This short story is one I cherish and hold dear as it inspired my current work in progress, “An Elizabethan Affair.” It is titled the same and was originally written in the first person as it pertains to exactly my thoughts and most inner desires. It was contrived from a writing prompt during the earlier years of our writer’s circle approximately 2002. I shared this work at an evening while at Humber College in Toronto partaking in a writer’s life week in the summer of 2004. The evening was a word jam with a reading from everyone registered in the program. We were allotted a 3 minute limit – exactly – with one after another. I think I was number 28 or so out of 60+ readers. It was an interesting and exciting event! You were able to experience the different written work as read by their creators. The 3 minute mark on this piece comes in exactly where I meet William and ask him to read me his poetry. I received rave reviews and the next day many of my fellow registrants came up to me to say how much they liked it. I was pumped~! I decided to rewrite the work in the third person and, of course, did a little edit here and there – you know, growth 🙂
An Elizabethan Affair (the short, clean version…)
She often pondered the question of visiting special times and special places ~ distant lands beckoned; the siren of the sea called; history unfolded its countless maps, laying at her feet the journeys of roads not taken. The chance to engage in romantic conversation with one’s heroes would prove too great a temptation to resist. Yes, this offer would open up possibilities. To visit such a place ~ one she would not have been born a part of but would chance ~ yes, such an adventure is as vast as an open book.
Some would think because she is a dreamer she would chance a fantastical meeting with one of her fictional heroes. He would slay monsters; fight villains; discover galaxies far off. He would stand for all that is good in mankind and his sword, be it steel or light, would reflect the kind of man he was: one who would fight for honor of life, the respect of men and, of course, the only one who could rescue her and earn her heart.
Or, perhaps, because she is a compassionate person with equal rights a cause dear to her heart, she would chance the political perils of a time when your voice and action could on one hand, put you in danger but on the other, render change for generations to come. She would revisit the past and make her voice heard alongside heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King or Susan B. Anthony. Their passion for freedom and equal rights led the way so that we might stand as equals with our fellow man or woman, regardless of race or gender.
As an artist she would wander with her palette to the studios and galleries of the great post-Impressionist painters chancing an encounter with Cezanne or van Gogh. With them she would capture the essence of spring in a Paris park or the hustle and bustle along the Champs De Lyse. She would most likely dare to enter the Sistine Chapel and gaze upon the works of Michelangelo and maybe watch as he painstakingly colored the ceiling that would inspire the world for centuries to come.
However, as a writer she would chance upon an era of harder times, where the phrase “you’ve come a long way, baby” would mean just that… your child traveled a long way with you, perhaps into the city on an afternoon outing. The fight for equality among men and women would include the evolution of getting females to actually play female roles upon the great stages of London. Liberal values aside, she would pack up her pride and quiet her outspoken voice to hear the poetic passion of one of the greatest writers of all time.
She would have to be prim and proper for she knows as a woman she would not be a part of the production but at least she might be privy to a chance meeting.
“William,” she would say, remembering to be refined. “Please, read me your poetry.”
“Of late, I do count my works with busy hands as does the clock count minutes upon its face.” He would indicate a stack of penned parchments and pile of broken quills in dramatic fashion.
“Read me what you are working on. I see it is your seventeenth…” He would be scratching and inking words as they spoke ~ a persistent writer, dedicated to his craft ~ she knew he would not stop for long even for visits from ladies proper.
He would rise and venture a look over the groomed lawns of his Tudor home, taking in the early summer sunshine, warm through the open shutters. He would clear his throat… and turn to take in her image.
“Whereas your visit is greatly appreciated, I fear you seek me out for foolish reasons, Miss. ‘Tis not of more importance that which is written but rather, that which is spoken. There t’would be case to hold truth for mankind to come.”
“I daresay, William, your words do inspire. Great writers dare to compare themselves to you. Great actors chance to feel the compassion in your words displaying them many times upon the stage. You are quoted. You are part of teachings in schools, year after year. Yes, William, there are others… but it seems your written words speak much louder.”
Although somewhat doubtful at her words, he would shake his head thoughtfully, his long locks swaying in their ribbon. After a brief musing, he would proceed:
“Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill’d with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts
If I could write the beauty in your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘This poet lies;
Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.’
So should my papers, yellowed with their age,
Be scorn’d, like old men of less truth than tongue;
And your true rights be term’d a poet’s rage,
And stretched metre of an antique song,
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice ~ in it, and in my rhyme.”
She would fan herself as the blush rises from her chest, over her neck to her face. He would smile at her obvious infatuation with him and his words.
“Oh, William,” she would gush. “You cannot convince me, in no uncertain terms; those beautiful words will speak just as loud, ages hence.”
“You flatter me, Miss.” He would be obviously pleased with himself and would hide the flirtatious smile playing upon his lips by turning away. As he busied himself at the sideboard, his words would continue. “To give away yourself keeps yourself still; and you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.” With that he would turn back to his visitor, a crystal glass of claret temptingly extended.
The hearth warm with glowing embers, their hearts warm with proffered poison ~ they would discuss the merits of metaphors, sing the praises of similes, and challenge rhyme into the starlit night. At some time, the poetic soul would sleep ~ new words would weave poem dreams into his mind with every iambic beat of his heart. With a gentle kiss to his cheek she would pen a note with scripted words:
“Yet but one chance upon us did befall, thy love will be confused when in the morn’ recalled.”
The candles burned out and the coal oil lamps low ~ she would slip away silent with the break of dawn. Long after her return, she would remember their visit and she would secretly ponder the meaning and inspiration for number eighteen:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate…” Smiling slyly she would continue, “My dearest William. Temperate? I do not think temperate is the word I would have used, my love.”