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he was a young man about thirty. I never had him in class, but I used to go to him. He’d read aloud and we’d talk, he was very pleasant that way. He’d smoke honey-scented tobacco, and read Baudelaire and Shakespeare and Hopkins—it made the thing living—and he’d read his own poems. I wrote very badly at first, but he was encouraging and enthusiastic. That probably was decisive, that there was someone there whom I admired who was engaged in writing poetry.

I think it probably wants to say it gives life to some thing, am I right? Actually my question is what is the thing refer to??

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One of the challenges with reading someone like Shakespeare is that the language is very old English and difficult to understand, and also that the plays are meant to be performed and not read. So when most students read any of his plays, it feels very "dry" and "lifeless" and dull.

A gifted orator who really understands the work can "bring it to life", in other words, make you feel as if you are watching the play with live actors or real people and not just reading it from a book.

In this sentence "the thing" means "whatever work of Baudelaire or Shakespeare or Hopkins he was reading at the time," which the young man was able to infuse with life.

  • What is "it" in that clause? His reading of the works? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 20 '17 at 22:45
  • Yes, his reading. I should add that it's not what I consider proper English -- I would have said "he made them come to life" since those would be more targeted pronouns. – Andrew Mar 20 '17 at 23:00

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