W. T. (William Tenney) Brewster.

English composition and style; a handbook for college students online

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the eighth line and the thirteenth line and with the following
rimes, a abb a, aab (refrain), a abb a (refrain); the villa-
nelle as a poem of nineteen lines, Ab A', ab A, ab A',
ab A, ab A', abAA' or where the first, sixth, twelfth, and
eighteenth lines are identical, as are also the third, ninth, fif-
teenth, and nineteenth. The following rondeau, To a Gentle
and Pervasive British Vegetable, will serve to illustrate the

With Brussels sprouts hotel menus
Are flowing like the widow's cruse ;

In stately palace near the Mall,

In knightly seat, in servants' hall,
These boiled green things the meals transfuse.

Whatever viands you may choose.
With wine howe'er your wits confuse,
You '11 be regaled, where'er you call.
With Brussels sprouts.


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464 English Composition and Style

All classes — nobles, cockneys, Jews,
Horse guards, sea lords, and naval crews.
Conservative and Liberal,
The suffragettes, the Commons — all
May reconcile diverging views

With Brussels sprouts.

The ballade has a more genuine refrain, but this, too, is
merely the regular recrudescence of the same idea. It is
usually a poem of three eight-line stanzas, followed by a four-
line envoy, but the length of the stanzas is also of seven or ten
lines and the envoy, or summing-up, may be of the same length
as the stanza. This is the more common rime, ababbcbC,
dedeeceC, fgfg gcgC, hchC. Since the reader may
have got the impression that these forms lend themselves to
flippancy, Rossetti's translation of Villon's Ballade of Dead
Ladies may be quoted to offset that idea :

Tell me how in what hidden way is

Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
Where 's Hipparcha, and where is Thais,

Neither of them die fairer woman ?

Where is Echo, beheld of no man.
Only heard on river and mere, —

She whose beauty was more than human? —
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Where 's Heloise, the learned nun.

For whose sake Abeillard, I ween.
Lost manhood and put priesthood on?

(From love he won such dule and teen !)

And where, I pray you, is the Queen
Who willed that Buridan should steer

Sewed in a sack's mouth down the Seine ? —
But where are the snows of yester-year ?

White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies.

With a voice like any mermaiden, —
Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Alice,


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Structure and Style of Verse 465

And Ermengardc the lady of Maine, —
And that good Joan whom Englishmen

At Rouen doomed and burned her there, —
Mother of God, where are they then? —

But where are the snows of yester-year ? —

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
Where they are gone, nor yet this year.

Except with this for an overword, —
But where are the snows of yester-year?

The sestina differs from the foregoing in movement in that
there is no rime and no refrain. Instead, the six different and
unrimed words which terminate the six lines of the first stanza
also terminate the six lines of the succeeding five stanzas and
all six words are furthermore used in the envoy of three lines.
These words occur in a definite order, as may be seen from
the following diagram, where letters may be used to indicate
identical words, instead of rime words as heretofore :

Stanza i. — abcdef
" 2. — faebdc
" 3. — c fdabe
" 4.— ecbfad

«* e.— bdfeca

In the envoy the words at the cesuras are (ist line) b, (2nd

line) d, and (3rd line) /; the end words are respectively e ca.

The matter may be made clearer by noting that the end word

of the first line of any one stanza becomes the end word of

the second line of the following stanza ; the second end word

becomes the fourth ; the third, the sixth ; the fourth, the fifth ;

the fifth, the third; the sixth, the first; so that tfie closing

end word is the same as the end word of the very first line.

The envoy is then attached, the end words being the end words

of the last three lines of the sixth stanza, and the words at the

three cesuras, the three end words of the first three lines of


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466 English Composition and Style

the sixth stanza. Owing to the median words in the envoy,
the line of the sestina is usually long, say pentameter, with the
iambic beat

Sestinas are few in English; Mr. Kipling's Sestina of the
Tramp Royal is possibly the most familiar. The verse is evi-
dently artificial and the movement heavy and languid, though
not unpleasant. The constant repetition of certain words
gives the impression of ideas rolling about on themselves and
unable to get out of the eddy. The verses rumble back and
forth like a lawn-roller impelled by an Italian laborer in re-
stricted grounds. Yet the form may be used with great ef-
fectiveness and become one of the best vehicles of wit that
verse can furnish, if it be remembered that the important word,
around which the sestina should be written, is the first end
word, which also ends the sixth stanza and the envoy; and
also, if the end words be so turned as to give different mean-
ings in successive stanzas. It allows playing on words to a
very high degree.

