Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

when sitting on a stool beneath it. One spring day a wasp came between the blind and the glass, and after much buzzing and much walking about, began to build. She first laid down, beneath the under edge of the upper sash, a patch of paper about a third of an inch in diameter; then, standing on this, she raised cupshaped edges all about her, increasing outward and downward, like the cup of an acorn, and then drawing together a little, until a little house was made just about the size and shape of a whiteoak acorn, except that she left a hole in the bottom where she might go in and out.

Then she began at the top, and laid another cover of paper over the first, just as far away as the length of her legs made it easy for her to work. Now it was clear that she made the first shell as a frame or a scaffold on which she might stand to make the second. She would fly away, and after a few minutes come back, with nothing that could be seen, either in her feet or in her jaws. But she at once set to laying her paper-stuff, which came out of her mouth, upon the edge of the work she had made before. As she laid the material she walked backward, building and walking, until she had laid a patch a little more than an eighth of an inch wide and half or three-quarters of an inch long. When laid, the pulp looked like wet brown paper, which soon dried to an ashen gray, and still resembled coarse paper.

As she laid the material, she occasionally went over it again, putting a little more here and there, in the thin places ; generally the work was well done the first time.

So the work went on. The second paper shell was about as large as a pigeon's egg; then a third was made as large as a hen's egg; then another still larger. After a time the wasp seemed to go inside to get her material, and it appeared that she was taking down the first house and putting the paper upon the outside. If so, she did not bring out pieces and patch them together as a carpenter, saving of work, would do, but she chewed the paper up, and made fresh pulp of it, just as the first was made. Of course the boy did not open the window, for he was too curious to see the work go on, and then he was afraid of the sting. How large the nest grew he never learned, for he soon after left the school, and saw no more of it.

EXERCISE XXVIII.

NATURE AT REST.

Subjects :
View from My Window. School-Girl's Glen.
High Noon on the Plains. Yellowstone Park.
Eagle Lake by Moonlight. A Winter Scene.
Mt. Shasta.

You must already have realized how difficult it is to arouse and hold the reader's interest by purely descriptive composition. Interest centers most naturally about life, - about the variety and uncertainty that are found wherever there are continual changes. In the description of inanimate or quiescent objects these elements are lacking and the sources of interest must be sought elsewhere. Much can be trusted to the æsthetic sense, more or less developed in all of us, which finds pleasure, or it may be, its opposite, in the mere contemplation of form and color. But this sense will weary readily and the most exalted description which appeals to it alone may not safely be carried very far. Therefore brevity is to be sought.

Even the briefest description may be made extremely monotonous. This inevitably happens when it is a mere catalogue of details, strung together like beads on a string, without any grouping or organic connection between them. “Give each feature only that prominence which its importance warrants," was recommended a few pages back. It might be inferred from this that some features deserye more attention than others. And so they do. Everything, from a leaf to a landscape, has its striking and distinguishing characteristics which must be seized upon and transmitted, first, last, and always. That individuality which nothing permanent loses in nature should not for a moment be lost in art. Subordinate, in spite of all temptation to the contrary, that which is manifestly subordinate. Is the view from your window charming? Discover, if you can, what particular elements in it make it so. Is it restful, or depressing, or inspiring, or sublime? Try above all to convey to your reader the impression that it is restful, or depressing. Beware of telling him bluntly that it is so; that were inartistic and ineffective. To assert again and again that a thing is beautiful, only tantalizes a reader. He can get little conception of beauty out of the word beautiful, and the little he gets may be entirely false. Give him the impression as nearly as you can in the way in which it was given to you. That is to say, reproduce the picture accurately for him and let it make its own impression.

,

MODEL.

MT. KENESAW.

The sun was slowly sinking beneath the gray line of mountains in the west. The ascent had been steep. Leo and I had been climbing rapidly, pausing only once or twice on the way up to breathe. The air of northern Georgia makes one equal to almost any task, however, and we were at last standing upon the summit which Sherman, twenty-seven years before, had striven so vainly to reach.

The only obstacle that Mt. Kenesaw had offered us was its own steep and rugged sides, and we now rested upon its huge, unguarded embankments, the silent witnesses once of that bloody struggle, and looked down at the scene of beauty and repose lying at our feet. To the south stretches a valley marked here with broad fields of red clay, and there with forest growth clothed in the first green of spring. At the foot of the mountain lies the little village of Marietta. Hills and gray mountains give a wilder aspect to the north and east. Just beneath us, circling the mountain's verge, are the rifle pits where death leaping from a thousand fiery throats had met the Northern soldiers.

Everything remains just as it was left twenty-seven years ago. Minie-balls and shells still lie about the works, while now and then a cannon-ball is picked up.

Slowly the buzzards wheel overhead.

The sun's last rays linger upon the peak, giving a fond goodnight, and then silently vanish.

The cool of evening begins to settle around. Gently the wind stirs the trees in the cemetery on the hill where ten thousand brave Northern boys sleep their last sleep.

At last, roused from our reveries by the evening chill, we begin slowly to descend the mountain.

M. G. W.

EXERCISE XXIX.

NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL OBJECTS IN

CONJUNCTION.

A Rustic Bridge.
Central Park.
Carmelo Mission.
Light-House Rock.

Subjects :

The Old Mill.
A Visit to the Cliff House.
A Deserted Ranch.
Ruins by Moonlight.

Let us define clearly just what subjects are contemplated in this exercise. On the one hand we have already dealt with nature and her products, and on the other hand we have touched to some extent upon certain creations of man, if we may call a creation that which is merely an adaptation and combination of the inanimate products of nature. We shall return again to objects of this latter class as we find them in their highest form of pure art. Now between these two extremes of nature and art lie all combinations of the two in which nature is animate and is allowed at least partial freedom to work out her own ends. Here we can distinguish two pretty sharply defined cases, both of which come under the head of the present exercise. The one is exemplified wherever man has attempted to control or direct the active forces of nature to subserve his own ideals of usefulness or beauty. Thus we find the hillsides converted into vineyards, the prairies into farms, the waterfall into a mechanical power, the grove into a park with lakes and fountains and avenues. The other case is exemplified wherever nature has reclaimed and asserted dominion over the works of man. Thus a Pompeii is buried beneath ashes and scoriæ, a deserted dwelling becomes the lair of wild beasts, a tower falls stone from stone while flowers bloom in its crannies and ivy and mosses make beautiful the most repulsive final stages of decay. Each has its charm, distinct and unmistakable, for though man's work is ever imitation, it is imitation that makes no attempt to deceive. Some features

may

in themselves deserve more attention than others, and yet the relative prominence given to various features of the object described may depend on external considerations. It may safely be asserted that no two people get exactly the same impression from the same object. The farmer and the business

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »