Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Inspiration for WHEN MAIDENS MOURN


I practice my morning yoga to a CD that concludes with Loreena McKennitt's haunting rendition of Tennyson's poem, "The Lady of Shalott." I've owned this recording for years, and yet my heart still aches each time I listen to it. The idea for the story that eventually became When Maidens Mourn developed slowly, over many months of mornings. It began with an image of a woman who had devoted her life to research and writing, only to realize she was missing out on the important things in life. And then, as she reaches for life, she dies...her body cast adrift on an ancient waterway.

The YouTube link above has Loreena McKennitt's song. The words to Tennyson's poem are below. And When Maidens Mourn officially goes on sale Tuesday, 6 March!

The Lady of Shalott

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Thro' the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."


Sphinx Ink said...

Lovely song -- the lyrics, by one of the greatest poets in the English language; the music that so well expresses them; and the singer's beautiful voice . . . thanks for introducing us to it.

Anna said...

Clever story ["When Maidens Mourn"], but I miss Kat!!! I feel like she got the short end of the stick...(as in not Sebastian)

Kim said...

Hi Candy,
What am I supposed to read now for the next 364 days of the "sebastian" year? I love your series, loved "Trade Wind" and other MM Kaye. Could you recommend some others for me? I would really appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Any chance book #8 can come out in Nov/Dec since you are ahead of schedule with it?? pretty please :)

vp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vp said...

Lucky enough to grab an ARC at a recent conference and loved When Maidens Mourn! It feels like you have really hit your stride with this amazing series! Can't wait for Who Bells the Cat.
(Yes, I know it is What Darkness Bring now, but I refuse to give up a title that I love so much.) ;)

Jane said...

I was curious about the poem, The Lady of Shalott, and did a search on the net. I happened upon Loreena McKennit's song a few weeks ago and liked it so much that I ordered the CD. She has a beautiful voice.

I ordered both the ebook and a signed hardcopy of When Maidens Mourn. Tomorrow's the big day! I can't wait.

Although I enjoy the mystery, that is secondary to the dynamics of Sebastian and Hero's relationship and the changes that will ensue as a result of their marriage. And I also appreciate the fact that you have created such a rich cast of secondary characters who are interesting and keep evolving.

Kate said...

The mystery is good - but I need more romance!!!

cs harris said...

Sphinx Ink, ironically, I first heard her when Borders was playing one of her CDs during a Wordsmith's meeting. After it was over we went up to the music department and said, "What were you playing? I want it!"

Anna, Kat figures prominently in WHAT DARKNESS BRINGS.

Kim, Have you read Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond series? Some people hate it, but I love it. Start with Game of Kings and even if the beginning seems hard to get into, keep going.

Anon, publishers like to have 12-15 months of lead time between submission and release, so I'm afraid even the suggestion of pushing up the pub date would give them a severe case of the shudders. I understand they're cover conferencing today.

vp, thank you! What conference did you get the ARC from? I wasn't told they were doing that; that's great. Always helps to get new readers interested in a series. And like you, I still prefer the old title, sigh.

cs harris said...

Kate, ah, you'll like What Darkness Brings!

cs harris said...

Jane, thank you so much.

Linhie said...

Now I'm looking even more forward to "What Darkness Brings" - more romance, I'm so thrilled! Considering the timeline of WDB, I'm hoping Sebastian or Hero junior makes an appearance!

Mystery, Romance, History... All my favorite genres in one awesome package! I love this series! Now if the clock would just fast forward several hours so I could get my hands on WMM.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just loved all the symbolism and ties from the poem to your book. Lots of things incorporated from the curse of epilepsy to the quote of I'm half sick of shadows and so much more. Just terrific to see your inspiration and how you tied it all together. I love the story even more. I'm getting kindle version tomorrow for my second read and I'll be on the lookout for more ties that I'm sure I missed. Bravo!!! Sabena

Jessica said...

Loreena McKennitt's version of "The Highwayman" is just as amazing.

I was originally partial to that poem because of the Anne of Green Gables movie (which also uses The Lady of Shalott), and Loreena McKennitt's versions have that same haunting quality.

cs harris said...

Linhie, thanks so much. Not long now!

Sabena, thank you. I had a wonderful time weaving all the threads of this book together. It seemed as if the more I discovered about everything from the Tennysons to Camlet Moat to Arthur, the more everything fell into place.

Jessica, I'm off to listen to her "Hightwayman." I have four of her CDs, but that isn't on any of them. And I didn't see the Anne of Green Gables movie, so I'll have to look into that, too!

Charles Gramlich said...

I never heard this story of how the tale came about. Very interesting. Great piece.

vp said...

Picked up an ARC at ALA midwinter in Dallas in January. There were only a couple and they were the plain, 'brown paper wrapping' ones without any cover art, etc. Still, it meant I got an early peek and I'm grateful for that. Of course I had already pre-ordered for my kindle, so as with all of the previous St. Cyr books, I have this one in two formats! This means that I always have Sebastian close by.

Katharina said...

Ah, copyright sometimes is really frustrating (no access to the song from Germany) ;-)
Just bought the e-book of "When Maidens Mourn" and will head straight to bed with it... I really fear for my concentration at work tomorrow!

Kim said...

