A woman, so's she's good what does it signify!"
BYRON, Don Juan.
But it must be remembered that, in formulating maxims of this kind, individual prejudice has in only too many cases been responsible for originating them, and, despite their having in the course of years passed into proverbs, they must not always be regarded as expressive of the consensus of opinion of the country to which they belong. Thus, going back to an early period, Ovid was of opinion that "it is easy for a woman to be good when all that hinders her from being so is removed;" and, although an old English proverb says, "All women are good," it qualifies this assertion by cautiously adding, "good for something, or good for nothing;" but the Hindu proverb declares that "oil and the pure woman will both rise."
With all due deference to the fair sex, it must unfortunately be acknowledged that much of the proverbial lore under this heading relating to them is far from being of a complimentary nature, as who, for instance, has not heard of the familiar adage:--
A peascod would make her a gown and a hood;"
Yet one good woman is not to be found;"
It is so seldom heard that, when it speaks,
It ravishes all senses."
The scarcity of good women is often illustrated by such adages as the following:--
The fairest crown that's made of pure gold"
And I'll show you a maid without a blot."
The more they're beaten the better they be,"
A nut, an ass, a woman:
The cudgel from their back remove,
And they'll be good for no man."
Do you think that she's like a walnut tree?
Must she be cudgell'd ere she bear good fruit?"
Save in the way of kindness, is a wretch,
Whom 'twere gross flattery to name a coward."
For the crab of the sea;
But the wood of the crab is sauce for a drab
That will not her huband obey."
As a sick man to eat up a load of greenwood."
The Scotch would appear to be more gallant in their opinion of the fair sex, if we can place reliance on the following adage:--
Even the good woman is warned against the contaminating influence of her own sex, for, as an Eastern piece of proverbial lore tells us, "A good woman, beset by evil women, is like the chaste mimosa surrounded by poisonous herbs"--Illustrations of which maxim under a variety of forms are to be met with in most countries; a popular Oriental adage warning us that "bad company is friendship with a snake fencing with a sword." But it has been generally held that "as the woman, so her friends," an Osmandi proverb reminding us that "the life of a good woman is shown by her companions."
Equivocal as many of the proverbial sayings are when speaking of woman's goodness, it may be noted that the reverse is invariably the case in the folk-tales and legends which have immortalised in a hundred and one ways their deeds of bravery and self-denial. At Lilliard's Edge, for instance, in Roxburghshire, was fought, in 1545, the battle of Ancrum Moor, in which, according to tradition, a female warrior named Lilliard, when covered with wounds, continued to fight on the Scotch side, in the name of Squire Witherington. Buried on the field of victory, a stone was raised to her good memory, on which were written these words:--
Little was her stature, but great was her fame;
Upon the English loons she laid mony thumps,
And when her legs were cuttit off, she fought upon her stumps."
The maidens undertook the task, but on their brother's liberation at the completion of the church one of them died immediately "either from the effects of past fatigue, or overpowering joy."
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