- To the Idle
On Religious Grumblers
- On the Preacher's Appearance
- On Good Nature and
- On Patience
- On Gossips
- On Seizing Opportunities
Keeping One's Eyes Open
- Thoughts about Thought
- Things Not
- Men Who Are Down
- A Good Word for Wives
- Men with Two Faces
- Hints as to Thriving
- Things I Would Not Choose
- Very Ignorant
IN John Ploughman's Talks, I have written for plowmen
and common people. Hence refined taste and dainty words have been discarded for
strong proverbial expressions and homely phrases. I have aimed my blows at the
vices of the many, and tried to inculcate those moral virtues without which men
are degraded. Much that needs to be said to the toiling masses would not well
suit the pulpit and the Sabbath; these lowly pages may teach thrift and industry
all the days of the week in the cottage and the workshop; and if some learn these
lessons I shall not repent the adoption of a rustic style.
is a name I may justly claim. Every minister has put his hand to the plow; and
it is his business to break up the fallow ground. That I have written in a semi-humorous
vein needs no apology, since thereby sound moral teaching has gained a hearing
from at least 300,000 persons. There is no particular virtue in being seriously
To the Idle
IT IS of no
more use to give advice to the idle than to pour water into a sieve; and as to
improving them, one might as well try to fatten a greyhound. Yet, as The Old Book
tells us to cast our bread upon the waters," we will cast a hard crust or two
upon these stagnant ponds; for there will be this comfort about it: if lazy fellows
grow no better, we shall be none the worse for having warned them, for when we
sow good sense, the basket gets none the emptier. We have a stiff bit of soil
to plow when we chide with sluggards, and the crop will be of the smallest. But
if none but good land were farmed, plowmen would be out of work, so we'll put
the plow into the furrow. Idle men are common enough and grow without planting,
but the quantity of wit among seven acres of them would never pay for raking:
nothing is needed to prove this but their name and character; if they were not
fools they would be idlers; and though Solomon says, "The sluggard is wiser in
his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason," yet in the eyes of every
one else, his folly is as plain as the sun in the sky. If I hit hard while speaking
to them, it is because I know they can bear it; for if I had them down on the
floor of the old barn, I might thresh many a day before I could get them out of
the straw, and even the steam thresher could not do it. It would kill them first;
for laziness is in some people's bones and will show itself in their idle flesh,
do what you will with them.
Well, then, first and foremost, it strikes
me that lazy people ought to have a large looking glass hung up, where they are
bound to see themselves in it; for sure, if their eyes are at all like mine, they
would never bear to look at themselves long or often. The ugliest sight in the
world is one of those thoroughbred loafers, who would hardly hold up his basin
if it were to rain with porridge; and for certain would never hold up a bigger
pot than he wanted filled for himself. Perhaps, if the shower should turn to beer,
he might wake himself up a bit; but he would make up for it afterwards. This is
the slothful man in the Proverbs, who "hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth
him to bring it again to his mouth." I say that men the like of this ought to
be served like the drones which the bees drive out of the hives. Every man ought
to have patience and pity for poverty; but for laziness, a long whip or a turn
at the treadmill might be better. This would be a healthy purgative for all sluggards;
but there is no chance of some of them getting their full dose of this medicine,
for they were born with silver spoons in their mouths, and like spoons will scarce
stir their own tea unless somebody lends them a hand. They are, as the old proverb
says, gas lazy as Ludham's dog, that leaned his head against the wall to bark";
and like lazy sheep, it is too much trouble for them to carry their own wool.
If they could see themselves, it might by chance do them a world of good; but
perhaps it would be too much rouble for them to open their eyes even if the glass
were hung for them.
Everything in the world is of some use; but it
would puzzle a doctor of divinity, or a philosopher, or the wisest owl in our
steeple to tell the good of idleness: that seems to me to be an ill wind which
blows nobody any gooda sort of mud which breeds no eels, a dirty ditch which
would not feed a frog. Sift a sluggard grain by grain, and you'll find him all
chaff. I have heard men say, better do nothing than do mischief but I am not even
sure of that: that saying glitters well, but I don't believe it's gold. I grudge
laziness even that pinch of praise; I say it is bad and bad altogether. For look
ye, a man doing mischief is a sparrow picking the cornbut a lazy man is
a sparrow sitting on a nest full of eggs, which will all turn to sparrows before
long and do a world of hurt.
Don't tell meI'm sure of itthat
the rankest weeds on earth don't grow in the minds of those who are busy at wickedness
but in foul concerns of idle men's imaginations, where the devil can hide away
unseen like an old serpent as he is. I don't like our boys to be in mischief,
but I would sooner see them up to their necks in the mud in their larks than sauntering
about with nothing to do. If the evil of doing nothing seems to be less today,
you will find it out to be greater tomorrow; the devil is putting coals on the
fire, and so the fire does not blaze; but depend upon it, it will be a bigger
fire in the end. Idle people, you had need be your own trumpeters, for no one
else can find any good in you to praise. I'd sooner see you through a telescope
than anything else, for I suppose you would then be a long way off; but the biggest
pair of spectacles in the parish could-not see anything in you worth talking about.
Moles, and rats, and weasels, there is something to be said for, though there's
a pretty sight of them nailed up on our old barn; but as for you, you'll be of
use in the grave and help to make a fat churchyard, but no better song can I sing
in your favor than this verse, as the parish clerk said, gall of my own composing":
A good-for-nothing lazy lout,
Wicked within and ragged without
Who can bear to have him about?
Turn him out! Turn him out!
"As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes," so is the sluggard
to every man who is spending his sweat to earn an honest living, while these fellows
let the grass grow up to their ankles, and stand cluttering the ground, as the
A man who wastes his time and his strength in sloth offers
himself to be a target for the devil, who is a wonderfully good rifleman and will
riddle the idler with his shots: in other words, idle men tempt the devil to tempt
them. He who plays when he should work hag an evil spirit to be his playmate;
and he who neither works nor plays is a workshop for Satan. If the devil catches
a man idling, he will set him to work, find him tools, and before long pay him
wages. Is not this where the drunkenness comes from which fills our towns and
villages with misery? Idleness is the key of beggary and the root of all evil.
Fellows have two stomachs for eating and drinking when they have no stomach for
work. That little hole just under the nose swallows up in idle hours that money
which should put clothes on the children's backs and bread on the cottage table.
We have God's word for it, that "the drunkard and the glutton shall
come to poverty"; and to show the connection between them, it is said in the
same verse, "and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags." I know it as
well as I know that moss grows on old thatch, that drunken, loose habits grow
out of lazy hours. I like leisure when I can get it, but that's quite another
thing; that's cheese, and the other is chalk. Idle folks never know what leisure
means; they are always in a hurry and a mess, and by neglecting to work in the
proper time, they always have a lot to do. Lolling about hour after hour, with
nothing to do, is just making holes in the hedge to let the pigs through; and
they will come throughmake no mistake and the rooting they will do nobody
knows except those who have to look after the garden. The Lord Jesus tells us
himself that while men slept the enemy sowed the tares; that hits the nail on
the head, for it is by the door of sluggishness that evil enters the heart more
often, it seems to me, than by any other. Our old minister used to say, 'A sluggard
is fine raw material for the devil; he can make anything he likes out of him,
from a thief right up to a murderer." I'm not the only one that condemns the idle,
for once when I was going to give our minister a pretty long list of the sins
of one of our people that he was asking after, I began with She's dreadfully lazy."
That's enough," said the old gentleman; all sorts of sins are in that one, that's
the sign by which to know a full-fledged sinner."
My advice to my boys
has been, "Get out of the sluggard's way, or you may catch his disease and never
get rid of it." I am always afraid of their learning the ways of the idle and
am very watchful to nip anything of the sort in the bud; for you know it is best
to kill the lion while it is a cub. Sure enough our children have all our evil
nature about them, for you can see it growing of itself like weeds in a garden.
Who can bring a clean thing out of the unclean? A wild goose never lays a tame
egg. Our boys will be off to the green with the ne'er-do-wells unless we make
it greener still at home for them and train them up to hate the company of the
slothful. Never let them go to the "Rose and Crown"; let them learn to earn a
crown while they are young and grow the roses in their father's garden at home.
Bring them up bees and they will not be drones.
There is much talk
about bad masters and mistresses nowadays. I dare say that there is a good deal
in it, for there's bad of all sorts now as there always was. Another time, if
I am allowed, I will have a say about that matter; but I am sure there is plenty
of room for complaint against some among the working people too, especially upon
this matter of slothfulness. You know we are obliged to plow with such cattle
as we have found for us; but when I am set to work with some men, I'd as soon
drive a team of snails or go out rabbit hunting with a dead ferret. Why, you might
sooner get blood out of a gatepost or juice out of a cork than work out of some
of them; and yet they are always talking about their rights. I wish they would
give an eye to their own wrongs, and not lean on the plow handles. Lazy lie-a-beds
are not working men at all, any more than pigs are bullocks or thistles apple
trees. All are not hunters that wear red coats, and all are not working men who
call themselves so. I wonder sometimes that some of our employers keep so many
cats who catch no mice. I would as soon drop my halfpence down a well as pay some
people for pretending to work. It only irritates you and makes your flesh crawl
to see them all day creeping over a cabbage leaf. Live and let live, say I, but
I don't include sluggards in that license. "They who will not work, neither let
Here, perhaps, is the proper place to say that some of the
higher classes, as they are called, set a shamefully bad example in this respect:
our great folks are some of them quite as lazy as they are rich, and often more
so; the big dormice sleep as long and as sound as the little ones. Many a parson
buys or hires a sermon so that he may save himself the trouble of thinking. Is
not this abominable laziness? They sneer at the ranters; but there is not a ranter
in the kingdom that would not be ashamed to stand up and read somebody else's
sermon as if it were his own. Many of our squires have nothing to do but to part
their hair in the middle; and many of the London grandees, ladies and gentlemen
both alike, as I am told, have no better work than killing time. Now, they say
the higher a monkey climbs, the more his tail is seen; and so, the greater these
people are, the more their idleness is noticed, and the more they ought to be
ashamed of it. I don't say they ought to plow, but I do say that they ought to
do something for the state besides being like the caterpillars on the cabbage,
eating up the good things; or like the butterflies, showing themselves off but
making no honey. I cannot be angry with these people somehow, for I pity them
when I think of the stupid rules of fashion which they are forced to mind, and
the vanity in which they drag out their days. I'd sooner by half bend my back
double with hard work than be a jack-a-dandy, with nothing to do but to look in
the mirror and see in it a fellow who never put a single potato into the nation's
pot but took a good many out. Let me drop on these Surrey hills, worn out like
my master's old brown mare, sooner than eat bread and cheese and never earn it;
better to die an honorable death than live a good-for-nothing life. It would be
better to get into my coffin than be dead but alive, a man whose life is a blank.
However, it is not much ease that lazy people get by all their scheming,
for they always take the most pains in the end. They will not mend the thatch,
and so they have to build a new cottage; they will not put the horse in the cart,
and so they have to drag it themselves. If they were wise, they would do their
work well, so as to save doing it twice, and tug hard while they are in harness,
so as to get the work out of the way. My advice is, if you don't like hard work,
just pitch into it, settle it off, and have your turn at rest.
I wish all
religious people would take this matter under their consideration, for some professors
are amazingly lazy and make sad work for the tongues of the wicked. I think a
godly plowmen ought to be the best man in the field and let no team beat him.
When we are at work, we ought to be at it, and not stop the plow to talk,
even though the talk may be about religion. For then we not only rob our employers
of our own time, but of the time of the horses, too. I used to hear people say,
"Never stop the plow to catch a mouse," and it's quite as silly to stop for idle
chat; besides, the man who loiters when the master is away is an eye-server, which,
I take it, is the very opposite of a Christian. If some of the members at our
meeting were a little more spry with their arms and legs when they are at labor
and a little quieter with their tongues, they would say more for religion than
they now do. The world says the greatest rogue is the pious rogue, and I'm Sorry
to say one of the greatest sluggards I know of is a professing man of the "Mr.
Talkative" kind. His garden is so overgrown with weeds that I feel often half
a mind to weed it for him, to save our meeting the shame which he brings upon
it: if he were a young lad, I'd talk to him about it and try to teach him better,
but who can be a school-master to a child of sixty years old? He is a regular
thorn to our good minister, who is quite grieved about it and sometimes says he
will go somewhere else because he cannot bear such conduct; but I tell him that
wherever a man lives, he is sure to have one thorn bush near his door, and it
is a mercy if there are not two. However, I do wish that all Christians would
be industrious, for religion never was designed to make us idle. Jesus was a great
worker, and his disciples must not be afraid of hard work.
As to serving
the Lord with cold hearts and drowsy souls, there has been too much of it, and
it causes religion to wither. Men ride stallions when they hunt for gain, but
snails when they are on the road to heaven. Preachers go on see-sawing, droning,
and prosing; and the people fall to yawning and folding their arms, and then say
that God is withholding the blessing. Every sluggard, when he finds himself enlisted
in the ragged regiment, blames his luck; and some churches have learned the same
wicked trick. I believe that when Paul plants and Apollos waters, God gives the
increase, and I have no patience with those who throw the blame on God when it
belongs to themselves.
Now I have come to the end of my tether. I am afraid
I have been beating a dead horse, but I have done my best, and a king can do no
more. An ant can never make honey if it works its heart out, and I shall never
put my thoughts so prettily together as some do, book-fashion; but truth is truth,
even when dressed in homespun, and so there is an end of my rigmarole.
On Religious Grumblers
WHEN a man has a particularly empty head, he generally sets up for a great judge,
especially in religion. None is so wise as the man who knows nothing. His ignorance
is the mother of his impudence and the nurse of his obstinacy; and though he does
not know a bee from a bull's foot, he settles matters as if all wisdom were at
his fingers' endsthe Pope himself is not more infallible. Hear him talk
after he has been at a meeting and heard a sermon, and you will know how to pull
a good man to pieces if you never knew it before. He sees faults where there are
none; and if there be a few things amiss, he makes every mouse into an elephant.
Although you might put all his wit into an eggshell, he weighs the sermon in the
balances of his conceit with all the airs of a born-and-bred Solomon. If it be
up to his standard, he lays on his praise with a trowel; but if it be not to his
taste, he growls and barks and snaps at it like a dog at a hedgehog.
men in this world are like trees in a hedge; there is only here and there one.
When these rare men talk together upon a discourse, it is good for the ears to
hear them; but the bragging wiseacres 1 am speaking of are vainly puffed up by
their fleshly minds, and their quibbling is as senseless as the cackle of geese
on a common. Nothing comes out of a sack but what was in it; and as their bag
is empty, they shake nothing but wind out of it. It is very likely that neither
ministers nor their sermons are perfectthe best garden may have a few weeds
in it, the cleanest corn may have some chaffbut cavaliers cavil at anything
or nothing, and find fault for the sake of showing off their deep knowledge. Sooner
than let their tongues have a holiday, they would complain that the grass is not
a nice shade of blue and say that the sky would have looked neater if it had been
One tribe of these Ishmaelites is made up of high-flying
ignoramuses who are very mighty about the doctrine of a sermon: here they are
as decisive as sledge hammers and as certain as death. He who knows nothing is
confident in everything; hence they are bullheaded beyond measure. Every clock,
and even the at sundial, must be set according to their watches. The slightest
difference from their opinion proves a man to be rotten at heart. Venture to argue
with them, and their little pots boil over in quick style; ask them for reason,
and you might as well go to a sand pit for sugar. They hare bottled up the sea
of truth and carry it in their waistcoat pockets; they have measured heaven's
line of grace and have tied a knot in a string at the exact length of electing
love. As for the things which angels long to know, they have seen them all as
boys see sights in a peep show at our fair. Having sold their modesty and become
wiser than their teachers, they ride a very high horse and jump over all five-barred
gates of Bible texts which teach doctrines contrary to their notions.
this mischief happens to good men, it is a great pity for such sweet pots of ointment
to be spoiled by flies, yet one learns to bear with them just as I do with old
Violet, for he is a rare horse, though he does set his ears back and throw out
his legs at times. But there is a bragging lot about, who are all sting and no
honey, all whip and no hay, all grunt and no bacon. These do nothing but rail
from morning to night at all who cannot see through their spectacles. If they
would but mix up a handful of good living with all their bushels of bounce, it
would be more bear able; but no, they don't care for such legality. Men so sound
as they are can't be expected to be good at anything else; they are the heavenly
watchdogs to guard the house of the Lord from those thieves and robbers who don't
preach sound doctrine; and if they do worry the sheep or steal a rabbit or two
by the sly who would have the heart to blame them?
The Lord's dear people,
as they call themselves, have enough to do to keep their doctrine sound; and if
their manners are cracked, who can wonder! No man can see to everything at once.
These are the moles that want catching in many of our pastures, not for their
own sakes, for there is not a sweet mouthful in them, but for the sake of the
meadows which they spoil. I would not find half a fault with their doctrine if
it were not for their spirit; but vinegar is sweet next to it, and crabs are figs
in comparison. It must be very high doctrine that is too high for me, but I must
have high experience and high practice with it, or it turns my stomach. However,
I have said my say and must leave the subject, or somebody will ask me, what have
you to do with Don Quiote's windmill?
Sometimes it is the way the preacher
speaks which is hauled over the coals. Here again is a dime field for fault-finding,
for every bean has its black, and every man has his failing. I never knew a good
horse which had not some odd habit or other, and I never yet saw a minister worth
his salt who had not some quirk or oddity: now, these are the bits of cheese which
cavillers smell out and nibble at, this man is too slow, and another too fast;
the first is too flowery, and the second is too dull. Dear me, if all God's creatures
were judged in this way, we should wring the dove's neck for being too tame, shoot
the robins for eating spiders, kill the cows for swinging their tails and the
hens for not giving us milk. When a man wants to beat a clog, he can soon find
a stick; and at this rate, any fool may have something to say against the best
minister in England. As to a preacher's manner, if there be but plain speaking,
none should cavil at itbecause it lacks polish, for if a thing is goodand
earnestly spoken, it cannot sound much amiss.
No man should use bad language
in the pulpitand all language is bad which common people cannot make head
or tail of but godly, sober, decent, plain words none should carp at it. A countryman
is as warm in homespun as a king in velvet, and a truth is as comfortable in homely
words as in fine speech. As to the way; of dishing up the meat, hungry men leave
that to the cook, only let the meat be sweet and substantial. If hearers were
better , sermons would be better. When men say they can't hear, I recommend them
to buy a horn and remember the old saying, "There's none so deaf as those who
will not hear." When young speakers get downhearted because of hard, unkind remarks
I generally tell them of the old man and his boy and his ass, and what came of
trying to please everybody. No piper ever suited all ears. Where whims and fancies
sit in the seat of judgment, a man's opinion is only so much wind, therefore take
no more notice than of the wind whistling through a keyhole.
heard men find fault with a discourse for what was not in it. No matter how well
the subject in hand was brought out, there was another subject about which nothing
was said, and so all was wrong. That is as reasonable as finding fault with my
plowing because it does not dibble the holes for the beans, or abusing a good
corn field because there are no turnips in it. Does any man look for every truth
in one sermon? You might as well look for every dish at one meal, and rail at
a joint of beef because there are neither bacon, nor veal, nor green peas, nor
parsnips on the table. Suppose a sermon is not full of comfort to the saint; yet
if it warns the sinner, shall we despise it? A handsaw would be a poor tool to
shave with; shall we therefore throw it away? Where is the use of always trying
to hunt out faults? I hate to see a man with a fine smelling about for things
to rail at like a rat catcher's dog sniffing at rat holes.
By all means
let us cut down error, root and branch, but do let us save our pruning shears
till there are brambles to chop, and not fall foul of our own mercies. Judging
preachers is a poor trade, for it pays neither party concerned in it. At a plowing
match they do give a prize to the best of us; but these judges of preachers are
precious slow to give anything even to those whom they profess to think so much
of. They pay in praise, but give no pudding. They get the gospel for nothing,
and if they doff not grumble, they thinly that they have made an abundant return.
Everybody thinks himself a judge of a sermon, but nine out of ten might
as well pretend to weigh the moon. I believe that, at bottom, most people think
it an uncommonly easy thing to preach, and that they could do it amazingly well
themselves. Every donkey thinks itself worthy to stand with the king's horses;
every girl thinks she could keep house better than her mother. But thoughts are
not facts; for the sprat thought itself a herring, yet the fisherman knew better.
I dare say those; who can whistle imagine that they can plow, but there's more
than whistling in a good plowmen. And 80 let me tell you, there's more in good
preaching than taking a text and saying, firstly, secondly, and thirdly. I try
my hand at preaching myself, and in my poor way I find it no very easy thing to
give the folks something worth hearing. If the line critics, who reckon us up
on their thumbs, would but try their own hands at it, they might be a little more
Dogs, however, always will bark, and what is worse, some of them
will bite too; but let decent people do all they can, if not to muzzle them, yet
to prevent them doing any great mischief. It is a dreadful thing to see a happy
family of Christians broken up by talkative fault-finders, and all about nothing,
or less than nothing. Small is the edge of the wedge, but when the devil handles
the beetle, churches are soon split to pieces, and men wonder why. The fact is,
the worst wheel of the cart creaks most, and one fool makes many, and thus many
a congregation is set at odds with a good and faithful minister, who would have
been a lasting blessing to them if they had not chased away their best friend.
Those who are at the bottom of the mischief have generally no part or lot
in the matter of true godliness, but like sparrows, fight over corn which is not
their own, and, like jackdaws, pull to pieces what they never helped to build.
