Wise Sayings: An Old Autograph Album
Recently I came across my Mother's old Autograph Book. I used to have one, too, but I've moved several times and that hasn't turned up yet. However, there were plenty of entries in hers to entertain me as a child and that delight has not diminished.
There's such a range, from the downright sententious, to lovely thoughts about the importance of friendship, to sayings that today we would view as sexist and politically incorrect, to the clever and funny. There are even delightful illustrations. I remember how we, too, if asked to write and entry in a friend's book, would request to take it home so we could find just the right thing to write, or to spend hours over a miniature illustration.
I haven't put them all in, but even so it's turned out quite long, so it's probably best if you just browse a few. They are fun to read.
The First Entry
I remember that in my album, a cheeky friend scrawled,
"By hook or by crook
I'll be first in this book."
Mother wrote her own first entry:
"My album's open, come and see.
What, won't you waste a line on me?
Write but a thought, a word or two,
That memory may revert to you."
The Christian and Moral Entries
These two have been attributed to Longfellow, but they remind me of Proverbs in the Bible:
"Love keeps out the cold better than a cloak; it serves for food and raiment."
"Don't try to cross the bridge before you come to it,
Is a proverb old and excellent wit."
This is claimed to be a quote from Shakespeare and I seem to remember that it is, but I haven't checked it for accuracy:
This above all, to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
As you journey onward
May you ever find
Paths more bright and happy,
Friends more true and kind.
This next one must have impressed my Mother as she often quoted it to me.
Garfield is a place-name in Victoria. I love the careful penmanship with the up strokes so light and the contrasting heavier down strokes. Alfred Henry Jenkin was born in 1869, probably in Chewton, Victoria. He was an enthusiastic Home Missioner and was known as the 'singing pilgrim.'
I would rather be beaten in the right than succeed in the wrong.
This really is Longfellow:
Whene'er a noble deed is wrought,
Whene'er is spoken a noble thought,
Our hearts in glad surprise
To higher levels rise.
I almost put this one in the Sexist or Humorous sections:
I would not waste my spring of youth
In idle dalliance, I would plant rich seeds
To blossom in my manhood, and bear fruit
When I am old.
The hand here is more mature than some of the entries; perhaps it was a teacher.
There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it behoves us
To speak the least of any of us.
I've seen different versions of this sweet little poem, too.
When to the flowers so beautiful,
The Father gave a name,
Back came a little blye-eyed one,
So timidly it comes [came?]
And hurrying to the Father's feet,
And gazing in his face it said,
"Dear Lord, the name thou gavest me
I have forgot."
Kindly the Master looked him down and said,
Good advice here:
Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.
Do what you can,
Being what you are.
Shine like a flower,
If you cannot be a star.
- Ethel Croker.
This sounds a bit negative at first!
May bad fortune follow you
all your days,
But never catch
up with you.
A blessing from the father of Alfred Henry Jenkin, Uncle Frank Jenkin and six other sons. He had been born in 1822 in Madron, Cornwall. In Victoria in 1858, he married Grace Thomas, six years his elder and also born in Madron. When he died in 1918 he owned four large properties and an acre in the town of Daylesford itself.
On some pages there were mini-envelopes that Mother had ruled and those people have just recorded their names and addresses.
The Importance of Friendship
I've seen different versions of this one, but they all mean the same thing:
True friends, like diamonds,
Are precious and rare;
False ones, like autumn leaves,
Are found everywhere.
I wish you happiness and health,
All the wealth you need;
Friends in plenty, tried and true,
What more is there I could wish for you.
This is different. Perhaps it stems from the idiom we sometimes use, meaning a person is firm and reliable: "You're a brick."
This is in the days when most of the washing was first rubbed or scrubbed on a board, boiled in a copper, transferred to a wooden trough with a copper-stick to be rinsed, 'blued' if it were white, and wound through a mangle (being very careful not to pull off buttons) before being hung out to dry.
When you are married and at the tub,
Think of me with every rub,
And if the suds be very hot,
Render away and forget-me-not.
Written by a Master George Smith, his youthfulness shows in his writing. "Nut" may have been "note", or perhaps it was accompanied by a nut. The area was known for its walnut trees.
That health prosperity and love
Thy future lot shall be
Believe it's now the wish of one
Who sends this nut to thee.
The Sexist and Politically Correct
Was this one written by a male?
Ancient Eve gave man the apple;
Modern Eve gives man the pip.
This sounds like good advice from a girl-friend:
Here is to the Train
That goes on wheels
And never runs into danger.
Here is to the girl
That sticks to a boy
And never goes out
With a stranger.
This could have other connotations these days:
Girls put your trust in no man,
Not even in a brother.
If you want to love -
Love one another.
Sound advice from a girl-friend?
May you be happy
All the days of your life
Get a good husband
And make a good wife.
Is this from a family friend or a teacher? Obviously a man.
Be noble! And the nobleness that lies
In other men, sleeping but not dead
Will rise in majesty to meet thine own.
The Humorous Entries
This is an old one, but I guess they all are. It's full of quite clever homophones:
The Usual Story
They were sitting side by side.
He sighed and she sighed.
Said he: "My dearest idol!"
He idled and she idled.
"On my soul there's such a weight!"
He waited and she waited.
"I'd ask your hand, so bold I've grown!"
He groaned and she groaned.
"You shall have your private gig!"
He giggled and she giggled.
Said she: "My dearest Luke!"
He looked and she looked.
"I'll have thee if thou wilt!"
He wilted and she wilted.
He that sitteth on a pin,
Shall surely rise again
According to the sharpness thereof.
In my Autograph Album I have this as:
Sat on a pin
There are many things we ought to do:
We ought to sing, we ought to laugh,
We ought to eat, we ought to sleep,
But here we (ought to graph) autograph.
Beecham's Pills, as you may imagine, were for treating constipation. This little verse is usually written:
Mary had a little watch,
She swallowed it one day,
And now she takes Beecham's Pills
To pass the time away.
If we were to dress ourselves on scientific principles, what would become of man?
There are two in this one (corrected).
Two's company. There were three:
The maid, the kitchen lamp and he;
Two's company, so no doubt
That's why the wise old lamp went out.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Two in a hammock attempted to kiss,
In less than a second landed like (This) (written upside down).
This is one of my favourites. Francis Lawry Jenkin, or Uncle Frank, as I knew him, was a typical, not very tall, born in Australia Cornishman, full of fun and jokes, even in his later years. He was born in 1869 in Daylesford. His wife, one of my Grandmother's sisters, was considerably taller.
The penny stamp bears the head of Queen Victoria.
This was a very delicate miniature painting. The scroll was carefully edged in gold, not so easily obtainable in those days.