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Behind the mare was plainly audible the cadence of a swiftly trotting horse. “D’you hear anything?” said Guj. “No—nothing but the regular triplet,” said Hordene; and he lied when he answered.

This is from "Sleipner", late "Thurinda" by Rudyard Kipling. What does "regular triplet" mean?

7

When a horse canters, the hoof-beats make a distinctive 1-2-3-1-2-3... rhythm.

It is nearly impossible to understand much of this story without knowing a lot about horses and a lot about British-India. I know only a little and so there is much that is unclear to me. But there is magical element to this story - When Thurinda is being ridden, the hoof-beats of a second horse can be heard following.

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Probably a musical reference:

Merriam-Webster triplet

: a group of three musical notes or tones performed in the time of two of the same value

regular here would mean something that you usually hear from a trotting horse.

(How they do that with four legs, I don't know.)

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  • "Regular" here means "happening at regular intervals" -- "irregular" is its opposite. As in "regular heartbeat".
    – Rosie F
    Dec 4 '21 at 7:30
  • @RosieF I disagree. If it were just a a regular triplet, it would mean the opposite of irregular. But, to my ear, just the regular triplet means the ordinary or expected. Dec 4 '21 at 18:01
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Although a horse's hooves do sometimes sound in groups of three, I've never heard them do a musical triplet.

When cantering I think the pattern is three quavers and a quaver rest, like the tiddle-ums in the "Lone Ranger" section of the William Tell overture (tiddle-um tiddle-um tiddle-um tum tum). So we hear three clops followed by a tiny silence.

If they were triplets there would be no silence: like Bibbidi-bobbidi-bibbidi-bobbidi but never a Boo.

I love Kipling but I wonder if his musical vocabulary may have let him down here.

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  • 1
    I like your illustrative phrases. Dec 4 '21 at 18:07
  • 1
    @Jack O'Flaherty: Do people even know the Lone Ranger and Bibbidi Bobbidy Boo these days? :-) Dec 4 '21 at 21:48
  • 1
    I remember the latter from a 45 rpm disc of colored plastic. I think the other side was The Teddy-bears' Picnic. Dec 4 '21 at 22:57

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