Triologisms

Pithy, evocative imagery in three-legged microcosms of meaning.  Having coined the term ‘triologism’ I believe this to be the only collection of these tum-tee-tum phrases in the universe.

Updated Tuesdays … triologism day!  You’ll never see this day of the week the same way again.

Wedge-headed man

Trying to imagine the angle of the wedge!  Was it a heavy-jawed man with a pointed head, or one with a wide forehead and a pointed chin,...

Wave-girt land

A little old-fashioned, this 'girt', but still an unexpected way to speak of an island, focusing more on its surrounding sea than its...

Ever-present goodness

Sir Philip Sidney suggests that poetry can ease the pain of our 'death-dealing sins' by providing the consolation of 'never-leaving...

Wonder-working knowledge

An inspiring description of mathematics - I actually had a maths teacher who managed to make us feel about it that way. Sadly, she was...

Worm-channered posts

This suggests woodworm tunneled posts and I imagine that 'channered' refers to the tiny channels they carve on the surface of it. This...

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...

An opiate vista

A curious vista of 'tallow-coloured' images floating before an opium-steeped lord. 'Laudanum' was the name for various opium-based...

Scum-skinned tide

Something alarmingly contemporary about this polluted surface in Dante's Inferno, especially when he discerns, through the miasma, dead...

Sweet-garlanded lady

None other than Artemis, or Diana, Apollo's twin, and goddess of wild animals and hunting. Struck by Ever Angry Hera (or Juno), my least...

Outlandish-looking grammar

Although I've managed to master a couple of foreign languages, outlandish-looking grammar has so far stymied my repeated, and repeatedly...

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...

Lime-green river

In the context of Gormenghast, this intriguing river colour would unlikely be a sign of toxic effluent or bloom, so it struck me, along...

Quill-like face

Trying to picture this face resembling a quill, particularly as it describes the kindly, emotionally intelligent, acerbic doctor...

The urge of bees

A charming way to convey the genesis of ideas or desires, likening them to the urge of bees to make honey. They are already buzzing...

The sin of fence-sitting

Clearly, sitting on the fence, hedging your bets, watching which way the wind blows, is a sin which leads to hell and a suitably...

Frayed by sin

A surprising one, this, as sin is often presented, nowadays, as socially acceptable, even desirable 'vice' - something naughty-but-nice,...

Light-stream interplay

The dancing dust of a sunbeam also glimmering as a mirror hall for fireflies.  What a bright image.  'A light-stream interplay, a mirror...

Well-ordered spirit

Three simple words perhaps summing up the pinnacle of much spiritual seeking, especially if once reached, it spills over with positive...

New-grown green

At the precocious signal of spring, I see new-grown green peeping all about. And isn't that a sweet scene, sitting on a tree root...

The emptiness of exile

Flay has spent his whole life - a long one - in the stiflingly familiar circuits and rituals of serving the Earl of Gormenghast, barely...

Ever-narrowing gyres

Swelter, the button-popping portly chef and Flay, the all purpose butler, valet and loyal servant of the Earl of Gormenghast, circle in...

Ballooning abdomen

Flay and Swelter, pitched in a life and death struggle, are at physically opposite extremes - Flay, wiry, knobbly, skinny, and Swelter,...

Beware the Idomeneus spear

Famed with good reason - see his bringing another warrior to meet his 'dark-named destiny'.  However, the most graphic and distressing...

Beware the rip-fanged hound

A terrifying image of Odysseus in pursuit of prey, like a flesh-tearing dog on the trail of a defenseless deer or rabbit.  Odysseus,...

Wine after washing

A libation to Athene in thanks for her beneficence. But first, a bath and a meal. And then that lovely offering of 'sweet-hearted'...

Voice communications

Consider the vital role of the herald before mechanical forms of broadcast, and how important the quality and strength of their voice. ...

Bronze-armoured Achaians

The Trojan war was a Bronze Age affair, magnificently evoked in different sea-surrounded places by two books of Adam Nicolson. His Sea...

