Six ways to get lost

Six ways to get lost

This is from The Little Clay Cart, a Sanskrit play probably composed around the 2nd century BC, and commonly attributed to a possibly mythical king and playwright called S(h)udraka.  I liked the rambling explanation of the simple word ‘lost’ through half a...
Sticking like a burr

Sticking like a burr

I’ve heard people describe someone as sticking like glue, or like Velcro, and burrs were the original inspiration for this modern sticky material. Woodnoth, then, was a bit of a boring hanger-on of the poet George Herbert. ‘Woodnoth sticking to Herbert...
Good strong tea

Good strong tea

A novel way to signal strong tea, its being so solid that it can support a mouse’s weight.  The more common version of the same idea has the tea ‘so strong you could stand a spoon up in it’. For another tea-related simile, less innocuous, see Mervyn...
An aching loss

An aching loss

The occasional ache of something long lost – Leigh Fermor’s likening it to an old wound; more less healed, but can still give you gip on a bad day. ‘The loss of the journal still aches now and then like an old wound in bad weather.’ For a...
The taste of brass

The taste of brass

You can feel it can’t you – that cold-surface metallic sensation in your mouth?John Keats fell in love and fell fatally ill within a short period of time, parting definitively from Fanny Brawne when it was concluded that the best chance he had of surviving...
The backward bin

The backward bin

John Keats’ letters are full of wry humour and playfulness, interwoven with a rage to live and frustration and despair at the TB which killed him within a few years. Here, writing to his beloved Fanny Brawne, I delighted in his offering to be to her as wine in...
Gold-ringed eyes

Gold-ringed eyes

Jane Eyre’s curious aquiline simile to describe the blinded eyes of the man she loves. ‘The caged eagle, whose gold-ringed eyes cruelty has extinguished, might look as looked that sightless Samson.’    Source: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre...
A warm Asiatic smile

A warm Asiatic smile

You can feel the warmth of this beaming smile, lighting up someone’s face, feeling like a loving arm wrapped about their shoulder. ‘That warm Asiatic smile which always spread over his face like nectar and ambrosia.’ See George Eliot for another...
On illusory madness

On illusory madness

A fine description of Mervyn Peake’s balance between bounding imagination and taut writing, rounded off with a vintage metaphor. ‘It remains essentially a work of the closed imagination, in which a world parallel to our own is presented in almost paranoiac...
Heron-like paces

Heron-like paces

I love the idea of a human walk embodying the fastidious strut of the heron’s dainty stride. ‘He strode to the wooden shutters with long, slow heron-like paces, and the dust rose behind him.’  See another heron simile, by the poet Kevin...
Quill-like face

Quill-like face

Trying to picture this face resembling a quill, particularly as it describes the kindly, emotionally intelligent, acerbic doctor enjoying a soak in his veined-marble bath. ‘Only his quill-like face emerged above the perfumed surface of the water.’  ...
Slow words emerging

Slow words emerging

A halting mode of speech, the words slow-emerging, like the tearing of pages from a long-closed book. That is how Dante’s translator presents us with the first encounter with Virgil, who would be his guide through much of his journey.   ‘His words...
As warm as …

As warm as …

A surprising simile, something as ordinary and comforting as warm tea, here poured differently to describe a stream of blood.  Steerpike is the worst person in the granite pile of Gormenghast – may we all be spared his scheming type. ‘The blood, streaming...
As ripe as …

As ripe as …

Swelter is assailed by life-sapping loathing for Flay, who returns the compliment.  Their battle is astounding for its intensity and outcome. Here a bursting simile for murderous hatred ready to pop. ‘… while Swelter, whose frustrated blood-lust was ripe...

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