"slobbering cretin grinding at a wheel"


Senior Member
Russian, Spanish
Could you please paraphrase this? I do not quite see what the "cretin" is really doing, I get lost especially when he says: "he ground":

"and there I saw a slobbering cretin grinding at a wheel/
and sweating as he ground

Aldous Huxley's "The Merry-Go-Round" in Leda.
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The context makes it clear that it is the cretin grinding at the wheel who is propelling the merry-go-round.
    But I happened to look inwards among the machinery of our roundabout, and there I saw a slobbering cretin grinding at a wheel and sweating as he ground, and grinding eternally. And when I perceived that he was the author of all our speed and that the music was of his making, that everything depended on his grinding wheel, I thought I would like to get off. But we were going too fast.


    I understand, then, that the wheel in question is a treadmill.

    Grinding here means working hard - one's tedious work is one's daily grind.

    I suppose that the roundabout represents the world, and the slobbering cretin is the working classes who do the work to keep it going.
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    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Consider the phrase "organ grinder." I would venture to suggest that the "grinding" there is not just a reference to hard work but to spinning or winding movements, particularly moving something in a manner that is reminiscent of a mill's motion or operation.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following meanings for the verb grind.
    7. a. intransitive To work as if grinding with a hand-mill; hence, to turn the handle of a barrel-organ.
    b. quasi-transitive To produce (music) on a hurdy-gurdy or barrel-organ. Also with out.
    8. intransitive a. To work laboriously and steadily; to toil away at some monotonous task; esp. to study hard. Const. at. Also with away, on.
    I think that grinding here partakes of all these meanings.


    Senior Member
    Russian, Spanish
    I agree with Set, I think that the idea of "grinding" here is that of a very hard work, mostly according to the context of the whole poem in prose
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