June 22, 2013

A chapter on auxiliary verbs

Now the use of the Auxiliaries is, at once to set the soul a-going by herself upon the materials as they are brought her; and by the versability of this great engine, round which they are twisted, to open new tracts of enquiry, and make every idea engender millions.

You excite my curiosity greatly, said Yorick.

For my own part, quoth my uncle Toby, I have given it up. — The Danes, an’ please your honour, quoth the corporal, who were on the left at the siege of Limerick, were all auxiliaries. — And very good ones, said my uncle Toby. — But the auxiliaries, Trim, my brother is talking about, — I conceive to be different things. —

— You do? said my father, rising up.

Chapter XLIII

My father took a single turn across the room, then sat down, and finished the chapter.

The verbs auxiliary we are concerned in here, continued my father, are, am; was; have; had; do; did; make; made; suffer; shall; should; will; would; can; could; owe; ought; used; or is wont. — And these varied with tenses, present, past, future, and conjugated with the verb see, — or with these questions added to them; — Is it? Was it? Will it be? Would it be? May it be? Might it be? And these again put negatively, Is it not? Was it not? Ought it not? — Or affirmatively, — It is; It was; It ought to be. Or chronologically, — Has it been always? Lately? How long ago? — Or hypothetically, — If it was? If it was not? What would follow? — If the French should beat the English? If the Sun go out of the Zodiac?

Now, by the right use and application of these, continued my father, in which a child’s memory should be exercised, there is no one idea can enter his brain, how barren soever, but a magazine of conceptions and conclusions may be drawn forth from it. — Didst thou ever see a white bear? cried my father, turning his head round to Trim, who stood at the back of his chair: — No, an’ please your honour, replied the corporal. — But thou couldst discourse about one, Trim, said my father, in case of need? — How is it possible, brother, quoth my uncle Toby, if the corporal never saw one? — ’Tis the fact I want, replied my father, — and the possibility of it is as follows.

A White Bear! Very well. Have I ever seen one? Might I ever have seen one? Am I ever to see one? Ought I ever to have seen one? Or can I ever see one?

Would I had seen a white bear! (for how can I imagine it?)

If I should see a white bear, what should I say? If I should never see a white bear, what then?

If I never have, can, must, or shall see a white bear alive; have I ever seen the skin of one? Did I ever see one painted? — described? Have I never dreamed of one?

Did my father, mother, uncle, aunt, brothers or sisters, ever see a white bear? What would they give? How would they behave? How would the white bear have behaved? Is he wild? Tame? Terrible? Rough? Smooth?

— Is the white bear worth seeing? —

— Is there no sin in it? —

Is it better than a Black One?

— The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne, Book III