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On Page 287 of the 1758 version of Poor Richard's Almanac, we find this paragraph:

Methinks I hear some of you say, Must a Man afford himself no Leisure? ---- I will tell thee, my Friend, what Poor Richard says, Employ thy Time well if thou meanest to gain Leisure; and, since thou art not sure of a Minute, throw not away an Hour. Leisure is Time for doing something useful; this Leisure the diligent Man will obtain, but the lazy Man never; so that, as Poor Richard says, a Life of Leisure and a Life of Laziness are two Things. Do you imagine that Sloth will afford you more Comfort than Labor? No, for as Poor Richard says, Trouble springs from Idleness, and grievous Toil from needless Ease. Many without Labor would live by their WITS only, but they break for want of Stock. Whereas Industry gives Comfort, and Plenty, and Respect: Fly Pleasures, and they'll follow you. The diligent Spinner has a large Shift, and now I have a Sheep and a Cow, everybody bids me Good morrow; all which is well said by Poor Richard.

I'm reading Benjamin Franklin's works, which I find to be of profound wisdom, and caught this particular phrase, and this is causing confusion:

"Fly pleasures, and they ’ll follow you."

Since English is my second language, I don't quite well understand the meaning of that sentence.

What does it mean?

  • I don't know what it means either - please give some more context. – Colin Fine Jul 17 '18 at 14:51
  • I read it in "The Way To Wealth". swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bdorsey1/41docs/52-fra.html – Delmonte Jul 17 '18 at 14:59
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    From the context it seems like “fly pleasures” could mean “fly from pleasures” or “flee pleasures” since the argument is that work creates leisure, so turning from pleasure to work will not ultimately cost you your pleasure. – Neil W Jul 17 '18 at 17:02
  • You could try tweeting him and asking – Azor Ahai Jul 17 '18 at 19:20
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Hmmm. It is not clear to this native English speaker. The general sense is, but not the specific meaning of "fly pleasures".

My guess (and it is only a guess) is that this is a reference to hawking - hunting with hawks or other birds. The OED give as definition 3c for fly: "To chase with a hawk", which is not on the surface a particularly good fit. But when a hawker flies a bird, they let it go (to chase prey), confident that they have trained it to return to them. I take it therefore that it means "Let pleasures have some freedom, to soar in the air, and they will come back to stay with you".

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From Wisdom from B Franklin

Industry gives comfort and plenty and respect: fly pleasures, and they’ll follow you. If we work as we should, then we will have all that we need. If you take the proper time for pleasure, then it can be properly enjoyed.

And from the etymology fly = flee: etymonline

fly (v.2)

"run away," Old English fleon, flion "fly from, avoid, escape;" essentially a variant spelling of flee.

and

perhaps from fly (n.) on the notion of the insect being hard to catch

Thus possibly: let go of (flee) pleasure, pursue industry (work and toil), and pleasure will follow!

  • Neither etymonline nor the OED gives either fly or flee as transitive in that sense, except for hawking meaning I mentioned. – Colin Fine Jul 19 '18 at 22:23

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