Friday, May 17, 2013


Of Books and Cheese

John Heywood (1497-1580), "Of Books and Cheese," in The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies of John Heywood, ed. John S. Farmer (London: Early English Drama Society, 1906), pp. 149-150:
No two things in all things can seem only one;
Because two things so must be one thing alone.
Howbeit, reading of books and eating of cheese,
No two things, for some things, more like one than these.
The talent of one cheese in mouths of ten men
Hath ten different tastes in judgment—most times when
He saith “’tis too salt”; he saith “’tis too fresh”;
He saith “’tis too hard ”; he saith “’tis too nesh.”
“It is too strong of the rennet,” saith he;
“It is,” saith he, “not strong enough for me.”
“It is,” saith another, “well as can be.”
No two of any ten in one can agree;
And, as they judge of cheese, so judge they of books.
Onlookers on which, who that narrowly looks,
May look for this: Saith he, “that book is too long.”
“Tis too short,” saith he. “Nay,” saith he, “ye say wrong,
’Tis of meet length; and, so fine phrase, or fair style,
The like that book was not made a good while;
And, in touching the truth, invincibly wrought.”
“Tis all lies,” saith another, “the book is nought.”
No book, no cheese, be it good, be it bad,
But praise and dispraise it hath, and hath had.
In line 8, "nesh" means "soft".

John Harington (1561-1612), Epigrams IV.72 ("A comparison of a Booke, with Cheese"), in The Letters and Epigrams of Sir John Harington, together with The Prayse of Private Life, ed. Norman Egbert McClure (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1930), pp. 276-277:
Old Haywood writes, & proues in some degrees,
That one may wel compare a book with cheese;
At euery market some buy cheese to feed on,
At euery mart some men buy bookes to read on.
All sorts eate cheese; but how? there is the question,
The poore for food, the rich for good disgestion.
All sorts read bookes, but why? will you discerne?
The foole to laugh, the wiser sort to learne.
The sight, taste, sent of cheese to some is hateful,
The sight, taste, sense of bookes to some's vngratefull,
No cheese there was, that euer pleas'd all feeders,
No booke there is, that euer lik't all Readers.
In line 9, "sent" is "scent," in modern spelling.

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