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delve and span

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Adolfo Afogutu, Jun 16, 2010.

  1. Adolfo Afogutu

    Adolfo Afogutu Senior Member

    Uruguay
    Español
    Hi,

    I would appreciate if someone could clarify to me the sense of delve and span in the following phrase:

    When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?

    Context: artwork from the original 1888 edition of “A dream of John Ball”, by English writer William Morris. It is a historical novel which takes place during the English peasants’ revolt of 1381. See here for more context.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    It's a nursery rhyme, explained here
    http://www.rhymes.org.uk/nursery-rhyme.htm

    Delved is an archaic form of dig and span refers to spinning. The idea is that Adam and Eve just worked with their own hands and there was no class hierarchy.
     
  3. Adolfo Afogutu

    Adolfo Afogutu Senior Member

    Uruguay
    Español
    Thanks, kalamazoo, you were very kind and helpful.
    Adolfo
     

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