Triologisms

Further lively imagery in concentrated capsules.  Having coined the term ‘triologism’, I am proud to be the sole global platform for these boundlessly varied phrases.  Just run your eye and mind over them and see how many ideas they yield.

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Lily-bearing angels

We could do with a few of those now and then.  May a lily-bearing angel flutter to earth whenever you need one. 'But this scenery is a backcloth, merely, for lily-bearing angels who flutter to earth or play violins and lutes at Nativities.'   Source: Patrick...

Sonnet-begetting beauty

One of Leigh Fermor's teenage crushes, a girl who ran the local grocery shop, whom he spotted on an escapade from school. 'She was twenty-four, a ravishing and sonnet-begetting beauty and I can see her now and still hear that melting and deep Kent accent.'  ...

Wolf-harbouring Carpathians

It seems Leigh Fermor's first great journey, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople on foot, was conjured from a mix of schoolboy geography and a florid fiction-induced impression of Europe, including 'wolf-harbouring Carpathian watersheds'. 'Even before I looked...

Dragon-green Byzantium

This magnificent walk across Europe in the early 1930s, a Europe which would be ripped apart by war in under a decade, ended in Constantinople, which Leigh Fermor knew from fictino to be 'dragon-green', 'serpent-haunted' and 'gong-tormented'. 'These certainties sprang...

Wide-skied and many-belfried

A lovely description of Suffolk, which I have seen echoed in the wide-skied landscapes of Norfolk.  This was one of the many schools to which Patrick Leigh Fermor was sent, after a train of expulsions from the more respectable boarding schools.  The 'engaging manor...

Handsomely-bound journal

The first entry of a journal which provided the material for some of the best travel writing of the 20th century.  While I am enjoying other Leigh Fermor books on his later travels, I don't think they match the sweep or freshness of those recounting his walk across...

Wind-borne portent

May you be spared all but the most benign of wind-borne portents.  Here a northern image of skaters scattered as a gust of icy wind sweeps through the canals, diverting their blade-carved trajectories. 'For soon the skaters on the canals, veiled hitherto by the...

Gem-like brightness

A sudden burst of light after dullness, startling and enlivening the spirit. 'It was a sullen coldish Evening, no sunshine, but after we had parted from Leslie a light came out suddenly that repaid us for all. It fell only upon one hill, & the island, but it...

Fresh-ploughed field

Another line of poetry-in-prose in Dorothy's journal.  I was struck by the sea described as a basin full to the margin, and turnips being laid alongside the fields and the sea, of equal importance. 'The sea, like a basin full to the margin; the fresh-ploughed field...

Slow-travelling Clouds

Dorothy Wordsworth is masterful and joyful in her description of detailed beauty, and it seems many of her journal entries informed her brother's poems. Her journals are a delight to read, compellingly fresh and immediate, and full of love of life. 'There were high...

New-dropped lamb

You can see the wobbly gait of these fragile newborns. 'Young lambs in a green pasture in the Coombe, thick legs, large heads, black staring eyes, gaunt as a new-dropped lamb.'  2 February 1798. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and...

Many-coloured sea

This simple line from a journal, a near haiku of beauty. 'The moon, a many-coloured sea and sky.'   27 April 1798. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and introduction by Pamela Woof (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2008 (2002)), p....

Sea-like sound

I like the description of a sound in the trees resembling the sea; land and water confounded. 'There was a sweet sea-like sound in the trees above our heads.'  Tuesday 23rd February 1802. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and...

Hollowed-out pineapples

Having had refreshing cool drinks out of hollowed-out coconuts, I like hearing of the equivalent in pineapples, and of course, the glorious idea of swimming in water so clear you can see your own shadow on the sea bed. 'I remember rum and coconut drinks from...

Snow-blind sands

Eye dazzling whiteness of sand - I remember such a place in Brazil, where you could hardly gaze at the beach it was so bright. 'A few steps from the beach and its almost snow-blind sands, and one entered another world and season...' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay...

Straw-bonneted mothers

A warm, lively image of a Sunday morning family stroll to church. 'Dandy fathers and brothers, and straw-bonneted mothers, shepherd the dazzling children to church, which in a while breaks forth with such beats of song you might think the occasion a wedding.' Source:...

