Note: “Doubts are more cruel that the worst of truths.” Jean Baptiste Poquelin Moliére, Le Misanthrope, Act III, Scene vii. Doubts can cripple you. They can freeze you into inaction. Falling into doubt can be like falling into a deep hole; it is hard to get out.
Attempt the end, and never stand to doubt; Nothing’s so hard but search won’t find out. Robert Herrick, Heperides
Or in the words of copy writer for a more modern sneaker manufacturer, “Just do it.”
Note also: Proverbs are like fossils. They tend to preserve old forms. This week’s proverb is no exception with the spelling of the word “doimhin.” This was the most common spelling for the Irish word for ‘deep,’ before the official standard spelling was introduced in the 1940’s. The official spelling is ‘domhain.’ However, the official spelling for the genitive form is the more retrograde ‘doimhne.’
Note: There are a number of English versions of this proverb.
What the eye sees not, the heart craves not.
What the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve over.
Ignorance is bliss.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Many languages also have a version or two of this proverb.
I bhfad as amharc, i gcian as intinn. Irish (Out of sight, out of mind.) Béarlachas?
An rud ná cloieseann an chluas ní chuireann sé buairt ar an gcroí. Irish (What the ear does not hear does not worry the heart.)
An té a bhíos amuigh fuaraíonn a chuid. Irish (Whoever is often out, his part grows cold.)
Fada bhon t-sùil, fada bhon chride. Scots Gaelic (Far from the eye, far from the heart.)
As an t-sealladh, às a chuimhne. Scots Gaelic (Out of sight, out of mind.)
Ass shiley, ass smooinagtyn. Manx (Out of sight, out of mind.)
Allan o olwg, allan o feddwl. Welch (Out of sight, out of mind.)
Was ich nicht weiss macht mich nicht heiss. German (What I don’t know does not make me hot.)
Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn. German (Out of sight, out of mind.)
Langt fra Öine, snart af Sinde. Danish (Out of sight, out of mind.)
Uit het oog, uit het hart. Dutch (Out of sight, out of mind.)
Loin des yeux, loin de coeur. French (Out of sight, out of mind.)
Qui procul ab oculis, procul a limite cordis. Latin (Out of sight, out of mind.)
We may never know in which language this proverb originated, but we must admit that the Irish version above is original. Using the verb, seachain (meaning avoid, evade, or shun), suggests that the eye is pulled to things it can see and is pushed from things it can not see. It is a bit more mystical than the expression, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Note: This popular proverb has been encapsulated in the English expression, “At the end of the day, …” Do not be hasty to praise or even comment on an event, a life, or a period of time while it is in progress. It could change later and make you wrong.
Mol an latha math mu oidhche. — Scots Gaelic
Moyle y laa mie fastyr (mu fheasgar). — Manx
Ruse the fair day at night. — Scots
Praise day and night, and life at the end. — English
La vita il fine e ‘l dì loda la sera — Italian
Schönen Tag soll man loben, wenn es Nacht ist. — German
Perhaps, Alexander Pope said it best. “Some praise at morning what they blame at night, But always think the last opinion right.” An Essay on Criticism. 1711.
Ní hiad na fir mhóra a bhaineas an fomhar i gcónaí.
It is not the great men that always reap the harvest.
Note: Strength is not everything. Even though the bards sing about the exploits of great men, like Fionn and the Fianna, the warrior class of ancient Irish society would not have existed without the farmer. It is the farmer, who reaps the harvest. It is the farmer who was the foundation of the ancient Irish political unit, the tuath. While the tuath was dominated by the neimhidh, the privileged people, i.e., warriors, artisans, bards, priests, etc. it was the farmers who had the greatest numbers. It was the farmer who counted most. This proverb recognizes their unheralded greatness.
Note: Anything carried a long distance becomes a heavy burden. The notion that easy physical burdens can become exhausting over time would be obvious to any rural farmer. What is not so obvious is that psychological burdens carried a long time can be a heavy thing too. Guilt, anger, fear, hate, and such are natural emotions that come upon us from time to time. In fact, Irish idiom recognizes that these emotions are a burden. For example, in Irish one would literally say, ‘Fear is on you.’ But at some point, you need to let go of these burdens. This proverb could used as a gentle nudge to someone who has carried such a burden too long, to give it up. Lighten up.
Más cam nó díreach an ród, ‘s é an bothar mór an t-aicearra.
Whether the road is crooked or straight,the main road is the short cut.
(Alternatively: The longest way round is the shortest way home.)
Note: For the Gael, the short cut is always supreme, but for the Gall (foreigner) it is to be avoided. Another Irish version of this week’s proverb has the same meaning, “Cam díreach an ród is é an bealach mór.” Through the centuries, the Gaels’ peripatetic journeys tended to be on feet unencumbered by shoes. Even in the twentieth century, a Donegal man living all his life in Clonmany, in the northeast corner of the Inishowen peninsula, recalled,
My father hardly wore shoes or boots about the house in the summer-time. And it wasn’t him alone but everybody else of his time. I knew a man in my time to get married in the second pair of shoes ever went on his feet. I wore no shoes myself when I was young. The men and women used to carry the shoes on their shoulder when going to the chapel until they got as far as Skeeog, and then they would put them on. They would take them off again on their way home.
Charles McGlinchey, The Last of the Name, The Blackstaff Press, 1986, p. 17.
Given this penchant of the Gael for perambulation unfettered by pedal protection, any path that minimizes foot falls is to be preferred.
The Gall, on the other hand, shod in boots, sandals, or shoes, prefers the safest way to the shortest path. This preference can be inferred in the English proverb, “The longest way round is the shortest way home.” The Viscount of St. Albans, the English philosopher Francis Bacon, was more explicit. “It is in life, as it is in ways, the shortest way is commonly the foulest, and surely the faire way is not much about.” (The Advancement of Learning, 1605.) Another English proverb warns, “Better go about than fall into a ditch.” These sentiments were expressed in an ancient Latin proverb, “Short cuts are long ways around.”