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O well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
And the sound of a voice that is still.
Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea !
Will never come back to me.
Suppose the student ignores the existence of a united aim in this poem and reads each line as related to nothing but itself. He comes to the line “O well for the fisherman's lad that he shouts with his sister at play.” “Ah,” says this haphazard student. "Shouting at play, why that's a jolly thing, so I'll show my audience how a boy can shout. I'll just read that in a rollicking, roaring, shouting style that will make plain the fun the boy and his sister are having." And he does it!
Had this student perceived that poetry and all good writing are not patchwork, but harmonic growth, he would have read and reread this poem until he had found coöperative purpose, a united aim. Sooner or later he would have discovered that every syllable helps to set forth melancholy's wail and that, therefore, the slightest intrusion of jollity would horribly mutilate one of the poet's purest creations. Conception then demands a clear understanding of the United Aim. Without it a student is a ship without a rudder; he will drift.
3. The United Aim Comprises Both a Dominant Thought and a Dominant Feeling.-In every piece of literature there is the idea itself-the thing told, and there is the emotional attitude or feeling of the author (or character) towards this idea or thing. Thus, in the preceding poem we have seen
, that there is the tale of loneliness itself (the thought) and the feeling of melancholy in respect to this loneliness. In Lincoln's Dedication of Gettysburg Cemetery we have the story of the national importance of the occasion-Dominant Thought, and the feeling of solemnity in respect to this importance—Dominant Feeling, the two comprising the United Aim.
ILLUSTRATION OF TONING A SELECTION.
4. To make plain the process of toning let us take an example—this poem on William Tell:
“Place there the boy,” the tyrant said;
With quivering brow
Their quivering breath.
All mute as death.
It is my will.
But that thine eye may keener be,
What! pause you still ?
Unmoved, yet flushed,
The quiver searched,
The tough yew arched.
No step, no word, no breath.
And scarcely stirred.
But never moved.
The boy he loved. The Switzer gazed--the arrow lung, "lly only boy!” sobbed on his tongue;
He could not shoot. “Ha!” cried the tyrant, “doth he quail ?
Mark how his haughty brow grows pale!”
“Shoot in God's name!”
Of all doubts reft.
Ha! Ha! 'tis cleft!
With rosy cheek.
What means it? Speak!"
Incessantly. "To smite thee, tyrant, to the heart, Had Heaven willed it that my dart
Had touched my boy.” "Rebellion! Treason! Chain the slave!”
" A hundred swords around him wave, Whilst hate to Gesler's features gave
And Lucerne's lake
Her fetters brake.
From lake to lake the tempest grew,
With wakening swell,
Of William Tell.
Before proceeding with the analysis of part of this poem it must be clearly understood :
(a) We are considering the feelings, not the thoughts.
(b) The phraseology set down as describing the states of feeling is not the only phraseology that could be used.
(c) The analysis is not the only analysis. It is given as a practical illustration of the scope and power of the tone principle in the study of literature for the purpose of interpretation.
) (d) Conception does not necessarily demand that the particular feeling or its tone shall be written down. A student will often know the feeling aright, but be unequal to describing it in words.
(e) Writing down the feeling, however, insures greater accuracy and will give splendid mental training. The student will then know that he knows.
Coming now to the analysis, it is first necessary to determine the United Aim. After carefully reading the poem we conclude the author intends that every word shall in some way contribute to telling the story of William Tell and the apple—Dominant Thought, and from the viewpoint of sympathy with Tell—Dominant Feeling. This, then, is our United Aim which we shall use as our guide and arbiter.
“Place there the boy.” This is spoken by the tyrant, and evidently to one of his soldiers. The feeling here, the state dominating Gesler, is one
. of command; and we so note.