Deep-wooded creeks

An evocative image of deep-wooded creeks, especially when you imagine people bound for America, often forced to leave, looking upon them as their last sight of home. 'The deep-wooded creeks round Cobh and Kinsale are whitened by yachts and herons, and the green hills...

Grape-blue skins

The second time Laurie Lee uses this original idea of 'grape-blue' to describe a colour. '... the slow talk of the Jamaicans and their grape-blue skins, the supreme grace of their walking...' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977...

Sheet-smooth beaches

Yes, brown hours spent in a place of rippling reefs and sheet-smooth beaches, the sea washing the shore and cleaning your soul of stress. 'Barbados is rich in ... the sheet-smooth beaches and their rippling reefs and the brown hours spent beside them.' Source: Laurie...

Storm-driven sea

Odysseus grappled with Poseidon's fury and his storm-driven seas.  Its unrelenting onslaught is one of the most terrifying aspects Homer conveyed graphically. 'A storm-driven sea appears to acquire a vitality and viciousness, a desire to do damage, which has nothing...

Monstrous-beautiful Sirens

The prelude to the monstrous-destructive obstacles Odysseus has to overcome, or bypass, to reach home. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the body-gulping Charybdis.  Scylla is a six-headed, rock-bound,...

Limb-consuming Scylla

I appreciated Nicolson's summing up the twin terrors as two aspects of the female threat. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the body-gulping Charybdis.  Scylla is a six-headed, rock-bound, man-eating...

Flat-footed view

Nicolson's writing helped cure me of any 'flat-footed view' I may have had of the Bronze Age, spinning its warriors from text-book two-dimensionality to full-blooded 3-D. 'It is what comes next that re-orientates any flat-footed view of Bronze Age warrior heroism....

City-ravaging Odysseus

The dark side of Odysseus, the luminous hero. Capable of such delicacy, sincerity, loyalty, he is also often merciless and brutal. 'They don't like him much, nor he them.  Even here, as he is accepting their hospitality, Homer gives him the traditional epithet he...

Body-gulping Charybdis

If ever there was an argument for steering a middle course, it is the horrific pair of sailor slayers, Scylla and Charybdis. Nicolson contrasts them perfectly. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the...

Silver-antlered deer

A striking metaphor for bicycle handlebars ranged alongside each other against a wall, like the interlocking of deers' antlers. '... piling their bicycles against the university buildings like herds of silver-antlered deer.' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long...

Rich-painted caves

One sentence and tens of thousands of years of habitation and decoration. 'This is an old stretch of land whose signs of occupation go back to the beginnings of man, with rich-painted caves scattered throughout the area - and some of them still inhabited.' Source:...

Wing-pointed leaves

Laurie Lee depicts a magical, medieval aspect, with creeper leaves reminding him of pointy eared devils. ''s-Hertogenbosch is no tourist town, but has mysterious beauties of its own, where motionless canals, full of silver light, lap the houses like baths of mercury,...

Quick-growing harvests

A picture of fecundity and plenitude. 'The earth is rich with quick-growing harvests, with sugar and wheat and olives.' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977 ((1975)), p. 116

Over-wrought fretwork

A damning description of Victorian writing, contrasted with the delicious sizzle and flavour of 'fat-bacon language'. 'After the fat-bacon language of my earlier reading I hated (Sir Walter) Scott's dry, latinized prose, finding its false medievalism and over-wrought...

Heavy-headed chrysanthemums

I love heavy-headed flowers, hand-span broad and beautiful.  And yes, I also love daises, small, compact and resilient. 'Beneath the long rows of crosses, the mounds of red Welsh earth are deeply quilted in flowers, heavy-headed chrysanthemums, roses, daisies that are...

Milk-blue sky

I hope you find time, now and then, to lie in the long grass while birds fly above you, and may you, in such moments, enjoy the delerium that deletes the gap between you and the place. '... and I have lain down in the long grass while the ravens honked and flicked...

Tide-rippled sea

Nicolson's book is as much about the sea as the land, and the tidal pull it exerted for centuries on the explorers who risked its dangers. '... only to see the flock which had been grazing happily there for an hour since I had last disturbed them, lift with that...

