LORENA, A Song of the Civil War

This song was actually written in 1857 by H. D. Webster & J. P. Webster and, for obvious reasons, became popular with the men on both sides of the Civil War, after which it became a staple of the Old West. You can hear a traditional interpretation by John Hartford with excellent banjo accompaniment here. If the melody seems familiar, but the words don’t sound quite right, you’re not going crazy. In the 1960s, a more contemporary version made the rounds, and was recorded by such country luminaries as Johnny Cash and Bobby Bare. You can hear Bobby’s version of the song here.

LORENA

The years creep slowly by, Lorena,
The snow is on the grass again.
The sun’s low down the sky, Lorena,
The frost gleams where the flow’rs have been.
But the heart throbs on as warmly now,
As when the summer days were nigh.
Oh, the sun can never dip so low
A-down affection’s cloudless sky.

A hundred months have passed, Lorena,
Since last I held that hand in mine,
And felt the pulse beat fast, Lorena,
Though mine beat faster far than thine.
A hundred months, ’twas flowery May,
When up the hilly slope we climbed,
To watch the dying of the day,
And hear the distant church bells chime.

We loved each other then, Lorena,
More than we ever dared to tell;
And what we might have been, Lorena,
Had but our lovings prospered well.
But then, ’tis past, the years are gone,
I’ll not call up their shadowy forms;
I’ll say to them, “Lost years, sleep on!
Sleep on! nor heed life’s pelting storms.”

The story of that past, Lorena,
Alas! I care not to repeat,
The hopes that could not last, Lorena,
They lived, but only lived to cheat.
I would not cause e’en one regret
To rankle in your bosom now;
For “if we try we may forget,”
Were words of thine long years ago.

Yes, these were words of thine, Lorena,
They burn within my memory yet;
They touched some tender chords, Lorena,
Which thrill and tremble with regret.
‘Twas not thy woman’s heart that spoke;
Thy heart was always true to me:
A duty, stern and pressing, broke
The tie which linked my soul with thee.

It matters little now, Lorena,
The past is in the eternal past;
Our heads will soon lie low, Lorena,
Life’s tide is ebbing out so fast.
There is a Future! O, thank God!
Of life this is so small a part!
‘Tis dust to dust beneath the sod;
But there, up there, ’tis heart to heart.

 

The Rules of Writing: No Gerunds?

While doing research recently for an ESL student, I came across another “rule of writing”, to wit:

Don’t use gerunds; they make your writing weak.

To qualify as a gerund a word must be:

  1. a verb with an “ing” suffix
  2. that performs the job of a noun.

Take these sentences as examples:

I like hiking. (The gerund acts as the object of the sentence.)

Hiking is fun. (The gerund acts as the subject of the sentence.)

Now, I guess you could eliminate the gerund in the first sentence by saying “I like to hike”, but I don’t see much difference between the two statements. I think your choice would depend more on what your character’s natural speech patterns are than on any “rule”. (And if, like me, your manuscripts run over the recommended length for your genre, every little added “to” means you have to cut another word―a fate worse than death!)

Rewriting the second sentence as “To hike is fun” makes it sound formal. It gives me the feeling I’m reading a foreign translation rather than common American parlance.

still-life-school-retro-ink-159618.jpeg

And here’s the other, more important thing: in every article I read, the proponents of the “no gerund rule” were really objecting to sentences like this:

I was hiking in the woods.

But “hiking”, in this instance, fails to meet the qualifications for a gerund. It ends in “ing”, but it’s not acting as a noun. It’s part of the verb construction, specifically the past progressive tense.

So what the “no gerunds rule” proponents are trying to say is: there’s a “no progressive tenses rule”. By various examples, they also declare that there’s a “no conditional tenses rule”, and/or a “no perfect/pluperfect tenses rule”. In other words, write only in simple present, simple past, or imperfect tense.

How boring!

The reasoning, from what I gather, is that all these other tenses fall into a subset of the “active/passive rule”. For a “more active” sentence, they’d encouraged you to write it this way:

I hiked in the woods.

However, the rewrite doesn’t give me the same anticipation factor. If you start a dialogue with “I was hiking in the woods…”, I’m immediately looking for a story to follow. “I hiked in the woods” is more self-contained, an answer to the question, “What did you do today?” It doesn’t give me a sense of more to come. So for me, it’s a less appealing choice, and even less so if you’re creating a scene of rising tension.

(See what I did there? In the last sentence, I used three words that end in “ing” and not one of them is a gerund. Don’t fall into the same trap the “no gerunds rule” folks did!)

In my opinion, most of the “rules of writing” we see today have nothing to do with writing correctly. Instead, they are style choices that individuals make and choose to follow in their own works. They are, in effect, guidelines for that writer, not rules for all writers.

In particular, the “no gerunds rule” is one that seems to have a limited practical application. And I’d say the same for the “no (whatever) tense rules”. They’re like the Oxford comma; if you don’t want to use them, then don’t. But there are going to be times when clarity (or word count) depends upon it.

