Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Embellish [verb] (ehm behl ihsh)
  1. To add ornamental or fictitious details
Ever heard of the phrase, "To guild the lily?"  It's a commonly uncommon phrase that means to overly embellish.  A lily is meant to be embellishment enough, according to Shakespeare in King John:
Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
Brushing up on my Shakespeare for this entry feels a tad ironic, as I have fond memories of reading his works in high school only to think, "Man, this guy is really overplaying it."  Apparently, I was destined to bring Shakespeare and over embellishment together, even as a wee high schooler.  However, let me be clear: his works are not so much enhancing that which is considered plain, but rather deciding that something near perfection - words, beautiful words - was not good enough to present by itself.  "Get to the point already," I chanted in the middle of Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer's Night Dream. "Just say what you mean!"  

Of course, my complaint with this literary hero is the exact reason many love his works - the ornate nature of it all that reveals wit, satire, and, to some extent, wisdom.  Or perhaps I'm just embellishing it.

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