“Watership Down” (Post 2/3)


[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 3/3


“Who wants to hear about brave deeds when he’s ashamed of his own, and who likes an open, honest tale from someone he’s deceiving?”


[19] Reference:

“I tell you, every single thing that’s happened fits like a bee in a foxglove.”



Digitalis is a genus of about 20 species of herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and biennials commonly called foxglove. The scientific name means “finger-like.” The flowers are produced on a tall spite, are tubular, and vary in color with species.

[20] Reference:

The light, full and smooth, lay like a gold rind over the turf, the furze and yew bushes, the few wind-stunted thorn trees.



Ulex (commonly known as gorse, furze or whin) is a genus of flowering plants. It has green stems and very small leaves and is adapted to dry growing conditions.

[21] Vocabulary:

The insects buzzed, whined, hummed, stridulated and droned as the air grew warmer in the sunset.




verb – (of an insect, especially a male cricket or grasshopper) make a shrill sound by rubbing the legs, wings, or other parts of the body together.

[22] Vocabulary:

Skirting a small lake, they had stared to see a great gray fisher bird that stabbed and paddled in the sedge.



The Cyperaceae are a family of flowering plants known as sedges, which superficially resemble grasses and rushes.

[23] Vocabulary:

Rabbits above ground, unless they are in proved, familiar surroundings close to their holes, live in continual fear. If it grows intense enough they can become glazed and paralyzed by it – “tharn,” to use their own word.


Richard Adams created the word “tharn” for Watership Down.

[24] Reference:

They peered over anthills and looked cautiously round clumps of teazle.



A tall prickly Eurasian plant with spiny purple flower heads.

[25] Vocabulary:

They saw nothing except a field mouse, which came out of its hole and began furricking in a patch of seeded grasses.


The best information I could get about this word was from a message board. User bibliolept wrote, in 2007:

Furrick, or furrige, is a Kentish word. It shares an origin and meaning with the more common word forage: to search or root around, possibly creating a bit of a mess while you do so.

[26] Reference:

Acts of injustice done

Between the setting and the rising sun

In history lie like bones, each one.

W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, The Ascent of F.6



Christopher Isherwood (1904 – 1986) was an English-American novelist. He had friendships with Truman Capote, Aldous Huxley and Dodie Smith, among others.

The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts was the second and most successful play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936. It was a major contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s. The play tells the story of a man who fails to reach the top of a mountain because of his haste to beat other climbers.


“A weak rabbit who can’t hope to get far by fighting sometimes tries to make himself important by other means and prophecy is a favorite. The curious thing is that when he turns out to be wrong, his friends seldom seem to notice, as long as he puts on a good act and keeps talking.”



“I don’t know what I’d been expecting. You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.”


[29] Reference:

Has he not a rogue’s face?… Has a damn’d Tyburn-face, without the benefit of the clergy.

Congreve, Love for Love



William Congreve (1670 – 1729) was an English playwright and poet. He is seen as the man who shaped the English comedy of manners through his use of satire and well written dialogue. By the age of thirty, he had written four comedies, including Love for Love (1695). Two of his phrases from The Mourning Bride (1697) have become famous (though often misquoted and often misattributed to Shakespeare): “Musick has charms to soothe a savage beast” and “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”


“All I’m saying is this. If anyone finds an animal or bird, that isn’t an enemy, in need of help, for goodness’ sake don’t miss the opportunity. That would be like leaving carrots to rot in the ground.”



We are not conscious of daylight as that which displaces darkness.


[32] Reference:

Stubbs may have envisaged the skeleton inside the horse, but most of us do not.



George Stubbs (1724 – 1806) was an English painter, best known for his paintings of horses. He had a passion for anatomy and one of his earliest surviving works is a set of illustrations for a midwifery textbook. Beginning in 1756, he spent eighteen months dissecting horses and in 1766 published The anatomy of the Horse.

[33] A really beautiful description:

We do not take moonlight for granted. It is like snow, or like the dew on a July morning. It does not reveal but changes what it covers. And its low intensity – so much lower than that of daylight – makes us conscious that it is something added to the down, to give it, for only a little time, a singular and marvelous quality that we should admire while we can, for soon it will be gone again.


[34] Reference:

Hazel could have pressed his chin glands for satisfaction.


From animals.mom.me:

Rabbits have a scent gland on their chin. When they rub their chin against something, a small amount of scent is deposited on the object. They use the odor to identify territory. A rabbit may mark everything he thinks he owns.

[35] Reference:

No one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.

Robinson Jeffers, Hurt Hawks



Robinson Jeffers (1887 – 1962) was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. He coined the word inhumanism, the belief that mankind is too self-centered and too indifferent to the “astonishing beauty of things.”

Hurt Hawks is a short verse of his. I can’t find what year it was published but the full text can be found here here.


