perilous beauty [Was: Crescent Moon Alert]

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 5 19:36:33 UTC 2008

On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 2:53 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
> At 4/5/2008 02:26 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>  >What does "perilous beauty" mean?
>  Thanks for asking, Wilson.  I spent too much time on
>  research.  peri-lous, as in "perihelion", "1. That point in the orbit
>  of a planet, comet, or other heavenly body, at which it is nearest to
>  the sun. Opp. to aphelion."?  Here, the moon is coming close to the
>  Pleiades -- or vice versa.  Perhaps they meant to coin "peri-luneous"?

I suspect allusion to a misremembered line: "A terrible beauty is
born", in Yeats's poem "Easter, 1916" about the Easter Rebellion
( Both my wife and I
misremembered it as "perilous", but she (MA Eng. Lit.) was able to get
it right and find it.

We used to quote it or misquote it w.r.t. our daughter (sometimes
substituting "cutie" for "beauty"). But she's 30 now and wouldn't
appreciate my mentioning that to her.

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list