632: Proverbial Philosophy.

In many cases, though the ideas may be familiar enough, we might find it difficult to match Creole proverb with English equivalent. “It’s the old pot that makes the good soup,” might well be the motto for a Conservative association. “If your petticoats fit you well, don’t try to put on your husband’s breeches,” reminds us of one of Mrs. Lynn Lynton’s scolding diatribes; and “eating once doesn’t wear out the teeth” makes us think of Oliver Twist and his impertinent demand for more. In some of these sayings there seems to lurk a sombre irony. “It is when death comes that you think about your life;” “He who kills his own body works for the worms;” “The leprosy says it loves you, while it is eating your fingers.” There is something here, deeper and more mordant than is common in proverbial philosophy. Those who are proud of low aims and ignoble ambitions, may find a word for them in the homely saying, “Chickens don’t boast what good soup they make.” A delightful laxity in the law of slander seems to be indicated in the brief sentence “The tongue has no bones,” while, on the other hand, a strictness in the legal code is hinted at in this, “He who takes a partner takes a master.” A patriotic if mistaken zeal is shown in the protest against the custom of the rich planters who Send their sons to be educated in Europe, “He went to school a kid, and came back a sheep.” That we should learn by the misfortune of others seems to be the moral of this saying: “If you see your neighbor’s beard on fire, water your own.” “Behind the dog’s back it is ‘dog’, but before him it is ‘Mr. Dog,’” reminds us at once of a certain barrack-room ballad:

Oh, it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’
Tommy go away,
But it’s “Thank you, Mr. Atkins,” when
the band begins to play.

Good people who are over-sanguine as to the immediate accomplishment of all their little plans are quietly assured that “When the sky falls, all the flies will be caught.” Two pithy sayings deal with the root of all evil: “Money is good, but it’s too dear;” “Money has no blood relations.” Fair-Weather friends are hit off rather neatly in the next: “It’s when the wind is blowing that folks can see the skin of a fowl.”

(“Creole Proverbs,The Living Age, Vol. CCXVI, 1898, pp. 471–472).

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632: Proverbial Philosophy.