It beggar'd all description
What's the meaning of the phrase 'It beggar'd all description'?
In Shakespeare's day the verb 'to beggar' meant 'to exhaust' or 'make a beggar' of. To beggar description meant 'to be so incredible as to make all description impossible - literally, for the speaker to be lost for words.
What's the origin of the phrase 'It beggar'd all description'?
From Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, 1606.
I will tell you.
The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion - cloth-of-gold of tissue-
O'er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.