I wish I could write like E. B. White, whose prose is both plain and exquisite. Plain is easy, exquisite is hard, but plain and exquisite is almost unattainable. I think part of what makes White's prose both plain and exquisite is that it has a rhythm that sounds right, sounds good. Here is the beginning of "Death of a Pig", one of my most favorite:
I spent several days and nights in mid-September with an ailing pig and I feel driven to account for this stretch of time, more particularly since the pig died at last, and I lived, and things might easily have gone the other way round and none left to do the accounting. Even now, so close to the event, I cannot recall the hours sharply and am not ready to say whether death came on the third night or the fourth night. This uncertainty afflicts me with a sense of personal deterioration; if I were in decent health I would know how many nights I had sat up with a pig.
Now let me rearrange the order of the words and change a few of them:
In mid-September I spent several days and nights with an ailing pig. The pig died at last, and I lived. Since things might easily have gone the other way round and there might have had no one left to do the accounting, I feel driven to account for this sketch of time. Although it is now still so close to the event, I cannot recall the hours sharply, nor am I ready to say whether death came on the third or the fourth night. This uncertainty afflicts me with a sense of personal deterioration because I would know how many nights I had sat up with a pig if I were in decent health.
This is, I think, still acceptable prose; it just doesn't have the musicality that the original has. I can't help wanting to quote another passage by White; this is what he says about poetry:
I think poetry is the greatest of the arts. It combines music and painting and story-telling and prophecy and the dance. It is religious in tone, scientific in attitude. A true poem contains the seed of wonder; but a bad poem, egg-fashion, stinks. I think there is no such thing as a long poem. If it is long it isn't a poem; it is something else. A book like John Brown's Body, for instance, is not a poem --- it is a series of poems tied together with cord. Poetry is intensity, and nothing is intense for long. ("Poetry")
These words are music to my ears.