[from W Ralph Hall Caine Isle of Man]
THE sea feedeth more of the Manksmen than the soil,' was the testimony of Blundell, who was on the island during the years 1648 to 1656. No wonder, therefore, that the sea is responsible for some striking phrases.
It is better to be waiting on the crest of the wave than on the churchyard stile.' Proverbs, by reason of their highly condensed form of imparting human wisdom, are often open to widely dissimilar explanation, and are very much a matter of individual experience or idiosyncrasy; but I am tempted to explain that sometimes a fishing-boat has to beat about in the rough sea, waiting for the rise of the tide to reach the harbour. The grumbling fisherman, impatient for his own fireside, is reminded that his fate is not so bad as that of the man who, in the language of the fo'c'sle, dead and boxed,' is awaiting formal interment.
Life to man, death to fish,' is a popular toast.
Caution has many proverbs, of which the best is: ' Bind as an enemy and you will hold as a friend.' We also say: ' A wise man often makes a friend of his enemy.'
Wanderers high up on the mountains came upon a great stone, on which was engraved
Turn me over and thou wilt gather gain.' Unable to move the immense boulder, and believing the gain to be hidden gold, they sought the aid of friends pledged first to secrecy, and next to a modest proportion of the recovered treasure. The great stone was overturned, and on its lower surface was found a new legend
Hot broth softens hard bread.
Now turn me back into my. former bed.'
I see this admittedly enigmatic sophism interpreted to mean: ' A soft answer turneth away wrath.' I never understood it to have any such charitable meaning. Rather is it a subtle lesson in the dignity of honest labour and contentment. Otherwise all the irony of the situation is lost.
' Do not marry an heiress unless her father has been hanged,' by which we imply that the woman with an inheritance is an intolerable shrew in the home, unless her family pride has suffered humiliation at the hands of the executioner.
Traa dy liooar! traa dy liooar!' (Time enough! time enough!) is perhaps the most common of all our saws.
' A hasty man is seldom out of trouble.'
Of stolen kisses and other costly pleasures Sweet to take, but bitter to pay.'
No herring, no wedding,' means a promise to wed is conditional on good fishing.
The scapegrace never pined for the love of a woman, so we say: ' Black as is the raven, he'll get a partner.
A short courtship is the best courtship.'
When a man wants a wife, he wants but a wife; but when he has a wife, he wants a great deal.'
' There are many twists in the nuptial song.'
Of the crafty lover wooing the portionless widow, that he may better his position, we say: ' He's going to the goat's house seeking wool.'
Death never came without an excuse.'