Interested in Language
I have difficulty in understanding the bold text; can anybody help me please?
This was a summer's afternoon; and the strange pair, encountering Placide Gervez as he chopped, accosted him. The philosopher, whose irrelevant name was Theophraste Goulet, drew out a cigarette and offered it to his intended victim. It is impossible in a polite nation to leave a man until you have finished the cigarette he gives you --- a man, if he was a man, once gave me an Irish cigarette, but that story is a separate cheque --- and Placide could not have cut that knot save with his axe. However, in the first pause of the voluble ass for breath, he pointed to his work, uttered the adjective "Hard," and continued to chop.
Aleister Crowley, The Woodcutter, 1911
Not a Teacher
I take it as a reference to the legend of the Gordian Knot. When faced with the task of untying an extremely complicated knot, Alexander simply cut it in half with his sword. The story has become a metaphor for simple solutions to complex problems.
Here the 'knot' or problem, is that the woodcutter wants to continue working but social norms dictate he must finish the cigarette instead of returning to his labors. Meanwhile, the philosopher won't stop talking. It would take a metaphorical axe (something more powerful than a sword) to cut this knot (problem).
Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!