{npm22: 22 ~ idle hands}

Thanks to Ye Olden Tymes or the Middle Ages, there are a ton of proverbs and sayings about the devil. Most people feared the forest, the dark, and the unknown beasties within it, and helpful religious leaders identified any fearful unknown as the devil and capitalized on the idea of toeing the line to avoid being fed to it. When the average person began to read and consider arguments, truths and opinions for themselves, those fears didn’t diminish – rather they shifted. Though a literal devil might have taken a backseat, the fear of social hell took precedence…

Therefore, to avoid being thought of as indolent or ignorant, everyone wanted to be thrifty, clean, and reverent, so enter the idea of keeping busy. Or at least looking busy. This idea is so old that the first mention of this proverb is way back in the fourth century. The first finding of this phrase in (Middle) English comes from Chaucer in 1405 saying, “Dooth somme goode dedes, that the deuel, which is oure enemy, ne fynde yow nat vnocupied.” Do some good deeds, so that the Devil, which is our enemy, won’t find you unoccupied.

There are myriad variations of this proverb. My sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Martin, told us that “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” which I always found confusing and unlikely. My father told us that idle hands were the Devil’s playthings – which seemed less unlikely, and to my literal mind, definitely more worrying. To keep things clear, we’ll go with the earliest, not the most popular version of this proverb:

“The devil makes work for idle hands.”

A Puritan person would say
“Idle hands will lead children astray.”
Now that I’d dispute –
To give kids their salute,
They’ll cause chaos hogtied – that’s their way.

Just kidding, kids. This is just what my parents believed, for reasons best known to themselves and having nothing AT ALL whatsoever to do with me. *cough*

More poetry? Poetry Friday is hosted today at Reflections on the Teche.

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