August 1914 (The Red Wheel, Knot I) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, H.T. Willetts

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, H.T. Willetts

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Beware of him, for, I make God avow, He will beguile you and speak fair to your face. Y e never dwelt in such another place, For here is none that dare well other trustBut I would tell you a thing, an I durst! 13-19/43 Literary Language from Chaucer to Johnson This is no naturalistic imitation of courtly speech, but a carefully organised argument about the nature of political intrigue. It appears to be courtly speech, and has the markers of middle style formality: 'gentleman', 'communed', 'beguile' are not colloquial in tone.

It is however a very schematic and abstract statement, compared for example with the plain style figures in The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. But we should be careful to notice the general distinction between middle style concepts and plain style description. Suspect ('Suspicion'), another allegorical figure in the poem, is quite right to warn the narrator: Y e remember the gentleman right now That communed with you, methought a pretty space? Beware of him, for, I make God avow, He will beguile you and speak fair to your face.

The reader will have to take into account the moral perspective and alignment of the three styles. Such writers will have relatively little complexity in their work; the success of their cause depends on the clarity and fluency of their argument. They quickly descend to caricature and satire; they have a strong sense of order that is easily aroused, and little tolerance for neutral positions that do not support their own. Their language therefore will tend towards a categorising and schematic manner; they will make explicit propositions and arguments about reality instead of rendering a description of experience in a direct form.

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