A drab of state, a cloth-o’-silver slut

gil12345

Senior Member
chinese
Hi there,


"In their practice, nations agree with Paley; but does anyone think that Massachusetts does exactly what is right at the present crisis?

“A drab of state, a cloth-o’-silver slut,
To have her train borne up, and her soul trail in the dirt.”"

The Project Gutenberg eBook of On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau

I am assuming Thoreau talks about the government. So a government is looks a prostitute and clothes as such, but when her appearance has been made good-looking, her soul is lost to the dirt.

Am I right?

Thanks

Gil
 
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  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    This is a metaphor in an 1849 book. We cannot give precise meanings to metaphors: each reader has their own idea what it means. Also, the way you have written post 1 makes it unclear what part is a quote:

    In their practice, nations agree with Paley; but does anyone think that Massachusetts does exactly what is right at the present crisis?
    Who said this? Did you say this, or did Thoreau say this?

    “A drab of state, a cloth-o’-silver slut,
    To have her train borne up, and her soul trail in the dirt.”
    Who said this? Did Thoreau say this, or are these words that Thoreau is quoting from Paley?
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    This is a metaphor in an 1849 book. We cannot give precise meanings to metaphors: each reader has their own idea what it means. Also, the way you have written post 1 makes it unclear what part is a quote:



    Who said this? Did you say this, or did Thoreau say this?



    Who said this? Did Thoreau say this, or are these words that Thoreau is quoting from Paley?
    I don't know from whom Thoreau quoted. It is all from his essay. I didn't use the quotation marks because they already contained quotations.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Thoreau is quoting lines from a play called The Revenger's Tragedy, by Thomas Middleton, written in 1606. William Paley was a British clergyman and philosopher, whose influential work Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy contained a section "On the duty of civil obedience", which is what inspires Thoreau's contrasting title.
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Thoreau is quoting lines from a play called The Revenger's Tragedy, by Thomas Middleton, written in 1606. William Paley was a British clergyman and philosopher, whose influential work Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy contained a section "On the duty of civil obedience", which is what inspires Thoreau's contrasting title.
    So what does the quotation mean?
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    In the original context, it referred to a woman who was the mistress of a duke: while she wore fine clothes, and had people bow to her, she was still really a whore. In the same way, if the state of Massachusetts does something that is morally wrong because it is convenient of expedient, Massachusetts becomes like that woman: powerful and given deference, but in reality immoral and dishonored.
     
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