Part 5 out of 9
A _sonnet_ is a lyric poem of fourteen lines which deals with a single
idea or sentiment. It is not a stanza taken from a poem, but is a complete
poem itself. In the Italian sonnet and those modeled after it, the
emotional feeling rises through the first two quatrains, reaching its
climax at or near the end of the eighth line, and then subsides through
the two tercets which make up the remaining six lines. If the sentiment
expressed does not adjust itself to this ebb and flow, it is not suitable
for a sonnet. Milton's sonnet on his blindness is one of the best. Notice
the emotional transition in the middle of the eighth line. This sonnet
will also illustrate the fixed rhyme scheme:--
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent, which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he, returning, chide;
Doth God exact day labor, light denied?
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need,
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.
There is a form of sonnet called the Shakespearean which differs in its
arrangement from the Italian sonnet.
_C. Dramatic poetry_ relates the occurrence of human events, and is
designed to be spoken on the stage. If the drama has an unhappy ending, it
is _a tragedy_. As is becoming in such a theme, the language is dignified
and impressive, and the whole appeals to our deeper emotions. If the drama
has a happy conclusion, it is _a comedy_. Here the movement is quicker,
the language less dignified, and the effort is to make the whole light and
Description, Narration, Exposition, and Argument have been treated in an
elementary way in Part I. A more extensive treatment of each is given in
Part II. It has been deemed undesirable to repeat in Part II many things
which have been previously treated. The treatment of any one of the forms
of discourse as given in Part II is not complete. By reference to the
index all the sections treating of any phase of any one subject may be
[Illustration: See page 224, _C._]
+118. Description Defined.+--By means of our senses we gain a knowledge of
the world. We see, hear, taste, smell, and feel; and the ideas so acquired
are the fundamental elements of our knowledge, without which thinking
would be impossible. It, therefore, happens that much of the language that
we use has for its purpose the transmission to others of such ideas. Such
writing is called description. We may, therefore, define description as
that form of discourse which has for its purpose the formation of an
As here used, the term _image_ applies to any idea presented by the
senses. In a more limited sense it means the mental picture which is
formed by aid of sight. It is for the purpose of presenting images of this
kind that description is most often employed. It is most frequently
concerned with images of objects seen, less frequently with sounds, and
seldom with ideas arising through touch, taste, and smell. In this
chapter, therefore, we shall consider chiefly the methods of using
language for the purpose of arousing images of objects seen.
+119. Order of Observation.+--In description we shall find it of advantage
to use such language that the reader will form the image in the same way
as he would form an image from actual observation. There is a customary
and natural order of observation, and if we present our material in that
same order, the mind more easily forms the desired image. Our first need
in the study of description is to determine what this natural order of
Look at the building across the street. Your _first_ impression is that of
size, shape, and color. Almost instantly, but nevertheless _secondly_, you
add certain details as to roof, door, windows, and surroundings. Further
observation adds to the number of details, such as the size of the window
panes or the pattern of the lattice work. Our first glance may assure us
that we see a train, our second will tell us how many cars, our third will
show us that each car is marked Michigan Central. The oftener we look or
the longer we look, the greater is the number of details of which we
become conscious. Any number of illustrations will show that we first see
the general outline, and after that the details. We do not observe the
details one by one and then combine them into an object, but we first see
the object as a whole, and our first impression becomes more vivid as we
add detail after detail.
Following this natural order of observation a description should begin
with a sentence that will give the reader a general impression of the
whole. Notice the beginnings of the following selections. After reading
the italicized sentence in each, consider the image that it has caused you
The door opened upon the main or living room. _It was a long apartment
with low ceiling and walls of hewn logs chinked and plastered and all
beautifully whitewashed and clean._ The tables, chairs, and benches were
all homemade. On the floor were magnificent skins of wolf, bear, musk ox,
and mountain goat. The walls were decorated with heads and horns of deer
and mountain sheep, eagle's wings, and a beautiful breast of a loon, which
Gwen had shot and of which she was very proud. At one end of the room a
huge stone fireplace stood radiant in its summer decorations of ferns and
grasses and wildflowers. At the other end a door opened into another room,
smaller, and richly furnished with relics of former grandeur.
--Connor: _The Sky Pilot_.
_The stranger was of middle height, loosely knit and thin, with a cunning,
brutal face._ He had a bullet-shaped head, with fine, soft, reddish brown
hair; a round, stubbly beard shot with gray; and small, beady eyes set
close together. He was clothed in an old, black, grotesquely fitting
cutaway coat, with coarse trousers tucked into his boot tops. A worn
visored cloth cap was on his head. In his right hand he carried an old
--George Kibbe Turner: _Across the State_ ("McClure's").
+120. The Fundamental Image.+--The first impression of the object as a
whole is called the fundamental image. The beginning of a description
should cause the reader to form a correct general outline, which will
include the main characteristics of the object described. While the
fundamental image lacks definiteness and exactness, yet it must be such
that it shall not need to be revised as we add the details. If one should
begin a description by saying, "Opposite the church there is a large
two-story, brick house with a conservatory on the left," the reader would
form at once a mental picture including the essential features of the
house. Further statements about the roof, the windows, the doors, the
porch, the yard, and the fence, would each add something to the picture
until it was complete. The impression with which the reader started would
be added to, but not otherwise changed. But if we should conclude the
description with the statement, "This house was distinguished from its
neighbors by the fact that it was not of the usual rectangular form, but
was octagonal in shape," the reader would find that the image which he
had formed would need to be entirely changed. It is evident that if the
word _octagonal_ is to appear at all, it must be at the beginning. Care
must be taken to place all the words that affect the fundamental image in
the sentence that gives the general characteristics of that which we are
Hawthorne begins _The House of the Seven Gables_ as follows:--
Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty
wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various
points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. The
street is Pyncheon street; the house is the old Pyncheon house; and an elm
tree, of wide circumference, rooted before the door, is familiar to every
town-born child by the title of the Pyncheon elm. On my occasional visits
to the town aforesaid, I seldom failed to turn down Pyncheon street, for
the sake of passing through the shadow of these two antiquities,--the
great elm tree and the weather-beaten edifice.
Later he gives a detailed description of the house on the morning of its
completion as follows:--
Maule's lane, or Pyncheon street, as it were now more decorous to call it,
was thronged, at the appointed hour, as with a congregation on its way to
church. All, as they approached, looked upward at the imposing edifice,
which was henceforth to assume its rank among the habitations of mankind.
There it rose, a little withdrawn from the line of the street, but in
pride, not modesty. Its whole visible exterior was ornamented with quaint
figures, conceived in the grotesqueness of a Gothic fancy, and drawn or
stamped in the glittering plaster, composed of lime, pebbles, and bits of
glass, with which the woodwork of the walls was overspread. On every side
the seven gables pointed sharply towards the sky, and presented the aspect
of a whole sisterhood of edifices, breathing through the spiracles of one
great chimney. The many lattices, with their small, diamond-shaped panes,
admitted the sunlight into hall and chamber, while, nevertheless, the
second story, projecting far over the base, and itself retiring beneath
the third, threw a shadowy and thoughtful gloom into the lower rooms.
Carved globes of wood were affixed under the jutting stories. Little
spiral rods of iron beautified each of the seven peaks. On the triangular
portion of the gable, that fronted next the street, was a dial, put up
that very morning, and on which the sun was still marking the passage of
the first bright hour in a history that was not destined to be all so
bright. All around were scattered shavings, chips, shingles, and broken
halves of bricks; these, together with the lately turned earth, on which
the grass had not begun to grow, contributed to the impression of
strangeness and novelty proper to a house that had yet its place to make
among men's daily interests.
_A._ Select the sentence or part of a sentence which gives the fundamental
image in each of the following selections:--
1. It was a big, smooth-stone-faced house, product of the 'Seventies,
frowning under an outrageously insistent Mansard, capped by a cupola, and
staring out of long windows overtopped with "ornamental" slabs. Two
cast-iron deer, painted death-gray, twins of the same mold, stood on
opposite sides of the front walk, their backs toward it and each other,
their bodies in profile to the street, their necks bent, however, so that
they gazed upon the passer-by--yet gazed without emotion. Two large, calm
dogs guarded the top of the steps leading to the front door; they also
were twins and of the same interesting metal, though honored beyond the
deer by coats of black paint and shellac.
--Booth Tarkington: _The Conquest of Canaan_ ("Harper's").
2. At the first glance, Phoebe saw an elderly personage, in an
old-fashioned dressing gown of faded damask, and wearing his gray or
almost white hair of an unusual length. It quite overshadowed his
forehead, except when he thrust it back, and stared vaguely about the
room. After a very brief inspection of his face, it was easy to conceive
that his footstep must necessarily be such an one as that which, slowly,
and with as indefinite an aim as a child's first journey across a floor,
had just brought him hitherward. Yet there were no tokens that his
physical strength might not have sufficed for a free and determined gait.
It was the spirit of a man that could not walk. The expression of his
countenance--while, notwithstanding, it had the light of reason in it--
seemed to waver, and glimmer, and nearly to die away, and feebly to
recover itself again. It was like a flame which we see twinkling among
half-extinguished embers; we gaze at it more intently than if it were a
positive blaze, gushing vividly upward--more intently, but with a certain
impatience, as if it ought either to kindle itself into satisfactory
splendor, or be at once extinguished.
--Hawthorne: _The House of the Seven Gables_.
3. One of the best known of the flycatchers all over the country is the
kingbird. He is a little smaller than a robin, and all in brownish black,
with white breast. He has also white tips to his tail feathers, which look
very fine when he spreads it out wide in flying. Among the head feathers
of the kingbird is a small spot of orange color. This is called in the
books a "concealed patch," because it is seldom seen, it is so hidden by
the dark feathers.
