Who is Speaking?
One of the simplest ways of differentiating narration and description is to ask the question, "Who is speaking?"
Narration is a technique in which a character or entity, either within the story or outside the story, gives details that help the reader understand background and history.
For instance, Hemingway's, The Sun Also Rises, begins, "Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn." This is narration in the first person in which the author tells the story.
Alternately, in Faulkner's, Absalom, Absalom! there are several narrators, each with their own perspective of the story being told. The characters, Quentin, Miss Coldfield, Shreve and Mr. Compson tell their personal view of history as well as an unknown narrator, who addresses the reader on occasion. Faulkner's use of narration in this story was unique.
Third-person narration is told by a character or entity outside of the story. The passage from "Drenched in Light," a short story by Zora Neale Hurston, "This struck the child in a very sore spot for nothing pleased her so much as to sit atop the gate post...She raced up and down the stretch of it," demonstrates third-person narration.
Narration is found in literature, as well as poetry. The narrative poem is a popular genre, especially when writing about historic events. Edgar Allan Poe's, "The Raven" is an excellent example of narrative poetry.