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But, it must be remembered, another proverb tells us that
pan” being equivalent to harmonise.
Proverbial philosophy is full of warning against forming hastily an estimate of women's character, for, as the German adage runs, “ He must have keen eyes that would know a maid at sight." We are further told that a woman should be seen at home, when engaged in her household duties, to form a clear estimate of her character ; and the Danish proverb inculcates this rule : “You must judge a maiden at the kneading trough, and not at the dance."
That two women seldom keep friends for long without quarrelling has long been proverbial, and a Tamil adage remarks that “A thousand men may live together in harmony, whereas two women are unable to do so though they be sisters.” And the many ailments to which, under one form or another, women are supposed to be susceptible, have been incorporated into many a proverb like the following : “A mill, a clock, and a woman, always want mending."
It has long been said that there is no accounting for a woman's tastes, and, according to an old English proverb, “A black man is a jewel in a fair woman's eyes; and, vice versa, we are told that “A black woman hath turpentine in her,” a belief which has been told in various
ways, an old proverbial phrase quoted by Hazlitt giving this advice
in illustration of which he gives the subjoined note from Tofte's translation of Varchi's “Blazon of Jealousie (1615, p. 21) :“The Persians were wont to be so jealous of their wives, as they never suffered them to go abroad but in waggons close shut, but at this day the Italian is counted the man that is most subject to this vice, the sallow-complexioned fellow with a black beard, being he that is most prone, as well to suspect, as to be suspected about women's matters, according to the old saying."
It would seem that, in early times, the fair sex were supposed to have the greater charms, and accordingly they were styled, “ Children of the Gods” by the Greeks. In “As you Like it” (act iii. sc. 5), the Shepherdess Phæbe complains of being scorned on account of her being dark
“I have more cause to hate him than to love him :
For what had he to do to chide at me ?
Indeed, as a writer has observed in the Saturday Review, the time was when the black-haired,
See Chapter on the “Eyes."
black-eyed girl of fiction was as dark of soul as of tresses, while the blue-eyed maiden's character was of “Heaven's own colour.” But Thackeray changed this tradition by invariably making his dark heroines nice, his fair heroines“ treacherous sirens.” Another item of folk-lore tells us that
“ A brown wench in face
Shows that nature gives her grace," and many of our country peasantry still affirm that “a too brown lass is gay and cleanly;” whilst, in accordance with an old proverbial rhyme
Dr. Paul Topinard, in his “Anthropology,” has made an interesting summary of the variation of the colour of the skin, from the fairest Englishwoman to the darkest African, furnishing us with numerous examples of the many hues which form the distinguishing marks of different nationalities. These are interesting if only as showing how widely one country differs from another in its notion as to what constitutes beauty in the complexion. And, turning to uncultured tribes, Dr. Letourneau has given some curious illustrations in his “Sociology” on this point, which show how vastly different are their conceptions of beauty of complexion, some races even disfiguring themselves with pigments of the most glaring colours.
French proverbial wisdom in further enumerating the main features of a woman's character, says that her heart is a real mirror, which "reflects every object without attaching itself to any ;” and in Germany, whilst due praise is bestowed on the fair sex, women's varied traits of character have not escaped criticism—one very common maxim affirming that “ she is at the mercy of circumstances just as the sand is at the mercy. of the wind;' whilst we are further told that, although “woman reads and studies endlessly, her thought is always an afterthought." The Russian is of the same
” opinion, for, according to him,“ a woman's hair is long, but her sense short,” and “ a dog is wiser than a woman, he does not bark at his master." Tamil proverbial wisdom declares that “the skill of a woman only goes so far as the fireplace ”—in other words, cleverness is no use to a woman outside domestic affairs ; and the not very complimentary old English adage says,
" When an ass climbs a ladder, we may find wisdom in a woman ;” whilst another old saying runs, “She hath less beauty than her picture, and truly not much more wit.”
In some instances, we find the essential requirements needed to make a good woman laid down, as in an excellent Chinese proverb, which runs thus : “We ask four things for a woman—that virtue dwell in her heart, modesty in her forehead, sweetness in her mouth, and labour in her hands; with which may be compared a
compared a well-known Sanskrit maxim, “ The beauty of the cuckoo is the voice, of women chastity ; of the deformed learning, and of ascetics patience.” On the other hand, under a variety of forms, proverbial literature inculcates the necessity of our remembrance of these four evils thus summed up in the Italian warning : “From four things God preserve usa painted woman, a conceited valet, salt beef without mustard, and a little late dinner.” A similar idea is conveyed in the Assamese proverb : « To be the husband of a worthless woman, a cart covering with a hole in the middle of it, a hired weaver—these three are the agony of death.” To understand this proverb it must be remembered that “in Assam the bullock cart is covered with a hood made of matting, with bamboo hoops to support it. Any one who has travelled in a bullock cart with a hole in the hood will
appreciate its truth.”
A trait of character, however, which women are proverbially said to their disadvantage to possess, is a lack of truth and reliability; and, according to an old proverb, “He who takes an eel by the tail, or a woman at her word, soon finds he holds nothing.” The popular adage which warns a man
a not to trust a woman further than he can see her has been variously expressed, one version in Germany being “Arms, women, and books should be looked at daily ;” and, according to another, it is said, “Beware of a bad woman, and put no trust in a good one;" which are similar to the Hindustani adage, “A hare and a woman are yours while in your power.” The Italians have a maxim to the same effect, “Woman always speak the truth, but not the whole truth,” and hence there are the frequent admonitions against trusting womankind, for the French affirm that “ he who trusts a woman and