A Treasury of English Wisdom
Every country and every culture in the world has proverbs. Their origin
is in both collective and individual wisdom, which is knowledge gained
not from books, but from experience of life. The more a country and culture
has been Christianized, the more Christian is its stock of proverbial
wisdom. Indeed, among the many didactic books of the Old Testament, one
book is known as 'Proverbs', though we should not forget other similar
books, such as Ecclesiastes, The Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus
(The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach). Here we have gathered together
a small selection of English proverbial wisdom. Although many proverbs
are international, some are peculiar to a particular people. One of the
most remarkable aspects of English proverbial wisdom is its almost monastic
sobriety, as is illustrated below:
The oldest man that ever lived died in the
When angry, count to ten, when very angry,
count to a hundred.
Commit a sin thrice and you will think it
Confession is good for the soul.
Every sin carries its own punishment.
Half the truth is often the whole lie.
He that is embarked with the devil must sail with him.
If you can't be good, be careful.
To err is human, to forgive is divine.
As a man lives, so shall he die.
As soon as man is born, he begins to die.
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
He who fears death dies every time he thinks of it.
He who much has suffered much will know.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Immoderate sorrow causes great mischief.
Misfortune is a good teacher.
Of thy sorrow be not too sad, of thy joy be not too glad.
Sin and sorrow are inseparable.
Six feet of earth make all men equal.
There is no greater misfortune than not to be able to bear misfortune.
There is no pain so great that time will not soften.
A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.
Climb not too high lest the fall be the greater.
Do business, be not a slave to it.
God helps them that help themselves.
Good works will never save you but you cannot be saved without them.
A father's blessing cannot be drowned in water nor consumed by fire.
A foe to God was never true friend to man.
Friendship is love with understanding.
God could not be everywhere, therefore He made mothers.
The family that prays together, stays together.
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
Drunkenness is a pair of spectacles to see the devil and all his works.
Man is what he eats.
Knaves and fools divide the world.
Learned fools are the greatest of all fools.
The fish always stinks from the head downwards.
Wise men have mouths in their hearts, fools their hearts in their mouths.
No happiness without holiness.
No joy like heaven's.
Obedience is the mother of happiness.
To be content with little is true happiness.
Virtue and happiness are mother and daughter.
Better suffer for truth than prosper by falsehood.
Let him who would learn to pray go to sea.
Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers.