What a speech Hath past the teeth-guard Nature gave to teach Fit question of thy words before they f

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nkaper

Senior Member
russian
http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/48895/pg48895-images.html
Title: The Odysseys
Author: Homer


[Ulysses's son says]....
but ’twill never be, That I shall move in any Deity So blest an honour. Not by any means, If Hope should prompt me, or blind Confidence, (The Gods of Fools) or ev’ry Deity Should will it; for ’tis past my destiny.”
The burning-eyed Dame answer’d: “What a speech Hath past the teeth-guard Nature gave to teach Fit question of thy words before they fly!

I don't quite understand this. Could somebody explain?
Thanks in advance.
 
  • nkaper

    Senior Member
    russian
    Logically, I think, she must be saying "what a good speech you've made, thanks to the talent of speechmaking that Nature gave you". But then the words "teach" and "question" must be used in some metaphorical sense,of which I am not sure. Also I'm not sure if "teeth-guard" is a separate noun or it is an adjective for "Nature".

    update: No, more likely she, on the contrary, upbraids him for saying that, and "the teeth-guard" is a separate noun and it all means "What a rash speech hath past the teeth-guard that Nature gave you to compose and say(teach) fit question(speech) of thy words before they are said."
     
    Last edited:

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    [...]

    update: No, more likely she, on the contrary, upbraids him for saying that, and "the teeth-guard" is a separate noun and it all means "What a rash speech hath past the teeth-guard that Nature gave you to compose and say(teach) fit question(speech) of thy words before they are said."
    Some editions have "what a rash speech has pass'd...," which makes it marginally easier to follow.
     

    much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    “What a speech Hath past the teeth-guard Nature gave to teach Fit question of thy words before they fly!
    I think you mostly got it in #2, but here's a breakdown: Nature gave you a teeth-guard (=your teeth, which act as a guard) as a way of teaching you to consider your words (to question them to see how fit they are) before you let them go (fly). You have teeth so that your words don't just go popping out of your head unconsidered. Think before you speak! The first few words, "what a speech hath past..." is showing her surprise or indignation that he has failed to use his teeth-guard for its proper purpose, restraining what he says until the fitness of it has been tested.
     
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