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3.8 Subjects: Fun With Grammar

Find that Subject!

On this page you'll find an excerpt from "The Moose," a poem by Elizabeth Bishop. Read it first just to enjoy the richness of its descriptive language. Then it is interesting to examine how the sentences in this excerpt are built. Finding each subject-verb combination is the key.
1. With a partner or in a small group, spend five minutes listing all the verbs and then asking "who/what (verb)" to find each verb's subject. There are only four sentences, but there are sixteen verbs. Ten of them work in compound pairs, each pair sharing a single subject. Five of the verbs work alone with one subject each. The subject for one verb is complex, giving you a taste of what is to come in Chapter 5.
2. When five minutes have passed, stop and see how many of the combinations you have found. If you're in a class, compare your results with those of other groups.
3. Choose somebody to read the poem aloud. As you listen, notice the lengths of the sentences. What is the effect of the different sentence lengths?
4. Don't look up the answers until after step 3.

from THE MOOSE
   — by Elizabeth Bishop

From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats'
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;

on red gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,

through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;

down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.

Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts. The light
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.

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