Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Historical Poem

Written by John Greenleaf Whittier

Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,

The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.

Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach tree fruited deep,

Fair as the garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde,

On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain-wall,--

Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their crimson bars,

Flapped in the morning wind: the sun
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.

Up rose old Barbara Fritchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;

In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.
The dust-brown ranks stood fast.
Out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.

Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag, she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word;

Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on! he said.

All day long through Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet:

All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.

Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds that loved it well;

And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night.

Barbara Fritchie's work is o'er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.

Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall's bier.

Over Barbara Fritchie's grave,
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!

Peace and order and beauty draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;

And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Novel-Writing Gift According to. . .

Mark Twain
From the opening to
Those Extraordinary Twins

A man who is born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience. He has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has some people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality, and
he trusts that he can plunge those people into those incidents with interesting results.

So he goes to work. To write a novel? No---that is a thought which comes later; in the beginning he is only proposing to tell a little tale; a very little tale; a six-page tale. But as it is a tale which he is not acquainted with, and can only find out what it is by listening as it goes along telling itself, it is more than apt to go on and on and on till it spreads itself into a book.

I know about this, because it has happened to me so many times.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Finding Inspiration

Do you find inspiration in the town you live in, its countryside, rivers and streams, fields and mountains? Is there something about the atmosphere that gives you material to write about?

I live in a historical town in western Maryland. I love downtown --- the old buildings, the park, the promenade along the creek that runs through it, and the history. I get a feeling of connecting with the past here.

My writing desk sits under a window facing west. I can see the mountains and the farm field, the park across the way, and the grove of evergreens. Central and western Maryland's countryside, especially along the Potomac, are huge inspirations for my writing. I write historical fiction, partially set in this part of Maryland, and living here enables me to visualize a story. I've had moments where I've stood on the shoreline of the river, breathed in the air, gazed across to Harpers Ferry, and felt a kind of pull to write about what came before us. The area is rife with history, some of it long forgotten, but hidden away in the Maryland Room at the library. I discovered the storylines to my novels there.

Share with me. Do you find inspiration to write from where you live?