Hi Candy,

Thanks for the suggestion for the Lymond series but tell me this: is there romance in them like yours do? I gotta have some romance in my stories... that's why yours are so perfect :) Mystery, history, and a dab of romance


Jessica said...

The Highwayman is on the same CD as The Mummer's Dance, which is the one they way (way!) overplayed when it came out.

If you haven't seen the Anne of Green Gables movie (the first one), you're in for a treat. It was done by CBC in the 1980s, and they really got the spirit of the book right, and the casting was great. It was filmed in PEI, and it's one of the relatively few book-to-movie adaptations that didn't butcher the book.

paz said...

Just finished. Wonderful. And sad too. Yet another year...

So, Mr. Knox(!). Interesting to say the least. I'm thinking that there is a Welsh connection (probably because you hinted at this in one of your author's notes). Connecting him to Yates, even trickier, yet so right!

I am also sooo curious about two gifts Hero has recieved -- the pendant and the jewelry box... Will they be reappearing soon?

cs harris said...

Charles, might be an interesting topic for a Monday night meeting--inspirations.

vp, thanks; I didn't know they did that. And they always give my ARCs the brown paper wrappers, sigh.

Katherine, that's too bad about the song. Maybe Google a German site?

Jessica, I'll put it on my Netfix list. I must have read that book to my older daughter a dozen times.

Paz, my lips are sealed!

cs harris said...

Kim, yes there is a romance--actually, several--in the Lymond series. The romance between Lymond and Philiipa is woven through the entire series, and does have a happy ending, although the getting there is torturous.

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of Kim's question, what are some of your favorite books Candy?

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

Oh, wow. You continue to delight and inspire and boost my admiration for your work! "When Maidens Mourn" is a must-have and I will read it again and again. It is a bit funny, though, that reading it has reminded me of Jane Campion's "Bright Star" and her focus on Fanny Brawne's impressive talent as a seamstress; I guess it was Hero's assessment of Gabrielle's garments. If it matters, I'm on Team Hero ;0 And of all the Loreena McKennitt CDs I own, Is till need this one! Three cheers for you!

Mom in High Heels said...

I just finished! My first read through is always quick because I HAVE to know what happens and then I go back and read it at a more leisurely pace to soak in all the goodness. When I woke up there was a message from Amazon on my email confirming my purchase and I immediately grabbed my Kindle and started reading. Oh, sure, I took care of the baby and did some home school work with ds1 (I managed to schedule lots of independent work because I knew the book would drop-I'm clever like that), but mostly I read.

I love Hero so much. I loved her even more in this book. I loved that we saw some of her vulnerability and feelings. I can't wait for the next book to see where she and Sebastian go with their relationship. Really, another year? Are you trying to kill me?

Like Katharina, I can't get the video in Germany either. I'm an American, I should have special internet licensing so I can get all the cool stuff. :)

The poem is one of my favorites though as is the Highwayman (I want to weep when I read it!) I may have to try to find them unlicensed on youtube.

Thanks for another great installment! How many do you have planned?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I was sooo team Kat, and even though there is no hope (for her and sebastian) now, I still think they should be together! That, being said, I will read (and own)every book in this series anyways...

cs harris said...

Anon at 7:30, one of my favorite's is To Kill a Mockingbird, which I recently reread for the first time in many years and found myself still in awe. I enjoy Mark Train, and Huck Finn is still a favorite. In mysteries, I love James Lee Burke and Martin Cruz Smith. In romance, I'm an old Georgette Heyer fan, and also loved Lavyrle Spencer's historical romances. Other favorites include Pat Conroy and George Orwell.

Barbara, thank you. I'll have to look for "Bright Star"!

Mom in hh, thank you. I actually don't have a set number that I plan to write. I have ideas for quite a few more. I suspect I'll stop when I feel I've said all I have to say about the characters. I would like to quit before I reach the stage where my readers are saying, "I USED to like her books, but...."!

Anon at 11:40, well, in a sense I'm Team Kat as well as Team Hero; I really do love both women. I believe I mentioned once that when I was first planning this series, the character I began with was actually KAT. Kat does play a very large role in What Darkness Brings.

Essex said...

I have to admit that I struggled initially through the Lymond books. I thought that Lymond was a bit of a jerk, to be honest. But the ending was satisfying, and he proved to be a better guy than I thought. They are great books
I really, really enjoyed When Maidens Mourn. It was a perfect blend of mystery and romance with enough elements of both to keep any reader satisfied, I would say. As others have said, I finished it and thought to myself that I couldn't believe that I have to wait another year for the next book. I almost wish that I could do what I have done with other book series - picked up when the series was finished so that I could read ALL of them one after another in a period of a few days so that I wouldn't feel this impatience!

cs harris said...

Essex, you're right, Lymond is a actually quite a jerk! But then, he's so brilliant and cool, he's allowed to be. A wonderful example of a flawed hero. I was lucky that I discovered that series right after she'd written the last book, because I would have hated having to wait years in between for the next installment. Glad to hear you enjoyed Maidens.

Anonymous said...

Will you be writting more about St.Seabastian Cyr! ? I just found by chance what a lucky break for me!!I'm big on reading love you're style. Lets have more with the Vicount& Vicountess great couple!! for solving mysteries!!Good luck with furture stories I'm waiting!