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Meaning of “Take Time by The Forelock” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

Take Time by The Forelock

The common figure of Old Father Time represents him as having a small curly lock drooping over his forehead: otherwise he is as bald as a new-born babe. Shakespeare (King John, tn. i) calls him 7 “Old Time, the clock-seller: that bald sexton, Time.”

The origin of our phrase goes back to the time of Thales of Miletus (636-546 B.C.), and the underlying idea seems to have been that it was necessary to keep abreast of Time, and the only way to do it would be to seize the old tyrant by the foremost part of him which was a fixture, namely, his forelock; for, to try to hold him by any other part, even by his wings, would be to be behind Time.

The phrase has often been used variably by ‘writers like Greene (Menapbon, 1589) : “Take opportunities by her forelocks” ; Massinger (Unnatural Combat, 1639) : “I’ll take occasion by the forelock” ; while another says : “I became a philosopher to catch Wisdom by the forelock.”

It is a warning against procrastination as the thief of time. “Be ashamed to catch yourself idle, when there is so much to be done,” wrote Benjamin Franklin (Misc. Writings); “sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labour wears; while the used key is always bright. Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that is the stuff life is made of. The sleeping fox catches no poultry; lost time is never found again ; and what we call time enough always proves little enough. Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry [makes things] all easy. He that riseth late must trot all day, and shall scarce o’ertake his business at night.”

The phrase is summed up in these lines by Leopold Schefer:

He who has only gained the day, has gained

The battle I Do thou but gain the moments ;

For, when thou hast subdued unto thyself

Each moment, thou hast won the whole of life :

Hast made the whole of life a beauteous thing.


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