I have learned that Chanctonbury Ring is an old fort, but it does not make it easier for me to understand the following (From A.Bierce's story):

Far away the line of Downs swept the horizon, like an arriving wave. Chanctonbury Ring rode their crest—a scudding ship, hull down before the wind.

From what I have been able to find, "riding the crest of something" means to enjoy it. But how can a fort enjoy something, even metaphorically? Could it be that because of the windy weather that the author describes earlier? But then, what does the "hull down" mean?

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    "Riding on the crest of a wave" can be a metaphor for success and enjoyment, but here the hill fort is literally on the crest of the Downs. Dec 14, 2020 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


Bierce is using figurative language. The horizon with its row of hills (the Downs) resembles the waves of the sea. Chanctonbury Ring (a fort), then, resembles a ship sailing on that sea, riding the crests of those waves. In sailing, hull-down means that the upper part of a vessel is visible, but the main, lower, hull is not.

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