Disappointment was arrival. Letters went out to the world, diaries, newspaper reports, warnings, laments, together with personal effects—eyeglasses, pen nibs, broken-backed Bibles—wrapped in soiled canvas. The stolen claim. Or the fortune squandered. (Lottie, dear, I have wasted our dream…) The trusting disposition. The false friend. The fog-shrouded wharf. The Spaniard Marquis, etc. The ring, the brooch, the opium den, etc.

Narratives of disappointment flowed eastward, like an auguring smoke, or bumped back over rutted trails, as coffins bump or buckboards slow, to meet the stories of the desolations of the prairie life, rolled over those, flowed back to the Atlantic shore, where the raw line separating the North and South was beginning to fester.

Quoted from here

I found these meanings of "augur" as a verb: 1. To predict, especially from signs or omens; foretell. 2. To serve as an omen of; betoken: trends that augur change in society.

So, "auguring smoke" here is a metaphore, which imagines smoke as some signs and these signs are bad, am I right?

  • Yes, your explanation is right. Good job!
    – Lambie
    Feb 17, 2022 at 19:28
  • I agree with your explanation and with @Lambie
    – Eli Harold
    Feb 17, 2022 at 19:29
  • No final 'e' in 'metaphor'. Feb 17, 2022 at 20:16
  • The phrase may refer obliquely to the idiom "Where there's smoke there's fire," in the sense that the "smoke" of disappointment was a clue to the existence of trouble, and a prediction of disaster to come (the American Civil War). Feb 17, 2022 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


I agree with your explanation, but the metaphor is more pointed than that. Smoke has been used as a means of augury, so auguring smoke makes reference to that. See

Occult World capnomancy

Capnomancy, also known as Libanomancy, is a method of divination by interpreting the movement of smoke rising from a fire, principally sacrificial fires.

Wikipedia capnomancy

Capnomancy (otherwise known as libanomancy) signifies a method of divination using smoke. This is done by looking at the movements of the smoke after a fire has been made.

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