This is a passage from "The Mowing of a Field" by Hilaire Belloc. In the essay, he describes in detail the right way to make hay.

So great an art can only be learnt by continual practice; but this much is worth writing down, that, as in all good work, to know the thing with which you work is the core of the affair. Good verse is best written on good paper with an easy pen, not with a lump of coal on a whitewashed wall. The pen thinks for you; and so does the scythe mow for you if you treat it honorably and in a manner that makes it recognize its service. The manner is this. You must regard the scythe as a pendulum that swings, not as a knife that cuts. A good mower puts no more strength into his stroke than into his lifting. Again, stand up to your work. The bad mower, eager and full of pain, leans forward and tries to force the scythe through the grass. The good mower, serene and able, stands as nearly straight as the shape of the scythe will let him, and follows up every stroke closely, ...

The meaning of "stand up to (something/someone)" that I'm familiar with is to confront, to challenge, or to resist. But I don't know if that meaning fits well in the context.

And because I'm not sure about the meaning of the expression, I am also confused about the use of "again". I didn't think he said anything prior to this sentence that's relevant enough to emphasize that he's re-stating his point (by saying "Again,").

  • Hmmm, this is just a guess, but I think the whole essay is a metaphor about confronting challenges as they relate to reaping hay, and so perhaps, this is why the writer tells us to once again, stand up to your work. Jan 24, 2017 at 7:52
  • 1
    It has a literal and a figurative meaning. See "honorably" earlier in the paragraph. stand up to need not be confrontational; it can also mean to respect, to treat respectfully. It can also mean to address a task with vigor and dedication, to acquit oneself honorably by doing what is needful and expected of you.
    – TimR
    Jan 24, 2017 at 11:36
  • 1
    Here's an excerpt from an article written in 1916: "This country is at war with Germany and the big adventure is on. May our navy and army stand up to the task before them ; we have every confidence that they will do all that with a little bit added for extra measure. And may the citizenship who remain in civil life stand up to their tasks, too".
    – TimR
    Jan 24, 2017 at 11:39

1 Answer 1


It doesn't mean "confront your work", it literally means "don't bend over as you work (with a scythe)". There may be some wordplay: It suggests "Be vigorous and proud of your work", but this is secondary to the main meaning.

He says "again" as this is a rather dated way of saying "moreover".

You must log in to answer this question.

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