Turning Prose into Poetry

Okay, so I’ve turned poetry into prose, but now the time has come to do the opposite. I’ve chosen to operate on this paragraph from Jane Eyre:

My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bed rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe, with subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels; to my left were the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between them repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room.  I was not quite sure whether they had locked the door; and when I dared move, I got up and went to see.  Alas! yes: no jail was ever more secure.  Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed.  All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travellers.  I returned to my stool.

It seems that I have chosen my target well. Charlotte Bronte is an author who makes regular use of her punctuation marks, which will make this experiment considerably easier. I chose Jane Eyre because I like the book. It’s a romance in which the main protagonists’ lack of sex appeal is consistently emphasised. Besides, the book is famous enough that tagging it to this post will hopefully put it in front of many eyes.

Using the power of Microsoft Word, I will replace all punctuation marks with ^11 and see what happens. This is what happened:

My seat
to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me riveted
was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece
the bed rose before me
to my right hand there was the high
dark wardrobe
with subdued
broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels
to my left were the muffled windows
a great looking-glass between them repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room
I was not quite sure whether they had locked the door
and when I dared move
I got up and went to see
Alas
yes
no jail was ever more secure
Returning
I had to cross before the looking-glass
my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed
All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality
and the strange little figure there gazing at me
with a white face and arms specking the gloom
and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still
had the effect of a real spirit
I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms
half fairy
half imp
Bessie’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone
ferny dells in moors
and appearing before the eyes of belated travellers
I returned to my stool.’

You breathe a lot more in the poetry version, don’t you? One of the reasons I chose an older author is that the stilted prose of the yesterday could be mistaken as the affected poetry of today.

So, any lazy poets out there should get acquainted with the public domain sources and hidden formatting symbols, that’s what I say.

 

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