--Mary Rogers Miller: _The Brook Book_.
(Copyright, 1902, by Doubleday, Page and Co.)
Notice the use of a comparison in establishing a correct fundamental image
in example 3.
_B._ Select five buildings with which the members of the class are
familiar. Write a single sentence for each, giving the fundamental image.
Read these sentences to the class. Let them determine for which building
each is written.
_C._ Notice the pictures on page 218. Write a single sentence for each,
giving the fundamental image.
+Theme LII.+--_Write a paragraph, describing something with which you are
1. The county court house.
2. The new church.
3. My neighbor's house.
4. Where we go fishing.
5. A neighboring lake.
6. A cozy nook.
(Underscore the sentence that gives the fundamental image. Will the
reader get from it at once a correct general outline of the object to
be described? Will he need to change the fundamental image as your
+121. Point of View.+--What we shall see first depends upon the point of
view. Seen from one position, an object or a landscape will present a
different appearance from that which it will present when viewed from
another position. A careful writer will give that fundamental image that
would come from actual observation if the reader were looking at the scene
described from the point of view chosen by the writer. He will not include
details that cannot be seen from that position even though he knows that
Notice that the following descriptions include only that which can be seen
from the place indicated in the italicized phrases:--
_Forward from the bridge_ he beheld a landscape of wide valleys and
irregular heights, with groves and lakes and fanciful houses linked
together by white paths and shining streams. The valleys were spread
below, that the river might be poured upon them for refreshment in day of
drought, and they were as green carpets figured with beds and fields of
flowers and flecked with flocks of sheep white as balls of snow; and the
voices of shepherds following the flocks were heard afar. As if to tell
him of the pious inscription of all he beheld, the altars out under the
open sky seemed countless, each with a white-gowned figure attending it,
while processions in white went slowly hither and thither between them;
and the smoke of the altars half risen hung collected in pale clouds over
the devoted places.
(Copyright, 1880. Harper and Bros.)
The house stood unusually near the river, facing eastward, and standing
four-square, with an immense veranda about its sides, and a flight of
steps in front, spreading broadly downward, as we open our arms to a
child. _From the veranda_ nine miles of river were seen; and in their
compass near at hand, the shady garden full of rare and beautiful flowers;
farther away broad fields of cane and rice, and the distant quarters of
the slaves, and on the horizon everywhere a dark belt of cypress forest.
--Cable: _Old Creole Days_.
+122. Selection of Details Affected by Point of View.+--A skillful writer
will not ask his reader to perform impossible feats. We cannot see the
leaves upon a tree a mile away, and so should not describe them. The finer
effects and more minute details should be included only when our chosen
point of view brings us near enough to appreciate them. In the selection
below, Stevenson tells only as much about Swanston cottage as can be seen
at a distance of six miles.
So saying she carried me around the battlements _towards the opposite or
southern side of the fortress and indeed to a bastion_ almost immediately
overlooking the place of our projected flight. Thence we had a view of
some foreshortened suburbs at our feet, and beyond of a green, open, and
irregular country rising towards the Pentland Hills. The face of one of
these summits (say two leagues from where we stood) is marked with a
procession of white scars. And to this she directed my attention.
"You see those marks?" she said. "We call them the Seven Sisters. Follow a
little lower with your eye, and you will see a fold of the hill, the tops
of some trees, and a tail of smoke out of the midst of them. That is
Swanston cottage, where my brother and I are living."
--Stevenson: _St. Ives_.
(Copyright, 1897. Charles Scribner's Sons.)
Notice in the selection below that for objects _near at hand_ details so
small as the lizard's eye are given, but that these details are not given,
when we are asked to observe things far away.
Slow though their march had been, by this time _they had come to the end
of the avenue, and were in the wide circular sweep before the castle._
They stopped here and stood looking off over the garden, with its somber
cypresses and bright beds of geranium, down upon the valley, dim and
luminous in a mist of gold. Great, heavy, fantastic-shaped clouds,
pearl-white with pearl-gray shadows, piled themselves up against the
scintillant dark blue of the sky. In and out among the rose trees _near at
hand_, where the sun was hottest, heavily flew, with a loud bourdonnement,
the cockchafers promised by Annunziata,--big, blundering, clumsy, the
scorn of their light-winged and businesslike competitors, the bees.
Lizards lay immobile as lizards cast in bronze, only their little
glittering, watchful pin heads of eyes giving sign of life. And of course
the blackcaps never for a moment left off singing.
--Henry Habland: _My Friend Prospero_ ("McClure's").
_We round a corner of the valley, and beyond, far below us, looms the town
of Sorata. From this distance_ the red tile roofs, the soft blue, green,
and yellow of its stuccoed walls, look indescribably fresh and grateful. A
closer inspection will probably dissipate this impression; it will be
squalid and dirty, the river-stone paving of its street will be deep in
the accumulation of filth, dirty Indian children will swarm in them with
mangy dogs and bedraggled ducks, the gay frescoes of its walls will peel
in ragged patches, revealing the 'dobe of their base, and the tile roofs
will be cracked and broken. But from the heights at this distance and in
the warm glow of the afternoon sun it looks like a dainty fairy village
glistening in a magic splendor against the Titanic setting of the Andes.
--Charles Johnson Post: _Across the Highlands of the World_
Come on, sir; here's the place. Stand still. How fearful
And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles. Halfway down
Hangs one that gathers sampire, dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
The fishermen that walk upon the beach
Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark
Diminish'd to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge
That on the unnumber'd idle pebble chafes,
Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more,
Lest my brain turn and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.
--Shakespear: _King Lear_
+123. Implied Point of View.+--Often the point of view is not specifically
stated, but the language of the description shows where the observer is
located. Often such an implied point of view gives a delicate touch to a
description that could not be obtained by direct statements.
In which of the following selections is the point of view merely implied?
1. Thus pondering and dreaming, he came by the road down a gentle hill
with close woods on either hand; and so into the valley with a swift river
flowing through it; and on the river a mill. So white it stood among the
trees, and so merrily whirred the wheel as the water turned it, and so
bright blossomed the flowers in the garden, that Martimor had joy of the
sight, for it reminded him of his own country.
--Henry Van Dyke: _The Blue Flower_. (Copyright, 1902. Charles Scribner's
2. There is an island off a certain part of the coast of Maine,--a little
rocky island, heaped and tumbled together as if Dame Nature had shaken
down a heap of stones at random from her apron, when she had finished
making the larger islands, which lie between it and the mainland. At one
end, the shoreward end, there is a tiny cove, and a bit of silver sand
beach, with a green meadow beyond it, and a single great pine; but all the
rest is rocks, rocks. At the farther end the rocks are piled high, like a
castle wall, making a brave barrier against the Atlantic waves; and on top
of this cairn rises the lighthouse, rugged and sturdy as the rocks
themselves; but painted white, and with its windows shining like great,
smooth diamonds. This is Light Island.
--Laura E. Richards: _Captain January_.
+124. Changing Point of View.+--We cannot see the four sides of a house
from the same place, though we may wish to have our reader know how each
side looks. It is, therefore, necessary to change our point of view. It is
immaterial whether the successive points of view are named or merely
implied, providing the reader has due notice that we have changed from one
to the other, and that for each we describe only what can be seen from
that position. A description of a cottage that by its wording leads us to
think ourselves inside of the building and then tells about the yard would
Notice the changing point of view in the following:--
At long distance, looking over the blue waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
in clear weather, you might think that you saw a lonely sea gull,
snow-white, perching motionless on a cobble of gray rock. Then, as your
boat drifted in, following the languid tide and the soft southern breeze,
you would perceive that the cobble of rock was a rugged hill with a few
bushes and stunted trees growing in the crevices, and that the gleaming
speck near the summit must be some kind of a building,--if you were on the
coast of Italy or Spain you would say a villa or a farmhouse. Then as you
floated still farther north and drew nearer to the coast, the desolate
hill would detach itself from the mainland and become a little mountain
isle, with a flock of smaller islets clustering around it as a brood of
wild ducks keep close to their mother, and with deep water, nearly two
miles wide, flowing between it and the shore; while the shining speck on
the seaward side stood clearly as a low, whitewashed dwelling with a
sturdy, round tower at one end, crowned with a big eight-sided lantern--a
--Henry Van Dyke: _The Keeper of the Light_.
(Copyright, 1905. Charles Scribner's Sons.)
+125. Place of Point of View in Paragraph.+--The point of view may be
expressed or only implied or wholly omitted, but in any case the reader
must assume one in order to form a clear and accurate image. Beginners
will find that they can best cause their readers to form the desired
images by stating a point of view. When the point of view is stated it
must of necessity come early in the paragraph. We have already learned
that the beginning of a description should present the fundamental image.
For this reason the first sentence of a description frequently includes
both the point of view and the fundamental image.
_A._ Consider the following selections with reference to--
(_a_) The point of view.
(_b_) The fundamental image.
(_c_) The completeness of the images which you have formed (see
Sections 26, 27).
1. The Lunardi [balloon], mounting through a stagnant calm in a line
almost vertical, had pierced the morning mists, and now swam emancipated
in a heaven of exquisite blue. Below us by some trick of eyesight, the
country had grown concave, its horizon curving up like the rim of a
shallow bowl--a bowl heaped, in point of fact, with sea fog, but to our
eyes with a froth delicate and dazzling as a whipped syllabub of snow.
