Historical trilogy


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If you like to read historical fiction, especially set in WWII:-

INFILTRATION is the second in the trilogy, A Relative Invasion. It begins in the blitz, September 1940 where Billy, my sturdy, well-meaning main character, is arriving at his new billet in the country, delivered by horse and cart.

When Book One ended, Billy, had just been evacuated for the second time – but this time sinister Cousin Kenneth, is evacuated too. To Billy’s dismay, he finds that Kenneth will be billeted with Aunty right near to Billy’s mother and baby sister, while Billy will be some miles off. As Book Two starts, Billy is mustering all his bravery to enter another unknown home, but this time, not to poverty.

Adaptations, anxieties and adventures lie ahead. Infiltration is a story of boy rivals evacuated to the country. More than that, it explores the resilience of children sent away for a large proportion of their childhood, often five full years. Some of them were miserable the whole time, others bonded more with their foster parents than with their own . . .

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My two boy characters must grow towards their teens developing their different talents, and, crucially, their fateful rivalry in an environment very different to the one they were born into, while their mothers also struggle to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances where they are distinctly not at home.

I’m happy to report that Book One,  INTRUSION, has just been awarded a B.R.A.G medallionbrag-med-gold

INFILTRATION is 5* on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

IMPACT – post-war London, and the fall-out of war and rivalry

Both books available in paperback and on ebook platforms

Intrusion:     ebooks  Kindle

Infiltration: ebooks   Kindle

Impact:         ebooks    Kindle

Writing a suitable home

Settling in at home – again?

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Who is to decide what ‘home’ is ‘suitable’? How does it feel to the one ‘homed’? In HOMED, the second in my Crime Shorts series, a boy is being ‘helped’ to settle to a conventional home life. Something is wrong, but it isn’t easy to work out. Is a crime imminent, or has one already happened?

One of the issues I had in mind when I wrote this was the Australian disgust in the 50s and 60s when they built standard homes for aborigines and then found that understanding and use of sanitation and housekeeping did not come automatically with the facilities provided. The sentiment was ‘it’s not worth giving them anything civilized.’ The realization that those homes were impossibly wrong for the Aborigine essential life-style and culture.

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Similarly, what may seem to be a ‘nice’ solution for an individual in need may ignore aspects that are essential to him/her. As a psychologist, I often saw people before and after being homed, often for reasons thought entirely separate from the homing experience.

We have to be inside the head of our characters when writing fiction. It’s an exercise to see a situation from inside, or from a point of view not too visible.

There are crimes motivated by negative emotions: jealousy, anger, need to control/overpower. There are also crimes perpetrated by ignorance. The crimes we may feel most are those that penetrate our individuality. Blind kindness, adherence to established process, bureaucracy – these can lead to damage also.

Read this story and decide where the crime lies.

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Homed. (Crime Shorts Book 2)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00VAVQ1DS

Review of Intrusion

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Isn’t it reinforcing when you get a positive and thorough review?

Praise on its own doesn’t inform what was liked and why. I think readers or potential readers prefer a review that gives a sense of how they might feel when reading the book in question. Which character will they sympathise with, which will make their hackles rise?

Here’s one for Intrusion from last July that I quote because of the reviewer’s reaction to Billy’s manipulative cousin, Kenneth. I’m afraid I’m just writing some more examples of his irritating behaviour for Book 3. In many ways we should sympathise with him, but there comes a point when he just goes a bit too far. . .

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Meantime, Intrusion, is on offer for 3 days at 0.99

Charmaine
Jun 17, 2015  5*

Charmaine rated it really liked it · review of another edition
Shelves: historical-fiction, kindle
“Rosalind Minett does an excellent job portraying the early stages of World War II through the eyes of a child. I liked seeing events through Billy’s viewpoint. We never quite get the full picture of the events of the war because Billy’s understanding is limited, but at the start of each chapter Minett lists the date and an important WWII event that is associated with that date, which keeps the reader grounded. Billy’s experiences with the air raid and the evacuation gave a sense of realism to the story.