Spring-time clothes

A thrilling image of glittering northern waters in a moment of calm and gentleness. 'Crossing from Scalpay in May, the Minch was sparkling in her spring-time clothes.' Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p....

Million-fingered responsiveness

Nicolson captures the single signal transmitted through a vast flock of geese, yielding a 'million-fingered responsiveness'. 'They are as innocent and flightly as deer. The flock moves in its grazing like a shoal, a turn of a few degrees communicated somehow at the...

Tweed-coloured coast

An aptly named colour for a Scottish coast, and why wouldn't the tweed-weavers take their palettes from the landscapes around them? '... perhaps because from here there are such wonderful views across the Stream of the Blue Men to the long, tweed-coloured coast of...

Wind-coiffed heads

I liked this description of the sea in front of the boat looking like a crowd viewed from behind with their hair 'arranged' by the wind.  You can imagine scurf and foam looking like grey-haired bobbing heads. 'Some of the swells were just breaking under their own...

Ice-scraped gneiss

Adam Nicolson's 'love letter' to some small, remote, uninhabited Scottish islands inherited from his father, illuminates the depth and richness of natural and human history that can accrete in even such a barren place.  'Ice-scraped gneiss' conveys millennia of...

Easy-limbed stirring

I liked this description of a boat responding like a limber-limbed youth to the movement of the sea. 'Easy-limbed stirring' also makes me think of those first moments of stretching on a bright morning when you have slept well and a lovely day awaits you. 'The Minch is...

Brick-coloured sunsets

Something warming in this, until you see the context. I recall 'brick-coloured sunsets' tinted by a haze of pollution in Shanghai. And note the additional surprising triologism: water-melon emptiness. 'Nowhere, never, have I felt with such force Russia's...

Toast-warm brick

A reference to Dublin, and another angle on the colour of bricks. 'Largely built by the English as a place of privilege and grace, it is a city of elegant squares and terraces, houses of toast-warm brick, set with exquisite doors and balconies, recalling the Georgian...

Well-heeled pain

Three words and somehow you have a sense of a quietly marred and even agonizing life. 'My last memory of St George was that of the single table nearby, its occupant clearly identifiable by her voice and style - one of the modern world's wanderers, desolate in her...

Whiz-kid’s attic

I love this image of a tech-clever kid's attic. Could be computers, train sets, microscopes, anything. May every whiz-kid have an attic full of wires and switches, though preferably minus the explosives.  A shed will do nicely too. ‘From the outside, the Concorde is...

Stunt-hoop tambourines

The timbre and beat of martial music as the Greek states gather behind Agamemnon for an almighty war.   ‘Immediately Wide-ruling Agamemnon’s voices called Greece to its feet, and set it on the move. And as they moved, To stunt-hoop tambourines and trumpet drums…’...

Clear-voiced heralds

Logue’s vivid rendition of several episodes in the Iliad pulsates with fresh phrasing and is a trove of triologisms. Here, the Greeks are summoned to war. ‘No more talk. The King will arm. You lords will join the host, Answering our clear-voiced heralds as they call –...

Tassel-ankled feet

As the Greeks gather for war, the goddess Athena rallies them.   ‘The Daughter Prince, ash-eyed Athena, flew Her father’s awning, called the Aegis, blue, Broad as an upright sky, a second sky Over their shoulders rippling estuary, And turned the pad Of...

Three-tailed bashaw

In this story, the stepmother isn’t wicked, she’s just stupid and pretentious. And calculating. She has a daughter and a step-daughter and is constantly working out who would be the best (financial and social) match for the two eligible young women. At this point,...

Eagerly-tended refreshments

You can see the gushing, fawning manner of shopkeepers keen to please the Chief Procurement Officers of the nearby grand home. ‘The housekeeper and steward from the Towers might also be seen coming in to give orders at the various shops; and stopping here and there at...

Kind-hearted termagant

Great word ‘termagant’, sadly underused and, referring as it does to bad-tempered women, no doubt politically unacceptable. Here it describes Betty, the servant of the Gibson household.  I like the juxtaposition of 'termagant', with all the sour-temper that implies,...

Blossom-carpeted meadows

Flowers are key to this slim, barely known book.  I found a second-hand copy with lovely black and white illustrations, and enjoyed the simple tale of a poor boy in Italy whose donkey is ill.  He’s told if he can get her into the church, a miracle will happen.  But...

