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Well, my school had been given a Carnegie set of art books, and I had a friend, Frank Parker, who had great talent as a painter but who’d never done it systematically. We began reading the books and histories of art, looking at reproductions, tracing the Last Supper on tracing paper, studying dynamic symmetry, learning about Cézanne, and so on. I had no practical interest in painting, but that study seemed rather close to poetry. And from there I began. I think I read Elizabeth Drew or some such book on modern poetry. It had free verse in it, and that seemed very simple to do.

This sentence means,that study much more related to poetry or that study somehow related to poetry? Thanks for your help

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    Note that the assertion after but is that the study referred to earlier in the passage seemed to the writer to be "close to poetry" - he's not talking about study in general (as a mass noun, like education), but to what he and his friend did (using the Carnegie books). Mar 20, 2017 at 16:48

2 Answers 2

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Neither.

This is meaning 6 from the Oxford English Dictionary:

  1. Used to modify a verb, adjective, adverb, etc., in degree. More (so) than not; more than anything else. Hence: in a certain degree or measure; to some extent; somewhat, slightly; (also) considerably, very much. In many instances it is difficult to determine whether the word is being used as a moderator or an intensifier. In spoken language, intonation may indicate this.

So it is a bit ambiguous, but means "somewhat close to poetry"; perhaps "very close to poetry".

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"Rather" can be used as a modifier similar to "somewhat", "pretty", or "very", depending on context.

You seem rather upset today (you seem somewhat upset)

That ship out there seems rather close to the rocks, doesn't it? (the ship seems too close to the rocks).

This movie is rather dull. Let's watch something else (This movie is very dull).

This use of "rather" is generally associated with British English and not American English, or, at least, a kind of "posh" way of speaking associated with the British upper class (and those who want to sound like British upper class).

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  • So what's your idea about this context? Which one of these meanings do you think it's better? Very or somewhat
    – user48966
    Mar 20, 2017 at 18:48
  • In this context I would say "seemed rather close to poetry" is still in that vague area between "somewhat" and "very". I would paraphrase it as, "it was a lot like poetry."
    – Andrew
    Mar 20, 2017 at 18:53

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