A GARLAND OF PRECEPTS
by Phyllis McGinley
Though a seeker since my birth,
Here is all I’ve learned on earth,
This is the gist of what I know:
Give advice and buy a foe.
Random truths are all I find
Stuck like burs about my mind.
Salve a blister. Burn a letter.
Do not wash a cashmere sweater.
Tell a tale but seldom twice.
Give a stone before advice.
Pressed for rules and verities,
All I recollect are these:
Feed a cold to starve a fever.
Argue with no true believer.
Think-too-long is never-act.
Scratch a myth to find a fact.
Stich in time saves twenty stitches.
Give the rich, to please them, riches.
Give to love your hearth and hall.
But do not give advice at all.
Thank you for posting this poem. I first read it in Readers Digest 40+ years ago when I was a kid. I remembered a fragment after all these years and have often wished I knew the rest of it. Now I have it. Thank you.
I HAVE READ THIS POEM IN THE YEAR 1965 ,WHEN I WAS READING IN LOYOLA SCHOOL, JAMSHEDPUR,INDIA. I HAD PRESERVED THE BOOK FOR YEARS. BUT SOMEHOW IT GOT MISPLACED. I COULD GIVE THE GIST TO MY KIDS WHO ARE IN COLLEGE NOW. BUT TILL DATE I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING.
I 1st read this poem in English class as a freshman. I kept the book until we left Ks I kept the book for this one poem. Now I have found it again. Thank you!
Discussing this poem with my younger brother, Sahadev, class of 1969, Loyola Jamshedpur, I was pleasantly surprised to find Anjan Chowdhury’s comment . That he was also from Loyola blew me away.
Nice to see two posts here from past pupils of my old school – Loyola School, Jamshedpur. One of Reynold D’Souza’s best class delivery came when teaching us this poem in Standard VIII. I remember having that book of poems when in school, but don’t remember the name. Anjan and Ashok, I don’t know if you check this website, but if you are, I hope this helps.
Not a long time ago, my group (1971) was looking for the Year 9 (Standard IX) textbook, The Pageant of Literature. I had even emailed St Mary’s College, Winona, Minnesota from where the editor seemed to be. I was given this website AbeBooks.com and managed to get a hard copy of the book from there. If you’re still looking, maybe you can try them. Mind you, it does help if you know the name of the book.