Reference > Quotations > W.C. Hazlitt, comp. > English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases
W.C. Hazlitt, comp.  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases.  1907.
Vain-glory  to  What the heart
Vain-glory blossoms but never bears.  9815
Valour that parleys is near yielding. H.  9816
Valour would fight, but discretion would run away.  9817
Varnishing hides a crack.  9818
Vauxhall slice (A).
  A very thin cut of ham. According to a well-known story a carver at the Gardens was expected to be able to cover at least an acre with a single ham.
Veal, quoth the Dutchman.
  Love’s Labours’ Lost, 1598. I presume this is a satire on the Dutch pronunciation of Well.
Veal will be cheap; calves fall.
  A jeer for those who lose the calves of their legs, by, &c.—R.
Venture a small fish to catch a great one.
  Il faut hazarder un petit poisson pour prendre un grand. Fr.—R.
Venture not all in one bottom. CL.  9823
Venture thy opinion, but not thyself for thy opinion.  9824
Verbum sap.
  i.e., Verbum [sufficit] sapienti.—Letters of Eminent Literary Men, 148. “A word to the wise is enough, and many words won’t fill a bushel.”—Poor Richard Improved, 1758. “A buon intenditore poche parole (or, parlar laconico—Torriano). Ital. A bon entendeur il ne faut que demie parole. Fr. A bom entendedor poucas palavras.—Port. On the title of Decker’s Guls Horne-Booke, 1609, there is the form: Al Savio meza parola Basta. In Barry’s Ram Alley, 1611 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, x. 301), Throat uses the term: “Pauca sapienti.”
Very, like a whale.
        “Hamlet.  Do you see that cloud, that’s almost in shape like a camel?
“Pol.  By the mass, and ’tis like a camel indeed.
“Ham.  Methinks, ’tis like a weasel.
“Pol.  It is backed like a weasel.
“Ham.  Or like a whale?
“Pol.  Very like a whale.”—Hamlet, iii. 2.
  A later form is, Very like a whale in a butter-boat.
Vice makes virtue shine.  9827
Virgins in Norfolk wear very little shoes.
  They must be very young.
Virtue and a trade are the best portion for children. H.  9829
Virtue is of noble birth, but riches take the wall of her.  9830
Virtue is tied to no degrees of men.  9831
Virtue never grows old. H.  9832
Virtue would not go far, if a little vanity walked not with it.  9833
Virtues all agree, but vices fight one another.  9834
Vox et præterea nihil.  9835
Vox Populi vox Dei.
  Title of a tract produced about 1547, and inserted in Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry, iii.; Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575 (Works, by Hazlitt, i. 151). But Mr. Gomme tells me that he finds it to have been a popular cry as early as Edward II.
Wait for the moonshine in the water. HE.  9837
Wake not a sleeping lion.
  Countryman’s New Commonwealth, 1647.
Walk groundly: / talk profoundly:
drink roundly: / sleep soundly. HE.
Walls have ears.  9840
Waltham calves. Essex.
        “For Walthams calues to Tiburne needes must go
To sucke a bull and meete a butchers axe.”
The Braineles blessing of the Bull (circa 1571), Anc. Ball. 1867, 335. But Skelton, in his Colyn Cloute (circa 1520), has it differently: “As wyse as Waltons calfe.” Compare As Wise as Waltham’s calf, &c., supra.
Want goes by his door.  9842
Want is the whetstone of wit.
  Tarlton’s Jests, 1638 (Old Engl. J. B., ii. 236). A various reading of, Necessity is the mother of invention.
Want makes strife / ’twixt man and wife.  9844
Want of care / admits despair.  9845
Want will be my master.
  Said by a person who wishes for something beyond his reach.
Wanton kisses are keys of sin. CL.  9847
Wanton kittens may make sober cats.  9848
Wanton look and twinkling, / laughing and tickling,
open breast and singing: / these without lying,
are tokens of whoring.
  In a MS. of the 13th century, apud Reliq. Antiq., ii. 14.
War and physic are governed by the eye. H.  9850
War is death’s feast.  9851
War is sweet to them that know it not.
