I ran into this: "And you, Madame Lucrezia, flower of the Borgias, if a poet painted you as the catholic Messalina, a skeptical Gregorovious turned up and almost completely absolved you of that quality; so that, if you have not become exactly a lily, at least you have emerged from the mire."

I would like to know if there is a metaphor of lily in this text. if so, what does it mean? more over, what does "emerging from the mire" mean? I understand from the text that Gregorovious absolved her from the reputation for promiscuity.

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    Obviously there's a metaphor of lily in this text (Madame Lucrezia is a human being, not a plant). The relevant attributes are lily = white, pure and mire = filth, corruption. Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 18:18
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    The image is of water lilies, which typically grow in very shallow, muddy water - mire. The water lily is thus a type of beauty emerging from filth and corruption. Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 18:25
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    Out of corruption comes forth sweetness. I thought that was from the Bible, but apparently it's Sax Rohmer - The Orchard of Tears. The biblical one is out of the strong, as featured on the cover of a can of Lyle's Golden Syrup in my cupboard (except the lion is dead, surrounded by flies, and presumably just "strong-smelling", rather than being a strong top predator). Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 18:45
  • @FumbleFingers: Or "strong" could mean the opposite of "weak," and thus the riddle is contrasting strength, in terms of implacability and fierceness, with sweetness, in terms of easy to take, pleasant, etc. The NET Bible translates the riddle this way: “Out of the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong one came something sweet.” Samson's explanation: What is stronger than a lion? What is sweeter than honey? Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 16:57

1 Answer 1


The metaphors are straightforward, I think. A lily is a symbol of purity, in its whiteness and "cleanness." A virgin is a lily; a slut is coated in mire. (Mire, as in the couplet "muck and mire," is a wet admixture of clay and dirt, which if stepped into will be difficult to emerge from. If you're wearing galoshes, when you struggle to free yourself, your feet and your galoshes will likely part ways, given the sticking power of the mire.)

So emerging from the mire is a step in the direction of purity, but by no means a big step. Hence, the contrast between the lily and the mire is more ironic than realistic. In other words, the person who emerges from the mire is a very long way indeed from purity! The figures resemble a left-handed compliment. Suppose I ask a friend of mine how good-looking was his blind date last night. He responds, "Well, she wasn't a dog, but she wasn't exactly a hotty, either." That sort of thing.

  • Thank u a lot for this nice elaboration:) i understand it better now and it makes quite sense.
    – Juya
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 1:02
  • @user43947: You're welcome, I'm sure. Consider giving the old man an upvote. Thanks. Don Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 2:01
  • of course as soon as I can I will. but now i have a reputation of 11 and it is not enough to give a vote-up:(
    – Juya
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 22:57
  • @user43947: Thanks. No hurry whatsoever. Don Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 23:48

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