Tuesday, September 23, 2008

10 Commas, 2 Semicolons, 1 Colon And Something About A Field Rambling Dryad

I love commas, I'm cautious but enthusiastic about semicolons, and have been known to be the architect of sentences that run on longer than last night's Emmy's. Having said that, I read (and actually reread a couple of times) this sentence on the bus this morning and felt like stopping for a cup of tea and a digestive around half way through.

I quote:
"The new manner in art, the fresh mode of looking at life, suggested so strangely by the merely visible presence of one who was unconscious of it all; the silent spirit that dwelt in dim woodland, and walked unseen in open field, suddenly showing herself, Dryad-like and not afraid, because in his soul who sought for her there had been awakened that wonderful vision to which alone are wonderful things revealed; the mere shapes and patterns of things becoming, as it were, refined, and gaining a kind of symbolic value, as though they were themselves patterns of some other and more perfect form whose shadow they made real: how strange it all was!"

Oscar Wilde, "The Picture of Dorian Gray"


Hole-y crap! I've retyped it and am still struggling with it. Dryad what? Which field? Whose perfect form? Whatevs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm actually loving "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" so far, the occasional Everest sentence notwithstanding. Or maybe because of them, because frankly it makes my comma usage seem stingy by comparison! Plus, there is at least one thrillingly quotable line per page, but then I would expect nothing less of dear Oscar.

7 comments:

John C said...

That reads fine to me but then I'm a fan of the protracted sentence and perfectly capable of producing the same myself, as this comment demonstrates. Oscar's semi-colons form the necessary pauses and in his example they're replacing full stops in order to give the entire passage an uninterrupted flow. Marcel Proust is even more prolix and protracted.

Michael Guy said...

I find the quote overly-effusive.

Which doesn't really relate to the post at all. I just wanted to use that word today.

BIG HUG, Andrew...

LURVE the new header template, too!

M-H said...

Mark Twain called these "Transatlantic sentences". He suggested that if someone left New York with the first letter in his mouth and swam across the Atlantic, when he came ashore the full stop would be just leaving New York. Henry James specialises in them - some of his are more than a page long. Showing off, I call it.

Peter said...

M-H has beaten me to it. We will have you reading James or Faulkner in a short while. Both are clever (some times a little too clever) writers.

The Other Andrew said...

John, 'uninterrupted flow' is right! :) Deluge, perhaps?

MG, and we both know from 'overly effusive', right pet!? PS. thanks for the header love, love.

M-H, transatlantic! I like that, or perhaps 'around the world in 80 lines' for some of Oscar's.

Peter, after this I think it's something with short punchy sentences for me.

Anonymous said...

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

Oscar Wilde

Luna said...

Dorian Gray is worth it though, I read it last year. The trick is to forget the punctuation all together and just go with it. Wilde can tend to hide behind a lot of pretty words when he really just wants to say something basic. Fabulous book though. I laughed, I cried, I smirked. A-MAZ-ING.