Henry Abbey - Stories in Verse

Stories in verse - Henry Abbey

Hello and welcome to another installment of my Gutenberg Project Project. If you have tuned in just now, this is the project where I attempt to read all the book from Gutenberg Project in alphabetical order.

I am happy to announce that I have left AA and I am now in AB.

I knew that sooner or later I would have to read something that rhymes. I am not a big fan of things that rhyme (or free verse for that matter) but these are supposed to be Stories in Verse. I can do stories.

Most of the stories in the collection have to do with the persona’s path to be reunited with his beautiful love. It usually follows this path: Persona sees a beautiful girl, he falls in love with her on spot, she returns the feeling and the comes the obstacle. The obstacle may take different forms, it could be an evil uncle who doesn’t want his daughter to marry his nephew (strangely, the fact that they are first cousins does not seem to be a problem), or, when things get weirder, the persona being buried alive (very Edgar Alan Poesque but with a happy ending), or, and wait for it... a giant spider which kidnaps the girl. Well, why not.

The love interests are always beautiful:

"Her eyes seem to drink from my own.
Her curls are carelessly thrown
Back from white shoulder and cheek;
And her lips seem strawberries, lost
In some Arctic country of frost."


"Her sensuous long dark lashes hung above her dreamy eyes,
Like twin clouds of stormy portent balanced over limpid deeps;
Like the wings of birds of passage seen against the hazy skies;
Like the petal o'er the pollen of the flow'ret when it sleeps"

You get the drift.

Henry Abbey becomes a Muslim, or a poor fisherman, a Beduin, moves back in time, but no matter how exotic the setting and circumstances, he doesn't seem to have any problem inhabiting all these varied characters. There is only time when he abandons first person narrative and changes to the third person. Bizarrely it is when he tells a story close to him in time and space. It is when he tells a story of black slave from the American South. It is impossible to find a fault in that story, the main character is not presented as some sort 'noble savage', he is a man full finest qualities; intelligent and brave. Yet, Abbey wrote about him in the third person, which just goes to show how much of 'The Other' a black man was.

All in all, Abbey is a good guy. He has a good opinion of women, even though they have little in terms of personality in his stories (they are good, charitable and of strong faith). There is one interesting story in the collection which is a kind of loose retelling of Adam and Eve myth, in which Even stays good and strong and Adam helps himself to the apple. Well, that's refreshing.