Poetry in Prose

Poetry in Prose

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?

Which poems?

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…

The discussion shifted to the weather and the scenery and various other mundane topics before drifting into a natural lull.  Elizabeth settled back and drew out her book of poems.

“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.”


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. 

Click on the graphic to see if you are the lucky recipient of a free copy of With the Colonel’s Help.
Click on the graphic to see if you are the lucky recipient of a free copy of With the Colonel’s Help.











Leenie B Books


16 Responses to Poetry in Prose

  1. I was reared in a household which never used poetry. And the school(s) I attended paid little attention to such. But as a kindergarten teacher I did feature one poem (long or short) each month and many students memorized them as I paused at the end of each line to allow them a chance to repeat it back to me – not required but they did receive praise and a star on my chart of who did repeat it back at the end of the month. Most went for it. I do like to read poems in prose…if they don’t distract from the flow of the story.

    • My first year of teaching in a small school I had my assignment split between morning grade 7 and 8 English and afternoon Kindergarten — quite a combination! So in the morning I taught grammar and literature (we did a couple of allegories that year) and in the afternoon I taught phonics and how to read and write along with counting and days of the week and all that. I have had classes memorize poetry over the years as part of the requirements for a class, and I remember doing it all through school. I would pace my bedroom as I repeated and repeated a phrase while trying to commit it to memory. Some of the last ones I had to memorize that I remember the title of (the poems themselves I do not remember completely) were “Oh, Captain, My Captain” and the soliloquy from Hamlet “To be or not to be.” We also had several units on writing poetry over the years — I tried my best on those, but the results were not stellar 🙂 So, I have been exposed to poetry over my life, but have never really developed a great love for it — although now that I can pick the poems and study the ones I wish, I am finding I enjoy them a whole lot more.

  2. Lovely excerpt, and looking forward to enjoying the rest of it. Sorry to say that I do not have 24/7 access to our family computer — DH tends to hog it when he’s home (to be fair, he works hard and this relaxes him). So congratulations to those of you who win these prizes!

  3. Delightful post and what a cute idea hosting a scavenger hunt in order to win a book. I noticed on Amazon that only a paperback is available. What are the plans for a e-copy? I ask because… I’m not good at scavenger hunts and the rafflecopter doesn’t like me… so, I’ll just purchase a book. Blessings on the launch.

    • Oh, wow, the paperback is available already? I hadn’t had a chance to look yet today, so that is great news. The ebook was submitted yesterday, so I am just waiting for it to come on line. I believe it is starting to show up on other vendors like Kobo and Apple already. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. When I taught school, I disliked teaching the poetry unit because I never felt I did it justice. That being said, in my AP Language class, we often analyzed poetry from different periods.
    I am particularly fond of humorous poems. For example, I adore “Pershing at the Front” by Arthur Guiterman. You can read it HERE: http://holyjoe.org/poetry/guiter8.htm My mother and I read this poem together often, so it has wonderful memories attached to it. I can still hear her laughter and mine mixed nicely together.
    Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman” always brings me to tears. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43187/the-highwayman
    As you can see, I prefer my poetry to tell stories.

    • I remember teaching a poetry unit way back years ago, and like you, I didn’t feel I did it justice. I like some poetry, but I don’t have a passion for it like those who love it do. I think one of the beauties of poetry is the ability of so few words to stir our emotions and imaginations. I, too, prefer poems that tell stories. 🙂

  5. What a beautiful excerpt! I enjoy poetry and when I was in high school had written some. I enjoy when poetry is incorporated into a story and what you have put in this excerpt is lovely. Oh to be in the carriage as they are all singing! Thank you!

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt. I wonder how the driver enjoyed the performance? I remember having to write some poetry in high school. Of course, even when writing poetry, I tried to find a way to tell a story with it. 🙂 And I think that is what I liked so much about these two poems in this excerpt — they tell a little story.

  6. Poetry isn’t on my list of choices. However, I can deeply appreciate the role they play in books. They say what might be in the heart without the throwing out of improprieties and crushing of hearts and hopes. 🙂 I look forward to this one being released.

    • Yeah, poetry has never been on my must read list. I have enjoyed some poetry, probably more than I realize, over the years, but I tend to approach poetry like anything I read — I only read what I like and I can be fairly picky. LOL Poems are good often for concisely stating some sentiments — and I do like that about poetry.

  7. I had not realized that wikipedia allowed you to search by date for poetry. That is a very useful tool. I admire all the authors that do all this research to bring authenticity to their story. The poems you shared were wonderful and I look forward to reading the other two you teased:)

    • Oh, I was so excited when I found this feature on Wikipedia! It is VERY useful — really cuts down the research time, which means more writing time 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the poems — you really have to see the third one. When my first editor read it, she said “Where did you find that? It’s perfect!” It was just a lucky find for which I am thankful. I will give this hint and say that it is a poem that Darcy selects for someone.

  8. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I have incorporated one of Robert Burns’ poems in ‘Darcy Chooses’ that Elizabeth sang and some of Shakespeare’s sonnets in ‘Lord Foxdown’ when he discovered the lady he fell in love with was a savant. They do add to the stories and can make them more interesting. I look forward to seeing how you use poems three and four. 🙂

    • They do add something, don’t they? I think this story is the one that has the heaviest use of poetry so far. I have Becoming Entangled coming out next month (if I can get everything done) and that story, like this one, has a poem in it that I happened across that was just perfect in relation to the plot. I tend to get excited when that happens 🙂 LOL

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