From mad dogs grumbling professors may we all be delivered, and may we never take
the complaint from either of them. Fault-finding is dreadfully catching: one dog
will set a whole kennel howling, and the wisest course is to keep out of the way
of a man who has the complaint called the grumbles. The worst of it is that the
foot and mouth disease go together, and he who bespatters others generally rolls
in the mud himself before long. "The fruit of the Spirit is love," and this is
a very different apple from the sour Siberian crab which some people bring forth.
Good-bye, all ye sons of Grizzle, John Ploughman would sooner pick a bone in peace
than fight over an ox roasted whole.
On the Preacher's Appearance
A GOOD horse cannot be a bad color,
and a really good preacher can wear what he likes, and none will care much about
it; but though you cannot know wine by the barrel, a good appearance is a letter
of recommendation even to a plowman. Wise men neither fall into love nor take
a dislike at first sight, but still the first impression is always a great thing
even with them; and as to those weaker brethren who are not wise, a good appearance
is half the battle.
What is a good appearance? Well, it's not being
pompous and starchy, and making one's self high and mighty among the people, for
proud looks lose hearts, and gentle words win them. It's not wearing fine clothes
either, for foppish dress usually means a foul house within and the doorstep without
fresh white wash. Such dressing tells the world that the outside is the best part
of the puppet. When a man is proud as a peacock, all strut and show, he needs
converting himself before he sets up to preach to others. The preacher who measures
himself by his mirror may please a few silly girls, but neither God nor man will
long put up with him. The man who owes his greatness to his tailor will find that
needle and thread cannot long hold a fool in a pulpit.
A gentleman should
have more in his pocket than on his back, and a minister should have more in his
inner man than on his outer man. I would say, if I might, to young ministers,
do not preach in gloves, for cats in mittens catch no mice; don't curl and oil
your hair like dandies, for nobody cares to hear a peacock's voice; don't have
your own pretty self in your mind at all, or nobody else will mind you. Away with
gold rings, and chains, and jewelry; why should the pulpit become a goldsmith's
shop? Forever away with surplices and gowns and all those nursery doll dresses
men should put away childish things. A cross on the back is the sign of a devil
in the heart; those who do as Rome does should go to Rome and show heir colors.
If priests suppose that they get the respect of honest men by their fine ornamental
dresses, they are much mistaken, for it is commonly said, "Fine feathers make
fine birds," and "An ape is never so like an ape as when he wears a Popish cape."
Among us dissenters the preacher claims no priestly powers and therefore
should never wear a peculiar dress. Let fools wear fools' caps and fools' dresses,
but men who make no claim to be fools should not put on fools' clothes. None but
a very silly sheep would wear wolfs clothing. It is a singular taste which makes
honest men covet the rags of thieves. Besides, where's the good of such finery?
Except a duck in pattens, no creature looks more stupid than a dissenting preacher
in a gown which is of no manner of use to him. I could laugh till I held my sides
when I see our doctors in gowns and bands, puffed out with their silks, and touched
up with their little bibs, for they put me so much in mind of our old turkey when
his temper is up, and he swells to his biggest. They must be weak folks indeed
who want a man to dress like a woman before they can enjoy his sermon, and he
who cannot preach without such milliner's tawdry finery may be a man among geese,
but he is a goose among men.
At the same time, the preacher should endeavor,
according to his means, to dress himself respectably; and, as to neatness, he
should be without spot, for kings should not have dirty footmen to wait at their
table, and they who teach godliness should practice cleanliness. I should like
white neckties better if they were always white, but dirty brown is neither here
nor there. From a slovenly, smoking, snuff-taking, beer-drinking parson may the?
be delivered. Some that I meet with may, perhaps, have very good manners, but
they did not happen to have them about them at the time. Like the Dutch captain
with his anchors, they had left them at home; this should never be the case, for,
if there be a well-behaved man in the parish, it should he the minister. A worn
coat is no discredit, but the poorest may be neat, and men should be scholars
rather than teachers till they are so. you cannot judge a horse by its harness;
but a modest, gentle-manly appearance, in which the dress is just such as nobody
could make a remark upon, seems to me to be the right sort of thing.
little bit of my mind is meant to warn you young striplings who have just started
in the ministry; and if any of you get cross over it, I shall tell you that sore
horses cannot bear to be combed, and again "those whom the shoe flits must wear
its John Ploughman, you will say, had better mend his own smock and let the parsons
alone; but I take leave to look about me and speak my mind, for a cat may look
at a king, and a fool may give wise men good advice. If I speak too plainly, please
remember that an old dog cannot alter his way of barking, and he who has long
been used to plow a straight furrow is very apt to speak in the same straightforward
On Good Nature and Firmness
DO not be all sugar, or the world will suck you down; but do not be all vinegar
or the world will spit you out. There is a medium in all things, only blockheads
go to extremes. We need not be all rock or all sand, all iron or all wax. We should
neither fawn upon everybody like silly lapdogs, nor fly at all persons like surly
mastiffs. Blacks and whites go together to make up a world. Hence on the point
of temper, we have all sorts of people to deal with. Some are as easy as an old
shoe, but they are hardly ever worth more than the other one of the pair; others
take fire as fast as tinder at the smallest offense and are as dangerous as gunpowder.
To have a fellow going about the farm as cross with everybody as a bear
with a sore head, with a temper as sour as spoiled milk and as sharp as a razor,
looking as surly as a butcher's dog, is a great nuisance; yet there may be some
good points about the man, so that he may be a man for all that. But poor soft
Tommy, as green as grass, and as ready to bend as a willow, is nobody's money
and everybody's scorn. A man must have a backbone, or how is he to hold his head
up? But that backbone must bend, or he will knock his brow against the beam.
There is a time to do as others wish, and a time to refuse. If we make
ourselves asses, then everybody will ride us, but if we would be respected, we
must be our own masters and not let others saddle us as they think fit. If we
try to please everybody, we shall be like a toad under a harrow and never have
peace; and if we play lackey to all our neighbors, whether good or bad, we shall
be thanked by no one, for we shall soon do as much harm as good. He that makes
himself a sheep will find that the wolves are not all dead. He who lies on the
ground must expect to be trodden on. He who makes himself a mouse the eats will
eat. If you let your neighbors put the calf on your shoulder, they will, they
will soon clap on the cow. We are to please our neighbor for his good to edification,
but this is quite another matter. There are old foxes about whose mouths are always
watering for young geese, and if they can coax them to do just what they wish,
they soon make their market out of them.
What a Jolly good fellow you will
be called if you will make yourself a hack for your friends, and what a mess will
they soon bring you into!
Out of that mesas you will have to get all alone,
for your friends will be sure to say to you, Good-bye, basket, I've carried all
my apples or they will give you their good wishes and nothing more, and you will
fiend out that fair words won't feed a cat, nor butter your bread, nor fill your
pocket. Those who make so very much of you either mean to cheat you, or else are
in need of you: when they have sucked the orange they will throw the peel away.
Be wise, then, and look before you leap, lest a friend's advice should do you
more mischief than an enemy's slander. "The simple believeth every word; but the
prudent man looketh well to his going."
Go with your neighbor as far as
good conscience will go with you, but part company where the shoe of conscience
begins to pinch your foot. Begin with your friend as you mean to go on, and let
him know very early that you are not a man made of putty, but one who has a judgment
of his own and means to use it. Pull up the moment you find you are out of the
road, and take the nearest way back at once. The way to avoid great faults is
to beware of small ones. Therefore, pull up in time if you would not be dragged
into the ditch by your friend. Better offend your acquaintance than lose your
character and hazard your soul. Don't be ashamed to walk down Turnagain Lane.
Never mind being called a turncoat when you turn from bad courses: better to turn
in time than to burn in eternity. Do not be persuaded to ruin yourselfit
is buying gold too dear to throw oneself away to please our company. Put your
foot down where you mean to stand, and let no man move you from the right. Learn
to say, "No," and it will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.
A friend to everybody is often a friend to nobody; or else in his simplicity,
he robs his family to help strangers and becomes brother to a beggar. There is
wisdom in generosity as in everything else, and some had need go to school to
learn it. A kind-hearted soul may be very cruel to his own children, while he
takes the bread out of their mouths to give to those who call him a generous fellow
but laugh at his folly. Very often he that lends his money loses both his gold
and his friends, and he who is surety is never sure. Take John Ploughman's advice,
and never be security for more than you are quite willing to lose. Remember the
word of God says, "He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he
that hateth suretyship is sure."
When we are injured, we are bound
as Christians to bear it without malice; but we are not to pretend that we do
not feel it, for this will but encourage our enemies to kick us again. He who
is cheated twice by the same man is half as bad as the rogue; and it is very much
so in other injuries. Unless we claim our rights, we are ourselves to blame if
we do not get them. Paul was willing to bear stripes for his Master's sake, but
he did not forget to tell the magistrates that he was a Roman; and when those
gentlemen wished to put him out of prison privately, he said, "Nay, verily, let
them come themselves and fetch us out". A Christian is the gentlest of men, but
then he is a man. A good many people don't need to be told this, for they are
up in a moment if they think anybody is likely to ill treat them. Long before
they know whether it is a thief in the farmyard or the old mare got loose, they
are up with the window and firing off the old blunderbuss. Dangerous neighbors
these; a man might as well make a seat out of a bull's forehead, as expect to
find comfort in their neighborhood.
Make no friendship with an angry
man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go. "He that is slow to wrath is of
great understanding; but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly." Seest thou
a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him."
In my day I have seen a few downright obstinate men, whom neither sense
nor reason could alter. There's a queer chap in our village who keeps a bulldog,
and he tells me that when the creature once gives a bite at anything, he never
lets go again, and if yon want to get it out of his mouth, you must cut his head
off. That's the sort of man that has fretted me many a time and almost made me
mad. You might sooner argue a pitchfork into a threshing machine, or persuade
a brickbat to turn into marble, than to get the fellow to hear common sense. Getting
spots out of leopards is nothing at all compared with trying to lead a downright
obstinate man. Right or wrong, you might as easily make a hill walk to London
as turn him when his mind is made up.
When a man is right, this sticking
to his text is a grand thing (our minister says, "it is the stuff that martyrs
are made of"), but when an ignorant, wrong-headed fellow gets this hard grit into
him, he makes martyrs of those who have to put up with him. old Master Pighead
swore he would drive a nail into an oak board with his fist and so lamed his hand
for life; he could not sell his corn at his own price, and so he let the rats
eat up the ricks. You cannot ride by his fields without noticing his obstinacy,
for he vows, "He won't have none of these ever newfangled notions," and so he
grows the worst crops in the parish. Worst of all, his daughter went among the
Methodists, and in a towering rage, he turned her out of doors. Though I believe
he is very sorry for it, he will not yield an inch, but stands to it that he will
never speak to her so long as he lives. Meanwhile, the dear girl is dying through
his unkindness. Rash vows are much better broken than kept. He who never changes,
never mends; he who never yields, never conquers.
With children, you
must mix gentleness with firmness; they must not always have their own way, but
they must not always be thwarted. Give to a pig when it grunts, and to a child
when it cries, and you will have a fine pig and a spoiled child. A man who is
learning to play on a trumpet and a petted child are two very disagreeable companions
even as next-door neighbors; but unless we look well to it, our children will
be a nuisance to others and a torment to ourselves. "The rod and reproof give
wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." If we never
have headaches through rebuking our little children, we shall have plenty of heartaches
when they grow up. Strict truthfulness must rule all our dealings with the young;
our yea must be yea, and our nay be nay," and that always. Never promise a child
and then fail to perform whether you promise him a bun or a beating. Be obeyed
at all costsdisobedient children are unhappy children; for their own sakes,
make them mind you. If you yield up your authority once, you will hardly ever
get it again, for he who says A must say B. and so on. We must not provoke our
children to anger, lest they be discouraged; but we must rule our household in
the fear of the Lord, and in so doing we may expect a blessing.
John Ploughman has taken to writing, he has had a fine chance of showing his firmness
and his gentleness too, for he has received bushels of advice for which he begs
to present his compliments, as the squire's lady says. He does not mind either
returning the advice or some of his own instead, by way of showing his gratitude;
for he is sure it is very kind of so many people to tell him so many different
ways in which he might make an idiot of himself. He means to glean as many good
hints as he can from the acres of his friends' stubble; and while sticking to
his own style, because it suits his hand, he will touch himself up a bit if he
can. Perhaps if the minister will lend him Cowper or Milton, he may even stick
a sprig of poetry into his nosegay, and come out as fine as the flowers in May.
But he cannot promise, for the harvest is just on and reaping leaves no time for
rhyming. The worst of it is, the kind friends who are setting John to rights contradict
one another: one says it is very poor stuff and all in an assumed name, for the
style is not rough enough for a plowman; another says the matter is very well,
but the expressions are so coarse that he is amazed the editor put it in the magazine.
John means to pay his advisers all the attention which they deserve, and as some
of the mice have been bold enough to make a nest in the cats ear, he means to
be after them and write a paper upon giving advice gratis, in which they will
be likely to get a flea in their ear in return for their instructions.
PATIENCE is better than wisdom: an ounce if patience is worth a pound of brains.
All men praise patience, but few enough can practice it. It is a medicine which
is good for all diseases: therefore, every old woman recommends it, but it is
not every garden that grows the herbs to make it with. When one's flesh and bones
are full of aches and pains, it is as natural for us to murmur as for a horse
to shake his head when the flies tease him, or a wheel to rattle when a spoke
is loose. But nature should not be the rule with Christians, or what is their
religion worth? If a soldier fights no better than a plowboy, off with his red
coat. We expect more fruit from an apple tree than from a thorn, and we have a
right to do so. The disciples of a patient Savior should be patient themselves.
Grin and bear it is the old-fashioned advice, but sing and bear it is a great
deal better. After all, we get very few cuts of the whip, considering what bad
cattle we are; and when we do smart a little, it is soon over. Pain past is pleasure,
and experience comes by it. We ought not to be afraid of going down into Egypt
when we know we shall come out of it with jewels of silver and gold.
people water their miseries and plow up their comforts; sorrows are visitors that
come without invitation, but complaining minds send a wagon to bring their troubles
home in. Many people are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed;
they chew the bitter pill which they would not even know to be bitter if they
had the sense to swallow it whole in a cup of patience and water. They think every
other man's burden to be light and their own feathers to be heavy as lead. They
are hardly done by in their own opinion: no one's toes are so often trodden on
by the black ox as theirs, the snow falls thickest round their door, and the hail
rattles hardest on their windows.
Yet, if the truth were known, it is their
fancy rather than their fate which makes things go so hard with them. litany would
be well off if they could but think so. A little sprig of the herb called content,
if put into the poorest soup will make it taste as rich as the Lord Mayor's turtle.
John Ploughman grows the plant in his garden, but the late hard winter nipped
it terribly, so that he cannot afford to give his neighbors a slip of it; they
had better follow Matthew 25:9, and go to those who sell and buy for themselves.
Grace is a good soil to grow it in, but it wants watering from the fountain of
mercy. To be poor is not always pleasant, but worse things than that happen at
sea. Small shoes are apt to pinch, but not if you have a small foot; if we have
little means it will be well to have little desires. Poverty is no shame, but
being discontented with it is. In some things, the poor are better off than the
rich; for if a poor man has to seek meat for his stomach, he is more likely to
get what he is after than the rich man who seeks a stomach for his meat. A poor
man's table is soon spread, and his labor spares his buying sauce.
best doctors are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merryman, and many a godly plowman
has all these gentlemen to wait upon him. Plenty makes dainty, but hunger finds
no fault with the cook. Hard work brings health, and an ounce of health is worth
a sack of diamonds. It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes
happiness. There is more sweet in a spoonful of sugar than in a cask of vinegar.
It is not the quantity of our goods, but the blessing of God on what we have that
makes us truly rich. The parings of a pippin are better than a whole crab; a dinner
of herbs with peace is better than a stalled ox and contention therewith. better
is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith
A little wood will heat my little oven; why, then, should I murmur because all
the woods are not mine?
When troubles come, it is of no use to fly
in the face of God by hard thoughts of providence; that is kicking against the
pricks and hurting your feet. The trees bow in the wind, and so must we. Every
time the sheep bleats it loses a mouthful, and every time we complain we miss
a blessing. Grumbling is a bad trade, and yields no profit, but patience has a
golden hand. our evils will soon be over. After rain comes clear shining; black
crows have wings; every winter turns to spring; every night breaks into morning.
Blow the wind never so fast,
It will lower at last.
If one door should be shut, God will open another; if the peas do not yield
well, the beans may; if one hen leaves her eggs, another will bring out all her
brood. There's a bright side to all things, and a good God everywhere. Some where
or other in the worst flood of trouble there always is a dry spot for contentment
to get its foot on; if there were not, it would learn to swim.
let us take to patience and water gruel, as the old folks used to tell us, rather
than catch the miserables and give others the disease by wickedly finding fault
with God. The best remedy for affliction is submitting to providence. What can't
be cured must be endured. If we cannot get bacon, let us bless God that there
are still some cabbages in the garden. "Must" is a hard nut to crack, but it has
a sweet kernel. "All things work together for good to them that love God." Whatever
falls from the skies is, sooner or later, good for the land: whatever comes to
us from God is worth having, even though it be a rod.
We cannot by nature
like trouble any more than a mouse can fall in love with a cat, and yet Paul by
grace came to glory in tribulations also. Losses and crosses are heavy to bear,
but when our hearts are right with God, it is wonderful how easy the yoke becomes.
We must go to glory by the way of Weeping Cross; and as we were never promised
that we should ride to heaven in a feather bed, we must not be disappointed when
we see the road to be rough, as our fathers found it before us. All's well that
ends well; and, therefore, let us plow the heaviest soil with our eye on the sheaves
of harvest, and learn to sing at our labor while others murmur.
IN Walton church in our
county, there is a brink, or scold's bridle, which was used in years gone by to
keep women's tongues from troubling their husbands and their neighbors. They did
queer things in those good old times. Was this bridle a proof of what our parson
calls the wisdom of our ancestors, or was it a bit of needless cruelty?
is nothingonly a woman drowning," is a wicked and spiteful old saying, which,
like the bridle, came out of the common notion that women do a world of mischief
with their tongues. Is it so or not? John Ploughman will leave somebody else to
answer, for he admits hat he cannot keep a secret himself and likes a dish of
chat as well as anybody; only John does not care for cracking people's characters
and hates the slander which is so sweet to some people's teeth. John puts the
question to wiser men than himself: Are women much worse than men in this business?
They say that silence is a fine jewel for a woman, but it is very little worn.
Is it so? Is it true that a woman only conceals what she does not know? Are women's
tongues like lambs' tails, always wagging? They say foxes are all tail, and women
all tongue. Is this false or not? Was that old prayer a needful one "From big
guns and women's tongues deliver us?" John has a right good and quiet wife of
his own, whose voice is so sweet that he cannot hear it too often, and, therefore,
is not a fair judge. But he is half afraid that some other women would sooner
preach than pray and would not require strong tea to set their clappers going.
Still what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and some men are quite
as bad blabs as the women.
What a pity that there is not a tax upon
words: what an income the Queen would get from it. But, alas, talking pays no
toll; and lies paid double, the government might pay off the National Debt, but
who could collect the money? Common fame is a common liar. Hear-say is half lies.
A tale never loses in the telling. As a snowball grows by rolling, so does a story.
They who talk much lie much. If men only said what was true, what a peaceable
world we should see. Silence seldom makes mischief; but talking is a plague to
the parish. Silence is wisdom; by this rule, wise men and wise women are scarce.
Still waters are the deepest, but the shallowest brooks brawl the most. This shows
how plentiful fools must be. An open mouth shows an empty head. If the chest had
gold or silver in it, it would not always stand wide open. Talking comes by nature,
but it needs a good deal of training to learn to be quiet; yet regard for truth
should put a bit into every honest man's mouth and a bridle upon every good woman's
If we must talk, at least let us be free from slander, but let us
not blister our tongues with backbiting. Slander may be sport to tale-bearers,
but it is death to those whom they abuse. We can commit murder with the tongue
as well as with the hand.
The worst evil you can do a man is to injure
his character, as the Quaker said to his dog, "I'll not beat thee, nor abuse thee,
but I'll give thee an ill name." All are not thieves that dogs bark at, but they
are generally treated as if they were. The world for the most part believe that
where there is smoke there is fire, and what everybody says must be true. Let
us then be careful that we do not hurt our neighbor in so tender a point as his
character, for it is hard to get dirt off if it is once thrown on; and when a
man is once in people's bad books, he is hardly ever quite out of them. If we
would be sure not to speak amiss, it might be as well to speak as little as possible;
for if all men's sins were divided into two bundles, half of them would be sins
of the tongue. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and
able also to bridle the whole body."
Gossips of both genders, give
up the shameful trade of talebearing; don't be the devil's bellows any longer
to blow up the fire of strife. Quit setting people by the ears. If you do not
cut a bit off your tongues, at least season them with the salt of grace. Praise
God more, and blame neighbors less. Any goose can cackle, any fly can find out
a sore place, any empty barrel can give forth sound, and briar can tear a man's
flesh. The flies will not go down your throat if you keep your mouth shut, and
no evil speaking will come out either. Think much, but say little; be quick at
work and slow at talk; and, above all, ask the great Lord to set a watch over
On Seizing Opportunities
SOME men are never awake when the train tarts, but crawl into
the station just in time to see that everybody is off and then sleepily say, "Dear
me, is the train gone? My watch must have stopped in the nights They always come
into town a day after the fair and open their wares an hour after the market is
over. They make their hay when the sun has left off shining and cut their corn
as soon as the fine weather is ended. They cry, "Hold hard!" after the shot has
left the gun and lock the stable door when the steed is stolen. They are like
a cow's tail, always behind; they take time by the heels and not by the forelock,
if indeed they ever take him at all. They are no more worth than an old almanac;
their time has gone for lack of use. Unfortunately, you cannot throw them away
as you would the almanac, for they are like the cross old lady who had an annuity
left her and meant to take out the full value of it; they won't die, though they
are of no use alive.
