Thursday, October 27, 2011

Long Sentences

A sentence whose form elegantly matches its content:
As a result, I abandoned the collection and undertook the task of describing, by extrapolation from one visible protuberance to another, and with a little probing, the great invisible hulk of the beast, the brooding monstrosity of American educationism, the immense, mindless brute that by now troubles the waters of all, all that is done in our land in the supposed cause of "education," since when, as you see, I can rarely bring myself to write that word without quotation marks, or even fashion a sentence less than nine or ten lines long, lest I inadvertently fail to suggest the creature's awesome dimensions and seemingly endless tentacular complexities.

As you surely guessed, it is from the Foreword of Richard Mitchell's The Graves of Academe, an indispensable book for anyone interested in language and education, and happily available in complete form online.>

I've been looking for Very Long Sentences ever since I read Melanie's post about Slow Language.   

Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare are quite packed with Long Sentences, as I found yesterday when I was reading Pericles aloud to my boys with a scratchy throat from a cold.  Just one example:

When brave warriors contended at court tournaments for the love of kings' daughters, if one proved sole victor over all the rest, it was usual for the great lady for whose sake these deeds of valour were undertaken, to bestow all her respect upon the conqueror, and Thaisa did not depart from this custom, for she presently dismissed all the princes and knights whom Pericles had vanquished, and distinguished him by her especial favour and regard, crowning him with the wreath of victory, as king of that day's happiness; and Pericles became a most passionate lover of this beauteous princess from the first moment he beheld her.
Thank goodness for those commas, where you can quickly gasp for breath, but it's surprisingly hard to forget through a sentence like that aloud, when you are not quite sure where or when you are going to end up.  

If you want to read even more, look at A peaceful day:  On Very Long Sentences.   (HT: Dawn Garrett)

How about a diagram of a Long Sentence? (a Nathaniel Hawthorne one, from Gene Moutoux's excellent site German-Latin-English where you can also find diagrams of German sentences)

And the original post about the Slow Language Movement, HT to Lissa Wiley, via Melanie.  

1 comment:

  1. Delightful. I had forgotten all about that post, that discussion of long sentences. That Richard Mitchell sentence makes me want to read his book for sure.


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