Knowledge Base: Verse, Line Breaks, and White Space

When including poetry or other kinds of text in which line breaks are significant, you’ll want to keep WordPress from flowing the text from line to line based upon the width of the window, but instead place the line breaks yourself.  Simply pressing the “Enter” key at the end of each line, however, makes each line its own paragraph, which adds white space between the lines and looks ugly.  For example, here is one of my favourite Dorothy Parker poems formatted this way.

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,

A medley of extemporania;

And love is a thing that can never go wrong;

And I am Marie of Roumania.

— Dorothy Parker

Ugly, isn’t it?  To indicate a line break without starting a new paragraph, hold down the “Shift” key while you press “Enter”.  This will result in single-spaced text within a single paragraph.  Here is the poem re-set using Shift-Enter.

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporania;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.
— Dorothy Parker

Much better!  If a poem contains multiple stanzas, use Shift-Enter between lines of a stanza and the regular Enter between stanzas.

Now, how did I indent the poet’s name at the end?  This involves a somewhat sneakier bit of skulduggery.  When entering the poem, I switched to the “Text” editor tab in the composition window and entered the author’s name as:

<span style="margin-left: 6em;">— Dorothy Parker</span>

This inserts white space with a width of 6 “M” characters to the left of the text enclosed in the span.  You can use this gimmick anywhere you’d like to insert white space, for example in poems by E. E. Cummings that use eccentric spacing for effect.


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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Two hundred years ago, halfway around the planet from where I sit, Constable painted someone fishing, or perhaps just messing around, in some little English stream I shall never see.  “Tree Trunks” is the name it goes by, and the trunks are all right, as are the shadows and sun on the grassy bank.  What touch me most are the browned leaves of autumn and the shimmering gold light created by those increasingly slanting sunbeams.

This is what we have now; we have it every year; amazing.  Further, after the last couple of weeks we deserve it more than ever.

To go with that, here is John Keats:  Ode to Autumn.

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring?  Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

 

No more have we thatched roofs, thankfully, and no more standing there winnowing grain for hours by throwing basket after basket after basket – full up into the air so that the chaff can blow away.  Nor do we dose our babies with poppy juice, as my ancestors did, and lay them to snooze at the edge of the field while we go out to bend down and reap, hours by hours.

Aside from those things, Keats details all the loveliness still to be enjoyed in autumn. Our season is prolonged this year.  How goes it with you all? Have you a favorite painting or poem for autumn?


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Today’s Kipling – The Mare’s Nest

(Sometimes the course of true love fails to run smoothly. . .)

The Mare’s Nest

Rudyard Kipling

Jane Austen Beecher Stowe de Rouse
Was good beyond all earthly need;
But, on the other hand, her spouse
Was very, very bad indeed.
He smoked cigars, called churches slow,
And raced — but this she did not know.

For Belial Machiavelli kept
The little fact a secret, and,
Though o’er his minor sins she wept,
Jane Austen did not understand
That Lilly — thirteen-two and bay
Absorbed one-half her husband’s pay.

She was so good, she made hime worse;
(Some women are like this, I think;)
He taught her parrot how to curse,
Her Assam monkey how to drink.
He vexed her righteous soul until
She went up, and he went down hill.

Then came the crisis, strange to say,
Which turned a good wife to a better.
A telegraphic peon, one day,
Brought her — now, had it been a letter
For Belial Machiavelli, I
Know Jane would just have let it lie.

But ’twas a telegram instead,
Marked “urgent,” and her duty plain
To open it. Jane Austen read:
“Your Lilly’s got a cough again.
Can’t understand why she is kept
At your expense.” Jane Austen wept.

It was a misdirected wire.
Her husband was at Shaitanpore.
She spread her anger, hot as fire,
Through six thin foreign sheets or more.
Sent off that letter, wrote another
To her solicitor — and mother.

Then Belial Machiavelli saw
Her error and, I trust, his own,
Wired to the minion of the Law,
And traveled wifeward — not alone.
For Lilly — thirteen-two and bay —
Came in a horse-box all the way.

There was a scene — a weep or two —
With many kisses. Austen Jane
Rode Lilly all the season through,
And never opened wires again.
She races now with Belial. This
Is very sad, but so it is.


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Today’s Kipling – The Press

The Press

Rudyard Kipling

The Soldier may forget his Sword,
The Sailorman the Sea,
The Mason may forget the Word
And the Priest his Litany:
The Maid may forget both jewel and gem,
And the Bride her wedding-dress-
But the Jew shall forget Jerusalem
Ere we forget the Press !

Who once hath stood through the loaded hour
Ere, roaring like the gale,
The Harrild and the Hoe devour
Their league-long paper-bale,
And has lit his pipe in the morning calm
That follows the midnight stress-
He hath sold his heart to the old Black Art
We call the daily Press.

Who once hath dealt in the widest game
That all of a man can play,
No later love, no larger fame
Will lure him long away.
As the war-horse snuffeth the battle afar,
The entered Soul, no less,
He saith: “Ha! Ha!” where the trumpets are
And the thunders of the Press!

Canst thou number the days that we fulfill,
Or the Times that we bring forth ?
Canst thou send the lightnings to do thy will,
And cause them reign on earth ?
Hast thou given a peacock goodly wings,
To please his foolishness ?
Sit down at the heart of men and things,
Companion of the Press !

The Pope may launch his Interdict,
The Union its decree,
But the bubble is blown and the bubble is pricked
By Us and such as We.
Remember the battle and stand aside
While Thrones and Powers confess
That King over all the children of pride
Is the Press – the Press – the Press !


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