Friday, 31 August 2012

A Midsummer Tempest IV

In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest (London, 1975), this verse is printed as continuous prose:

"I hear the linnet and the lark declare
"That we have seen all murkiness depart.
"The flowers flaunt their hues through brilliant air,
"And it is only raining in my heart.
"When yesterday I heard how great thy woe,
"A lightning bold struck lurid hell fire white;
"I heard the thunder toll, the stormwind blow,
"And nothing else through centuries of night.
"But day must break, and gales lie down to rest,
"And sunshine hunt the clouds across the sea.
" Alone in nature is the human breast,
" Where grief, like love, may dwell eternally.
" Unless there come an ending of thy pain,
" I must forever stand and wait in rain." (p. 31)

Also, the verse is interrupted after "...centuries of night..." by "She sighed" and after "...dwell eternally..." by "She bent her bared head." I swear I read it years ago without noticing the rythme or even the rhyme. But now I find it more comprehensible if it is laid out as poem.

This novel is set on an alternative Earth. Could there really be a world where people, at least some of the time, spontaneously speak in rhyming verse? Could there be a parallel Earth where crowds of people in the street suddenly burst into song and dance to unsourced music as in an opera or musical? Or sing the praises of whatever product they are using as in a TV commercial?

In The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore goes one step further than Anderson. Because LEG, a comic strip, combines fictitious characters from many sources and from different media, Moore even incorporates opera. A man about to be summarily hanged, asked if he has anything to say, expresses his feelings in song apparently to no one's surprise. Anderson's character, Jennifer, does not sing but seemingly has no difficulty in spontaneously expressing herself in a Shakespearean sonnet which I did not recognise as such until I had copied it out in verse form, then counted the lines and checked the rhyming scheme: abab cdcd efef gg.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    I can tell, from how you so rapidly wrote four notes about A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST, how much that book has impressed you.

    I think it's easier to explain why Poul Anderson wrote TEMPEST the way he did if you recall it was as a homage to William Shakespeare. Which means, not too surprisingly, that Anderson wrote the book in blank verse.


  2. But Anderson really hides his light under a bushel: a Shakespearean sonnet written as a prose monologue interrupted by other text. I only realised what it was when I had written it out properly, then counted the lines and checked the rhyming scheme. Before that, I looked forward through the whole book for rhymes in dialogue at the ends of chapters, then double checked and realised that I had missed two or three. This kept me up till 2.00 AM. I have only reread consecutively as far as page 32, just after the sonnet.

    (I have just added a few words into the above post, mainly elaborating the bizarre idea of an operatic parallel universe.)

  3. Hi, Paul!

    You've certainly read A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST with more zeal and detail than most readers would have! I only found out TEMPEST was largely written in verse from another source. And Anderson was able to do it with such skill! That is, most readers would miss that TEMPEST was written in blank verse.


  4. This is what I mean by hiding his light under a bushel. People should know what he has done. It is possible to know that this novel's linguistic and literary qualities are good without understanding how and why they are good. I have still only reread consecutively as far as page 40 although, of course, I did look ahead to find rhyming dialogue at the ends of (some) chapters.