Besides the historical accuracy, I liked how the author made me feel certain emotions about the characters. I really disliked Kenneth. I also felt annoyance with most of the adults who did not understand Billy, including his own parents. I sympathized with Billy and cheered for him all the way. Billy underwent some character development and I look forward to seeing his growth throughout the series.

(The author gave me a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)”

Alternative history. Is it fiction?

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The Roman Empire active, 2016? Alternative history in fiction

Today’s post features a very successful independent author of historical fiction in an imagined scenario. ALISON MORTON, is the author of INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO and AURELIA, B.R.A.G. Medallion® honorees. Her premise for her ROMA NOVA series is: Suppose the Roman Empire never died? This idea has fascinated her readers,leading them into this world of alternative history.

Alison has had a recent fillip to her success. As an independent author and member of ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) she has become an inspiring forerunner of what is to become; that is, the possibility for real commercial success, not through any gimmick or useful network of associates, but by sheer hard work, talent, thorough knowledge of her subject and an inspired theme.

I wanted to interview her so that other authors could gain some sense of her literary path.

ROSALIND
Alison, the warmest of welcomes. Please tell us about this latest, exciting success.

ALISON
Thank you for the welcome, Rosalind. Yes, it’s all very exciting. I’ve signed with Blake Friedmann Literary Agency who will be representing me for translation, audio and other ancillary rights. With all the other things I have to do, like writing books(!), I don’t have the time (or energy) to pursue these areas. Carole Blake and her team have exactly the experience, expertise and contacts to exploit these rights properly for me. Carole read INCEPTIO and was bitten by the whole Roma Nova idea.

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ROSALIND
To have Carole Blake representing you is the acme of success in itself. How exciting to know that your books will be enjoyed in different countries and in different forms. Can you predict the outcome of this widening of your reading audience? Perhaps your agents have suggested one?

ALISON
I can’t predict really, but from meeting my new agents(!), there are numerous possibilities. I’m hoping for audio and some translation deals this year, but I’m leaving that to the experts. Once readers discover the Roma Nova books, they seem to love them, so my aim is to widen the audience. I’m confident that the Romans are on the march to conquer the known world in the 21st century.

ROSALIND
That’s a wonderful 2016 ahead of you. What will it mean to you in practical terms?

ALISON
Lots more book sales! Being serious for a moment, Book 5 in the series has gone to my copy editor and I’ve drafted about 36,000 words of Book 6. I hope therefore to be able to offer new readers two more books this year which will then give them two Roma Nova trilogies. As a reader, I like series, so when I discover a new author who has written one, I’m in heaven.

If translation deals appear, that may mean more travel to give talks which I LOVE doing, and an increase in my profile. Of course, I’m waiting for Hollywood to knock at my door…

ROSALIND
Enviable! However, this success was not won overnight and it’s important for readers of this interview how much really came before. I know, for instance, that you have a military background. Do you think this training enabled you to plan an effective strategy?

ALISON
I’m not sure I had a strong strategic plan. As you learn your way around any profession, you discover the ins and outs and the players and influencers, you make friendships, you collaborate on promotion, you secure speaking and blogging spots. You monitor your own progress and amend your wishes, aims and goals accordingly.

Serving in the military does give you the purpose and the self-discipline to carry out plans. But I’d been in a government policy unit before then and also read an awful lot of crime and thriller novels, so I’m a plotter by habit. Also, to be truthful, by nature. It ties in with the whole ‘what if’ idea behind the Roma Nova books; you have to think everything through to see the possible consequences.

ROSALIND
Can you outline for readers the steps upon the way to your success? I note that Book 1 is a precursor of the following books in the series. Did you intend it to be a stand-alone originally, the further books emerging as you got immersed in the alternate world of Roma Nova?

ALISON
Well, the first one, INCEPTIO, burst out of my head after seeing a rubbishy film in 2009. I thought I must be able to do better. I’d had my strong character (Karen who became Carina) rampaging around in my head for years, so I plonked myself down in front of my computer and poured her story out.

ROSALIND
This strong female character did interest me, this blog being developed around character-driven fiction. Even though you are a plotter, Carina has been a factor in your success. And what about the professional steps toward publication?

