Wednesday, July 29, 2015

These Delicates He Heaped

Although verbs and nouns are primary tools of writing, adjectives have been put in poor stead. I believe this might be only because adjectives are often used without precision or imagination. When chosen for economy and clarity, or at the prompting of some unconcious principle, they can take on a certain magic.

Consider one example, from "The Eve of St Agnes":

"Then by the bed-side, where the faded moon
Made a dim, silver twilight, soft he set
A table, and, half anguished, threw thereon
A cloth of woven crimson, gold, and jet...."

Keats has presented a place, a moment, an action, and within a few lines, he will have to refer back to the limited light in the room. How? In the most beautifully economical way possible. The character in this patch of moonlight, Porphyro, places food on the table --

"These delicates he heaped with glowing hand."

That's it, right there: the night, the darkness, the small sector of light at the bedside, all conveyed by one adjective and its modified noun.

"Glowing hand."

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