Proverbs (Old English)

(735 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Definitions of what constitutes a proverb regularly come unstuck because of the diversity of expressions that come into the category. It may be best to describe the three broad types of proverb we find in the Old English corpus.

A significant collection of proverbs is translated from the late Latin Disticha Catonis as the “Old English Dicts of Cato”. These are predominantly expressed as advice to a second person: “Do not fear death too greatly”, “Don’t pay attention to a sad woman’s words, because she often intends to deceive you with tears”, “Enjoy your wealth while you are healthy: the miser who is ill has money but does not have himself”. A few of the “Durham …

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Cavill, Paul. "Proverbs (Old English)". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 April 2003
[, accessed 02 July 2015.]

Related Groups

  1. Literary Genres and Modes