full cup, steady hand

Used especially to caution against spoiling a comfortable or otherwise enviable situation by careless action.

c 1025 Durham Proverbs (1956) 15 Swa fulre fæt swa hit mann sceal fægror beran [the more full the cup, the more carefully must one carry it].

c 1325 Proverbs of Hending in Anglia (1881) IV. 293 When the coppe is follest, thenne ber hire feyrest.

1721 J. KELLY Scottish Proverbs 346 When the Cup’s full carry it even. When you have arrived at Power and Wealth, take a care of Insolence, Pride, and Oppression.

1889 C. M. YONGE in Monthly Packet Christmas 46 Poor things! They were so happy—so open-hearted. I did long to caution them. ‘Full cup, steady hand.’

1903 G. H. KNIGHT Master’s Questions xxi I would listen..to this question..whenever..I am eagerly reaching out my hands to grasp what may satisfy an unlikely ambition. All hands are not steady enough to carry a full cup.


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