Strategic consideration

The wild card of ancient Greek military planning was the existence and randomness of divine intervention. You never knew which god was...

The bounteous sea

In an age of over-fishing I like these two triologisms suggesting cornucopian fish stocks. Firstly, a reference to the brightness of...

Athene’s disguise

Here Zeus spurs Athene to intervene in the Trojan war, and she descends to earth in the guise of a glorious soaring hawk,...

Remember to eat

An amazingly intricate way to remind you to eat, no matter what the gods are hurling at you. Artemis is the huntress, and I liked this...

On pointless hatred

In with the gore and glory of Homer's war-words, there are repeated expressions of sorrow at human hatred.  'Soul-perishing' echoes our...

Heart-breaking hostilities

Homer's Iliad pulsates with war and violence, sometimes wrapped in glory but often shrouded as much in sorrow. Here, hostility and...

Wood and war

I liked these two woody similes for war and death, the first to convey the din and crash of battle, the second to describe the mortal...

Wasps quick-bending

One of the many stretch metaphors used by Homer. When you see a comma followed by 'as ...' it can be a signal to take a good intake of...

Sweet-running river

Flowing like the sweet-running river it evokes, a meandering metaphor for Hector's strength and movement, likened to a thoroughbred...

Dark-named destiny

Another term for death, the fate of Asios who, horse-proud, insisted on driving his chariot into the fray where he met a Trojan...

High-hearted Trojans

A curious triologism, suggesting courage, felicity, or nobility?  Given the Greeks beating at the gates, it's unlikely to be about...

The walls and towers of Troy

Three triologisms demonstrating the strength of the protective masonry encasing Troy; the first being in the mouth of Agamemnon, chief...

Blank-eyed face

A shield features a terrifying Gorgon's head to project fear and dread onto any assailant.  Elsewhere, that same blank-eyed stare is...

Nestor berates the Greeks

Old Nestor has a few choice words to say to his fellow Greeks for their unwillingness to take on the Trojan hero Hector. He compares...

Bright and brighter

The Trojan Hector goes on the attack with his beautiful horses, bright-maned, a complement to the bright-patterned shield of...

Foes and friends

Here, the Trojan hero Hector addresses the Greek Ajax in friendship.  There is a number of heart- prefixed triologisms in Homer,...

Fine wrought and strong wheeled

I happen to love fine descriptions of things well crafted, chariots, ships, bridges, tables, pots...Particularly striking is the first...

Of shooting shadows

This expertly aimed spear casts a shadow as it flies through the air, and its reach is far. Surprising then that it fails to hit the...

Helen has second thoughts

Helen regrets her elopement with Paris after seeing him nearly killed by the husband she abandoned, only surviving because a goddess spirited him away in the nick of time. Hardly heroic. The quotation begins with a certain loveliness which doesn't prepare...

Fast and strong

Three triologisms to describe the fine, fast, strong ships that brought the Greeks to Troy. I particularly like 'sea-wandering'. May you be fast-running and strong-benched, wherever you wander. See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich...

Here comes Hera

One goddess you should never cross, quick to rouse to wrath and terrible in her exactions. Divinely, drop-dead gorgeous, of course.There are several heart- prefixed triologisms in Homer, emphasizing the human pain, terror and sorrow of war and hostility;...

Of wine-blue water

The first time I read of the wine-blue Greek sea, I was baffled.  However, I took a second translation to read in Mykonos. Sitting one morning in a blindingly white sunlit courtyard, I cooled my eyes by looking at the sea and suddenly realized what...

Swift-footed Achilleus

One of many stock Homeric epithets, apparently used as mnemonic and prosodic padding, to help with recital from memory and to meet the exigencies of the dactylic hexameter.  I like it, anyhow. See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich...

Grey-eyed Athena

An unusual hue for goddess eyes. With the habitually random intervention of a god, Athena appears before Achilles to tell him to cool his fury towards Agamemnon, assuring him he has her protection and that of Hera. The gods are anything but impartial in...

