a reedy pit-pond, the fowls had already abandoned their run...

bloomiegirl

Senior Member
US English
Hello friends and grammarians!

I am trying to translate a passage from English to French, but I find that I don't completely understand the English to begin with. It's a sentence from D.H. Lawrence's "The Odour of Chrysanthemums", and I'm having trouble unpacking the syntax.

Here's the sentence: The fields were dreary and forsaken, and in the marshy strip that led to the whimsey, a reedy pit-pond, the fowls had already abandoned their run among the alders, to roost in the tarred fowl-house. (source; first paragraph)

BTW, I believe that a whimsey is a "steam-engine for raising the coal from the bottom of the shaft." (source)

I'm having a great deal of trouble figuring out what this scene looks like, especially the relationship between the pit-pond in [???] the marshy strip and the fowls. Any help is appreciated!

Thanks in advance. :)
 
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  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    First, it seems to me that the "marshy strip" contains the "reedy pit-pond." I apologize if you'd already determined that. Reedy, I would imagine, means that the area is overrun with reeds or at least the banks of the pond are. The pond is halfway between a pit and a pond.

    A "run" is an area that is frequented by animals, though I don't normally think of birds as having a run. Guessing, I'd say that the alders surround the pond or at least are a prominent feature of the marsh: it'd certainly be the sort of terrain that alders prefer.
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    First, let me thank you for your reply! :)
    And thank you for comfirming my impression (but not more than that) that the reedy pit-pond is in the marshy strip. And I agree about the "run" and appreciate the detail about the alders being suited to this to this terrain.

    So perhaps the birds (no longer present) had been hanging out under the alders on the marshy strip (or possibly around it) that surrounds the reedy pit-pond?

    But... I don't follow this part:
    [...] The pond is halfway between a pit and a pond. [...]
    :confused:

    Oh, and I should have mentioned, this is a scene from a coal mine; maybe that is obvious from the "whimsey" reference. ;)
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    The pond isn't a naturally occurring pond, but a mining pit filled with water, probably.

    The pond, surrounded by alders, is the run. The birds have left the pond to roost in the fowl-house.
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    Hi again... Thanks for the clarification about the pond.

    Now about the fowls... The text doesn't say, but I had imagined that these were chickens, and it never occurred to me that these birds would be in the water! But I suppose they certainly could be water fowl -- ducks or geese. How about that!

    Thanks bunches. :D
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The area in which chickens are allowed to walk and peck for food is commonly called a "chicken run". On the internet you can find instructions on how to make them. Either the farmer has enclosed the area under the alders to make a run, or the chickens are using it as a run by choice.

    In the evening and when the weather is bad, chickens have a natural inclination to leave the run and return to the chicken coop, as I would say, or "fowl house" as the author puts it.
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    Thank you, Cagey, that is also helpful. :)

    Do you think the chicken/fowl run is in the marshy area, or under the trees outisde the marshy area, or (perhaps least likely) in the pit-pond. :confused:
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The following is based as much on my experience with chickens as on the syntax of the text. I'm assuming they are chickens, because waterfowl would not spend their time on land where they are very awkward, but would be in the water.

    Because chickens avoid watery places, I was assuming that the area they frequent is not marshy. This leads me to read the sentence as follows, broken into three pieces, with ellipsis:

    (1) The fields were dreary and forsaken,
    (2) and in the marshy strip that led to the whimsey, [there was] a reedy pit-pond,

    (The whimsey can't be a pit pond, or can it?)
    (3) the fowls had already abandoned their run among the alders, to roost in the tarred fowl-house.

    (1) sets the mood; (2) is an example of the mine's (or man's) destructive effect onnature (3) establishes the time. It's late enough that the chickens have gone in.

    I can accept that there arguments based on syntax to be made against this reading, but I would have a hard time wrapping my mind around chickens on marshy ground, unless "marshy" is less wet than I imagine.
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    Oh, Cagey, I like your reading, especially the 1/2/3 of mood/effect on nature/time of year. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

    Would it be pushing the text too far to look for a relationship between the marshy strip and the fowl-run in the alders? I can't tell if the alders surround the marshy part or not.

    I see you assumed that the felt covering the fowl-house was tarred (as I suppose it would be). Why, I wonder, did Lawrence insist on the material (felt) and completely leave out that tar

    As for the whimsey, at first, influenced by the grammar, I thought it was the pit-pond (although that did seem somewhat strange). But I was instructed (that would be by the instructor) to look deeper into mine-lore... and I turned up the steam-engine reference in the Engineer's and Mechanic's Encyclopaedia, published in 1849 (which is, after all, closer to Lawrence's time than we are).

    Thanks again. I certainly appreciate your insights into this passage. I'm a city girl.
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Behind the pond is a pit bank. I assume that the alders are to one side of the marshy area, otherwise they would block the view. Other than that, I can't say how these are laid out.
    [....]

    I see you assumed that the felt covering the fowl-house was tarred (as I suppose it would be). Why, I wonder, did Lawrence insist on the material (felt) and completely leave out that tar?
    [....]
    :confused:
    ... to roost in the tarred fowl-house.
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    Oops... Sorry, Cagey, it was late and I got confused by a "felt" reference that occurs later in the text.

    Thanks again for all your help; I appreciate it very much. :)
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    A note about the whimsey... I just found this:
    A 'whimsey' was a steam-driven winding mechanism for raising water and other material to the surface when a mine was being sunk and also when it was in operation; the pond that supplied the water for the steam also became known as a 'whimsey'. See also 'Odour of Chrysanthemums'...
    (source: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of D.H. Lawrence: Paul Morel, edited by Helen Baron)​
    So I suppose the whimsey is, after all, the pit-pond. :eek: Thank you, Ms. Baron. ;)
     
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