These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination... Rabindranath Tagore

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
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On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white and gold and blue. When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.
--from Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.
- Joyce Carol Oates

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities


A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens. 1859.


...Guillotine. 
In front of it, seated in chairs, as in a garden of public diversion, 
are a number of women, 
busily knitting... 
 Dickens, Charles A Tale of Two Cities (p. 233). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.



Therese Defarge
bold leader of the knitting sisterhood
missed the game
today

but let me begin at
the revolutionary
beginning

it was
the best of times to see
the worst of times

Madame's benefactor
(her damaged sister)
paid The Ferryman

and Madame 

was able to watch the game
right from
the preliminary finals




She
was there
to muse
when Doctor Manette
emerged from his tower prison

She
was there
to plot
when spies
spied

She
was there
to grind her own axe
when the doctor's daughter
cried for her Charles Darnay
imprisoned
wrongfully 
for treason

She
was there
to turn
sweetness
sour

She watched many games
and played along with them

but
She missed
the grand final

the grand moment
when Sidney Carton
 idlest and most unpromising of men,
 took the place of Darnay
on the scaffold
and rose to glory

She
missed
her final revenge

the switch of
fate

too busy with
her own




NOTE
Images adapted from Works of Charles Dickens. Avenel Books. 1978.


Linking to:
Imaginary Garden With Real Toads - Open Link Monday



MY GOOD READS REVIEW
A Tale of Two CitiesA Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many years ago, I had to read this book as a school text. I was in Year 7 at the time. I remember being mesmerised with the knitting theme (knitting round a guillotine haunted me) and totally disenchanted with Lucie Manette, the Doctor's daughter. For some reason, I thought of Shakespeare's Desdemona - syrupy and tragic, bearable but not totally warm and likeable. All these years later, and my views haven't changed, but I have noticed other features in this story. Dickens is adept at personifying the weather and the countryside. The personifications subtly add tone and mystery and depth to unfolding dramas. He shaves off a few layers of character and storyline and then moves on. So frustratingly delightful. And he is also adept at seeing beyond external characters. Sidney Carton, the ugly, insipid loser of the whole narrative, becomes a tragic hero of grand proportion. I read the whole book in two sessions over two days. It still enchants.

View all my reviews

11 comments:

Vandana Sharma said...

Nice narration:) Happy holidays!

blueoran said...

A great story always weaves into our personal narrative, and the two become something unique, not only for the moment but for the tribe. And maybe that's why remembering the old tales is so important, because we need to hear our voice mixed in the older resonance. Without having read the piece by Dickens I try to infer which is which and can't, so I conclude that what was best then is also what is best now. Happy holidays -- B

Kerry O'Connor said...

A Tale of Two Cities is my favourite Dickens' novel. I read it at the age of 14, and was blown away by the cleverness of the plot and characters. This reminds me of how and why I fell in love with literature.

Merry Christmas.

kaykuala said...

What the Dickens! A Tale of Two Cities was most known as a text in literature at school. Enjoyed the twist you took in your poem, Gemma!
Wonderful write!

Hank

Robert Bourne said...

This brought back memories when discovery came through great books...

Sumana Roy said...

haunting lines.....Merry Christmas

Susan said...

A very enjoyable perspective in the retelling.

Susie Clevenger said...

Mesmerized with your retelling..so creative.

restraintunfettered.com said...

I love Dickens. I've read almost everything he's written. A great retelling of a mesmerizing story.

Kay L. Davies said...

Knitting can do that, make you miss the best bits.
I can admire Dickens without being a fan, I think. He brought forward so much to the public view, and they needed to be brought, but I cringe at knowing. I've never understood why that is.
This is an excellent write, Gemma, and I'm always so pleased when you visit the imaginary garden.
Wishing you the very best for the coming year.
K

grapeling said...

Oh, well done, Gemma. And cuts to the point, which Dickens paid-by-the-word novels often belabor. ~

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