Monday, January 28, 2013

Week 5: WoE La Douleur Exquise Challenge

Write at the Merge gave us a picture of Bancroft Tower, Worcester, MA under a stormy sky, and the French expression: La Douleur Exquise (the exquisite pain).

The Exquisite Pain refers to the heart-wrenching, gut-churning, violent sickness from love for someone one cannot have, but even this is an over-simplistic definition. It's not unrequited love, it's more like Romeo and Juliet, just worse.

There's a poem by Alfred Noyes titled The Highwayman that embodies this for me. It's one of the few poems that I would say I love. The imagery is haunting and the plot is expertly woven with danger and suspense. It has inspired a couple of films, a few music orchestrations, and even sparked a few novels.

I wanted to take a minor character from the poem and write a scene from his perspective. I also took the liberty of setting the story in Colonial America. Call it...a history nerd's fan-fiction.


I offer the following in response: The Landlord's Daughter





Timothy watched Elizabeth plait her hair from the sycamore shadows of the moon-soaked yard; his vigil that of tireless nightly devotion. Her sloe-black eyes would search for him in the dark from her second-story window, and find him not. “Soon, my love,” his dreams whispered. “Soon we shall wed, then your father shall grow old and infirm, and I shall run the inn, and find another to ostler.”

He slipped deeper into the shadows as a rider approached, the hooves of his steed clattering over the cobbles at an urgent gait. Timothy had seen that popinjay several times before her window, pledging oaths and stealing promises. Fury flamed his cheeks as he was forced to witness yet another pointless exchange. “A kiss for luck, my sweetheart, I’ve another prize tonight,” the rider spoke, standing in his stirrups to reach her fingertips with an outstretched arm.

Timothy, still cloaked in darkness, leaned closer to better hear their conversation. The melodic voice of his sweet, sweet Elizabeth sang like a nightingale, but there was so much concern in her tone. What did she fear? Surely not for the life of the brigand. Surely ‘twas naught but Christian compassion that colored her words so. “The Redcoats have been by," she whispered. "I overheard an officer mention a spy working in these parts. I beg you, do not go this night.”

“That gold is desperately needed. The Continental Army will not survive the winter months without that supply.”

“Return to me,” she replied. Why does she say such things? Does she know it makes me angry? Does she know I shall have to punish her? Ah, but no, she is an innocent in this. I shall forgive her.

“I shall be back before the light of dawn. If they should press me, I'll take to the moor until I can shake them. I'll then be back by midnight. Hell cannot keep me from you.”

She loosed her braid and her black hair tumbled long and free about him. The rider nuzzled the cascade. It was all Timothy could do to keep from charging the popinjay. The blade in his boot would make quick work of the man’s neck, but her eyes did not deserve to see such terrible things.

The steed turned west with its rider, the darkness of the moor swallowing any trace of them. The brigand was gone and Elizabeth concealed once again behind protective shutters. Timothy turned to the stables and chose a patron’s mare and tack to carry him to the British outpost. You shall see, my sweet Elizabeth. He cinched the saddle tight about the mare and reached for the bridle. Once he is captured, you shall see that you have been quite the foolish, foolish girl. And there will be nothing left to keep us apart. Not the popinjay, not the inn nor your father, not even that treacherous moon.

24 comments:

  1. La Douleur Exquise indeed!! Nicely done. All of your descriptions and language drew me into the period.

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    1. Thanks! It was a fun write, but I'll admit, I gave myself the creepy vibe. :)

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  2. Poor girl! This is old school stalking. Well done!

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    1. Thanks! It only gets more tragic from there. Everybody loses in this game.

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  3. Oh treacherous moon...

    This is going to end badly, I just know it.

    Well done! This piece captures La Douleur Exquise exquisitely!

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    1. Thanks! That treacherous moon indeed. How many dreams have rested on its crescent, only to find that the surface is indifferent and cold?

      And yes, yes badly.

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  4. Period stalker! You build nicely from a normal aching heart to stalker to what I worry becomes serial killer. There are a number of wonderful images throughout this, but this particular phrasing really stood out for me: pledging oaths and stealing promises.

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    1. Thanks! Pledging oaths and stealing promises was a favorite line for me also. It seemed perfect way to describe it, at least through Timothy's eyes.

      I hope you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  5. "Look for me in the moonlight..."
    I love the many version of the Highwayman. Including this third party view. Nice.

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    1. Thanks! I geek out over that poem, so it's nice to know that I'm not alone. :)

      I'm happy you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  6. What whispatory said! This definitely builds in pressure from love to creep and stalkery.

    And you nailed the period language and imagery. Well done!

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    1. Thanks! I creeped myself out writing this POV, I won't lie.

      I hope you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  7. First of all, my favorite part might have been "like Romeo and Juliet but worse" in the introduction. So, so true.

    I enjoyed the way you tiptoed in with the sweet idea of lovers waiting for the right moment to be together and then twisted the reader around and around to see the darkness in his stalker heart. Great job.
    ~Angela

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    1. Thanks! There's a fine line between stalkery and corny. I'm glad the tension worked!

      I'm glad you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  8. I agree -- nicely balanced tension. I actually felt sympathetic for the kid until he flashed the crazy at the end.

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    1. Thanks! "flashed the crazy" made me laugh. I'm going to steal...er, borrow that line someday. :)

      I hope you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  9. Ooh, what a creeper! The bit about looking for him and finding him not made me shiver. Nice period language!

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    1. Thanks! It creeped me out writing from his perspective, but I'm pleased to know that the scene worked.

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  10. Crazy is not a new phenomenon, no matter what the alienists say. Great job capturing the delusions that Timothy has, as well as his efforts to justify them.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, our era isn't he only one that produced crazies. They've been here since Eve ate the apple. I did have material I could draw from. I had a stalker once and a few of those comments came from a letter he wrote me.

      Talk about creepy right?

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Thanks! I'll take the bravo, it makes my morning.

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  12. History nerd fan fiction... Shel, you are awesome. And this? Not likely to end well. Excellent!

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    1. Thanks! Yup, History-nerd fan-fiction...Histnerfanfic? Ha! Well, I NEVER pretended I was normal.

      I hope you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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