  Bellum Erasmi, translated into English, 1533, sign. A 2. “War seemeth sweet to such as have not tried it.”—Misfortunes of Arthur, 1587, in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, iv. 291. Dulce bellum inexpertis.
War makes thieves, and peace brings them to the gallows. H.
  La guerre fait les larrons, et la paix les amene au gibet. Fr. See Howell’s Letters, ed. 1754, p. 335; letter dated 2 Sept. 1645.
War must be waged by waking men.  9854
Ware and Wades-mill are worth all London. Hertfordshire.
  This, I assure you, is a masterpiece of the vulgar wits in this county, wherewith they endeavour to amuse travellers, as if Ware, a thoroughfare market, and Wades-mill, part of a village lying two miles north thereof, were so prodigiously rich, as to countervail the wealth of London. The fallacy lieth in the homonymy of Ware; here not taken for that town so named, but appellatively for all vendible commodities. It is rather a riddle than a proverb.—R.
Ware skins, quoth Grubber, when he flung the louse into the fire.  9856
Ware wapps [? wasps], quoth William Day.
  “Wapps, most likely wasp; but it may mean a large truss of straw, which wapps and whips signify, and the warning may be to those walking below some hay-loft.”—Notes and Queries, March 12, 1878.
Warmester’s colt.
  In 1565–6 a ballad was entered by Thomas Purfoot the elder entitled: To beware how they ryde upon Warmester’s Colt.” See Hazlitt’s Bibl. Coll., 2nd S., v. Ballads.
Wars are pleasant in the ear, not in the eye. CL.  9859
Wars bring scars.
  The Italians say, Quando la guerra comincia, s’ apre l’ inferno. When war begins, hell opens. Guerra, caza, y amores, / por un placer mil dolores. Span.—R.
Wash your hands often, your feet seldom, and your head never.  9861
Wasps haunt the honey-pot.  9862
Waste makes want.  9863
Waste not, want not.  9864
Wat Wink.
  See Towneley Mysteries, 30.
Watched pot never boils.  9866
Water afar off quencheth not fire. H.  9867
Water breeds frogs in the belly, but wine kills worms.
  Agua fria sarna cria, agua roxa sarna escosca. Span.—R.
Water, fire, and soldiers quickly make room. H.  9869
Water is a waster. WALKER (1672).  9870
Water trotted is as good as oats. H.
  Giving a horse on a journey a drink of water, provided you trot afterwards, is as good as a feed of oats. N. and Q., 3rd. S., xii. 488.
Waving as the wind. HE.*  9872
We are all Adam’s children, but silk makes the difference. F.  9873
We are apt to believe what we wish for.  9874
We are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed.  9875
We are bound to be honest, but not to be rich.  9876
We are ever young enough to sin; never old enough to repent.  9877
We are fools one to another. H.  9878
We are more mindful of injuries than benefits.  9879
We are never so happy or unfortunate as we think ourselves.  9880
We are new-knit and so lately met,
that I fear we part not yet,
quoth the baker to the pillory. HE.
We are usually the best men when in the worst health.  9882
We can have no more of the fox but the skin. HE.  9883
We can live without our friends, but not without our neighbours.  9884
We cannot come to honour under coverlet. H.  9885
We carry our greatest enemies within us.  9886
We carry our neighbour’s failings in sight; we throw our own crimes over our shoulders.  9887
We desire but one feather out of your goose.  9888
We do nothing but in the presence of two great witnesses.
  God and our own conscience.
We easily forget our faults when nobody knows them.  9890
We hate delay, yet it makes us wise.  9891
We have all forgotten more than we remember.
  Rabelais, iii. 18, ed. 1807.
We have brought our hogs to a fair market.
  Title of a tract printed in 1651. “To bring one’s pigs to a wrong market,” occurs in Cartwright’s Ordinary, written before 1634. Compare He hath brought, &c., supra.
We have fished fair, and caught a frog.
  Part of the title of a satirical tract, printed in 1649.
We hounds killed the hare, quoth the lapdog.  9895
We in diversely, but end alike. CL.  9896
We know not which stone the scorpion lurks under.  9897
We make ourselves fools at our own charges. HE.*  9898
We may give advice, but we cannot give conduct.  9899
We may not expect a good whelp from an ill dog.  9900
We must brew as we bake.
