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Questions tagged [meaning]

Questions regarding the meaning of certain terms or phrases used in a work of literature. If your question concerns the symbolic significance of something whose surface meaning is clear, use the [symbolism] tag instead. Please add specific tags as well: for the author (if known), the language (if not English), and either the work itself (if long) or the [poetry] or [short-stories] tags for short works.

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3 votes
1 answer
397 views

"Four or six times", where is five?

This question arose from the reading of (a spanish edition) of The First Voyage around the World (1519-1522): An Account of Magellan's Expedition by Pigafetta, where at some point he writes "they ...
3 votes
2 answers
9k views

What did Charlotte Brontë mean by "you would not be without friends”?

I lighted on this quote on BookRiot: [Helen Burns] went on— “If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be ...
3 votes
1 answer
157 views

What does "the balance of this paragraph" mean in the annotated American Gods?

In Gaiman's Annotated American Gods, the annotator often refers to the balance of a paragraph. For example annotation #73 says "The balance of this paragraph does not appear in the first edition&...
11 votes
1 answer
929 views

"A set of Guatemalas" in Forster's Maurice?

What does Forster mean by a "set of Guatemalas"? (From Chapter 1 of Maurice.) "Well, Hall, expecting a pi-jaw, eh?" "I don't know, sir—Mr Abrahams' given me one with 'Those ...
4 votes
2 answers
193 views

What does "Nor our strong sorrow, upon the foot of motion" mean?

After the murder of Duncan in Macbeth, his two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, have this discussion after being informed of the murder of their father: Malcolm [Aside to Donalbain] Why do we hold our ...
5 votes
1 answer
139 views

Meaning of "S. Epiph. her. 78" in the Douay-Rheims Bible (1635)

I’m currently trying to transcribe some notes from the 1635 Douay-Rheims Bible. I have a printed Facsimile I am working with at home, so far I have been able to understand most of the footnotes ...
3 votes
1 answer
105 views

In The Crying of Lot 49, why does Bortz feel he's "too young" to answer his son's questions?

Late on in Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Professor Bortz says the following to the protagonist, Oedipa, as they discuss a book related to the fictional Jacobean playwright Richard Wharfinger. "...
2 votes
1 answer
56 views

“It’s fast holding by the rings in front” in Browning’s ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’

In ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’ (1855) by Robert Browning, the speaker, the painter Filippo Lippi, says: I’m grown a man no doubt, I’ve broken bounds: You should not take a fellow eight years old And make him ...
3 votes
0 answers
19 views

Understanding a sentence in The Church of Dead Girls

The following is from Stephen Dobyns' The Church of Dead Girls: In any text there is both overt and covert material that accesses different cognitive levels within a reader. That is one of those ...
6 votes
2 answers
838 views

What does "..and make joyful the hearing of my wife with your approach" mean?

In Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 4, Duncan, the king, announces that Malcolm will be the Prince of Cumberland (and not Macbeth). Macbeth says that he'll go forward as a harbinger: Duncan [...] We will ...
12 votes
2 answers
3k views

What does "I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do" mean?

In Macbeth, while the witches are having their little meeting before going to meet Macbeth and tell him that he's going to be king, one of the witches details her plan of revenge against a greedy &...
9 votes
3 answers
4k views

What is the meaning of Benjamin the donkey's cryptic answer?

George Orwell's Animal Farm contains the following passage in chapter 3: When asked whether he was not happier now that Jones was gone, he would say only “Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ...
4 votes
1 answer
154 views

Meaning of "Borne to uphold Creation" in "The Two Noble Kinsmen"?

In act I, scene 1, of The Two Noble Kinsmen, the second queen says: 2. Qu.                             Honoured Hypolita Most dreaded Amazonian, that ha'st slaine The Sith-tuskd-Bore; that with thy ...
2 votes
1 answer
159 views

"Will make Elysian shades not too fair, too divine." in John Keats's "Lamia"

I am trying to understand the meaning of a verse from John Keats's Lamia (full poem here): [...] Now, when the wine has done its rosy deed, And every soul from human trammels freed, No more so ...
3 votes
1 answer
138 views

"Shut, shut those juggling eyes, thou ruthless man!" in John Keats's "Lamia"

I am trying to understand the meaning of the following passage from John Keats's Lamia (full poem here): "Shut, shut those juggling eyes, thou ruthless man! Turn them aside, wretch! or the ...
3 votes
1 answer
52 views

"Leave thee alone! Look back! Ah, Goddess, see" in John Keats's "Lamia"

I am trying to understand the meaning to the following excerpt from John Keats's Lamia (full poem here): "Leave thee alone! Look back! Ah, Goddess, see Whether my eyes can ever turn from thee! ...
4 votes
1 answer
172 views

"More beautiful than ever twisted braid..." in John Keats's "Lamia"

I am trying to understand the meaning to the following couplets from John Keats's Lamia (full poem here): Ah, happy Lycius!—for she was a maid More beautiful than ever twisted braid, Or sigh'd, or ...
6 votes
1 answer
767 views

What does "master o' the Tiger" mean?

