Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Bridge of Sighs

If you have read CHORUS OF THE DEAD, or even if you just read the preview, you probably noticed the verses I put at the beginning of each chapter. In the literary world it's called a literary device, when authors use quotes to introduce a chapter or book.

I spent a good deal of time looking for an appropriate literary device for my books. I perused anatomy books of the day (Gray's Anatomy was just published) but nothing seemed to fit. I tried to find information about a prominent surgeon who may have written about his scientific findings or other such useful pamphlet but I had little luck. Nothing was catching my fancy. I was almost resigned to not use anything at all until one week before my book was to go 'live' it hit me. Months earlier, in my research of Victorian England, morgues and the work of a surgeon, I found a poem titled "The Bridge of Sighs" by Thomas Hood. It is a remarkable poem but like most of my findings I had no immediate need of it and kept researching.

While giving the search for a literary device on last desperate try I came across "The Bridge of Sighs" yet again and realized it was perfect. With careful selection I divided the poem up into couplets and/or versus and was amazed how well they fit with my story.

I used the segments in order in the book but here's the poem in it's entirety, unbroken and smooth.

The Bridge of Sighs

One more Unfortunate,
Weary of breath,
Rashly importunate,
Gone to her death!

Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care;
Fashion'd so slenderly
Young, and so fair!

Look at her garments
Clinging like cerements;
Whilst the wave constantly
Drips from her clothing;
Take her up instantly,
Loving, not loathing.

Touch her not scornfully;
Think of her mournfully,
Gently and humanly;
Not of the stains of her,
All that remains of her
Now is pure womanly.

Make no deep scrutiny
Into her mutiny
Rash and undutiful:
Past all dishonour,
Death has left on her
Only the beautiful.

Still, for all slips of hers,
One of Eve's family—
Wipe those poor lips of hers
Oozing so clammily.

Loop up her tresses
Escaped from the comb,
Her fair auburn tresses;
Whilst wonderment guesses
Where was her home?

Who was her father?
Who was her mother?
Had she a sister?
Had she a brother?
Or was there a dearer one
Still, and a nearer one
Yet, than all other?

Alas! for the rarity
Of Christian charity
Under the sun!
O, it was pitiful!
Near a whole city full,
Home she had none.

Sisterly, brotherly,
Fatherly, motherly
Feelings had changed:
Love, by harsh evidence,
Thrown from its eminence;
Even God's providence
Seeming estranged.

Where the lamps quiver
So far in the river,
With many a light
From window and casement,
From garret to basement,
She stood, with amazement,
Houseless by night.

The bleak wind of March
Made her tremble and shiver;
But not the dark arch,
Or the black flowing river:
Mad from life's history,
Glad to death's mystery,
Swift to be hurl'd—
Anywhere, anywhere
Out of the world!

In she plunged boldly—
No matter how coldly
The rough river ran—
Over the brink of it,
Picture it—think of it,
Dissolute Man!
Lave in it, drink of it,
Then, if you can!

Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care;
Fashion'd so slenderly,
Young, and so fair!

Ere her limbs frigidly
Stiffen too rigidly,
Decently, kindly,
Smooth and compose them;
And her eyes, close them,
Staring so blindly!

Dreadfully staring
Thro' muddy impurity,
As when with the daring
Last look of despairing
Fix'd on futurity.

Perishing gloomily,
Spurr'd by contumely,
Cold inhumanity,
Burning insanity,
Into her rest.—
Cross her hands humbly
As if praying dumbly,
Over her breast!

Owning her weakness,
Her evil behaviour,
And leaving, with meekness,
Her sins to her Saviour!

Thomas Hood

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Peter the Wild Boy

History is filled with a countless number of real life mysteries. And nothing stirs the imagination more than gaping holes in the facts. The case of Peter the Wild Boy is one of those mysteries that can never be completely solved.

Peter was found roaming feral in the northern woods of Germany near the legendary town of Hamelin. He walked on all fours, lived off flora and fauna and never learned to speak a language. No one knows where the boy came from, how he came to be living alone in the woods and no parents or family members ever came forward.

At a young age Peter was brought to England under the order of King George I, who had taken a keen liking for the novelty that would become Peter the Wild boy. Peter lived amongst courtiers under a veil of curiosity and amusement. Used as entertainment, the court's interest in Peter wore off and after some unsuccessful attempts to school him, he eventually was placed at Broadway Farm in Axter's End. The British government provided a 35 pound annual pension to the farmer to assist with his room and board.

It was here that Peter could roam amongst the wilderness similar to his youth. Finally free of fancy dress and etiquette rules he spent a lot of time in the woods and would often sleep under the stars. He did happen to wander too far once and ended up in a nearby prison. He was claimed by the farmers charged with his care and they subsequently fastened a collar on him, on which was inscribed his name and address should he ever go missing again.

Peter died at what many believe to be the age of 70, since there is no known record of his birth. He was buried at St. Mary's Church in Northchurch where his headstone remains. Flowers are often seen at his grave site to this day.

Lucy Worsely, a well known British museum curator and television personality, has made a lovely segment dedicated to Peter and his legacy.