Friday, 31 August 2012

A Midsummer Tempest VIII

More rhyming dialogue, missed earlier, in Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest (London, 1975):

" 'Climb down to earth, now; do not seek to flee. I've longer legs than you, 'tis plain to see.' "

and, immediately below that:

" 'I reckon here's where we change trains, my loard'...'A moment, pray. I'll further look inboard.' " (p. 76)

- and that is followed by rhymes that I did quote earlier. I might find a few more before I finish rereading. But the main point is that much of the dialogue is prose disguised as verse, most of it not rhyming but "blank." If I may re-arrange an earlier exchange, on pages 12-14:

"Your Highness, cast your melancholy off,
"You'll find enjoyment and surcease from strife.
"The household staff and others you may meet
"Are under oath to breathe no word of you,
"And known to me for their trustworthiness.
"And thus, by day, though guarded, wander free
"About these grounds. I dare not let you ride.
"I would I did. I'm eager in the hunt,
"And you will like my horses and my hounds.
"But you can fish, play ball, do what you wish.
"I hear you are of philosophic bent.
"Well so am I. Make use of any books.
"Do you play chess? I'm not so bad at that.
"At night, I fear, you must be locked away
"In your apartment, high in yonder tower.
"But 'twill be furnished with the tools of art -
"They say you draw and etch delightfully -
"And you'll have access likewise to the roof.
"There often I beguile a sleepless night
"By tracking moon and stars across the sky.
"Come too! I'll show you mysteries in heaven
"And maybe they'll convert you to the truth."

"That lies not in your sour and canting creed."

"Were you not raised a Calvinist, my lord?"

"I try to be a proper Protestant,
"Yet not cast off what's good from olden time.
"I'd lifer hear a service that a rant;
"I do not think my Romish friends are damned,
"Nor that 'tis right to persecute the Jews;
"I'd hang no helpless granny for a witch.
"That day we captured Lichfield, I was glad
"To let its staunch defenders leave with honours.
"But when we entered the cathedral close
"And saw what desolation had been wrought
"On ancient lovely halidoms - Enough."

"There goes a daybreak wide across the world,
"Which causes pretty stars to flee our sight.
"But oh, those stars were shining infamous
"Within that chamber which a tyrant kept.
"'Tis pity that you fight for fading night."

"I grant that James was not the best of kings -"

"He was the worst...and followed Gloriana.
"Harsh taxes to maintain a wastrel court,
"Oppression of a rising merchant class
"In whom the seeds of England's greatness lie,
"And rural rule by backward-looking squires:
"Such was the legacy that Charles disowned not.
"And worse, his Queen herself is Catholic;
"The Papists get an easy tolerance;
"The Church of England stays unpurified.
"Small wonder, then, that free-souled men demand,
"Through Parliament, long-overdue reform."

"I am no judge of that - I'm merely loyal.
"And yet - you people prate so much of freedom -
"How free are they? No lord looks after them.
"You're free to let them go in beggary
"Across the gashed and smoky land you'd make."

"I thought your Highness a philosopher
"Who also cultivates mechanic arts."

"Well, that I do. I like a good machine."

"What think you of our late-invented cars
"Which run by steam and draw a train behind?"

"They've been too rare for me to more than glimpse,
"And railway builders all seem Puritan.
"We captured one such...locomotive, is it?
"Near Shrewsbury, upon that single line
"That leads into the West. I did admire it,
"But had no time from war to really look."

"I love them as I do my hunting horses.
"The morrow is the truest freight they bear.
"To date, they are but small, as well as few,
"Scarce faster than a beast although untiring.
"They mainly carry wagon loads of coal
"To feed the hungry engines in the mills
"And manufacturies of cloth and hardware
"Which men like me are building ever more of -
"You may not understand what we are doing
"From such few glimpses as you got by chance.
"But you - but men now live who'll see the day
"When this whole island is enwebbed with rails
"And locomotives like Behemoth's self
"Haul every freight, plus civil passengers,
"And troops, and guns in time of war - a day
"When power does not grow from birth or sword
"But out of mills and furnaces."

On antisemitism, mentioned here, I have read, but would need to confirm, that Cromwell welcomed Jews to England and that some Jews investigated his ancestry to see if he might be the Messiah.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    Just a quick comment re A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST and Cromwell's treatment of Jews. TEMPEST is set in the 1640s, when the rebellion against King Charles was not over. Cromwell only allowed the Jews back into England during his dictatorship, in the 1650s. So you did not find an inconsistency by Anderson, if that is what you had in mind.


  2. No, I didn't think it was an inconsistency, just an interesting datum about Cromwell. I am quite sure other Puritans were antisemitic, knowing what they were like generally.

  3. Hi, Paul!

    While I'm sure many Puritans didn't like Jews, it was hatred of Catholics which really got them going. See, for example, the quote from TEMPEST about how the Puritans defiled and desecrated Litchfield cathedral. That was once a Catholic church and it seems the Puritans vandalized all evidence of Catholicism they found.


  4. Hi,Paul!

    Another thought which occurred to me is a regret that Poul Anderson did not lay out the text of A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST as we see it done in blank verse. True, it would have been an experiment that might have caused it to be a commercial failure. But, as you have shown, it was mostly written as disguished verse, anyway!


  5. I think he did it right. It is a novel and is presented as such. It is up to us to find what is in it. In particular, the sonnet is very well concealed.

  6. I also think it is only (much of) the dialogue that is written as disguised verse. Outside the inverted commas, the text is all straightforward prose (I think).

  7. Hi, Paul!

    But we can have "novels" written as verse. I need only cite such obvious examples as "Beowulf" and THE SONG OF ROLAND. And older works such as Homer's ILIAD and ODYSSEY, and Vergil's AENEID.

    I don't include Dante's three part DIVINE COMEDY, because he insisted it was a poetic account of a genuine vision granted him of the afterworld. But Tolkien's sadly incomplete THE LAY OF BEREN AND LUTHIEN is a modern example of a poetic novel.


  8. Definitions. Blish quoted Faulkner (?) (I can looked it up) that "a novel is a prose fiction of some length." I shorten this to "long prose fiction" except in the phrase "graphic novel" which means "a comic strip (or sequential art story telling)that is as long and substantial as a (prose) novel can be." Most of the examples you quote above I refer to as "epics" which are long heroic narrative poems except when it is a "mock epic" which is epic in form bout not in content. Also, I think all narratives before the modern era lacked the inner perspective that we associate with novels? I don't know about the Tolkien example above. One of my brothers in law is translating (and self-publishing) Dante's Comedy in colloquial English. He has completed Hell and Purgatory.

  9. Hi, Paul!

    I am not sure poetic or prose narratives written before the "modern era" can fairly be said to be entirely lacking in "inner perspective." My view is that can be found in such works, albeit not to the extent preferred by contemporary tastes.

    I agree that what I called "poetic novels" are better described as "long narrative poems." And that would definitely fit the examples I listed.

    You can find Tolkien's long poem about Beren and Luthien in THE LAYS OF BELERIAND, if interested. And I have no less than THREE verse translations of Dante's DIVINE COMEDY: the ones by Dorothy Sayers, John Ciardi, and Allen Mandelbaum.