In Macbeth, before the witches go to speak to Macbeth, they have a little meeting where they discuss what they've been up to. That includes this bit about a greedy sailor's wife who won't share her ...
2 votes
1 answer
69 views

"His phantasy was lost, where reason fades,..." in John Keats's "Lamia"

I am trying to understand the meaning to the following excerpt from John Keats's Lamia (full poem here): Thoughtless at first, but ere eve's star appeared His phantasy was lost, where reason fades, ...
6 votes
4 answers
8k views

What does Wordsworth mean by "A pagan suckled in a creed outworn"?

I have two questions regarding this sonnet by William Wordsworth, first published in 1807: The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we ...
4 votes
1 answer
93 views

What's the meaning of this sentence from "L'enfant noir" by Camera Laye?

I'm reading Camara Laye's novel L'enfant noir, translated in English as The African Child or The Dark Child. At the end of chapter 5, one can read: Mais le monde bouge, le monde change, et le mien ...
7 votes
1 answer
260 views

"Though Fancy's casket were unlock'd to choose" in John Keats's "Lamia"

I am trying to understand the meaning to the following excerpt from John Keats's Lamia (full poem here), and especially the fourth line below: Fast by the springs where she to bathe was wont, And in ...
2 votes
2 answers
130 views

What is the "something in mind that went beyond lust"?

I've just started reading Poul Anderson's War of the Gods, and I came across this line towards the end of the second chapter: "No," said Vagnhöfdi. "My daughter has lately borne a ...
2 votes
1 answer
54 views

Meaning of "As much as they came to revel in their pathos..." in "The Gate" by Natsume Sōseki

From The Gate (1910) by Natsume Sōseki, translated by William F. Sibley (2013): In any case, the two of them had come this far without either sitting in a church pew or passing through a temple gate. ...
4 votes
2 answers
106 views

Difference between "emperor" and "living emperor" in Kafka's "The Great Wall of China"

This is a quote from "The Great Wall of China" by Franz Kafka. What's the difference between "emperor" and "living emperor"? Our land is so huge, that no fairy tale can ...
9 votes
1 answer
4k views

What is meant by "I was blue ribbon" and "I broke my blue ribbon"?

In The Adventure of the Cardboard Box (a Sherlock Holmes short story): "'I was blue ribbon at that time, and we were putting a little money by, and all was as bright as a new dollar. My God, ...
2 votes
1 answer
728 views

What does Athena mean in this passage of book 3 of the Odyssey?

In book 3 of The Odyssey, Athena says this to Telemachus after he says that he will never gain her favor (in Robert Fagles' translation): “Telemachus!” Pallas Athena broke in sharply, her eyes afire— ...
3 votes
1 answer
294 views

What does Athena mean by 'slaughtering his droves of sheep and cattle'?

In book 1 of The Odyssey, Athena says to Zeus (in Robert Fagles' translation): While I myself go down to Ithaca, rouse his son to a braver pitch, inspire his heart with courage to summon the flowing-...
4 votes
1 answer
575 views

What does Athena mean by "suave, seductive words" in the Odyssey?

In book 1 of The Odyssey, Athena says to Zeus (in Robert Fagles' translation): "Atlas’ daughter it is who holds Odysseus captive, luckless man—despite his tears, forever trying to spellbind his ...
7 votes
2 answers
196 views

Meaning of "Of which the first ne'er knows the second cause" in Byron's Don Juan

From Byron's Don Juan: Their poet, a sad trimmer, but no less In company a very pleasant fellow, Had been the favourite of full many a mess Of men, and made them speeches when half ...
22 votes
5 answers
5k views

Meaning of 'Yawl write, hear?'

I am currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In chapter 6 there is a sentence by Dill. Before leaving, he says 'Yawl write, hear? What does this sentence mean? Does it mean that they ...
8 votes
1 answer
248 views

Meaning of "Illimba", "mani" and "acuminus" in "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy?

I'm reading The God of Small Things, a novel by Keralan author Arundhati Roy. She masterfully plays with words, sometimes transforming them, mimicking the way a seven year old would (the main ...
4 votes
2 answers
105 views

What are the satellites in R. S. Thomas's poem "Here"?