These better-known forms — for there are other special
stanzas — afford the best examples of how, so to speak, certain
literary games must be played. If one writes any such verses,
he should write according to form, — or call his lines by some
other name. Or one may devise new molds, just as the sestina
was invented by the troubadour Amaut Daniel, some six hun-
dred years ago. They are like stitches in embroidery or knots
in lace-making, which differ in name as they differ in the man-
ner of making; and surely these verses supply quite as lofty a
means of satisfaction as most of the lighter fine arts. They do
things which cannot be done in prose, which no one would
think of doing in prose ; in writing such verses one may have
a kind of fun to be had in no other way. Incidentally, practice
in these artificial forms is of much benefit to one's prose, in
that it stretches and explores one's vocabulary, and it gives
excellent training.

Style in Verse. The difference between prose and verse,
what verse can do that prose cannot, is further illustrated by


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Structure and Style of Verse 467

a consideration of style in verse. It is manifest that verse, as
actually written, is much fuller of figures of speech than is
prose and that its arrangement of words very commonly de-
parts from normal prose arrangement. As may be readily seen
by a paraphrase, such very simple lines as Wordsworth's

She lived unknown, and few could know

When Lucy ceased to be ;
But she is in her grave, and, oh.

The difference to me I

or Cowper's

Toll for the Brave !
The brave that are no more I
All sunk beneath the wave
Fast by their native shore !

are not at all figurative for verse, and yet, despite their great
simplicity, they contain phrases which one could hardly use in
prose without affectation — "ceased to be," "the brave that
are no more," " sunk beneath the wave," " fast by," " native
shore." Equally simple prose would be likely to use such
phrases as "died," "the brave sailors who were drowned,"
"in the ocean," "close to," "their own homes." It would
perhaps be more accurate to say that, whereas prose might be
equally simple or, in this case, contain about as many figures,
the quality of the phrases would be different ; the verse phrases,
on the whole, running to concreteness. Thus, even in this
simple instance, verse both imposes and permits a different
choice of words from that of prose. The verse writer is
forced by the exigencies of his form to take greater liberties
with language than is the prose writer. This forcing is in the
direction of greater concreteness and figurativeness than is
usual in prose. The same principles hold of the order of
words, where the pressure of meter begets both a restriction
and a freedom that would be intolerable in prose.

This divergence is manifestly better seen in more extreme
instances than those just cited. From this point of view the


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468 English Composition and Style

remarks of Bagehot (cf. p. 17) on Enoch Arden would repay
careful study. Another example of what verse can do which
prose dare not attempt, an example of an extreme kind, is the
following elaborate sonnet by Sir Philip Sidney :

High-way, since you my chief Parnassus be.
And that my Muse, to some ears not unsweet.
Tempers her words to trampling horses' feet
More oft than to a chamber-melody, —

Now, blessed you bear onward blessed me
To her, where I my heart, safe-left, shall meet;
My Muse and I must you of duty greet
With thanks and wishes, wishing thankfully;

Be you still fair, honor'd by public heed ;
By no encroachment wrong'd, nor time forgot;
Nor blamed for blood, nor shamed for sinful deed;
And that you know I envy you no lot

Of highest wish, I wish you so much bliss, —
Hundreds of years you Stella's feet may kiss.

{Via Amoris.)

