Friday, August 24, 2012


Meaning: used by Gerard Manley Hopkins to describe 'competent but uninspired poetry'. One can almost hear the sniff behind it. Coined from Mount Parnassus, sacred to Apollo and the muses, it is a poetic symbol for poets and poetry, and thus an appropriately over-used image with which to dismiss mere competence.

Usefulness: 2 (the work-insult bonus factor: use of this word is all about tone. I suggest the chutzpah of GM Hopkins, all of 19, describing quite a lot of Tennyson's writing as Parnassian.)

Logofascination: 3 (unless you're a big GMH fan)

In the wild: Unsurprisingly, at a talk on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

3 (Parnassus is mentioned in the Fourth and Fifth Books, but they were translated by Motteux so Do Not Count).

Connections: Parnassian - Parnassus - Apollo.

Which is used in: G&P, 24 times, including in the Third Book, XXV: How Panurge consulteth with Herr Trippa.  Herr Trippa is an astrologer and practicer of many forms of divination, which he offers to Panurge, among them: "icthiomancy*, in ancient times so celebrated, and put in use by Tiresias and Polydamas, with the like certainty of event as was tried of old at the Dina-ditch within that grove consecrated to Apollo which is in the territory of the Lycians."

*divination by fish, of course.

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