Upon it the traveling shadow of the balloon became no shadow, but a stain;
an amethyst (you might call it) purged of all grosser properties than
color and lucency. At times thrilled by no perceptible wind, rather by the
pulse of the sun's rays, the froth shook and parted; and then behold, deep
in the crevasses vignetted and shining, an acre or two of the earth of
man's business and fret--tilled slopes of the Lothians, ships dotted on
the Firth, the capital like a hive that some child had smoked--the ear of
fancy could almost hear it buzzing.
--Stevenson: _St. Ives_.
(Copyright, 1897. Charles Scribner's Sons.)
2. When Aswald and Corinne had gained the top of the Capitol, she showed
him the Seven Hills and the city, bound first by Mount Palatinus, then by
the walls of Servius Tullius, which inclose the hills, and by those of
Aurelian, which still surround the greatest part of Rome. Mount Palatinus
once contained all Rome, but soon did the imperial palace fill the space
that had sufficed for a nation. The Seven Hills are far less lofty now
than when they deserted the title of steep mountains, modern Rome being
forty feet higher than its predecessor, and the valleys which separated
them almost filled up by ruins; but what is still more strange, two heaps
of shattered vases have formed new hills, Cestario and Testacio. Thus, in
time, the very refuse of civilization levels the rock with the plain,
effacing in the moral, as in the material world, all the pleasing
inequalities of nature.
--Madame De Stael: _Corinne: Italy_.
_B._--Select five descriptions from the following books and note whether
each has a point of view expressed or implied:--
Cooper: Last of the Mohicans.
Scott: Lady of the Lake.
Irving: Sketch Book.
Burroughs: Wake Robin.
Van Dyke: The Blue Flower.
Howells: The Rise of Silas Lapham.
Muir: Our National Parks.
Kate Douglas Wiggin: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.
+Theme LIII.+--_Write a descriptive paragraph beginning with a point of
view and a fundamental image._
1. The crossroads inn.
2. A historical building.
3. The shoe factory.
4. The gristmill.
5. The largest store in town.
6. The union station.
(In your description underscore the sentence giving the point of view. Can
you improve the description by using a different point of view? Will the
reader form at once a correct general outline? Will the entire description
enable the reader to form a clear and accurate image?)
+126. Clear Seeing.+-Clear statement depends upon clear seeing. Not only
must we choose an advantageous point of view, but we must be able to
reproduce what can be seen from that location. We may write a description
while we are looking at the object, but it is frequently convenient to do
the writing when the object is not visible. Oral descriptions are nearly
always made without having the object at hand. When we attempt to describe
we examine not the object itself, but our mental image of it. It is
evident that at least the essential features of this mental picture must
stand out clearly and definitely, or we shall be unable to make our
The habit of accurate observation is a desirable acquisition, and our
ability in this direction can be improved by effort. It is not the
province of this book to provide a series of exercises which shall
strengthen habits of accurate observation. Many of your studies,
particularly the sciences, devote much attention to training the observing
powers, and will furnish many suitable exercises. A few have been
suggested below merely to emphasize the point that every successful effort
in description must be preceded by a definite exercise in clear seeing.
1. Walk rapidly past a building. Form a mental picture of it. Write down
as many of the details as you can. Now look at the building again and
determine what you have left out.
2. Call to mind some building with which you are familiar. Write a list of
the details that you recall. Now visit the building and see what important
ones you have omitted.
3. While looking at some scene make a note of the important details. Lay
this list away for a day. Then recall the scene. After picturing the scene
as vividly as you can, read your notes. Do they add anything to your
4. Make a list of the things on some desk that you cannot see but with
which you are familiar; for example, the teacher's desk. At the first
opportunity notice how accurate your list is.
5. Look for some time at the stained glass windows of a church or at the
wall paper of the room. What patterns do you notice that you did not see
at first? What colors?
6. Make a list of the objects visible from your bedroom window. When you
go home notice what you have omitted.
7. Practice observation contests similar to the following: Let two or more
persons pass a store window. Each shall then make a list of what the
window contains. Compare lists with one another.
+Theme LIV.+--_Write a description of some dwelling._
(Select a house that you can see on the way home. Choose a point of view
and notice carefully what can be seen from it. When you are ready to
write, form as vivid a mental picture of the house as you can. Write the
sentence that gives the fundamental image. Add such of the details as will
enable the reader to form an accurate image.)
+127. Selection of Essential Details.+--After deciding upon a point of
view and such general characteristics as are essential to the forming of a
correct outline of the object to be described, we must next give our
attention to the selection of the details. If our description has been
properly begun, this general outline will not be changed, but each
succeeding phrase or sentence will add to the clearness and distinctness
of the picture. Our first impression of a house may include windows, but
the mention of them later will bring them out clearly on our mental
picture much as the details appear when one is developing a negative in
If the peculiarities of an object are such as to effect its general form,
they need to be stated in the opening sentence; but when the peculiar or
distinguishing characteristic does not affect the form, it may be
introduced later. If we say, "On the corner across the street from the
post office there is a large, two-story, red brick store," the reader can
form at once a general picture of such a store. Only those things which
give a general outline have been included. As yet nothing has been
mentioned to distinguish the store from any other similar one. If some
following sentence should be, "Though not wider, it yet presents a more
imposing appearance than its neighbors, because the door is placed at one
side, thus making room for a single wide display window instead of two
stuffy, narrow ones," a detail has been added which, though not changing
the general outline, makes the picture clearer and at the same time
emphasizes the distinguishing feature of this particular store.
1. Observe your neighbor's barn. What would you select as its
2. Take a rapid glance at some stranger whom you meet. What did you notice
3. In what respect does the Methodist church in your city differ from the
other church buildings?
4. Does your pet dog differ from others of the same breed in appearance?
+Theme LV.+--_Write a descriptive paragraph, using one of the following
1. A mountain view.
2. An omnibus.
3. A fort.
4. A lighthouse.
5. A Dutch windmill.
6. A bend in the river.
7. A peculiar structure.
8. The picture on this page.
(Underscore the sentence that pictures the details most essential to the
description. Consider the unity of your paragraph. Section 81.)
+128. Selection and Subordination of Minor Details.+--In many descriptions
the minor details are wholly omitted, and in all descriptions many that
might have been included have been omitted. A proper number of such
details adds interest and clearness to the images; too many but serve to
render the whole obscure. If properly selected and effectively presented,
minor details add much to the beauty or usefulness of a description, but
if strung together in short sentences, the effect may be both tiresome and
confusing. A mere catalogue of facts is not a good description. They must
be arranged so that those which are the more important shall have the
greater prominence, while those of less importance shall be properly
Often minor details may be stated in a word or phrase inserted in the
sentence which gives the general view. Notice the italicized portion of
the following: "Opposite the church, _and partly screened by the scraggly
evergreens of a broad, unkempt lawn_, there is a large, octagonal, brick
house, with a conservatory on the left." This arrangement adds to the
general view and gives a better result than would be obtained by
describing the lawn in a separate sentence. Often a single adjective adds
some element to a description more effectively than can be done with a
whole sentence. Notice how much is added by the use of _scraggly_ and
Make a careful study of the following selections with reference to the way
in which the minor details are presented. Can any of them be improved by
1. At night, as I look from my windows over Kassim Pasha, I never tire of
that dull, soft coloring, green and brown, in which the brown of roofs and
walls is hardly more than a shading of the green of the trees. There is
the lonely curve of the hollow, with its small, square, flat houses of
wood; and above, a sharp line of blue-black cypresses on the spine of the
hill; then the long desert plain, with its sandy road, shutting in the
horizon. Mists thicken over the valley, and wipe out its colors before the
lights begin to glimmer out of it. Below, under my windows, are the
cypresses of the Little Field of the Dead, vast, motionless, different
every night. Last night each stood clear, tall, apart; to-night they
huddle together in the mist, and seem to shudder. The sunset was brief,
and the water has grown dull, like slate. Stamboul fades to a level mass
of smoky purple, out of which a few minarets rise black against a gray sky
with bands of orange fire. Last night, after a golden sunset, a fog of
rusty iron came down, and hung poised over the jagged level of the hill.
The whole mass of Stamboul was like black smoke; the water dim gray, a
little flushed, and then like pure light, lucid, transparent, every ship
and every boat sharply outlined in black on its surface; the boats seemed
to crawl like flies on a lighted pane.
--Arthur Symons: _Constantinople: An Impression_ ("Harper's").
2. The boy was advancing up the road, carrying a half-filled pail of milk.
He was a child of perhaps ten years, exceedingly frail and thin, with a
drawn, waxen face, and sick, colorless lips and ears. On his head he wore
a thick plush cap, and coarse, heavy shoes upon his feet. A faded coat,
too long in the arms, drooped from his shoulders, and long, loose overalls
of gray jeans broke and wrinkled about his slender ankles.
--George Kibbe Turner: _Across the State_ ("McClure's").
3. They met few people abroad, even on passing from the retired
neighborhood of the House of the Seven Gables into what was ordinarily the
more thronged and busier portion of the town. Glistening sidewalks, with
little pools of rain, here and there, along their unequal surface;
umbrellas displayed ostentatiously in the shop windows, as if the life of
trade had concentered itself in that one article; wet leaves of the
horse-chestnut or elm trees, torn off untimely by the blast, and scattered
along the public way; an unsightly accumulation of mud in the middle of
the street, which perversely grew the more unclean for its long and
laborious washing;--these were the more definable points of a very somber
picture. In the way of movement, and human life, there was the hasty
rattle of a cab or coach, its driver protected by a water-proof cap over
his head and shoulders; the forlorn figure of an old man, who seemed to
have crept out of some subterranean sewer, and was stooping along the
kennel, and poking the wet rubbish with a stick, in quest of rusty nails;
a merchant or two, at the door of the post office, together with an
editor, and a miscellaneous politician, awaiting a dilatory mail; a few
visages of retired sea captains at the window of an insurance office,
looking out vacantly at the vacant street, blaspheming at the weather, and
fretting at the dearth as well of public news as local gossip. What a
treasure trove to these venerable quidnuncs, could they have guessed the
secret which Hepzibah and Clifford were carrying along with them!