Wind-slabbed snow

Crunching home through snow after a winter walk, we found ourselves on such wind-slabs, albeit more modest in scale, Swiss not Arctic. They held your weight up to a point, though you could suddenly find your foot sink into a slab, and the slabs had fissures between...

Flea-bitten hermits

'On the island of Sevan, which is conspicuous for two most dignified architectural monuments that date back to the seventh century, as well as for the mud huts of flea-bitten hermits only recently passed away...' Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London:...

Water-polished shells

Lopez uses this to describe the bright whiteness of snow geese in flight. ‘Once airborne, they are dazzling on the wing. Flying against broken sunlight, the opaque whiteness of their bodies, a whiteness of water- polished shells, contrasts with grayer whites in their...

Taupe-coloured muzzle

Taupe is a browny-grey, though I see it as having a tinge of mauve, like the fur of the mole. This is the muzzle of the gentle donkey who is Pepino’s only solace and support until she falls ill.  The story turns on his efforts to have her cured by entering the church,...

Soft-eyed cattle

If you have ever stopped to commune with cows in a field, you’ll have noted their softness of their gaze, big-eyed pools of curiosity. If you have never stopped to commune with cows, please consider doing so. It's worth it. ‘He saw again the snow-capped mountains of...

Rain-washed sky

There’s a clarity and endlessness to a sky that’s been cleansed by rain.  And ‘bruised by the light’, what a phrase! ‘Spinning between the towns one is constantly bruised by the light, as though everything had been torn from a rain-washed sky.’ Source: Laurie Lee, I...

Sun-festering lilies

A heady perfume and saffron orange pollen comes to mind. ‘There were smells in the air of wine and pine, scorched leaves and sun-festering lilies. For a long, slow instant this minor Babylon hung up gardens of seven wonders.’ Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long...

Clay-furrowed faces

This conveys the inscribed grime and time of years of oppressively hard labour. I noticed recently that recurrent harsh weather can also wear people out, stripping away their bloom. ‘I particularly remember one of his (Van Gogh’s) earliest studies, that of a family of...

Cloth-capped gents

Having just spent a few days in the north of England, I can see them, the cloth-capped gents, in a black-and-white grainy-photograph long gone world.  They often give the camera a piercing gaze. ‘Cloth-capped gents in the plane were reading the racing pages...

Wind-washed air

Elsewhere I have commented on a 'rain-washed sky', and here, wind-washed air, both yielding clarity. ‘The wealth of biological detail on the tundra dispels any feeling that the land is empty; and its likeness to a stage suggests impending events. On a summer walk, the...

Cool-scrubbed tavern

And where else to flee from the sun that makes lilies fester, than a cool-scrubbed tavern?  I imagine a bright but cool white-wash combined with hyacinth blue paintwork that you see in traditional Greek buildings, though here the heat is in Madrid. ‘About noon (or at...

Glassy-blue shoreline

Glassy blue suggests bright blue eyes, and you can imagine the sea washing up azurely. ‘The islands are spread over a vast warm sea, but the air makes them stepping-stones. Bottled within them, behind their glassy-blue shores, you will find an eccentric brew...

Pink of old roses

Musty pink makes me think of an old breed of faded rose, or a soft-worn damask, or one of the thatched houses I saw in a village near Liverpool earlier this week. Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p....

New-peeled light

Like a fresh, dazzling morning after a long night, a new lease of life, an awakening … I like this use of light to describe time, in an eternal present tense. ‘Well mine would be a First Day Paradise, for a very solid reason. In it one would have no past, nor future,...

Raspberry-grey boulevards

Trying to imagine a raspberry-grey boulevard, and can only think of the grey of the road itself combined with a pink wash from a shaft of setting sun. Other colour related triologisms to follow. 'Pissarro's raspberry-grey boulevards, flowing like the wheels of an...

Tin-blue haze

Tin-blue – I’d be hard-pressed to describe this, a kind of dark-grey-blue with some mauve in it? 'In the bay there were barques and banana boats, sloops and cutters and dugout canoes, all riding at ease in a tin-blue haze under the shadow of a great Cunarder.' Source:...

