Hemingway the Poet

Inspired by a recent post at Shelf Love, I took in hand once again Hemingway's most deliberately poetic book, A Moveable Feast and share with you a transcription on one passage that recasts the prose to make of it more of a poetic shape.



From A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
Ernest Hemingway

Original:

I knew several of the men who fished the fruitful parts of the Seine between the Île St. Louis and the Square du Vert Galent and sometimes, if the day was bright, I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread and some sausage and sit in the sun and read one of the books I had bought and watch the fishing.

Recast--still all of Hemingway's words:

I knew several of the men
who fished the fruitful parts of the Seine
between the Île St. Louis
and the Square du Vert Galent
and sometimes, if the day was bright,
I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread
and some sausage and sit in the sun
and read one of the books I had bought
and watch the fishing.

Recasting adds absolutely nothing to what was already there--not a word, not even a more elegant frame.  But the words sounded in my ears in such a way that I felt the need to reshape the prose to reflect the sound.  I don't claim that it's an improvement in any way.  It is more a schoolboy exercise to see how you might cast the lines (pardon the pun, given the subject matter)  and this version is actually the second one I've come up with.  For those who have long avoided Hemingway, you might find this entrance to the prose more inviting and convivial.

Another version of the same:

I knew several
of the men who fished
the fruitful parts of the Seine
between the Île St. Louis
and the Square bu Vert
Galent and sometimes,
if the day was bright, I
would buy a liter of wine
and a piece of bread
and some sausage and sit
in the sun and read one
of the books I had bought
and watch the fishing.

(This was the first version).  Looking at the two, the longer lines better serve the first part of the paragraph, and the shorter lines the second.  Something like:


I knew several of the men
who fished the fruitful parts of the Seine
between the Île St. Louis
and the Square du Vert
Galent and sometimes,
if the day was bright, I
would buy a liter of wine
and a piece of bread
and some sausage and sit
in the sun and read one
of the books I had bought
and watch the fishing.

So now we have a third.  And that all three are in some degree supported by the internal rhythm and flow of the words speaks to the strength of the line, the sentence, the prose.

Here's a tribute I wrote, perhaps shortly after the initial encounter with this magnificent Hemingway opus.

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