--Hawthorne: _The House of the Seven Gables_.
+Theme LVI.+--_Write a description of one of the following:_--
1. A steamboat.
2. An orchard.
3. A colonial mansion.
4. A wharf.
5. A stone quarry.
6. A shop.
(Consider what you have written with reference to the point of view,
fundamental image, and essential details. After these have been arranged
to suit you, notice the way in which the minor details have been
introduced. Have you given undue prominence to any? Can a single adjective
or phrase be substituted for a whole sentence? Think of the image which
your words will produce in the mind of the reader. Consider your theme
with reference to unity. Section 81.)
+129. Arrangement of Details.+--The quality of a description depends as
much upon the arrangement of the material as upon the selection. Under
paragraph development we have discussed the necessity of arranging the
details with reference to their natural position in space (see Sections 47
and 86). Such an arrangement is the most desirable one and should be
departed from only with good reason. Such departures may, however, be
made, as shown in the following selection:--
A pretty picture the lad made as he lay there dreaming over his earthly
possessions--a pretty picture in the shade of the great elm, that sultry
morning of August, three quarters of a century ago. The presence of the
crutch showed there was something sad about it; and so there was; for if
you had glanced at the little bare brown foot, set toes upward on the
curbstone, you would have discovered that the fellow to it was missing--
cut off about two inches above the ankle. And if this had caused you to
throw a look of sympathy at his face, something yet sadder must long
have held your attention. Set jauntily on the back of his head was a
weather-beaten dark blue cloth cap, the patent leather frontlet of which
was gone; and beneath the ragged edge of this there fell down over his
forehead and temples and ears a tangled mass of soft yellow hair, slightly
curling. His eyes were large and of a blue to match the depths of a calm
sky above the treetops: the long lashes which curtained them were brown;
his lips were red, his nose delicate and fine, and his cheek tanned to the
color of ripe peaches. It was a singularly winning face, intelligent,
frank, not describable. On it now rested a smile, half joyous, half sad,
as though his mind was full of bright hopes, the realization of which was
far away. From the neck fell the wide collar of a white cotton shirt,
clean but frayed at the elbows, and open and buttonless down to his bosom.
Over this he wore an old-fashioned satin waistcoat of a man, also frayed
and buttonless. His dress was completed by a pair of baggy tow breeches,
held up by a single tow suspender fastened to big brown horn buttons.
--James Lane Allen: _Flute and Violin_.
(Copyright, 1892, Harper and Brothers.)
The details are not stated with reference to their natural position in
space, but they are given in the probable order of observation. If we were
to look upon such a boy, the crutch would attract our attention and would
lead us to look at once for the reason why a crutch was needed. The writer
skillfully uses the sympathy thus aroused as a means of transition to the
face. In the remainder of the description the natural position in space is
+Theme LVII.+-_Write a description of one of the following:_--
1. The bayou.
2. Looking down the mountain.
3. Looking up the mountain.
4. The floorwalker.
5. An old-fashioned rig.
6. A house said to be haunted.
7. The deacon.
(Consider the arrangement of details with reference to their position in
space. Consider your paragraphs with reference to coherence and emphasis.
Sections 82 and 83.)
+130. Effectiveness in Description.+--Every part of a description should
aid in rendering it effective, and this effectiveness is as much
the purpose of the principles previously discussed as it is of those
which follow. This paragraph is inserted here to separate more or less
definitely those things which can be done under direction from those which
cannot be determined by rule. Up to this point emphasis has been laid upon
the clear presentation of a mental image as the object of description.
But the clear presentation of mental images is not all there is to
description. A point of view, a fundamental image, a judicious selection
of essential and minor details and the relating of them with reference to
their natural position in space, may set forth an image clearly and yet
fail to be satisfactory as a description.
For the practical affairs of life it may be sufficient to limit ourselves
to clear images set forth barely and sparely, but there is a pleasure
and a profit in using the subtler arts of language, in placing a word
here or a phrase there that shall give a touch of beauty or a flash of
suggestiveness and so save our descriptions from the commonplace. It is to
these less easily demonstrated methods of giving strength and beauty that
we wish now to turn our attention.
+131. Word Selection.+--The effectiveness of our description will depend
largely upon our right choice of words. If our range of vocabulary is
limited, the possibility of effective description is correspondingly
limited. Only when our working vocabulary contains many words may we hope
to choose with ease the one most suitable for the effective expression of
the idea we wish to convey. To prepare a list of words that may apply and
then attempt to write a theme that shall make use of them is a mechanical
process of little value. The idea we wish to express should call up the
word that exactly expresses it. If our ideas are not clear or our
vocabulary is limited, we may be satisfied with the trite and commonplace;
but if our experience has been broad or our reading extended, we may have
at command the word which, because it is just the right one, gives
individuality and force to our phrasing. Every one is familiar with dogs,
and has in his vocabulary many words which he applies to them, but a
reading of one or two good dog stories, such as _Bob, Son of Battle_, or
_The Call of the Wild_, will show how wide is the range of such words and
how much the description is enhanced by their careful use.
Consider the following selections with reference to the choice of words
which add to the effectiveness of the descriptions:--
1. She was a little, brown, thin, almost skinny woman with big, rolling,
violet-blue eyes and the sweetest manners in the world.
2. The sounds and the straits and the sea with its plump, sleepy islands
lay north and east and south.
3. The mists of the Cuchullins are not fat, dull, and still, like lowland
and inland mists, but haggard, and streaming from the black peaks, and
full of gusty lines. We saw them first from the top of Beimna-Caillach, a
red, round-headed mountain hard by Bradford, in the isle of Skye.
Shortly after noon the rain came up from the sea and drew long delicate
gray lines against the cliffs. It came up licking and lisping over the
surface of Cornisk, and drove us to the lee of rocks and the shelter of
our ponchos, to watch the mists drifting, to listen to the swell and lull
of the wind and the patter of the cold rain. There were glimpses now and
then of the inner Cuchullins, a fragment of ragged sky line, the sudden
jab of a black pinnacle through the mist, the open mouth of a gorge
steaming with mist.
We climbed the great ridge, at length, of rock and wet heath that
separates Cornisk from Glen Sligachan, slowly through the fitful rain and
driving cloud, and saw Sgurr-nan-Gillian, sharp, black, and pitiless, the
northernmost peak and sentinel of the Cuchullins. The yellow trail could
be seen twisting along the flat, empty glen. Seven miles away was a white
spot, the Sligachan Hotel.
I think it must be the dreariest glen in Scotland. The trail twists in a
futile manner, and, after all, is mainly bog holes and rolling rocks. The
Red Hills are on the right, rusty, reddish, of the color of dried blood,
and gashed with sliding bowlders. Their heads seem beaten down, a Helot
population, and the Cuchullins stand back like an army of iron conquerors.
The Red Hills will be a vanished race one day, and the Cuchullins remain.
Arthur Colton: _The Mists o' Skye_ ("Harper's").
+132. Additional Aids to Effectiveness.+--Comparison and figures of speech
not only aid in making our picture clear and vivid, but they may add
a spice and flavor to our language, which counts for much in the
effectiveness and beauty of our description. Notice the following
He was a mongoose, rather like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but
quite like a weasel in his head and his habits. His eyes and the end of
his restless nose were pink; he could scratch himself anywhere he pleased,
with any leg, front or back, that he chose to use; he could fluff up his
tail till it looked like a bottle brush, and his war cry as he scuttled
through the long grass was Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tikk.
--Kipling: _Jungle Book_.
Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed. He rode with short
stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of his saddle;
his sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers' legs; he carried his whip
perpendicularly in his hand, like a scepter, and, as his horse jogged on,
the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings. A
small wool hat rested on the top of his nose, for so his scanty strip of
forehead might be called; and the skirts of his black coat fluttered out
almost to the horse's tail. Such was the appearance of Ichabod and his
steed, as they shambled out of the gate of Hans Van Ripper, and it was
altogether such an apparition as is seldom to be met with in broad
--Irving: _Legend of Sleepy Hollow_.
+Theme LVIII.+--_Write a description of one of the following:_--
1. My cat.
2. The pony at the farm.
3. The glen.
4. The prairie.
5. The milldam.
6. The motorman.
7. The picture on this page.
(Consider the effectiveness of your description. Can you improve your
choice of words? Have you used comparisons or figures, and if so, do they
improve your description? Consider your theme with reference to euphony.
+133. Classes of Objects Frequently Described.+--There is no limit to the
things that we may wish to describe, but there are certain general classes
of objects that are described more frequently than others. We have greater
occasion to describe men or places than we have to describe pictures or
trees. A person may be an accurate observer having a large vocabulary
applicable to one class of objects, and thus be able to describe objects
of that class clearly and effectively; though at the same time, on account
of limited experience and small vocabulary, he cannot well describe
objects belonging to some other class. The ability to observe accurately
the classes of objects named below, and to appreciate descriptions of such
objects when made by others, is a desirable acquisition. Every effort
should be made to master as many as possible of the words applicable to
each class of objects. A slight investigation will show how great is the
number of such words with which we are unfamiliar.
