Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 253
Context: Many aphorisms affirm the difference between aims and accomplishments. One that comes to mind declares "Man proposes and God disposes." Another common proverb deals with a slip between pouring the liquid and swallowing it. Earliest seems to be Homer's account of Antinous and Odysseus in Odyssey, Book 22, Lines 8-18, written about 850 B.C. As Antinous was about to drink wine from the golden goblet, Odysseus loosed a "bitter arrow" at him that struck him in the throat, and the cup fell from his hands before it reached his lips. Palladas, a fifth century teacher in Alexandria, summed up the story in Epigram 32 in the Greek Anthology, Book X. The earliest statement of the phrase in English is found in the writing of Robert Greene. A writer of pot-boilers in his early days, Greene composed a number of pastorals, following the popularity of Arcadia (1580) by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). To Robert Burton, (1577-1640) in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) is also attributed the form: "Many things happen between the cup and the lip." Our current version comes from The Ingoldsby Legends: Lady Rohesia (1840) by R. H. Barham: "There's many a slip/ 'Twixt the cup and the lip." Many other slips come to mind: between the egg and the bird, between the hand and the mouth, and between the offer and the check. However the most often used is some variant of the one by Greene:
Though men determine, the gods dispose, and oft times many things fall out between the cup and the lip.