"One Swallow Does Not Make A Spring"

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Context: Aristotle probes into the nature of happiness in the first part of the Ethics, following a discussion of the means to the end of good. He states that of two goods always choose the better; of two kinds of lives always choose the richer, the life of contemplation. That first collector of English proverbs, John Heywood, in 1546 reports "One swallow maketh not summer"; whereas North-brooke in 1577 says "One swallowe prouveth not that summer is neare." Cervantes in Spain in 1605 flatly contends "One swallow never makes a summer." Aristotle frames the quotation thus:

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. . . From these premises it follows that the Good of man is the active exercise of his soul's faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue, or if there be several human excellences or virtues, in conformity with the best and most perfect among them. Moreover this activity must occupy a complete lifetime; for one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one fine day; and similarly one day or a brief period of happiness does not make a man supremely blessed and happy.

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