1. _Descriptions of buildings or portions of buildings._
In most buildings the basement story is heaviest, and each succeeding
story increases in lightness; in the Ducal palace this is reversed, making
it unique amongst buildings. The outer walls rest upon the pillars of open
colonnades, which have a more stumpy appearance than was intended, owing
to the raising of the pavement in the piazza. They had, however, no base,
but were supported by a continuous stylobate. The chief decorations of the
palace were employed upon the capitals of these thirty-six pillars, and it
was felt that the peculiar prominence and importance given to its angles
rendered it necessary that they should be enriched and softened by
sculpture, which is interesting and often most beautiful. The throned
figure of Venice above bears a scroll inscribed: _Fortis, justa, trono
furias, mare sub pede, pono_. (Strong and just, I put the furies beneath
my throne, and the sea beneath my foot.) One of the corners of the palace
joined the irregular buildings connected with St. Mark's, and is not
generally seen. There remained, therefore, only three angles to be
decorated. The first main sculpture may be called the "Fig-tree angle,"
and its subject is the "Fall of Man." The second is "the Vine angle," and
represents the "Drunkenness of Noah." The third sculpture is "the Judgment
angle," and portrays the "Judgment of Solomon."
+Theme LIX.+--_Write a description of the exterior of some building._
+Theme LX.+--_Write a description of some room._
+Theme LXI.+--_Write a description of some portion of a building, such as
an entrance, spire, window, or stairway._
(Consider each description with reference to--
_a._ Point of view.
_b._ Fundamental image.
_c._ Selection of essential details.
_d._ Selection and subordination of minor details.
_e._ Arrangement of details with reference to their natural positions in
_f._ Effective choice of words and comparisons.)
2. _Natural features: valleys, rivers, mountains, etc._
Beyond the great prairies and in the shadow of the Rockies lie
the Foothills. For nine hundred miles the prairies spread themselves
out in vast level reaches, and then begin to climb over softly
rounded mounds that ever grow higher and sharper, till here and
there, they break into jagged points and at last rest upon the great
bases of the mighty mountains. These rounded hills that join the
prairies to the mountains form the Foothill Country. They extend
for about a hundred miles only, but no other hundred miles of the
great West are so full of interest and romance. The natural features
of the country combine the beauties of prairie and of mountain
scenery. There are valleys so wide that the farther side melts into
the horizon, and uplands so vast as to suggest the unbroken prairie.
Nearer the mountains the valleys dip deep and ever deeper till they
narrow into canyons through which mountain torrents pour their
blue-gray waters from glaciers that lie glistening between the white
peaks far away.
--Connor: _The Sky Pilot_.
Long lines of cliff breaking have left a chasm;
And in the chasm are foam and yellow sands;
Beyond, red roofs about a narrow wharf
In cluster; then a molder'd church; and higher
A long street climbs to one tall tower'd mill;
And high in heaven behind it a gray down
With Danish barrows, and a hazelwood,
By autumn nutters haunted, flourishes
Green in a cuplike hollow of the down.
--Tennyson: _Enoch Arden_.
+Theme LXII.+--_Write a description of some valley, mountain, field,
woods, or prairie._
+Theme LXIII.+--_Write a description of some stream, pond, lake, dam, or
(Consider especially your choice of words.)
3. _Sounds or the use of sounds._
And the noise of Niagara? Alarming things have been said about it, but
they are not true. It is a great and mighty noise, but it is not, as
Hennepin thought, an "outrageous noise." It is not a roar. It does not
drown the voice or stun the ear. Even at the actual foot of the falls it
is not oppressive. It is much less rough than the sound of heavy surf--
steadier, more homogeneous, less metallic, very deep and strong, yet
mellow and soft; soft, I mean, in its quality. As to the noise of the
rapids, there is none more musical. It is neither rumbling nor sharp. It
is clear, plangent, silvery. It is so like the voice of a steep brook--
much magnified, but not made coarser or more harsh--that, after we have
known it, each liquid call from a forest hillside will seem, like the odor
of grapevines, a greeting from Niagara. It is an inspiriting, an
exhilarating sound, like freshness, coolness, vitality itself made
audible. And yet it is a lulling sound. When we have looked out upon the
American rapids for many days, it is hard to remember contented life amid
motionless surroundings; and so, when we have slept beside them for many
nights, it is hard to think of happy sleep in an empty silence.
--Mrs. Van Rensselaer: _Niagara_ ("Century").
Yell'd on the view the opening pack;
Rock, glen, and cavern, paid them back;
To many a mingled sound at once
The awaken'd mountain gave response.
A hundred dogs bay'd deep and strong,
Clatter'd a hundred steeds along,
Their peal the merry horns rung out,
A hundred voices join'd the shout;
With hark, and whoop, and wild halloo,
No rest Benvoirlich's echoes knew.
Far from the tumult fled the roe,
Close in her covert cower'd the doe;
The falcon, from her cairn on high,
Cast on the rout a wondering eye,
Till far beyond her piercing ken
The hurricane had swept the glen.
Faint, and more faint, its failing din
Return'd from cavern, cliff, and linn,
And silence settled, wide and still,
On the lone wood and mighty hill.
--SCOTT: _Lady of the Lake_.
+Theme LXIV.+--_Describe some sound or combination of sounds, or write a
description introducing sounds._
1. Alone in the house.
2. In the woods at night.
3. Beside the brook.
4. In the factory.
5. A day at the beach.
6. Before the Fourth.
7. On the seashore.
(Notice especially the words that indicate sound.)
4. _Color or the use of color._
A gray day! soft gray sky, like the breast of a dove; sheeny gray sea with
gleams of steel running across; trailing skirts of mist shutting off the
mainland, leaving Light Island alone with the ocean; the white tower
gleaming spectral among the folding mists; the dark pine tree pointing a
somber finger to heaven; the wet, black rocks, from which the tide had
gone down, huddling together in fantastic groups as if to hide their
--Laura E. Richards: _Captain January_.
The large branch of the Po we crossed came down from the mountains which
we were approaching. As we reached the post road again they were glowing
in the last rays of the sun, and the evening vapors that settled over the
plain concealed the distant Alps, although the snowy top of the Jungfrau
and her companions the Wetterhorn and Schreckhorn rose above it like the
hills of another world. A castle or church of brilliant white marble
glittered on the summit of one of the mountains near us, and, as the sun
went down without a cloud, the distant summits changed in hue to a glowing
purple, mounting almost to crimson, which afterwards darkened into a deep
violet. The western half of the sky was of a pale orange and the eastern a
dark red, which blended together in the blue of the zenith, that deepened
as twilight came on.
--Taylor: _Views Afoot_.
+Theme LXV.+--_Write a description in which the color element enters
5. _Animals, birds, fishes, etc._
The Tailless Tyke had now grown into an immense dog, heavy of muscle and
huge of bone. A great bull head; undershot jaw, square and lengthy and
terrible; vicious yellow gleaming eyes; cropped ears; and an expression
incomparably savage. His coat was a tawny lionlike yellow, short, harsh,
dense; and his back running up from shoulder to loins ended abruptly in a
knoblike tail. He looked like the devil of a dog's hell, and his
reputation was as bad as his looks. He never attacked unprovoked; but a
challenge was never ignored and he was greedy of insults.
--Alfred Ollivant: _Bob, Son of Battle_.
(Copyright, Doubleday and McClure.)
Read the description of the kingbird (page 224), and of the mongoose (page
+Theme LXVI.+--_Write a description of some animal, bird, or fish._
(What questions should you ask yourself about each description you write?)
6. _Trees and plants._
How shall kinnikinnick be told to them who know it not? To a New Englander
it might be said that a whortleberry bush changed its mind one day and
decided to be a vine, with leaves as glossy as laurel, bells pink-striped
and sweet like the arbutus, and berries in clusters and of scarlet instead
of black. The Indians call it kinnikinnick, and smoke it in their pipes.
White men call it bearberry, I believe; and there is a Latin name for it,
no doubt, in the books. But kinnikinnick is the best,--dainty, sturdy,
indefatigable kinnikinnick, green and glossy all the year round, lovely at
Christmas and lovely among flowers at midsummer, as content and thrifty on
bare, rocky hillsides as in grassy nooks, growing in long, trailing
wreaths, five feet long, or in tangled mats, five feet across, as the rock
or the valley may need, and living bravely many weeks without water, to
make a house beautiful. I doubt if there be in the world a vine I should
hold so precious, indoors and out.
--Helen Hunt Jackson: _Bits of Travel at Home_.
A mango tree is beautiful and attractive. It grows as large as the oak,
and has a rich and glossy foliage. The fruit is shaped something like a
short, thick cucumber, and is as large as a large pear. It has a thick,
tough skin, and a delicious, juicy pulp. When ripe it is a golden color. A
tree often bears a hundred bushels of mangoes.
--Marian M. George.
+Theme LXVII.+--_Write a description of some tree that you have seen._
(Consider your theme with reference to the general principles of
composition treated in Chapter V.)
+134. Description of Persons: Character Sketches.+--The general principles
of description are applicable to the description of a person, and should
be followed for the purpose of presenting a clear and vivid image. Our
interest, however, so naturally runs beyond the appearance and is
concerned with the character, that most descriptions of persons become
character sketches. Even the commonest terms of description, such as _keen
gray eyes, square chin, rugged countenance_, are interpreted as showing
character, and depart to some degree from pure description. Often the sole
purpose of description is to show character, and only those details are
introduced which accomplish this purpose.
In life we judge a man's character by his actions, and so in the character
sketch we are led to infer his character from what he does. The character
indicated by his appearance is corroborated by a statement of his actions
and especially by showing how he acts. (See Section 10.) Sometimes no
descriptive matter is given, but we are left to make our own picture to
fit the character indicated by the actions. In many books the descriptive
elements which would enable us to form an image of some person are
distributed over several pages, each being introduced where it supplements
and emphasizes the character shown by the actions.
Notice the following examples:--
The Rev. Daniel True stood beside the holy table. For such a scene,
perhaps for any scene, he was a memorable figure. He had the dignity of
early middle life, but none of its signs of advancing age. His hair was
quite black, and curled on his temples boyishly; his mustache, not without
a worldly cut, was as dark as his hair, and concealed a mouth so clean and
fine that it was an ethical mistake to cover it. He had sturdy shoulders,
although not quite straight; they had the scholar's stoop; his hands were
thin, with long fingers; his gestures were sparing and significant; his
expression was so sincere that its evident devoutness commanded respect;
so did his voice, which was authoritative enough to be a little priestly
and lacking somewhat in elocutionary finish as the voices of ministers are
apt to be, but genuine, musical, persuasive, at moments vibrant with
oratorical power. He had a warm eye and a lovable smile. He was every inch
a minister, but he was every nerve a man.
--Elizabeth Stuart Phelps: _A Sacrament_ ("Harper's").
She was not more than fifteen. Her form, voice, and manner belonged to the
period of transition from girlhood. Her face was perfectly oval, her
complexion more pale than fair. The nose was faultless; the lips, slightly
parted, were full and ripe, giving to the lines of the mouth warmth,
tenderness, and trust; the eyes were blue and large, and shaded by
drooping lids and long lashes; and, in harmony with all, a flood of golden
hair, in the style permitted to Jewish brides, fell unconfined down her
back to the pillion on which she sat. The throat and neck had the downy
softness sometimes seen which leaves the artist in doubt whether it is an
effect of contour or color. To these charms of feature and person were
added others more--an indefinable air of purity which only the soul can
impart, and of abstraction natural to such as think much of things
impalpable. Often, with trembling lips, she raised her eyes to heaven,
itself not more deeply blue; often she crossed her hands upon her breast,
as in adoration and prayer; often she raised her head like one listening
eagerly for a calling voice. Now and then midst his slow utterance, Joseph
turned to look at her, and, catching the expression kindling her face as
with light, forgot his theme, and with bowed head, wondering, plodded on.
--Lew Wallace: _Ben-Hur_.
(Copyright, 1880, Harper and Bros.)
When Washington was elected general of the army he was forty-three years
of age. In stature he a little exceeded six feet; his limbs were sinewy
and well proportioned; his chest broad, his figure stately, blending
dignity of presence with ease of manner. His robust constitution had been
tried and invigorated by his early life in the wilderness, his habit of
occupation out of doors, and his rigid temperance, so that few equalled
him in strength of arm or power of endurance. His complexion was florid,
his hair dark brown, his head in shape perfectly round. His broad nostrils
seemed formed to give expression and escape to scornful anger. His dark
blue eyes, which were deeply set, had an expression of resignation and an
earnestness that was almost sad.
There were many Englishmen of great distinction there, and Tennyson was
the most conspicuous among the guests. Tennyson's appearance was very
striking and his figure might have been taken as a living illustration of
romantic poetry. He was tall and stately, wore a great mass of thick, long
hair--long hair was then still worn even by men who did not affect
originality; his frame was slightly stooping, his shoulders were bent as
if with the weight of thought; there was something entirely out of the
common and very commanding in his whole presence, and a stranger meeting
him in whatever crowd would probably have assumed at once that he must be
a literary king.
--Justin McCarthy: _Literary Portraits from the Sixties_ ("Harper's").
The door opened and there appeared to these two a visitor. He was a young
man, and tall,--so tall that, even with his hat off, his head barely
cleared the ceiling of the low-studded room. He was slim and fair-haired
and round-shouldered. He had the pink and white complexion of a girl;
soft, fair hair; dark, serious eyes; the high, white brow of a thinker;
the nose of an aristocrat; and he was in clerical garb.
--Sewall Ford: _The Renunciation of Petruo_ ("Harper's").
Notice the pictures on page 253. Can you determine from the picture
anything about the character of the person? Just what feature in each
helps you in this?
+Theme LXVIII.+--_Describe some person known to most of the class._
(Do not name the person, but combine description and character sketching
so that the class may be able to tell whom you mean.)
+135. Impression of a Description.+--Often the effectiveness of a
description is determined more by the impression which it makes upon our
feelings than by the vividness of the picture which it presents. Read the
following description of the Battery in New York by Howells. Notice how
the details which have been selected emphasize the "impression of
forlornness." The sickly trees, the decrepit shade, the mangy grass plots,
hungry-eyed and hollow children, the jaded women, silent and hopeless, the
shameless houses, the hard-looking men, unite to give the one impression.
Even the fresh blue water of the bay, which laughs and dances beyond, by
its very contrast gives greater emphasis to the melancholy and forlorn
appearance of the Battery.
All places that fashion has once loved and abandoned are very melancholy;
but of all such places, I think the Battery is the most forlorn. Are there
some sickly locust trees there that cast a tremulous and decrepit shade
upon the mangy grass plots? I believe so, but I do not make sure; I am
certain only of the mangy grass plots, or rather the spaces between the
paths, thinly overgrown with some kind of refuse and opprobrious weed, a
stunted and pauper vegetation proper solely to the New York Battery. At
that hour of the summer morning when our friends, with the aimlessness of
strangers who are waiting to do something else, saw the ancient promenade,
a few scant and hungry-eyed little boys and girls were wandering over this
weedy growth, not playing, but moving listlessly to and fro, fantastic in
the wild inaptness of their costumes. One of these little creatures wore,
with an odd, involuntary jauntiness, the cast-off best dress of some
happier child, a gay little garment cut low in the neck and short in the
sleeves, which gave her the grotesque effect of having been at a party the
night before. Presently came two jaded women, a mother and a grandmother,
that appeared, when they crawled out of their beds, to have put on only so
much clothing as the law compelled. They abandoned themselves upon the
green stuff, whatever it was, and, with their lean hands clasped outside
their knees, sat and stared, silent and hopeless, at the eastern sky, at
the heart of the terrible furnace, into which in those days the world
seemed cast to be burnt up, while the child which the younger woman had
brought with her feebly wailed unheeded at her side. On one side of the
women were the shameless houses out of which they might have crept, and
which somehow suggested riotous maritime dissipation; on the other side
were those houses in which had once dwelt rich and famous folk, but which
were now dropping down to the boarding-house scale through various
unhomelike occupations to final dishonor and despair. Down nearer the
water, and not far from the castle that was once a playhouse and is now
the depot of emigration, stood certain express wagons, and about these
lounged a few hard-looking men. Beyond laughed and danced the fresh blue
water of the bay, dotted with sails and smokestacks.
--Howells: _Their Wedding Journey_.
The successive images of the preceding selection are clear enough, but
they are bound together by a common purpose, which is the creation of a
single impression. Often, however, a description may present, not a single
impression, but a series of such impressions, to which a unity is given by
the fact that they are all connected with one event, or occur at the same
time, or in the same place. Such a series of impressions is illustrated in
It is a phenomenon whose commonness alone prevents it from being most
impressive, that departure of the night-express. The two hundred miles it
is to travel stretch before it, traced by those slender clews, to lose
which is ruin, and about which hang so many dangers. The drawbridges that
gape upon the way, the trains that stand smoking and steaming on the
track, the rail that has borne the wear so long that it must soon snap
under it, the deep cut where the overhanging mass of rocks trembles to its
fall, the obstruction that a pitiless malice may have placed in your path,
you think of these after the journey is done, but they seldom haunt
your fancy while it lasts. The knowledge of your helplessness in any
circumstances is so perfect that it begets a sense of irresponsibility,
almost of security; and as you drowse upon the pallet of the sleeping car
and feel yourself hurled forward through the obscurity, you are almost
thankful that you can do nothing, for it is upon this condition only that
you can endure it; and some such condition as this, I suppose, accounts
for many heroic acts in the world. To the fantastic mood which possesses
you equally, sleeping or waking, the stoppages of the train have a weird
character, and Worcester, Springfield, New Haven, and Stamford are rather
points in dreamland than well-known towns of New England. As the train
stops you drowse if you have been waking, and wake if you have been in a
doze; but in any case you are aware of the locomotive hissing and coughing
beyond the station, of flaring gas-jets, of clattering feet of passengers
getting on and off; then of some one, conductor or station master, walking
the whole length of the train; and then you are aware of an insane
satisfaction in renewed flight through the darkness. You think hazily of
the folk in their beds in the town left behind, who stir uneasily at the
sound of your train's departing whistle; and so all is blank vigil or a
--Howells: _Their Wedding Journey_.
+136. Impression as the Purpose of Description.+--The impression that it
gives may become the central purpose of a description. It is evident in
Howells's description of the Battery that the purpose was the creating of
an impression of forlornness, and that the author kept this purpose in
mind when choosing the details. If his aim had been to enable us to form a
clear picture of the Battery in its physical outlines, he would have
chosen different details and would have presented them in different
The same scene or object may present a different appearance to two
different observers because each may discover a different set of
likenesses or resemblances and so select different essential
characteristics. An artist will paint a picture that centers around some
one feature. Each added detail seems but to set forth and increase the
effect of this central element of the picture. Similarly the observer will
in his description lay emphasis on the central point and will select
details that bear a helpful relation to it. If he wishes to present the
picture of a valley, he will lay emphasis on its fundamental image and
essential details with reference to its appearance; but if his desire is
to present the impression of fertility or of rural simplicity and quiet,
the elements that are important for the producing of the desired
impression may not be at all the ones essential to his former picture.
