Wild-looking grass

Wild-looking grass

One of the landscape changes of recent years is the steady return of wild-looking grass where previously there were endless, weedless swards of emerald green lawn.  The more varied it is, the more I wonder how many insects and small creatures live there relatively...
Silver-plated water

Silver-plated water

I have seen beaten-bronze and copper-coloured water, but never silver-plated. ‘The cool, placid, silver-plated water at even coolly awaits the frost.’ 16 Oct 1859 Source: Henry David Thoreau, The Journal 1837-1861, Damion Searls (ed.), preface by John R....
Craven-hearted neighbours

Craven-hearted neighbours

This refers to Thoreau’s outrage at the callous reaction of his neighbours to the death of John Brown on the grounds that he ‘threw his life away! – what way would they have thrown their lives, pray?’ ‘It galls me to listen to the remarks...
Finger-cold evening

Finger-cold evening

A great way to convey a chill in the air cold enough to affect the extremities.  Also like the idea of improving an evening by pulling up turnips. ‘Another finger-cold evening, which I improve in pulling up turnips.’   21 Nov 1860 Source: Henry David...
Glaucous-green field

Glaucous-green field

I found myself wondering just what shade of green is glaucous, and learning that it is either ‘a dull greyish-green or blue’, or a ‘pale greyish or bluish’ and also refers to being covered in a powdery bloom as on grapes.  A fine alliterative...
Slate-colored snowbirds

Slate-colored snowbirds

Firstly, I like the idea of a ‘snow’ bird being the colour of slate.  And being obsessed with colours and the names we give them, I notice how many hues and shades can only be described in reference to something of that colour.  Elsewhere Thoreau describes...
Mastiff-like tenacity

Mastiff-like tenacity

Such jaw-gripping tenacity is used to describe the force that the ending ‘-cious’ adds to words, as in the word ‘tenacious’.  Thoreau observes and analyses language as incisively as he observes and analyses nature. ‘… the...
Pattern-working chaplain

Pattern-working chaplain

Thoreau isn’t a big fan of chaplains and other purveyors of religion and here he takes a swipe at three visiting ‘ultra-reformers’, one of whom he describes as ‘a sort of travelling pattern-working chaplain’, which I take to mean someone...
Sawyer-like strain

Sawyer-like strain

Having always associated ‘sawyer’ with Tom of the same name, it never occurred to me that, like many surnames, it is also a livelihood, in this case, that of sawing wood for a living.  Thoreau uses it to describe the sawing sound of the ovenbird, an...

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