Page images

Breaking through the Ice while Skating.
A Foot Race.
Going Fishing
A Day spent at a Farmhouse.

3. You may have been present at a flag raising at your school. Give an account of it. If such an event has not come within your experience, you may tell of an imaginary flag raising, relating the incidents and ceremonies which attended it.

4. You have doubtless seen many street parades. Give an account of one that particularly interested or impressed you.

5. Give an account of some great fire which you may have seen, giving special attention to the time order in relating the incidents which occurred.

6. Tell some story which you have read recently.

7. Briefly report some event of which you have read in the newspaper.

8. Give an account of the storming of Quebec, or of some other historical event of importance.

NOTE. — These subjects can be used for written composition exercises later on.


Oral Description I wonder if you have ever noticed how many places and persons you find it necessary to describe in the ordinary conversation of a day. An object in a shop window or upon the street may attract your attention, and you wish to tell your mother of it. She may not have seen it, and in order to explain what it is like you state the size, shape, color, form, and any peculiar features which it may possess. You may meet a stranger and wish to tell some one of his appearance. You give his probable age, height, and the color of his eyes and hair, describe his figure, and mention any peculiarities of face or manner. In narrating incidents about persons or things it is often necessary to describe certain persons or objects in order to show their relation to the events, or to make the narration accurate and interesting

Clearness. -Since descriptions enter so largely into our intercourse with others, it is important that we make them clear in order that the persons for whom the descriptions are given can form a mental picture of the person or thing described. Every one should cultivate the power to describe clearly and accurately, for one often finds it desirable and even necessary to give certain details in order to present a clear account of an occurrence; besides, a person who can describe with clearness, for the benefit and enjoyment of others, the interesting and beautiful things he has seen can give much pleasure to those who hear him.

Accuracy. – To be of value a description must represent persons and places just as they are.

In order to present anything accurately, you must notice carefully the different parts and features of the place or thing to be described. If it is a building which you are to describe, you should note particularly the material of which it is made, its size, height, width, style of architecture, its doors, windows, ornamentation, and any other features of which you may wish to speak. A good way to test the accuracy of your powers of observation is, after looking at an object, to close - your eyes and try to call up an exact picture of it. Cultivate the habit of seeing accurately the objects that come under your notice every day, and then when you wish to describe anything you have seen, you will find no difficulty in recalling its appearance.

If you will notice descriptions in literature, you will find that the ones which give you most pleasure are the ones that picture most vividly the persons or places described. A description that gives an imperfect or an inaccurate picture of the thing described will not only be of little value, but by giving an erroneous idea it may be misleading.

Read the following description of a room in a Japanese home, and see whether, from the details given, you can form a mental picture of how it looked.


“ The whole front of the room is composed of sliding windows which slide back during the day. The ceiling is of light wood crossed by bars of dark wood, with supporting posts of dark polished wood. The panels are of wrinkled sky-blue paper splashed with gold. At one end are two alcoves with floors of polished wood. In one hangs a wall picture, a painting of a blossoming branch of the cherry on white silk, - a perfect piece of art, which in itself fills the room with freshness and beauty. The artist who painted it paints nothing but cherry blossoms.

On the shelf in the other alcove is a very valuable cabinet with sliding doors, on which peonies are painted on a gold ground. A single spray of Azaleas in a pure white vase hanging on one of the polished posts, and a single iris, on another, are the only decorations. The mats are very fine and white, but the only furniture is a folding screen with some suggestions of landscape in India ink.”

Describe some building or room with which you are familiar, making your description clear and accurate.

The Writer's Purpose. — If you will read several descriptions, you will find that they vary in character according to the purposes

of the authors who wrote them. Sometimes

a writer may wish merely to present an accurate picture of the place or thing which he is describing, and then the main features will be given with equal clearness and emphasis, that the reader may receive a clear and definite idea of their appearance. In another case, an author may wish to present some particular characteristic of an object, a place, or a person, and then he will direct attention only to those features and conditions that emphasize this characteristic. For example, it may suit the purpose of a writer to present the bleakness and barrenness of a landscape, and then he will call attention only to those features that most strongly contribute to this characteristic; or the purpose may be to show the beauty of some place, and then only those features and conditions that suggest beauty will be presented. Thus you will find that every carefully written description has been given for some definite purpose; and in your descriptions, whether oral or written, you should have a distinct purpose and emphasize only those features that contribute to the characteristics you wish to present.

The following merely presents a clear and accurate picture of the glens in the mountains of North Carolina without bringing out any particular characteristic.

MOUNTAIN GLENS One feature in these mountain ranges is the coves, or glens, scraped out of the sides of the ridges that inclose the valleys. Short, steep ribs rise from the brooks, and, running-straight up, join the main ridge at right angles. Between these are the basin-shaped coves, down through the center of which trickle branches of pure, sweet water. The crests of these bisecting ridges and the main tops are usually covered with mountain pines, whilst the bosom of the coves, rich in the spoils of disintegrating feldspar and hornblende slates, is heavily covered with the noblest forest trees. Poplars, beeches, hickories, many kinds of the oak, chestnut, buckeye, ash, maple, sour-wood, walnut, wild cherry, locust, wild cucumber, and many others flourish and attain great size. Close along the border of the same stream, and tracing its meanders, runs a narrow ribbon of silver spruces, liiting their dark, rich, conical tops through the paler canopy of their deciduous neighbors like spearmen in battle array.

From “In the Swanannoa Valley." - VANCE. After reading this description, can you imagine how these glens look ?

In the following description the writer wishes to portray for his readers the beauties which delighted him, and with this purpose in mind he calls particular attention to those features that contribute to the beauty of the place.


We are in an arable country of the most perfect richness: the swathes of corn glowing and burning from field to field; the pretty hamlets all vivid with fruitful orchards and flowery gardens, and goodly with steep-roofed storehouses and barns; its well-kept, hard, park-like roads rising and falling from hillside to hillside, or disappearing among brown banks of moss and thickets of the wild raspberry and rose, or gleaming through lines of tall trees, half glade, half avenue, where the gate opens or the gateless path turns trustedly aside, unhindered, into the garden of some statelier house, surrounded in rural pride with its golden hives, and carved granaries, and irregular domain of latticed and espaliered cottages, gladdening to look upon in their delicate homeliness delicate, yet in some sort rude; not like our English homes — trim, laborious, formal, irreproachable in comfort; but with a peculiar carelessness and largeness in all their details, harmonizing with the outlawed loveliness of their country. : It is a generous land, bright with capricious plenty, and laughing from vale to vale in fitful fullness, kind and wild; nor this without some sterner element mingled in the heart of it. For along all

« PreviousContinue »