His general definition of the proverb was "a saying which is both well known and marked by some witty and original conception, 'pithy' as we say (paroemia
est celebre dictum, scita quapiam novitate insigne)" [Adages 6).
The first stanza is set in quotation marks, as if it were paroemia
, a borrowed text, a voice separate from the narrator's.
He then formulates a definition of his own, which in his view is sufficiently broad and exact to cover the adages in his collection: "A proverb is a saying in popular use, remarkable for some shrewd and novel turn of phrase" (Paroemia
est celebre di ctum, scita quapiam nouitate insigne).
And this saying they make their sheet-anchor."  Although the term "saying" could apply to any utterance, it more familiarly refers to an adage, a proverb, a motto, or an axiom, the very sense that Cranmer's "sheet-anchor" assumes; the Archbishop insinuates the issue of being into a figure known to rhetoric as paroemia
, literally translated, a "byword" or "proverb."