Take-it-easy and Live-long are first cousins, they
say, and the more's the pity. If they are immortal till their work is done, they
will not die in a hurry, for they have not even begun to work yet. Shiftless people
generally excuse their laziness by saying, "I am only a little behind"; but a
little late is much too late, and a miss is as good as a mile. My neighbor Sykes
covered up his well after his child was drowned in it and was very busy down at
the Old Farm bringing up buckets of water after every stick of the house had been
burnt; one of these days, he'll be making his will when he can't hold a pen, and
he'll be trying to repent of his sins when his senses are going.
slow coaches think that tomorrow is better than today and take for their rule
an old proverb turned topsy-turvy"Never do today what you can put off till
tomorrow." They are forever waiting until their ship comes in and always dreaming
about things looking up by-and-by, while grass grows in their furrows and the
cows get through the gaps in their hedges. If the birds would but wait to have
salt put on their tails, what a breakfast they would take home to their families!
But while things move as fast they do, the youngsters at home will have to fill
their mouths with empty spoons.
"Never minds say they, there are better
times coming, wait a little longer." Their birds are all in the bush, and rare
fat ones they are, according to their account; and so they had need to be, for
they have had none in the hand yet, and wife and children are half-starved. Something
will turn up," they say. why don't the idlers go and turn it up themselves? Time
and tide wait for no man, and yet these fellows loiter about as if they had a
freehold of time, a lease of their lives, and a rabbit hutch full of opportunities.
They will find out their mistake when want Suds them out, and that will not be
long with some in our village, for they are already a long way on the road to
Needham. They who would not plow must not expect to eat; they who waste the spring
will have a lean autumn. They would not strike when the iron was hot, and they
will soon find the cold iron very hard.
"He that will not when
When he will he shall have nay."
Time is not tied
to a post like a horse to a manger. It passes like the wind, and he who would
grind his corn by it must set the mill-sails. He that gapes till he be fed will
gape till he be dead. Nothing is to be got without pains except poverty and dirt.
In the old says, they said, "Jack gets on by his stupidity." Jack would find it
very different nowadays, I think; but never in old times or any other times, would
Jack get on by foolishly letting present chances slip by him, for hares never
run into the mouths of sleeping dogs. He that hath time and looks for better time,
time comes that he repents himself of time. There's no good in lying down and
crying, "God help us!" God helps those who help themselves.
When I see
a man who declares that the times are bad and that he is always unlucky, I generally
say to myself, "That old goose did not sit on the eggs till they were all addled,
and now Providence is to be blamed because they won't hatch" I never had any faith
in luck at all, except that I believe good luck will carry a man over a ditch
if he jumps well and will put a bit of bacon into his pot if he looks after his
garden and keeps a pig. Luck generally comes to those who look after it, and my
notion is that it taps at least once in a lifetime at everybody's door, but if
industry does not open it, away it goes. Those who have lost the last coach and
let every opportunity slip by them, turn to abusing Providence for setting everything
against them: "If I were a hatter ' says one, "men would be born without heads."
"If I went to the sea for water," quotes another, "I should find it dried up."
Every wind is foul for a crazy ship. Neither the wise nor the wealthy can help
him who has long refused to help himself.
John Ploughman, in the most
genteel manner, sends his compliments to his friends; and now that harvest is
over and the hops all picked, according to promise, he intends giving them a bit
of poetry, just to show that he is trying the polishing brushes. John asked the
minister to lend him one of the poets, and he gave him the works of George Herbertvery
good, no doubt, but rather tangled, like Harkaway Wood. Still, there's a good
deal in the queer old verses, and every now and then one comes upon clusters of
the sweetest nuts, but some of them are rather hard to crack. The following verse
is somewhat near the subject now in hand and is plain enough in reason, though,
begging the poet's pardon, John can't see a rhyme in it. However, as it is by
the great Herbert, it must be good and will do well enough to ornament John's
talk, like a flower stuck in a buttonhole of his Sunday coat.
"Let thy mind still be bent, still plotting where,
And when, and how thy business
may be done.
Slackness breeds worms; but the sure traveler,
alight sometimes, still goeth on.
Acting and stirring spirits live alone:
Write on the others, Here lies such a one."
On Keeping One's Eyes Open
To get through
this world, a man must look about him and even sleep with one eye open; for there
are many baits for fishes, many nets for birds, and many traps for men. While
foxes are so common, we must not be geese. There is a very great difference in
this matter among people of my acquaintance: many see more with one eye than others
with two, and many have fine eyes and cannot see a jot. All heads are not sense
boxes. Some are so cunning that they suspect everybody, and so live all their
lives in miserable fear of their neighbors; others are so simple that every knave
takes them in, and makes his penny out of them. One man tried to see through a
brick wall and hurts his eyes, while another finds out a hole in it and sees as
far as he pleases. Some work at the mouth of a furnace and are never scorched,
and others burn their hands at the fire when they only mean to warm them.
it is true that no one can give another experience, and we must all pick up wit
for ourselves; yet I shall venture to give some of the homely cautions which have
served my turn, and perhaps they may be of use to others as they have been to
Nobody is more like an honest man than a thorough rogue. When you see
a man with a great deal of religion displayed in his shop window, you may depend
upon it that he keeps a very small stock of it within. Do not choose your friend
by his looks: handsome shoes often pinch the feet. Don't be fond of compliments:
remember, "Thank you, pussy, and thank you, pussy," killed the cat. Don't believe
in the man who talks most, for mewing cats are seldom good mousers. By no means
put yourself in another person's power: if you put your thumb between two grinders,
they are very apt to bite. Drink nothing without seeing it; sign nothing without
reading it, and make sure that it means no more than it says. Don't go to law
unless you have nothing to lose: lawyers' houses are built on fools' heads. In
any business, never wade into water where you cannot see the bottom.
no dependence upon the label of a bag, and count money after your own kin. see
the sack opened before you buy what is in it, for he who trades in the dark asks
to be cheated. Keep clear of the man who does not value his own character. Beware
of everyone who swears: he who would blaspheme his Maker would make no bones of
lying or stealing. Beware of no man more than of yourself we carry our worst enemies
within us. When a new opinion or doctrine comes before you, do not bite till you
know whether it is bread or a stone. Do not be sure that the gingerbread is good
because of the gilt on it. Never shout "hello!" till you are quite out of the
wood, and don't cry fried fish till they are caught in the net. There's always
time enough to boastwait a little longer. Don't throw away dirty water till
you have got clean; keep on scraping the roads till you can get better work: the
poorest pay is better than none, and the humblest office is better than being
out of employment. Always give up the roads to bulls and madmen, and never fight
with a coal heaver or contend with a base character, for they will be sure to
"Neither trust nor contend,
Nor lay wagers,
And you may depend
You'll have peace to your ends."
I cannot say quite so much as that old rhyme does, for there's more than
that which is needed to give peace, but certainly it will help toward it. Never
ride a broken-kneed horse: the trader who has once been a fraudulent bankrupt
is not the man for you to deal with. A rickety chair is a dangerous seat. Be shy
of people who are overly polite, and don't be too fast with those who are forward
and rough. When you suspect a design in anything, be on your guard: set the trap
as soon as you smell a rat, but mind that you don't catch your own fingers in
it. Have very little to do with a boaster, for his beer is all froth; and though
he brags that all his goods and even his copper kettles are gold and silver, you
will soon find out that a boaster and a liar are first cousins.
all your secrets to no man; trust in God with all your heart, but let your confidence
in friends be weighed in the balances of prudence, seeing that men are but men,
and all men are frail. Trust not great weights to slender threads. Yet be not
evermore suspicious, for suspicion is a cowardly virtue at best. Remember that
men are not angels; but they are not devils, and it is too bad to think them so.
one thing be sure of, never believe in any priest of any religion: for before
a man could be bad enough to pretend to be a priest, he must have hardened his
heart and blinded his conscience to the most horrible degree. Our governors imprison
gypsies for telling fortunes, and yet they give fat pensions to those vagabonds
who deceive the people in much weightier things.
"Bad company" said the
thief, as he went to the gallows between the hangman and a priest; a very honest
speech, and a very true word, though spoken in jest. It is the ignorance of fools
which keeps the pot boiling for priests. May God clean this land from the plague
of their presence and make men wise enough to see through their crafty devices.
Lastly, my advice to all isremember that good wisdom is that which will
turn out to be wise in the end; seek it, friends, and seek it at the hands of
the wisest of all teachers, the Lord Jesus. Trust Him, and He will never fail
you; be guided by His word, and it will never mislead you; pray in His name, and
your requests will be granted. Remember, he that leans on man will find him a
broken reed, but he who builds on Christ has a firm foundation. You may follow
Jesus with your eyes Shut, if you please; but when others guide you, keep all
your eyes open even if you have a dozen and all of them as powerful as telescopes.
Thoughts about Thought
VERY little of this paper is to be set down to the account of John Ploughman,
for our minister, as I may say, found the horses and held the plow handles; the
plowman only put in a smack of the whip every now and then, just to keep folks
awake. "Two heads are better than one," said the woman when she took her dog with
her to market: begging his pardon, our minister is the woman, and the only sensible
head in the whole affair. He is a man who is used to giving his people many things
of a very different sort from anything which a plowman is likely to turn out of
his wallet; but I have, at his request, dropped in a few homely proverbs into
his thoughts, as he says, "by way of salt", which is his very kind way of putting
it. I only hope I have not spoiled his writing with my rough expressions. If he
thinks well of it, I should like a few more of his pieces to tack my sayings to;
and the public shall always be honestly told whether the remarks are to be considered
as altogether "John Ploughman's Talks" or as the writings of two characters rolled
There are not so many hours in a year as there may be thoughts
in an hour. Thoughts fly in flocks, like starlings, and swarm like bees. Like
the withered leaves in autumn, there is no counting them; and like links in a
chain, one draws on another. What a restless being man is! His thoughts dance
up and down like midges in a summer's evening. Like a clock full of wheels with
the pendulum in full swing, his mind moves as fast as time flies. This makes thinking
such an important business. Many littles make much; and so many light thoughts
make a great weight of sin. A grain of sand is light enough, but Solomon tells
us that a heap of sand is heavy. When there are so many children the mother better
look well after them. We ought to mind our thoughts, for if they turn to be our
enemies, they will be too many for us and will drag us down to ruin. Thoughts
from heaven, like birds in spring, will fill our souls with music; but thoughts
of evil will sting us like vipers.
There is a notion abroad that thought
is free; but I remember reading that, although thoughts are toll-free, they are
not hell-free; and that saying quite agrees with the good old Book. We cannot
be summoned before an early court for thinking, but depend upon it we shall have
to be tried for it at the Last Judgment. Evil thoughts are the marrow of sin,
the malt that sin is brewed from, the tinder which catches the sparks of the devil's
temptations, the churn in which the milk of imagination is churned into purpose
and plan, the nest in which all evil birds lay their eggs. Be certain, then, that
as sure as fire burns brushwood as well as logs, God will punish thoughts of sin
as well as deeds of sin.
Let no one suppose that thoughts are not known to
the Lord, for He has a window into the closest closet of the soul, a window to
which there are no shutters. As we watch bees in a glass hive, so does the eye
of the Lord see us.
The Bible says, "Hell and destruction are before
the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?" Man is all outside
to God. With heaven there are no secrets. That which is done in the private chamber
of the heart is as public as the streets before the all-seeing eye.
some will say that they cannot help having bad thoughts. That may be, but the
question is: do they hate them or not? We cannot keep thieves from looking in
at our windows, but if we open our doors to them and receive them joyfully, we
are as bad as they. We cannot help the birds flying over our heads, but we may
keep them from building their nests in our hair.
Vain thoughts will knock
at the door, but we must not open to them. Though sinful thoughts rise, they must
not reign. He who turns a morsel over and over in his mouth does so because he
likes the flavor, and he who meditates upon evil loves it and is ripe to commit
it. Think of the devil, and he will appear; turn your thoughts towards sins and
your hands will soon follow. Snails leave their slime behind them, and so do vain
thoughts. An arrow may fly through the air, and leave no trace; but an ill thought
always leaves a trail like a serpent. Where there is much traffic of bad thinking,
there will be much mire and dirt; every wave of wicked thought adds something
to the corruption which rots upon the shore of life. It is dreadful to think that
a vile imagination, once indulgers, gets the key of our minds and can get in again
very easily, whether we will it or not, and can so return as to bring seven other
spirits with it more wicked than itself. What may follow, no one knows.
sin on the knees of thought, and it will grow into a giant. Dip rope in naphtha,
and how it will blaze when fire gets to it. Lay a man soaked in depraved thought,
and he is ready to flame up into open sin as soon as the opportunity occurs. This
shows us the wisdom of watching, every day, the thoughts and imaginations of our
hearts. Good thoughts are blessed guests and should be heartily welcomed, well
fed, and much sought
HE who boasts of being perfect is perfect in folly. I
have been a good deal up and down the world, and I never did see either a perfect
horse or a perfect man, and I never shall till two Sundays come together. You
cannot get white flour out of a coal sack nor perfection out of human nature;
he who looks for it had better look for sugar in the sea. The old saying is, "Lifeless,
faultless About dead men we should say nothing but good; but as for the living,
they are all tarred more or less with the black brush, and half an eye can see
it. Every head has a soft place in it, and every heart has its black drop. Every
rose has its prickles, and every day its night. Even the sun shows spots, and
the skies are darkened with clouds. Nobody is so wise but he has folly enough
to stock a stall at Vanity Fair. Where I could not see the fool's cap, I have
nevertheless heard the bells jingle. As there is no sunshine without some shadows,
so is all human good mixed up with more or less of evil. Even poor law guardians
have their little failings, and parish beadles are not wholly of heavenly nature.
The best wine has its dregs.
All men's faults are not written on
their foreheads, and it's quite as well they are not, or hats would need very
wide brims. Yet, as sure as eggs are eggs, faults of some sort nestle in every
bosom. There's no telling when a man's sins may show themselves, for hares pop
out of the ditch just when you are not looking for them. A horse that is weak
in the legs may not stumble for a mile or two, but it is in him, and the rider
had better hold him up well. The tabby cat is not lapping milk just now, but leave
the dairy door open, and we will see if she is not as bad a thief as the kitten.
there's fire in the flint, cool as it looks: wait till the steel gets a knock
at it, and you will see. Everybody can read that riddle, but it is not everybody
that will remember to keep his gunpowder out of the way of the candle.
we would always recollect that we live among men who are imperfect, we should
not be in such a fever when we find out our friends' failings. What's rotten will
rend, and cracked pots will leak. Blessed is he who expects nothing of poor flesh
and blood, for he shall never be disappointed. The best of men are men at best,
and the best wax will melt.
It is a good horse that never stumbles,
And a good wife that never grumbles.
But surely such horses
and wives are only found in the fool's paradise, where dumplings grow on trees.
In this wicked world the straightest timber has knots in it, and the cleanest
field of wheat has its share of weeds. The most careful driver one day upsets
the cart; the cleverest cook spills a little broth; and as I know to my sorrow
a very decent plowman will now and then break the plow and often make a crooked
furrow. It is foolish to turn off a tried friend because of a failing or two,
for you may get rid of a one-eyed nag and buy a blind one. Being all of us full
of faults, we ought to keep two bears, and learn to bear and forbear with one
another. Since we all live in glass houses, we should none of us throw stones.
Everybody laughs when the saucepan says to the kettle, "How black you are!" Other
men's imperfections show us our imperfection for one sheep is much like another;
and if there's an speck in my neighbor's eye, there is no doubt one in mine. We
ought to use our neighbors as mirrors to see our own faults in, and mend in ourselves
what we see in them.
I have no patience with those who poke their noses
into every man's house to smell out his faults, and put on magnifying glasses
to discover their neighbors' flaws. Such folks had better look at home; they might
see the devil where they little expected. What we wish to see, we shall see or
think we see. Faults are always thick where love is thin. A white cow is all black
if your eye chooses to make it so. If we sniff long enough at rose water, we shall
find out that it has a bad smell. It would be a far more pleasant business, at
least for other people, if fault-finders would turn their dogs to hunt out the
good points in other folks; the game would pay better, and nobody would stand
with a pitchfork to keep the hunters off his farm.
As for our own faults,
it would take a large slate to hold the account of them; but, thank God, we know
where to take them and how to get the better of them. With all our faults, God
loves us still if we are trusting in His Son. Therefore, let us not be downhearted,
but hope to live and learn and do some good service before we die. Though the
cart creaks, it will get home with its load, and the old horse, broken-kneed as
he is, will do a sight of work yet. There's no use in lying down and doing nothing
because we cannot do everything as we should like. Faults or no faults, plowing
must be done; imperfect people must do it, too, or there will be no harvest next
year. Bad plowman as John may be, the angels won't do his work for him, and so
he is off to do it himself. Go along, Violet! Gee, whoa! Dapper!
Things Not Worth Trying
THAT is a
wise old saying, "Spend not all you have, believe not all you hear, tell not all
you know, and do not all you can." There is so much work to be done that needs
our hands that it is a pity to waste a grain of our strength. When the game is
not worth the candle, drop it at once. It is wasting time to look for milk in
a gate post, or blood in a turnip, or sense in a fool. Never ask a covetous man
for money till you have boiled a flint soft. Don't sue a debtor who has not a
penny to bless himself with-you will only be throwing good money after bad, which
is like losing your ferret without getting a rabbit. Never offer a mirror to a
blind man: if a man is so proud that he will not see his faults, he will only
quarrel with you for pointing them out to him. It is of no use to hold a lantern
to a mole or to talk of heaven to a man who cares for nothing but his dirty money.
There's a time for everything, and it is a silly thing to preach to drunken men;
it is casting pearls before swine. Get them sober and then talk to them soberly;
if you lecture them while they are drunk, you act as if you were drunk yourself.
Do not put a cat on a coachbox or men in places for which they are not
fitted. There's no making apples of plums. Little minds will still be little,
even if you make them deacons or elders. It's a pity to turn a monkey into a minister
or a maid-servant into a mistress. Many preachers are good tailors spoiled, and
capital shoemakers turned out of their proper calling. When God means a creature
to fly, He gives it wings; and when He intends men to preach, he gives them abilities.
It is a pity to push a man into the war if cannot fight. Better discourage a man's
climbing than help him to break his neck. Silk purses are not to made out of sows'
ears, and pigs will never play well on the flute, teach them as long as you like.
It is not wise to aim at impossibilitiesit is a waste of powder to fire
at the man in the moon. Making boards out of sawdust is a very sensible scheme
compared with what some of my London friends have been aiming at, for they have
been trying to get money by buying shares in companies; they might quite as soon
catch the wind in a net or carry water in a sieve. Bubbles are fine fun for boys,
but bubble companies are sharp-edged tools that none should play with. If my friend
has money which he can afford to lose, there is still no reason why he should
hand it over to a set of knaves. If I wanted to get rid of my leg, I should not
get a shark to snap it off for me. Give your money to fools sooner that let rogues
wheedle you out of it.
It is never worthwhile to do unnecessary thongs.
Never grease a fat sow or praise a proud man. Don't make clothes for fishes or
coverings for altars. Don't paint lilies or garnish the gospel. Never bind up
a man's head before it is broken or comfort a conscience that makes no confession.
Never hold up a candle to the sun or try to prove a thing which nobody doubts.
I would advise no one to attempt a thing which cost more than it is worth. You
may sweeten a dunghill with lavender water, and a bad living man may keep up a
good character by an outward show of religion, but it will turn out a losing business
in the long run. If our nation were sensible, it would sweep out a good many expensive
but useless people, who eat the malt which lies in the house that Jack built;
they live on the national estate but do it little service. To pay a man a pounds
earning a penny is a good deal wiser than' keeping bishops who meet together by
the score and consult about the best way of doing nothing. If my master's old
dog was as sleepy as the bishops are, he would get shot or drowned, for he wouldn't
be worth the amount of the dog tax. However, their time of reckoning is nearing,
as sure as Christmas is coming.
Long ago, my experience taught me not
to dispute with anybody about tastes and whims; one might as well argue about
what you can see in the fire. It is of no use plowing the air or trying to convince
matters of no consequence. It is useless to try to end a quarrel by getting angry
over it; it is much the same as pouring oil on a fire to quench it or blowing
coals with the bellows to put them out. Some people like rowI don't envy
their choice; I'd rather walk ten miles to get out of a dispute than a half-mile
to get into one. I have often been told to be bold and take the bull by the horns;
but, as I rather think that the amusement is more pleasant than profitable, I
shall leave it to those who are so cracked already that an ugly poke with a horn
would not damage their skulls. Solomon says, "Leave off strife before it be meddled
with," which is much the same as if he had said, "Leave off before you begin."
When you see a mad dog, don't argue with him unless you are sure of your
logic. Instead, get out of his way; if nobody calls you a coward, you need not
call him a fooleverybody knows that. Meddling in quarrels never finds answers:
let hornets' nests be alone, and don't pull down old houses over your own head.
Meddlers are sure to hurt their own characters: if you scrub other people's pigs,
you will soon need scrubbing yourself. It is the height of folly to interfere
between a man and his wife, for they will be sure to leave off fighting each other
and turn their whole strength upon youand it would serve you right, too.
If you put your spoon into other people's broth and it scalds you, who is to blame
One thing more, don't attempt to make a strong-minded woman
give way, but remember:
"If she will, she will,
You may depend
If she won't, she won't,
And there's an end to it."