Now, to wish in good plain prose that the street where one's
lady-love lives — or where one lives oneself — be kept in
good order, properly repaired and embellished, free from
refuse, orderly and respectable, would not be unnatural. But
to call that street a Parnassus and to wish that one's lady-love
may traverse it for some hundreds of years, is, prosaicaUy
speaking, grotesque. Poetry, however, allows a much greater
freedom of fancy, thought, and expression than prose, and
ideas that would be odd in the latter form may be governed by
an all-pervading enthusiasm or fancy which prose cannot com-
pass. He who would d^nand of poetry things that could as
well be said in prose would cut himself from a large and rich
and stimulating world. The body of extant poetry is simjJy
one of the many spiritual and intellectual worlds which one
may profitably explore, as one would explore any of the other


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Structure and Style of Verse 469

worlds — of mathematics, or history, or science — which do
not daily and constantly impinge upon one's consciousness.

Sidney's world of the preceding sonnet is enthusiastic and
odd rather than great It is probably only when there is a
combination of important ideas with a steadier, less grotesque
and more intelligible expression that one finds great poetry.
Such a combination is found in great poets. We are not now
concerned with poetical ideas, and it is sufficient, therefore, to
say that verse gives opportunity to express feelings and
thoughts in a finer and more permanent way than prose. The
majority of familiar quotations, for example, are either com-
plete verses or parts of verses, as may be seen by an examina-
tion of Bartlett's Familiar Quotation. Probably no prose
pieces in the language, — if we omit, for evident reasons, the
King James* translation of the Gospels, the more familiar
epistles of St. Paul, and some other parts of the Bible, — have
contributed anything like the number of well-known phrases
that have come from Gray's Elegy, say, or Hamlet, or Pope's
Essay on Man. The explanation is a manifold one : Poetry,
with all its running to concreteness, can tap more universal
and hence more widely current ideas than can the more (ordi-
narily) expedient prose; it can touch these in a more unre-
stricted and imaginative way ; its very restriction into a more
rigorous form than that of prose forces it to seek a powerful
and balanced expression which the more casual and loose prose
is under no compulsion to seek ; and, undoubtedly, its measure
and harmony cause it more easily to fasten itself in one's
memory. As a fine art we perhaps expect more and different
things of it than of prose, but prose also has its own wide
sphere of usefulness and is indispensable in that

Stunmary. Verse, or metrical writing, is the arrangement,
into feet of four principal kinds, of words so that a regular
reairrence of accent is suggested. These feet are grouped
into lines of various lengths, which are in turn bound into
groups, as couplets or stanzas, chiefly by end-rime, but also
by alliteration and assonance; nor does rime occur in blank


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470 English Composition and Style

verse. The general movement of verse may be in many ways
like that of prose, but verse has also, especially in lyrical poetry,
a characteristic movement arising from the restrictions imposed
ructure and Style of Verse 475

prevalent at any particular time? What ideas or qualities or
iorms were most common in, say, Elizabethan times or in those of
Queen Anne?

5- Write a few short poems, preferably in tliose somewhat
artificial forms described on pages 460-466, though simple rimed
narrative is also good. It is probably best to get a good line or
two which shall phrase the main point and write around that, but
any other method may be equally good. Blank verse is, on the
whole, the hardest kind of writing to master and ordinarily may
as well be left unattempted until one has gained some skill in
meter and rime.


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The following accounts of punctuation, capitalization, and
solecisms are reprinted, with very slight modifications, from
Professor Ashley H. Thomdike's The Elements of Rhetoric
and Composition, published by The Century Co.


Punctuation is determined in part by Good Use and in part by
Good Sense. The marks of punctuation are signs which educated
people have agreed upon in order to make what they write easier
to read. Their use is in some particulars fixed; in many others
it is left to the good sense of individual writers. Absolute rules
for punctuation, therefore, cannot be laid down. Rules merely
indicate the general practice, to which there are often many ex-
ceptions. The rules that follow are not designed to dictate abso-
lutely how a writer shall punctuate, but to indicate the practice
of a majority of writers.

The use of the different marks of punctuation is always chang-
ing, the tendency at the present being to use them less than
formerly, but the main functions of each remain the same. The
period indicates a full stop, the completion of a sentence. The
semicolon indicates a change in the thought, an important stopping
place in the sentence. The comma indicates a short pause, a
minor break in the sentence. If there is no break in the thought,
no word or phrase that should be separated from the rest, there
is no need of punctuation until you come to the period. If there
is a change in thought, some words to be separated from others,
a division to be indicated to the reader's eye, you will need a
comma, a semicolon, or possibly a dash, according to the im-
portance or abruptness of the division.

