with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast


Senior Member
The context comes from Jane Eyre Chapter 1
I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk; and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in double retirement.

Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.
I don't quite understand "with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast" here. Referring to the thread "It does not surprise me that this sentence gave you problems. It is not a very good one: overwrought and not too clear with this blah-blah rain sweeping (something?) away (in a blah-blah manner) just in front of the blah-blah wind. (I hope you are not now going to tell me it is by some famous writer!)", I try to interpret it as "with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly in the presence of a long and distressing violent gust of wind (i.e., the rain swept away while the wind blew)" Is it right?
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    :D Sometimes n old post will come back and bite you on the butt.

    Not so much "in the presence of", but more "running away from" - the long and wailing blast of the wind is driving the ceaseless rain. The rain is driven wildly by the blast of the wind.


    Senior Member
    Ah! Thank you for your explanation! :D

    I've managed to look it up in OED (I'm often rejected by the OED website for I'm not a subscriber), finding the definition as below:
    b.B.I.1.b Driven in front of, hurried on by; e.g. in the phrase before the wind: said of a ship sailing directly with the wind; also fig.

    1598 W. Phillip Linschoten's Trav. in Arb. Garner III. 23 We got before the wind to the Cape of Good Hope.
    1697 Dryden Virg. Georg. iii. 822 Tisiphone‥Before her drives Diseases and Affright. 1726 Thomson Winter 171 Before the breath Of full exerted Heaven they wing their course.
    1769 Falconer Dict. Marine (1789) Arriver, to bear away before the wind.
    1853 Kingsley Hypatia xviii, He had been only the leaf before the wind.
    1865 Dickens Mut. Fr. i, Kept the boat in that direction going before the tide. Mod. A man who carries everything before him.

    Does it work here?


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Yes, when you have a strong wind at your back you can feel it pushing or sweeping you forward. It doesn't necessarily make me think of ships. If the wind is behind you, you are going "before" it. The rain is falling down, and simultaneously it's being swept in a certain direction by the wind. The direction it's going is "the front" and the wind is "behind" the rain, if you like.

    By the way, "lamentable" must be here "mournful", an older meaning of the word.
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