A Parlor Game in Iambic

I don’t normally post exerpts from a work in progress. It seems dangerous to assume any of it will remain the same between the writing and the publishing…arrogant, perhaps, like I could jinx myself. But this one tickled my nerdy bone, and the amusement of it does not rely on context but simply on the text. Also this started entirely by accident…I knew he initiated a conversation with that particular quotation, because I knew she replied about ingratitude, and I just let them talk from there and scribbled down what I “heard.” After about two exchanges, I noticed they were both speaking in iambic, or damn near it. Always fun when characters do something cool without your intention! So I ran with it. You can see below the point where I stopped writing in full prose style and just started transcribing their conversation. The main point of the scene is them having two different conversations via subtext, hers about what happened between them in the past (well, between her and the man she thinks he is), and him about what he assumes will happen between them in the imminent future. Pray, enjoy my deathless prose verse!

The scene: a masquerade. Their Lord and Lady Winter costumes match; hers, intentionally, because she wanted to match a man from her past and thinks the hero is he. He’s not. He takes her for a courtesan he’s supposed to meet there. She’s not.

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,” he said, reaching for the one bit of poetry he knew that might suit her attire. “Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”

“Do you not think yourself unkind to speak to me of your ingratitude?”

Her question took him aback. Had she been inconvenienced to come tonight? Had he been hard to find? While he parsed the meaning of her words, their cadence struck him. She’d replied in the same meter his verse employed – a parlor game he knew well from his sister. She always won. He wondered how he’d fare against a lady of the night. Dismally, most like, if she were an actress.

“Then should I simply note that you’re well met, my lady fair?”

“Well met, indeed, my lord.”

Am I your lord?”

“Tonight it doth appear you are.”

“Then how shall I best please my love?”

“A kiss to shame all lovers here; but first a dance to cast all dancers in despair at their incompetence.”

“A feather to your cap, my dear, for I cannot compete with prose so fine.”

“A sorry piece of prose, good sir, for by my count we doth converse in verse.”

“My lady has a clever mind, to match her dex’trous tongue.”

“And know you this because you dream about my tongue?”

“For cert, my love: the fairest of its kind I have encounteréd.”

“A pretty piece of flattery, if true.”

“Can you doubt me?”

“I have done nothing else since took you leave to speak.”

“But why? I’ faith, my lady, I have only ever spoke my heart’s confession – pax! I concede. You have mastered me.”

“’Twas ever thus, if I recall.”

“No one likes a braggart.”

“In a woman, you mean. Men may talk all night of their exploits without receiving censure.”

“Mayhap. But I prefer to spend tonight in exploits, not in talk.”

“Ever a man of action.”

“Better a man of action than a king of unmet dreams….”


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