R. S. Thomas (1913–2000) was a Welsh poet and priest. His poem "Here" appears to express feelings of guilt and doubt. The penultimate stanza goes as follows: I have no where to go The swift ...
8 votes
1 answer
205 views

Meaning of a stanza in Byron's Don Juan

Canto 6, stanza 52, from Byron's Don Juan: Dudù, as has been said, was a sweet creature, Not very dashing, but extremely winning, With the most regulated charms of feature, Which ...
6 votes
1 answer
776 views

What does 'bean honey' refer to, in Dorothy L. Sayers' 1928 story

In Dorothy L. Sayers' story, The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste we find this phrase: "‘No?’ said Bredon. His voice was like bean-honey now, sweet and harsh together." This story ...
20 votes
3 answers
12k views

What are the "old euphemisms" in The Great Gatsby?

In chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby, Nick describes Daisy's reaction to the people of West Egg: But the rest offended her—and inarguably, because it wasn’t a gesture but an emotion. She was appalled ...
7 votes
2 answers
3k views

In "Romeo and Juliet", why is Juliet the "sun"?

From William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II: Romeo But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! Why does Romeo say that "Juliet is ...
4 votes
1 answer
98 views

Meaning of "A phantasy which sometimes seizes warriors, unless they are game as bull-dogs and fox-terriers" in Byron's "Don Juan"

From Byron's Don Juan: The Russians, having built two batteries on An isle near Ismail, had two ends in view; The first was to bombard it, and knock down The public buildings and ...
4 votes
2 answers
135 views

Which saying or proverb is Stendhal referring to in this passage from "Le rouge et le noir"?

The following passage from chapter XVI of Book I of the novel Le rouge et le noir (The Red and the Black) by Stendhal refers to "un dicton de province", that is, at some kind of saying or ...
10 votes
1 answer
1k views

What does "crammle aboon the grees" mean?

At some point in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mina - Jonathan Harker's fiancée/wife - encounters an old man, and strikes up a conversation. The old man is depicted as speaking a rustic dialect, with that ...
4 votes
1 answer
2k views

What does Smash Mouth mean when he writes "fed to the rules" in All-Star?

So the first two lines of the pre-chorus of All-Star by Smash Mouth the song goes: Well, the years start coming and they don't stop coming Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running What does ...
4 votes
1 answer
88 views

Can infantry be the same as marines in 1809?

In THE ROLL-CALL OF THE REEF, by Arthur Quiller-Couch, the speaker, a cavalryman, is talking to a little Marine: "'And that was very well done, drummer of the Marines. What's your name?' "'...
1 vote
1 answer
88 views

Meaning of "This clown of a wife"

The poem The Clown's Wife, by John Agard, shows the personal life of a clown at home is far cry from his professional life on stage as "a crowd entertainer" Seeing his off stage miserable ...
2 votes
1 answer
36 views

Meaning of a a phrase, “Not a one of us will not spend an hour or so making merit in a temple before the day is out.”

I am reading, Vulture Peak by John Burdett and came across this sentence on the second page… when the author is introducing a crime scene… and wonder what this means…
7 votes
1 answer
680 views

What does the expression "Mignon country" refer to in Elsschot's "Cheese"?

I'm reading Willem Elsschot's novel Cheese in a French translation by Xavier Hanotte. In chapter 3, I have found an expression that I believe it can be translated as "Mignon country" (...
4 votes
1 answer
139 views

How can a "straight" (virtuous) man engage in "blackbirding"?

In The Heathen, by Jack London, the narrator speaks of some Kanaka man, Otoo, whom he had met on a schooner: And this I know: I lived a straighter and better man because of Otoo. I cared little for ...
7 votes
4 answers
308 views

An undecipherable part of 'Goldfish' by Raymond Chandler

"Listen," Sunset complained. "I don't know you from last Sunday's sports section. You may be all to the silk. I just don't know." "Why'd you brace me?" I asked. "You had the word, didn't you?" ...
2 votes
1 answer
89 views

What scene is "To the west the Park dripped wretchedly...about its affairs" describing?

The fog was like a saffron blanket soaked in ice-water. It had hung over London all day and at last was beginning to descend. the sky was yellow as a duster and the rest was a granular black, ...
4 votes
1 answer
158 views

"Wear the broom and climb the hedgerows" in Housman's "A Shropshire Lad"

Here’s poem XXXIX from A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad (1896): ’Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town     The golden broom should blow; The hawthorn sprinkled up and down     Should charge the land ...
4 votes
3 answers
603 views

Meaning of the last stanza of "Haunted Houses" by Longfellow?

In the poem "Haunted Houses" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the last two stanzas read: And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light, Across ...

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