The other day I cut out of a newspaper a scrap from America, which shall
be my endpiece:
"Dip the Mississippi dry with a teaspoon; twist your
heel into the toe of your boot; send up fishing-hooks with balloons and fish for
stars; get astride a gossamer and chase a comet; when a rain storm is coming down
like the cataract of Niagara, remember where you left your umbrella; choke a flea
with a brickbat! In short, prove everything hitherto considered impossible to
be possible but never attempt to coax a woman to say she will when she has made
up her mind to say she won't.
WHEN I was a very
small boy in pinafores and went to a woman's school, it so happened that I wanted
a stick of slate pencil and had money to buy it with. I was afraid of being scolded
for losing my pencils so often, because I was a real careless little fellow and
so did not dare to ask at home what was John to do? There was a little shop in
the place where nuts, and tops, and cakes, and balls were sold by old Mrs. Dearson,
and sometimes I had seen boys and girls get trusted by the old lady. I argued
with myself that Christmas was coming, and that somebody or other would be sure
to give me a penny then and perhaps even a whole silver sixpence. I would, therefore,
go into debt for a stick of slate pencil and be sure to pay at Christmas.
did not feel easy about it, but still I screwed my courage up and went into the
shop. one farthing was the amount; since I had never owed anything before and
my credit was good, the pencil war handed over by the kind dame, and I was in
debt. It did not please me much, and I felt as if I had done wrong, but I little
knew how soon I should smart for it. How my father came to hear of this little
stroke of business I never knew, but some little bird or other whistled it to
him, and he was very soon down upon me in right earnest. God bless him for it.
He was a sensible man and not a child spoiler; he did not intend to bring up his
children to speculate and play at what big rogues call financing; therefore, he
knocked my getting into debt on the head at once, and no mistake. He gave me a
very powerful lecture about getting into debt; how like it was to stealing; about
the way in which people were ruined by it; and how a boy who would owe a farthing
might one day owe a hundred pounds, get into prison, and bring his family into
disgrace. It was a lecture, indeed; I think I can hear it now and can feel my
ears tingling at the recollection of it. Then I was marched off to the shop like
a deserter being marched back to barracks, crying bitterly all down the street,
and feeling dreadfully ashamed because I thought everybody knew I was in debt.
The farthing was paid amid many solemn warnings, and the poor debtor was
set free like a bird let out of a cage. How sweet it felt to be out of debt! How
did my little heart vow and declare that nothing should ever tempt me into debt
again! It was a fine lesson, and I have never forgotten it. If all boys were inoculated
with the same doctrine when they were young, it would be as good as a fortune
to them and save them wagon loads of trouble in later life. God bless my father,
say I, and send a breed of such fathers into old England to save her from being
eaten up with villainyfor what with companies and schemes and paper money,
the nation is getting to be as rotten as touchwood.
Ever since that
early sickening, I have hated debt as Luther hated the Pope, and if I say some
fierce things about it, you must not wonder. To keep debt, dirt, and the devil
out of my cottage has been my greatest wish ever since I set up housekeeping.
Although the last of the three has sometimes got in by the door or the windowfor
the old serpent will wriggle through smallest crackyet, thanks to a good
wife, hard work, honesty, and scrubbing brushes, the two others have not crossed
the threshold. Debt is so degrading that if I owed a man a penny I would walk
twenty miles in the dead of winter to pay him, sooner than feel that I was under
an obligation. I should be as comfortable with peas in my shoes, or a hedge-hog
in my bed, or a snake up my back, as with bills hanging over my head at the grocer's,
and the baker's, and the tailor's.
Poverty is hard, but debt is horrible;
a man might as well have a smoky house and a scolding wife, which are said to
be the two worst evils of life, as be in debt. We may be poor and yet respectable,
which John Ploughman and his wife hope they are and will be; but a man in debt
cannot even respect himself, and he is sure to be talked about by the neighbors,
and that talk will not be much to his credit. Some persons appear to like to be
owing money; but I would as soon be a cat up a chimney with the fire lit, or a
fox with the hounds at my heels, or a hedgehog on a pitchfork, or a mouse under
an owl's claw. An honest man thinks a purse full of other people's money to be
worse than an empty one. He cannot bear to eat other people's cheese, wear other
people's shirts, and walk about in other people's shoes; neither will he be easy
while his wife is decked out in the milliner's bonnets and wears the dressmaker's
flannels. The jackdaw in the peacock's feathers was soon plucked, and borrowers
will surely come to poverty-a poverty of the bitterest sort because there is shame
Living beyond their incomes is the ruin of many of my neighbors;
they can hardly afford to keep a rabbit and have to drive a pony and chaise. I
am afraid extravagance is the common disease of the times; many professing Christians
have caught it to their shame and sorrow. Good cotton or stuff gowns are not enough
nowadays; girls must have silks and satins, and then there's a bill at the dressmaker's
as long as a winter's night and quite as dismal. Show, style, and smartness run
away with a man's means, keep the family poor, and the fathers nose down on the
grindstone. Frogs try to look as big as bulls and burst themselves. A pound a
week apes five hundred a year and comes to the county court Men burn the candle
at both ends and then say they are very unfortunate; why don't they put twaddle
on the right horse and say they are extravagant?
Economy is half the battle
in life, but it is not so hard to earn money as to spend it well. Hundreds would
never have known want if they had not first known waste. If all poor men's wives
knew how to cook, how far a little might go. our minister says the French and
the Germans beat us hollow in nice cheap cookery. I wish they would send missionaries
over to convert our gossiping women into good managers; this is a French fashion
which would be a good deal more useful than those fine pictures in Mrs. Fripper's
window, with ladies rigged out in a new style every month. Dear me! Some people
are much too fine nowadays to eat what their fathers were thankful to see on the
table, and so they please their palates with costly feeding, come to the workhouse,
and expect everybody to pity them.
They turn up their noses at bread and
butter and end up eating raw turnips stolen out of the fields. They who like fighting
cocks at-other men's costs will get their combs cut, or perhaps get roasted for
it one of these days. If you have a great store of peas, you may put more in the
soup; but everybody should fare according to his earnings. He is both a fool and
a knave who has a shilling coming in, and on the strength of it, spends a pound
which does not belong to him. cut your coat according to your cloth is sound advice;
but cutting other people's cloth by running into debt is as like thieving as a
sofa is like a couch. If I meant to be a rogue, I would deal in marine stores,
or be a petty fogging lawyer or a priest, or open a loan office, or go out picking
pockets, but I would scorn the dirty art of getting into debt without a prospect
of being able to pay.
Debtors can hardly help being liars, for they
promise to pay when they know they cannot; and when they have made up a lot of
false excuses, they promise again, so they lie as fast as a horse can trot.
"You have debts and make debts still,
If you've not lied, lie you
Now, if owing leads to lying, who shall say that it is
not a most evil thing? Of courses their are exceptions, and I do not want to come
down hard upon an honest man who is brought down by sickness or heavy losses.
But take the rule as a rule, and you will find debt to be a great dismal swamp,
a huge mud hole, a dirty ditch: happy is the man who gets out of it after once
tumbling in, but happiest of all is he who has been by God's goodness kept out
of the mire altogether. If you ask the devil to dinner, it will be hard to get
him out of the house again; it is better to have nothing to do him. Where a hen
has laid one egg, she is very likely to lay another; when a man is once in debt,
he is likely to get into it again; it is better to keep clear of it from the first.
He who gets in for a penny will soon be in for pound, and when a man is in over
his shoes, he is very liable to be in over his boots. Never owe a farthing, and
you will never owe a guinea.
If you want to sleep soundly, buy a bed
of a man who is in debt; surely it must be a very soft one, or he never have rested
so easy on it. I suppose people get hardened to it, as Smith's donkey did when
its master broke so many sticks across its back. It seems to me that a real honest
man would sooner get as lean as a greyhound than feast on borrowed money, and
would choke up his throat with dust before he would let the landlord make chalkmarks
against him behind the door for a beer score. What pins and needles tradesmen's
bills must stick in a fellow's soul! A pig on credit always grunts. Without debt,
without care; out of debt, out of danger.
Owing and borrowing are bramble
bushes full of thorns. If ever I borrow a spade from my next-door neighbor, I
never feel safe with it for fear I should break it; I never can dig in peace as
I do with my own. If I had a spade at the shop and I knew I could not pay for
it, I think I should set to and dig my own grave out of shame. Scripture says,
"Owe no man anything," which does not mean pay your debts, but never have any
to pay. My opinion is that those who willfully break this law ought to be turned
out of the Christian church, neck and crop, as we say. our laws are shamefully
full of encouragement to credit: nobody need be a thief now. A man has only to
open a shop and fail at it, and it will pay him much better; as the proverb is,
"He who never fails will never grow rich." Why, I know tradesmen who have failed
five or six times and yet think they are on the road to heaven; the scoundrels,
what would they do if they got there? They are a deal more likely to go where
they shall never come out till they have paid the uttermost farthing. But people
say, "How liberal they area Yes, with other people's money. I hate to see a man
steal a goose and then give religion the giblets.
Piety by all means but
pay your way as part of it.
Honesty comes first and then generosity. But
how often religion is a cloak for deceiving! There's Mrs. Scamp as fine as a peacock,
all the girls out at boarding school learning French and the piano, the boys swelling
about in kid gloves, and G. B. Scamp, Esquire, driving a fast-trotting mare and
taking the chair at public meetings, while his poor creditors cannot get more
than enough to live from hand to mouth. It is shameful and beyond endurance to
see how genteel swindling is winked at by many in this country. I'd have off with
their white waistcoats and kid gloves and patent leather boots, if I had my way,
and give them the county crop and the prison livery for six months; gentlemen
or not, I'd let them see that big rogues could dance on the treadmill to the same
tune as little ones. I'd make the land too hot to hold such scamping gentry if
I were a member of Parliament or a prime minister; since I've no such power, I
can at least write against the fellows and let off the steam of my wrath in that
My motto is, "pay as you go, and keep from small scores. Short
reckonings are soon cleared. Pay what you owe, and what you're worth, you'll know.
Let the clock tick, but no Sticky for me. Better go to bed without your supper
than get up in debt. Sins and debts are always more than we think them to be.
Little by little, a man gets in over his head and ears. It is the petty expenses
that empty the purse. Money is round and rolls assay easily. Tom Thriftless buys
what he does not want because it is a great bargain, and so he is soon brought
to sell what he does want and finds it a very little bargain. He cannot say "No"
to his friend who wants him to be security; he gives grand dinners, makes many
holidays, keeps a fat table, lets his wife dress fine, never looks after his servants,
and by-and-by he is quite surprised to find that the end of the quarter comes
round so very fast, and that creditors bark so loud. He has sowed his money in
the fields of thoughtlessness, and now he wonders that he has to reap the harvest
of poverty. Still he hopes for something to turn up to help him out of difficulty,
and so muddles himself into more troubles, forgetting that hope and expectation
are a fool's income.
Being hard up, he goes to market with empty pockets,
and buys at whatever prices tradesmen like to charge him, and so he pays more
than double and gets deeper and deeper into the mire. This leads him to scheming
and trying little tricks and mean dodges, for it is hard for an empty sack to
stand upright. this is sure not to be the answer, for schemes are like spiders'
webs which never catch anything better than flies and are soon swept away. you
might as well try to mend your shoes with brown paper or stop a broken window
with a sheet of ice, as to try to patch up a failing business with maneuvering
and scheming. When the schemer is found out, he is like a dog in church that everybody
kicks, or like a barrel of powder which nobody wants for a neighbor.
say poverty is a sixth sense, and it had need be, for many debtors seem to have
lost the other five or were born without common sense, for they appear to fancy
that you not only make debts, but pay them by borrowing. A man pays Peter with
what he has borrowed of Paul and thinks he is getting out of his difficulties,
when he is only putting one foot into the mud to pull his other foot out. It is
hard to shave an egg or pull hairs out of a bald pate, but they are both easier
than paying 'debts out of an empty pocket. Samson was a strong man, but he could
not pay debts without money.
He is a fool who thinks he can do it by scheming.
As to borrowing money of loan sharks, it's like a drowning man catching at razors:
both Jews and Gentiles, when they lend money, generally pluck the geese as long
as they have any feathers. A man must cut down his outgoings and save his incomings
if he wants to clear himself; you can't spend your penny and pay debts with it
too. Stint the kitchen if the purse is bare. Don't believe in any way of wiping
out debts except by paying hard cash. Promises make debts, and debts make promises,
but promises never pay debts. Promising is one thing, and performing is quite
another. A good man's word should be as binding as an oath, and he should never
promise to pay unless he has a clear prospect of doing so in due time. Those who
stave off payment by false promises deserve no mercy. It is all very well to say
"I'm very sorry," but:
"A hundred years of regret
a farthing of debt."
Now I'm afraid all this sound advice might
as well have been given to my master's cocks and hens as to those who have gotten
into the habit of spending what is not their own, for advice to such people goes
in at one ear and out at the other. Well, those who won't listen will have to
feel, and those who refuse cheap advice will have to buy dear repentance; but
to young people beginning life, a word may be worth a world, and this shall be
John Ploughman's short sermon, with three points to it: always re a little below
your means, never get into debt, and remember,
"He who goes a borrowing
Goes a sorrowing."
THAT word "home" always sounds like poetry to me. It rings
like a peal of bells at a wedding only more soft and sweet, and it chimes deeper
into the ears of my heart. It does not matter whether it means thatched cottage
or manor house: home is home, be it ever so homely, and there's no place on earth
like it. May green grow the houseleek on the roof forever, and let the moss flourish
on the thatch. Sweetly the sparrows chirrup and the swallows twitter around the
chosen spot which is my joy and rest. Every bird loves its own nest; the owl thinks
the old ruins are the fairest spot under the moon, and the fox is of opinion that
his hole in the hill is remarkably cozy. When my master's nag knows that his head
is towards home, he needs no whip but thinks it best to put on all steam; and
I am always of the same mind, for the way home to me is the best bit of road in
the country. I like to see the smoke out of my own chimney better than the fire
on another many hearth; there's something so beautiful in the way it curls up
among the trees. Cold potatoes on my own table taste better than roast meat at
my neighbors, and the honeysuckle at my own door is the
sweetest I ever smell. When you are out, friends do their best, but still it is
not home. "Make yourself at home," they say, because everybody knows that to feel
at home is to feel at ease,
"East and west
Home is best."
Why, at home you are at home, and what more do want? Nobody begrudges you,
whatever your appetite may be; and you don't get put into a damp bed. Safe in
his own castle, like a king in his palace, a man feels himself somebody and is
not afraid of being thought proud for thinking so. Every cock may crow on his
own dunghill, and a dog is a lion when he is at home. A sweep is master inside
his own door. No need to guard every word because some enemy is on the watch,
no keeping the heart under lock and key; but as soon as the door is shut, it is
liberty hall with none to peep and pry. There is a glorious view from the top
of Leith Hill in our dear old Surrey; and Hindhead, and Martha's Chapel, and Boxhill
are not to be sneezed at; but I could show you something which to mind beats them
all for real beauty.
I mean John Ploughman's cottage with the kettle boiling
on the hob, singing like an unfallen black angel, while the cat is lying asleep
in front of the fire, the wife sits in her chair mending stockings, and the children
are cutting about the room as full of fun as young lambs. It is a singular fact
perhaps some of you will doubt it, but that is your unbelieving naturethat
our little ones are real beauties, always a pound or two plumper than others of
their age, and yet it doesn't tire you half so much to nurse them as it does other
people's babies. Why, bless you, my wife would tire out in half the time if her
neighbor had asked her to see to a strange youngster, but her own children don't
seem to exhaust her at all. Now my belief is that it all comes of their having
been born at home. Just so is it with everything else: our lane is the most beautiful
for twenty miles around because our home is in it; and my garden is a perfect
paradise, for no other particular reason than this very good one that it belongs
to the old house at home.
I cannot make out why so many working men
spend their evenings at the public house, when their own fireside would be so
much better and cheaper, too. There they sit, hour after hour, boozing and talking
nonsense, and forgetting the dear good souls at home who are half-starved and
weary with waiting for them. Their money goes into the innkeeper's till when it
ought to make their wives and children comfortable. As for the beer they get,
it is just so much fools' milk to drown their wits in. Such fellows ought to be
horsewhipped, and those who encourage them and live on their spendings deserve
to feel the butt end of the whip. Those bars are the curse of this country: no
good can ever come of them, and the evil they do no tongue can tell. The inns
were bad enough, but the bars are a pest; I wish the man who made the law to open
them had to keep all the families that they have brought to ruin. Bars are the
enemies of home, and therefore the sooner their licenses are taken away the better.
Poor men don't need such places, nor rich men either: they are all the worse and
none the better. Anything that hurts the home is a curse and ought to be hunted
down as gamekeepers do the rennin in the forests.
Husbands should try
to make home happy and holy. It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest and a bad
man who makes his home wretched. Our house ought to be a little church with holiness
to the Lord over the door, but it ought never to be a prison where there is plenty
of rule and order, but little love and no pleasure. Married life is not all sugar,
but grace in the heart will keep away most of the sours. Godliness and love can
make a man, like a bird in a hedge, sing among thorns and briars, and set others
singing too. It should be the husband's pleasure to please his wife, and the wife's
care to care for her husband. He is kind to himself who is kind to his wife. I
am afraid some men live by the rule of self, and when that is the case, home happiness
is a mere sham. When husbands and wives are well yoked, how light their load becomes!
It is not every couple that is a such a pair, and more's the pity. In a true home
all the strife is who can do the most to make the family happy. A home should
be a Bethel, not a Babel.
The husband should be the "houseband," binding
together like a cornerstone, but not crushing everything like a millstone. Unkind
and domineering husbands ought not to pretend to be Christians, for they act totally
contrary to Christ's commands. Yet a home must be well ordered, or it will become
a Bedlam and a scandal to the parish. If the father drops the reins, the family
coach will soon be in the ditch. A wise mixture of love and firmness will do it,
but neither harshness nor softness alone will keep home in happy order.
is no home where the children are not in obedience; it is rather a pain than a
pleasure to be in it. Happy is he who is happy in his children, and happy are
the children who are happy in their father. All fathers are not wise. Some are
like Eli, and spoil their children. Not to cross our children is the way to make
a cross of them. Those who never give their children the rod must not wonder if
their children become a rod to them. Solomon says, "Correct thy son, and he shall
give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight to thy soul." I am not clear that anybody
wiser than Solomon lives in our time, though some think they are. Young colts
must be broken in or they will make wild horses. Some fathers are all fire and
fury, filled with passion at the smallest fault; this is worse than the other
and makes home a little hell instead of a heaven. No wind makes the miller idle,
but too much upsets the mill altogether. Men who strike in their anger generally
miss their mark. When God helps us to hold the reins firmly but not to hurt the
horses' mouths, all goes well. When home is ruled according to God's word, angels
might be asked to stay the night with us, and they would not find themselves out
of their element.
Wives should feel that home is their place and their
kingdom, the happiness of which depends mostly upon them. she is a wicked wife
who drives her husband away by her sharp tongue. A man said to his wife the other
day, "Double up your whip." He meant keep your tongue quiet: it is wretched living
with such a whip always lashing you. When God gave to men ten measures of speech,
they say the women ran away with nine, and in some cases I am afraid the saying
is true. A dirty, slatternly, gossiping wife is enough to drive her husband mad;
and if he goes to the public house on occasion, she is the cause of it. It is
doleful living where the wife, instead of reverencing her husband, is always wrangling
and railing at him. It must be a good thing when such women are hoarse, and it
is a pity that they have not so many blisters on their tongues as they have teeth
in their jaws. God save us all from wives who are angels in the streets, saints
in the church, and devils at home. I have never tasted of such bitter herbs, but
I pity from my very heart those who have this diet every day of their lives.
Show me a loving husband, a worthy wife, and good children, and no pair
of horses that ever flew along road could take me in a year where I could see
a more pleasing sight. Home is the grandest of all institutions. Talk about parliament,
but give me a quiet little parlor. Boast about voting and the Reform Bill if you
like, but I go in for weeding the little garden and teaching the children their
hymns. Franchise may be very fine thing, but I should a good deal sooner get mortgage
to my cottage, if I could find the money to buy it. Magna Charta I don't know
much about, but if it means a quiet home for everybody, three cheers for it. I
wish our governors would not break up so many poor men's homes by that abominably
heartless poor law. It is far more fitting for mad dogs than for Englishmen.
Hampshire cart driver told me the other day that his wife and children were all
in the government union house and his home broken up, because of the cruel working
of the poor law. He had eight little ones and his wife to keep on nine shillings
a week, with rent to pay out of it; on this he could not keep body and soul together.
Now, if the parish had allowed him a mere trifle, a loaf or two and a couple of
shillings a week, he would have jogged on, but no, not a penny out of the house.
They might all die of starvation unless they would all go into the workhouse.
So with many bitter tears and heartaches, the poor soul had to sell his few little
bits of furniture, and he is now a homeless man. And yet he is a good hard-working
fellow and had served one master for nearly twenty years.
are very common, but they ought not to be. Why cannot the really deserving poor
have a little help given them? Why must they be forced into the union house? Home
is the pillar of the British Empire, and ought not to be knocked to pieces by
these unchristian laws. I wish I was an orator and could talk politics. I would
not care a rush for the Whigs or Tories, but I would stand up like a lion for
the poor man's home, which, let me tell the Lords and Commons, is as dear to him
as their great palaces are to them, and sometimes dearer.
If I had
no home, the world would be a big prison to me. England for me a country, Surrey
for a county, and for a village give me no, I shan't tell you, or you will be
hunting John Ploughman up. Many of my friends have emigrated and are breaking
up fresh soil in Australia and America. Though their stone has rolled, I hope
they gather moss, for when they were at home they were like the sitting hen which
gets no barley. Really these hard times make a man think of his wings, but I am
tied by the leg to my own home, and, please God, I hope to live and die among
my own people. They may do things better in France and Germany, but old England
is for me after all.
Men Who Are Down
NO man's lot is fully known till he is dead:
change of fortune is the lot of life. He who rides in the carriage may yet have
to clean it. Sawyers change places, and he who is up aloft may take to take his
turn in the pit. In less than a thousand years, we shall all be bald and poor
too, and who knows at he may come to before that? The thought that we may ourselves
be one day under the window should make us careful when we are throwing out our
dirty water. With what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again, and
therefore let us look well to dealings with the unfortunate.
me more sick of human nature than to see the way in which men treat others when
they fall down the ladder of fortune. "Down with him," they cry, "He always was
good for nothing."
"Down among the dead men,
Down, down, down,
Down among the dead men
There let him lie."
Dog won't eat
dog, but men will eat each other up like cannibals and boast of it, too. There
are thousands in this world who fly like vultures to feed on a tradesman or a
merchant as soon as ever he gets into trouble. Where the carcass is, thither will
the eagles be gathered together. Instead of a little help, they give the sinking
man a great deal of cruelty and cry, Serves him rights All the world will beat
the man whom fortune buffets. If providence smites him, all men's whips begin
to crack. The dog is drowning, and therefore all his friends empty their buckets
over him. The tree has fallen, and everybody runs for his hatchet. The house is
on fire, and all the neighbors warm themselves. The man has ill luck, therefore
his friends give him ill usage: he has tumbled into the road, and they drive their
carts over him; he is down and selfishness cries, "Let him be kept down, then
there will be more room for those who are up."
How aggravating it is
when those who knocked you down kick you for not standing up. It is not very pleasant
to hear that you have been a great fool, and there were fifty ways at least of
keeping out of your difficulty, only you had not the sense to see them. You ought
not to have lost the game: even Tom Fool can see where you made a bad move. "He
ought to have locked the stable doors!everybody can see that, but nobody
offers to buy the loser a new nag. "What a pity he went so far on the ice!that's
very true, but that won't save the poor fellow from drowning. When a man's coat
is threadbare, it is an easy thing to pick a hole in it. Good advice is poor food
for a hungry family.
"A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds."
Lend me a bit of string to
tie up the traces, and find fault with my old harness when I get home. Help my
old horse to a few oats, and then tell him to mend his pace. Feel for me, and
I shall feel much obliged to you, but mind you feel in your pocket or else a fig
for your feelings.
Most men who go downhill meet with Judas before
they get to the bottom. Those whom they helped in their better days generally
forget the debt or repay it with unkindness. The young sucker runs away with sap
from the old tree. The foal drains his mother and then kicks her. The old saying
is, "I taught you to swim, and now you would drown me," and many a time it comes
true. The dog wags his tail till he gets the bone, and then he snaps and bites
at the man who fed him. Eaten bread is forgotten, and the hand that gave it is
despised. The candle lights others and is burnt away itself. For the most part,
nothing is more easily blotted out than a good turn. Everyone for himself is the
world's golden rule, and we all know who takes the hindmost. The fox looks after
his own skin and has no idea of losing his brush out of gratitude to a friend.
A noble spirit always takes the side of the weak, but noble spirits do
not often ride along our roads. They as scarce as eagles; you can get magpies,
hawks, and kites by the score, but the nobler breed you don't see once in a lifetime.
Did you ever hear the crows read the burial service over a dead sheep before they
eat it? Well, that's wonderfully like the neighbors crying, "What a pity! How
did it happen? Oh dear! Oh dear!" and then hurrying to work to get each of them
a share of the plunder. Most people will help those who do not need it; every
traveler throws a stone where there is a heap already; all the cooks baste a fat
pig, but the lean one gets burned.
"In times of prosperity friends
will be plenty:
In times of adversity not one in twenty."
When the wind serves, all aid. While the pot boils, friendship blooms. But flatterers
haunt not cottages, and the faded rose no suitor knows. All the neighbors are
cousins to the rich man, but the poor man's brother does not know him. When we
have a ewe and a lamb, everyone cries, "Welcome, Peter!" The squire can be heard
for half a mile, if he only whispers, but Widow Needy is not heard across the
park railings, let her call as she may. Men willingly pour water into a full tub
and give feasts to those who are not hungry, because they look to have as good
or better in return. Have a goose, and get a goose. Have a horse of your own;
then you can borrow one. It is safe to lend barley where the barn is full of wheat,
but who lends or gives where there's none? Who, indeed, unless it be some antiquated
old soul who believes in his Bible, loves his Lord, and therefore gives, hoping
for nothing again"?
I have noticed certain gentry who pretend to be
great friends to a falling man because there are some few pickings yet to be got
off his bones. The lawyer and the money lender will cover the poor fellow with
their wings and then peck at him with their bills till there's nothing left. When
these folks are very polite and considerate, poor men need to beware. It was not
a good sign when the fox walked into the hen house and said, "Good morning to
you all, my very dear friends."
Down men, however, must not despair,
for God is yet alive, and He is the friend of the friendless. If there be no one
else found to hold out a hand to him who has fallen, the Lord's hand shall not
fail to bring deliverance to those who trust Him. A good man may be put in the
fire, but he cannot be burned. His hope may be drenched but not drowned. He plucks
up courage, sets a stout heart to a stiff hill, and gets over rough ground where
others lie down and die. While there's life, there's hope. Therefore, my friend,
if you've tumbled off the back of prosperity, John Ploughman bids you not to lie
in the ditch, but up with you and try again. Jonah went to the bottom of the sea,
but he got to shore again all the better for his watery journey.
"Though the bird's in the net,
It may get away yet;
Though I'm down in
In my God I well trust,
I will hope in Him still,
all to His will;
For He'll surely appear,
And will banish my fear."
Let it never be forgotten that when a man is down, he has a grand opportunity
for trusting in God. A false faith can only float in smooth water; but true faith,
like a lifeboat, is at home in storms. If our religion does not bare us up in
time of trial, what is the use of it? If we cannot believe God when our circumstances
appear to be against us, we do not believe Him at all. We trust a thief as far
as we can see him; shall we dare to treat our God in that fashion? No, no. The
Lord is good, and He will yet appear for His servants, and we shall praise His
"Down among the dead men"!
No, sir, not I.
the dead men"!
I will not lie.
Up among the hopeful,
I will ascend,
Up among the joyful,
sing without end.
EGGS are eggs, but some are rotten; and so hopes
are hopes, but many of them are delusions. Hopes are like women: there is a touch
of angel about them, but there are two sorts. My boy Tom has been blowing out
a lot of birds' eggs and threading them on a string; I have been doing the same
thing with hopes, and here's a few of themgood, bad and indifferent.
The sanguine man's hope pops up in a moment like jack-in-the-box; it works
with a spring and does not go by reason. Whenever this man looks out of the window,
he sees better times coming; although it is nearly all in his own eye and nowhere
else, yet to see plum puddings in the moon is a far more cheerful habit than croaking
at everything like a two-legged frog. This is the kind of brother to be on the
road with on a pitch-dark night when it pours with rain, for he carries candles
in his eyes and a fireside in his heart. Beware of being mislead by him, and then
you may safely keep his company. His fault is that he counts his chickens before
they are hatched and sells his herrings before they are in the net. All his sparrow's
eggs are bound to turn into thrushes, at the least, if not partridges and pheasants.
Summer has fully come, for he has seen one swallow.
He is sure to make
his fortune at his new shop, for he had not opened the door five minutes before
two of the neighbors crowded in, one of them wanting a loaf of bread on trust,
and the other asking change for a shilling. He is certain that the squire means
to give him his custom, for he saw him reading the name over the shop door as
he rode past. He does not believe in slips between cups and lips, but makes certainties
out of perhaps. Well, good soul, though he is a little soft at times, there is
much in him to praise, and I like to think of one of his odd sayings, "Never say
die till you are dead, and then it's no use, so let it alone." There are other
odd people in the world, you see, besides John Ploughman.
Shiftless is waiting for his aunt to die, but the old lady has as many lives as
nine cats. My notion is that when she does die, she will leave her little money
to the Hospital for Diseased Cats or Stray Dogs, sooner than let her nephew Jack
have at it. Poor creature, he is dreadfully down at the heel and lays it all on
the dear old lady's provoking constitution. However, he hopes on and gets worse
and worse, for while the grass grows, the horse starves. He puts at a long rope
who waits for another's death; he who hunts after legacies needs to have iron
shoes. He that waits for dead men's shoes may long go barefoot; he who waits for
his uncle's cow need not be in a hurry to spread the butter. He who lives on hope
has a slim diet. If Jack Shiftless had never had an aunt, he might have tucked
up his shirt sleeves and worked for himself; but they told him that he was born
with a silver spoon in his mouth, and that made a spoon of him.
anybody likes to leave John Ploughman a legacy, he will be very much obliged to
them, but they had better not tell him of it for fear he should not plow so straight
a furrow; better they make it twice as much and take him by surprise. On the whole,
it would be better to leave it to the Pastor's College or the Stockwell Orphanage,
for it will be well used in either case. But now we must get back to our subject.
I wish people would think less about windfalls and plant more apple trees. Hopes
that grow out of graves are grave mistakes; and when they cripple a man's own
energies, they are a sort of hangman's rope dangling round a man's neck.
people were born on the first of April and are always hoping without sense or
reason. Their ship is to come in soon; they are to dig up a pot of gold or to
hear something to their advantage. Poor sillies, they have wind on the brain and
dream while they are awake. They may hold their mouths open a long while before
fried ham and eggs will come flying into them, and yet they really seem to believe
that some stroke of luck, some windfall of golden apples, will one day set them
up and make gentlemen of them. They hope to ride in their coaches, and by-and-by
they find themselves shut up in a place where the coaches won't run over them.
You may whistle a long time before goldfinches will hop on to your thumb. Once
in a while one man in a million may stumble against a fortune, but thousands ruin
themselves by idle expectations. Expect to get half of what you earn, a quarter
of what is your due, and none of what you have lent, and you will be near the
mark; but to look for a fortune to fall from the moon is to play the fool with
A man ought to hope within the bounds of reason and the promises
of the good old Book. Hope leans on an anchor, but an anchor must have something
to hold by and to hold to. A hope without grounds is a tub without a bottom, a
horse without a head, a goose without a body, a shoe without a sole, a knife without
a blade. Who but Simple Simon would begin to build a house at the top? There must
be a foundation. Hope is no hope, but sheer folly, when a man hopes for impossibilities,
or looks for crops without sowing seed and for happiness without doing good. Such
hopes lead to great boast and small roast; they act like a jack-o'-lantern and
lead men into the ditch. There's poor Will at if the workhouse who always declares
that he owns a great estate, only the right owner keeps him out of it; his name
is Jenyns or Jennings, and somebody of that name he says has left enough money
to buy the Bank of England, and r one day he is to have a share of it. But meanwhile
poor Will finds the parish broth poor stuff for such a great gentleman's stomach;
he has promised me an odd thousand or two when he gets his fortune, and I am going
to build a castle in the air with it and ride to it on a broomstick.
soul, like a good many others, he has windmills in his head, and may make his
will on his thumbnail for anything that he has to give. Depend upon it, plowing
the air is not half so profitable as it is easy: he who hopes in this world for
more than he can get by his own earnings hopes to find apricots on a crab tree.
He who marries a slovenly, dressy girl and hopes to make her a good wife might
as well buy a goose and expect it to turn out a milk cow. He who takes his boys
to the bar and trusts that they will grow up sober puts his coffeepot on the fire
and expects to see it look bright as new tin. Men cannot be in their senses when
they brew with bad malt and look for good beer, or set a wicked example and reckon
upon raising a respectable family. You may hope and hope till your heart grows
sick; but when you send your boy up the chimney, he'll come down black for all
your hoping. Teach a child to lie, and then hope that he will grow up honest;
better put a wasp in a tar barrel and wait till he makes you honey. When will
people act sensibly with their boys and girls? Not till they are sensible themselves.
As to the next world, it is a great pity that men do not take a little
more care when they talk of it. If a man dies drunk, somebody or other is sure
to say, "I hope he is gone to heaven." It is all very well to wish it, but to
hope it is another thing. Men turn their faces to hell and hope to get to heaven;
why don't they walk into the pond and hope to be dry? Hopes of heaven are solemn
things and should be tried by the word of God. A man might as well hope, as our
Lord says, to gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles as look for a happy
hereafter at the end of a bad life. There is only one rock to build good hopes
on, and that is not Peter, as the pope says; neither is it the sacraments, as
the old Roman beast's cubs tell us, but the merits of the Lord Jesus. All the
hope of man is in "the man Christ Jesus." If we believe in him we are saved, for
it is written, "he that believeth in him hath everlasting life." Mind he has it
now, and it is everlasting, so that there is no fear of his losing it. There John
Ploughman rests, and he is not afraid of being confounded, for this is a In footing
and gives him a hope sure and steadfast which neither life nor death can shake.
But John must not turn preacher, or he may take the bread out of the parson's
mouth. So please remember that presumption is a ladder which will break the mounter's
neck, and don't try it, as you love your soul.
TO EARN money is easy compared with spending
it well; anybody may dig up potatoes, but it is not one woman in ten that can
cook them. Men do not become rich by what they get but by what they save. Many
men who have money are as short of wit as a hog is of wool; they are under the
years of discretion though they have turned forty, and make ducks and drakes of
hundreds as boys do of stones. What their fathers got with the rake, they throw
away with the shovel. After the miser comes the prodigal. Often men say of the
spendthrift that his old father was no man's friend but his own, and now his son
is no man's enemy but his own: the fact is, the old gentleman went to hell by
the lean road, and his son has made up his mind to go there by the fat. As soon
as the spendthrift gets his estate, it goes like a lump of butter in a greyhound's
mouth. All his days are the first of April; he would buy an elephant at a bargain
or thatch his house with pancakes. nothing is too foolish to tickle his fancy;
his money burns holes in his pocket, and he must squander it, all the while boasting
that his motto is, "Spend, and God will send."
He will not stay till he
has his sheep before he shears them; he forestalls his income, draws upon his
capital, and so kills the goose which lays the golden eggs, and then cries out,
who would have thought it?" He never spares at the brim, but he means to save
at the bottom. He borrows at high interest of Rob Them, Cheat Them, and Sell Them-up,
and when he gets cleaned out, he lays it all either upon the lawyers or else on
the bad times. Times never were good for lazy prodigals; and if they were good
to them, they would be bad for all the world besides. Why men should be in such
a hurry to make themselves beggars is a mystery; but nowadays, what with betting
at horse races, laziness, and speculating, there seems to be a regular four-horse
coach running to Needham every day. Ready money must be quite a curiosity to some
men, and yet they spend like lords. They are gentlemen without means, which is
much the same as plum puddings without plums.
Spending your money
with many a guest,
Empties the larder, the cellar, and chest.
If a little gambling is thrown in with the fast living, money melts like
a snowball in an oven. A young gambler is sure to be an old beggar if he lives
The devil leads him by the nose,
Who the dice so
There are more asses than those with four legs.
I am sorry to say they are found among working men as well as fine gentlemen.
Fellows who have no estate but their labor, and no family arms except those they
work with, will spend their little hard earnings at the bar or in waste. No sooner
are their wages paid than away they go to the "Spotted Dog," or the "Marquis of
Granby," to contribute their share of fools' pence towards keeping up the landlord's
red face and round potbelly.
Drinking water neither makes a man sick nor
in debt, nor does it make his wife a widow, and yet some men hardly know the flavor
of it; but beer guzzled down as it is by many a working man is nothing better
than brown ruin. Dull droning blockheads sit on the ale bench and wash out what
little sense they ever had. However, I believe that farming people are a deal
better managers with their money than Londoners are, for though their money is
very little, their families look nice and tidy on Sundays. True, the rent isn't
so bad in a village as in the town, and there's a bit of garden; still, those
Londoners earn a good deal of money, and they have many chances of buying in a
cheap market which the poor countryman has not. On the whole, I think it's very
good management which keeps a family going on ten shillings a week in the country,
and bad management that can't pay its way on five-and- twenty in London. Why,
some families are as merry as mice in malt on very small wages, and others are
as wretched as rats in a trap on double the amount. Those who wear the shoe know
best where it pinches, but economy is a fine thing, and makes ninepence go further
than a shilling. Some make Soup out of a flint, and others can't get nourishment
out of gravy beef.
Some go to shop with as much wit as Samson had in both
his shoulders, but no more. They do not buy well; they have not sense to lay out
their money to advantage. Buyers ought to have a hundred eyes, but these have
not even half a one, and they do not open that. Well was it said that if fools
did not go to market, bad wares would never be sold. They never get a pennyworth
for their penny, and this is often because they are on the hunt for cheap things
and forget that generally the cheapest is the dearest; one cannot buy a good shilling's
worth of a bad article. When there's five eggs for a penny, four of them are rotten.
Poor men often buy in very small quantities and so pay through the nose;
for a man who buys by the pennyworth keeps his own house and another man's. Why
not get two or three weeks' supply at once, and so get it cheaper? Store is no
sore. People are saving at the wrong place and spoil the ship for a half penny's
worth of tar. Others look after small savings and forget greater things; they
are penny wise and pound foolish; they spare at the spigot, and let all run away
at the bunghole. Some buy things they don't want because they are great bargains;
let me tell them that what they do not want is dear at a farthing. Fine dressing
makes a great hole in poor people's means. Whatever does John Ploughman and others
as work hard for their daily bread want with silks and satins? It's like a blacksmith
wearing a white silk apron.
I hate to see a servant girl or a laborer's
daughter decked out as if she thought people would take her for a lady. Why, everybody
knows a tadpole from a fish; nobody mistakes a poppy for a rose. Give me a woman
in a nice neat dress, clean and suitable, and for beauty she will beat the flashy
young hussies all to pieces. If a girl has got a few shillings to spare, let her
buy a good bit of flannel for the winter, before she is tempted with bright looking
but useless finery. Buy what suits yourself to wear, and if it does not suit other
people to look at, let them shut their eyes. All women are good either for something
or for nothing, and their dress will generally tell you which.
we all find the money goes quite fast enough, but after all it was made to circulate,
and there's no use in hoarding it. It is bad to see our money become a runaway
servant and leave us, but it would be worse to have it stop with us and become
our master. We should try, as our minister says, "to find the golden mean," and
neither be lavish nor stingy. He has his money best spent who has the best wife.
The husband may earn money, but only the wife can save it. "A wise woman buildeth
her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." The wife it seems,
according to Solomon, is the builder or the real puller down. A man cannot prosper
till he gets his wife's leave. A thrifty housewife is better than a great income.
A good wife and health are a man's best wealth. Bless their hearts, what should
we do without them? It is said they like to have their own way, but then the proverb
says, FA wife ought to have her will during life, because she cannot make one
when she dies." The weather is so melting that I cannot keep up this talk any
longer, and therefore I shall close with an old fashioned rhyme:
"Heaven bless the wives,
they fill our hives
With little bees and
They soothe life's shocks,
they mend our socks,
But don't they
spend the money!"
A Good Word for the Wives
WE pulled up the horses in the last
chapter at the sign of the "Good Woman"; and as there is good entertainment for
man if not for beast under that sign, we will make a stay of it and dip our pen
into some of that superfine ink which has no galls in it. When he writes on so
fair a subject, John Ploughman must be on his best behavior.
astonishing how many old sayings there are against wives; you may find nineteen
to the dozen of them. Years ago the men showed the rough side of their tongues
whenever they spoke of their spouses. Some of these sayings are downright shocking;
for instance, that very wicked one, "Every man has two good days with his wife
the day he marries her, and the day he buries hers; and that other, "He that loseth
his wife and a farthing has a great loss of the farthing."
an old ballad that Gaffer Brooks used to sing about a man's being better hanged
than married, which shows how common it was to abuse the married life. It is almost
too bad to print it, but here it is, as near as I remember it:
"There was a victim in a cart,
One day for to be hung,
And his reprieve
And the cart made for to stand.
'Come marry a wife, and save
The judge aloud did cry;
'Oh, why should I corrupt my life?'
The victim did reply.
'For here's a crowd of every sort,
And why should
I prevent their sport?
The bargain's bad in every part,
The wife's the
worst drive on the cart."
Now this rubbish does not prove that
the women are bad, but that their husbands are good for nothing or else they would
not make up such abominable slanders about their partners. The rottenest bough
cracks first, and it looks as if the male side of the house was the worse of the
two, for it certainly has made up the most grumbling proverbs. No doubt there
have been some shockingly bad wives in the world who have been provoking enough
to make a man say, "If a woman were as little as she is good, a pea shell would
make her a gown and a hood." But how many thousands have there been of true helpmeets,
worth far more than their weight in gold! There is only one Job's wife mentioned
in the Bible and one Jezebel, but there are no end of Sarahs and Rebekahs. I am
of Solomon's mind that, as a rule, "He that findeth a wife findeth a good things
If there's one bad shilling taken at the grocer's, all the neighbors hear of it,
but of the hundreds of good ones the report says nothing. A good woman makes no
noise, and no noise is made about her, but a shrew is noted all over the parish.
Taking them for all in all, they are most angelical creatures, and a great deal
too good for half the husbands.
