"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Great Authors of the Past

When a writer cuts out all the superfluous details and stays fixed on what he really wants to say, then you know a master is at work. So consider this passage from Chretien De Troyes, a 12th. century Frenchman writing about Arthur and the Round Table. "The Vavasor [a baron's vassal with tenets under him] summons his wife and his beautiful daughter, who were busy in a work room--doing I know not what." Here, rather than tediously trying to describe their labor of sewing or spinning or cooking--whatever it was--the author quite honestly claims ignorance, saying simply: "doing I know not what." Instead he mentions the important thing, namely, that the daughter is beautiful.

Notice how the mother is not described. She is mentioned in the next sentence as "coming out with her daughter," after that she is completely dropped from the narrative. Not so the "beautiful daughter," the next 17 sentences are devoted to describing her personal appearance.

Well, maybe there is a reason people don't write like the classic authors anymore.

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