A fable, from Aesop
A cock was scratching around in a dunghill, searching for something to eat, when he unearthed a precious stone. "Well, now," said the cock. "if I had been looking for such a treasure, then treasure you would be. But I am neither your owner rejoicing in having found a lost trinket, nor am I an aficionado of gemstones. Rather, I am a hungry bird, and so you are of no use whatsoever. I'd rather a grain of barley than a bucket full of pearls."
Precious things are for those that can prize them. (Joseph Jacobs, 1894)
‘Tis the part of a wise Man to prefer
Things necessary before Matters of Curiosity, Ornament, or Pleasure. (Roger L'Estrange, 1692)*
Gay nonsense does the noysy fopling please,
Beyond the noblest Arts and Sciences. (Thomas Philipot, 1682)
Hunger may be the best sauce, but it can't sweeten rocks.
* L'Estrange has more to say about this tale:
The moralists will have wisdom and virtue to be meant by the diamond; the world and the pleasures of it, by the dunghill; and by the cock, a voluptuous man, that abandons himself to his lusts, without any regard, either to the study, the practice, or the excellency of better things.
Now, with favour of the ancients, this fable seems to me, rather to hold forth an emblem of industry and moderation. The cock lives by his honest labor, and maintains his family out of it; his scraping upon the dunghill, is but working in his calling: The precious stone is only a gawdy temptation that Fortune throws in his way to divert him from his business and his duty. He would have been glad, he says, of a barley-corn
instead on’t; and so casts it aside as a thing not worth heeding. What is all this now, but the passing of a true Estimate upon the matter in question, in preferring that which Providence has made and pronounced
to be the Staff of Life, before a glittering gew-gaw, that has no other value, then what vanity, pride, and luxury, have set upon’t? The price of the market to a jeweller in his trade, is one thing, but the intrinsic worth of a thing, to a man of sense, and judgment, is another. Nay, that very lapidary himself, with a coming stomach, and in the cock’s place, would have made the cock’s choice. The doctrine, in short, may be this; that we are to prefer things necessary, before things superfluous; the comforts and the blessings of Providence, before the dazzling and the splendid curiosities of mode and imagination: and finally, that we are not to govern our lives by fancy, but by reason.
(Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists, Roger L'Estrange, 1694)