The ravelled sleave of care Shakespeare: Macbeth). The sleave is the knotted or entangled part of thread or silk, the raw edge of woven articles. Chaucer has “sleeveless words” (words like ravellings, not knit together to any wise purpose); Bishop Hall has “sleaveless rhymes” (random rhymes); Milton speaks of “sleeveless reason” (reasoning which proves nothing); Taylor the water-poet has “sleeveless message” (a simple message; it now means a profitless one). The weaver's slaic is still used. (Saxon, slae, a weaver's reed; Danish, slojfe, a knot.)
If all these faile, a beggar-woman may A sweet love-letter to her hands convay, Or a neat laundresse or a hearb-wife can Carry a sleevelesse message now and than.
Taylor's Workes, ii. III (1630).
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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