emphatic horse

mcmay

Senior Member
Chinese
Can a horse be "emphatic"? Reading Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities, I ran into such a phrase as "an unusually emphatc horse" in such a sentence towards the end of paragraph two, Chapter II as:

"As often as the driver rested them and brought them to a stand, with a wary 'Wo-ho! so-ho then!' the near leader violently shook his head and everyting upon it -- like an unusually emphatic horse, denying that the coach could be got up the hill."

I searched the Internet for the meaning of this phrase but to no avail up till now. So, please help me crack this myth. Thanks a lot for your attention and help.
 
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Well, I don't think that Dickens says that a horse may be emphatic. This describes a man, who I would say, makes a gesture which is horse-like. He is a man who for that moment looks like a horse, but he communicates in a way that only an unusually emphatic horse might.
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Well, I don't think that Dickens says that a horse may be emphatic. This describes a man, who I would say, makes a gesture which is horse-like. He is a man who for that moment looks like a horse, but he communicates in a way that only an unusually emphatic horse might.
    Thank you first, Mr. Mole, for your timely explanation.
    So you mean the "near leader" in the sentence is not a horse but a man, right? The man makes a gesture that resembles that of a horse, an unusually emphatic horse. That granted, then what is "an unusually emphatic horse"? What does the action or gesture of such a horse look like? I'm still not quite clear of that.
    Thanks again for your help.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    That's what I assumed. But on reflection, I am probably wrong. Again a little bit more quotation would have helped.

    If it is a horse, then its action was unusually expressive, for a horse. I don't see any difficulty with that. We often see animals do things that seem more appropriate to a human than a beast. It reminds us of something a human would do. We can't know exactly how Dickens imagined it, but from experience we can surely relate to the comparison.
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    That's what I assumed. But on reflection, I am probably wrong. Again a little bit more quotation would have helped.

    If it is a horse, then its action was unusually expressive, for a horse. I don't see any difficulty with that. We often see animals do things that seem more appropriate to a human than a beast. It reminds us of something a human would do. We can't know exactly how Dickens imagined it, but from experience we can surely relate to the comparison.
    If more quotation is needed, the sentences before and after the already presented sentence are provided as follows,
    "With drooping heads and tremulous teails, they (i.e., the horses) mashed their way trhough the thick mud, floundering and stumbling between whiles, as if they were falling to pieces at the larger joints. As often as the driver ... could be got up the hill. Whenever the leader made this rattle, the passenger started, as a nervous passenger might, and was disturbed in mind."

    Above is the whole second paragraph of the second chapter of that novel.

    Judging from the context, I may present such an assumption of mine that "the near leader" might not be a person but a horse that led the other accompanying horses. And as it shook its head, it shook also "everything upon it", say, the passengers or goods it was being burdened with upon his back. And this head-shaking action resembled that of a horse which makes an action or gesture, as you have said, that a person makes for emphasis on something when he or she is excited.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Dickens says he violently shook his head and everything on it (for a horse that would be bit, bridle, reins) in an unusually emphatic way.

    Imagine a horse that knows that what you are directing it to do is impossible.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    It's certainly a horse, as I already admitted. "Everything on it" likely refers to the bridle, and, possibly ears and mane.

    Emphatic does not necessarily refer to "emphasis" per se, but to expressing oneself with emphasis: forceful or clear expression. As horses are generally limited in their ability to communicate to humans (except, perhaps, to those who work with them and know them), it would take an uncommonly expressive or emphatic horse to "speak" so clearly to the observer as Dickens imagines this one to do.
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Dickens says he violently shook his head and everything on it (for a horse that would be bit, bridle, reins) in an unusually emphatic way.

    Imagine a horse that knows that what you are directing it to do is impossible.
    Yes, I think so, Mr. Forero. That's a very reasonable explanation.
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It's certainly a horse, as I already admitted. "Everything on it" likely refers to the bridle, and, possibly ears and mane.

    Emphatic does not necessarily refer to "emphasis" per se, but to expressing oneself with emphasis: forceful or clear expression. As horses are generally limited in their ability to communicate to humans (except, perhaps, to those who work with them and know them), it would take an uncommonly expressive or emphatic horse to "speak" so clearly to the observer as Dickens imagines this one to do.
    From your explanation, Mr. Mole, I can see in my mind's eye the image of a lovely unyielding leading horse depicted in personification by Dickens, a master writer for sure.
    Thanks for your discussion.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    We're struggling through the mud with a coach and horses up Shooter's Hill, just outside Blackheath on the road from London to Dover.
    The emphatic horse features a few more times through the rest of the chapter :)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top