As false things are! but so fair,
She takes the breath of man away
Who gaze upon her unaware."
E. B. BROWNING,
Bianca among the Nightingales.
Is three-halfpence worse than the devil,"
Teach them new wiles and arts? As well you may
Instruct a snake to bite or wolf to prey;"
In the "Hitopadesa,"--one of the choice treasure-houses of Sanskrit wisdom, it is declared that, "Infidelity, violence, deceit, envy, extreme avariciousness, a total want of qualities, with impurity, are the innate faults of womankind;" with which may be compared Goethe's views, "When we speed to the devil's house woman takes the lead by a thousand steps;" and there is a Sinhalese adage, "If you want to go to the gallows without the aid of a ladder, you can go by the aid of a woman."
There is a proverbial saying in Leicestershire, "Shay's as nasty as a devil unknobbed," i.e., a devil who has either never had any knobs fastened on his horns, or else has succeeded in getting rid of them; the phrase illustrating the bovine character of the popular devil; all of which statements recall the passage in Beaumont and Fletcher's comedy of Monsieur Thomas (act iii. sc. 1):--
Was meant to mankind when thou wast made a devil!
What an inviting hell invented."
Knows no stopping place in sin."
That is so all the world over, replied Ameni."
Again, it is said, "Women are saints in the church, angels in the street, devils in the kitchen, and apes in bed," a saying which, says Hazlitt, "is rather elaborately illustrated in Jacques Olivier's work entitled 'L'Alphabet de l'Imperfection des Femmes,' which was first published about the year 1617;" and which reminds us of the adage, "Women are demons who make us enter hell through the gates of Paradise." There are many proverbs to the same purport, some of which are couched in stronger language than others. Thus one much used, in days gone by, amongst the peasantry throughout the country says:--
As well live in hell as with a wit that is curst."
Of such a book of follies in a man,
That it would need the tears of all the angels,
To blot the record out!"
Amongst some of the bad qualities condemned in women, and against which man is warned in our proverbial literature, may be mentioned intemperance, and loose morals. According to one folk-rhyme--
Make the wealth small, and the wants great"--
An old man a lecher, loveless;
A poor man a waster, good-less;
A rich man a thief, needless;
A woman a ribald, shameless:
These five shall never thrive blameless."
An old man a lecher nothing more to be hated;
A woman unshamefast, a child unchastised,
Is worse than gall, where poison is undesired."
While they laugh, they make men pine;"
Is oft compared to a foul dunghill."
Has her smock full of lice."
Than to be weary of a wanton woman."
But, whether we regard women as good or bad, it is generally agreed they surpass man in either case, for, as the French say, "Women, ever in extremes, are always either better or worse than men," with which may be compared the following lines in Lord Tennyson's "Idylls," "Merlin and Vivien":--
But women, worst and best, as Heaven and Hell."
There will be a woman;
And where there is a woman,
There will be mischief"--
It has long been admitted, even by those who disparage women's virtues, that her memory is excellent when she is anxious to keep anything in mind, and hence it is said that "if a woman has any malicious mischief to do her memory is immortal." Proverbial wisdom, again, tells how worthless and unprincipled women often amuse themselves by dissimulation, even going so far as to feign love: an apt illustration of such sham love from Hindustani proverb runs thus, "I'll love him and I'll caress him and I'll put fire under him; if it burn him what can I do?" and there is a well-known Arabic adage which warns us that, " omen's immorality and monks' wiles are to be dreaded."
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