.”
Song against Idleness, by John Heywood, circa 1540 (Marriage of Wit and Science, &c., p. 80)
        “Ah! sirra! it is an old prouerb and a true,
I sware by the roode!
It is an il wind that bloues no man to good.”
Marriage of Wit and Wisdom, circa 1570. See also Ellis’s Orig. Letters, 2nd S., iv. 104: Whetstone’s Promos and Cassandra, 1578 (Hazlitt’s Shakespear’s Library, vi. 225): Damon and Pithias, 1571, Dodsley’s O. P., i. 252, edit. 1825; A Knack to Know a Knave, 1594, edit. 1851, p. 372.
It is an old goose that will eat no oats.
  Lyly’s Endimion, 1591 (Works, 1858, i. 70).
It is an omen bad, the yeomen say,
if Phœbus show his face the second day.
It is as good to be in the dark as without a light.  5373
It is as great pity to see a woman weep as a goose to go barefoot.
  A C. Mery Talys, ed. 1526; Bale’s Kynge Johan, ed. 1838, p. 7. I scarcely understand in what sense Chamberlain employs the figure of speech, when, writing to Carleton, October 2, 1602, he says: “Divers others lost good summes of five, eight, or fourteen pounds, besides petty detriments of scarfes, fans, gloves; and one mad knave, whether of malice or merriment, tooke the advantage to pull of a gentlewomans shooe, and made the goose go home barefoote.”—Chamberlain’s Letters, 1861, p. 149.
It is as hard a thing as to sail over the sea in an eggshell.  5375
It is as long in coming as Cotswold barley. Gloucestershire.
  This is applied to such things as are slow but sure. The corn in this cold country [Gloucester] on the woulds, exposed to the winds, bleak and shelterless, is very backward at the first, but afterwards overtakes the forwardest in the county, if not in the barn, in the bushel, both for the quantity and goodness thereof.—R.
It is as meet as a thief for the widdy.  5377
It is as much intemperance to weep too much as to laugh too much.  5378
It is at courts as it is in ponds; some fish, some frogs.  5379
It is best to take half in hand and the rest by and by.  5380
It is better to be a beggar than a fool.
  E meglio esser mendicante, che ignorante. Ital.—R.
It is better to be a shrew than a sheep. C.  5382
It is better to be rich and wretched than poor and wretched.
  This was a saying of my father’s. W. C. H.
It is better to be spited than pitied. C.  5384
It is better to be [the] head of a lizard than the tail of a lion. H.  5385
It is better to give the fleece than the wool. C.  5386
It is better to have a friend at court than a penny in purse.
  Day’s Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, ed. Bullen, p. 49.
It is better to have a hen to-morrow than an egg to-day.  5388
It is better to have one plough going than two cradles.
  Lyly’s Euph. and his Engl., 1580, repr. 1868, p. 229.
It is better [to] kiss a knave than to be troubled with him. C.  5390
It is better to knit than blossom.
  As in trees, those that bear the fairest blossoms, as double-flowered cherries and peaches, often bear no fruit at all, so in children, &c.—R. Perhaps Ray may have missed the point here. The sense seems figurative, and applicable to an unmarried woman.
It is better to marry a quiet fool than a witty scold.  5392
It is better to marry a shrew than a sheep.
  Epistolæ Hoelianæ, ed. 1754, p. 177, in a letter dated 5 Feb. 1625–6. V. supra. A sheep is a woman without character or will of her own, a nonentity. So in the old play of Tom Tyler and his Wife, edit. 1661, p. 26, the song says:
        “To marie a sheepe, to marie a shrow,
To meete with a friend, to meet with a foe,
These checks of chance can no man flie,
But God himself that rules the skie.”
It is better to play with the ears than the tongue. DS.  5394
It is better to see a clout / than a hole out. C.  5395
It is better to spin all night with Penelope than sing all day with Helen.  5396
It is better to sup with a cutty than want a spoon.  5397
It is cheap enough to say, God Help you.  5398
It is done secundum usum Sarum.
  This proverb, coming out of the Church, hath since enlarged itself into a civil use, signifying things done with exactness, according to rule and precedent. Osmund, Bishop of Sarum, about the year 1090, made that ordinal or office, which was generally received all over the land, so that churches thenceforward easily understood one another, speaking the same words in their liturgy.—R. But, as I have shown in my Faiths and Folklore, 1905, the Sarum and other uses exhibit occasional variations.
It is easier to build two chimneys than to maintain one. H.
  i.e., It is easier to build two chimneys than keep one wife. Chimney seems here to be used in a special sense. Comp. No Man Knows, &c.
It is easier to descend than to ascend. C.  5401
It is easier to pull down than build.  5402
It is easy for a man in health to preach patience to the sick.  5403
It is easier to strike than defend well.  5404
It is easy to cry [y]ule at other men’s cost. HE.
  Another [rhyming] version is:
        “It is good to cry Yule
On another man’s stool.”
The Italians say, “Le feste son belle a casa d’altri.” This rule the Spaniard is sure to keep.—R. The Italians were always shy of receiving guests under their own roofs.
It is easy to keep a castle that was never assaulted.  5406
It is easy to rob an orchard when none keeps it.  5407
It is either a brake or a bush. WALKER.  5408
It is evil [or hard] to halt before a cripple. HE.
  Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575: Countryman’s New Commonwealth, 1647. For fear of being detected. Il ne faut pas clocher devant un boiteux. Fr. Chaucer, in Troylus and Cresseide, says, or rather makes Troylus say:
        “It is full hard to halten unespied
Bifor a crepul, for he kan the craft.”
Lib. 4 (edit. Bell, v. 228).    
        “Brunello pleesantly doth talk and tipple,
Not knowing he did hault before a cripple.”
—Harington’s Ariosto, 1591, p. 21.    
“It is an olde Prouerbe that if one dwell next doore to a creple he will learne to hault.”—Lyly’s Euph., 1579, repr. 1868, p. 131.
It is evil to hop before them that run for the bell.
  Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575 (Works, by Hazlitt, i. 429).
It is evil waking of a sleeping dog. HE.
  The Conflict of Conscience, 1581, edit. 1851, p. 52.


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