in a decorative scheme

HolyUnicorn

Senior Member
Mandarin / the Shanghai Dialect
"Mesa trails were meant to be traveled on horseback, at the jigging coyote trot that only western-bred horses learn successfully. A foot-pace carries one too slowly past the units in a decorative scheme that is on a scale with the country round for bigness. It takes days' journeys to give a note of variety to the country of the social shrubs. These chiefly clothe the benches......." From The Mesa Trail, one chapter of The Land of Little Rain BY Mary Austin

I have had this question since the first time I read the meas trail. It has been bothering me for years. What does the part in bold actually mean? Perhaps "give a note of variety to" just means take note of the variety. I know the meaning of every word of "past the units in a decorative scheme that is on a scale with the country round for bigness", but what does the combination mean? Help.

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/640926/summary
 
  • kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I think that what the author is saying is that the land is big and has the same types of plants for long distances because the climate and growing conditions are similar for long distances. If you walk, you pass through so slowly that you don't see much variety. On a horse, you pass through faster and cover more distance so you have the opportunity to see more different types of plants because you reach areas with different growing conditions. It takes days of traveling to cover enough ground to see the different plants that are possible to see.
     

    HolyUnicorn

    Senior Member
    Mandarin / the Shanghai Dialect
    If I understand Kentix correctly, "give a note of variety to" is a forceful and empathetic way to say take note of. The units in a decorative scheme are those plants decorating the land. The scheme is large because the land is big, though "round for bigness", this construction, still sounds odd to me.

    Thanks, kentix and PaulQ, for the information that the land has the same types of plants for long distances. I wish I had grown up in the land of little rain to know what Austin is writing about.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    If I understand Kentix correctly, "give a note of variety to" is a forceful and empathetic way to say take note of.
    No. It is quite gentle and subtle. It has nothing to do with "taking note".

    A note of something = a sign or demonstration of something.

    "I think he has died," she said with a note of sadness in her voice.
     

    HolyUnicorn

    Senior Member
    Mandarin / the Shanghai Dialect
    No. It is quite gentle and subtle. It has nothing to do with "taking note".

    A note of something = a sign or demonstration of something.

    Hi, PaulQ, thanks for pointing that out. if note means " a sign or demonstration", a traveler could not give a note of something. Perhaps here the land itself gives a note of variety to . Is my understanding correct?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "Give a note of variety to" means "add a note of variety to". If you travel far enough, the plants and landscape will start to look a little bit different. They won't look a lot different, but somewhat different. That's what it means by note. I think it comes from music. If the music is all the same and then you add one new note, that note is noticeable, even though one note is not a big change. So "give a note of variety" means you'll see small changes that are new on your list of things you've seen in the previous part of your journey.

    Added:
    Yes, the land is providing the small amount of variety. But that only happens if you travel through it. If you stay in one place or only travel a short distance you won't see any variety.
     

    HolyUnicorn

    Senior Member
    Mandarin / the Shanghai Dialect
    Now it is completely clear. "Give a note of variety to" is really expressive. Thanks again. kentix and PaulQ.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The units in a decorative scheme are those plants decorating the land.:thumbsup: (To be honest, calling plants "units" seems just a little bit funny to me.:))

    The scheme is large because the land is big, though "round for bigness", this construction, still sounds odd to me.

    on a scale with the country round for bigness = on a big scale, which matches the country all around = equal to the country all around for bigness = on a scale with the country all around for bigness

    I don't know if this is an American writer but we would normally say around or all around.
     

    HolyUnicorn

    Senior Member
    Mandarin / the Shanghai Dialect
    (To be honest, calling plants "units" seems just a little bit funny to me.:))
    I agree. The units in a decorative scheme reads like this part appears out of nowhere. I would have to stop and ask "what is this".

    Okay, I see. I thought round indicates the shape. It actually means all around (throughout, on every sides). Very useful information. Now I have got it.

    The land is providing the small amount of variety. This reminds me of the grammar term " fictive motion" in your language.

    By the way, Mary Hunter Austin is an American writer famous for her natural writing at least here.
     
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