army with banners...behaves meekly...always slightly spectacular

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chong lee

Senior Member
türkçe
Hi,
The quote is from the story "The Sheep" by H. H. Munro.

In that all quote there is just one point that Saki tells but I have questions more than one that will help me to understand that point.

I did not get "terrible as an army with banners"?
Why do they behave meekly?
What does it mean "always slightly spectacular"?

And indeed, what is the point of Saki here?

Thank you.


The tragic part of it was that he smiled and fumbled through life just as fatuously and apologetically as he did at the card-table. And behind the defensive smile and the well-worn expressions of regret there shone a scarcely believable but quite obvious self-satisfaction. Every sheep of the pasture probably imagines that in an emergency it could become terrible as an army with banners -- one has only to watch how they stamp their feet and stiffen their necks when a minor object of suspicion comes into view and behaves meekly. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves in imagination taking great parts in the world's more impressive dramas, forming swift, unerring decisions in moments of crisis, cowing mutinies, allaying panics, brave, strong, simple, but, in spite of their natural modesty, always slightly spectacular.
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You have to imagine an old-fashioned army with trumpets blaring and banners flying; it would be quite an impressive spectacle. The individual sheep, says Saki, each think that they are as intimidating as such an army.

    It's not the sheep who behave meekly; it's the "minor objects of suspicion." So if a plastic bag flies into the pasture and lies there "meekly" (making no threat), the sheep are ready to bravely face the challenge.
     

    chong lee

    Senior Member
    türkçe
    What does it mean exactly "but, in spite of their natural modesty, always slightly spectacular."?
     

    chong lee

    Senior Member
    türkçe
    And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves in imagination taking great parts in the world's more impressive dramas, forming swift, unerring decisions in moments of crisis, cowing mutinies, allaying panics, brave, strong, simple, but, in spite of their natural modesty, always slightly spectacular.

    Let me re-write that sentence.

    1. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves in imagination taking great parts in the world's more impressive dramas.
    2. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves in imagination forming swift , unerring decisions in moments of crisis.
    3. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves in imagination cowing mutinies, allaying panics.
    4. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves brave,strong,simple.
    Anything wrong about that form?
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    "Terrible as an army with banners" is a phrase that appears twice in the Song of Solomon in the Bible as part of a description of the beloved:

    Chapter 6, verse 4: Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.
    Chapter 6, verse 10: Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?

    Most well-read people in Saki's day would have instantly recognized the phrase.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    1. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves in imagination taking great parts in the world's more impressive dramas.
    2. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves in imagination forming swift , unerring decisions in moments of crisis.
    3. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves in imagination cowing mutinies, allaying panics.
    4. And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves brave,strong,simple.
    And probably the majority of human sheep see themselves as 1, 2, and 3 --- brave,strong, and simple but slightly spectacular (in spite of their natural modesty).
    I don't read the last bit as part of the list.
     

    chong lee

    Senior Member
    türkçe
    There is something confusing here.
    Is not that normal, modest creatures to be slightly spectecular? Not to be spectecular is in the definition of modesty. Why did Saki use there "in spite of"?
     
    Last edited:

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    No that is not the definition of modesty. Modesty is being free of vanity, boastfulness, or egotism. Someone can be extremely talented and do something truly spectacular, but still be very modest. Imagine someone who runs into a burning building and saves a child. Other people say "How brave you are! You are a real hero!" A vain and boastful person might say "Yes; I am braver than all of you cowards", but a modest person might say "Oh, it was nothing; anyone would have done the same."
     

    chong lee

    Senior Member
    türkçe
    Ok, then sheep human likes to imagine himself/herself a little spectecular, though his/her natural modesty ?
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    Ok, then sheep human likes to imagine himself/herself a little spectecular, though his/her natural modesty ?
    Your phrasing is not standard, so I'm not sure if your understanding is right or not. The sheep imagines that, even though he is modest, he would perform spectacularly, as a heroic leader, if an emergency arose.
     

    chong lee

    Senior Member
    türkçe
    I suppose; I finally got the Saki's point.
    Thanks Pob14.
    Thanks GreenWhiteBlue.
    Thanks The Newt.
    Thanks Myridon.
     
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