The student is using the marks of punctuation in order to
make what he writes easier to read. Examine and learn the fol-



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480 Appendix

lowing rules with this in mind. You wiH not aid the reader by
scattering commas over a paragraph as if from a pepper-box;
and you will certainly annoy the reader if you do not provide
many commas and semicolons to aid his eye. Above all, never
omit a mark, the omission of which will make your meaning in
the least degree ambiguous.


The comma separates words, phrases, or clauses that should
be kept apart in thought. It usually marks either some kind of
parenthesis, such as a phrase in apposition; or some kind of
ellipsis, such as the omission of a verb; or some kind of disjunc-
tion, when elements come together which are not closely connected
grammatically or logically.

It is used:

1. To separate expressions in apposition from the rest of the
sentence; as, "James, the brother of John, came first"

2. To mark off adverbs or adverbial phrases that modify not
a single word but an entire phrase; as, however, then, therefore,
moreover. These commas are sometimes omitted, especially in
short sentences.

3. To separate all kinds of parenthetical phrases or clauses
from the context. If a phrase or clause interrupts the thought of
a sentence without being necessary to make complete sense, it
should usually be marked off by commas.

The crumbs and discolorations of the cannibal feast, as yet
hardly consummated, were exceedingly visible about his mouth.


Dashes and marks of parenthesis () are also used to mark off
parenthetical expressions, when a more distinct separation from
the sentence is desired than that indicated by commas.

4. To mark off adverbs that might be mistaken for prepo-
sitions; as, "Above, the sky was bright."

5. To separate a long subject from Its verb.

6. To mark off any element of a sentence that is out of its
natural position.

Of the plays which bear the name of Shakespeare in the late


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Appendix 481

editions, the greater number were not published until seven years
after his death. (But, — The greater number of the plays, etc.)
Without a single glance at the house, he ran forward. (But,
— He ran forward without a single glance, etc.)

7. To mark the omissions of words.

English is the favorite study of one-half of the class; math-
ematics, of less thdn one-tenth.

8. To separate words, phrases, or pairs of words used in series
without conjunctions to connect them.

Notms, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs are often found in series.
Some writers omit the comma before "and" in such a scries.
No comma is used between two adjectives; as, "It is a bright
sunny day."

9. To separate short quotations from the context ; as, " He
cried, 'I am ready/** Or to separate "he said" or similar ex-
pressions from the quotation in which they are placed.

10. To separate dependent clauses from the context whenever
they are not closely connected with adjoining words, especially
in the following cases:

(a) A long clause at the beginning of a sentence.

(b) A clause introduced by "as" or "for," meaning "be-

(c) A parenthetical (Rule 3), transposed (Rule 6), or a non-
restrictive relative clause (Rule 11).

But commas are not used to mark off short or closely con-
nected clauses, or clauses beginning with "that."

11. To separate non-restrictive relative clauses from the con-
text A non-restrictive relative clause is one that adds an ex-
planation or description to the substantive; it may be regarded
as a parenthesis. A restrictive clause is one that narrows the
meaning of the substantive and cannot be omitted without de-
stroying the meaning of the sentence. The two clauses beginning
with "that" in the two preceding sentences are restrictive and
need no commas. This distinction in punctuation is important,
because it may affect the meaning of the sentence. "The mem-
bers of the team, who had done the best they could, were heartily
praised" — means that all the members of the team had done
their best and were praised. Without the commas, the sentence
would mean that only those members that had done their best
were praised.



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482 Appendix

12. To separate independent clauses from the context; these
often require a semicolon, as in this sentence. ''And" and
''but,'' connecting clauses, should be preceded by commas or
semicolons when there is a change of subject; but (usually) not
when the verbs in the two clauses have the same subject

I shall go down-town this afternoon, and you can meet me at
the post-office.

I shall go down-town this afternoon and will meet you at the


The semicolon marks a greater pause than the comma and
indicates a greater separation between the elements of the sen-
tence. In many cases the question whether to use a comma or a
semicolon depends for its answer on the amount of emphasis you
wish to put upon the separation.

