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  1. moonlike's Avatar
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    #1

    Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    Hi
    In the magnificent and famous Christmas carol "we three kings", through the end in the last verse there's a line which is as the following:

    Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom
    sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

    I come up with two questions, I wonder if you can help me please?
    1. Is 'breathes' a plural noun here? and as I listened to it, the pronunciation was /briitz/ not /breths/, why?
    (Sorry I don't know how to show the phonetic transcription of the words here)
    2. The meaning of the bold word. Does it in general mean that through burning the myrrh you can get rid of all those sorrow and darkness that has gathered around you?

    Thanks a million.
    Last edited by moonlike; 08-Sep-2012 at 18:44.
    Being a non-native teacher, I'm so thrilled being in such a superb forum.

  2. Academic Writing's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    1. The word breathes is a verb in this structure. You can hear a U.S. pronunciation at Breathe - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary (I apologize for not including a British pronunciation, but I didn't see the audio option on oxforddictionaries.com. And of course the intonation would even vary slightly within states/provinces and perhaps even smaller regions, but you would be understood if you pronounce it as the example on M-W or from another native source.).

    2. To be honest I don't follow the meaning; the phrase breathes of life usually refers to something exuberant, but in this case the idea is combined with sadness. Perhaps with more context it would be easier to say (or perhaps it will be equally as confusing, at least to me!). :)
    Last edited by Academic Writing; 07-Sep-2012 at 18:25.
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    #3

    Re: Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    I'm more accustomed to '...breathes a life of gathering gloom', though both versions can be found on the internet, and it doesn't make much difference which is used.

    Here, breathes is used in the sense of meaning 3 here:

    Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:
    breathe/briːū/
    verb
    • 1 take air into the lungs and then expel it as a regular physiological process.■ (of a plant or invertebrate animal) respire or exchange gases.


    • 2 say with quiet intensity.


    • 3 give an impression of: the room breathed an air of efficiency.
    Myrrh has always been associated with death. It was used in the embalming of Egyptian mummies and is still used in religious ceremonies involving the dying.

    The gift of myrrh symbolised the prophets' foretelling of Christ's future suffering and death.
    • Rover
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 07-Sep-2012 at 18:36.

  3. moonlike's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    Thanks Academic Writing for being so meticulous regarding the pronunciation. You know because of that of phrase after 'breathe', I thought it might be a noun, even if it's pronounced like the verb form.
    Being a non-native teacher, I'm so thrilled being in such a superb forum.

  4. moonlike's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    Thanks Rover, the information about "myrrh" was really of great use. By the way, could you kindly tell me how I can show the phonetic transcription of words, in case it's needed here.
    Being a non-native teacher, I'm so thrilled being in such a superb forum.

  5. 5jj's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    Quote Originally Posted by moonlike View Post
    By the way, could you kindly tell me how I can show the phonetic transcription of words, in case it's needed here.
    Type what you want on this keyboard; cut and paste it here.

  6. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    It's a line that has baffled me ever since I first sang the full version of the carol in primary school. However, the main meaning seems to me to be that the smell of myrrh reminds us of gloom, tombs, sadness etc. The fragrance is not a happy one, although personally I love the smell of myrrh.

    Edit: Thinking about it (and not having a carol book to hand) I always thought it was "breathes a life of bitter perfume".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #8

    Re: Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    'Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom.'

  7. BobK's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Its bitter perfume breathes of life of gathering gloom/ MEANING? please.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    I'm more accustomed to '...breathes a life of gathering gloom', though both versions can be found on the internet, and it doesn't make much difference which is used.

    Here, breathes is used in the sense of meaning 3 here:

    Myrrh has always been associated with death. It was used in the embalming of Egyptian mummies and is still used in religious ceremonies involving the dying.

    The gift of myrrh symbolised the prophets' foretelling of Christ's future suffering and death.
    • Rover
    Wise men? More like tactless, I'd say.

    b

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