Words, words, words… a meditation on meaning

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Today’s A.Word.A.Day is refulgent meaning shining brilliantly. This reminded me of a poem by my favorite vampire from his pre-vamp foppish days:

“My soul is wrapped in harsh repose,
Midnight descends in raven-colored clothes,
But soft… behold!
A sunlight beamButting a swath of glimmering gleam.
My heart expands,’tis grown a bulge in it,
Inspired by your beauty…

But as you can see the word was effulgent meaning what? Yes, shining brilliantly. Two words of similar make-up meaning the same thing.

Would refulgent not better embody its original meaning of re- (back) fulgere (to shine), rather than be wasted with meaning effulgent? Refulgent is more of a reflection of brilliance than an actual brilliance of its own. Ef- a variant of ex- (from, out of) fulgere (to shine). Both ending in -ent a variant of -ant (characterized by).

As far as I am concerned, refulgent is henceforth the reflection of brilliance (or a brilliant light) and effulgent is that which shines brilliantly. Note how in the poem by William the Bloody, above, how Drusilla’s beauty shines brilliantly in its own right, it does not act as the mirror to reflect another’s beauty.

The opening verse to the poem by Allen Tate, “An Elegy for Jefferson Davis”, illustrates the proper use of refulgent, I think:

“NO more the white refulgent streets,
Never the dry hollows of the mind
Shall he in fine courtesy walk
Again, for death is not unkind.”

The streets did not shine brightly on their own, they reflected the light of the sun.

I am effulgent as a star among stars, within the company of heaven; I shall strive to be refulgent in my daily life, as it is my most worthwhile duty and joy.

Love is the law, love under will.