I had to think for a minute – what was the rest of that proverb? How many hundreds of years since I last heard it. Then it came back to me:
Early to bed and early to rise / Makes a man healthy, wealth and wise.
Man, not woman. Apparently it didn’t much matter when women dragged themselves out from under the medieval duvet or switched off their medieval TVs with their medieval remote controls (i.e. extra-long poking-sticks). In any case, a woman couldn’t and shouldn’t be wise, though healthy and wealthy would have been desirable attributes.
This particular saying really does seem to go back a long way – the first printed mention being in the Book (or Boke, if you were medieval) of St Albans in 1486, when it was set down as:
As the olde englysshe prouerbe sayth in this wise. Who soo woll ryse erly shall be holy helthy and zely.
NB: zely. Middle English word from which comes ‘silly’ but in 1486 meant ‘auspicious’ or ‘fortunate’.
(I’m trying hard here to give the impression that I just happen to have all these wonderful linguistic arcanities floating around in my stupendiously compendious female brain – rather than looking it up on the net.)
I wonder if it’s true? Can’t say I’ve ever been healthy, wealthy or wise, but maybe that’s because I tend to get up early (or sometimes late, depending on how many cats decide to jump on me) and go to bed late. Except when I go to bed early, usually because I’m bored or have a headache. Though I did manage to get through the whole of the Eurovision Song Contest last night.
I wonder, if we Exit on June the 23rd, does that mean we don’t have to be in the Eurovision Song Contest any more, please God? Nah, but that won’t wash. They’ve got Israel in it now (surely Israel isn’t Europe?) and now, permanently, Australia. Now Australia definitely isn’t Europe. You see, I’ve always thought we should have a rival song contest featuring Us, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Then you might get some decent songs. But if Australia has now decided it’s part of Europe…
As Graham Norton said, they had a whole lot of costume ideas and liked them so much they used every one of them.
No, I think it (the proverb) is a relic of a time before electricity when any sensible (un-zely) person would have risen when the sun rose and slept when the sun set. If you stayed up later than that, with no natural light, you would be burning/wasting extra candles or tallow-lamps. You would also be straining your eyes, and probably some sort of thief or evil night-person. And if you got up late – well, you were lazy and unreliable, and in a predominantly agricultural society you wouldn’t earn much.
The lack of electricity must have been quite a problem for all those medieval TV sets. Presumably they were powered by steam, generated by boiling cauldrons of well-water over giant bonfires of faggots. That would have been a woman’s job – boiling stuff an’ all.
Would there have been a Eurovisione Songe Conteste in ye olden days, do you think?