In praise of the Greeks

Three triologisms describing the Greeks convey something expansive and vital, though the same could be said of the Trojans. However, I liked this amalgam of 'great-hearted', 'flowing-haired', and 'glancing-eyed', the last having something particularly...

Wine-drenched blubber

Swelter, the chef, is vast and rolling excess to Flay's ascetic skinniness, and here presents himself in a stupor.  The contrast between them accentuates their mutual hatred. See another view of Swelter in his drunkenness, and another view of someone of...

Moss-gloved trees

Years of dripping rain from these moss-soft trees, in an endlessly dank, chill climate, has tanned the leather of a cowl-cape worn by Pentecost, the gardener.  He tends the vast castle gardens with deep love and knowledge, and I liked the description of...

Sand-coloured teeth

What a compelling description of repellent dentistry. Twice Flay is described so, the second time being further likened to the prehistoric beauty of a turtle. In both cases, he is contemplating Swelter, the cook with whom he is locked into mutual, mortal...

Prawn-coloured motes

Having spent his long and entire adult life ensconced in the castle walls of Gormenghast, Flay, now dismissed, finds a new existence living wild in the surrounding mountains. At first his exile is desperate, but he eventually develops a certain liking for...

Storm-nibbled heads

A thousand years of storm wear wipes the faces from the stone heads decorating Gormenghast stormenghast, eyes and features flattened by a million streams of rain. 'Storm-nibbled heads, their shallow faces straited with bad green and draped with creepers.'...

The brick-dust cough

Flay can be followed by his cough. Being someone who often has a dry cough, I liked this perfect description of that ineluctable irritation in the throat, as in breathing brick dust. '... and then the driest series of brick-dust coughs he had ever heard...

Scavenger-like faculty

No detail is too small to be filed in Steerpike's sharp, archival mind; all may prove useful for eventual manipulation, blackmail, or other use. See another insight into this chill scheme-squirmy mind. Beware the Steerpikes of the world and shun their...

Slit-pupilled eyes

The Countess lives in a sea of white cats who hang upon her every word, here looking up at her lovingly. Even her voice addressing them is likened to a purr.'Every luminous slit-pupilled eye was upon her. The only movement lay in the vibration in their...

Rain-thrashed pools

Gormenghast is made for storms and this one allows Steerpike to further insinuate himself into the life of the castle. Here he rescues the daughter of the Earl, though nothing Steerpike does is from gentle motives, all is calculation. 'A hundred...

Onion-outlined turnmoil

Such a detailed description of a passing light effect created by a boat moving through night waters. Particularly original is that 'onion-outlined' churn. 'A boat, its dark shape looking faintly ominous, sculled towards the island and broke the flimsy...

Helot-haunted lowlands

Helots were the serfs of ancient Sparta, from the town of Laconia and only a notch above slaves. They were sometimes induced to appear drunkenly before the youths of Sparta in order to put these respectable kids off getting trashed.  An interesting...

Cormorant-haunted castle

An abandoned fortress, occupied only by cormorants.  No wonder, the human inhabitants probably fled an atmosphere described as the 'architecture of hatred'. 'The great storm beaten and cormorant-haunted castle at Coroni as "the architecture of hatred".'...

Pard-like stubble

I can only imagine this refers to a patchy or spotted colour combination, as 'pard' means leopard or panther, or another animal resembling either. 'Perhaps this permanent pard-like stubble ...' Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani: Travels in the Southern...

My kinda cats I

This short description of the street cats of Istanbul pullulates with lively triologisms.  If you enjoy these chaps, then see My Kinda Cats II and My Kinda Cats III, and meet the noble creatures who enrich the gene pool of island cats. 'They are to be seen...

Caique-dwelling tom

Leigh Fermor's Mani has a fine selection of memorable cats.  I liked this description of the limited gene pools of island cats being occasionally expanded by a passing tom-cat enjoying a fecund night of shore-leave. For other cats and cat customs noted by...