When the presentation of a picture is our central purpose, we attempt to
present it as it appears to us, and select details that will enable others
to form the desired image; but if we desire to set forth how a scene
affected us, we must choose details that will make our reader feel as we
+137. Necessity of Observing our Impressions.+--In order to write a
description which shall give our impression of an object or scene, we must
know definitely what that impression is. Just as clear seeing is necessary
for the reproduction of definite images, so is the clear perception of our
impressions necessary to their reproduction. Furthermore, we may know what
our impressions are without being able to select those elements in a scene
that have produced them; but in order to write a description that shall
affect others as the scene itself affected us, we must know what these
elements are and emphasize them in the description. Thus it becomes
necessary to pay attention both to our impression and to the selection of
those details which create that impression. One glance at a room may cause
us to believe that the housekeeper is untidy. If we wish to convey this
impression to our reader, our description must include the details that
give that impression of untidiness to us.
Nor are we limited to sight alone, for our impressions may be made
stronger by the aid of the other senses. Sound and smell and taste may
supplement the sight, and though they add little to the clearness, yet
they add much to the impression which we get.
Within the cabin, through which Basil and Isabel now slowly moved, there
were numbers of people lounging about on the sofas, in various attitudes
of talk or vacancy; and at the tables there were others reading _Lothair_,
a new book in the remote epoch of which I write, and a very fashionable
book indeed. There was in the air that odor of paint and carpet which
prevails on steamboats; the glass drops of the chandeliers ticked softly
against each other, as the vessel shook with her respiration, like a
comfortable sleeper, and imparted a delicious feeling of coziness and
security to our travelers.
--Howells: _Their Wedding Journey_.
+138. Impression Limited to Experience.+--If we attempt to write a
description for the sake of giving an impression, it must be an impression
that we have ourselves experienced. If the sight of the gorge of Niagara
has filled us with a feeling of sublimity and awe, we shall find it hard
to write a humorous account of it. If we see the humorous elements of a
situation, we cannot easily make our description give the impression of
grief. Neither can we successfully imitate the impressions of others. No
two persons are affected in the same way by the same thing. Our age, our
temperament, our emotional attitude, and all of our past experiences
affect our way of looking at things and modify the impressions which we
get. The successful presentation of our impression will depend largely
upon the definite perception of our feelings.
+139. Impression Affected by Mood.+--Not only is our impression affected
by details in the scene observed, but it is even more largely influenced
by our mood at the time of the observation. The same landscape may cheer
at one time and dishearten at another. To-day we see the ridiculous;
to-morrow, the sad and sorrowful. A thousand things may change our mood,
but under certain general conditions, certain impressions are likely to
arise. There is something in the air of spring, or the heat of summer,
which affects us all. The weather, too, has its effect. Sunshine and
shadow find answering attitudes in our feelings, and the skillful writer
takes advantage of these emotional tendencies.
Not far we fared--
The river left behind--when, looking back,
I saw the mountain in the searching light
Of the low sun. Surcharged with youthful pride
In my adventure, I can ne'er forget
The disappointment and chagrin which fell
Upon me; for a change had passed. The steep
Which in the morning sprang to kiss the sun,
Had left the scene; and in its place I saw
A shrunken pile, whose paths my steps had climbed,
Whose proudest height my humble feet had trod.
Its grand impossibilities and all
Its store of marvels and of mysteries
Were flown away, and would not be recalled.
+140. Union of Image and Impression.+--Because we have discussed image
making and impression giving separately, it must not be judged that they
necessarily occur separately. They are in fact always united. No image,
however clear, can fail to make some impression, and no description,
however strong the impression it gives, fails to create some image. It is
rather the placing of the emphasis that counts. Some descriptions have for
their purpose the giving of an image, and the impression is of little
moment. Other descriptions aim at producing impressions, and the images
are of less importance. In the description of the Battery (page 254) the
images are clear enough, but they are subordinate to the impression. This
subordination may even go farther. Often the impression is made prominent
and we are led by suggestion to form images which fit it, while in reality
few definite images have been set. Notice in the following selection that
the impression of desolation is given without attempting to picture
exactly what was seen:--
The country at the foot of Vesuvius is the most fertile and best
cultivated of the kingdom, most favored by Heaven in all Europe. The
celebrated _Lacrymae Christi_ vine flourishes beside land totally
devastated by lava, as if nature here made a last effort, and resolved to
perish in her richest array. As you ascend, you turn to gaze on Naples,
and on the fair laud around it--the sea sparkles in the sun as if strewn
with jewels; but all the splendors of creation are extinguished by
degrees, as you enter the region of ashes and smoke, that announces your
approach to the volcano. The iron waves of other years have traced their
large black furrows in the soil. At a certain height birds are no longer
seen; further on, plants become very scarce; then even insects find no
nourishment. At last all life disappears. You enter the realm of death and
the slain earth's dust alone sleeps beneath your unassured feet.
--Madame De Stael: _Corinne: Italy_.
Discuss the following selections with reference to the impression given by
The third of the flower vines is Wood-Magic. It bears neither flowers nor
fruit. Its leaves are hardly to be distinguished from the leaves of the
other vines. Perhaps they are a little rounder than the Snowberry's, a
little more pointed than the Partridge-berry's; sometimes you might
mistake them for the one, sometimes for the other. No marks of warning
have been written upon them. If you find them, it is your fortune; if you
taste them, it is your fate. For as you browse your way through the
forest, nipping here and there a rosy leaf of young wintergreen, a
fragrant emerald tip of balsam fir, a twig of spicy birch, if by chance
you pluck the leaves of Wood-Magic and eat them, you will not know what
you have done, but the enchantment of the treeland will enter your heart
and the charm of the wildwood will flow through your veins. You will never
get away from it. The sighing of the wind through the pine trees and the
laughter of the stream in its rapids will sound through all your dreams.
On beds of silken softness you will long for the sleep-song of whispering
leaves above your head, and the smell of a couch of balsam boughs. At
tables spread with dainty fare you will be hungry for the joy of the hunt,
and for the angler's sylvan feast. In proud cities you will weary for the
sight of a mountain trail; in great cathedrals you will think of the long,
arching aisles of the woodland: and in the noisy solitude of crowded
streets you will hone after the friendly forest.
--Henry Van Dyke: _The Blue Flower_.
(Copyright, 1902, Charles Scribner's Sons.)
Running your eye across the map of the State, you see two slowly
converging lines of railroad writhing out between the hills to the
sea-coast. Three other lines come down from north to south by the river
valleys and the jagged shore. Along these, huddled in the corners of the
hills and the sea line, lie the cities and the larger towns. A great
majority of mankind, swarming in these little spots, or scuttling to and
fro along the valleys on those slender lines, fondly dream they are
acquainted with the land in which they live. But beyond and around all
this rises the wide, bare face of the country, which they will never know--
the great patches of second-growth woods, the mountain pastures sown
thick with stones, the barren acres of the hillside farmer--a desolate
land, latticed with gray New England roads, dotted with commonplace or
neglected houses, and pitted with the staring cellars of the abandoned
homes of disheartened and defeated men.
Out here in this semi-obscurity, where the regulating forces of society
grow tardy and weak, strange and dangerous beings move to and fro,
avoiding the apprehension of the law. Occasionally we hear of them--of
some shrewd and desperate city fugitives brought to bay in a corner of the
woods, or some brutal farmhouse murderer still lurking uncaptured among
the hills. Often they pass through the country and out beyond, where they
are never seen again.
In the extreme southwestern corner of the State the railroads do not come;
the vacant spaces grow between the country roads, and the cities dwindle
down to half-deserted crossroads hamlets. Here the surface of the map is
covered up with the tortuous wrinkles of the hills. It is a beautiful but
useless place. As far as you can see, low, unformed lumps of mountains lie
jumbled aimlessly together between the ragged sky lines, or little silent
cups of valleys stare up between them at their solitary patch of sky. It
seems a sort of waste yard of creation, flung full of the remnants of the
making of the earth.
--George Kibbe Turner: _Across the State_ ("McClure's").
When once the shrinking dizzy spell was gone,
I saw below me, like a jeweled cup,
The valley hollowed to its heaven-kissed lip--
The serrate green against the serrate blue--
Brimming with beauty's essence; palpitant
With a divine elixir--lucent floods
Poured from the golden chalice of the sun,
At which my spirit drank with conscious growth,
And drank again with still expanding scope
Of comprehension and of faculty.
I felt the bud of being in me burst
With full, unfolding petals to a rose,
And fragrant breath that flooded all the scene.
By sudden insight of myself I knew
That I was greater than the scene,--that deep
Within my nature was a wondrous world,
Broader than that I gazed on, and informed
With a diviner beauty,--that the things
I saw were but the types of those I held,
And that above them both, High Priest and King,
I stood supreme, to choose and to combine,
And build from that within me and without
New forms of life, with meaning of my own,
And then alone upon the mountain top,
Kneeling beside the lamb, I bowed my head
Beneath the chrismal light and felt my soul
Baptized and set apart for poetry.
+Theme LXIX.+--_Write a description the purpose of which is to give an
impression that you have experienced._
1. Description is that form of discourse which has for its
purpose the creation of an image.
2. The essential characteristics of a description are:--
_a._ A point of view,
(1) It may be fixed or changing.
(2) It may be expressed or implied.
(3) Only those details should be included that can be seen
from the point of view chosen.
_b._ A correct fundamental image.
_c._ A few characteristic and essential details
(1) Close observation on the part of the writer is necessary
in order to select the essential details.
_d._ A proper selection and subordination of minor details.
_e._ A suitable arrangement of details with reference to their
natural position in space.
