Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 38

Thread: Examples of perfect prose

  1. #1

    Examples of perfect prose

    Please post any passages of prose you consider to be near (or actually) perfect. It can be a single sentence or a paragraph; it can be from a novel, a book on science, a newspaper article, a travel book- anything you like.

    Here a few pieces I think are examples of superb writing:

    "There was an Ah! of satisfaction from the mob. Into the ring suddenly rushed a smallish, dun- coloured bull with long flourishing horns. He ran out, blindly, as if from the dark, probably thinking that now he was free. Then he stopped short, seeing that he was not free, but surrounded in an unknown way. He was utterly at a loss"

    (D H Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent)

    "The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam."

    (Conrad, Heart Of Darkness)

    "Calamy lay on his back, quite still, looking up into the darkness. Up there, he was thinking, so near that it's only a question of reaching out a hand to draw back the curtaining darkness that conceals it, up there, just above me, floats the great secret, the beauty and the mystery. To look into the depths of that mystery, to fix the eyes of the spirit on that bright and enigmatic beauty, to pore over the secret until its symbols cease to be opaque and the light filters through from beyond- there is nothing else in life, for me at any rate, that matters..."

    (Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves)

  2. #2
    Does a speech count? I have always thought this one to be absolutely beautifully written:

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.



    --Abraham Lincoln
    November 19, 1863
    Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

  3. #3
    Wonderful thread, Wickes, I will definitely be back! Many times, undoubtedly...

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Chester View Post
    Does a speech count? I have always thought this one to be absolutely beautifully written:

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.



    --Abraham Lincoln
    November 19, 1863
    Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
    This is beautifully written. Lincoln was a master of prose.
    com-pas-sion (n.) [ME. & OFr. <LL. (Ec.) compassio, sympathy < compassus, pp. of compati, to feel pity < L. com-, together + pali, to suffer] sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; deep sympathy; pity

    Link URL:
    Only the registered members can see the Link URLs. Please Login OR Register.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ThousandthIsle View Post
    Wonderful thread, Wickes, I will definitely be back! Many times, undoubtedly...
    Thankyou ThousandthIsle.

    Here are 3 great passages from Harold Bloom's magnificent book on Shakespeare:

    "The more one reads and ponders the plays of Shakespeare, the more one realizes that the accurate stance towards them is one of awe. How he was possible, I cannot know...the worship of Shakespeare ought to be even more a secular religion than it already is . The plays remain the outer limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively even spiritually. They abide beyond the end of the mind's reach. We cannot catch up to them"

    "The problem of having thought too well too soon seems shared by Hamlet and Prospero, while Falstaff, a professional soldier who long ago saw through chivalry and its glories, resolutely resolves to be merry, and will not despair. Hamlet can be transcendent or ironic, in either mode his inventiveness is absolute. Falstaff, at his funniest or most reflective, retains a vitalism that renders him alive beyond belief. When we are most wholly human, and know ourselves, we become most like either Hamlet or Falstaff"

    "Immanent Falstaff and transcendent Hamlet are the two largest representations of consciousness in all Shakespeare, and indeed in all literature...Falstaff denies that life is real or life is earnest, and delivers us from the oppression of such nightmares, lifting us into the atmosphere of perfect freedom"



    Come on you lazy lot- you've only got to get your Nabokov or Joyce down off the shelf. I want some perfect prose right now!
    Last edited by WICKES; 07-25-2008 at 07:20 AM.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Eastern Kentucky
    Posts
    83
    Joyce? Oh jeez, I've never read any of his stuff.. seems a bit stuffy.. though I've heard the sermon on Hell in Portrait as a Young Man is good. :P

    When I am less sleepy I will think of something, though I can at least say this, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar has the best overall effect on you after you've read it. There's no one sentence or paragraph that strikes you, it's the sum of its parts.

  7. #7
    * And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

    * Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning ——
    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

    Two separate bits from, well it's pretty obvious where it's from.

    Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

    Again, preety obvious where it's from.

  8. #8
    From Persuasion:

    "Walter," cried Charles Hayter, "why do you not do as you are bid? Do not you hear your aunt speak? Come to me, Walter, come to cousin Charles."

    But not a bit did Walter stir.