Flask-wielding host

Despite the manifest hospitality, the flask-wielding host sounds like a walking health hazard.  However, by the time you succumb to his antimicrobial prescriptions, you may be past caring, given how great you'll feel. Regardless, I wish you optimism,...

Amber-coloured wines

There are some wonderful descriptions of Cretan wine - and its effects - in Zorba the Greek, but none of them mention 'amber-coloured', which makes it sound like a fine Tokai. I will feature the Cretan wines at a later date. '... amber-coloured wines of...

Bullet-echoing crags

Beware the bullet-echoing crags, wherever they are. You can hear those cowboy-film ricochets in this one. '... bullet-echoing crags of Acroceraunia and Epirus and Acarnania just over the water.'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani: Travels in the...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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?"...

Life-giving elixir

These fine-minded sisters come into an inheritance adequate to free them from having to face the economic implications of remaining unmarried.  Now their spirits can expand to fill the space they were born to.  I liked the combination of ingredients in...

Light-footed running

One of the qualities Rochester loves and admires in Jane is her uprightness.  While willing to help him in any way she can, he knows she wouldn't lift one of her fairy-like fingers if he asked her to do something she thought wrong. As he learns when she...

Fairy-like fingers

Mr. Rochester falls in love with Jane: her excellent mind and independent spirit, as well as her petite proportions, here evoked in his ring-promises. '... and I will clasp the bracelets on these fine wrists, and load these fairy-like fingers with rings.'...

Crisp-winged flies

A symbiosis of hovering birds and fly-pestered bullocks, the darting martins hoovering up bothersome crisp-winged flies. 'Martins twittered along the river-bank, and hovered about the heads of bullocks, taking crisp-winged flies from their muzzles and...

Bright-bubbled barrier

I liked the alliteration of this triologism, and the recurrence of bubbles in the water-washed world of otters.  Bubbles blown by an otter can be a signal of joy or fear.  Here they are created by a line of human hunters and signal danger. 'Way down the...

Light-laden drops

When did you last stop to study a light-laden drop of water, seeing in it a convex-reflected cosmos?  You have, of course, at some time, done so, haven't you? No?  Then put it to the top of your to-do list. 'Light-laden drops rolled down the green flags as...

Hunger-making smell

An undertow of this animal life-loving adventure is hunger.  We must be one of the few species having a significant segment of its global population not living with hunger as a daily driving urge. 'Food chain' takes on new meaning as Williamson portrays...

Crab-green water

I think I can imagine the shade of 'crab-green', a deep dark place where this wily old conger eel escapes its enemy the seal.  Jarrk himself is so strong that he has no enemies, allowing him, in Williamson's take, to be gentle. Except where it comes to...

Bubble-whitened water

Bubbles blow and roll through Williamson's prose, through the ebullition of both water and otters. Otters blow bubbles when they are happy and when they're scared. See also another source of bubbles in this beautiful book. 'The otters drifted on, round...

Light-smitten height

The only time I've seen the sun likened to a dandelion, here smiting the heights with light! 'When the sun, like an immense dandelion, looked over the light-smitten height of Cosdon Beacon, Tarka was returning along a lynch, or rough trackway, to the...

Age-long silt

Time flowing and settling in sand and sediment, steadily accreting new landscapes. 'As the river grew older, so the meadows and cornfields beyond its banks stretched a wider green over the age-long silt filling the valley's groin.'   Source: Henry...

Sun-hot boulder

You can see the lamb snuggling up against the warm stone radiator. And on these sultry days of August, many a sun-hot boulder.  I pepper the plant pots with pebbles to soak up the sun and protect the soil from drying out. It looks beautiful.  Elsewhere,...

Sun-stored summers

Tarka and other otters barely survive a particularly harsh winter, and this idea of the summer being stored away in the sun until the winter melts away is warming.  Elsewhere Williamson speaks of a 'sun-hot boulder' which a lamb uses as a radiator to sleep...

