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Robert Christy, comp. Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages. 1887.

Labor (Loss of)

It is all preaching in the desert and hammering cold iron.Don Quixote.

It is lost labor to sow where there is no soil.

That which burns thee not cools not.Dutch.

The swallow’s plastering of her nest is labor lost.Chinese.

To look for a needle in a bundle (or bottle) of hay.French, German.

To make a hole in the water.

To make a long harvest of a little corn.

To make one hole by way of stopping up another.French.

To pour water into a sieve.

To wash an ass’s head is but loss of time and soap (or of suds); i.e., to reprove a fool is but lost labor.French.

To wipe up the sea with a sponge.Dutch.

We all labor with one ox (are in the same boat).Modern Greek.

We plough the sand on the sea-shore.Juvenal.

You are lighting a fire in the wind.African.

You are looking for wings on a wolf.Latin.

You are teaching iron to swim.Latin.

You are washing an unburnt brick.Latin.

You count the waves.

You do but water a dead stake.

You may knock a long while against an alder bush before you get a swarm of bees out of it.Danish.

You must walk a long time behind a wild goose before you find an ostrich feather.

You put it together with a hot needle and burnt thread.

You teach the dolphin to swim.Latin.