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W.C. Hazlitt, comp. English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases. 1907.

I may see to If the wise

I may see him need, / but I’ll not see him bleed. CL.
“Parents will usually say this of prodigal or undutiful children; meaning, I will be content to see them suffer a little hardship, but not any great misery or calamity.”—R. I owe to Mr. Raymond Vose the following note:—
“Sir Antho. Cope,—against the point of witnesses. Not to refuse every lewd fellow; for most of them can say more, than any other Man.”
“Sir Geo. Moore,—The Jury most fit to chuse. When any Man may offer himself, most dangerous, a Brother will see his Brother need, but not bleed, therefore Fear of great Partiality.”—Journals of the House of Commons, 5 Jac. i, Lunæ, 29o die Junii, 1607.

I must take the ford as I find it.
Gascoigne’s Works, by Hazlitt, i. 4.

I myself had been happy, if I had been unfortunate in time.

I ne’er liked a dry bargain.

I never asked you for wood to heat my own oven with.

I never desired you to stumble at the stone that lieth at my door.

I never fared worse than when I wished for my supper. CL.

I now see which leg you are lame of.

I owe God a death. WALKER.

I proud, and thou proud, who shall bear the ashes out? HE.
Fuller (Gnomologia, 1732) has it differently: “I stout, and thou stout, who shall carry the dirt out?”

I say little, but I think more. HE.

I scratch, where it itches not. C.

I sell nothing on trust till to-morrow.

I shall sit on his skirt.

I sucked not this out of my fingers’ ends.

I talk of chalk and you of cheese.
Dyke’s English Proverbs, 1709, p. 54. Io ti domando danari e tu mi rispondi coppe. Ital.—R.

I taught you to swim, and now you’d drown me.

I thank you for nothing.
Randolph’s Hey for Honesty, 1651, p. 7. This saying is well understood, and is still in use.

I think his face is made of a fiddle: every one that looks on him loves him.

I think this is a butcher’s horse, he carries a calf so well.

I thought I had given her rope enough, said Pedley, when he hanged his mare. F.
This Pedley was a natural fool, of whom go many stories.—R.

I thought I would give him one and lend him another.
i.e., I would be quit with him.—R.

I took her for a rose, but she breedeth a burr. HE.

  • “I toke hir for a rose, but she breedth a burre,
  • She comth to sticke to me nowe in hir lacke.”—Heywood.
  • I took him for a worm, but he proved a serpent.

    I trow not, quoth Dinnis.
    See Mr. Thoms’ Introd. to Thomas of Reading (Early Prose Romances, 1828). This appears to refer to a case under the Halifax Gibbet Law, when the culprit escaped from the liberty by going a short distance, and when he was met and asked by some one, who did not know him, whether Dinnis was not to be executed that day, replied: “I trow not.”

    I was by, quoth Pedley, when my eye was put on.

    I was taken by a morsel, says the fish. H.

    I will christen my own child first.

    I will come when the cuckoo has pecked up the dirt. E. Anglia.
    In the spring.

    I will do my good will, as he said, that threshed in his cloak.
    This was some Scotchman; for I have been told, that they are wont to do so: myself have seen them hold plough in their cloaks.—R.

    I will give you a crown a piece for your lies, if you’ll let me have them all.

    I will give you a shirt full of sore bones.

    I will keep no more cats than will catch mice. Somerset.

    I will lambertize you.
    i.e., I will put you on the shelf, as Cromwell did General Lambert, when he removed him from his appointments, and pacified him with a pension of £2,000 a year.

    I will make him dance without a pipe.
    I’ll do him an injury, and he shall not know how.—R. This may be an allusion to the droll story of the Friar and Boy.

    I will never keep a dog to bite me.

    I will never stoop low to take up nothing.

    I will not change a cottage in possession for a kingdom in reversion.
    Some say, A little in one’s own pocket is better than much in another man’s purse.—R.

    I will not dance to every fool’s pipe.

    I will not keep a dog and bark myself.

    I will not make my dishclout my tablecloth.

    I will not play my ace of trumps yet.

    I will not pull the thorn out of your foot, to put it into my own.

    I will not want when I have and when I han’t too. Somerset.

    I will pluck the torques with you.
    This is its British dress. Pennant (Hist. of Whiteford and Holywell, 1796, p. 93) describes it as a common proverb indicating a hard struggle for victory, from the torque worn by the Welsh.

    I will say the crow is white. HE.

  • “I will say the crowe is whyte, wylt thou so?
  • When euery man seeth hir blacke: go, fool, go!”—Heywood.
  • I will wash my hands, and wait upon you.

