I cannot understand the meaning of one sentence in Aurora Leigh:

"Now may God
Deliver me from this strait! This gift of yours
Was tendered . . when? accepted . . when?' I asked.
'A month . . a fortnight since? Six weeks ago
It was not tendered. By a word she dropped,
I know it was not tendered nor received.
When was it? bring your dates.'
'What matters when?
A half-hour ere she died, or a half-year,
Secured the gift, maintains the heritage
Inviolable with law. As easy pluck
The golden stars from heaven's embroidered stole,
To pin them on the grey side of this earth,
As make you poor again, thank God.
'Not poor
Nor clean again from henceforth, you thank God?
Well, sir–I ask you . . I insist at need . .
Vouchsafe the special date, the special date.'

Is pluck here a noun or a verb? I can't quite wrap my mind around this sentence either way.

Someone plucks golden stars? Or golden stars are "an easy pluck"? And what is the meaning of "as make you poor again"? The whole sentence is cryptic.

  • 6
    I think it makes more sense if its read as ellipsis: "It would be as easy to pluck..." as [to] "make you poor again, thank God." Plucking golden stars from heaven is just about impossible. So is "making you poor again." – Rob_Ster Dec 12 '17 at 18:55
  • Surely we have a question elsewhere on this site about this use of the bare infinitive (pluck, make), but I can't find one. – MetaEd Dec 12 '17 at 19:11
  • All of that is ridiculously cryptic. Doesn’t help, of course, that there’s quite a lot of context lacking, and that the quotes don’t seem to be adding up. (I went and looked at the text in the link you gave—that at least made it clear that this is two people, a woman and a man, talking about a gift the man made to the woman’s aunt, which made some sense of the text quoted here.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 12 '17 at 20:13

I will add all the words which were intentionally left out by the author, and simplify the fancier phrasing, to make its meaning plain:

It would be as easy to pluck the stars from heaven (in order to pin them on the earth) as it would be to make you poor again, thank God.

So yes, 'pluck' is being used as a verb (in the infinitive form) here, and the entire sentence is an 'as X as Y' comparison.

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