PROVERBS AND APHORISMS of Patience Worth

Cat-Blue2In the early years of communication with Patience Worth, she would often utter rather short exclamatory statements, perhaps typical of her time in the 1600s which have subsequently been culled out of the transcriptions of her communications and referred to as proverbs and aphorisms of Patience Worth. Many of these come from her ‘table talk” with Pearl Curran,  John Curran, Mary Pollard, Pearl’s mother and Emily Hutchings Pearl’s close friend and other visitors around the Ouija board.  Now Patience Worth probably had no intent on inventing proverbs but never-the-less she did often come up with some witty responses to questions and comments from people who sat at séances with her and Pearl Curran. According to Walter Franklin Prince in his book The Case of Patience Worth, he states that ” almost immediately after Patience Worth announced herself, especially as annoyed or stimulated by the wonderment, curiosity, and debate of persons present, and in impromptu response to utterances by others, she began to make replies, which in pith, wit, wisdom and generally in terseness, resemble the proverbs of old time, and compare favorably with them. Some are like the homeliest sayings of rural origin, some are philosophical and lofty, some are exquisite in beauty. Some of them indeed contain superfluous words, such as time would wear away if they passed through the process that has been applied to the wise saws of former generations.” 

Apparently Dr. Prince did a little bit of study of proverbs among all peoples that according to Dr. Prince “were imbedded in the literature of the ages.” He had easily found two hundred and thirty collections of proverbs of forty-five peoples with many dialectical subdivisions. He compared the so-called proverbs of Patience Worth with many of those he found in those collections and determined that those of Patience compared favorably with those which had stood the test of time. He states that “It is not so easy as it looks to manufacture, cold-bloodedly, sentences of the genuine proverb quality. . . . Let us put it, for one person to originate many scores of short sentences, ranging from rustic bluntness to philosophical depth and poetic beauty, all corresponding to the definition ‘condensing in witty or striking form the wisdom of experience’ would be an extraordinary achievement. If not, who besides Patience Worth has done it?” Prince goes on to say, “Mrs. Curran never, in her talk with or letters to me, showed any tendency to coin sentences of a proverb-like nature, and I have found no one who remembers of her uttering one before the advent of Patience Worth. That she should be able, under the Patience Worth influence or in the Patience Worth state, to do impromptu, as flashes from the impact of utterances made by others, what is so exceedingly difficult for brilliant writers to do with deliberation and care, namely, to pour out sayings of proverb quality, pith, wisdom, flavor and brevity, fit to have come from the lips of a philosopher, a poet, a saint or a peasant (the last oftenest), places the problem of the subconscious, either as a transmitter or a generator, before us in more imperative terms than ever.”

Dr. Prince went on to list one hundred and seventy proverbs of Patience Worth of which I have culled the ones which interest me the most.  Most of these were impromptu, being called forth by some unexpected remark made by another.  They appear not to have been produced by any conscious effort on the part of Mrs. Curran.