The semicolon is used:

1. To separate clauses or phrases having a common gram-
matical dependence ; as " In January come the midyear examina-
tions; in June, the finals.

2. To separate a dependent clause from the ccmtext, when a
more distinct separation is needed than the commas would indi-
cate. See The Comma, Rule 10.

.3. To separate loosely connected independent clauses.

Roger Bacon and Galileo languor in princely dungeons; Tasso
pines in the cell of a mad-house; Camoens dies begging in the
streets of Lisbon.

4. To separate the parts of a compound sentence. See also
Comma, Rule 12. If the clauses contain commas, semicolons be-
tween the clauses are necessary for distinct division.

5. Before "as," introducing an instance; as in this sentence.
But many writers would use a comma in such a case.


The colon indicates specification; as before a quotation or a
series of particulars. It may also mark distinct separation be-
tween the elements of a sentence.

It is used:


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Appendix 483

1. To introduce a series of particulars; as in the last line of
the preceding page. See also Semicolon, Rule 5.

2. To introduce a long quotation. See also Comma, Rule 9.

3. To separate elements of a sentence containing semicolons.


The dash marks an abrupt separation between the elements of
a sentence. It is too conspicuous a mark to be used often. Stu-
dents sometimes commit the bad fault of punctuating largely by

It is used:

1. To indicate parenthesis. Sometimes a single dash is placed
before the parenthesis and some other mark of punctuation after
it; sometimes dashes are placed before and after the parenthesis.
Unless the separation of the parenthesis from the context is ab-
rupt, commas should be used rather than dashes.

2. To separate any element from its context, when the transi-
tion of thought is abrupt. The dash may be used in place of the
comma, semicolon, or colon, especially in conversational, frag-
mentary, or interrupted discourse.

3. With the comma, semicolon, or colon, (, — ) (; — ) (: — ).
In this case the dash adds emphasis to the other mark.


Parentheses () are used to inclose explanatory phrases which
interrupt the sequence of the thought and are quite disconnected
with the context The double dash (see Dash, Rule i) is more
generally used than parentheses. The parenthetical marks are also
used to inclose examples or references ; as in the second line above.

Brackets [] are used to inclose words added, as in a translation ;
or words to be omitted ; or not actually in a quotation, as on page


The period is used at the end of every declarative sentence,
and after abbreviations, numerals, and usually after titles and head-


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484 Appendix


The exclamation point is used after interjections and exdam-
atory sentences. It is not used after " O/' nor after every " oh "
or " ah," nor after every slightly emotional sentence.


The interrogation point is used after every direct questtoo.
Sometimes it is placed directly after the interrogative part of a
sentence instead of at the end. Inclosed in parentheses (?) it
indicates doubt; as, "Hamlet was written in 1601 (?)."


Quotation marks (" ") inclose quotations. If one quotation is
made up of several paragraphs, the marks may be placed at die
beginning of each paragraph, but at the end only of the last If
the quoted passage is printed in different type from the context,
marks of quotation may be omitted. A quotation within a quo-
tation is indicated by single marks C '); one within that by double
marks. Titles of txx)ks, plays, addresses, periodicals may be in-
closed in quotation marks or italicized.

Quotations of any length or importance should be accompanied
by references to the books or authors quoted. A complete refer-
ence gives author, title, place of publication, date, and page. A
reference to this paragraph as originally printed wouki be: A. H.
Thomdike, "The Elements of Rhetoric and Composition." The
Century Co., New York, 1905. P. 330.


The hyphen is used to join the parts of compound words; and
to divide words, as at the end of a line.


The apostrophe (') is used to mark the omission of a letter or
letters, or of figures; or to distinguish the possessive case. The
apostrophe is not used in the possessive case of pronouns; as. Us,


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Appendix 485


Tlie following words should begin with capitals:

1. The first word of every sentence, paragraph, chapter, let-
ter, and book.

2. The first word of every line of poetry.

Online LibraryW. T. (William Tenney) BrewsterEnglish composition and style; a handbook for college students → online text (page 40 of 43)