Diving in head first

Keats was a bold player, keeping his eye determinedly focussed on achieving enduring greatness, not on the fads and fashions of the critical present. His letters reveal his willingness to fly in the face of, and transcend, the vagaries of reviewers. Here...

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Insubstantial rock-hard durability

The durability of things and of cultures intrigues me; and particularly when those artefacts are themselves physically fragile or insubstantial. Here, Adam Nicolson demonstrates that durability need not be carved in stone; in many cases it is simply...

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Barefoot erudition

Patrick Leigh Fermor wore his vast learning lightly, as real scholars often do. Here he more than meets his match - and sees through his own presumption - when an old man instantly discerns the metre of a local dirge. Long live lay learning! 'A little...

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Greek Myths and Legends

These enchanting, sunlit illustrations of a French children's rendition of Greek Myths delighted me. They are part of a series I've been collecting at the flea market, using a range of fresh and unusual illustration styles. See also the Russian Tales and...

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Fine writing, fine doing

My earliest impressions of Keats were as a languishing poetic type, not a man of action.  Now, after getting to know him through his letters (among the best I have read), he comes across as a vital, life-loving and out-stepping person, even though...

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A quote to note

Drawing on thousands of sparkling, moving and inspiring quotations amassed during decades of attentive reading. To delight your mind and spirit and improve your presentations beyond belief.

Colours as emblems

This is an opening line in Christa Wolf's novel Till Eulenspiegel. Something about it haunted me, two colours flying as emblems of the Middle Ages, and since I took the photo on a brilliant day in October, they are equally pennants of autumn. Hence posting...

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News, any news

I loved this eager old man stuck up a mountain, starved of company, starved of news.  And in the age of fake news, his closing clause made me laugh. 'Once near the top of Mt. Kedros in Crete, a white-bearded old shepherd had shouted to my guide and me to...

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One for the microbe

A charming variant of 'one for the road' justifications for one more drink.  May you enjoy all the optimism, vigour and dauntlessness of a giant without recourse to the bottle. And beware the 'flask-wielding host'. '"One more," says the flask-wielding...

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Pickled inside and out

Here is a novel form of the elixir of youth - no magic potions, just preserved in brine and other substances.  I liked the final conclusion of the boatman.   'A year after the war I told Mirso, a boatman in Poros I hadn't seen since 1938, that he looked...

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Metaphorically speaking

More marvelous metaphors on Mondays … Monday, metaphor day.

As quick as …

Tarka the otter is hunted but fights ferociously and strategically. Here he bites back as hounds close in. He gives as good as he gets. See another image for speed conveyed by the slither of a viper, and one drawing on a quick drip tempo. 'Tarka bit and...

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As fast as …

How fast can a pattering heart beat?  As fast as water can drip before it starts dribbling. You can't quantify that transition, but you know it when you see it. Other speed similes use a viper to convey quickness: one by Williamson and another by...

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Like a broken viper

A wildly meandering river likened to a viper broken by a buzzard - Williamson's inventiveness is a wonder, and almost always nature-drawn. 'Seen by day from the hilltops, the river lay its course like a viper broken by a buzzard's beak and claws, marked...

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Big blackberries

A berry crushed into service as a metaphor for a mud-mark. 'Tarka's deep seals in the lower ooze showed like big blackberries crushed in the mud.'   Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F....

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Triologisms

Bringing you pithy, evocative imagery in the form of three-legged microcosms of meaning. Updated on Tuesdays … Tuesday, triologism day!  You’ll never see this day of the week in the same way again.

Horse-taming Argos

Leigh Fermor echoes the hundreds of Homeric triologisms, many attributing this or that characteristic to one or another Greek city or state.  Here the Argives are associated with horse-taming. Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani: Travels in the Southern...

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Rain-swept sages

Something captivating about the idea of a rain-swept sage, impervious to the elements. And as I write this, I am looking out onto a rain-swept plain with a faint strip of grey on the horizon - the Neusiedlsee in Austria. 'Without the dialectical and...

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Far-away conches

Enticing, that 'rumour', a faint whisper from a distant conch, echoes of the sea rebounding around the ravine.  And those half-whittled arrows, who whittled them, and why were they left without being completed? 'From the islanded sea the rumour of far-away...

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Deep-thrilling chord

Jane Eyre knows Rochester has been emotionally overloaded and hesitates to add any more weight to his burdened heart. 'I wished to touch no deep-thrilling chord - to open no fresh well of emotion in his heart.'   Source: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre...

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Sand-traced effigy

Thoughts are intangible and yet can prove more indelible than things physically wrought. The idea of a sandy effigy effaced by storms reminds me also of advice often heard from someone I love: that when someone says something hurtful, you treat it like...

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Hill-sent echo

An inexplicable and even supernatural moment in the book that proves a turning point, snapping Jane out of her acquiescence to a situation she manifestly doesn't want.  The hill-sent echo is like a calling. She duly responds.   '"Where are you?" seemed...

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Words

Sharing words that sparkle, appeal, intrigue or otherwise grab me, including those in other languages.  And adoring alliteration, new words will be added on Wednesdays… Wednesday, word day.   See you back here then.

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Glidder

'It was low tide, and the water ran below glidders, or steep muddy slopes.' Williamson has a helpful habit of using unusual words and then immediately providing his definition of them.  Here he defines 'glidder' as a steep muddy slope, which differs a...

Yarr

'Deadlock yarred through his bare teeth.' 'Between his teeth the hound yarred...' A word now apparently limited to dialect, but feel free to revive it more generally.  If anyone snarls or growls at you, you can tell them to 'Stop yarring'. Deadlock is a...

Glidden

'... to where the banks were glidden into mud smothered by the sea.' An English dialect word meaning to 'glaze over' or cover with ice. Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F. Tunnicliffe...

Mazzard

'... under the mazzard orchards growing on the northern slope of the valley.' According to the OED, mazzard is a 'small, dark, sweet cherry of Devon origin', the fruit or tree of a wild cherry, Prunus avium. It sounds perfect for making the Hungarian sour...

Croodle

'Where pigeons sat and croodled.' A cooing cosy word for a bird, but also meaning to snuggle up, nestle in, cuddle or crouch, for love or warmth. Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F....

Goyal

'... and mossed trees in the goyals.' A dialect word for a trench or ravine, also spelled goyle or or goile and presumably related to 'gully'. Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F....

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