Posted by ESC on May 21, 2004
In Reply to: Gild the Lily. posted by Smokey Stover on May 21, 2004
: : : : : Hi! I have no idea what this means. Can you please help me figure it out (and maybe where it comes from?) Thank you - Sax
: : : : 'To gild' is to apply gold to an object to make it shine. A lily is a flower that is very beautiful in its natural state, so to gild a lily is unnecessary and can actually detract from its natural beauty.
: : : : I think it has a Biblical origin - certainly lilies are referred to there asd examples of natural beauty.
: : : Yes, to "gild the lily" means to "To cover with or as if with a thin layer of gold".
: : : In addition, you can use the phrase "to give an often deceptively attractive or improved appearance to".
: : : For instance, the President of the USA gilded the lily by telling us that our troops would be greeted with rose petals following the "liberation" of Iraq but the reality is they are being greeted with rocket-propelled grenades, not rose petals.
: : I don't know, Bruce. Maybe you could say he gilded a turd, but I disagree on using "gild the lily" here. Remember that the lily is already something beautiful. Nice job of working in a little Bush-bashing, though.
: This phrase comes up often. See the Search box for more comments, some of them over the top. The most relevant refers to Shakespeare's "paint the lily." It ought to be mentioned, I think, that although there may be numerous colorful ways of indicating that something is unnecessary or reduplicative, they are not necessarily fungible. New figures of speech are invented to meet new situations. SS
King John (Shakespeare)
Act 4, Scene 2
SCENE II. KING JOHN'S palace.
Enter KING JOHN, PEMBROKE, SALISBURY, and other Lords
Here once again we sit, once again crown'd, And looked upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes.
This 'once again,' but that your highness pleased, Was once superfluous: you were crown'd before, And that high royalty was ne'er pluck'd off, The faiths of men ne'er stained with revolt; Fresh expectation troubled not the land With any long'd-for change or better state.
Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp, To guard a title that was rich before, To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, To throw a perfume on the violet, To smooth the ice, or add another hue Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, Is wasteful and ridiculous excess...
(An example would be putting heavy makeup on a beautiful young girl.)