call no man happy till he dies

The story alluded to in quot. 1545 is narrated in Herodotus’ Histories I. xxxii: when the great Athenian lawgiver Solon visited Croesus, the fabulously wealthy king of Lydia, the latter asked Solon who was the happiest man he had ever seen—expecting the answer to be himself. Cf. SOPHOCLES Oedipus Rex 1. 1529 μηδέν᾽ ὀλβίζειν, πρὶν ἂν τέρμα τοῦ βίου περάσῃ μηδὲν ἀλγεινὸν παθών, deem no man happy, until he passes the end of his life without suffering grief; OVID Metamorphoses iii. 135 dicique beatus Ante obitum nemo..debet, nobody should be called blessed before his death.

1545 R. TAVERNER tr. Erasmus’ Adages (ed. 2) 53v Salon aunsered kynge Cresus, that no man could be named happy, tyl he had happely and prosperouslye passed the course of his lyfe.

1565 NORTON & SACKVILLE Gorboduc III. i. Oh no man happie, till his ende be seene.

1603 J. FLORIO tr. Montaigne’s Essays I. xviii. We must exspect of man the latest day, Nor e’er he die, he’s happie, can we say.

1891 Times 5 Dec. 9 Call no man happy till he dies is the motto..suggested by the career of Dom Pedro [emperor of Brazil].

1967 C. S. FORESTER Hornblower & Crisis 163 ‘Call no man happy until he is dead.’.. He was seventy-two, and yet there was still time for this dream..to change to a nightmare.


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