ALISON
I’d written much of my life: translation, government policy papers and reports, academic papers, marketing and PR materials, but hadn’t written fiction since I was at school. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association which had a new writers’ scheme, read books, went on an Arvon Foundation commercial fiction course, attended conferences, talks and classes. IRoma Nova books_sm_opt put INCEPTIO through critique partner, beta readers, professional editors – you name it – in my drive for perfection.

As I wrote INCEPTIO, I realised I was going to have to write a trilogy; there was just too much story to contain in one book! More seriously, I wanted to find out what had happened to Carina a few years on. Book 2, PERFIDITAS, was half written by the time I (eventually) published INCEPTIO in March 2013, and I had the character development for Book 3, SUCCESSIO, in my head. Thus, although each book is a complete standalone, readers will a gain a richer experience if read one after another.

So that was the trilogy done and dusted, but I had become fascinated by Aurelia, who was a main secondary character in Carina’s story. She was Carina’s grandmother, but as a young woman had lived through a dangerous time in Roma Nova’s history, the Great Rebellion. Aurelia was still haunted by the charismatic rebellion leader, Caius Tellus, thirty years later. So of course, I had to write her story and this has developed into a second trilogy.

ROSALIND
You’ve certainly undertaken the whole process in a manner that writing and publishing professionals would admire. You have been so thorough and well organised in your approach. Finally, coming to the last stage – publication itself. I have seen several books published by SilverWood Books. They always have such good presentation: good quality paper, attractive lay-out, and a sense that the concept is geared to the particular book rather than pushed out in a set format aimed at speed of turnover. How did you come to SilverWood and what difference has it made?

ALISON
I was determined to publish my novels and to publish them with the highest possible production values. Once I decided I needed help, I researched the whole thing to death, asking other indies, reading articles and posts, searching and searching. Mick Rooney of The Independent Publishing Magazine was especially helpful.

A publishing services company has to make money – they’re in business – but I wanted one with a book-oriented approach, rather than a services one, and an organisation run by caring human beings. In the end, I compiled a huge spreadsheet of questions about prices, services, rights, timings, and processes then narrowed the ‘finalists’ down to three. After a long telephone call to each, I chose SilverWood Books.

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AURELIA shortlisted for the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award

ROSALIND

Thank you so much, Alison. I think there will be many writers wanting to follow your path. However, the concept, knowledge and research your books entail, as well as the whole marketing process, will perhaps daunt them. Do you have any final words of encouragement?

ALISON
Persist! 
- Write stories you are passionate about 

‘Good enough’ is not good enough – Listen to advice and don’t be precious.

Be nice.

Strong characters capture readers

The US presidential election campaign! How rich a source of strong characters and plot for any writer to capture!

Simon Schama didn’t predict it in his 2010 article where he discussed passionately what historical events all school children should learn.  Otherwise he might have included it.

The study of Machiavelli can raise the temperature of university seminars and one day, no doubt the phenomenon of Trump will do so.

One way of involving readers with your characters is to make them bold, multi-faceted, unconventional and unpredictable. But creating one or two strong characters shouldn’t mean falling short on remaining characters.

I was captivated by The Girl on a Train because the main character’s complex personality and back story were gradually revealed. The plot had me gripped because of her difficulties and situation.  She had strengths as well as weaknesses, and could be unpredictable so that the book was a good page-turner. I stayed involved until late in the plot when another character’s behaviour wasn’t credible. As a psychologist, I know that is not how such a person in that situation would behave. The book lost a fan at that point. Hawkins had not so carefully researched and designed that (male) character, and having lost my belief, I didn’t enjoy the novel from then on.

However, should Paula Hawkins write a novel with the same main character, I would want to read it. This is the power a writer has: strong or complex characters attract readers. Inadequately researched ones, lose readers. If you’re a new writer, there’s a useful article here from Writers’ Digest on character building.

