This post originally sent to Amy who FWD’d a long list of lit’ry personages engaging pallor in simile and descriptive.
I often feel as though poems are nothing but glorified inventories, invented, idea piled upon idea, a colour process, a series of print-making processes, the inexhaustible (seeming) mind and its erotic thirst for knowing, knowing aspect, knowing texture, knowing through the senses.
I like the word lists. I love old dictionaries. I have a British dictionary from the 1880s. It is a wonderful juxtaposition to contemporary lexical indices (another inventory!) in that, at that time, the desire-to-know was obsessing over taxonomy of species and biological processes. A contemporary dictionary is, on the other hand, riddled through with economics and market terminology. ‘Shows where we’re at, or, at least, where power is at. Perhaps tomorrow’s diction will be completely digital, fetishizing the Chinese, and somewhat pro-fuedalist.
Demancipate the serfs!
- Pale as cardboard —Paige Mitchell
- Pale as white wine —Sir Kenelm Digby
- Blanch like conscious guilt personified —Charlotte Brontë
- Bleached like the skeleton of a stranded walrus —Herman Melville
- A face like paper —J. B. Priestly
- Face like parchment —G. K. Chesterton
- (His long, pendulous) face looked as if it had been dusted with white talc —Aharon Megged
- Face … pale as a Chinese mandarin’s —Nadine Gordimer
- Face … pale as a dead man’s —Ivan Turgenev
- Face … pale as a fish —T. Coraghessan Boyle
- Face, pallid and simmering like a milk pudding over a slow flame —Julia O’Faolain
- His waxy pallor was touched along the underside of his jaw with acne, like two brush burns —John Updike
- Look [pale] like Yom Kippur before sunset —Isaac Bashevis Singer
- Pale as a silkfish —Diane Ackerman
- Pale and dirty as a pulled root —George Garrett
- Pale as a birch —Louise Erdrich
- (A scar) pale as a fishgut —Davis Grubb
- Pale as a ghost with pernicious anemia —Anon A twist on the cliche, “Pale as a ghost.”
- Pale as a hyacinth grown in a cellar —Edith Wharton
- (Looking as) pale as a magnolia blossom —Sarah Bird
- Pale as a primrose —William Shakespeare
- Pale [after donating a lot of blood] as a princess after a date with Dracula —Kenzaburo Oë
- Pale as a prisoner —Carlos Baker
- (Always cool and) pale as a root —Jayne Anne Phillips
- Pale as a shell —James Wright
- Pale as a smooth-sculptured stone —John Keats
- Pale as a white rose —Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Pale as bleached clay —Z. Vance Wilson
- Pale as candles —Reynolds Price A more specific version by McKinlay Kantor is “Pale as a tallow candle.”
- Pale as china —Sylvia Plath
- (The desert looks) pale as death —Henry Chettle According to Stevenson’s Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases, Chettle was the first to use the simile in his seventeenth century play, Hoffman. The earliest linkage to the complexion is variously attributed to Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering, Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge and Henry James’ The Madonna of the Future.
- Pale as distemper —Miles Gibson
- Pale as his shirt —William Shakespeare
- Pale as ivory —Ouida
- Pale as junket —Christina Stead
- Pale as milk —William Shakespeare The similes from masters like the Bard are often used “as is” or with minor additions such as “Pale as cold milk” seen in Davis Grubb’s novel, The Golden Sickle.
- (Face) pale as sand —Stevie Smith
- Pale as straw —William Evans
- Pale as the bottom of a plate —Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
- Pale … as the mist that hangs over the river —Oscar Wilde
- Pale as the soap in the dish —Jean Thompson
- Pale as the tenant of a tomb —Edgar Allen Poe
- Pale as waxworks —Maxine Kumin
- Paler than ashes —Algernon Charles Swinburne
- Paler than grass in summer —Algernon Charles Swinburne
- (Thighs) pale and soft as snow —Lyn Lifshin See Also: SOFTNESS
- So white she was almost transparent —Jonathan Gash
- The transparent pallor of her skin was luminous like a sea-shell in green shadow of the pine-trees —Elinor Wylie
- Turned white as a tablecloth —Rudyard Kipling
- Wan as the Polar snows —Stephen Vincent Benét
ps. are you suggesting I’m beginning to resemble tripe?