Tune the Old Cow Died of
(The). Advice instead of relief; remonstrance instead of help. As St. James says (ii. 15, 16), “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” Your words are the tune the old cow died of. The reference is to the well-known song -
There was an old man, and he had an old cow, But he had no fodder to give her, So he took up his fiddle and played her the tune - `Consider, good cow, consider, This isn't the time for the grass to grow. Consider, good cow, consider.'
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894