Make Hay in the Sun
John Henley & Nicholas Sullivan
June 11 — August 6, 2022
This proverb is first recorded in John Heywood’s A Dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:
Whan the sunne shinth make hay. Whiche is to say.
Take time whan time cometh, lest time steale away.
A similar notion is expressed in The Bible, in Proverbs 10:5:
He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.
English translations of The Bible don’t use the expression ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and they didn’t appear until after 1546 anyway. If the person who coined the proverb in English was copying an idea from earlier versions of The Bible we can’t be sure of. What we can say is that, as far as English is concerned, the phrase originated in Tudor England.
Of course, medieval farmers would be as well aware of the wisdom of not leaving it too late to gather one’s hay. Modern machinery and weather forecasting make haymaking reasonably quick and stress-free. Tudor farmers would have taken several days to cut, dry and gather their hay and would have had only folk rhymes like ‘red sky at night’ to guide them. Forecasting the weather two or three says in advance wouldn’t have been possible, so all the more reason for them to ‘make hay while the sun shines’.
The proverb, like all proverbs, was extended to life in general and it quickly became a cliche. As early as 1673 it was cited in a figurative, that is, non-farming, context, in Richard Head’s glossary of the language of theives and beggars The Canting Academy:
She … was resolv’d … to make Hay whilest the Sun shin’d.
– Gary Martin, Make Hay in the Sun
John Henley (b. 1958) is a Chicago-based artist who has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for the past 20 years. Recent group exhibitions include Hyde Park Art Center, A+D Gallery at Columbia College (Chicago, IL), Research House for Asian Arts (Chicago, IL), Heaven Gallery (Chicago, IL), and Sidecar Gallery (Baltimore, MD), as well as three solo exhibitions at Slow Gallery (Chicago, IL). Henley received a BFA from Washington University in St. Louis and an MFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art.
Nicholas Sullivan (b. 1987) is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Sullivan earned his M.F.A. in Sculpture from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA, and his B.F.A. in Sculpture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA. Recent exhibitions include; Domino, Shoot The Lobster, New York, NY; Comfort Animal, A-L Gallery, Seoul SK; The Pit Presents: Step Sister, The Pit, Los Angeles CA, Neu, No Place Gallery, Columbus OH, ; The World Without Us, Brennan & Griffin, New York NY; Gist & Gesture, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL; Foster Prize Exhibition, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA.