The Proverbs Of John Heywood "The Fat Is In The Fire"

John Heywood

"The Fat Is In The Fire"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In the Preface, the author says that he will quote many useful proverbs which have served "both old and young" in their wisdom. In the preceding section he has talked with a friend who asks if he should marry "a maid of flowering age, a goodly one," or a "widow, who so many years bears,/ That all her whiteness lieth in her white hairs." The author advises his young friend that marriage is so serious a business that it must be approached with caution. The friend admits that these "plain pithy proverbs" caution wariness and slowness, but he says that against those proverbs urging caution he can advance "other parables, of like weighty weight,/ Which haste me to wedding, as ye shall hear straight." He then begins to quote them by the dozen:

Beauty or riches, the tone of the twain
Now may I choose, and which me list obtain.
And if we determine me this maid to take,
And then tract of time train her me to forsake,
Then my beautiful marriage lieth in the dike;
And never for beauty shall I wed the like.
Now if we award me this widow to wed,
And that I drive off time, till time she be dead,
Then farewell riches, the fat is in the fire,
And never shall I to like riches aspire.