Mother and child
Child. Mother, do help me write my composition. The teacher says I must write one before to-morrow morning, and I am sure I could not write one if my life depended on it. I can't do it, mother, and it is of no use for me to try.
Mother. What did your teacher tell you to write about?
C. O, she said we might write upon any subject we thought of, but I cannot think of any subject. I have not one idea in my head.
M. Suppose I give you a subject, will that help you?
C. O, no, mother; if you do, I shall not know what to say about it. It is a horrible thing to write composition.
M, What makes it so difficult? Did she require any particular kind of composition?
C. Yes, mother, she said it must be prose, and I am sure I never wrote a word of prose in my life.
M. Why, what do you think prose to be?
C. I don't know, I'm sure. I looked in the dictionary, and that said, " Prose is discourse without metre or poetic measure," and I'm sure I didn't know then so well as I did before, for I thought prose was the opposite of poetry.
M. Well, what is poetry?
C. I know it when I see it, but I never saw any prose.
M. All composition that is not poetry must be prose. Do you talk poetry?
C. No, indeed, mother, I wish I could.
M If yon don't talk poetry, what do you talk?
C. I'm sure I don't know. I didn’t know I talked any thing.
M. What did I tell you all composition must be that is not poetry?
C. You said it must be prose. But, then, mother, you know I do not talk composition, for that is what they put in books. I thought talk was only conversation.
M, You are right, it is conversation, but it is prose also.
C. Do you mean, mother, that what I say to you now is prose ?
M. Certainly it is. And, if, instead of speaking your thoughts, you should write the very same words you would speak, that would be prose composition.
C. Why, mother, I thought composition was only what we read in books.
M. What we read in books is composition, but the greater part of composition, or written language, is never printed. If, instead of talking together, as we have now done, we had written all we have said on the slate, what we wrote would be a composition in prose, and as it is in the form of a conversation, it would also be called a dialogue.
C. Why, mother, is that all? I'm sure I did not know I ever spoke a word of composition or of prose, and I never dreamed of speaking a dialogue. I'll go and write down all we have said together, and then a composition will not prove so horrible an affair, after all.
M. Do so, and when you have finished your prose composition, or, as the dictionary calls it, your " discourse without metre or poetic measure," bring it to me, and let me see whether it will do to print.
C. O, mother, don't make fun of me.
M. My dear, if nothing but wisdom were printed, there would be few books in the world. Come, go to work, and do not think it a task but an amusement, and I know you will succeed…