Tuesday, October 6, 2015

In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

A Study Upon the Proverbial One-Eyed Man

“[I]n the street of the totally blind, the one-eyed man is called clear-sighted, and the infant is called a scholar.” ~Midrash Rabbah, c. 4th–5th century
Source details: translated into English under the editorship of H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, 1939

“Inter cæcos, regnat strabus. In regione cæcorum rex est luscus.” (Among the blind the squinter reigns. In the country of the blind, one-eyed man is king.) ~Proverbs quoted by Desiderius Erasmus, c.1514
Source details: Adagiorum Chiliades, 1514. William Barker, in The Adages of Erasmus, 2001, notes: “Among the blind, the cross-eyed man is king.... Erasmus picked up an uncorrected form of the Greek from Apostolius 7.23.” Another similar from Erasmus: “Among beggars, he who has only a little money is a Croesus.”

“His Latin tongue doth hobbyl
He doth but clout and cobbel
In Tullis facultie
Called humanitie
Yet proudly he dare pretend
How no man can him amend
But haue ye not heard this
How an one eyed man is
Wel sighted, when
He is among blynd men.”
~John Skelton, 1522
Source details: “Why come ye not to Court,” in Pithy, Pleasaunt, and Profitable Workes of Maister Skelton, Poete Laureate, to King Henry the VIIIth, 1736

“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” ~English proverb, early 16th century
Source details: A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries by Morris Palmer Tilley, 1950, and The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, 1970

“Entre los ciegos el tuerto es Rey...” (Among the blind a one-eyed man is king.) ~F. Pedro de Vega, 1606
Source details: Declaracion de los Siete Psalmos Penitenciales — “...santos que resplandece como Estrellas, otros como la Luna, otros como el Sol pero es esta la diferencia...” Often quoted as Spanish proverb as well: En pais de los ciegas el tuerto es rey.

“In the kingdom of blind men, the one eyed is king.” ~Proverb quoted by George Herbert, 1640
Source details: Jacula Prudentum; or, Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, etc.

“Among the blind the one-eye'd blinkard reigns,
So rules among the drownèd he that drains.”
~Andrew Marvell, 1665
Source details: Character of Holland

“The Egyptians seem to have verified the Proverb, That he that has but one Eye, is a Prince among those that have none.” ~William Wotton, 1694
Source details: “Of the History and Mathematicks of the Ancient Egyptians,” Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning

“Unoculus inter cæcos.” (A one-eyed man among the blind.) ~Latin phrase, c.1780
Source details: “A man whose very slender abilities are perceptible only when among the grossly ignorant.” ~A Dictionary of Select and Popular Quotations, Which are in Daily Use; Taken from the Latin, French, Greek, Spanish, and Italian Languages; translated into English, with Illustrations, Historical and Idiomatic, by D.E. MacDonnel, third edition, 1818. This Latin phrase has been in use since at least 1780, as quoted by James Boswell in The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., 1791.

“The blind of an eye is a king among the blind.” ~Gaelic proverb, c.1785
Source details: Mackintosh’s Collection of Gaelic Proverbs, and Familiar Phrases; Englished A-new, 1819, first published 1785. Name is published today as Donald Macintosh.

“[F]or, in a nation of blind people, a one-eyed man would be king.” ~William Mudford, 1809
Source details: Nubilia in Search of a Husband

“‘Parmi les aveugles un borgne est roi,’ says the French proverb...” ~Walter Scott, 1814 (Among the blind a one-eyed man is king.)
Source details: Waverley; or, ’Tis Sixty Years Since. Alternate French wording: “En la terre des aveugles celui qui n'a qu'un ceil y est roi.”

“‘A one eyed man is a king amongst the blind,’ says an old French proverb, so were you in your time, but kings and lights, capitals and candles are very different in our enlightened age...” ~E.M., 1824
Source details: “Answer from a Gas Light to an Old Lamp,” The European Magazine and London ReviewNovember 1824

“A one-eyed man is a king among the blind.” ~Oriental proverb, c.1824
Source details: “Oriental Proverbs: Part II,” A Collection of Proverbs, and Proverbial Phrases, in the Persian and Hindoostanee Languages, compiled and translated, chiefly, by the late Thomas Roebuck, 1824

“[H]e repeated very frequently and always with a profounder note of derision that exploded proverb: ‘In the Country of the Blind the One-eyed Man is King....’ Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds... either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh.... But he heeded these things no longer, but lay quite still there, smiling as if he were content now merely to have escaped from the valley of the Blind, in which he had thought to be King.” ~H.G. Wells & Plato mash‑up quotation
Source details: Wells’ “The Country of the Blind,” 1904 and 1939, and Plato’s narration of Socrates in the allegory of the cave, from The Republic, Book VII, c. 380 BCE

“But, in the land of the blind,
where the one-eyed man is king,
when he wears the emperor’s new clothes,
he can get away with it.”
~David R. Slavitt, c.1999
Source details: "Exception," Falling from Silence: Poems, 2001

“If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.” ~Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922–2007)
Source details: unconfirmed

Monoculus miscellany — literary luscus, tuerto truisms, borgne bon mots, purblind proverbs, monops meditations, monophthalmic mottoes:

“Tut, tut, here is a mannerly forbearance:
The truth appears so naked on my side
That any purblind eye may find it out.”
~William Shakespeare, c.1592
Source details: Henry VI, Part I [II, 4], Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester)

“Better to have one eye than be blind altogether.” ~English Proverb, c.1670
Source details: A Collection of English Proverbs by John Ray, 1670

“Let him that hath but one eye keepe it well...” (Qui n’a qu’un oeil bien le garde.) ~French proverb, c.1611
Source Details: A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues compiled by Randle Cotgrave, 1611

“He that has but one Eye, had need look well to That.” ~Proverb, restated
Source details: Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British collected by Thomas Fuller, 1732

“A one-eyed man, who has not a film over the eye, conceals any sort of villany.” ~Spanish proverb, c.1609
Source details: Translated by John Collins, 1823. (Tuerto, y no de nube, sola piel gran mal encubre. Or, Tuerto y no de nube, no hay maldad que no encubre.) Refranes o Proverbios Castellanos Traduzidos en Lengua Francesa por César Oudin, 1609.

“He that winketh with one eye, and seeth with the other,
I would not trust him, though he were my brother.”
~English Proverb, c.1670
Source details: A Collection of English Proverbs by John Ray, 1670

“When my friends are blind of one eye, I look at them in profile.”
~Joseph Joubert (1754–1824)
Source details: Some of the "Thoughts" of Joseph Joubert, translated from French by George H. Calvert, 1866

“An one-eyed woman is beautiful among blind women.”
~Kashmiri Proverb
Source details: A Dictionary of Kashmiri Proverbs & Sayings, J. Hinton Knowles, 1885

“To learn about eye protection, ask someone who has one.”
~Author Unknown

Thank you to Bob for the inspiration to do this research.