I encountered this sentence when reading "A Morbid Taste for Bones" by Ellis Peters:

Cadfael turned towards the cry, thrusting through thorn-branches, and came out in a narrow oval of grass surrounded every way with thick bushes, through which a used track no wider than a man's shoulders clove, the long way of the oval.

I under stand that the clause "through which a used track no wider than a man's shoulders clove" refers to "thick bushes", but what is the role of "the long way of the oval"? Is it the indirect object of "a used track"? So "a used track cleaves through the bushes into the oval"? But it does not have a preposition before it.

Thank you for your help!


This is what I imagine based on @TRomano's comments:

enter image description here

The black curves are the bushes, and the blue path is the track.

  • 1
    The track goes through the thorn bushes and extends the length of the oval, not across its width. The long way of the oval is an absolute adjunct or an absolute appositive. You can understand it like this: a track ... (it being) the long way of the oval. Jan 21 '17 at 11:37
  • @TRomano: Thank you, I see. It now sounds grammatically correct, but not easy to imagine. So the track has two parts, one part is through the bush, then it continues along the length of the oval, is that right?
    – KittyL
    Jan 21 '17 at 11:41
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    Imagine this as oval rather than round, and the perimeter of the circle (oval) a hedge of thorn bushes: Ø The narrow track cuts through the thorn bushes and runs the length of the oval. Jan 21 '17 at 11:42
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    I don't imaging the narrow track ending at the far edge, but continuing through it, exiting on the far side (or entering there, if you're coming from that direction). The track cleaves through the thorn hedge. Also, I imagine the track extending along the long axis of the oval, not cleaving to the perimeter. It cleaves through, not to the thorn hedge. Cleave meaning "to cut through", not cleave meaning "to cling to". Jan 21 '17 at 12:03
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    Yes, the long axis. (typo in my last comment, "imagine" not "imaging"). Jan 21 '17 at 12:34

The narrow track (or path) cuts through the "egg shaped" grassy patch in a (roughly) straight line along the long axis.

"Clove" is a past tense of "cleave" meaning split (not cleaved meaning stuck together) The track is "used" so it is quite clear of bushes, since the people that use it will keep it clear. The track probably extends beyond the bushes and further through the surrounding woods

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