A Light Heart Lives Long

Saw “A light heart lives long” today and immediately thought, “Nah, that doesn’t sound like Shakespeare.”  Did some quick googling, and it looks like something more in the “old Irish proverb” category (“Maireann croí éadrom i bhfad.“)

But guess what?  If we allow for the words to evolve a little bit over the centuries, however, look what I find in Henry IV Part 2, Act V, Scene 3:

A light heart lives long, a merry heart lives long
Light, merry, same difference.

Conclusion: “A Light Heart Lives Long” is Confirmed

So it looks like we can give Shakespeare credit for this one, after all! It’s a drinking song.

Now, whether or not he’s the first one to say it that’s a whole different story. But we’ll let all those Instagram and Pinterest posters get off easy this time.

5 thoughts on “A Light Heart Lives Long

  1. “A light heart lives long” is actually from Love’s Labour’s Lost V.ii! It’s Katharine, describing the death of her sister and adding in a jab at Rosaline.

    Kath. He made her melancholy, sad, and heavy;
    And so she died: had she been light, like you,
    Of such a merry, nimble, stirring spirit,
    She might ha’ been a grandam ere she died;
    And so may you, for a light heart lives long.

      1. Yes, thanks for the reference. Is he the first to have expressed it? ANyone find an earlier reference? (At 65, it doesn’t seem to me to be THAT unique of an observation; a good one, nonetheless…. ROB

  2. Proverbs used by Shakespeare and common in the his time are well catalogued by Morris Palmer Tilley “A Dictionary of Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” (U. of Michigan Press, 1950). The earliest date he has for this one is from 1553: (from “A Merry Interlude Entitled Respublica”) It prolongeth the life of Manne to bee merye.” The citations to 2H4 and LLL are right there in Tilley. (He dates them at 1594-5 and 1598, respectively, essentially following E. K. Chambers.

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