from many small things comes a great thing
[ from http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum80/67.htm , December 2001]
In this thread, Chris_R translates this as "Small things will make a large pile"
A peek behind the origin of the pharse is telling . . .
The phrase is a title of an "Emblem Poem".
Emblem Poetry is a genre of writing which became popular in Europe in the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries (I believe the poem title used by Google was first published in 1586).
Emblem Poetry combined the use of images and text to describe an idea or principle. Some descriptions of this emblem poetry (which were published in books as collections) on university research sites are telling:
"Visible poetry: catching the eye and fancy at one draught"
Of the authors who wrote emblem poetry: "They enjoyed the same delight in ingenuity, the same fearless use of hyperbole, the same passion for finding likenesses and unlikenesses in all manner of unrelated things; and they escaped the commoner faults of religious poetry, its obviousness, its reliance upon stock phrases, its tameness.
An emblem book contains images and text. An emblem creates dialogue or tension between image and word. Frequently allegorical in theme, emblems were designed to engage, challenge, and instruct the audience."
Another: "The emblem arrests the sense, leads into the text, both image and word, to the richness of its associations. An emblem is something like a riddle, a 'hieroglyph' in the Renaissance vocabulary -- what many readers considered to be a form of natural language."
The Poem as originally published can be viewed here: http://emblem.libraries.psu.edu/whitn088.htm