while the grass grows, the steed starves

Dreams or expectations may be realized too late. Cf. medieval L. dum gramen crescit, equus in moriendo quiescit, while the grass grows, the horse lies dying.

c 1350 Douce MS 52 no. 20 While the grasse growes, the goode hors sterues.

a 1500 in Wright & Halliwell Reliquiæ Antiquæ (1841) I. 208 While the grasse growes the steede starves.

1600–1 SHAKESPEARE Hamlet III. ii. 333 You have the voice of the King himself for your succession.—Ay, sir, but ‘While the grass grows’—the proverb is something musty.

1821 J. GALT Ayrshire Legatees x. Until ye get a kirk there can be no marriage. But the auld horse may die waiting for the new grass.

1911 G. B. SHAW Doctor’s Dilemma III. 56 I shall sell them next year fast enough, after my one-man-show; but while the grass grows the steed starves.

1973 ‘M. INNES’ Appleby’s Answer ii. ‘The working capital?’ ‘Well..while the grass grows the steed mustn’t starve. Say five hundred down.’


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