Friday, November 20, 2009

deathless prose

I promised you an Anne Radcliffe quote, didn't I? Here we go, from Manfrone, or, The One-Handed Monk:

The table was crowded with the principal officers belonging to the prince and the duca, who, as the minstrels swept the sounding chords of their lutes, and in their verses celebrated the martial deeds of heroes of other days, while at intervals the hollow timbrels and the warlike trumpets resounded through the hall, with stern and haughty look recalled to their remembrance their own prowess on the sanguine plains.
High was raised the goblet sparkling with the ruby draught, and joy reigned in every heart, save those of the duca and Rosalina: far different indeed was the cause, but great was the grief of both.
Affliction had found a passage to the heart of Rodolpho in the early death of the amiable duchesa, and fatally, in order to divert his grief, he had abandoned himself to every species of dissipation, which, at last, had made him commit deeds of sable hue, which darkened all his future days, and rendered him a slave to the horrors of an accusing conscience.

You'd never get away with that nowadays, which is why I want to play with it for Nano, which is like a hugely stressful adventure playground of time. It's an easy style to guy, as Mark Twain did, among many others, and it's desperately vague to a modern eye. But it's not the eye it appeals to, I think. It's the ear. It demands to be read aloud--and probably was by thousands of people.

Here's my venture:
The Count Scarlatto to Rosalinda

Rosalinda! I command you set aside that insolent air, that bold and disobedient spirit that leads you to defy me! Bow that haughty black-tressed head, lower your flashing eyes and learn obedience if you have it not!
Hear me. You will leave your craggy fastness and, attended by the virtuous Clara M--t, to H--k repair with all speed. I will allow no question, no hesitation, and above all no flouting of my will.
Child, I am not vindictive if I am not crossed. Therefore do not cross me, but obey. You think me, perhaps, grown forgetful or forgiving in my latter years, but I am still the man who brought terror to rule the chasms and passes of the Pyrenees, whose name--that name you bear--was whispered in shuddering breath by cowering travellers, whose lightest word summoned scores of brigands from the rocks themselves!
It was my strength of arm, my reputation, that has ensured your survival, as the eagle's fierce talons protect and nourish the downy eaglet in its tow'ring nursery, and think not I will hesitate to turn those talons upon you, should you prove ungrateful as the pelican's young.
I bid you go to my estate in H--k. Once there, much will be revealed, and you will be repaid in knowledge for this submission to one who must command your duty if your proud heart refuses fear. This much I tell you now, in proof of earnest: thy mother's name was Dulcinella.
Dulcinella! How the sound pierces my heart, how my rage rushes torrent-like as I recall her fate! You think me heartless, and I tell you it is because the fate of Dulcinella has torn that organ to bloody fragments.
Yet she will be avenged. Yes, and you my instrument. Haste, Rosalinda, haste, and I will unfold a tale that will harrow thy young soul and bring you to swear yourself to my cause, to devote yourself to one aim only--to bring just revenge upon the head of him who--but I say too much. Lest these letters go astray and be seen by impious eyes, I will restrain my impatience until you have arrived.
Bring with you your mourning-clothes and the locket set with jet and pearls--do not pry it open--also the small casket bound in brass. Do not pry the lock, nor drop it upon the rocks. What it holds is precious beyond your knowing.
In your absence, Arnaldo will take command, with the castellan Rinaldo as his second. Bring with you also the account-books and the morocco-bound ledger, and be sure the sums are correct. Do not allow the men to fire off their muskets into the air merely for celebration: it is only to be done in order to terrify travellers, and to cease immediately on their surrender. We have spent altogether too much on powder this quarter.

thy respected and to-be-obeyed great-uncle,
Adalbert, Count Scarletto
Castello Mont'alban

I didn't say anything about Rosalinda last time, did I? She's the bold bad twin, the Little Robber Girl to Ethelinda's Gerda. Instead of a kindly dithering clergyman grandfather-figure, she has the infamous Count Scarlatto, and instead of the redoutable Fortuna Beldam, she has the pale and mysterious Clara M--t (you may note, I also love the period convention of dashes to hide identity) of secret sorrows and sorrowful secrets.

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