The occasional observations of Carolyn Kephart, writer

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Love, Honor, and Inspiration

9:50 PM PDT, April 30, 2009

Before I get down to blogging about my topic, I’ll note that the Kindle editions of my books are now on sale, and will be priced at .99 each for the entire month of May. It's always a pleasure to acquire new readers, and that sensation will, I hope, be heightened when both volumes are available on Mobipocket in the near future. Established reviewers are invited to email me for complimentary pdfs of both Wysard and Lord Brother; the address is on my website at A Writing Life, along with links to synopses, first chapters, and media commentary.

Regarding my subject matter, inspiration comes from anywhere, and I can't specify my wysard Ryel Mirai's origins. I was an adolescent when I envisioned him, and I didn’t know his name; he had none. He was then as he is now: about 24, slender and tallish, heroic and kind, with long dark hair and features mingling classic Greece with Mongol steppes. I made him the protagonist of a Victorian-flavored short story and a whimsical narrative poem, both of which are still extant in some shelved box or other; eventually I’ll type them up as Word files.

I more or less forgot about my wizard after that, immersing myself in Tolkien and Eddison and Burroughs along with less fantastical classics. But not until college did I encounter John Dryden’s two-part play ‘The Conquest of Granada,’ written in 1672 when Charles II ruled Britain and Louis XIV France, and not much else in the world mattered. Its influence has stayed with me ever since. It was really and truly magical, and ensorceled me entirely. I recently re-read it, and even though I’m older and wiser and have been rigorously trained to recognize all its faults, I love it still, as I will always love that which is magnificent and brave.

Like all extremely serious things, ‘Conquest’ is easy to make fun of, and was hilariously lampooned in its day. The dialog is exclusively rhyming verse, the subject matter is entirely love and honor, and the characters are without exception noble even when behaving deplorably. Its plot deals with the power struggle between the ruling Spanish Moors and their Christian enemies in 1492, but the beating, bleeding heart of the story concerns the hopeless passion of the heroic warrior Almanzor for the beautiful Almahide, wife of King Boabdelin. There are striking lines in it, like Almanzor’s taunt to the king:

“No man has more contempt than I of breath,
But whence hast thou the right to give me death?
Obeyed as sovereign by thy subjects be,
But know, that I alone am king of me.
I am as free as nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began,
When wild in woods the noble savage ran.”

Despairing in her adoration of the bold hero, Almahide laments:

“How blessed was I before this fatal day,
When all I knew of love, was to obey!
'Twas life becalmed, without a gentle breath;
Though not so cold, yet motionless as death.
A heavy quiet state; but love, all strife,
All rapid, is the hurricane of life.”

King Boabdelin, cankered with jealousy, breaks into bitter distichs:

“Marriage, thou curse of love, and snare of life,
That first debased a mistress to a wife!
Love, like a scene, at distance should appear,
But marriage views the gross-daubed landscape near.
Love's nauseous cure! thou cloyest whom thou should'st please;
And, when thou cur'st, then thou art the disease.
When hearts are loose, thy chain our bodies ties;
Love couples friends, but marriage enemies.”

Granada with its gorgeous oriental court became Wysard’s Almancar, with some Renaissance Venice and Edo-era Yoshiwara and the Empire of Trebizond thrown in.

The play in its two parts can be found here. No one would think of performing it now, for excellent reasons; but it’s wonderful to envision a world in which people flocked to watch it, and to imagine being part of that rapt audience.

More to come about influences, inspirations and defining moments.


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