_f._ That additional effectiveness which comes from
(1) Proper choice of words.
(2) Suitable comparisons and figures.
(3) Variety of sentence structures.
3. The foregoing principles of description apply in the describing of many
classes of objects. A description of a person usually gives some
indication of his character and so becomes to some extent a character
4. A description may also have for its purpose the giving of an
_a._ The writer must select details which will aid in conveying
the impression he desires his readers to receive.
_b._ The writer must observe his own impressions accurately,
because he cannot convey to others that which he has not
_c._ The impression received is affected by the mood of the person.
_d._ Impression and image are never entirely separated.
+141. Kinds of Narration.+--Narration consists of an account of
happenings, and, for this reason, it is, without doubt, the most
interesting of all forms of discourse. It is natural for us all to be
interested in life, movement, action; hence we enjoy reading and talking
about them. To be convinced that there is everywhere a great interest in
narration we need only to listen to conversations, notice what constitutes
the subject-matter of letters of friendship, read newspapers and
magazines, and observe what classes of books are most frequently drawn
from our libraries.
Narration assumes a variety of forms. Since it relates happenings, it must
include anecdotes, incidents, short stories, letters, novels, dramas,
histories, biographies, and stories of travel and exploration. It also
includes many newspaper articles such as those that give accounts of
accidents and games and reports of various kinds of meetings. Evidently
the field of narration is a broad one, for wherever life or action may be
found or imagined, a subject for a narrative exists.
1. Name four different events that have actually taken place in your
school in which you think your classmates are interested.
2. Name three events that have taken place in other schools that may be of
interest to members of your school.
3. Name four events of general interest that have occurred in your city
during the last two or three years.
4. From a daily paper, pick out a narrative that is interesting to you.
5. Select one that you think ought to interest the most of your
6. Name three national events of recent occurrence.
7. Name three or four strange or mysterious events of which you have
8. Name an actual occurrence that interested you because you wanted to see
how it turned out.
9. Would an ordinary account of a bicycle or automobile trip be
interesting? If not, why not?
+Theme LXX.+--._Write a letter to a pupil in a neighboring high school,
telling about something interesting that has happened in your own school_.
(Review forms of letter writing. Consider your use of paragraphs.)
+142. Plot.+--By plot we mean the outline of the story told in a few
words. All narratives consist of accounts of connected happenings, in
which action on the part of the characters is naturally implied. The
principal action briefly told constitutes the plot. The simple plot of
Tennyson's _Princess_ is as follows:--
A prince of the North, after being affianced as a child to a princess of
the South, has fallen in love with her portrait and a lock of her hair.
When, however, the embassy appears to fetch home the bride, she sends back
the message that she is not disposed to be married. Upon receipt of this
word the Prince and two friends, Florian and Cyril, steal away to seek
the Princess, and learn on reaching her father's court that she has
established a Woman's College on a distant estate. Having got letters
authorizing them to visit the Princess, they ride into her domain, where
they determine to go dressed like girls and apply for admission as
students in the College. They arrive in disguise, and are admitted. On the
first day the young men enroll themselves as students of Lady Psyche, who
recognizes Florian as her brother and agrees not to expose them, since--by
a law of the College inscribed above the gates, which darkness has kept
them from seeing--the penalty of their discovery would be death. Melissa,
a student, overhears them, and is bound over to keep the secret. Lady
Blanche, mother of Melissa and rival to Lady Psyche, also learns of the
alarming invasion, and remains silent for sinister reasons of her own. On
the second day the principal personages picnic in a wood. At dinner Cyril
sings a song that is better fit for the smoking room than for the ears of
ladies; the Prince, in his anger, betrays his sex by a too masculine
reproof; and dire confusion is the result. The Princess in her flight
falls into the river, from which she is rescued by the Prince. Cyril and
Lady Psyche escape together, but the Prince and Florian are brought before
the Princess. At this important moment despatches are brought from her
father saying that the Prince's father has surrounded her palace with
soldiers, taken him prisoner, and holds him as a hostage. The Prince,
after pleading to deaf ears, is sent away at dawn with Florian, and goes
with him to the camp. Meantime during the night, the Princess's three
brothers have come to her aid with an army. An agreement is reached to
decide the case and end the war by a tournament between the brothers, with
fifty men, on one side; the Prince and his two friends, with fifty men, on
the other. This happens on the third day. The Prince and his men are
vanquished, and he himself is badly wounded.
But the Princess is now gradually to discover that she has "overthrown
more than her enemy,"--that she has defeated yet saved herself. She has
said of Lady Psyche's little child:--
"I took it for an hour in mine own bed
This morning: there the tender orphan hands
Felt at my heart, and seem'd to charm from thence
The wrath I nursed against the world."
When Cyril pleads with her to give the child back to its mother, she
kisses it and feels that "her heart is barren." When she passes near the
wounded Prince, and is shown by his father--his beard wet with his son's
blood--her hair and picture on her lover's heart,
Her iron will was broken in her mind,
Her noble heart was broken in her breast.
From the Princess's cry then, "Grant me your son to nurse," it is but a
natural result that she should bring the Prince's wounded men with him
into the College, now a hospital. Through ministering to her lover, she
comes to love him; and theories yield to "the lord of all."
--Copeland-Rideout: _Introduction to Tennyson's Princess_.
+Theme LXXI.+--_Write the plot of one of the following_:--
1. _Lochinvar_, Scott.
2. _Rip Van Winkle_, Irving.
3. One story from _A Tale of Two Cities_, Dickens.
4. _Silas Marner_, George Eliot.
5. The last magazine story you have read.
6. Some story assigned by the teacher.
+Theme LXXII.+--_Write three brief plots. Have the class choose the one
that will make the most interesting story._
+Theme LXXIII.+--_Write a story, using the plot selected by the class in
the preceding theme._
(Are the events related in your story probable or improbable?)
+143. The Introduction.+--Our pleasure in a story depends upon our clear
understanding of the various situations, and this understanding may often
be best given by an introduction that states something of the time, place,
characters, and circumstances as shown in Section 6. The purpose of the
introduction is to make the story more effective, and what it shall
contain is determined by the needs of the story itself. The last half of a
well-written story will not be interesting to one who has not read the
first half, because the first half will contain much that is essential to
the complete understanding of the main point of the story. A story begun
with conversation at once arouses interest, but care must be taken to see
that the reader gets sufficient descriptive and explanatory matter to
enable him to understand the story as the plot develops, or the interest
will begin to lag.
+Theme LXXIV.+--_Write a narrative._
1. The Christmas surprise.
2. How the mortgage was paid.
3. The race between the steam roller and the traction engine.
4. The new girl in the boarding school.
5. The Boss, and how he won his title.
(Be sure that your introduction is such that the entire situation is
understood. Name different points in the story that led you to say what
you have in the introduction. Have you mentioned any unnecessary points?)
+144. The Incentive Moment.+--The chief business of a story-teller is to
arouse the interest of his readers, and the sooner he succeeds, the
better. Usually he tries to arouse interest from the very beginning of his
story. He therefore places in the introduction or near it a statement
designed to stimulate the curiosity of his readers. The point at which
interest begins has been termed the incentive moment. In the following
selection notice that the first sentence tells who, when, and where.
(Section 6.) The second sentence causes us to ask, what was it? and by the
time that is answered we are curious to know what happened and how the
On a mellow moonlight evening a cyclist was riding along a lonely road in
the northern part of Mashonaland. As he rode, enjoying the somber beauty
of the African evening, he suddenly became conscious of a soft, stealthy,
heavy tread on the road behind him. It seemed like the jog trot of some
heavy, cushion-footed animal following him. Turning round, he was scared
very badly to find himself looking into the glaring eyes of a large lion.
The puzzled animal acted very strangely, now raising his head, now
lowering it, and all the time sniffling the air in a most perplexed
manner. Here was a surprise for the lion. He could not make out what kind
of animal it was that could roll, walk, and sit still all at the same
time; an animal with a red eye on each side, and a brighter one in front.
He hesitated to pounce upon such an outlandish being--a being whose blood
smelled so oily.
I believe no cyclist ever "scorched" with more honesty and
single-mindedness of purpose. But although he pedaled and pedaled,
although he perspired and panted, his effort to get away did not seem to
place any more space between him and the lion; the animal kept up his
annoyingly calm jog trot, and never seemed to tire.
The poor rider was finally so exhausted from terror and exertion that he
decided to have the matter settled right away. Suddenly slowing down, he
jumped from his wheel, and, facing abruptly about, thrust the brilliant
headlight full into the face of the lion. This was too much for the beast.
The sudden glare destroyed the lion's nerve, for at this fresh evidence of
mystery on the part of the strange rider-animal, who broke himself into
halves and then cast his big eye in any direction he pleased, the monarch
of the forest turned tail, and with a wild rush retreated in a very
hyena-like manner into the jungle, evidently thanking his stars for his
miraculous escape from that awful being. Thereupon the bicyclist, with new
strength returning and devoutly blessing his acetylene lamp, pedaled his
way back to civilization.
+Theme LXXV.+--_Write a short imaginative story._
1. A bicycle race with an unfriendly dog.
2. An unpleasant experience.
3. A story told by the school clock.
4. Disturbing a hornet's nest.
5. The fate of an Easter bonnet.
6. Chased by a wolf.
(Where is the incentive moment? Is it introduced naturally?)
+145. Climax.+--You have already noticed in your reading that usually
somewhere near the close of the story, there is a turning point. That
turning point is called the climax. At this point, the suspense of mind is
greatest, for the fate of the principal character is being decided. If the
story is well written as regards the plot, our interest will continually
increase from the incentive moment to the climax.