    In another moment, however, she found herself in the state of being released from him; some one was taking him from her, though he had bent down her head so much, that his little sturdy hands were unfastened from around her neck, and he was resolutely borne away, before she knew that Captain Wentworth had done it.

    Her sensations on the discovery made her perfectly speechless. She could not even thank him. She could only hang over little Charles, with most disordered feelings. His kindness in stepping forward to her relief, the manner, the silence in which it had passed, the little particulars of the circumstance, with the conviction soon forced on her by the noise he was studiously making with the child, that he meant to avoid hearing her thanks, and rather sought to testify that her conversation was the last of his wants, produced such a confusion of varying, but very painful agitation, as she could not recover from, till enabled by the entrance of Mary and the Miss Musgroves to make over her little patient to their cares, and leave the room. She could not stay. It might have been an opportunity of watching the loves and jealousies of the four--they were now altogether; but she could stay for none of it. It was evident that Charles Hayter was not well inclined towards Captain Wentworth. She had a strong impression of his having said, in a vext tone of voice, after Captain Wentworth's interference, "You ought to have minded me, Walter; I told you not to teaze your aunt;" and could comprehend his regretting that Captain Wentworth should do what he ought to have done himself. But neither Charles Hayter's feelings, nor anybody's feelings, could interest her, till she had a little better arranged her own. She was ashamed of herself, quite ashamed of being so nervous, so overcome by such a trifle; but so it was, and it required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover her.

  9. #9
    'You don't eat an orange and then throw the peel away! A man is not a piece of fruit!'

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Chester View Post
    Does a speech count? I have always thought this one to be absolutely beautifully written:

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.



    --Abraham Lincoln
    November 19, 1863
    Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
    Ah, Chester, that really does still send shivers down the spine.

  11. #11
    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Philadelphia
    Posts
    732
    My favorite passages from Joyce

    My handkerchief. He threw it. I remember. Did I not take it up?

    His hand groped vainly in his pockets. No, I didn't. Better buy one. He laid the dry snot picked from his nostril on a ledge of rock, carefully. For the rest let look who will.

    Behind. Perhaps there is someone.

    He turned his face over a shoulder, rere regardant. Moving through the air high spars of a threemaster, her sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homing, upstream, silently moving, a silent ship.


    - Ulysses [Proteus]

    Begob he drew his his hand and made a swipe and let fly. Mercy of God the sun was in his eyes or he'd have left him for dead. Gob, he near sent it into the county Longford. The bloody nag took fright and the old mongrel after the car like bloody hell and all the populace shouting and laughing and the old tinbox clattering along the street.

    The catastrophe was terrific and instantaneous in its effect. The observatory of Dunsink registered in all eleven shocks, all of the fifth grade of Mercalli's scale, and there is no record extant of a similar seismic disturbance in our island since the earthquake of 1534, the year of the rebellion of Silken Thomas. The epicentre appears to have been that part of the metropolis which constitutes the Inn's Quay ward and parish of Saint Michan covering a surface of fortyone acres, two roods and one square pole or perch.


    - Ulysses [Cyclops]

    What I love about that above passage is Joyce's sense of humour. What, in reality, is only a small little tin can thrown inaccurately at Bloom and "clattering along the street" is suddenly blown up into a disaster of epic proportions, with thousands dead and millions in damages.

    My favorite passage, however, is this one from Ithaca:

    What relation existed between their ages ?
    16 years before in 1888 when Bloom was of Stephen's present age Stephen was 6. 16 years after in 1920 when Stephen would be of Bloom's present age Bloom would be 54. In 1936 when Bloom would be 70 and Stephen 54 their ages initially in the ratio of 16 to 0 would b as 17 1/2 to 13 1/2....

    What events might nullify these calculations ?
    The cessation of existence of both or either, the inauguration of a new era or calendar, the annihilation of the world and consequent extermination of the human species, inevitable but impredictable.


    Something about the sheer matter-of-factness about that passage just makes me laugh. Ulysses is truly a comic novel.

    I know there's plenty of beautiful prose in A Portrait of the Artist, Dubliners, and Finnegans Wake but I'll leave that to someone else.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by mayneverhave View Post
    My favorite passages from Joyce

    My handkerchief. He threw it. I remember. Did I not take it up?

    His hand groped vainly in his pockets. No, I didn't. Better buy one. He laid the dry snot picked from his nostril on a ledge of rock, carefully. For the rest let look who will.