It is much to the women's credit that
there are very few old sayings against husbands; although, in this case, sauce
for the goose could make capital sauce for the gander, and the mare has as good
reasons for kicking as the horse has. They must be very forbearing, or they would
have given the men a Roland for every Oliver. Pretty dears, they may be rather
quick in their talk, but is it not the nature of bells and belles to have tongues
that swing easy? They cannot be so very bad after all, or they would have had
their revenge for the many cruel things which are said against them. If they are
a bit masterful, their husbands cannot be such very great victims, or they would
surely have sense enough to hold their tongues about it. Men don't care to have
it known when they are thoroughly henpecked, and I feel pretty certain that the
old sayings are nothing but chaff, for if they were true, men would never dare
to admit it.
A true wife is her husband's better half, his lump of
delight, his flower of beauty, his guardian angel, and his heart's treasure. He
says to her, gI shall in thee most happy be. In thee, my choice, I do rejoice.
In thee I find content of mind. God's appointment is my contentment." In her company
he finds his earthly heaven; she is the light of his home, the comfort of his
soul, and (for this world) the soul of his comfort. Whatever fortune may send
him, he is rich so long as she lives. His rib is the best bone in his body.
The man who weds a loving wife,
Whatever betideth him in life,
Shall bear up under all;
But he that finds an evil mate,
No good can come
within his gate,
His cup is filled with gall.
A good husband
makes a good wife. Some men can neither do without wives nor with them; they are
wretched alone in what is called single blessedness, and they make their homes
miserable when they get married. They are like Tompkin's dog which could not bear
to be loose but howled when it was tied up. Happy bachelors are likely to be happy
husbands, and a happy husband is the happiest of men. A well matched couple carry
a joyful life between them, as the two spies carried the cluster of grapes. They
are a brace of birds of paradise. They multiply their joys by sharing them and
lessen their troubles by dividing them; this is fine arithmetic. The wagon of
care rolls lightly along as they pull together; and when it drags a little heavily
or there's a hitch anywhere, they love each other all the more and so lighten
When a couple fall out, there are always faults on both sides,
and generally there is a pound on one and sixteen ounces on the other.
a home is miserable, it is as often the husband's fault as the wifely Darby is
as much to blame as Joan, and sometimes more. If the husband won't keep sugar
in the cupboard, no wonder his wife gets sour. Lack of bread makes lack of love;
lean dogs fight. Poverty generally rides home on the husband's back, for it is
not often the woman's place to go out working for wages. A man down our way gave
his wife a ring with this on it, "If thee don't work, thee shan't eat." He was
a brute. It is no business of hers to bring in the flour: she is to see it is
well-used and not wasted. Therefore, I say, short commons are not her fault. She
is not the breadwinner, but the breadmaker. She earns more at home than any wages
she can get abroad.
It is not the wife who smokes and drinks away the
wages at the "Brown Bear" or the "Jolly Toppers." One sees a drunken woman now
and then, and it's an awful sight; but in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred,
it is the man who comes home tipsy and abuses the childrenthe woman seldom
does that. The poor drudge of a wife is a teetotaller, whether she likes it or
not, and gets plenty of hot water as well as cold.
Women are found fault
with for often looking into the glass, but that is not so bad a glass as men drown
their senses in. The wives do not sit boozing over the taproom fire; they, poor
souls, are shivering at home with the baby, watching the clock (if there is one),
wondering when their lords and masters will come home, and crying while they wait.
I wonder they don't strike. Some of them are about as wretched as a beetle on
a pin or a mouse in a cat's mouth. They have to nurse the sick girl, and wash
the dirty boy, and bear with the crying and noise of the children, while his lordship
puts on his hat, lights his pipe, and goes off about his own pleasure, or comes
in at his own time to find fault with his poor dame for not getting him a fine
How could he expect to be fed like a fighting-cock when he brought
home so little money on Saturday night and spent so much in worshipping Sir John
Barleycorn? I say it, and I know it, there's many a house where there would be
no scolding wife if there was not a skulking, guzzling husband. Fellows not fit
to be cut up for mops drink and drink till all is blue, and then turn on their
poor hacks for not having more to give them. Don't tell me I say it and will maintain
ita woman can't help being vexed when, with all her mending and striving,
she can't keep house because her husband won't let her. It would provoke any of
us if we had to make bricks without straw, keep the pot boiling without fire,
and pay the piper out of an empty purse. What can she get out of the oven when
she has neither meal nor dough? You bad husbands, you are thoroughbred sneaks
and ought to be hung up by your heels till you know better.
They say a man
of straw is worth a woman of gold, but I cannot swallow it; a man of straw is
worth no more than a woman of straw.
Let old sayings lie as they like,
Jack is no better than Jill, as a rule. When there is wisdom in the husband, there's
generally gentleness in the wife; and between them, the old wedding wish is worked
out: "One year of joy, another of comfort, and all the rest of contents Where
hearts agree, there joy will be. United hearts only death parts. They say marriage
is not often merry-age, but very commonly mar-age; well, if so,
the coat and waistcoat have as much to do with it as the gown and petticoat. The
honeymoon need not come to an end; and when it does, it is often the man's fault
for eating all the honey and leaving nothing but moonshine. When they both agree
that whatever becomes of the moon, they will each keep up their share of honey,
there's meaty living.
When a man dwells under the sign of the cat's
foot where faces get scratched, either his wife did not marry a man, or he did
not marry a woman. If a man cannot take care of himself, his wit must be as scant
as the wool of a blue dog. I don't pity most of the men martyrs; I save my pity
for the women. When the Dunmow porker is lost, neither of the pair will eat the
bacon; but the wife is the most likely to fast for the lack of it. Every herring
must hang by its own gill, and every person must account for his own share in
home quarrels; but John Ploughman can't bear to see all the blame laid on the
women. Whenever a dish is broken, the cat did it; and whenever there is mischief,
there's a woman at the bottom of it: here are two as pretty lies as you will meet
within a month's march. There's a "why" for every "wherefore," but the why for
family stores does not always lie with the housekeeper. I know some women have
long tongues, then the more's the pity that the husbands should set them going.
As for the matter of talk just look into a bar when the men's jaws are well oiled
with liquor, and if any woman living can talk faster or be more stupid than the
men, my name is not John Ploughman.
When I had got about as far as
this, in stepped our minister, and he said, "John, you've got a tough subject,
a cut above you; I'll lend you a rare old book to help you over the stile." 'Well,
sir," said I, 'A little help is worth a great deal of fault-finding, and I shall
be uncommonly obliged to you.
He sent me down old William Seeker's Wedding
Ring, and a real wise fellow that Secker was. I could not do any other than
pick out some of his pithy bits; they are very flavorful and such as are likely
to glue themselves to the memory. He says, ''Hast thou a soft heart? It is of
God's breaking. Hast thou a sweet wife? She is of God's making. The Hebrews have
a saying, 'He is not a man that hath not a woman.'
Though man alone may
be good, yet it is not good that man should be alone. 'Every good gift and every
perfect gift is from above.' A wife, though she be not a perfect gift, is a good
gift, a beam darted from the Sun of mercy. How happy are those marriages If where
Christ is at the wedding! Let none but those who have found favor in God's eyes
find favor in yours. Husbands should spread a mantle of charity over their wives'
infirmities. Do not put out the candle because of the snuff. Husbands and wives
should provoke ones another to love, and they should love one another notwithstanding
provocations. The tree of love should grow up in the midst of the family as the
tree of life grew in the garden of Eden. Good servants are a great blessing; good
children a greater blessing; but a good wife is the greatest blessing; and such
a help let him seek for her that wants one; let him sigh for her that hath lost
one; let him delight in her that enjoys one."
To come down from the old Puritan's
roast beef to my own pot herbs, or, as they say, to put Jack after gentleman,
I will tell my own experience, and have done. My experience of my first wife,
who will I hope live to be my last, is much as follows: matrimony came from paradise
and leads to it. I never was half so happy before I was a married man as I am
now. When you are married, your bliss begins. I have no doubt that where there
is much love, there will be much to love; and where love is scant, faults will
be plentiful. If there is only one good wife in England, I am the man who put
the ring on her finger, and long may she wear it. God bless the dear soul if she
can put up with me; she shall never be put down by me.
If I were not
married today and saw a suitable partner, I would be married tomorrow morning
What think you of that? why," says one, "I think John
would get a new wife if he were left a widower." Well, and what if he did, how
could he better show that he was happy with his first? I declare I would not say,
as some do, that they married to have someone to look after the children; I should
marry to have some one to look after myself. John Ploughman is a sociable soul,
and could not do in a house by himself. One man, when he married his fourth wife,
engraved in the ring
"If I survive,
I'll make it five."
What an old Bluebeard! Marriages are made in heaven: matrimony
in itself is good, but there are fools who turn meat into poison and make a blessing
into a curse. "This is a good roped said Pedley, "I'll hang myself with it." A
man who has sought his wife from God and married her for her character, not merely
for her figurehead, may look for a blessing on his choice. They who join their
love in God above, who pray to love, and love to pray, will find that love and
joy will never cloy.
He who respects his wife will find that she respects
him. With what measure he metes, it shall be measured to him again, good measure,
pressed down, and running over. He who consults his spouse will have a good counselor.
I have heard our minister say, "Women's instincts are often truer than man's reason";
they jump at a thing at once and are wise offhand. Say what you will of your wife's
advice, it's as likely as not you will be sorry you did not take it. He who speaks
ill of women should remember the breast he was nursed at and be ashamed of himself.
He who ill treats his wife ought to be whipped at the cart tail, and would not
I like a cut at him! I would just brush a fly or two off, trust me for that. So
no more at present, as the thatcher said when he had cleared every dish on the
Men with Two
EVEN bad men praise consistency. Thieves like honest men,
for they are the best to rob. When you know where to find a man, he has one good
point at any rate; but a fellow who howls with the wolves and bleats with the
sheep gets nobody's good word unless it be the devil's. To carry two faces under
one hat is, however, very common. Many roost with the poultry and go shares with
Reynard. Many look as if butter would not melt in their mouths and yet can spit
fire when it suits their purpose. I read the other day an advertisement about
reversible coats; the tailor who sells them must be making a fortune. Holding
with the hare and running with the hounds is still in fashion. Consistency is
about as scarce in the world as musk in a dog kennel.
You may trust
some men as far as you can see them, but no further, for new company makes them
new men. Like water, they boil or freeze according to the temperature. Some do
this because they have no principles; they are of the weathercock persuasion and
turn with the wind. you might as well measure the moon for a suit of clothes as
know what they are. They believe in that which pays best. They always put up at
the Golden Fleece; their mill grinds any grist which you bring to it if the ready
money is forthcoming. They go with every wind, north, south, east, west, northeast,
northwest, southeast, southwest, north-northeast, southwest-by-south, or any other
in all the world. Like frogs, they live on land or water and are not at all particular
which it is. Like a cat, they always fall on their feet and will stop anywhere
if you butter their toes. They love their friends dearly, but their love lies
in the cupboard; if that be bare, like a mouse, their love runs off to some other
larder. They say, "Leave you, dear girl? Never, while you have a shilling." How
they scuttle off if you come to the bad! Like rats, they leave a sinking ship.
When good cheer is lacking,
Such friends still be packing.
Their heart follows the pudding. While the pot boils, they sit
by the fire; when the meal tub is empty, they play at turnabout. They believe
in the winning horse; they will wear anybody's coat who may choose to give them
one; they are to be bought by the dozen like mackerel, but he who gives a penny
for them wastes his money. Profit is their god; and whether they make it out of
you or your enemy, the money is just as sweet to them. Heads or tails are alike
to them so long as they win. High road or back lane, all's the same to them as
long as they can get home with the loaf in the basket. They are friends to the
goose, but they will eat his giblets. So long as the water turns their wheel,
it is none the worse for being muddy; they would bum their mother's coffin if
they were short of fire wood and sell their own father if they could turn a penny
by the old gentleman's bones.
They never lose a chance of minding the main
Others are shifty because they are so desperately fond of good fellowship.
"Hail fellow, well met," is their cry, be it traveler or highwayman. They are
so good-natured that they must agree with everybody. They are cousins of Mr. Anything.
Their brains are in other people's heads. If they were at Rome, they would kiss
the Pope's toe, but when they are at home they make themselves hoarse with shouting,
"No Popery." They admire the Vicar of Bray, whose principle was to be the Vicar
of Bray whether the Church was Protestant or Popish. They are mere time-servers,
in hopes that the times may serve them. They belong to the party which wears the
yellow colors not in their button-holes, but in the palms of their hands. Butter
them, and like turnips you may eat them. Pull the rope, and like the bells they
will ring as you choose to make them, funeral knell or wedding peal, come to church
or go to the devil. They have no backbones; you may bend them like willow wands,
backwards or forwards, whichever way you please. Like oysters, anybody may pepper
them who can open them. They are sweet to you and sweet to your enemy. They blow
hot and cold. They try to be Jack-o'-both sides and deserve to be kicked like
a football by both parties.
Some are hypocrites by nature, slippery
as eels, and piebald like Squire Smoothey's mare. Like a drunken man, they could
not walk straight if they were to try. They wind in and out like a Surrey lane.
They were born of the breed of St. Judas. The double shuffle is their favorite
game, and honesty their greatest hatred. Honey is on their tongues, but gall in
their hearts. They are mongrel-bred, like the gypsy's dog. Like a cat's feet,
they show soft pads but carry sharp claws. If their teeth are not rotten, their
tongues are, and their hearts are like dead men's graves. If speaking the truth
and lying were equally profitable, they would naturally prefer to lie; for, like
dirt to a pig, it would be congenial. They fawn, and flatter, and cringe, and
scrape; like snails they make their way by their slime, but all the while they
hate you in their hearts and only wait for a chance to stab you. Beware of those
who come from the town of Deceit. Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Fair-speech, and Mr.
Two-tongues are neighbors who are best at a distance. Though they look one way,
as boatmen do, they are pulling the other; they are false as the devil's promises,
and as cruel as death and the grave.
Religious deceivers are the worst
of vermin, and I fear they are as plentiful as rats in an old wheat stack.
They are like a silver pin,
Fair without but foul within.
They cover up their black flesh with white feathers. Saturday and Sunday
make a wonderful difference in them. They have the fear of the minister a good
deal more before their eyes than the fear of God. Their religion lies in imitating
the religious; they have none of the root of the matter in them. They carry Dr.
Watts' hymn book in their pocket and sing a roaring song at the same time. Their
Sunday coats are the best part about them; the nearer you get to their hearts,
the more filth you will Cad. They prate like parrots, but their talk and their
walk do not agree. Some of them are fishing for customers, and a little pious
talk is a cheap advertisement; if the seat at the church or the meeting costs
a trifle, they make it up out of short weights They don't worship God while they
trade, but they trade on their worship. Others of the poorer sort go to church
for Soup, and bread, and coal tickets. They love the communion because of the
alms' money. Some of the dear old Mrs. Goodbodies want a blessed almshouse, and
so they profess to be so blessed under the blessed ministry or their blessed Pastor
every blessed Sabbath. Charity suits them if faith does not; they know which side
their bread ice buttered on.
Others make a decent show in religion
to quiet their consciences; they use it as a salve for their wounds. If they could
satisfy heaven as easily as they quiet themselves, it would be a fine thing for
them. It has been my lot to meet with some who went a long way in profession,
as far as I could see, for nothing but the love of being thought well of. They
got a little knot of friends to believe in their dime talk, and take all in for
gospel that they liked to say. Their opinion was the true measure of a preacher's
soundness; they could settle up everything by their own know, and they had gallons
of XXX experience for those who liked something hot and strong; but dear, dear,
if they had but condescended to show a little Christian practice as well, how
much better their lives would have weighed up! These people are like owls, which
look to be big birds, but they are not, for they are all feathers; and they look
wonderfully knowing in the twilight, but when the light comes, they are regular
Hypocrites of all sorts are abominable, and he who deals with
them will rue it. He who tries to cheat the Lord will be quite ready to cheat
his fellow men. Great cry generally means little wool. Many a big chimney in which
you expect to see bacon and hams, when you look up it, has nothing to show you
but its empty hooks and black soot. Some men's windmills are only nutcrackers,
and their elephants are nothing but sucking pigs. It is not all who go to church
or meeting that truly pray, nor those who sing loudest that praise God most, nor
those who pull the longest faces who are the most in earnest.
What mean animals
hypocrites must be! Talk of polecats and weasels, they are nothing in comparison
Better be a dead dog than a live hypocrite.
the devil sees hypocrites at their little game, it must be as good as a play to
him; he tempts genuine Christians, but he lets these alone, because he is sure
of them. He need not shoot at lame ducks; his dog can pick them up any day.
Depend upon it, friends, if a straight line will not pay, a crooked one
won't. What is got by shuffling is very dangerous gain. It may give a moment's
peace to wear a mask, but deception will come home to you and bring sorrow with
it. Honesty is the best policy. If the lion's skin does not do, never try the
fox's. Be as true as steel. Let your face and hands, like the church clock, always
tell how your inner works are going. Better be laughed at as Tom Tell-truth than
be praised as Crafty Charlie. Plain dealing may bring us trouble, but it is better
than shuffling. At the last, the upright will have their reward; but for the double-minded
to get to heaven is as impossible as for a man to swim the Atlantic with a millstone
under each arm.
Hints As To Thriving
HARD work is the grand secret
of success. Nothing but rags and poverty can come of idleness. Elbow grease is
the only stuff to make gold with. No sweat, no sweet. He who would have the crow's
eggs must climb the tree. Every man must build up his own fortune nowadays. Shirt
sleeves rolled up lead on to best broadcloth; and he who is not ashamed of the
apron will soon be able to do without it. "Diligence is the mother of good luck,"
as poor Richard says; but Idleness is the devil's bolster," as John Ploughman
Believe in traveling on step by step; don't expect to be rich
in a jump.
Great greediness to reap
Helps not the money
Slow and sure is better than fast and flimsy. Perseverance,
by its daily gains, enriches a man far more than fits and starts of fortunate
speculation. Little fishes are sweet. Every little helps, as the sow said when
she snapped at a gnat. Every day a thread makes a skein in a year. Brick by brick,
houses are built. We should creep before we walk, walk before we run, and run
before we ride. In getting rich, the more haste the worse speed. Haste trips up
its own heels. Hasty climbers have sudden falls.
It is bad beginning business
without capital. It is hard marketing with empty pockets. We want a nest egg,
for hens will lay where there are eggs already. It is true you must bake with
the flour you have, but if the sack is empty, it might be quite as well not to
set up for a bakery. Making bricks without straw is easy enough compared with
making money when you have none to start with. You, young gentleman, stay as a
journeyman a little longer till you have saved a few pounds.
Fly when your
wings have got feathers; but if you try it too soon, you will be like the young
rook that broke its neck through trying to fly before it was fledged. Every minnow
wants to be a whale, but it is prudent to be a little fish while you have but
little water; when your pond becomes the sea, then swell as much as you like.
Trading without capital is like building a house without bricks, making a fire
without sticks, burning candles without wicks: it leads men into tricks, and lands
them in a fix.
Don't give up a small business till you see that a large
one will pay you better. Even crumbs are bread.
Better a poor
horse tic an empty stall;
Better half a loaf than none at all.
Better a little furniture than an empty house. In these hard times, he who
can sit on a stone and feed himself had better not move. From bad to worse is
poor improvement. A crust is hard fare, but none at all is harder. Don't jump
out of the frying pan into the fire. Remember, many men have done well in very
small shops. A little trade with profit is better than a great concern at a loss;
a small fire that warms you is better than a large fire that burns you. A great
deal of water can be got from a small pipe if the bucket is always there to catch
it. Large hares may be caught in small woods. A sheep may get fat in a small meadow
and starve in a great desert. He who undertakes too much succeeds but little.
Two shops are like two stools a man comes to the ground between them. you may
burst a bag by trying to fill it too full and ruin yourself by grasping at too
In a great river sweat fish are found,
But take good heed
lest you be drowned.
Make as few changes as you can; trees often
transplanted bear little fruit. If you have difficulties in one place you will
have them in another; if you move because it is damp in the valley, you may find
it cold on the hill. Where; will the ass go that he will not have to work? Where
can a cow live and not get milked? Where will you find land without stones or
meat without bones? Everywhere on earth men must eat bread in the sweat of their
faces. To fly from trouble, men must have eagles' wings. Alteration is not always
improvement, as the pigeon said when she got out of the net and into the pie.
There is a proper time for changing, and then mind you bestir yourself, for a
sitting hen gets no barley. But do not be forever on the shift, for a rolling
stone gathers no moss. tick-to-it is the conqueror. He who can wait long enough
will win. This, that, and the other, anything, and everything, all put together
make nothing in the end; but on one horse a man rides home in due season. In one
place the seed grows; in one nest the bird hatches its eggs; in one oven the bread
bakes; in one river the fish lives.
Do not be above your business.
He who turns up his nose at his work quarrels with his bread and butter. He is
a poor smith who is afraid of his own sparks; there's some discomfort in all trades
except chimney sweeping. If sailors gave up going to sea because of the wet, if
bakers left off baking because it is hot work, if plowmen would not plow because
of the cold, or if tailors would not make our clothes for fear of pricking their
fingers, what a pass we should come to! Nonsense, my fine fellow; there's no shame
about any honest calling; don't be afraid of soiling your hands for there's plenty
of soap to be had. All trades are good to good traders. A clever man can make
money out of dirt. Lucifer matches pay well if you sell enough of them.
Never mind the stink
Sweet smells the chink.
