To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. (Daniel 1:17 NIV)
Good speaking as well as good writing has its pitch, its tempo, its balance and rhythm, its tone and timbre. And these things cannot be learned in the popular sense of the word; they can only be acquired by unconscious imitation. If we listen long and sympathetically to someone who uses English with style and artistry, something of his art will seep through the pores of our minds and improve our own style greatly. And remember that reading is hearing with the mind. We listen to a man when we read his book with a congenial spirit.
Some of my younger readers may want to know who the "masters" are to whom I have referred, and what books I recommend to develop verbal skill. Here are a few: John Bunyan for simplicity; Joseph Addison for clarity and elegance; John Milton for nobility and consistent elevation of thought; Dickens for sprightliness (start with the Christmas Carol); Bacon for conciseness and dignity.
In addition to these I would recommend Robert Louis Stevenson, John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also the poetry of Wordsworth, Bryant, Blake, Keats and Shelley. . . .
Lord, what vast resources are available to me from which I may learn. Deliver me from mental and verbal laziness and give me knowledge and understanding. In Jesus' name.
At the feet of the "masters" we may sit and learn how to communicate verbally--thought, expression, beauty. We may not agree with all they say but we can learn from the way they say it!
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