as the topmost clung to the ivy

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Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
Their pupils - the sparrows, as it were - of Gormenghast were racing to the vast red-sandstone yard - a yard surrounded on all sides by high ivy-covered walls of the same stone. [...] Many a boy had sobbed against these walls; many a knuckle been bruised as a head flicked sideways from the blow. Many a child had fought his way back into the open yard with bloody mouth, and a thousand swaying pyramids of boys had tottered and collapsed as the topmost clung to the ivy.
(M. Peake; Gormenghast)

Is it describing a great many boys who fell trying to climb the walls by means of the ivy and the few topmost, as it were, who achieved the summit?

  • exgerman

    Senior Member
    English but my first language was German
    The pyramid of boys collapsed, but the one at the apex of the pyramid (the topmost boy) was left in mid air, holding on to the ivy.

    Such pyramids were attempted thousands of times.
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