  Ingelend’s Disobedient Child, about 1563, in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, ii. 295:—
        “I bad him thank his master most heartily,
And sent him by him a piece of venison.
For that he vouchsafed to write so gently,
Touching the marrying and state of my son;
But notwithstanding I sent him no money
To pay such debts as my son did owe,
Because he had me forsaken utterly,
And me for his good father would not know.
And said that with him I would not make,
From that day forward during my life,
But that as he had brewed, so he should bake.”
We must take the consequences of our own actions.
We must do as we may, if we cannot do as we would. WALKER.  9902
We must fall down before a fox in season.  9903
We must live by the quick, not by the dead. CL.
  Heywood’s If you know not me, &c., 1605.
We never find that a fox dies in the dirt of his own ditch.  9905
We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.  9906
We play not for shoe-buckles. CL.  9907
We row in the same boat.  9908
We see not what sits on our shoulder. CL.  9909
We seldom find out that we are flattered.  9910
We sell our horse to get us hay. HE.*  9911
We shall catch birds to-morrow. HE.*  9912
We shall have rain: the fleas bite. CL.  9913
We shall lie all alike in our graves.
  Æqua tellus pauperi recluditur regumque pueris.—Horat. Mors sceptra ligonibus æquat. No occupa mas pies do tierra el cuerpo del papa que el del sacristan, aunque sea mas alto el uno que el otro, que al entrar en el hoyo todos nos agustamos y encojemos, ò nos hacen ajustar y encoger, mal que nos pese, y a buenas noches. Span.—R.
We should publish our joys, and conceal our griefs.  9915
We soon believe what we desire. HE.*
  The wish is father to the thought, as Shakespeare says.
We spit in his hat on Thursday, and wiped it off on Friday.
  Walpole’s Letters, ii. 195. He calls it “a new fashionable proverb.” But it was rather a temporary saying. It arose out of a foolish and vulgar bet.
We will not lose a Scot.
  That is, anything, how inconsiderable soever, that we can save or recover. During the enmity between the two nations, they had little esteem of, and less affection for, a Scotchman in the English border.—R.
Weak men had need be witty. CL.  9919
Weak things united become strong.  9920
Weal and women cannot pan, / but woe and women can.
  Pan = to fit in with or harmonise. See Atkinson’s Clevel. Gloss., 1868, p. 371.
Wealth got by labour is sweet in the enjoyment.
  New Help to Discourse, 1721, p. 135.
Wealth is best known by want.  9923
Wealth is like rheum: it falleth on the weakest parts. H.  9924
Wealth is not his who gets it, but his who enjoys it.  9925
Wealth makes worship.
  Por dinero balla el perro. Port. La robba fà star il tignoso al balcone. Ital.
Weapons bode peace.  9927
Wear a horn and blow it not.  9928
Weather meet to set paddocks abroad in. HE.  9929
Weaver’s beef of Colchester.
  Diary of the Rev. John Ward, 112. “That is, sprats, caught hereabouts, and brought hither in incredible abundance, whereon the poor weavers (numerous in this town) make much of their repast; cutting rands, rumps, sirloins, chines, out of them, as they go on.”—R.
Wedding is destiny. HE.
        “Be it far or nie, weddyng is desteny,
And hangyng likewise, saith that prouerbe, said I.”—Heywood.
        “The Prouerbe is true yt weddynge is destyne.”—Ballad licensed in 1558.
Wedlock’s a padlock.  9932
Weeds want no sowing.  9933
Weening is not measure. H.  9934
Weigh justly and sell dearly. H.
  Pesa giusto e vende caro. Ital.—R.
Weight and measure take away strife. H.  9936
Welcome death, quoth the rat, when the trap fell.  9937
Welcome evil, if thou comest alone. H.  9938
Welcome, is the best cheer.
  [Greek]. In muneribus res præstantissima mens est. Super omnia vultus accessere boni.—R.
Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest.  9940
We’ll do as they do at Quern;
what we do not to-day, we must do in the morn.
Well begun is half done. CL. AND WALKER.
