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But where the path we walk'd began
To slant the fifth autumnal slope,
As we descended following Hope,
There sat the Shadow fear'd of man...

(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45335/in-memoriam-a-h-h-obiit-mdcccxxxiii-22)

What does the fragment in bold mean? Is the Shadow afraid of man? Or does the Shadow frighten a man?

What is this grammatical construction?

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The next lines explain it "quite well":

Who broke our fair companionship,

And spread his mantle dark and cold,

And wrapt thee formless in the fold,

And dull'd the murmur on thy lip,


And bore thee where I could not see

Nor follow, tho' I walk in haste,

And think, that somewhere in the waste

The Shadow sits and waits for me.

The Shadow is death, (almost) obviously.

Now about "feared of man" - it is not common in everyday speech nowadays. We would say:

"the Shadow feared by man"

or

man being afraid of the Shadow.

You can test this using "bears", "vampires", "werewolves" instead of "the Shadow" to the same conclusion.

"Man" in this context does not refer to any person in particular, but to people (in general). As in:

People are afraid of death.

  • Thanks; but who is afraid—the Shadow or mankind? – Aer Mar 28 at 10:47
  • The man(kind) , of course. ( To be afraid of = to fear ) – virolino Mar 29 at 5:31
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"Man" in this case means "mankind", so a simpler way of wording that phrase might be

There sat the Shadow feared by mankind...

Taking the whole poem in context, you see that "the Shadow" is another name for death.

"Fear'd of man" is definitely an archaic way of wording it, and I don't believe I've ever seen it outside of old poetry.

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