Sunday, December 11, 2016

"For every evil under the sun..."

An early addition to my personal library was The Annotated Mother Goose: Nursery Rhymes Old and New, Arranged and Explained (1962) annotated by William S. Baring-Gould and Ceil Baring-Gould. At about the same time I bought The Annotated Alice: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass (1960) by Lewis Carroll and edited by Martin Gardner (still in print), and later, The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (1967) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, also annotated by Baring-Gould. All of these "annotated" editions were published by Clarkson S. Potter. The notes explained historical origins, defined unfamiliar terms, noted inconsistencies in the texts, described biographical and geographical circumstances, etc. This morning I took down the Mother Goose volume. The range is large, from "Simple Simon" to "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" to "Georgie Porgy kissed the girls" to "Rub-adub-dub, Three men in a tub..." and many, many more. One of the shorter chapters (Chapter XV) collected "Mother Goose's Wise Sayings" from which these examples (and a few comments):

Mother Goose was a conservative:
For every evil under the sun,
There is a remedy, or there is none,
If there be one, try and find it:
If there be none, never mind it.
Many of the rhymes are about proper behavior, for example:
Of a little take a little
   You're kindly welcome, too;
Of a little leave a little
   'Tis manners so to do.

Be always on time,
Too late is a crime.

Hearts, like doors, will ope with ease
To very, very, little keys,
And don't forget that two of these
Are "I thank you" and "If you please."
The first line of this one is familiar, but the second isn't, and that is where the wisdom lies.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy:
All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.
 One may as well adopt this attitude on a day like today:
The more rain, the more rest,
Fine weather's not always the best.
One thing at a time,
   And that done well,
Is a very good rule,
   As many can tell.

If you are not handsome at twenty,
Not strong at thirty,
Not rich at forty,
Not wise at fifty,
You never will be.

Of all the sayings in the world
  The one to see you through
Is, never trouble trouble
  Till trouble troubles you.