When it comes to writing, my philosophy is always:

Choose the best word for the job.

It applies whether you use a noun, verb, gerund, adverb, adjective, dialogue tag, or a word you made up to bring your story’s world to life. Choose the best word and your readers will be so bowled over by your writing, they won’t stop to wonder whether that word qualifies as a gerund or past progressive tense.

So, what style guidelines do you prefer? What’s your writing philosophy?

For an easy read on gerunds, visit the SproutEnglish blog.

For more on verb conjugation, see Verbix.com.

Get Smart: How to Tell Good Publishing Contracts From Bad

Excellent advice for first- or any-time authors!

Lee Peterson

BY AUDREY WICK

Like many new and debut authors, I was eager to sign with a traditional publisher. After the hard work of completing a novel, signing on the dotted line with a publishing house was exactly the reward I envisioned would make it all worthwhile.

Any contract for publishing can, at first, seem like an offer too good to refuse—but that doesn’t mean you should take anything that comes your way.

Publishing contracts are as varied as book genres. It’s easy for an author hungry to be published to be blinded by any contract’s lure, to the potential detriment of their career and their hard-fought creative work.

When I was submitting my debut novel for publication, the first book contract offer I received included bad terms—I’m grateful my agent and a close traditionally published friend helped me know what to look for. They helped me spot the three red…

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The Night Herding Song

Harry Stephens, an American cowboy, wrote this song circa 1890, while he was herding wild horses in Canada. While the rest slept, one or two unlucky cowboys always had to stand guard overnight. Called the “night hawk”, this job was one of the worst a cowboy could draw, and they believed the sound of music would keep the herds calm. You can hear a version of it by the inimitable Roy Rogers here. I believe he’s backed up by the Sons of the Pioneers, one of the most well-known Western bands, with whom he sang lead at the beginning of his career.

rogers

 

THE NIGHT HERDING SONG

Oh slow down, little dogies, quit your roving ’round.
You’ve wandered and trampled all over the ground.
Oh, graze along, dogies, and go kinda slow,
And don’t always be on the go.
Move slow, little dogies, move slow.

I’ve circled, trail-herded, night-herded too
But to keep you together, that’s what I can’t do.
My horse is leg-weary and I’m awful tired,
But if I let you get away I’m sure to get fired.
Bunch up, little dogies, bunch up.

Oh say, little dogies, when you goin’ to lay down?
And quit this forever shiftin’ around?
My limbs are weary, my seat is sore
Oh, lay down, dogies, like you’ve laid before,
Lay down, dogies, lay down.

Oh, lay still, dogies, since you have laid down
Stretch away on the big open ground.
Snore loud, little dogies, and drown the wild sound
That’ll go away when the day rolls ’round,
Lay still, dogies, lay still.

Today is World Poetry Day

In honor of World Poetry Day today, I offer

EROS

        – by Gifford MacShane

 

how time does pass

and yet not dull

           the thrill and silent words

                               the lightning glance

 

the spark

            electric in its charm lives on

 

startled once

       the swift and eerie message in the air

                    did touch my heart and lodge there

 

and rending now and then does still abide

 

 

Old Maid in the Garrett, Traditional Irish Song

#IrishMusic #amwriting

A traditional Irish toe-tapper bemoaning the single state, Old Maid in the Garrett introduces an unmarried woman whose fate would probably lead to a dismal life in her brother’s attic. She is extolling her virtues and ready to settle for anyone, even “a wee fat man”, as single women were considered a drain on the family resources and much scorned. For it was children who would grow to keep the family farm thriving. A version of this song by Sweeney’s Men can be found here, so you can tap along with the words if the spirit moves you.

OLD MAID IN THE GARRETT

Now I’ve often heard it said from my father and my mother
That going to a wedding was the makings of another.
Well, if this be so, then I’ll go without a biddance.
Oh, kind providence, won’t you send me to a wedding?

Chorus
And it’s oh, dear me, how would it be
If I die an old maid in the garrett?

I can cook and I can sew, I can keep the house right tidy,
And wake up in the morning to get the breakfast ready.
There’s nothing in this wide world would make me half so cheery,
As a wee, fat man who would call me his own deary.

Chorus

Well, now there’s my sister Jean, she’s not handsome or good-looking,
Scarcely fifteen and a fellow she was courting.
Now, she’s twenty-four with a son and a daughter;
Here am I at forty-five and I’ve never had an offer.

Chorus

So come landsman or come kingsman, come tinker or come tailor,
Come fiddler or come dancer, come ploughboy or come sailor,
Come rich man, come poor man, come bore or come witty,
Come any man at all who will marry me for pity.

Chorus

Well, now I’m on me way home, for nobody’s heeding.
Oh, nobody’s heeding to poor Annie’s bleeding!
So, I’m on me way home to my own pity garret.
If I can’t have a man, then I’ll surely get a parrot!

Chorus