With the melting of the last of the twilight there grew a kind of expectancy and tension, as though it were thawing snow about to slide from a sloping roof.


[37] Vocabulary:

High winds from the south laid the grass flat all day, turning it to a dull, damascene silver.



adjective – (Usually capitalized as Damascene) – 1. of or relating to the city of Damascus.

2. used in reference to an important moment of insight, typically one that leads to a dramatic transformation of attitude or belief.

3. (historical) – of or relating to Damacus steel or its manufacture.

4. Relating to or denoting a process of inlaying a metal object with gold or silver decoration.


The next morning they went about their lives as usual, feeding Kehaar and themselves, playing and digging. But all this time, just as a drop of water slowly swells until it is heavy enough to fall from a twig, the idea of what they meant to do was becoming clear and unanimous.


[39] Reference:

“The kittens begin to grow inside [the does] and then they melt away again into their bodies.”


From Rob Usakowski on threelittleladiesrabbitry.com:

Rabbits have an ability to reabsorb the soft fetal tissue. A few things can then happen to the remainder of the mummified kits. They could actually be delivered at a future date. Should the doe again become pregnant she can actually deliver the deceased kits with a live litter. Finally they could be retained forever.

There has been very little research done on this subject. In fact there is nearly no information available on the internet. Most of what I have shared with you is from experiences of other breeders.

[40] References:

On the east side, in front of the house, a barn stands clear of the ground on staddle stones; and opposite is the cow byre.



Staddle stones (also called Steddle stones) were originally used as supporting bases for granaries, hayricks, game larders, etc. They usually have a separate head and base which give the whole structure a mushroom-like appearance.

A byre is a chiefly British word for barn, especially one used for keeping cattle in.

[41] Reference:

He went consenting, or else he was no king…. It was no one’s place to say to him, “It is time to make the offering.”

Mary Renault, The King Must Die



Mary Renault (1905 – 1983) born Eileen Mary Challans, was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. The King Must Die (1958) is a historical fiction about the early life and adventures of Greek mythological hero Theseus.

[42] References:

A pile of mangels and swedes occupied them for some time and they set out only when the light was beginning to fade.




noun – a beet of a variety with a large root, cultivated as feed for livestock.

Swede (from Swedish turnip) is another word for rutabaga.

[43] Reference:

Rabbits do not name the stars, but nevertheless Hazel was familiar with the sight of Capella rising.



Capella, also designated Alpha Aurigae, is the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga; the sixth-brightest in the night sky. Although it appears to be a single star to the naked eye, it is actually a star system of four stars in two binary pairs.

[44] References:

“By Frith, that’ll do,” said Blackberry, for all the world like the Duke of Wellington at Salamanca.



Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852) was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of 19th-century Britain. His defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 put him in the top rank of Britain’s military heroes. In 1812, campaigning in Spain, he routed the French at the Battle of Salamanca. The victory liberated the Spanish capital of Madrid.

[45] Reference:

The most difficult stage of the adventure now begins. The depths of the underworld open before him.

Uno Harva, quoted by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces



Uno Nils Oskar Harva (1882 – 1949) was a priest and religious and sociology professor.

The only page I can find on him is on Finnish Wikipedia. It’s difficult to understand, even with translations.

[46] References:

My Godda bless, never I see sucha people.

Signor Piozzi, quoted by Cecilia [sic?] Thrale



Hester Thrale (1741 – 1821) was a British diarist, author, and patron of the arts. Her diaries and correspondence are an important source of information about Samuel Johnson and 18th-century life. Her second marriage was to Gabriel Mario Piozzi, an Italian music teacher.

I’m assuming this is the right Piozzi and Thrale, but I can’t find the context of Piozzi’s quote or why Mrs. Thrale is credited as Cecilia and not Hester.


“Animals don’t behave like men,” [Strawberry] said. “If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill, they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them. They have their dignity and animality.”


This is a great sentiment but the rabbits’ stories of El-ahrairah go against this (he very definitely sits down and sets his wits against others) and later, so do the actions of Hazel’s own warren. Hazel even says, when planning to retrieve does from the Efrafan warren: “It can’t be done by fighting or fair words, no. So it will have to be done by means of a trick.” (p.223)

[48] Reference:

Marvellous happy it was to be

Alone, and yet not solitary.

O out of terror and dark, to come

In sight of home.

Walter de la Mare, The Pilgrim



Walter John de la Mare (1873 – 1956) was an English poet, short story writer and novelist. He is probably best remembered for his works for children, for his poem “The Listeners,” and for a small yet highly acclaimed selection of subtle psychological horror stories. The Pilgrim is a poem, written sometime between 1901 – 1918. The full text can be found here.

De la Mare is quoted a second time at the opening of Chapter 40 (p.342), with Dame Hickory, collected in Songs of Childhood in 1902. That full text can be found here.

Post 3/3


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