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Shell House Signs 

One of the interesting features of the Shell House in Dorset is the collection of sayings which are carved into stones (or appear in other forms) throughout the garden. Visit the main Shell House article first to view the garden, and then see if you can understand these signs.



It's not the man who knows the most who has the most to say,

It's not the man who has the most who gives the most away.'

The man who built this garden must have loved all these instructive verses as he put a lot of effort into carving them into the stones.



'Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you,

Keep on smiling and the world smiles too.'

This is a bit of a tongue-twister (a sentence that is difficult to say without making a mistake!). 'Til' is an abbreviation of 'until'. There are a few spelling mistakes on these stones;  for instance the last 'to' should be 'too' in this case.


'To see much is to learn much.'

This is a quotation from the works of William Shakespeare. Many expressions taken from his works are used in ordinary conversation today, often without people realizing where they originated. 



'Do not stain today's blue sky with tomorrow's clouds.'

I had never heard this expression before. These stones were placed here many years ago so some of these expressions are not well-known today, although most are not too difficult to understand. Pottery like this plate was made in the south-west of England and often contains mottos like these.



'A wise old owl lived in an oak.

The more he saw the less he spoke.

The less he spoke the more he heard.

Why can't we be like that wise old bird.'

We have quite a few native owls in Britain, nesting in woodlands and farm buildings. Farmers don't mind them living in the roofs of barns as they hunt the mice which eat the stored crops.


This is not really a saying, but the phrase 'lost in the mists of antiquity' is one that is sometimes used, so I thought I would include it here.

It means ' so old that it cannot be dated', as if we are looking so far back in time that our view of the past becomes obscured by clouds. I don't really know how old this bench is, but I think that this is a bit of an exaggeration!



'If your lips you would keep from slips,

five things observe with care.

To whom you speak, of whom you speak-

how, when and where.'

'Slips' here means mistakes. You certainly cannot make many mistakes if you follow this advice, but it's not always easy to be that careful!



'Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.'

Here the sentence means 'cannot keep it away from themselves'. Lots of verses from the 1930's and 1940's use the word 'sunshine' to mean happiness or joy.



'Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep.'

A brook is a small river.

Nowadays you often hear the expression

'still waters run deep'

This is often used when it is discovered that a person who seems calm on the surface reveals some hidden and surprising aspect to their character.


'The dawn of the morn for glory, the hush of the night for peace.

In the garden at eve says the story,

God walks and his smile brings release.'

'Morn' and 'eve' are abbreviations for morning and evening. 'Hush' is a way of saying 'quiet'. The meaning here is that one can find a religious experience of peace in a garden.

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