It’s taken me a long time to complete my trilogy about a boyhood rivalry that begins in 1937.  I’ve worked hard to ensure that any actions make full sense in the light of the character’s personality. Readers love my protagonist and hate my antagonist – a psychological bully – but there are aspects of the plot that invite sympathy for him, and by the third novel, the hero is examining his own short-comings. The rivalry culminates in an act extraordinary enough to make an unpredictable but satisfying ending (I trust).

Endings have to satisfy readers by being believable in the context of the characters. It can surprise but I like to leave the reader feeling “Yes, that would happen” or “he would do that”.  It’s easier for a trilogy or series to achieve this than a single novel. The writer can lay the necessary stones on a path within each book.  Development of plot and personality is being built up over time. Less prominent characters affect the main ones. Wittingly or not, they are change agents. It’s best if the reader realises their effect on the main character’s behaviour  – rather than the writer pointing it out.

What a student remembers of his/her history lessons is often due to the character: king, rebel, victim, adventurer, cardinal, causing the historical event.

Whether it’s on TV or in a book, it’s the strength of characterization that makes for my involvement and enjoyment. I wonder if it’s the same for you?

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A RELATIVE INVASION 

 

WWII, two boys, a fateful rivalry

                       INTRUSION    INFILTRATION    IMPACT

 

Readers’ Christmas Sav(i)ours

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Yes it’s that time again. Christmas Dinner. Marie couldn’t get a cloth to match the curtains and now Cyril’s coming (groan), the rattan chair will need to be squeezed  between whoever looks thinnest on arrival. It will ruin the symmetry of the display.
PRESENTS!!! Is there one for everyone? No? Off to the bookshop. Okay, Amazon, if you’re static. Ignore highly reviewed and popularised paperbacks. Others will have had that thought. Be original.  You can’t? You have gone blank with Christmasitis?

Here are my solutions:

I IMAGINE YOUR CHRISTMAS GUESTS INCLUDE:

Lorraine: She has frequent periods of depression following failed relationships. In her downs she retires to bed and reads avidly. Take those romances away, they only make her cry. She needs a new way of thinking. She needs a new way of thinking. 
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ANSWER: How to be a Good Wife,  Bodleian Library. Lorraine might as well consider what worked in 1936 even if she is never to be a wife herself.

Cyril:   Once he represented HM as consul in a distant island. Life was slow, uncultured and extremely comfortable. Now returned, he swings between part-time futile consultancies and no longer feels sufficiently important. He needs a book that will give him instant gravitas.51cyouGon5L._SY410_BO1204203200_-150x150

ANSWER: Dull men of Great Britain. Leland Carlson.  Now Cyril will feel he is actually an interesting person himself.

 Avril:     Sharper than all of us, she appears to have read EVERYTHING,518WtTH3gkL._SX391_BO1204203200_-150x150 mostly with a cynical eye. She needs to be softened up, to learn that leisure books exist. And she should try being the hostess for once. Let her cook.
ANSWER: FIFTY SHADES OF CHICKEN F.L.Fowler (of course)
 Dominic:   He is a dandy, valuing appearance far too much. Apart from a mirror, he needs to think big, and particularly to think. Go carefully, too taxing a b61hKIizWwlL._SX369_BO1204203200_-150x150ook will prevent him from opening the cover.  This should suit.
ANSWER: Shepherd Spy  Simon Drew.
Tom:     He gains enormous pleasure from reading books that have faults. It will fill the room with his tenor bleats if you can find a badly edited book with an erudite author. Unfortunately, I dare not nominate one, or every word I write in the future will be spat upon. The other alternative is a book that invites extension of vocabulary.
ANSWER:  The Horologican: A Day’s Jaunt through the Lost Words of the English Language. The impeccable Mark Forsyth. Hardback.That’ll shut Tom up.
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Siobhan:   She’s a secondary school teacher (History, and can sub for English). She would like to gain insight into the privations of 1940s Britain while munching gluttonous Xmas snacks, so give her Book 1 and 2 of this trilogy. Evacuation is on the curriculum (yr 9) so she can pass it off as homework next term.
ANSWER:  Historical fiction. A Relative Invasion, Rosalind Minett. Book 1, Intrusion. Book 2, Infiltration. No swearing, sex or violence (unless you count psychological violence). A tale of resilience from pov of young boy.
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Marie:    Always the hostess, never the guest. Give her something so gripping she won’t bother ever to make a hot toddy for anyone, let alone a cooked meal.
ANSWER:  Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  Harari.  Come on, Marie, let zip those neurons. A bit of physical anthropology will do you the world of good.
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 LASTLY, Dear child, male or female. May you always be eclectic in your reading. May you have adults around who choose your books well.

416iYcFxnXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ANSWER: THE RUNAWAY SMILE  Nicholas Rossis. Beautifully illustrated. An engaging read with an embedded message to steer your darlings throughout childhood.

 

Have fun with the party games, everyone. I’ve just provided the Fit the book to the beast game.  OR just give the kids 1000 brain teasers and let them tell you the answers during your post-prandial.

                       HAPPY CHRISTMAS

An eye to writing

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This is the camera lucida. I came across it when visiting the Fox Talbot museum at Lacock. Although the museum is about the birth of photography, the link between artistic forms of making images is not ignored. The original design of the camera lucida was by William Hyde Wollaston in 1807. It used a four-sided glass prism whose angles allowed all of the light from the object to travel to the eye. The light from the paper can still pass through the prism to the eye, allowing sight of the action of the pencil on the paper. A small peephole is placed just above the prism to force the eye to the optimum viewing point.

The illustration of an artist using it, above, show that his left eye sights through the microscope enlarging his image, while his right remains on his work. You might be able to detect that he needs to anchor the paper so that it cannot move.

How interesting! I emailed a microscopy artist about this, thinking it would be a valuable aid, an alternative to the present practice of using the microscope and drawing/painting alternately.

If you are suddenly gripped with a desire to have a camera lucida, Apple, of course, have an app. Essentially your ipad hangs over the edge of a table focussing on the image on the floor while you busy yourself at recording it on the table. Alternatively, you can shell out and buy a modern version of it here. Camera Lucida

In learning about this device, my thoughts were, as usual, about how this might relate to the novelist’s writing process. One eye on the detail, the other on the work as a whole. For instance, in crime writing the detail in an early chapter can be crucial in the denoûment; the fine detail of a character’s movement may highlight his or her personality. Working on the detail has to be relevant to the whole novel – we don’t want to read the inner label of someone’s raincoat, its colour and shape if that character is never to appear again and is pretty incidental to the plot.

A novelist including a detail is indicating to the reader ‘this is important.’ A novel with broad brush strokes and little detail is usually unsatisfying.

I liked the concept of the work being anchored so that it couldn’t move. Writers do need to keep theirs constantly in mind, which is why many entomb themselves from diversions until the heavy work is done.

Another interesting thought: the artist or writer is working simultaneously with input and output. The input is noticing the detail in the first place. The artist has to put his eye to the peephole. The writer has to turn his eye to the movement or setting that others might miss.

It’s a matter of detail. The output should be enriched by that silent activity.

A final point for writers: the original use of the Camera Lucida was to allow the artist to gain the correct perspective in his drawing of an image such as a building. Writers have much more freedom in the use of their perspective. Aren’t we lucky!

 

A Talent for Short Stories

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GOODBYE CROCODILE  –  Conor Patrick

  published by The London Magazine

The London Magazine has a long-standing reputation for selecting and presenting work of a high literary quality, poetry and prose. They produced this collection of short stories in 2013. It does them credit as well as its author. I reviewed it then, but recently saw that it had not received a great deal of attention, so I flag it up again.

I always enjoy Irish writing.  What is it about Ireland – the oral tradition? – that it produces writers who so understand pain. People suffer elsewhere, after all.  Yet Irish writers are so skilled in capturing the image that strikes at the heart.

Conor Patrick is one of these. His writing displays both the velvet of his Irish genes and the sharpness of his past American environment. In this collection, he gives twelve stories that grasp that time of change or realisation and exposes it. Many of his characters are on the verge of adulthood and perhaps that is why they are lightly drawn. They are fawns not stags, often coping with raw or threatening circumstances. The settings show a wide variety of rough and ready America with characters who are struggling to survive physically or psychologically.