You cannot get honey if you are frightened of bees, nor sow corn if you are afraid
of getting mud on your boots. Lackadaisical gentlemen had better emigrate to Fool's-land,
where men get their living by wearing shiny boots and lavender gloves. When bars
of iron melt under the south wind, when you can dig the fields with toothpicks,
blow ships along with fans, manure the crops with lavender water, and grow plum
cake in flower pots, then will be a fine time for dandies; but until the millennium
comes, we shall have a deal to put up with and had better bear our present burdens
than run helter-skelter where we shall find matters a great deal worse.
is the word. Everyone must row with such oars as he has; and as he can't choose
the wind, he must sail by such as God sends him. Patience and attention will get
on in the long run. If the cat sits long enough at the hole, she will catch the
mouse. Always-at-it grows good cabbage and lettuce where others grow thistles.
I know as a plowman that it is up and down, up and down the field that plows the
acres; there's no getting over the ground by a mile at a time. He who plods on
the clods, rods on rods will turn of the sods while laziness nods.
your weather eye open. Sleeping poultry are carried off by the fox. He who watches
not catches not. Fools ask what's of the clock, but wise men know their time.
Grind while the wind blows, or if not, do not blame providence. God sends every
bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest; He gives us our daily bread,
but it is through our own labor. Take time by the forelock. Be up early and catch
the worm The morning hour carries gold in its mouth. He who drives last in the
row gets all the dust in his eyes; rise early, and you will have a clear start
for the day.
Never try dirty dodges to make money. It will never pay
you to lick honey off thorns. An honest man will not make a dog of himself for
the sake of getting a bone. It is hard to walk on the devil's ice; it is fine
skating, but it ends in a heavy fall and worse. He must have a long spoon who
would eat out of the same dish with Satan. Never ruin yourself for the sake of
money: it is like drowning yourself in a well to get a drink of water. Take nothing
in hand that may bring you repentance. Better walk barefoot than ride in a carriage
to hell; better that the bird starve than be fattened for the spit. The mouse
wins little by nibbling the cheese if it gets caught in the trap. Clean money
or nonemark thatfor gain badly got will be an everlasting loss.
A good article, full weight, and a fair price bring customers to the shop,
but people do not recommended the shop where they are cheated. Cheats never thrive;
or if they do, it must be in London where they catch chance customers enough to
live by. The long-bow man may hit the mark sometimes, but a fair shot is the best.
A rogue's purse is full of holes. He will have blisters on his feet who wears
stolen shoes. He whose fingers are like snares will find other things stick to
them besides silver. Steal eels, and they will turn to snakes. The more a fox
robs, the sooner he will be hunted. If a rogue wants to make a good trade, he
had better twin honest. If all you aim at is profit, still deal uprightly, for
it is the most paying game.
Look most to your spending. No matter how
much comes in, if more goes out, you will always be poor. The art is not in making
money, but in keeping it; little expenses, like mice in a barn, when they are
many, make great waste. Hair by hair, heads get bald; straw by straw, the thatch
goes off the cottage; and drop by drop, the rain comes into the chamber. A barrel
is soon empty if the tap leaks but a drop a minute. Chickens will be plucked feather
by feather if the maid keeps at it. Small mites eat the cheese; little birds destroy
a great deal of wheat. When you intend to save, begin with your mouth; there are
many thieves down the red lane. The ale jug is a great waster. In all other things,
keep within boundaries. In clothes, choose suitable and lasting stuff, not tawdry
fineries. To be warm is the main thing; never mind the looks. Never stretch your
legs further than your blankets will reach, or you will soon be cold. A fool may
make money, but it needs a wise man to spend it. Remember it is easier to build
two chimneys than to keep one going. If you give all to room and board, there
is nothing left for the savings bank. Fare hard and work hard while you are young,
and you have a chance of rest when you are old.
Never indulge in extravagance
unless you want to make a short cut to the workhouse. Money has wings of its own,
and if you find it another pair of wings, wonder not if it flies fast.
He that hath it, and will not keep it;
He that wants it, and will
not seek it;
He that drinks and is not dry,
Shall want money as well as
If our poor people could only see the amount of money which
they melt away in drink, their hair would stand on end with fright. Why, they
swallow rivers of beer, seas of porter, and great big lakes of spirits and other
fire waters. We should all be clothed like gentlemen and live like fighting cocks
if what is wasted on booze could be sensibly used. We would need to get up earlier
in the morning to spend all our money, for we would find ourselves suddenly made
quite rich, and all that through stopping the drip of the tap. At any rate, you
young people who want to get on in the world must make a point of dropping your
half-pints and settle in your spirits that no spirits shall ever settle you.
your luxuries, if you must have them, after you have made your fortunes, but just
now look after your bread and cheese.
Pray excuse me for spinning this
long yarn, for as I pulled, it came. My talk seems like the Irishman's rope which
he could not get into the ship because somebody had cut the end off. I only want
to say, do not be greedy, for covetousness is always poor: still strive to get
on, for poverty is no virtue, and to rise in the world is to a man's credit as
well as his comfort. Earn all you cans save all you can, and then give all you
can. Never try to save out of God's cause; such money will taint the rest. Giving
to God is no loss; it is putting your substance into the best bank. Giving is
true having, as the old gravestone said of the dead man, "What I spent I had,
what I saved I lost, what I gave I have." The pockets of the poor are safe lockers,
and it is always a good investment to lend to the Lord. John Ploughman wishes
all young beginners long life and prosperity.
Sufficient of wealth,
And abundant health,
Long years of content,
And when life is spent,
A mansion with God in glory.
THE art of stretching the truth is uncommonly
general nowadays. Gooseberries are to be heard of weighing twice as much as possible,
and unseen showers of frogs fall regularly when newspapers are slack. If a cart
goes by and rattles the lid of an old woman's teapot, it is put down as an earthquake.
Fine imaginations are not at all scarce. Certain people are always on the look
out for wonders; and if they don't see them, they invent them. They see comets
every night and hear some rare tale every day. All their molehills are mountains.
All their ducks are swans. They have learned the multiplication table and use
it freely. If they saw six dogs together, they would swear they saw a hundred
hounds; yes, and they would get as red in the face as turkey-cocks if anybody
looked a little doubtful. Before long they would persuade themselves that they
saw ten thousand lions, for everything grows with them as fast as mushrooms and
as big as Box Hill.
All things around them are wonderful, but as for
themselves, nobody is fit to clean their boots. They are the cream of creation.
They are as strong as Samson and could pull against John Ploughman's teamonly
they won't try it, for fear of hurting the horses. Their wealth is enormous; they
could pay off the National Debt, only they have good reasons for not doing so
just yet. If they keep shop, they turn over several millions in the year and only
stop in business at all for the sake of their neighbors. They sell the best goods
at the lowest prices, in fact, under cost price. None in the county is fit to
hold a candle to them; their business is cock of the walk and king of the castle.
If they take a farm, it is only for amusement and to show the poor ignorant natives
how to do it.
All their doings are wonders! Like the wild beast show which
stopped at our village the other day, they are the only, the original, and unrivaled!
But they are quite as dead a sell as that fine affair was; all the best of it
was outside on the pictures, and it's just the same with them. But; bless you,
how they do draw the long bow.
Hear them talk. It is all in capital letters
and notes of admiration.
"Did you ever see SUCH A NAG? Why, sir, it would
beat the wind! THAT COWlet me call your attention to her.
not such another in the county; JUST NOTICE THE SWING OF HER TAIL!
sir, THAT BOY OF MINE is intelligent, far beyond his years.
He's a PERFECT
PRODIGY! Like his father, did you say? Very kind remark, sir, but there's a good
deal of truth in it: though I say it, a man must get up early to beat me! I'M
ONE TOO MANY FOR MOST PEOPLE!
Just look over the farm, sir. was there ever
SUCH A FIELD OF TURNIPS?
The fly on the leaf? Not a bit, sir, that arises
from the peculiar sort; it's A VERY RARE TURNIP, with ventilated leaves pricked
through by nature to let the air in and out! Too many moles did you say? Ah! thereby
hangs a tale.
Do you know OUR MOLES are a GREAT SINGULARITY: They throw
up bigger hills than any others in England and are supposed to be of a FINE OLD
BRITISH STOCK now almost lost.
Did you notice that TREMENDOUS THISTLE? Is
it not a rare specimen? Enough to make a Scotchman die of joy.
the EXTRAORDINARY richness of the soil; and indeed, sir, OUR LAST YEAR'S CROP
OF REHEAT WAS SO AMAZINGLY HEAVY, I thought we should never get it home; it nearly
broke the wagons; five had half the county here to see it threshed, and the oldest
men in the parish said they never heard tell of the like.
IT IS A MERCY
THAT STEAM IS INVENTED, BECAUSE WE NEVER COULD HAVE THRESHED IT BY HAND."
When a man gets into this style of talk, it is no matter scat he is hammering
at, he speaks of it as the finest, greatest, and most marvelous in the kingdom,
or else the most awful, horrible, and dreadful in the world. His boots would not
fit Goliath, but his tongue is much too big for the giant's mouth. He paints with
a broom. He sugars his dumpling with a spade and lays on his butter with a trowel.
His horse, his dog, his gun, his wife, his child, his singing, his planning, are
all without equal; he is the pillar of the parish; he lives at Number One; and
it would be hard to find a man fit to be number two to him. The water out of his
well is stronger than wine; it rains pea soup into his cistern; his currant bushes
grow grapes; you might live inside one of his pumpkins; and his flowerswell,
he's heard that the Queen herself had the fellow plant to that geranium, only
his was rather the better!
The greatest wonder is that men of this kidney
don't see that everybody is laughing at them; they must have bragged themselves
blind. Everybody sees the bottom of their dish, and yet they go on calling it
an ocean, as if they had none but flat fish to deal with. I've known men who open
their mouths like barn doors in boasting what they would do if they were in somebody
else's shoes. If they were in Parliament they would abolish all taxes, turn workhouses
into palaces, make the plumps run with beer, and set the Thames on fire; but all
this depends on an if, and that if is a sort of five-barred gate
which they have never got over. If the sky falls, we shall catch larks. If Jack
Brag does but get the reins, he'll make the horses fly up to the moon. If is a
fine word; when a man jumps on its back, it will carry him into worlds which were
never created and make him see miracles which were never wrought. With an if
you may put all London into a quart pot.
"If all the seas were
What a great sea that should be!
And if all the trees were one
What a great tree that would be!
And if all the axes were one axe
What a great axe that would be!
And if all the men were one man,
a great man he would be!
And if the great man took the great axe
And cut down the great tree,
And let it fall into the great sea,
a splish splash that would be!"
"What nonsense!" says someone;
so John Ploughman thinks, and therefore he puts it in as a specimen of the stupidity
which tall talkers are so fond of. This is not half so silly as nine out of ten
of their mighty nothings.
What some of these fellows have done! Now,
would you believe it? (I say, "No, I would not.") They made their own fortunes
in no time and made other people's, too. Their advice has been the means of filling
many a bag with gold. What they said at a meeting fastened the people to their
seats like cobblers wax. They were in a quarrel, and when all their party were
nearly beaten, they settled off the opposition side at once with fit-rate wit
and wisdom. King Solomon was a fool by comparison. As to religion, they were the
first to set it up in the parish; and by their wonderful exertions, everything
was begun. They laid the golden egg. People are not grateful, or they would almost
worship them; it's shameful to see how they have been neglected, and even turned
off of late, by the very people whom they have been the making of. While they
had a finger in the pie, all went well at the meeting; but now they have left,
they say there's a screw loose, and they who live longest will see most.
they are in a modest humor, they borrow words from David and say, "The earth is
dissolved, I bear up the pillars of it." It is thought that their death would
fill the world with bones. If they remove their custom, people are expected to
shut up their shops directly, and it is only their impudence that makes them hope
to get a living after such customers are gone. When they feel a little natural
pride at their great doings, then it's fine to hear them go on and on. Talk of
blowing your own trumpetthey have a whole band of music, big drum and all,
and keep all the instruments going first-rate to their own praise and glory.
I'd rather plow all day and be on the road with the wagon all night when
it freezes your eyelashes off than listen to those great talkers; they make me
as sick as a cat. I'd sooner go without eating till I was as lean as wash-leather
than eat the best turkey that ever came on the table and be dinned all the while
with their awful jaw. They talk on such a mighty big scale, and magnify everything
so thunderingly, that you cannot believe them when they accidentally slip in a
word or two of truth; and so you are apt to think that even their cheese is chalk.
They are great liars, but they are hardly conscious of it; they have talked themselves
into believing their own bombast. The frog thought herself equal to the cow and
then began to puff herself out to make it true; they swell like her, and they
will burst like her, if they don't mind. Everybody who knows these big talkers
should take warning from them:
"Said I to myself, here's a lesson
This man is a picture of what I might be."
try to state the truth, the whole; truth, and nothing but the truth. If we begin
calling eleven inches a foot, we shall go on till we call one inch four and twenty.
If we call a heifer a cow, we may one day call a dormouse a bullock. Once gone
in for exaggeration, and you may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb; you have
left the road of truth, and there is no telling where the crooked lane may lead
you to. He who tells little lies will soon think nothing of great ones, for the
principle is the same. Where there is a mouse hole, there will soon be a rat hole;
and if the kitten comes the cat will follow. It seldom rains but it pours; a little
untruth leads on to a perfect shower of lying.
Self-praise is no recommendation.
A man's praise smells sweet when it come out of other men's mouths, but in his
own, it stinks. Grow your own cherries, but don't sing your own praises.
are never worth a button with the shank off. A long tongue shows a short hand.
Great talkers are little doers. Dogs that bark much run away when it is time to
bite. The leanest pig squeaks most. It is not the hen which cackles most that
lays most eggs. Saying and doing are two different things. It is the barren cow
that bellows. There may be great noise of threshing where there is no wheat. Great
boast equals little roast. Much froth means little beer. Drums sound loud because
there is nothing in them. Good men know themselves too well to chant their own
praises. Barges without cargoes float high on the canal, but the fuller they are,
the lower they sink. Good cheese sells itself without puffery; good wine needs
no bush; and when men are really excellent, people find it out without telling.
Bounce is the sign of folly. Loud braying reveals an ass. If a man is ignorant
and holds his tongue, no one will despise him; but if he rattles on with an empty
pate and a tongue that brags like forty, he will write out his own name in capital
letters, and they will be these F.O.O.L.
As "by the ears the ass is
known"A truth as sure as parsons preach, "The man" as proverbs long have
shown, "Is seen most plainly through his speech."
Things I Would Not Choose
IF IT were
all the same to other folks and I might have things managed exactly as I liked,
I should not choose to have my homely book pulled to pieces by fellows who have
not the honesty to read it but make up their minds beforehand, as Simple Simon
did when they put him on the jury. However, as the rhinoceros said, "I have not
a very thin skin; and if it amuses others to find fault with me; they are as welcome
as they are free." The anvil is not afraid of the hammer. They tell me those London
editors cut a page open, and then smell the knife, and fall to praising the book
up to the skies or abusing it without mercy, according as the maggot bites them,
or according to what they have had for dinner. John Ploughman hopes the publisher
will turn down this leaf when he sends his book to the papers, and he hopes the
following word to the wise will be enough: I hope my pears won't fall into pigs'
mouths. I should not choose, if I might have my own way, to see a dozen of these
pages brought. home wrapped round the butter the next time we send to the shop;
but it is not at all unlikely to happen, so I must put up with it, as Tom Higgs
did when he had only turkey and plum pudding for dinner.
I should not
choose to plow with two old horses, spavined and broken-winded and altogether
past work: pity the poor horses, and pity the poor plowman, and no pity at all
for the farmer who keeps such wretched cattle. When I see a man whipping and slashing
a poor brute of a horse, I want to kick him; but at the same time, I feel glad
that Violet and Dapper go well enough with the sound of the whip without needing
to be paid like lawyers for all they do. A man who Mocks a horse about ought to
be put in harness himself and be driven about by a butcher. There's a good deal
to be done with animals with kindness, and nothing with cruelty. He who is unmerciful
to his beast is worse than a beast himself.
I should not choose to be a bob-tailed
cowl in summertime, nor a servant with a score of masters, nor a minister with
half-a-dozen ignorant tyrants for deacons, nor a man who lives with his mother-in-law.
Nor should I like to try the truth of the old saying:
and one mouse,
Two women in one house,
Two dogs to one bone,
not agree long."
I had rather not be a dog with a tin kettle
tied to his tail, nor a worm on a fisherman's hook, nor an eel being skinned alive,
nor a husband with a vixen for his wife I would much rather not fall into the
jaws of a crocodile or the hands of a lawyer: the only suit that lasts too long
is a lawsuit, and that would not suit me at all. I would not choose to be gossiped
to death by wild washerwomen, or pestered by a traveling bookseller wanting me
to take in sixpenny numbers of a book that will run on forever like old Jimmy's
I would be very hard up before I would choose to sleep with
pigs or live in some people's dirty houses. I would not choose to own half the
cottages poor laborers are made to live in; no farmer would be so mean as to keep
his horses in them and they are not goods enough for dog kennels. Think of father,
mother, a grown-up son, and two daughters sleeping in the same room! It is a burning
shame and a crying sin on the part of those who drive people to such shifts. It
won't bear to be thought of, and yet it is not at all uncommon. Squires and landlords,
how would you like it? If any man defends such a systems half-an-hours hanging
would be a good thing for him.
To be servant to a miser, to work for
a wasp, to be cats-paw to a monkey, or toady to a lord without brains, I would
not choose; nor go to the workhouse, nor apply for parish relief; I'd sooner try
Grantham gruel, nine grits and a gallon of water. I would not go round with the
hat for my own pocket, nor borrow money, nor be a loafer, nor live like a toad
under a harrowno, not for all that ever thawed out of the cold hand of charity.
Bad off as I am, I would not choose to change unless I could hope to better
myself. Who would go under the spout to get out of the rain? What's the use of
traveling to the other end of the world to be worse off than you are? Old England
for me, and Botany Bay for those who like to transport themselves.
not choose to drive a pig, nor to manage a fibbing nag, nor try to persuade a
man with a wooden head; nor should I like to be a schoolmaster with unruly boys,
nor a bull baited by dogs, nor a hen who has hatched ducks. Worse off still is
a preacher to drowsy hearers; he hunts with dead dogs and drives wooden horses.
I would as well hold a service for sleeping swine as sleeping men.
would not buy a horse of a horse dealer if I could help it for the two or three
honest ones nobody ever heard of. A very honest horse dealer will never cheat
you if you don't let him; an ordinary one will pull your eyetooth while your mouth
is shut. Horses are almost as hard to judge as men's hearts; the oldest hands
are taken in. What with bone spavin, ringbone and splints, grease, crown scab
and rattail, wind galls find cankers, colic and jaundice, sandcracks and founders,
mallenders and sallenders, there is hardly a sound horse in the world. It's a
bad thing to change horses at all. If you have a good one, keep it, for you will
not get a better; if you have a bad one, keep it, for ten to one, you will buy
I would not choose to make myself a doormat nor a poodle, nor a fellow
who will eat dirt in order to curry favor with great folks. Let who will tell
lies to please others. I'd rather have truth on my side, if I go barefoot.
and a clear conscience are better with cold cabbage than slavery and sin with
I would not like to keep a tollgate at the top of a long
hill, nor to be a tax collector, nor the summoning officer, nor a general nuisance
nor a poor postman with half enough to live on and twice as much to do as he ought;
it would be better to be a gypsy's horse and live on the common with no hay and
no oats but plenty of oak cudgel.
I would not choose to be plucked
like a goose, nor to be shareholder in a company, norms to be fried alive, nor
to be at the mercy of a Roman Catholic priest. I would not stand as godfather
to anybody's child, to promise that the little sinner shall keep God's holy commandments
and walk in the same all the days of his life. Of the two, I would sooner promise
to put the moon into my coat sleeve and bring it out again at the leg of my trousers,
or vow that the little dear shall have red hair and a snub nose. Neither would
I choose to have lies told over my baby in the hope of getting on the parson's
blind side when the blankets were given away at Christmas.
not choose to go where I should be afraid to die, nor could I bear to live without
a good hope for hereafter. I would not choose to sit on a barrel of gunpowder
and smoke a pipe, but that is what those do who are thoughtless about their souls
while life is so uncertain. Neither would I choose my lot on earth, but leave
it with God to choose for me. I might pick and choose and take the worst, but
His choice is always best.
OF all the pretty little songs I have ever heard
my youngsters sing, that is one of the best which winds up:
first you don't succeed,
Try, try, try again."
it to grown up people who are down in the mouth, and fancy that the beats thing
they can do is to give up. Nobody known what he can do till he tries. "We shall
get through it now," said Jack to Harry as they finished up the pudding. Everything
new is hard work, but a little of the TRY ointment rubbed on the hand and
worked into the heart makes all things easy.
Can't do it sticks
in the mud, but Try soon drags the wagon out of the rut. The fox said Try,
and he got away from the hounds when they almost snapped at him. The bees said
Try and turned flowers into honey. The squirrel said Try, and up he went to the
top of the beech tree. The snowdrop said Try and bloomed in the cold snows of
winter. The sun said Try, and the spring soon threw Jack Frost out of the saddle.
The young lark said Try, and he found that his new wings took him over hedges
and ditches and up where his father was singing The ox staid Try and plowed the
field from end to end. No hill too steep for Try to climb, no clay too stiff for
Try to plow, no field too wet for Try to drain, no hole to big for Try to mend.
"By little strokes
Men fell great oaks."
By a spadeful at a time the canal laborers dug the cutting, cut a big hole
through the hill, and heaped up the embankment.
"The stone is hard,
and the drop is small,
But a hole is made by the constant fall."
What man has done, man can do; and what has never been, may be. Plowmen have
become gentlemen, cobblers have turned their lapstones into gold, and tailors
have sprouted into members of Parliament. Tuck up your shirtsleeves, young hopeful,
and go at it. Other there's a will, there's a way. The sun shines for all the
world. Believe in God, stick to hard work, and see if the mountains are not removed.
