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    #1

    at the best of times and by far

    Blake is never the easiest of poets to understand at the best of times, because he is the first by far who can justifiably lay claim to the title of symbolist poet, and as such is open to personal interpretation.

    I found the above sentence in a forum. I have difficulty in understanding "at the best of times" and "by far" even after I have checked the dictionaries. Does it mean that it is difficult to understand Blake even for his easiest poem? Does by far means obviously here?

    Thanks!

    JY

  1. SlickVic9000's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: at the best of times and by far

    (Not a Teacher)

    The exact meaning of "at the best of times" is not entirely clear. Personally, I think you're suggestion is on the money, but let's suffice it to say that it's just emphasizing the fact that he is hard to understand.
    "By far" means that he far outstrips the competition when it comes to the obscurity of his writing.

  2. charliedeut's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: at the best of times and by far

    Quote Originally Posted by SlickVic9000 View Post
    (Not a Teacher)

    The exact meaning of "at the best of times" is not entirely clear. Personally, I think your suggestion is [right] on the money, but let's suffice it to say that it's just emphasizing the fact that he is hard to understand.
    "By far" means that he far outstrips the competition when it comes to the obscurity of his writing.
    charliedeut
    Please be aware that I'm neither a native English speaker nor a teacher.

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: at the best of times and by far

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiayun View Post
    Blake is never the easiest of poets to understand at the best of times, because he is the first by far who can justifiably lay claim to the title of symbolist poet, and as such is open to personal interpretation.

    I found the above sentence in a forum. I have difficulty in understanding "at the best of times" and "by far" even after I have checked the dictionaries. Does it mean that it is difficult to understand Blake even for his easiest poem? Does by far means obviously here?

    Thanks!

    JY
    To me, the first part means that even on a day when someone is finding it really quite easy to understand poetry, Blake is still difficult to understand. Also, that even to people who generally find poetry easy to understand, Blake is quite challenging.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #5

    Re: at the best of times and by far

    Thanks!

    What do you think "first by far" mean in the quoted sentence? Any reason to use "first" there?


    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    To me, the first part means that even on a day when someone is finding it really quite easy to understand poetry, Blake is still difficult to understand. Also, that even to people who generally find poetry easy to understand, Blake is quite challenging.

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    #6

    Re: at the best of times and by far

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiayun View Post
    What do you think "first by far" mean in the quoted sentence? Any reason to use "first" there?
    Yes. He is (by far) the first to .... There was absolutely no-one who came before him, and it was some time before anybody came after him. There is absolutely no doubt that he was the first.

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    #7

    Re: at the best of times and by far

    Thanks!

    So by far means "it was some time before anybody came after him"??? Do you think if there is another word which can express the similar meaning as "by far" in the quoted sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Yes. He is (by far) the first to .... There was absolutely no-one who came before him, and it was some time before anybody came after him. There is absolutely no doubt that he was the first.

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    #8

    Re: at the best of times and by far

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiayun View Post
    So by far means "it was some time before anybody came after him"?
    No. It means, 'by a great amount', ,very clearly', 'without any shadow of doubt'.

  6. BobK's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: at the best of times and by far

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    To me, the first part means that even on a day when someone is finding it really quite easy to understand poetry, Blake is still difficult to understand. Also, that even to people who generally find poetry easy to understand, Blake is quite challenging.
    And note the context: 'I found the above sentence in a forum.' I think there is also the implication 'Understanding Blake's poetry is tricky even for a clever and well-read person like me, so it's no wonder that you lot find it difficult. Still, I'll try to explain.'

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