Purple-grey sea

Storminess at sea, as in the sky, can be purple-inked. 'Beyond the ragged horizon of the purple-grey sea...'   Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F. Tunnicliffe (Harmondsworth: Puffin...

Vapour-ringed sun

I recall seeing more vapour-ringed moons than suns, but it may be that I look at the moon more than the blinding sun. 'Every day on the Burrows was a period of silence under a vapour-ringed sun that slid into night glowing and quivering with the zones and...

Wave-worn boulders

An alliterative view of things water-worn over time.  I have a burgeoning collection of sea-smoothed pebbles and fragments of glass rounded and opaqued by beach-abrasion. 'Curled warm on the wave-worn boulders rolled there by the seas along Hercules...

Ivy-thick holly

Having seen ivy rope-throttle full grown trees, it isn't hard to imagine a holly smothered in it.  I like the crow's 'aa-aa' commentary before going back to its meditations. 'A crow awoke in an ivy-thick holly, muttered aa-aa, and laid its beak among its...

Crab-nibbled corpse

Poor, dead, ugly bird, corpse nibbled by crabs and devoured by fish. For a stunning description of this peculiar, prehensile bird, see Adam Nicolson, in his marvelous Sea Room.  Elsewhere Williamson speaks of 'crab-green'.'Feeding with other fish on the...

Under-song voices

How lovely this idea, a bird's soft, sweet, seldom heard 'under-song'. Shhh!  Switch off the music, the television, the radio, the beeping, blinking devices, and listen.  If you can hear that under-song, you can hear the universe. 'They talked in the...

Sun-whitened clouds

This is part of a poetically imagined overview of joyous, resilient and pure-spirited swallows contemplating their coming continent-spanning migrations. 'They talked of white-and-grey seas, of winds that fling away the stroke of wings, of great...

Wind-ruffled water

A lot of dipping and splashing in water in this beautiful book, by otters at play or as prey, and by the hounds who hunt them. '... as they dipped and splashed in the wind-ruffled water.'   Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful...

Shock-headed flowers

Two lovely names for a dandelion-daisy-ish yellow flower with spokes poking out like a leafy wheel. 'The shock-headed flowers of the yellow goat's beard, or John-go-to-bed-at-noon ...' Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and...

Purple-streaked stems

I never knew that hemlock grew alongside English fields, Of purple hue, it poisons you, and life to death it yields.   'He ran with them to where, amidst the purple-streaked stems of hemlock, the old man was standing on the shillets.'   Source:...

Sun-splashy ripples

You can feel the warmth of a summer day with diaphanous wings darting over glittering ripples. 'She heard the rustling clicks of dragon-flies' wings over the sun-splashy ripples.'   Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and...

Hawk-like glidings

Birds feature impressively in Williamson's minutely loving study of the life and landscape of an otter. Some are preyed upon, but overall their apparent fragility is combined with feistiness and resilience. The 'hawk-like glidings' evoke Gerard Manley...

Star-shivery water

Tarka the Otter is a magical book and stars sparkle in the sky and the water, here shivering with them.  Elsewhere the stars form water-claws. 'The fish came no nearer so he dropped down into the black, star-shivery water.'   Source: Henry Williamson,...

Raven-like croaks

Williamson's lovingly accurate study of otters includes many examples of the playfulness of these animals, be it with each other, with other species, with water, or with inanimate objects.  I liked the contented croaks of the jackdaws as they stretch wings...

Flute-like whistle

Williamson uses - and invents - a number of words to convey the sounds of otters.  Whistling can be in affection or playfulness or fear, grief or warning.  Other sounds include tissing, yikkering and yinnying. 'For she was young, and calling to the dog,...

Water-lapped trunk

A perfect spot for a hunted otter to hide and rest, to give birth, to raise cubs.  The name for an otter's hidey-hole is 'holt'. '... she had swum away down the river, and hidden in the hollow of the water-lapped trunk.' Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the...

Interesting!  Your triologisms remind me of the two-word kennings in Beowulf.

B.G. Simons

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