These are literary pieces, rich in description. The boy in the cathedral absorbs the effigies and images ‘lifting heavenwards their stained glass faces.’ In my favourite story, ‘Be Still the River’, perhaps the most beautifully written, there is an image of the ‘carapace’ of a pram. This image poignantly highlights the death of the mother and of a bereaved younger sister’s childhood. The girl does not have the large fish she had worked so hard to land only this remainder of a pram. She is used to pulling fish from the water as the one means of sustenance.

Patrick masters that task of suggesting half a world in the one paragraph – sign of the excellent short story writer. I highly recommended this collection to the serious reader.

Starting to write a novel

 

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Are you starting to write a novel? Yes, it’s hard. Really, it’s best just to press on with it rather than tell people about it. There will be time for that when you’re finished.

Here are 10 points to consider. You can waste so much time in the early stages of starting a novel when you should be just getting that important first draft down. Before listing these, one thing that will help you above all others, is to buy Scrivener. At around £45.00 it’s the best purchase I’ve ever made and if I’d had it years ago, I would have had a longer life and lived more of it! It organizes all your writing and avoids all those hours searching for previous drafts, short notes you’d made on a character or setting and so on. It will considerably help your structure. You can even trial it free.

Let’s say you’re well past the ‘thinking about writing a novel.’ You have the germ of the plot and have written enough to imagine the finished work in your hand. Download the trial of Scrivener and start building your chapters, or scenes within the chapters. (iTunes has how-to videos).

Now consider these ten points.

1. Write your target quota each day before entering any social media site. Social media diverts you, it is time-consuming and will seriously cut in to your allotted writing time.  Scrivener provides a progress signpost, showing how well you are meeting your target.

2.  Write from your instinct before reading any writing advice on style. This is to ensure it is your voice that emerges on the page. Texts on the craft of writing are best read before or between writing novels. The analytical task is best kept separate from the creative one of starting to write a novel.

3.  Similarly, only seek feedback when you have planned and written a substantial section. It is your novel from your imagination and experience. Others’ views and suggestions when you are writing the first draft will confuse that first push to get the story down.

4.  Only seek feedback from other writers. Readers’ views are wonderful, but only when your novel is published or ready to publish.

5.  Stop and decide where the plot is going one third of the way through. You might write the end at this point.

6.  Lie in bed and hear your characters’ voices clearly. Feel their conflicts and listen in to their conversations.

7.   When you are ready to read your first draft, print it out. Highlight the sections you’re unhappy with in blue. Scrivener allows for you to mark your chapters or scenes with colours according to how near they are to ‘finished.’

8.   Beyond halfway, read the first and last lines of every chapter. This is a way of seeing a ‘want to read on’ for your future readers.

9.   Your own voice and writing style will be uppermost in your mind.  Read a highly rated novel – with a very different plot from yours – while you take a break. High quality writing is privilege to read. Each such work has some impact on your own developing skill.

10.   Care about your characters and write their future… and above all, get on with your writing NOW

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ARABIA – Walter de la Mare

ARABIA.

What is left to say?

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This was the first poem I loved, and it’s still my favourite. Here the country is the character, and like all well-drawn characters it is complex and has its dark side.

 

Far are the shades of Arabia,
Where the Princes ride at noon,
‘Mid the verdurous vales and thickets,
Under the ghost of the moon;
And so dark is that vaulted purple
Flowers in the forest rise
And toss into blossom ‘gainst the phantom stars
Pale in the noonday skies.

Sweet is the music of Arabia
In my heart, when out of dreams
I still in the thin clear mirk of dawn
Descry her gliding streams;
Hear her strange lutes on the green banks
Ring loud with the grief and delight
Of the dim-silked, dark-haired Musicians
In the brooding silence of night.

They haunt me — her lutes and her forests;
No beauty on earth I see
But shadowed with that dream recalls
Her loveliness to me:
Still eyes look coldly upon me,
Cold voices whisper and say —
‘He is crazed with the spell of far Arabia,
They have stolen his wits away.’

ARABIA – Walter de la Mare