Since love is God's greatest gift to man, the joy and crown of his existence, it is only natural that many proverbs and phrases should be found dealing with that theme, for ever old, yet ever new.
In European proverbs we naturally commence with England and the Bard of Avon. Throughout his works Shakespeare attaches the utmost importance to this subject, fully realising that it is " love which moves the world along," and, while never belittling its dignity and joy, is nevertheless forced to admit that love is bitter-sweet, a delicious pother, a rare intermingling of joy and pain, but a rose for which all long, despite its thorns.
O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou !
That, notwithstanding thy capacity, receiveth as the sea. (" Twelfth Night." Act I., I.)
Love-thoughts lie rich, when canopied with bowers.
Let thy love be younger than thyself
Or thy affections cannot hold the bent;
Being once display'd, doth fall that very hour. (II., 4.)
She never told her love, But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud, Peed on her damask cheek. (ii., 4.) Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.
The course of true love never did run smooth.
("A Midsummer Night's Dream. I., I.)
(" Love's Labour Lost." Act IV., 3.)
A lover's ear will hear the lowest sound. (iv., 3.) Who can sever love from charity. (iv., 3.)
All students of Shakespeare will readily admit that to him we are indebted for some of the most perfect word-pictures of a lover's ardour, his ecstasy, his eager impatience, and his swift despair.
A lover may bestride the gossamer That idles in the wanton summer air.
" Romeo and Juliet." (Act II., 6.)
While through them all, like the silken cord through the beads of a rosary, runs the sense of love's elusiveness, which, like "the uncertain glory of an April day," now all sunshine, now all shower, acts as the lover's sharpest spur, and teaches him that he must woo his lady delicately, deeming no toil too great if he but gain her at the last.
The following quotations may illustrate the above remarks :
Love like a shadow flies when substance love pursues. (" Merry Wives of Windsor." Act II., 2.)
In love, the heavens themselves do guide the state.
Prosperity's the very bond of love.
(" Winter's Talc." Act. IV., 3.)
Since maids in modesty, say "No" to that
Which they would have the profferer construe "Aye."
(" Two Gentlemen of Verona." Act. I., 2.)
They love least that let men know their love. (I., 2.) They do not love that do not show their love. (I., 2.) Love is blind. (II., 1.) Love's a mighty lord, (II., 4.) Love hath twenty pair of eyes. [II., 4.) Didst thou but know the inly touch of love, Thou wouldst as soon go kindle fire with snow As seek to quench the fire of love with words. (II., 7.) That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man, If with his tongue he cannot win a woman. (III., 1.) Scorn at first makes after-love the more. (III., 1.) Love is like a child that longs for everything that he can come by. (III., I)
Hope is a lover's staff. (III., 1.)
Trifles light as air are to the jealous confirmations strong as proofs of Holy Writ. ("Othello." Act. III., 3.)
Then must you speak of one that loved not wisely but too well. (v., 2.) Lovers ever run before the clock.
(" Merchant of Venice." Act II., 6.)
For love is blind and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit. (II., 6.)
When maidens sue, men give like gods.
(" Measure for Measure," Act I., 5.)
Sigh no more, ladies, men were deceivers ever.
(" Much Ado About Nothing." Act II., 3.)
All hearts in love use their own tongue. (Act II., 1.) To be wise and love exceeds man's might.
(" Troilus and Cressida." Act III., 2.) Down on your knees and thank Heaven, fasting, for a good man's love. ("As you like it." Act III., 5.)
Let me but bear your love, I'll bear your cares.
("King Henry IV.," Part II. Act V , 2.
She's beautiful, and therefore to be woo'd; She is a woman, therefore to be won !
(" King Henry VI.," Part I. Act V., 3.)
Hasty marriage seldom proveth well. (Part III. Act iv., I) Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs.
(" Romeo and Juliet." Act I., 1.)
Stony limits cannot hold love out. (II., 2.)
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep. (II. 2.)
Love goes towards love, like schoolboys from their books, But love from love, towards school with heavy looks.
(II., 2.) How silver sweet sound lovers' tongues by night, Like softest music to attending ears. (II., 2.) Love is a spirit all compact of fire, Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.
("Venus and Adonis." Stanza 25.)
Were beauty under twenty locks kept fast,
Yet love breaks through and picks them all at last.
(Stanza 96.) Love comforteth like sunshine after rain. (Stanza 134.) Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds. (Sonnets, 116.) Love is too young to know what conscience is ; Yet who knows not, conscience is born of love?