Have you ever read a book that entirely transported you to a different time and place? All books try, I think, but few truly succeed. Huckleberry Finn was like that for me--took me a while to get into it because of the vernacular, but after a while, I was so engrossed in the language of that time and place that I found it difficult to talk like a regular person. I heard everything in country-bumpkin redneck.
In high school I read the Iliad in Latin. I loved Latin. It spoke to me like no other language--it was beautiful, and reading the classic words of Homer in his own language was a real treat.
This week I've started reading a debut novel by author Jo Graham. It's called Black Ships and is about a priestess in the days just after the Trojan war who sees visions of the world to come.
Like when I read Huckleberry Finn, at first I found it difficult to get into the story. It's written in the classic way of times past, with the added eloquence of ancient Greece. It reads very much like a translated version of classical Latin literature.
I am almost half way through the book now and I can't read it fast enough. It's making it difficult for me to live in this world. The language is coloring the thoughts in my head, making me want to use words and phrasing that no longer exists in our modern world.
It is a beautiful language.
The way words can be strung together to paint pictures in our mind, make our blood run cold, make our hearts beat faster--it is a truly magnificent art form.
My own writing does not rival Homer or Mark Twain or Jo Graham. I write from my heart and though I admire the classical beauty of words, my heart is simple and what comes out is equally unencumbered with flowery turns of phrase. My words will likely never sing to a person in the same way that Black Ships sings to me. But I'm alright with that.
My words are my own and I will write them--they are sincere, honest, truthful to who I am. And words will never shine if they are false.
But just because I can't reproduce their beauty in my own writing, doesn't mean I can't truly appreciate writing, in this classical sense, when it's well done and engaging. It is a truly beautiful language.