19

Welsh History 101B:

My neighbour from England has come across raiding,
Slain six of my kinsmen and burned down my hall.
It cannot be borne, this offence and injustice:
I’ve only killed four of his, last I recall.
I’ll send for my neighbours, Llewellyn and Owain;
We’ll cut him down as for the border he rides.
But yesterday Owain stole three of my cattle,
So first I’ll retake them, and three more besides.

I didn’t get the meaning of “we’ll cut him down as for the border he rides”. Please can anybody explain?

  • 2
    "since he's riding towards the border". – RonJohn Apr 30 '18 at 18:35
  • 8
    @RonJohn: "As" isn't "since" here - rather "while" or "at the same time as". – psmears May 1 '18 at 7:00
  • @psmears since we know he's riding for the border, we know what route he's taking, and thus we can cut him down. – RonJohn May 1 '18 at 7:26
  • @psmears: I'd argue that either interpretation is valid (out of context, at least) – Lightness Races with Monica May 1 '18 at 13:55
  • 3
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: You're right - out of context, either would be fine; context here strongly suggests (to me, at least) that the "at the same time as" meaning is much more likely :) – psmears May 1 '18 at 14:38
36

We’ll cut him down as for the border he rides.

Ah, one of the things one can do in English, but which is non-idiomatic and thus generally only appears in poetry, is re-arrange clause order like this, sticking the prepositional phrase in the middle of things.

"As" here means "while", and the more conventional place for "for the border" would be at the end:

We'll cut him down [while] he rides for the border.

"Cut him down" is idiomatic, and means more literally "murder him with swords", though also is used to refer, poetically, to murdering people with other weapons like firearms.

  • Actually, the phrase "cut him down" as an alternative to "shoot him" is hardly poetic. – WhatRoughBeast Apr 30 '18 at 17:50
  • 2
    This is probably from before firearms, so the weapon really would be swords or the like. – Loren Pechtel May 1 '18 at 0:40
  • 5
    I think you're correct that "as" means "while" in this context. But it might be worth mentioning that in this same type of construction, "as" could mean "because".. – Shufflepants May 1 '18 at 13:28
  • It may or may not be worth noting that this suggests that they will kill him while he is in their lands and somewhat vulnerable. If he reaches the border, he is in his lands with stronger defenses. – Hosch250 May 1 '18 at 14:06
  • 2
    It may be worth noting that the idiom of “cutting” used for killing of all kinds (and of “falling” for dying regardless of cause of death) goes back at least to Latin, where cidere (to cut, especially a tree for lumber) and cadere (to fall) were idiomatic for “to kill” and “to die” respectively (and cidere is the source of the -cide suffix in English, as used in homicide from homo for man, suicide from sui for himself, patricide from pater for father, regicide from rex for king, and so on). – KRyan May 1 '18 at 15:37
12

We’ll cut him down as for the border he rides.

means "We will kill him while he rides towards the border".

  • Or more faithfully to the original, "We'll kill him as he rides for [to] the border" – user151841 May 1 '18 at 20:47

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