Page images
PDF
EPUB

140

Point — others say he was drowned in the squall, at the foot of Antony's Nose. I don't know — he never came back again."

“Where's Van Bummel, the schoolmaster?" 130

“He went off to the wars, too; was a great militia general, and is now in Congress.”

Rip's heart died away, at hearing of these sad changes in his home and friends, and finding himself thus alone in

the world. Every answer puzzled him, too, by treating 135 of such enormous lapses of time, and of matters which he could not understand : war Congress

Stony Point ! - he had no courage to ask after any more friends, but cried out in despair, “Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle ?"

“Oh, Rip Van Winkle !” exclaimed two or three. Oh, to be sure ! that's Rip Van Winkle yonder, leaning against the tree."

Rip looked, and beheld a precise counterpart of himself as he went up the mountain ; apparently as lazy and 145 certainly as ragged. The poor fellow was now completely

confounded. He doubted his own identity, and whether he was himself or another man. In the midst of his bewilderment, the man in the cocked hat demanded who

he was, and what was his name? 150 God knows,” exclaimed he at his wit's end; “I'm not myself — I'm somebody else — that's me yonder

that's somebody else, got into my shoes — I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and

they've changed my gun, and everything's changed, and 155 I'm changed, and I can't tell what's my name, or who

I am.

no

Notice how just the points of change which a man like Rip would observe are indicated, and how the change is emphasized by contrast with the unchanging mountains and river, lines 12-29. Then as he comes to his own old home, the half-starved dog appears, and suggests the pathetic words, “My very dog has forgotten me," lines 30-40. The changes about the inn, the crowd of strange people, the strange subjects of their talk, the discovery that one and another of his old friends is gone, till he cries, “Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle?” line 138, — these all lead up to the discovery of his counterpart, in the person of his son, now a grown man. There is an indescribable blending of humor and pathos in the poor fellow's utter confusion

“They've changed my gun, and everything's changed, and I'm changed, and I can't tell what's my name, or who I am,” lines 154-156. The successive pictures in this bit of descriptive narration are worth careful study. First the general appearance of the village, as he comes into it, is indicated by a few particulars and by contrast with the natural scenery around. Then the ruined home is put before us in three lines of suggestion, so that an artist could paint a picture of the place, with the homeless dog and the homeless man. Then we are shown the village inn with its pretension and unthrift, with the indications of the changed times in the change of name and sign and the appearance of the liberty pole. Notice how the concrete particulars, which Irving uses in these descriptions, make a vivid picture, instead of the dim, colorless impression which would have been produced by such general terms as we have used in writing of it.

In the same

way two or three individuals are picked out of the crowd, and without being named are yet perfectly individualized by suggestive words. The orator “bustled "

up to him, line 86; the “short, busy little fellow rising on tiptoe inquired in his ear,” lines 8990; "the self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat,” “with one arm akimbo, the other resting on his cane," "planted himself before Van Winkle," lines 92-96. It would be a dull imagination indeed which could fail to see these forms. This vividness is secured mainly by suggestion. The particulars are few but always characteristic, and each one carries to an active mind the thought of other particulars which naturally belong with it. So the mind of the reader is constantly helping the author to make the impression clear and strong. The words are largely simple, strong, homely, Saxon derivatives. It would be interesting to compare the selection, on this point, with the “Essay on the Mutability of Literature,” in the same volume, and see how the author suits his diction to his subject. If this selection is read aloud, one can hardly fail to notice the balance of the sentences. It is more apparent to the ear than to the eye: “A half-starved dog that looked like Wolf, was skulking about it. Rip called him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth, and passed on," lines 35-37. The accented words call attention to the natural points of emphasis, and it will be seen that the sentence is rhythmical. This will be found true of most of the descriptive and narrative passages.

It is not obtrusive. One

does not fall into a sing-song tone in reading it. But the rhythm is unmistakable and lends a peculiar attraction to the style. It would be useful for the student to carry this analysis of Irving's style still further, and look for himself into the secret of its charm. For here we are dealing with one of the great masters in the use of the English language.

QUESTIONS

What is the special importance of the work of Washington Irving in American Literature? Give some of the principal incidents of his early life. What great sorrow strongly affected his career? What public offices did he hold, and how did they influence his literary work? Where and how did he spend the last years

of his life? Of what group of literary men was he the central figure? What were the “Salmagundi” papers, and when were they published ? Describe “Knickerbocker's History of New York.” When was “ The Sketch Book” published, and what position does it hold among his works? What two particularly famous stories does it contain? What works followed this? What is the quality of Irving's humor? What are the chief works which show the influence of his life in Spain ? Describe “Astoria” and “The Adventures of Captain Bonneville." What were Irving's principal biographical works? In the selection from “Rip Van Winkle” note the especially suggestive points of description at the beginning. What notable blending of humor and pathos is there? How are the pictures made vivid ? How are the characters individualized? What is the character of the diction? What peculiar quality is noticeable in the sentence structure?

CHAPTER VII

PERIOD OF THE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY,

1800-1850

BIOGRAPHY. HISTORY. THE ESSAY. ORATORY

An author of this period who has gathered and arranged materials for the biographical work of many others, is Jared Sparks, professor at Harvard College Jared and afterwards its president. He published, in 1837,

Sparks, a "Life of Washington”; edited Washington's writings and correspondence; was the editor of a series of volumes of American Biography, of which he wrote a number of the lives himself; edited the works of Franklin, with a biography; and published a large amount of other biographical material.

With this period begins the careful study of history and its record in works of enduring literary value by American writers. The first name to be mentioned is that of George Bancroft, who devoted George a long and honored life to writing the early history born in Masof the United States. His life extended into our own

sachusetts,

1800; died times, and his work appeared at intervals during at Washingall these years. It was planned, however, and the

1891. first volumes appeared, in the first half of the century; and therefore it is properly considered here. Besides his literary work Bancroft was active in public life - in the Legislature of Massachusetts, as Secre

Bancroft,

ton, D, C.,

« PreviousContinue »