    I will watch your water.

    I wiped his nose on it.

  • I wot well how the world wags:
  • he is most loved that hath most bags.
  • Walker (1672). [Greek]. Felicium multi cognati. It was wont to be said, Ubi amici ibi opes; but now it may (as Erasmus complains) well be inverted, Ubi opes ibi amici.—R.
  • “For I haue heard a prouerbe old,
  • Be rul’d by him that hath the gold.”
  • —King’s Halfe-penny-worth of Wit in a Penny-worth of Paper, 1613, sign. B 4.

    I wot what I wot. DS.

    I would have the fruit, not the basket.

    I would not have your cackling for your eggs.

    I would not touch him with a pair of tongs.

    I would not trust him, no, not with a bag of scorpions.

    Idle folks have the least leisure.

    Idle men are the devil’s playfellows.

    Idle people take the most pains [or have the most labour].

    Idleness and lust are sworn friends.

    Idleness is the greatest prodigality in the world.

    Idleness is the key of beggary.

    Idleness turns the edge of wit.

    If a cuckold come, he’ll take away the meat, if there be no salt on the table.

    If a lie could have choked him, that would have done it.

    If a louse miss its footing on his coat, ’twill be sure to break its neck.

    If a man beats a bush in Essex, out jumps a calf.

    If a man once fall, all will tread on him.
    Dejectâ arbore quivis ligna colligit. Vulgus sequitur fortunam et odit damnatos.—Juven. When the tree is fallen, all go with their hatchet.—H.

    If a poor man give thee ought, it is that thou shouldst give him something better.

    If a wise man should never miscarry, the fool would burst.

  • If a woman were as little as she is good,
  • a pease-cod would make her a gown and a hood.
  • If a word be worth one shekel, silence is worth two.

    If all fools had babies, we should want fuel. H.
    Si tous les fols portoient le marrotte, on ne scait de quel bois on s’echaufferoit. Fr.—R.

    If all fools wore white caps, we should seem a flock of geese. H.

    If all the world were ugly, deformity would be no monster.

    If an ass goes a travelling, he’ll not come home a horse.
    Comp. How much the fool, &c.

    If any fool finds the cap fit him, let him wear it.

    If any one say that one of thine ears is the ear of an ass, regard it not: if he say so of them both, procure thyself a bridle.
    According to Mr. Carpenter’s Old Hebrew Proverbs, 1826, No. 3, this saying belongs to that language and literature.

    If anything stay, let work stay.

  • If bees swarm in May, / they’re worth a pound next day:
  • if they swarm in July, / they’re not worth a fly.
  • Notes and Queries, 1st S., ii. 512.

    If Belvoir hath a cap, / you churls of the Vale look to that.
    That is, when the clouds hang over the towers of Bever Castle, it is a prognostic of much rain and moisture, to the much endamaging that fruitful vale lying in the three counties of Leicester, Lincoln, and Nottingham.—R.

    If better were within, better would come out.

  • If Brayton bargh, and Hambleton hough, and Burton bream,
  • were all in thy belly, it would never be team. Yorkshire.
  • It is spoken of a covetous and insatiable person, whom nothing will content. Brayton, Hambleton, and Burton are places between Cawood and Pontefract, in this county. Brayton Bargh is a small hill in a plain country covered with wood. Bargh, in the Northern dialect, is properly a horse-way up a steep hill, though here it be taken for the hill itself.—R.

  • If Cadbury and Dolbury dolven were,
  • all England might plough with a golden share. Devonshire.
  • Westcott reports, That a fiery dragon, or some ignis fatuus in such lykeness, hath bynne often seene to flye between these hills, komming from the one to the other in the night season; whereby it is supposed ther is a great treazure hydd in each of them; and that the dragon is the trusty treasurer and sure keeper thereof, as he was of the golden fleese in Colchis, which Jason, by the help of Medea, brought thence; for, as Ovid saith, he was very vigilant:
  • A watchfull dragon sett
  • This golden fleece to keep,
  • Within whose careful eyes
  • Came never wink of sleep.
  • And as the two relations may be as true one as the other, for any thinge I knowe, and some do averr to have sceene ytt lately. And of this hydden treasure the rhyming proverbe here quoted goes commonly and anciently.—R.

  • If Candlemas day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight:
  • if on Candlemas day it be shower and rain, ill winter is gone, and will not come again.
  • The same as the Scotish saying:
  • If Candlemas is fair and clear,
  • There’ll be twa winters in the year,
  • which seems to have escaped Mr. Hislop, and which has its counterparts in French and German. There is another English proverb upon this point, namely:
  • The hind had as lief see
  • his wife on a bier,
  • As that Candlemas Day
  • should be pleasant and clear.
  • This is a translation or metaphrase of that old Latin distich:
  • Si sol splendescat Mariâ purificante,
  • Major erit glacies post festum quam fuit ante.
  • “Now, though I think all observations about particular days superstitious and frivolous; yet because probably, if the weather be fair for some days about this time of the year, it may betoken frost, I have put this down as it was delivered me.”—R. Mr. Denham has inserted in his Collection, 1846, some other analogous sayings on this subject.

  • If Chichester church-steeple fall,
  • in England there is no King at all.
  • The steeple fell during the reign of Victoria. See Lower’s Comp. History of Sussex, 1870, i. 104.

  • If Christmas day on a [Sunday] fall,
  • a troublous winter we shall have all. D.
  • “If Christmas Day on Monday be,
  • A great winter that year you’ll see,
  • And full of winds both loud and shrill;
  • But in summer, truth to tell,
  • High winds shall there be, and strong,
  • Full of tempests lasting long;
  • While battles they shall multiply,
  • And great plenty of beasts shall die.
  • They that be born that day I ween,
  • They shall be strong each one and keen;
  • He shall be found that stealeth aught;
  • Tho’ thou be sick, thou diest not.”
  • Harl. MS., 2252, fol. 153–4.
  • If cold wind reach you through a hole,
  • say your prayers, and mind your soul. D.
  • If dry be the buck’s horn on Holyrood morn,
  • ’tis worth a kist of gold;
  • but if wet it be seen on Holyrood e’en,
  • bad harvest is foretold.
  • Notes and Queries, 2nd S., vi. 522.

  • If Easter falls in Lady-day’s lap,
  • beware, O England, of a clap.
  • If ever I catch his cart overthrowing, I’ll give it one shove.

    If every bird take back its own feathers, you’ll be naked.

    If every man mend one, all shall be mended. HE.

    If folly were grief, every house would weep. H.

    If fools should not fool it, they should lose their season. H.

  • If fortune favour, I may have her, for I go about her;
  • if fortune fail, you may kiss her tail, and go without her.
  • If good apples you would have,
  • the leaves must go into the grave. S. Devon.
  • Or rather, perhaps, be in the grave—i.e., You must plant your trees in the fall of the leaf.

    If great men would have care of little ones, both would last long. H.

    If he be a coward, he is a murderer.
    Polimanteia, by W. Clarke, 1595.

    If he were as long as he is lither, he might thatch a house without a ladder. Cheshire.

    If his cap be made of wool.
    In former times, when this proverb came first in use, men generally wore caps. Hats were a thing hardly known in England, much less hats made of rabbits’ or beavers’ fur. Capping was then a great trade, and several statutes made about it. So that, If his cap were made of wool, was as much as to say most certainly, As sure as the clothes on his back. Dr. Fuller.—R.

    If I be hanged I’ll choose my gallows.

  • If I could hear, and thou couldst see,
  • there would none live but you and me,
  • as the adder said to the blind worm.
  • This is not strictly true, for the adder is not deaf. Compare Notes and Queries, 2nd S., i. 331. Randolph, in the Muses Looking-glass, 1638, act ii. sc. 3, introduces this popular delusion, but appears to have credited it:
  • How happy are the moles that have no eyes!
  • How blest the Adders that have no ears!
  • If I do, dog worry my uncle!
    A phrase, according to Halliwell (Dict. v. Dog), used when any one is asked to do something disagreeable.

    If I had given fourpence for that advice, I had bought it a groat too dear.

    If I had had no plough, you had had no corn.

    If I had not lifted up the stone, you had not found the jewel.

    If I were to fall backwards I should break my nose.

    If I were to fast for my life, I would eat a good breakfast in the morning.

    If in January you sow oats, / it will bring golden groats.

  • If in the Minster close a hare
  • should for herself have made a lair,
  • be sure before the week is down,
  • a fire will rage within the town.—Peterborough.
  • If it neither rains nor snows on Candlemas day,
  • you may straddle your horse and go and buy hay. Linc.
  • If it rains on a Sunday before mess,
  • it will rain all the week more or less. D.
  • If it serve me to wear, it may gain you to look to.

    If it should rain porridge, he would want his dish.

    If it were a bear, it would bite you. CL.

    If it were not for hope, heart would break. B. OF M. R.
    Spes alunt exules. Spes servat afflictos. [Greek].

