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An angel writing in a book of gold.
A DESERTED FARM.
The elms were old, and gnarled, and bent
The fields, untilled, were choked with weeds, Where every year the thistles sent
Wider and wider their winged seeds.
Farther and farther the nettle and dock
Went colonizing o'er the plain, Growing each season a plenteous stock
Of burs to protect their wild domain.
The last who ever had plowed the soil
Now in the furrowed church-yard layThe boy who whistled to lighten his toil
Was a sexton somewhere far away.
Inştead, you saw how the rabbit and mole
Burrowed and furrowed with never a fear; How the tunneling fox looked out of his hole,
Like one who notes if the skies are clear.
No mower was there to startle the birds
With the noisy whet of his reeking scythe; The quail, like a cow-boy calling his herds,
Whistled to tell that his heart was blithe.
Now all was bequeathed with pious care
The groves and fields fenced round with briers-
T. BUCHANAN READ.
SUBJECTS FOR COMPOSITION.
1. Holiday. 2. Little Barefoot. 3. Will-o'-the-wisps. 4. Planting the Tree. 5. A Sheaf of Wheat. 6. Pictures in the Fire. 7. The Old Arm-Chair. 8. The Apple-Woman. 9. The Uses of Pencils. 10. A Lost Child's Story. II. A Day in the Country. 12. My First Day at School. 13. The Life of a Lazy Man. 14. The Day-Dreams of a Cat. 15. An Old Mill and the Miller. 16. A Council of Rats and Mice. 17. The Story of a Faded Shawl. 18. The Boy Who Always Forgot. 19. How the Soldier Lost his Arm. 20. The Trials of a Street-Car Conductor.
Á COMPOSITION of any length-unless the very briefest note-requires a division into paragraphs in order to please the eye and to render the relation of its parts readily intelligible.
The art of constructing paragraphs is not acquired without labor and patience. One may be skillful in framing sentences, and not succeed in combining them into connected paragraphs. It is well, therefore, to analyze carefully those of writers on different subjects, so as to learn their method of forming them.
There are three qualities to be aimed at in the construction of paragraphs: (1) Unity; (2) Continuity; (3) Variety.
Unity. — In order that a paragraph shall possess the quality of unity, it is requisite that the sentences composing it shall relate, each and all, to the one definite division of the subject which they illustrate and explain. A paragraph should have but a single theme, - one central thought,—and all digressions from this principal thought should be excluded. No sentence has any right to a position in connection with others, unless it is closely related to the preceding sentence or to the one following:
Continuity. In order that a paragraph shall possess the quality of continuity, it is requisite that the sentences be so constructed and so placed as to carry the line of thought naturally and suggestively from one to the other.
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It is vitally important that the sentences be so connected that their relations will be clearly seen. The highest art is required to cause the stream of thought to flow smoothly, bearing the reader along without doubts or interruptions. Accurate thinking and considerable practice in writing will, however, give facility in seizing the true relation of thoughts and expressing them with clearness and exactness.
Sentences are connected by co-ordinate conjunctions, and by conjunctional phrases; as, at the same time, on the contrary, in like manner, in short, to conclude, so far, etc. The expression of continuous thought, accordingly, requires skill in the management of such particles; it is by the proper use of these connectives that threads of thought are woven into a beautiful fabric; yet it requires as much judgment to avoid the excessive use of conjunctions as to use them correctly. A lavish use of conjunctions renders the style dragging and stiff; on the other hand, to dispense with the use of them has a tendency to break up the paragraph into short, independent sentences, among which no connection can be found, and which it is impossible to retain in the memory. Conjunctions may frequently be avoided by the structure of the sentence, the relation of a sentence to the preceding being distinctly indicated by means of inversion, contrast, or words referring to something that has gone before. By this means we may form a series of sentences in which the succeeding will appear to be suggested by some expression or turn of thought in the one preceding. This
This method, when skillfully employed, imparts a high degree of beauty to the style.
The following sentences will illustrate the nature of this mode of reference. The words of reference are in italics :
I addressed him in some lines from the Iliad, considering that, of such languages as I possessed, Greek, in point of longitude, came geographically nearest to an Oriental one. He worshiped me in a devout manner, and replied in what I suppose was Malay. In this way I saved my reputation with my neighbors; for the Malay had no means of betraying the secret. He lay down upon the floor for about an hour, and then pursued his journey. On his departure I presented him with a piece of opium. To him, as an Orientalist, I concluded that opium must be familiar.-De Quincey.
Variety.-In order that a paragraph possess the quality of variety, it is requisite that the constituent sentences shall differ both in length and in structure.
A continued uniformity of length or structure exhausts the attention and becomes intolerably irksome. Even to begin or end sentences too often in the same manner is objectionable. Writers differ greatly as to the length of sentences; some prefer long, others short. Short sentences are generally more lively and familiar, and better adapted to light and informal writing, to works of entertainment and popular instruction. Long sentences require a greater effort of attention, which is sometimes an advantage, sometimes a disadvantage—they may, by presenting the thought as a whole, assist the memory; but, even if periodic, they may be difficult to follow, and, if loose, they may provoke impatience. Long sentences are adapted to elaborate, exact, and dignified composition.
The most effective writing requires a combination of long and short sentences—the one for clearness and force, the other for dignity and impressiveness.
The first sentence of a paragraph should be as short as the sense will permit. The attention of the reader is thus arrested at the outset, without being subjected to any unnecessary strain.
When interest and feeling have been aroused, longer sentences are more appropriate. A long