Five Hundred Points Of Good Husbandry "Naught Venture, Naught Have"

"Naught Venture, Naught Have"

Context: Thomas Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry is an early version of the farmer's almanac; in it various practical instructions, moral observations, and miscellaneous information on weather and climate are given in homely verse. Though much of the poetry is doggerel, it does portray vividly the farm life of early Elizabethan times and has enjoyed considerable popularity during the centuries since it was first published. For all its undoubted usefulness in its own time, however, it did not aid its author to any great extent. Tusser was a gentleman, well born and educated at Eton and Cambridge, who left the city for the farm. He was not a successful farmer, though his knowledge of agriculture was considerable, and he eventually died in a debtor's prison. Part of the charm of his work lies in his use of old familiar sayings, many of them still in use today. We now say "Nothing ventured, nothing gained;" in 1546, when John Heywood (1497–1580) collected the saying in his Proverbes, it was "Nought venter, nought have." Tusser, in the selection quoted with this article, uses a variant of the expression. His book begins with short verses (each a chapter) in which general observations are made concerning husbandry and extolling farm life. He then describes the farmer's diet. At this point the main part of the book is begun; after some comments on weather and astronomy, he takes up the farmer's year, beginning with September, the best time to assume ownership of a farm. The husbandry of each month is preceded by an abstract, or summary, of what the month's chapter contains. Thus, in chapter seventeen ("October's Abstract") Tusser gives the reader a rapid preview of what will be discussed next.

6. Who soweth in rain,
Hath weed for his pain;
But worse shall he speed,
That soweth ill seed.
7. Now, better than later,
Draw furrow for water.
Keep crows, good son;
See fencing be done.
8. Each soil no vein,
For every grain.
Though soil be but bad,
Some corn may be had.
9. Naught prove, naught crave,
Naught venture, naught have.
10. One crop, and away,
Some country may say.
11. All gravel and sand,
Is not the best land.
A rottenly mould,
Is land worth gould.