  [Greek]. Dimidium facti qui cæpit habet.—Horat. Obra empezada medio alabada.—Span. Il più duro passo é quello della soglia.—Ital.
Well guessed, Kath., there’s neither to lack nor to leave. CL.  9943
Well hit, quoth Hickman, when he smote his wife on the buttocks with a beer pot.
  Interlude of the Four Elements (circa 1519), in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, i. 19.
Well-lathered is half-shaven.  9945
Well may he smell fire whose gown burns. H.  9946
Well may he stumble that chooses a stony way.  9947
Well might the cat wink when both her eyes were out.
        “Sumwhat it was sayeth the prouerbe old,
That the cate winked when here iye was out.”
Jack Juggler, edit. 1848, p. 46.    
Well-rhymed, tutor, brains and stairs.  9949
Well thriveth that God loveth.
  How the Goode Wif, &c., in Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry, i.
Well thriveth that well suffereth.
  “Wel abit [abides] that wel may tholye.”—Proverbs of Hendyng (Rel. Antiq., i. 115). Vincit qui patitur.
Well to work and make a fire, / doth both care and skill require.  9952
Well, well, is a word of malice. Cheshire.
  In other places, if you say, Well, well, they will ask you whom you threaten.—R.
Well wots the cat whose beard he licketh.
  MS. C.C.C. Camb. (Wright’s Essays, i. 149–50). Wel wot hure cat whas berd he lickat. “Murilegus bene scit cujus barbam linguere suescit.”—Leonine verse in a MS. Trin. Coll. Camb., 12th cent. (ibid.) But Heywood says, “The cat knoweth whose lips she lickth well enough,” which is the form adopted by more recent collectors, yet not, in my opinion, the correct one. Chat conoit bien qi barbe il lesche. Old Fr. The proverb is in Portuguese and Italian also.
Wellington roundheads.
  Proverbial formerly in Taunton for a violent fanatic.—R.
Well’s a fret: / he that dies for love will not be hanged for debt. Nottinghamshire.
  See N. and Q., 1st S., viii. 197.
Welsh faith.
  The equivalent of the Punica fides of the Romans. The saying is said to have arisen during the wars between the English and the Welsh.
Were there no fools, bad ware would not pass. H.  9958
Were there no hearers, there would be no backbiters. H.  9959
What, a Bishop’s wife! eat and drink in your gloves?  9960
What a day may bring a day may take away.  9961
What a dust have I raised! quoth the fly upon the coach.  9962
What a wonderful country is Lincolnshire.  9963
Where pigs … soap and cows … fire!
  See Halliwell, p. 521. A variant version of that given under Lincolnshire, supra, and by Ray, 1670.
What, again! quoth Palmer.  9965
What, again! quoth Paul, when his wife made him cuckold the second time. CL.  9966
What better is the house that the daw rises soon?  9967
What bread men break is broken to them again.
  Taylor’s Wit and Mirth, 1629.
What can you expect of a hog but his bristles?  9969
What cannot be cured must be endured. WALKER (1672).
  “What cannot be eschewed, must be embraced.”—M. W. of Windsor, 1602.
What can’t be done by might / may be done by sleight.  9971
What children hear at home, doth soon fly abroad.  9972
What comes from the heart goes to the heart.  9973
What cometh by kind costeth nothing.  9974
What costs little is little esteemed.  9975
What does not float is rotten.
  Qual che non guazza e fracido. Ital.
What d’ye call him.
  This now common colloquialism occurs in the Paston Letters, about 1470.
What d’ye lack.
  The old slang or proverbial term for a shopkeeper, derived from the practice of touting at the door for custom. “For I’me perswaded that there’s never a What lack you sir? in all the city but is sensible of our calamity.”—The Stage Players Complaint, 1641, sign. A 3.
What God made, he never mars.  9979
What God will, / no frost can kill.  9980
What good can it do an ass to be called a lion?  9981
What greater crime / than loss of time?  9982
What has been, may be.  9983
What have I to do with Bradshaw’s windmill? Leicestershire. F.
  What have I to do with other men’s matters?—R.