A faint heart never won a fair lady. Cheer, boys, cheer, God helps those who help
themselves. Never mind luckthat's what the fool had when he killed himself
with eating suet pudding; the best luck in all the would is made up of joint oil
and sticking plaster.
Don't wait for helpers. Try those two old friends,
your strong arms. Self's the man. If the fox wants poultry for his cubs, he must
eat the chickens home himself. None of her Miens can help the hare: she must run
for herself, or the greyhounds will have her. Every man must carry his own sack
to the mill. You must put your own shoulder to the wheel and keep it there, for
there are plenty of ruts in the road. If you wait till all the ways are paved,
you hare light shining between your ribs. If you sit still till great men take
you on their backs, you will grow to your seat. Your own legs are better than
stilts; don't look to others, but trust in God and keep your powder dry.
be whining about not having a fair start. If you throw a sensible man out of a
window, he'll fall on his legs and ask nearest way to his work. The more you have
to begin with, the less you will have at the end. Money you earn yourself is much
brighter and sweeter than any you get out of dead men's bags. A scant breakfast
in the morning whets the appetite for a feast later in the day. He who has tasted
a sour apple will have the more relish for a sweet one; your present want will
make future prosperity all the sweeter. Eighteenpence has set up many a peddler
in business, and he has turned it over till he has kept his carriage.
for the place you are cast in, don't find fault with that. you need not be a horse
because you were born in a stable. If a bull tossed a man of mettle sky high,
he would drop down into a good place. A hard working young man, with his wits
about him, will make money where others do nothing but lose it.
Who loves his work and knows to spare,
May live and flourish anywhere.
As to a little trouble, who expects to find cherries without stones or roses
without thorns? He who would win must learn to bear. Idleness lies in bed sick
of the mulligrubs, where industry finds health and wealth. The dog in the kennel
barks at the fleas, the hunting dog does not even know they are there. Laziness
waits till the river is dry and never gets to market; Try swims it and makes all
the trade. Can't do it couldn't eat the bread and butter which was cut
for him, but Try made meat out of mushrooms.
Everybody who does not get on
lays it all on competition. When the wine was stolen they said it was the rats;
it's very convenient to have a horse to put the saddle on.
A mouse may
find a hole, be the room ever so full of cats. Good workmen are always wanted.
There's a penny to be turned at the worst booth in the fair. No barber ever shaves
so close but another barber will find something left. Nothing is so good but what
it might be better; and he who sells the best wins the trade. We were all going
to the workhouse because of the new machines, or so the prophets down at the taproom
were telling us. But instead of it, all these threshing, and reaping, and hay-making
machines have helped to make those men better off who had sense enough to work
them. If a man has not a soul above clodhopping, he may expect to keep poor; but
if he opens his eyes and picks up here and there a little, even Johnny Raw may
yet improve. "Times are bad," they say; yes, and if you go gaping about and send
your wits woolgathering, times always will be bad.
Many don't get on
because they have not the pluck to begin in right earnest. The fat pound laid
by is the difficulty. The fast blow is half the battle. Over with that beer jug,
up with the Try flag, then out to your work, and away to the savings bank with
the savings, and you will be a man yet. Poor men will always be poor if they think
they must be. But there's a way up out of the lowest poverty if a man looks after
it early, before he has a wife and half-a-dozen children: after that he carries
too much weight for racing, and most commonly he must be content if he finds bread
for the hungry mouths and clothes for the little backs. Yet, I don't know; some
hens scratch all the better for having a great swarm of chicks. To young men the
road up the hill may be hard, but at any rate it is open. They who set stout heart
against a stiff hill shall climb it yet. What was hard to bear will be sweet to
remember. If young men would deny themselves, work hardy live hard, and rave in
their early days, they; need not keep their noses to the grindstone all their
lives, as many have to do. Let them be teetotalers for economy's sake; water is
the strongest drink, it drives mills. It's the drink of lions and horses, and
Samson never drank anything else. The beer money would soon build a house.
If you want to do good in the world, the little word "Try" comes in again.
There are plenty of ways of serving God, and some that will fit you exactly as
a key Kilts a lock. Don't hold back because you cannot preach in St. Paul's; be
content to talk to one or two in a cottage. Very good wheat grows in little fields.
You may cook in small pots as well as in big ones. Little pigeons can carry great
messages. Even a little dog can bark at a thief, wake up the master, and save
the house. A spark is fire. A sentence of truth has heaven in it. Do what you
do right thoroughly, pray over it heartily, and leave the result to God.
Advice is thrown away on many, like good seed on a bare rock. Teach a cow for
seven years, but she will never learn to sing the Old Hundredth.
it seems true that when they were born, Solomon went by the door but would not
look in. Their coat of arms is a fool's cap on a donkey's head. They sleep when
it is time to plow and weep when harvest comes They eat all the parsnips for supper,
and wonder they have none left for breakfast. Our working people are shamefully
unthrifty, and as old England swarms with poor. If what goes; into the moonshine
still went into the kneading trough, families would be better fed and better taught.
If what is spent in waste were only saved against a rainy day, workhouses would
never be built.
Once let every man say try,
Very few on straw
Fewer still of want would die;
Pans would all have fish to
Pigs would fill the poor man's sty;
Want would cease and need would
Wives and children cease to cry;
Poor rates would not swell so highs
Things wouldn't go so much awry
You'd be glad, and so would I.
EVERY man should leave a monument behind in the recollection of his life by his
neighbors. There's something very much amiss about a man who is not missed when
he dies. A good character is the best tombstone. Those why loved you and were
helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots are withered; Carve your name
on hearts and not on marble. So live towards others that they will keep your;
memory green when the grass grows on your grave. Let us hope there will be something
better to be said about us than of the man whose epitaph is:
lies a man who did no good,
And if he'd lived he never would;
gone, and how he fares,
Nobody knows and nobody cares."
May our friends never remember us as; great gormandizers of meat and drink, like
this glutton over whose grave is written:
"Gentle reader, gentle
Look on the spot where I do lie,
I always a very good feeder,
But now the worms do feed on I."
As much as that might be said
of a prize; pig or a fat bullock if it died of disease. Some men are nothing better
than walking bee barrels while they live; when death staves in the cask, they
deserve to rot out of notice.
However, a plain-speaking tombstone better
than downright lying. To put flattery a grave is like pouring melted butter down
a stone sink. What queer tastes those must have; who puff up the departed as if
they wanted to blow the trumpet of the dead before the last angel makes his appearance!
Here's an apple out of their basket:
"Here lies the body of Martha
Who was so very pure within;
She cracked the outer shell of sin,
And hatched herself a cherubim."
Where do they bury the bad
people? Everywhere in our churchyard, they seem all to have been the best of folks,
a regular nest of saints. Some of them were so precious good, it is no wonder
they died: they were too fine to live in such a wicked world as this. Better give
bread to the poor than stones to the dead. Better kind words to the living than
fine speeches over the grave. Some of the lavish stuff on monuments is enough
to make a dead man blush.
What heaps of marble are stuck over many
people's tombs, half enough to build a house with! What a lift they will have
at the resurrection! It makes me feel as if I could not get my breath to think
of all those stones being: heaped on my bonesnot that there's any fear of
it. Let the earth which I have tuned over so often lie light upon my corpse when
it is turned over me. Let John Ploughman be buried somewhere under the boughs
of a spreading beech with a green grass mound above him, out of which primroses
and daisies peep in their seasona quiet shady spot where the leaves fall,
and the robins play, and the dewdrops gleam in the sunshine. Let fee wind blow
fresh and free over my grave, and if there must be aid line about me, let it be:
HERE LIES THE BODY OF JOHN PLOUGHMAN
WAITING FOR THE APPEARING
HIS LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.
I've often heard tell
of patience on a monument, but I have never seen it sitting there when I have
gone through churchyards. I have a good many times seen stupidity on a monument,
and I have wondered why the parson, or the churchwarden, or the deacon, or whoever
else has the ruling of things let people cut such rubbish on the stones. Why,
a lostershire man told me that at Dymock graveyard there's a writing like this:
"Two sweeter babes you ne'er did see
Than God's grace gave
But they were taken with ague fits,
And here they lie as dead as
I've read pretty near enough silly things myself in our
Surrey burying grounds to fill a book. Better leave the grave alone than set up
a monument to your own ignorance.
Of all places for jokes and fun,
the strangest are tombstones. Yet many a time grave stones have had such oddities
carved upon them that one is led to surmise that the nearer the church, the further
from common decency. This is a cruel verse, but I dare say a true one:
"Here lies, returned to clay,
Miss Arabella Young,
Who on the
first day of May
Began to hold her tongue."
not much better:
"Upjohn Adams lies here, of the parish of Southwell,
A carrier who carried his can to his mouth well;
He carried so much, and he
carried so fast,
He could carry no more, so was carried at last;
liquor he drunk was too much for the one,
He could not carry off, so he's
Why could not these people poke their fun somewhere
else? A man's wit must be nearly dead when he can find no place for it but the
grave. The body of the most ragged beggar is too sacred a thing to crack jokes
upon. What a odd fish must Roger Martin have been, who lived in Walworth, and
put on his wife's tomb:
"Here lies the wife of Roger Martin,
She was a good wife to Rogerthat's sartin."
was the foolish creature at Ockham, one of the prettiest spots in these; parts,
who wrote these outrageous lines?
"The Lord saw good,
I was topping
And down fell from the tree;
I met with a check,
And I broke
my blessed neck,
And so death topped off me."
enough, and quite as good as a feast. Here's proof positive that some fools are
left alive to write on the monuments of those who are buried. Well may there be
ghosts about. No wonder the sleepers get out of bed when they are so badly tucked
in. I say let us have a law to let nobody put nonsense over the dead unless he
likes to take out a certificate to be an ass, just like the license to shoot partridges
and pheasants. At the same time, let all puffery be saved for dressmakers' shops
quack doctors, and none be allowed at grave. I say as our minister does:
"Let no proud stone with sculptured virtues rise,
To mark the spot wherein
a sinner lies,
Or if some boast must deck the sinner's grave,
His love who died lost man to save."
One more Surrey rhyme,
and John Ploughman leaves the churchyard to go about work and turn up other sods.
It is ill Saviours, Southwark, and is, I think a rare good one.
to the damask rose you see,
Or like the blossom on the tree,
Or like the
dainty flower of May,
Or like the sun of the day,
Or like the sun, or
like the shade,
Or like the gourd which Jonah had;
Even so is man, Whose
thread is spun,
Draw out, and cut, and so is done:
The rose withers, the
The flower fades, the morning hasteth,
The sun sets,
the shadow flies,
The gourd consumes, and man he dies."
Very Ignorant People
I HAVE heard
tell of a man who did not know a capital "A" from a bull's foot, and I know a
good many who certainly could not tell what capital "A" or small "a" either may
mean; but some of these people are not the most ignorant in the world for all
that. For instance, they know a cow's head from its tail, and one of the election
gentlemen said lately that the candidate from London did not know that. They know
that turnips do not grow on trees, and they can tell an overgrown radish from
a beet root, and a rabbit from a hare; there are flame folk who play on pianos
who hardly know; as much as that. If they cannot read, they can plow, mow, reap,
sow, and bring up seven children on ten shillings a week, and yet pay their way;
and there's a sight of people who are much too ignorant to do that. Ignorance
of spelling books is very bad, but ignore hard work is worse.
not always speak Latin. People laugh at smocks, and indeed they are about as ugly
garments as could well be contrived, but some who wear them are not half such
fools as people take them for. If no ignorant people ate bread but those who wear
hobnail shoes, corn would be a fine deal cheaper. Wisdom in a poor man is like
a diamond set in lead, for none but good judges can discover its value. Wisdom
walls often in patched clothes, and then folks do not admire her. But I say, never
mind the coat, give me the man: shells are nothing, the kernel is everything.
You need not go to Pirbright to find ignoramuses; there are heaps of them near
I would have everybody able to ready to read, write, and
cipher (indeed, I don't think a man can know too much); but the knowing of these
things is not education. There are millions reading and writing people who are
as ignorant as neighbor Norton's calf, that did not know its own mother. That
is as plain as the nose on your face, if you only think a little. To know how
to read and write is like having tools to work, but if you don't use these tools,
and your eyes, and your ears, too, you will be none the better off. Everybody
should know what most concerns him find makes him most used. If cats can catch
mice find hens lay egged know the things which most suits what they were made
for. It is little use for a horse to know how to fly; it will do well enough if
it can trot. A man on a farm ought to learn all that belongs to farming, a blacksmith
should study a horse's foot, a dairymaid should be well up on skimming the milk
and making the butter, and a laborers wife should be a good scholar in the sciences
of boiling and baking, washing and mending. John Ploughman ventures to say that
those men and women who have not learn the duties of their callings are very ignorant
people, even if they can tell the Greek name for a crocodile or write a poem on
a black beetle. It is too often very true:
"Jack has been to
To learn to be a fool."
When a man falls into
the water, to know how to swim will be of more use to him than all his mathematics
and yet how very few boys learn swimming! Girls are taught dancing and French
when stitching and English would be a hundred per cent more use to them. When
men have to earn their livings in these hard times, a good trade and industrious
habits will serve their turn a world better than all the classics in Cambridge
and Oxford; but who nowadays advocates practical training at our schools? Schoolmasters
would go into fits if they were asked to teach poor people's boys to hoe potatoes
and plant cauliflowers, and yet school boards would be doing a power of good if
they did something of the sort.
If you want a dog to be a pointer or a
setter, you train him accordinglywhy ever don't they do the same; with men?
It ought to be, "Every man for his business, and every man master of his business."
Let Jack and Tom lean geography by all means, but don't forget to teach them how
to black their own boots and put a button on their own trousers; and as for Jane
and Sally, let them sing and play the music if they like, but not till they can
darn a stocking and make a shirt. When they mend up that Education Act, I hope
they will put in a clause to teach children practical common sense home duties
as well as the three R's. But there, what's the use of talking this way, for if
children are to learn common sense, where are we to get the teachers? Very fee
people have any of it to spare, and those who have are never likely to take to
school keeping. Lots of girls learn nothing except the folderol which I think
they call accomplishments.
There's poor Gent with six girls and about fifty
pounds a year to keep his family on, and yet not one of them can do a hand's turn,
because their mother would go into fits lest Miss Sophia Elfrida should have chapped
hands through washing the family linen, or lest Alexandria Theodora should spoil
her complexion in picking a few gooseberries for a pudding. Its enough to make
a cat laugh to hear the poor things talk about fashion and etiquette when they
are not half as well off as the haggler's daughters down the lane, who earn their
living and are laying money by against the time when some young farmer will pick
them up. Trust me, he who marries these hoity-toity young ladies will have as
bad a bargain as if he married a wax doll. How the fat should be in; the fire
if Mrs. Gent heard me say it, but I do say it for all thatshe and her girls
are ignorant, very ignorant, because they do not know what would be of
most service to them.
Every minnow nowadays calls itself a whale: every
donkey thinks itself fit to be one of the Queen's horses; every candle reckons
itself the sun. But when a man with his best coat on, a paper collar, a glass
in his eyes, a brass chain on his waistcoat, a cane in his hand, and emptiness
in his head fancies that people cannot see through his swaggers and brags, he
must be ignorant, very ignorant, for he not know himself. Dandies, dressed
up to the top of the fashion, think themselves somebodies, but nobody else does.
Dancing masters and tailors may rig up a fop, but they cannot make a nothing into
a man. you may color a millstone as much as you like, but you cannot improve it
into a cheese.
Round our part we have a lot of poets, at least a set
of very ignorant people who think they are; and these folks bother me more
than a little because I have written a book and, therefore, ought to listen to
their rigmaroles. Nonsense is nonsense whether it rhymes or not, just as bad halfpennies
are good for nothing whether they jingle or lie quiet. "Here John," said a man
to me. "I want to read you some of my verses." "No, thank your said I, "I don't
feel in a poetical frame of mind today." Mark you, I won't feel a bit more so
tomorrow. What right has that fellow to shoot his rubbish at my door? I have enough
of my own. I don't intend to have my ear stuffed up with cobblers wax or cobbled
verses. I had a double dose the other morning from two of our great village poets,
and I must confess it was rather better than most of the rhymes that I meet with
in books. Chubbins said,
"It is a sin
to steal a pin."
And then Padley topped it up by adding,
"It is a greater
to steal a tater."
Now, there's rhyme and reason for you, as
the sexton said when he wrote three lines for the poor man's tombstone:
"Here I lie,
Killed by a sky-rocket
in my eye."
tradesmen put their earnings into companies and expect to see it again, or when
they lend money at outrageous interest and think to make their fortunes by it,
they must be ignorant, very ignorant. They might as well hang a wooden
kettle over the fire to boil the water for tea or sow beans in river and look
for a fine crop.
When men believe in lawyers and money lenders, borrow
money to speculate, and think themselves lucky fellows, they are shamefully
ignorant. The very gander on the common would not make such a stupid of himself,
for he knows when anyone tries to pluck him, and won't lose his feathers and then
pride himself in the operation.
The man who spends his money with the
bartender, and thinks that the landlord's bows and "How do ye do, my good fellow."
Mean respect, is a perfect natural: for with them it is:
have money, take a seat;
If you have none, take to your feet.
The fox admires the cheese; if it were not for that he would not care a rap
for the raven. The bait is not put into the trap to feed the mouse, but to catch
him. We don't light a fire for the herring's comfort, but to roast him for our
own eating. Men do not keep taverns for the local laborers' good; if they do,
they certainly miss their aim. Why, then, should people drink "for the good of
the house"? If I spend money for the good of the house, let it be my own and not
the landlord's. It's a bad well into which you must put water; and the beer hall
is a bad friend, because it takes your all and leaves you nothing but headaches.
He who calls "friends" those who let him sit and drink by the hour, is ignorant,
very ignorant. Why, red lions, tigers, eagles, and vultures are all creatures
of prey, ant none but fools put themselves within the power of their jaws talons.
He who believes that either Whigs or Tories will let us off with light
taxes must have been born on the day after the last of March; and he who imagines
that county boards and local districts will ever be free from corruption must
have been educated in an idiot asylum. He who believes in promises made at elections
has long ears and may try to eat thistles. Mr. Plausible has been around asking
all the working men for their votes, and he will do all sorts of good things for
them. Will he? Yes, the day after tomorrow a little later than never. Poor men
who expect the "friends of the working man" to do anything for them must be ignorant,
very ignorant. When they get their seats, of course they cannot stand up for
their principles except when it is to their own interest to do so.
lend umbrellas and look to have them sent home, to do a man a good turn and expect
another from him when you want it, to dream; of stopping some women's tongues,
to try to please everybody, to hope to hear gossips speak well of you, or to reckon
upon getting the truth of a story from common report are all evidences of great
ignorance. Those who know the world best trust it least: those who trust it at
all are not wise. You might as well trust a horse's heel or a dog's tooth! Trusting
to others ruins many. He who leaves his business to bailiffs and servants and
believes that it will be well me must be ignorant, very ignorant. The mouse
knows when the cat is out of the house, and servants know when the master is away.
No sooner is the eye of the master gone than the hand of the workman slackens;
at least, it is so nine times out of ten. "I'll go myself," and "I'll see to it,"
are two good servants on a farm. Those who lie in bed and bolster themselves up
with the notion that their trade will carry on itself are ignorant, very ignorant.
Those that drink and live riotously, and wonder why their faces are so
blotchy and their pockets so bare, would quit wondering if they had two grains
of wisdom. Those who go to the tavern for happiness climb a tree to find filth
We might put all their wit in an eggshell, or they would never be such dupes as
to hunt after comfort where it is no more to be fond than a cow in at crow's nest.
But, alas good-for-nothings are common as mice in a hay stack. I only wish we
could pack them off to Lubber-land, where they have half-a-crown a day for sleeping.
If someone could let those fellows see the sure result of ill-living, perhaps
they might reform. Still I done know, for they do see it and yet go on all the
same, like a moth that bums its winged in the flame but dashes into the candle
again. Certainly for loitering lushes to expect to thrive by keeping their hands
in their pockets or their noses in pewter pots proves them to be ignorant,
When I see a young lady with a flower garden on
her roof and a dressmaker's shop on her body, tossing her head about as though
she thought everybody was charmed with her must be ignorant, very ignorant. Sensible
men don't marry a wardrobe or a bonnet; they want a woman of sense, and women
of that kind always dress sensibly, not gaudily.
To my mind, those
who sneer at religion and set themselves up to be too knowing to believe in the
Bible are shallow fellows. They generally use big words and bluster a great deal,
but if they fancy they can overturn the faith of thinking people who have tried
and proved the power of the grace of God, they must be ignorant, very ignorant.
He who looks at the sunrise and the sunset mind does not see the footprints of
God must be inwardly more blind than a mole, and only fit to live underground.
God seems to talk to me in every primrose and daisy, to smile upon me from every
star, to whisper to me in every breath of morning air, and to call aloud to me
in every storm.
It is strange that. so many educated gentlemen see God
nowhere, while John the plowman feels Him everywhere. John has no wish to change
places, for the sense of God's presence is his comfort and joy. They say that
man is the god of the dog: those men must be worse than dogs who will not listen
to the voice of God, for a dog obeys its master's whistle. They call themselves
"philosophers," don't they? Their proper name is fools, for the fool hath said
in his heart, "There is no God." The sheep know when rain is coming, the swallows
foresee the winter, and even the pigs, they say, can see the wind; how much worse
than a brute must he be who lives-where God is everywhere present and yet sees
him not! Thus it is very clear that a man may be; a great hand at learning and
yet be ignorant, very ignorant.