Grape-blue landscape

A darkly overcast day with louring purple-stained clouds, and a storm brewing, until you read the context in which Lee coined this one. ‘This is an old stretch of land whose signs of occupation go back to the beginnings of man, with rich-painted caves scattered...

Variations on a theme of chaos and confusion

Luan, which can signify a rich spectrum of chaos, confusion, mess and hubbub, is wonderfully combined with several double characters. The main one featured is luanfenfen, meaning ‘disorderly, confused, chaotic, tumultuous’.   By extension, we have luanhonghong: in an...

Dark and sparkling

Wu means ‘black’ or ‘dark’ and, not surprisingly, also refers to a crow, as well as being a surname. Combined with liuliu it describes eyes which are dark and sparkling. The dots you see in liuliu refer to water, suggesting these sparkling eyes are like dark...

Full of yourself

Mei means ‘beautiful’ or ‘pretty’ and combined with zizi (zer-zer) it means to be very pleased with yourself, zi meaning ‘more’ or ‘grow, multiply’.

With a laugh

Xiao is the character for laughter, smiles and jokes.  Here it’s combined with the haha sound of laughter to mean ‘laughingly, with a laugh’. When I was a child we used to read a Hong Kong Chinese cartoon strip about a character called Lo Footsie (that’s how it...

Plump and pudgy

Pang is the word for ‘fat’, and combined with huhu it means ‘chubby’, ‘plump’ or ‘pudgy’.  It would be a good translation of a character's name such as Billy Bunter.

Brave and courageous

Xiong means ‘male’, ‘grand’, or 'having great power or influence', and is used in the word for ‘hero’.   Here, combined with jiujiu it means valiantly, gallantly, bravely.

Shell-like tenderness

A delicate and curious way to describe ‘tenderness’, since shells are usually formed of hard material, but their shape can be like a cupped hand, suggesting a protective curling-around. Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011),...

Thick-walled word

While I like this idea, I can’t quite imagine a ‘thick-walled’ word.  Trying some free association: Glop?  Blather?  Is it to do with sound or meaning?  Send me your suggestions. Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p....

Take a twenty-verst stroll

A verst is an old Russian measurement for distance, a few steps more than a kilometre.  So I wish you the time, leisure and energy to enjoy some twenty-verst strolls.  I will make it a new year’s resolution to get myself into enough shape to be able to stroll that far...

Waist-high grass

This conjurs a sweeping landscape of a breeze pouring over an endless prairie of grass.   Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p. 63

Thick-fingered roads

A chunky junction?  Wide roads converging on a roundabout, an original description of a transport node.   Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p. 49

White-toothed commissars

Perhaps alluding to a world in which commissars, having some status in the pecking order, probably had a better chance of good dental care, or any dental care. Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p. 52

Light-poor desert

Elsewhere I have highlighted Lopez’s use of desert images in an Arctic context. Here it’s used to refer to a light-starved winter.  He mentions that lack of light is the limiting factor on the growth of many species, far more than temperature. ‘Of the roughly 3200...

Red-tinged snow

No, not blood-stained, but a kind of lichen bringing the red of Snow White’s ruby mouth to the snow. Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 7

Time as a hovering hawk

I am fascinated by perspectives of time, and here it’s memorably described as a rough-legged hawk, or, when it implodes, a bird keeled over in death. ‘Time still hovers above the tundra like the rough-legged hawk, or collapses altogether like a bird keeled over with a...

Storm-hardened shore

You can imagine the northern coasts of America and Canada, rock or ice, pounded by centuries of winter wind and wave. Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 310

Sun-bleached ribbons

Lopez’ book provides, among other things, a history of the exploration (and exploitation) of the Arctic, and what a ship returning packed with whale bone and blubber meant in economic and material terms. It is astounding now to think of walking English streets in the...

Sun-cured grasses

Somehow this evokes an image of a boundless prairie full of grazing bison. I learned from Lopez that the vast numbers of these and other animals the Europeans found when they arrived were in fact a diminished version of even greater numbers in a more distant past....

