A GARLAND OF PRECEPTS

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.

5 thoughts on “A GARLAND OF PRECEPTS

  1. Terry

    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.

    Terry

  2. ANJAN CHOWDHURY

    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.
    THANK YOU

  3. Donald

    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!

  4. Ashok Chirayath

    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.

  5. Vivian D'Almeida

    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.

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