I said it last month, and I will say it again — into every story a little research must fall. While I told you about a particular location featured in a story last month (Vauxhall in Unravelling Mr. Darcy), this month I thought I would focus on something that has shown up in several of my stories — poetry.
My characters are often reading whether sitting in a drawing room, riding in a carriage, relaxing in bed before they drift off to sleep, or passing their time in some other location. Sometimes, I will find a novel or some sort of prose book for them to be reading, but more often, I will give them a book of poems.
But what book?
What do those poems talk about?
So many questions!
And the answers to them all are necessary for me to be able to adequately know what is passing through my characters’ minds and to allow me enough knowledge to craft a conversation or scene around that information.
The first thing I have to do is either find poets who were writing and publishing during the Regency Era or ones such as Shakespeare, who was deceased but whose published work was well-known during this time period. What I do not want are poets who had yet to write and publish.
One of my favourite places to start my search is on a Wikipedia “(Year) in Poetry” page such as the one found at this link and shown in the graphic below. As you can tell from the graphic, Wikipedia has several pages about poetry, arranged by year, that will tell you what was published in that year. As I said, it’s a fabulous place to start a search.
From there, I can then begin looking up some of the poets and their poems to see if I would like to use them. This process is often aided by links on the year in poetry page that might take me to another Wikipedia article or even to a place like Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg is a great place to find digital copies of old publications. Google Books is another place to find some very old texts that have been digitized. I enjoy finding early publications in these places, to be sure, but I also use sites such as poemhunter.com where I can read the poems.
Of course, all of this takes time. It is not a difficult process or particularly unpleasant, but it is time-consuming, and there is no guarantee, despite the time put into research, that a poem will even get a walk-on role in a story.
For instance, in Not an Heiress, poetry plays a fairly substantial part in the story, and I did read poems while I was writing so I knew what sorts of things Mary might be reading, and yet not a single one made the cut. There was one that I wanted so badly to include — “Love’s Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley because it seemed to fit the relationship Richard and Mary had throughout the story. However, that poem was not published until 1819, two years after the conclusion of the epilogue.
That being said, when you read that there is a new book of poetry that they were given by Lady Catherine, you may imagine, if you so wish and you can deal with the slight time period inappropriateness of such a thing, that “Love’s Philosophy” was one of the poems in that book because I am certain that Richard read that poem to his wife on more than one occasion.
If a poem does make it to the page, it will not make it there in its complete form. For instance, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge plays a role in And Then Love. There is no way I could insert the full lyrical ballad, so I picked out pieces that would mean something to Lucy.
In Her Father’s Choice, though “A Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns is a much shorter poem (and song) than “TheRime of the Ancient Mariner”, there was only room for a portion of the poem to grace the page as Darcy realizes that his agitation of spirit, joy at having Elizabeth near, and torment of hearing her speak of another were signs not of danger that he might be in love, but that he had already passed that threshold.
Likewise, in With the Colonel’s Help, there are portions of two poems that play a part in the carriage scene where Darcy realizes that his heart is well and truly lost. It goes like this…
“May I?” Darcy asked.
Elizabeth nodded and handed him his book.
“You have surpassed me,” he said with a smile when he saw where she was in the book. Smoothing the page, he began to read.
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
The rich tones and the natural rise and fall of Darcy’s voice made the poem come alive as Elizabeth listened. She leaned her head against the back side of the carriage but did not close her eyes as Maria was doing. There was little chance she would be able to fall asleep listening to Mr. Darcy read. His brows furrowed at parts and his lips curved upwards in other places. It was evident that he did not just read the words but surrounded himself with their emotion and meaning.
Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;–
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
He paused for a long moment after he completed the last line. “I wonder what she sang?”
“Likely something by Burns,” replied Richard.
“My Heart is in the Highlands?” Elizabeth suggested.
“A very good choice.” Richard straightened himself and began to sing.
“My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe –
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go!”
“Come now, Miss Bennet, Darcy says you sing.”
“Oh, she does!” cried Maria.
“Please?” Darcy prodded.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I will sing if you promise to join me on the chorus.”
There were no dissenters, and so she sang. And as she did, Darcy knew that though he sang the words “my heart is not here” when he joined in on the chorus, it was not true. His heart was most certainly here, perched on the bench across from him and singing of the forests and wild-hanging woods of the Highlands.
“Have you ever been to the highlands?” Maria asked when the song had drawn to a close.
“Indeed I have,” said Richard. “Beautiful, rugged country.”
Maria sighed. “I should like to travel to the north one day.”
“My aunt and uncle are going to the peak district this summer,” said Elizabeth.
Maria sighed again. “And taking you with them. I never get to travel anywhere exciting.”
SIDE NOTE: You can read the full text of “The Solitary Reaper” by William Wordsworth at this link: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45554/the-solitary-reaper or if you prefer to listen to it with pictures, you can do that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLxjwO_zSY0. If you wish to hear the song sung as I imagined my characters doing it, you can find that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOyJVIIhw2I
These are not the only two poems that make an appearance in this book. However, you will need to read the book to see poems three and four. Why? Because I don’t want to give anything away. But I will tell you this about them:
The third poem was a fortuitous blessing that dropped into my lap as I was researching. It fits so perfectly into the story! Amazingly so! Truly, I do not jest.You need to read it. You really do. 🙂
The fourth poem is more accurately an addition to another poem which is the creation of one of my characters. (Please note when reading this one that the character writing the lines of poetry and I are not poets. 🙂 )
Now for a bit of fun:
With the Colonel’s Help will release this Thursday, October 26, 2017.
I have chosen this day purposefully because this story was a Thursday’s Three Hundred story on my blog, so a Thursday release day seemed fitting. Normally, when I have a release, there is a “leave a comment, enter a giveaway” option on my blog post. However, this time, I thought I would try something a bit different.(Fingers crossed that it works. My apologies if it doesn’t 🙂 ) I wanted to do something more launch party like. So, I’m not giving away just one book. I plan to give away 6 copies of the book on a first come, first serve basis.
Here’s how it is going to work:
Over the course of the weeks as I posted pieces of With the Colonel’s Help on my blog, I created graphics using my Wordless Wednesday pictures. Two graphics, as well as two links to claim a book, are below. The others have been scheduled to post over the next two days as we await the official release of the book. These other posts will appear on these Facebook places:
Austen Authors Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AustenAuthors/
Leenie’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LeenieBrownAuthor/
Each graphic posted on Facebook will have a link to claim ONE ebook copy of With the Colonel’s Help. One post will be made per day per Facebook Page. Post times have been scheduled as follows:
October 24 @ 1:48 PM (UTC-04) and 7:52 PM (UTC-03)
October 25 @ 6:52 PM (UTC-04) and 2:50 PM (UTC-03)
Time zones listed are the time zones, Facebook told me.
I am not saying which post time zone matches which page — that will be a bit of a scavenger hunt for you. 🙂
Good luck! I hope that this turns out to be a fun experience!
Now, I know you do not have to comment on this blog post to enter the giveaway, but I would love it if you would leave a comment.
Are you a fan of poetry? (I am becoming more of a fan, the more research I do)
Or is poetry just something you tolerate if you have to or only enjoy when it is in the form of song lyrics? (Who doesn’t enjoy a song with good lyrics?)
Do you have a favourite poet or poem? (One of my favourites is actually might be Dr. Seuss 😉 . Don’t worry, I also enjoy more “grown-up” poems, too.)
Thanks for reading! If you are one of the lucky two to snag a book on this post — drop me a line in the comments to let me know.
Update: Both of the books below have been claimed by some lucky readers — keep an eye on FB for the next chances to snag a copy.