From "A Florida Sunday." by Sidney Lanier:

High roofs of temples shafted tall with pines --
Green, grateful mangroves where the sand-beach shines --

I can't make sense of what exactly shafted tall means here.

tr.v. shaft·ed, shaft·ing, shafts 1. To equip with a shaft. 2. Slang To treat in a harsh, unfair way: "He had been shafted by the press quite a bit" (Frank Deford). 3. Slang To penetrate (someone) sexually.

Not only the use of the verb doesn't make sense, but the adverb tall doesn't make any sense either in this context unless I am missing something.


The quote you want is actually:

Palmettos ranked, with childish spear-points set
Against no enemy -- rich cones that fret
High roofs of temples shafted tall with pines

This is a poem, so you can expect some poetic language - from the author's perspective, groups of pine trees close together evoke the image of temples. This is not too strange, given that a lot of churches and temples in the US (and elsewhere) have a sloped, vaguely triangular roof or multiple such architectural elements, and a pine tree is also sloped with a pointy top. So "shafted tall with pines" more or less means "built by tall pine shafts", where "shaft" refers to the tree trunk, as this dictionary entry explains. Finally, the pine cones "fret" (adorn, decorate) the temples made of pines.

  • So the verb shafted is used as a metaphor here, and what about tall? I see people say things like "stand tall", but "built tall" would be considered ungrammatical. Do you know of any other example where a similar technique is used? – anchorage May 2 '20 at 12:48
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    "The hotel was built tall like the skyscrapers surrounding it." source – RuslanD May 2 '20 at 20:44

Shaft here is an architectural term, part of Greek style columns. See diagram from the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

Parts of a Greek column

See a sample of a temple shaft in this web article: Shaft of an ancient Greek temple

As to the meaning within the poem, please see RuslanD's answer.

For reference, we can read the complete poem here.

  • I doubt the reference is to a real temple. There are other evocative descriptions of trees right before and after this line, and the poem overall seems like an ode to the beauty of Florida's nature. Moreover, that temple is "fretted" with rich cones (pine cones from context), so unless 19th century Florida temples had pinecones glued to them as a form of decoration, you'd assume the poet is talking about trees. – RuslanD May 2 '20 at 4:04
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    @RuslanD Thanks. I planned to simply explain what temple shaft meant. Edited my answer to point to your answer. – GratefulDisciple May 2 '20 at 4:15

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