Questions for Discussion

1. In this passage we find Diana listening to the sounds made by the rain as it falls on to different things around her. What are the things the rain is hitting ? What particular noise does it make on each of them ? What sounds, other than those connected with the rain, are mentioned in this passage ? How does the author make us hear them? What phonetic and lexical units are used to create the image of the rain? Point out epithets, similes and metaphors used in the text and comment on their functions in the text.

2. Comment on the syntactical structure of the text. Pay attention to syntactical peculiarities of the sentences used (their type and length) and the arrangement of paragraphs.

3. What span of time is described in the text? Is the description detailed? Whose eyes is the rain presented through? Is Diana the narrator of the story? What atmosphere does the author manage to create with the detailed description? Is Diana glad that it is raining? Dwell on her feelings and emotions.

1.3.

. . . After a few minutes I peered across through the alders at the distant camp, which I could just see as a black mass hiding the western stars. All was quiet there. All seemed quiet in the grassland at its foot, but it was a quiet more ominous than that stillness frequently disturbed to which a woodsman is accustomed. In the wilds, at night, there is always noise – quick stealthy noises, little squeaks and cries, as though mice were giggling; little swift patterings of dew, knocked off by an unseen, noiseless walker; little scuffles, little sudden pouncings—noise enough to tell a woodsman of another world than his, filling the night with life. Tonight this babble of small sounds was hushed unaccountably. There were strange beasts of prey abroad – strange, dim, silent, grey things slinking into the grass like wolves, gliding forward like snakes, frightening all the wild things from their hurried, startled hour of feeding. Of all the bad signs visible to me, that sign of the silence was the most appalling. All the night seemed to brood and to be expectant. It was all hushed, as in the moment before a cyclone strikes. It needed very little – a broken twig or the noise of a cocked lock – to let loose those tense-drawn nerves in the camp and around it.



Peering forward into the gloom I began to people the night with my fancies. I began to suspect the presence of Indians among the alders. That dim blackness of a leafy branch was surely a head. What was that moving in the grass there? Listen. It was all still, very still, a breathless night, tense with expectation. Far away (or was it near, though very low?) an owl hooted. After the calling of the owl a new terror walked then ceased, began again, and again ceased. Someone was coming up behind me. He was standing still, loading his arms. I could hear a strange noise as of a clicking gun-lock. I spun round, facing away from the brook, to front this unknown. But I could see nothing; nothing but mist, and the night’s gloom. I stared into the dark for a glimpse of him. The heavy footsteps drew nearer with a resolute curiosity. There came a noise of a musket being grounded. The noise seemed to be within a few yards of me; but in the darkness, made even darker by the shifting mist, now gone, now thick, who could tell whence it came? My fingers were ready on the trigger. Dimly, as in one volleying blast the mist drove by, hurried by a gust, I saw something black facing me – a bear, a man, or a willow-stump – something black in the night facing me. In moments of great excitement one realises with a swift certainty. I saw this thing for perhaps five hasty seconds before the mist closed in again; but, even in those five seconds, I knew that it had seen me. As quickly as I could I shifted my position a few yards to my left, before the mist should clear again. The wind was rising now, the mist would be gone in an instant, it was going even now. Presently it blew away altogether, vaguely, into the blacker vagueness of the night, and there was the thing, crept a little nearer to me.

‘Woof!’ it snorted loudly, ‘woof!’ There came a slashing noise, and the angry stamping of a hoof. The thing was a wild bull, the offspring of the cattle let loose in the Indian raids thirty years before. The woods hid several herds of them. I almost laughed with relief when the beast declared himself. . .

from ‘Lost Endeavour’ by John Masefield

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