  • Spes bona dat vires, animum quoque spes bona firmat.
  • Vivere spe vidi qui moritorus erat.—R.
  • If it were not for the belly, the back might wear gold.

    If it will not be spun, bring it not to the distaff.

    If it won’t pudding, it’ll froize. East Anglia.
    “If it won’t do for one thing, it will for another.”—Forby.

  • If Janiveer calends be summerly gay,
  • ’twill be winterly weather till the calends of May.
  • There is a proverb in Welsh of great antiquity:
  • Haf hyd gatan,
  • Gaiaf hyd Fay.
  • i.e., If it be somerly weather till the kalends of January, it will be winterly weather till the kalends of May. They look upon this as an oracle.—AUBREY, apud Thoms’ Anecd. and Traditions, p. 82. Ray’s version above is a modern copy of this.

    If London Bridge had fewer eyes, it would see better.
    In allusion to the numerous and narrow openings for vessels.

    If madness were pain, you’d hear outcries in every house.

    If marriages are made in heaven, you had but few friends there.

    If men become sheep the wolf will devour them. DS.

    If men had not slept, the tares had not been sown.

    If money go before, all ways do lie open. M. W. of Windsor.

    If my aunt had been a man, she’d have been my uncle.
    Spoken in derision of those who make ridiculous surmises.—R.

    If my shirt knew my design, I’d burn it.

  • If New Year’s Eve night wind blows South,
  • it betokeneth warmth and growth:
  • if West, much milk, and fish in the sea:
  • if North, much cold and storms there will be:
  • if East, the trees will bear much fruit:
  • if North-East, flee it, man and brute. D.
  • If on the eighth of June it rain,
  • it foretells a wet harvest, men sain.
  • If one but knew how good it were to eat a pullet in Janiveer,
  • if he had twenty in a flock, he’d leave but one to go with cock.
  • If one, two, and three say you are an ass, put on the ears.

    If pains be a pleasure to you, profit will follow.

    If physic do not work, / prepare for the kirk.

  • If Pool was a fish-pool, and the men of Pool fish,
  • there’d be a pool for the devil, and fish for his dish. Dorsetshire.
  • When this satirical distich was written, Pool was not that place of trade and respectability it now is.—R. On the contrary, it was, and is, notorious for its ill-livers.

  • If red the sun begins his race,
  • expect that rain will flow apace. D.
  • If Rivington pike [peak] do wear a hood,
  • be sure the day will ne’er hold good.
  • Higson’s MSS. Coll., 146. Rivington Pike is the summit of a lofty elevation near Rivington, a town in Lancashire, in the parish of Bolton; the Pike is 1545 feet above the level of the sea. “A mist on the top of the hill is a sign of foul weather.”—R.

  • If she be a good goose, her dame well to pay,
  • she will lay two eggs before Valentine’s day.
  • If size-cinque will not, duce-ace cannot, then quatre-trey must.
    i.e., The middle sort bear public burdens, taxes, &c., most.

  • “Deux ace non possunt and sixe cinque solvere nolunt;
  • Et igitur notum quatre trois solvere totum.”—R.
  • Compare Size-ace, &c.

  • If Skiddaw hath a cap,
  • Scruffel [Scawfell] wots full well of that. Cumberland.
  • These are two neighbour hills; the one in this county, the other in Annandale in Scotland: if the former be capped with clouds and foggy mists, it will not be long ere rain falls on the other.

    If St. Paul be fair and clear, / then betides a happy year.
    Notes and Queries, 3rd S., ix. 118. In Huntingdonshire, it appears to form an article of popular belief that a clear day on St. Paul’s festival betokens a fine spring. Mr. Denham (Prov. and Pop. Sayings, pp. 24, 25) has a more elaborate version.

  • “Clara dies Pauli bonitatem denotat anni:
  • Si fuerint venti, crudelia prælia genti;
  • Quando sunt nebulæ, pereunt animalia quæque;
  • Si nix aut pluvia sit, tunc fiunt omnia chara.”
  • Harl. MS., 4043, f. i. recto (Reliquiæ Antiquæ, ii. 10).
  • If St. Swithin greets, that year, the proverb says,
  • the weather will be foul for forty days.
  • St. Swithin seems to have usurped the place of two other saints: compare Si pluat, &c.
    The French say the same of the days of St. Medard and St. Gervais:
  • “Si’il pleut le jour Saint Medard,
  • El pleuvra quarante jours plus tard.”
  • “Quand il pleut á la Saint Gervais,
  • Il pleut quarante jours après.”
  • If St. Vitus’s day be rainy weather,
  • it will rain for thirty days together. D.
  • If strokes are good to give, they are good to receive.

  • If that course be fair,
  • again and again, quoth Bunny to his bear. CL.
  • If that glass either break or fall,
  • farewell the luck of Eden Hall.
  • Eden Hall, in Cumberland, the residence of the Musgraves, whose fortunes were supposed to depend on this glass. See my Faiths and Folklore, 1905, p. 374, where a different reading occurs, and Warton’s H. E. P., edit. Hazlitt, i. 36, Note. Ritson gives the tradition in his Fairy Tales, 1831, pp. 150, 151. A representation of the glass is given by Lysons (Cumberland, ccix.) Comp. Luck of Muncaster. At that time it was still preserved in its ornamental leather case. Lysons supposed that it might belong to the 15th century, if not before, and that it had been a sacred vessel. Mr. Raymond H. Vose saw it in 1882, and it was still unbroken.

    If that you will France win, then with Scotland first begin.
    In reference to the intimate relations formerly subsisting between Scotland and France, when the former was ruled by its own sovereigns.

    If the ball does not stick to the wall, yet ’twill leave some mark.

    If the bed could tell all it knows, it would put many to the blush.

    If the brain sows not corn, it plants thistles.

    If the cap fit, wear it.

    If the channel’s too small, the water must break out.

  • If the cock moult before the hen, we shall have weather thick and thin,
  • but if the hen moult before the cock, we shall have weather as hard as a block.
  • These prognostics of weather and future plenty, &c., I look upon as altogether uncertain; and were they narrowly observed, would, I believe, as often miss as hit.—R.

    If the counsel be good, no matter who gave it.

  • If the crow crows on going to bed,
  • he’s sure to rise with a watery head. D.
  • If the devil be a vicar, thou wilt be his clerk.

    If the devil catch a man idle, he’ll set him at work.

    If the dog bark, go in; if the bitch bark, go out.

    If the end be well, then is all well.
    See Douce’s Illustrations, 1807, i. 311.

  • If the first of July it be rainy weather,
  • ’twill rain more or less for four weeks together.
  • If the frog and the mouse quarrel, the kite will see them agreed.

  • If the grass grow in Janiveer,
  • it grows the worse for’t all the year.
  • There is no general rule without some exception; for in the year 1667 the winter was so mild, that the pastures were very green in January, yet was there scarcely ever known a more plentiful crop of hay than the summer following.—R.

    If the hen does not prate, she will not lay. East Anglia.
    i.e., says Forby, “Scolding wives make the best housewives.”

    If the lion’s skin cannot, the fox’s shall.
    Si leonina pellis non satis est, assuenda vulpina. Coudre le peau de regnard à celle du lion. Fr. To attempt to compass that by craft which we cannot obtain or effect by force. Dolus an virtus quis in hoste requirat?—Virg.

    If the master say the crow is white, the servant must not say ’tis black. WALKER (1672).

    If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain. F.Si no va el otero a Mahoma, vaya Mahoma al otero. Span.—R.

    If the niggard should once taste the sweetness of giving, he’d give all away.

  • If the oak’s before the ash, / then you’ll only get a splash;
  • if the ash precedes the oak, / then you may expect a soak.
  • Notes and Queries, 1st S., v. 71.

    If the old dog barks he gives counsel. H.

    If the ox fall, whet your knife.

  • If the partridge had the woodcock’s thigh,
  • it would be the best bird that ever did fly.
  • If the pills were pleasant, they would not want gilding.

  • If the rain comes before the wind,
  • unfurl your topsails, and take them in;
  • if the wind comes before the rain,
  • lower your topsails, and hoist them again.
  • If the robin sings in the bush,
  • then the weather will be coarse;
  • but if the robin sings on the barn,
  • then the weather will be warm. East Anglia.
  • Forby’s Vocabulary, 1830, p. 416.

    If the sky fall the pots will be broken.

    If the staff be crooked, the shadow cannot be straight. H.

  • If the sun in red should set,
  • the next day surely will be wet;
  • if the sun should set in grey,
  • the next will be a rainy day. D.
  • If the twenty-fourth of August be fair and clear,
  • then hope for a prosperous autumn that year.
  • If the walls were adamant, gold would take the town.

    If the whole world does not enter, yet half of it will.

    If the wind do blow aloft, / then of wars shall we hear oft.

    If the wise erred not it would go hard with fools. H.

  • If there be a rainbow in the eve,
  • it will rain and leave;
  • but if there be a rainbow in the morrow,
  • it will neither lend nor borrow.
  • If there be neither snow nor rain,
  • then will be dear all sorts of grain.