What he gets, he gets out of the fire.  9985
What I lost i’ the salt fish, I gained i’ the red herrings. CL.  9986
What is a pound of butter among a kennel of hounds?  9987
What is a tree of cherries worth to four in a company?
  Lottery of 1567 (Kempe’s Loseley MSS., p. 208. “This devise,” observes Mr. K., “is of frequent occurrence; it was probably a proverbial expression.”
What is a workman without his tools? HE.  9989
What is bought is cheaper than a gift.
  Mais barato he o comprado que o pedido. Port.
What is bred in the bone will not out in the flesh. HE.
  Walker’s Parœm., 1672. Camden reverses the order of the sentence. “Chi l’ha per natura fin alla fossa dura. Ital. That which comes naturally continues till death. Lo que en la léche se mama en la mortája se derráma. Span. The Latins and Greeks have many proverbial sayings to this purpose, as Lupus pilum mutat non mentem; The wolf may change his hair (for wolves and horses grow grey with age) but not his disposition. [Greek].—Aristoph. You can never bring a crabfish to go straight forwards. And [Greek]. Wood that grows crooked will hardly be straightened. Quem mas manha, ha, tarde ou nunca as perdera. Port.”—R.
What is done by night appears by day.  9992
What is every man’s business is no man’s business.  9993
What is got in the county is lost in the hundred.
  What is got in the whole sum is lost in particular reckonings.—R.
What is got over the devil’s back is spent under his belly. WALKER.
  What is got by oppression or extortion is many times spent in riot and luxury. Quel che vien di ruffa a raffa se ne và en baffa. Ital. Ce que le gantelet gaigne, le gorgerin le mange. Fr.—R.
What! is it nothing but up and ride?  9996
What is not wisdom is danger.  9997
What is one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
  “L’un mort dont l’autre vit. Fr. Lo que uno desecha otro lo ruega. Span.—R. Quod aliis cibus est, aliis fuat acre venenum.—Lucretius, iv. 640.
What Lancashire thinks to-day, England thinks to-morrow.  9999
What maintains one vice would bring up two children.  10000
What matters it to a blind man that his father could see?  10001
What may be done at any time will be done at no time.  10002
What! need a rich man to be a thief?  10003
What! nowhere such a vavasour?
  “This comes from, or at least through, Chaucer, who sums up his description of the ‘frankeleyn’:—
        ‘A schirreve had he ben, and a counter;
Was nowhere such a worthi vavaser.’
That is, such a worthy member of the lesser gentry; but this expression may be older than Chaucer, as poets often imbed in their text pre-existing proverbs.”—Notes and Queries, March 2, 1878.
What pretty things men will make for money, quoth the old woman, when she saw a monkey.  10005
What raging rashly is begun,
challengeth shame before half-done.
What she wants in up and down, she hath in round about.  10007
What should a cow do with a nutmeg?  10008
What should be done with an old wife, but make gunpowder of her? CL.  10009
What soberness conceals / drunkenness reveals.
  Quod est in corde sobrii est in ore ebrii. [Greek].—Plutarch, [Greek]. Erasmus cites to this purpose a sentence out of Herodotus: [Greek]: when wine sinks, words swim. And Pliny had an elegant saying to this purpose: Vinum usque adeò mentis arcana prodit, ut mortifera etiam inter pocula loquantur homines, et nè per jugulum quidem redituras voces contineant. Quid non ebrietas designat? operta recludit.—R. We are here reminded of the Hebrew legend of Noah or Noe.
What some win in the Hundred, they lose in the Shire. C.  10011
What! starve at a cook’s shop?
  Endurer la soif aupres d’ une fontaine. Fr.
What the eye seeth not, the heart doth not rue.
  “At E nocht seis, hart nocht [char.]arnis.”—Ravis, Off Good Women, Shakespeare Soc. ed. 1870, p. 108; MS. of the 16th cent. in R. A., i. 207. Also (with an immaterial variation) in Camden’s Rem., 1614, p. 312. “Le cœur ne veut douloir ce que l’œil no peut veoir. Fr. Ojos que no veen, coraçon no quebrantan. Span.”—R.
What the good wife spares, the cat eats.  10014
What the heart thinketh the tongue speaketh. C.  10015


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