I am not sure how to understand this expression which showed up in a Walt Whitman poem (Passage to India : 142) - English is not my first language

Brook normally means 'to not tolerate' but that doesn't make sense to me in the context.

The line is

Thyself O soul that will not brook a challenge.

I don't think that means that the soul 'avoids' challenges. Or does it ?

1 Answer 1


It means “Stand/tolerate no challenge


As a verb, brook is a rather stuffy word for "put up with." The lord of the manor might say, "I will brook no trespassing on my land."


Brook is tailor-made for talking about what you won't stand for — it's always "brook no..." If you brook no criticism of your friend, it means you won't let people speak ill of her. If you brook no brooks, it means you've developed a bizarre hatred of streams and will spend the rest of your days trying to avoid them.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.