Last night I could be found sitting in front of a computer screen reading some essays by Robert Louis Stevenson before turning in. I was struck by a metaphor in an essay, a rumination on mortality, called Aes Triplex; the title refers to a passage from one of Horace’s Odes. An explanation from a writer named J. Nathan Matias:
Aes Triplex means Triple Bronze, from a line in Horace’s Odes that reads ‘Oak and triple bronze encompassed the breast of him who first entrusted his frail craft to the wild sea.’
The Stevenson quote:
And what would it be to grow old?
For, after a certain distance, every step we take in life we find the
ice growing thinner below our feet, and all around us and behind us we
see our contemporaries going through.
Such a vivid metaphor! This morning I’ve been plagued by the idea that a variation of this trope occurs in the works of another writer — perhaps Thoreau? Sir Thomas Browne? Google was unable to help me.
R.L. Stevenson had such a natural command of prose style. He spins out elegant verbal images like an orb-weaver spider constructing its symmetrical trap in the morning sun.