    Behind. Perhaps there is someone.

    He turned his face over a shoulder, rere regardant. Moving through the air high spars of a threemaster, her sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homing, upstream, silently moving, a silent ship.


    - Ulysses [Proteus]

    Begob he drew his his hand and made a swipe and let fly. Mercy of God the sun was in his eyes or he'd have left him for dead. Gob, he near sent it into the county Longford. The bloody nag took fright and the old mongrel after the car like bloody hell and all the populace shouting and laughing and the old tinbox clattering along the street.

    The catastrophe was terrific and instantaneous in its effect. The observatory of Dunsink registered in all eleven shocks, all of the fifth grade of Mercalli's scale, and there is no record extant of a similar seismic disturbance in our island since the earthquake of 1534, the year of the rebellion of Silken Thomas. The epicentre appears to have been that part of the metropolis which constitutes the Inn's Quay ward and parish of Saint Michan covering a surface of fortyone acres, two roods and one square pole or perch.


    - Ulysses [Cyclops]

    What I love about that above passage is Joyce's sense of humour. What, in reality, is only a small little tin can thrown inaccurately at Bloom and "clattering along the street" is suddenly blown up into a disaster of epic proportions, with thousands dead and millions in damages.

    My favorite passage, however, is this one from Ithaca:

    What relation existed between their ages ?
    16 years before in 1888 when Bloom was of Stephen's present age Stephen was 6. 16 years after in 1920 when Stephen would be of Bloom's present age Bloom would be 54. In 1936 when Bloom would be 70 and Stephen 54 their ages initially in the ratio of 16 to 0 would b as 17 1/2 to 13 1/2....

    What events might nullify these calculations ?
    The cessation of existence of both or either, the inauguration of a new era or calendar, the annihilation of the world and consequent extermination of the human species, inevitable but impredictable.


    Something about the sheer matter-of-factness about that passage just makes me laugh. Ulysses is truly a comic novel.

    I know there's plenty of beautiful prose in A Portrait of the Artist, Dubliners, and Finnegans Wake but I'll leave that to someone else.
    Thanks mayneverhave, very interesting. I don't know much about Joyce and was hoping someone would post their favourite passages. If you have a spare moment do please post something you like from A Portrait Of the Artist or Dubliners.

  13. #13
    I agree- great thread, and I'll too be returning.

  14. #14
    Registered User muhsin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Jalandhar, India
    Posts
    1,183
    Blog Entries
    2
    A nice thread!
    The source of any bad writing is the desire to be something more than a person of sense--the straining to be thought a genius. If people would say what they have to say in plain terms, how much eloquent they would be.
    -S.T COLERIDGE

  15. #15
    Here are a couple of passages from those two English masters of comic prose (and of prose generally) Evelyn Waugh and P G Wodehouse :

    "He finished the watery dregs of his cocktail shaker and went into the kitchen. He shut the door and the window and opened the door of the gas oven. Inside it was very black and dirty and smelled of meat. He spread a sheet of newspaper on the lowest tray and lay down, resting his head on it. Then he noticed that by some mischance he had chosed Vanburgh's gossip page in the Morning Dispatch. He put in another sheet. Then he turned on the gas. It came surprisingly with a loud roar; the wind of it stirred his hair and the remaining particles of his beard. At first he held his breath. Then he thought that was silly and gave a sniff. The sniff made him cough, and coughing made him breathe, and breathing made him feel very ill; but soon he fell into a coma and presently died"

    (Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies)

    "The cup of tea on arrival at an English country house is a thing which, as a rule, I particularly enjoy. I like the crackling logs, the shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, the general atmosphere of leisured cosiness"

    (P.G Wodehouse)
    Last edited by WICKES; 07-27-2008 at 05:15 PM.

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Is Elizabeth Bennet a perfect heroine?
    By The Unnamable in forum Pride and Prejudice
    Replies: 19
    Last Post: 09-24-2012, 05:14 AM
  2. julius caesar - prose & verse
    By redeye in forum Julius Caesar
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 10-22-2008, 01:31 PM
  3. Perfect Images
    By TEND in forum General Chat
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 01-12-2007, 09:21 PM
  4. Poem:Picture Perfect
    By xXxBrittanyxXx in forum Personal Poetry
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 05-04-2006, 08:23 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •