"Ears Polite". How do you justify this construction?

  • 2
    Edwin Ashworth and StoneyB obviously are not online at the moment. So, you just go ahead and read up on this.
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 17:22
  • And what research have you done?
    – TrevorD
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 18:53
  • The structure is noun + adjective. Not much to explain. "How do you justify this construction?" is not a question that makes sense to me. It assumes we have to justify it. We do not. On a more serious note, this has been addressed many times before. The question linked by Talia is one example, "The City Beautiful" is another, and there are more linked from these. If there is still anything unclear, please edit your question accordingly. Thank you.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


It's a literary allusion, to a couplet by Alexander Pope:

To rest, the Cushion and soft Dean invite,
Who never mentions Hell to ears polite.

Pope footnoted this couplet: ‘This is a fact; a reverend Dean preaching at Court, threatened the sinner with punishment in “a place which he thought it not decent to name in so polite an assembly”’.

Inversion was permitted and indeed applauded in verse of the Augustan Age when it permitted the poet to achieve a witty rhyme or striking rhetorical effect. Note that the entire sentence has been subjected to inversion:

The cushion and [the] soft dean (who never mentions Hell to polite ears) invite [you] to rest.

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