"A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush"
Context: Sancho Panza, Don Quixote's peasant squire, argues largely in proverbs, which he calls "clotted wisdom" whose truth has been proved by their very age. The example quoted is certainly ancient. Plutarch (46-120) quoted it in his essay "Of Garrulity" as: "He is a fool who lets slip a bird in the hand for a bird in the bush." And the Englishman John Heywood (1497?-1580) in Proverbes (1546), Part I, chapter 11, declared: "Better one byrde in hande than ten in the wood." Sancho, sent as a messenger to his master's lady, Dulcinea del Toboso, returns with her command that the knight come to her. Don Quixote refuses to attend on her until he has won honor by feats of arms. His squire counsels against delaying:
. . . Take a fool's counsel for once, marry her by the first priest you meet; here's our own curate can do the job to a nicety. Come, master, I have hair enough in my beard to make a counsellor, and my advice is as fit for you as your shoe for your foot:–a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, andHe that will not when he mayWhen he would, he shall have nay.