I often wonder who first started saying "gild the lily;" and why, like sheep, all the world followed the originator?
I'm not going to go through Shakespeare's King John to get the exact words, because I did that once before, but in essence, these two courtiers - the Earl of Somewhere-or-Other and the Earl-of-Somewhere Else - are decrying the idea of the King having another, bigger wedding to his Queen (apparently the first one didn't take or wasn't good enough).
To make a long story short, the first Earl says, "Would you PAINT the lily, GILD refinded gold, or throw a PERFUME on the violet?" These are all examples of foolish excess (like bringing coals to Newcastle!).
As my father said when he told me about this 75 years ago, why would you gild a lily anyway?
When I was a child, we used to make pretty winter bouquets out of milkweed stems and pods, which we gilded and combined with alder stems with the berries on them. But we never gilded a lily!