"Maybe it was mean country, but not an inch was lean." What does this sentence mean? I really don't know what the words "mean country" are meant to mean here. Context: Those looking for serious land moved on, and this infamous marsh became a net, scooping up a mishmash of mutinous sailors, castaways, debtors, and fugitives dodging wars, taxes, or laws that they didn’t take to. The ones malaria didn’t kill or the swamp didn’t swallow bred into a woodsmen tribe of several races and multiple cultures, each of whom could fell a small forest with a hatchet and pack a buck for miles. Like river rats, each had his own territory, yet had to fit into the fringe or simply disappear some day in the swamp. Two hundred years later, they were joined by runaway slaves, who escaped into the marsh and were called maroons, and freed slaves, penniless and beleaguered, who dispersed into the water-land because of scant options. Maybe it was mean country, but not an inch was lean. Layers of life—squiggly sand crabs, mud-waddling crayfish, waterfowl, fish, shrimp...
Oct 23, 2018 10:24 PM
Answers · 7
Hi there! When I read this, to me “mean” meant harsh or cruel in this context
October 23, 2018
Mean here = inhospitable, a tough place to live, ‘not an inch was lean’ means that the place, despite being inhospitable for humans, was full of life - the kind of life that people could eat. Figuratively, land that might be called ‘fat’ is rich, productive, supports a lot of life, whereas lean land is the opposite, but you’ll generally only find that kind of phrasing in poetry or poetic prose.
October 24, 2018
It feels like saying "poor, shabby'.
October 23, 2018
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