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Cotgrave's World: Book 6 Necessities and the unnecessary

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Thoughts, proverbs and Sayings from the 16th Century

Extracts from a French to English dictionary by, R Cotgrave. Published 1611.

'Point ne faut demander
de malade s'il vaut sante'.

Ask not a sick man if he would be well,
Or question already proven things,
Or question the question less.

'Apprendre aux poissons a nager'.
To teach fish to swim,
{an idle or needless labour},
they said then, you must not teach
your grandma to grope ducks,
we say, to teach his
grandmother to suck eggs.

'Il ne faut apoprendre
aux poiussons a nager.'.

We must not teach fish to swim,
a scholar to read,
or a master how to work.

Foolishly to care for that which cannot go
amiss, or waste endeavours upon subjects
that need them not; or to look to that which
cannot go astray, or spend time watching
that which is of its self is safe enough.

'Porter des fueilles au bois'.
Carry leaves to the woods,
Or, to present gifts to the rich
or bestow things on those that
have already as much as they can use.
[as, to pour water in the sea,
to carry coals to Newcastle,
Or send Owls to Athens,
To protect the moon against wolves].

'Batre d'eau'.
To lose his labour,
to spend his time in vain,
to batter or battle water, as some
foolish king was pretended to have done.

'Qui a mange le rost ronge l'os'.
When the roast meat is clean gone,
one must fast, or gnaw the bone.

'Qui a `a pendre n'a pas a noyer'.
He that was born to be hanged
needs not fear drowning.

'De toot s'avise a qui pain faint'.
Necessity invented all good arts;
lack, or want of,
more than anything else
makes men industrious.

'Quand oportet vient en place
il n'est rien qui ne se face'.

That which must be, will be,
Absolute authority
or urgent necessity
are excellent workmen.

'C'est un faire le fault'.
It is a matter of necessity;
it must need be so;
there is no remedy;
there is no gain saying of it,
no striving against it,
it is a necessary fault.,

'Qui entre dans vn moullin il
convient de necessite qu'il s' ensarine'.

He that goes into the mill
needs be, be-milled,
he that touches pitch
needs be defiled.
All who fish get wet,
all men and women who live,
will sin,
all, are defiled by living.

'Necessite fait trotter les vieilles'.
Need makes the old wife trot.
or a cripple walk; {truly,
necessity is the mother of invention.]

'Necessite rend magnaqnime
le couard et le pusillanime'.

Necessity adds metal to the meacock;
makes the coward grow courageous.

'Estre homme de bien c'est mestier iure,
il ne pas qui veut'.

Everyone cannot be honest that would,
(for some by ignorance, and others by
necessity, are, or must be knaves.)

'Tel a necessite qui ne s'en vante pas'.
Some are in greater want than they will
vaunt of. [ vaunt=show, boast of.]

'A qui meschet on luy mesoffre'.
Those whom necessity or misfortune,
forces to sell, are never offered
a full worth of things.

'Tel a necessite qui n'en vante pas'.
Necessity does pinch them most,
who of their wants do shamelessly boast.

'Necessite est la moitie de raison'.
We say, necessity knows no law
0r boundaries.
[What it actually says is, necessity is half
of reason, or
All too often
need or
Necessity, is justification enough.
Necessity is the death of reason. M.]

'Ventre affame n'a point d'oreilles'.
Hunger hath no ear, or,
a hunger starved body lacks ears, or,
hunger yields no ear to reason.
[ Or,
Necessity is half the force of a reason,
a fault which must be made
is already half excused;
For Necessity has no conscience. M.]

'Qui est sur la mer ne sair pas des vents
ce qu` il veut'.

The winds are not subject
unto those that sail.
No more than the Moon heeds
the howling of wolves.

'A regnard [fox] endormi rien
ne chet en la gueule.'.

Nothing is got by drowsiness; preferment
must be watched, [over- nurtured] sought
or sued for [pursued]; for it does not fall
into idle hands or sleeping mouths.

'Qui comment affaire a vn fol
s'appreste a le suy vre'.

(least he wished, he had gone about it
himself; also) he that employs a fool may
follow him for company; for wise men
use to employ wise men.

'A fol conteur sage escouteur'.
While fools do speak wise men
have need to hear.

'Qui n'a point de teste,
n'a que faire de chaperon'.

He that has no head,
No needs hood.


'Pour bien tirer il faut prendre visee'.
Take aim with thy sight,
If you mean to shoot right;
Ere thou thy arrow do let fly,
Let thy hand be guided by thine
For he that will prevail,
Must proceed, by,
Advice unveiled.

'A tout il y a commencement'
; or,

'il y a commencement per tout'.
Everything hath a beginning.
Yet Nature having begun something,
Sooner or later by necessity
brings it to an end.

'Mal poise qui ne contrepoise'.
He weighs badly,
That weighs not one
With or against another.
[every white has it's black,
every why a wherefore,
all ends, a beginning].

'Tout vray n'est pas bon a dire'.
Every truth is not to be told.
[ the price of liberty,
is eternal vigilance].

'Il faut discerner la peau de la chemise'.
We must [learn to] distinguish things
which be near,
and those which be further from,
or beyond us.

'Pour devider la susee il faut trouver
le bout de sil'.

To conceive, dispose of,
discuss of things rightly,
one must find out
their beginnings.

'Vne science requiert tout son homme.'.
One art requires a whole man;
a man that would be perfect in an art
must follow nothing else.

'La fin fait tout'.
The End proves all, or
Is all in all.