a "tearing" fellow

onceinawhile

Member
China
There is such a sentence in one of Yeat's essays on spirits and ghosts. It reads "There was a man in my place,a tearing fellow, and he put one of them down. He went out to meet it on the road, but he must have been told the words. But the faeries are the best neighbours". Here "one of them" refers to ghosts, possibly. The narrator thinks ghosts are not bad and she is not afraid of them, but "the tearing man" does not think that way.

My question: Is "a tearing fellow" someone crying with tears or someone tearing things apart? And, by the way, does "put one of them down" mean "kill one of them"? And in "he must have been told the words", what are the words? That he should put one of them down or that he should go out to meet it on the road or what?
 
  • cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I'd say that "tearing" in this instance means neither teary nor tearing things up.

    The Mirriam-Webster definition (which you can reach via the WR Dictionary Look-up) suggests either hasty/violent or the chiefly British meaning of "splendid" (which, to me, seems the most likely.)

    I'm not sure about "put one of them down". It may well, at the time the piece was written, have had an obvious meaning that is not now apparent. To me, it could mean he knocked it to the ground, he knocked it out or he killed/vanquished one.

    I have nothing to suggest in regard to "he must have been told the words." It doesn't mean anything to me. All I can imagine is that it's either, again, an obselete reference, or it is explained somewhere earlier in the text.
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    There is such a sentence in one of Yeat's essays on spirits and ghosts. It reads "There was a man in my place,a tearing fellow, and he put one of them down. He went out to meet it on the road, but he must have been told the words. But the faeries are the best neighbours". Here "one of them" refers to ghosts, possibly. The narrator thinks ghosts are not bad and she is not afraid of them, but "the tearing man" does not think that way.

    My question: Is "a tearing fellow" someone crying with tears or someone tearing things apart? And, by the way, does "put one of them down" mean "kill one of them"? And in "he must have been told the words", what are the words? That he should put one of them down or that he should go out to meet it on the road or what?

    You are reading "The Celtic Twilight" right?

    "And he put one of them down" means that he killed one of the fairies.
    To put something down is to kill it.
    In modern English, this phrase is
    most often used to describe euthanizing a sick or injured animal.

    He went out to meet it on the road, but he must have been told the words.
    The narrator hid in their room so the fairies could not get in, but the "tearing fellow" went out to the road meet the fairy & kill it, he did not hide.

    "The words" are the secret and magic words you use to kill or banish fairies, a spell or enchantment to protect you from them while you kill them, or perhaps the spell kills them directly.
     
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