I tried to translate a line of a Persian poem into English, it is almost like:

If you come to visit me, come slowly and softly

Lest the delicate porcelain of my loneliness cracks

Here, the poet (Sohrab Sepehri) equates loneliness with a delicate porcelain. Did my translation shows this metaphor? Especially, I mean the usage of of to relate the components of the metaphor.

Could it be:

  • my delicate loneliness porcelain
  • my delicate porcelain of loneliness

Moreover, as Persian is a free-word-order language, he has put the subject at the end of sentence, I thought of writing it as:

Lest it cracks, the delicate porcelain of my loneliness

Is it grammatical? does it have the same meaning?

  • 1
    You may say: .."my delicate porcelain loneliness cracks", using "porcelain" as an attributive noun.
    – user5267
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 14:32
  • I prefer the way you wrote it initially better than the suggestions of @AbsoluteBeginner. Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 14:46
  • 2
    I believe the infinitive of "crack" would be better than "cracks". dictionary.com/browse/lest
    – MorganFR
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 14:54
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's asking for advice about a potential new creative poetic coinage, not about learning established current use of English. Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 15:49
  • 4
    @FumbleFingers: The question asks about the word order of metaphors using of and about syntactic matters. Your trigger-finger is too itchy whenever the question contains anything literary. This question is not asking for literary interpretation but grammatical advice.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


1) Lest the delicate porcelain of my loneliness crack

This is the best of your suggestions, in my opinion. I think it is phrased quite nicely, and shows the metaphor clearly.

2) Lest my delicate loneliness porcelain crack

This one is confusing because of the order of loneliness and porcelain. As mentioned in a comment, switching the order makes it okay.

3) Lest my delicate porcelain loneliness crack

When you use attributive nouns, the first noun is the one describing the second. It makes more sense for "porcelain" to describe "loneliness," because that is the intent of the metaphor. In 2), in contrast, it sounds like "loneliness" is describing "porcelain" -- so it comes across like "lonely porcelain," which doesn't make much sense.

4) Lest it crack, the delicate porcelain of my loneliness

Although this would be understood, it feels clunky. It feels like you're going out of your way to move the words out of their natural positions. If you really want "crack" to come first, you could use the transitive version of "crack," but you'd need a subject -- something like,

5) Lest your approach crack the delicate porcelain of my loneliness

Unless you like 5), I think the choice is between 1) and 3). It depends on how you want the poem to flow. The stress pattern of "delicate porcelain loneliness" has a nice kind of sing-songy feel to it, while "the delicate porcelain of my loneliness" sounds a bit more like someone speaking.

*As a comment above noted, lest is used with infinitive verbs (technically the subjunctive mood), so it should be "crack" instead of "cracks" here. That said, when the verb is at the end of the phrase, it's far enough away from "lest" that speakers may not notice it's wrong -- I certainly didn't notice until we moved the verb towards the front, closer to "lest."

  • I like "Lest my delicate porcelain loneliness crack", but it might be trying too hard. "Lest the delicate porcelain of my loneliness crack" is safe.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 16:27

Lest the delicate porcelain of my loneliness crack

Is elegant and clearly understood (Just note that crack does not end in s)

This other answer says a lot about grammar that I won't repeat, but let me answer the bit about using of:

Of is a preposition. of my loneliness is a prepositional phrase, and the entire phrase acts like an adjective to describe loneliness. This is not always required in English, since you can directly use porcelain as an attributive noun - also mentioned in the other answer.

I prefer

Lest my delicate porcelain loneliness crack

It's quite elegant, and in my opinion it equates the metaphor more effectively than using of

  • No, of my loneliness acts as an adjective to describe porcelain', not loneliness`. A prepositional phrase generally follows that which it describes (In "the fourth [day] of July" the prepositional phrase "of July" describes a particular fourth, not to be confused with the fourth of June or the fourth hole of a golf course, etc.) and certainly doesn't modify its own object. Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 19:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .