Footprints on the sands of Time (Longfellow: Psalm of Life).
This beautiful expression was probably suggested by a letter of the
First Napoleon to his Minister of the Interior respecting the
poor-laws:- “It is melancholy [he says] to see time passing away
without being put to its full value. Surely in a matter of this kind we
should endeavour to do something, that we may say that we have not
lived in vain, that we may leave some impress of our lives on the sands
To number sands.
To undertake an endless or impossible task.
Alas! poor duke, the task he undertakes
Is numbering sands and drinking oceans dry.
Shakespeare: Richard II., ii. 2.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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