Dove-colored sky

I imagine a soft-white snow-plump cloud cover, just before it shakes out its feather-flake down. Obsessed with sky, I will one day make you a quilt of sky-related triologisms. Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 414

Frost-riven rubble

Rubble bespeaks a building site in a busy, messy, or war-torn city. The idea of its being splintered by frost transports you to an unfamiliar and barren context. Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 299

High-tempered light

Something bright and uplifting about this light, as long as you have protection from its blinding effects. And what a wonderful metaphor for clarity – ‘air as clear as gin’! ‘The distant landscapes of Bylot and Baffin islands at Pond’s Bay were etched brilliantly...

Ice-choked rivers

A European would normally use ‘choked’ to describe a river full of algae or weeds or pollution. ‘Ice-choked’ gives a sense of a menacing jostling and mobbing of unready hulls, crushing them like a waif lost in a stampede. Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p....

Jade-green vegetation

An image of verdancy that doesn’t quite chime with our impressions of endless Arctic white and blue. Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 172

Light-drowned tundra

Light in the Arctic seems to move between extremes of deprivation and dazzlement. Elsewhere Lopez talks about a ‘light-poor desert’, contrasting with this ‘light-drowned tundra’. He also describes how early explorers, starved of light all winter, went dizzy with it...

Accordian-like adjustment

An obvious though unusual and simple metaphor for a flexible adaptation to things. Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 213

Blue-black vault

Lopez uses vivid and spare language to describe the equally spare beauty of the Arctic.  I liked this image. ‘Blue-black vault of the winter sky, a cold beauty alive with scintillating stars.’ Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. xxviii

Dark-horned skulls

This study of the Arctic encompasses an ice core deep drill through time – the coldness of the region preserving death and forsaken objects for longer periods.  So here you have a juxtaposition of contemporary muskoxen grazing alongside the remnants of their...

Deep-keeled ice

An arresting image of ice grounding like a boat’s hull scraping a shallow sea-floor. ‘… the sound of deep-keeled ice grounding in shallow water.’ Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 138

Desert-colored shores

I liked this equatorial image transported to the Arctic to describe northern shores. ‘Desert-colored shores were never touched by Pleistocene glaciers.’ Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 43

Dish-shaped paws

Lopez writes of the animals he encounters in the Arctic with great respect and sensitivity, quietly questioning the distances of skill and capability we often assume separate us from them, particularly in terms of the extent to which they are merely instinct driven,...

Modern weapons meet ancient war

Logue regularly brings modern imagery into an account of ancient war. The Trojan war was a Bronze Age fight, yet here you have sleekly clinical and contemporary metallurgy.  Chrome: gleaming hub caps, beautiful bicycle handles, and now deadly weaponry. ‘Fierce chrome,...

Ugly birds and beautiful plumes

An odd image this.  Gleaming helmets topped with bobbing plumes of beautiful birds can create mirages of battlefield glamour, building the height and perceived power of the warrior.  But vultures feed off dead bodies and have a hungry, predatory look to them.  You...

Troy the spoiler

Agamemnon appealing to God with a sour grape Greek’s spitting contempt for the Trojans, like a school yard bully’s name-calling assault on another child. Here implying the Trojans are treacherous in first calling truces and then breaking them. How little some things...

That’s no way to speak to God

Here we have Helen’s cuckolded husband Menalaus screaming at God in the most colourful terms.  I like the idea of those lazy gods hanging out in heaven with too much time on their hands and being therefore sworn at as ‘time-free trash’.  Or is it just that, being...

A tongue twister triologism

I liked this punchy, tongue-twisting image of remote and mountainous Macedon.   ‘He will get home.  That is to say, regain his ilex-napped Snowcragbackfastnesses of Macedon.’   Source: Christopher Logue, War Music: An account of Books 1-4 and 16-19 of...

Battle wounds and war glory

One of the many striking things about the Iliad is its capacity to convey the warrior’s glory without shying away from the obscenity of carnage and the apparent enjoyment of it by many of the so-called heroes. This horrific image of gaping wounds is all the more awful...

Ribbons blue

There are many fine details in this lovely book, and the young girl finds signals of invisible hands arranging thoughtful, apt surprises. Her curiosity leads her to uncover who is behind them. And ‘delphinium-blue’, a lovely hue, redolent of a cottage garden or the...

Moonacre Manor

This white horse flits in and out of the eponymous story: like the moon, illuminating when visible, but otherwise elusive.  The moon is a recurring element in this magical tale – with the heroine, Maria Merryweather, being nominated as the latest in a long line of...

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