1.  AN OWL IS SILENT, AND CREDITED WITH MUCH WISDOM.
2.  A WISE HEN BETRAYS NOT ITS NEST WITH A LOUD CACKLE.
3.  THISTLE-DOWN IS AS RAINBOWS SPUN, YET FLAX THE LINEN MAKES
4.
  WHEN MANNA FALLS, FILL THYSELF AND QUESTION NOT.
5.  BEAT THE HOUND AND LOSE THE HARE.
6.  TO BREW A POTION, NEEDS MUST HAVE A POT.
7.  SOME FOLK, LIKE THE BELL WITHOUT A CLAPPER, GO CLANGING ON IN GOOD FAITH
        BELIEVING THE GOOD FOLKS CAN HEAR THEM.
8.  A FIERY TONGUE BELONGS TO ONE WORTH BURNING.
9.  A LOLLIPOP IS BUT A BREEDER OF PAIN.
(According to Dr. Prince, Patience Worth meant that flattering utterances are sometimes less beneficial than criticisms or rebukes.)
10. WEAK YARN IS NOT WORTH THE KNITTING.
11. A WISE COOK TELLETH NOT THE BREW.
12. THE BELL-COW DOTH DEEM THE GOOD FOLKS GO TO SABBATH-HOUSE
          FROM THE RINGING OF HER BELL.
13. SHOULD’ST I PRESENT THEE WITH A PUMPKIN,
          WOULD’ST THOU DESIRE TO COUNT THE SEEDS?
(Dr. Prince thought this was similar to ‘It is disgraceful to make difficulties of trifles.’  Well, maybe so, but it seems to me that a better comparison would be ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”  That is, if someone gives you a horse, don’t look to see if the teeth are in good shape.  Just take the horse and be thankful you got it as a gift.  Similarly if someone gives you a pumpkin, don’t judge the quality of the gift by counting the seeds; just take it and go!)
14. THE COCK WHO CROWETH LOUDEST TO CALL THE HENS SELDOM HATH A FAT WORM
          BUT EXPECTETH A LOUD CACKLE.
15. SET THE A DOG TO CARRY MICE TO TABBY?
16. CARDING COTTON DOES NOT WEAVE THE CLOTH.
17. A BASTING BUT TOUGHENS AN OLD GOOSE.
18. A POT OF WISDOM WOULD BOIL TO NOTHING ERE A 
        DOUBTER DEEMED IT WORTH TASTING.
19. TO CATCH A FLEA NEEDS BE A DOG?
20. THE PIGGIE WHO SCRATCHETH UPON AN OAK
          DOTH DEEM HIS FLEAS THE FALLING ACORNS CAUSE.
21. THE JACKASS NE’ER CAN KNOW HIS REFLECTION IN THE POOL.
22. THE COCK ON A LIMB CROWS OVER THE HENS, BUT HE FEEDS ON WORMS
         AS WELL AS THEY.
23. NO MAN IS WEARIED SORER THAN HE WHO IS WEARY OF HIMSELF.
24. A BABE WITHOUT A WAIL IS LIKE A DOG WITHOUT A TAIL.
25. AN ASS WHO KICKETH A LUTE, DEEMETH ‘TIS MUSIC.
26. EACH MAN WRAPPETH HIS THOUGHT WITHIN HIS OWN EGOTRY
         AND CALLETH THE BRAT A NEW NAME.
27. GIVE ME NOT WISDOM ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND THE UNIVERSE,
         BUT FOLLY ENOUGH TO TOLERATE IT.
28. WISDOM IS AN AGED BABE AND YOUTH THINKS HE IS ITS SIRE.
29. YOU MAY NOT MEND A SPLIT HEAD BY BEING SORRY.
30. AN ASS MAY BE A GOODISH NEIGHBOR—–WITH A RAILING BETWEEN.
31. HE WHO RIDES O’ER HARD TO MILL MAY LOSE HIS SACKING.
32. LET A WISE MAN SET TO LOVERING AND THE APPLE OF HIS WISDOM ROTS.
33. NO MAN WHOSE BELLY IS SOURED THINKETH SWEET.
34. WHEN A FOOL BECOMES WISE HE FALLS SILENT.
35. HE WHO LACKETH THE POWER TO RAGE, DAMMETH SILENTLY
         AND ROTTETH HIS OWN HEART.
36. NO WISDOM IS A USEFUL THING SAVE IT HATH A PAIR OF HANDS
         THAT ARE FIT FOR WORKING.
37. THE BOBBIN’S STICKING MEANETH NAUGHT TO THE PATTERN.
38. I COULD NOT DOUBT GOD SAVE THAT I DOUBTED MAN.
39. MAN LOSES THE ZEST OF THE GAME IN THE SORTING OF THE DISCUSES.
40. I HAVE OFTEN HEARD HOW WISE A BIRD THE OWL, BUT WHO HATH
        EVER HEARD A WISE THING IT HATH UTTERED?
41. YE MAY NOT COME UNTO THE MART UNLESS YE TRUDGE THE WAY.
42. MAN’S WISDOM IS GOD’S JEST.
43. NO BEGGAR IS SO BLIND AS HE WHO HATH LOVE’S FINGERS ON HIS EYES.
44. LOVE IS AN ARMOR AND A SHIELD; YEA, AND AN ARROW WITH
         DEATH UPON ITS POINT.
45. WISE MEN LISP LEARNING; FOOLS SHOUT FOLLY.
46. THE GOOSE KNOWETH WHERE THE BIN LEAKETH.
47. HE WHO HATH A HOUSE, A HEARTH AND A FRIEND HATH A LUCKY LOT.
48. DEAD WISDOMS SPAKE BY DEADER SAGES.
49. COURT WISDOM WITH FOLLY-SINGING; I WOT THEN WISDOM WILL DANCE.
50. TRUTH HATH A DANGEROUS SISTER, HALF HER FLESH—-NEAR TRUTH.

Dr. Prince sums up his discussion of the proverbs of Patience Worth by saying ” Since the general law is that the subconscious can occasionally surpass the feats of the conscious, but only in fields of effort where the conscious has shown aptitude or at least made effort or cherished desire to act, this mass of proverbial literature either evidences an external mind operating through Mrs. Curran’s subconsciousness or makes her an exceptional case, transcending previous authentic cases and contradicting what had seemed one of the conclusions of psychology.

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