User:Quuxplusone/Poetry

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This page explains the style in which I format poetry for Wikisource. See also Wikisource:Poetry.

Naming[edit]

A poem or poetry collection added to Wikisource should be named with the most common non-cumbersome form of its title, and then disambiguated by the last name of its author when needed. For example:,. When in doubt, disambiguate!

Attribution[edit]

The first thing that should appear on the page is a backlink to the relevant author page:

<[[Author:John Alden]]
<Author:John Alden

If there is more to say about the poem than its title and date of publication (such as the book in which it first appeared, an explanation of its context, or simply a link to the relevant Wikipedia page), it should go next, in complete, grammatical sentences. A horizontal rule (indicated in MediaWiki markup by four hyphens ----) should come after this additional information and before the actual content.

The title of the poem or collection should be given below the backlink or horizontal rule, in bold. It should be followed by the author's name and date of publication, if known. For example:

'''To a Skylark'''<BR>
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1820)
To a Skylark
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1820)

The text of the poem follows this attribution.

Sectioning[edit]

In a Wikisource page containing a single poem, no sectioning commands should be used. In a Wikisource page containing multiple discrete poems, such as, each poem should be preceded by a top-level section heading giving its name, or its first line (or metrical foot) sans terminal punctuation, like this:

==Sun of the sleepless==
Sun of the sleepless! melancholy star!
Whose tearful beam ...
Sun of the sleepless

Sun of the sleepless! melancholy star!
Whose tearful beam ...

If a single poem is divided into numbered stanzas by the original author, then those stanzas should be indicated with the {{Stanzabreak}} template. If the poem is divided into stanzas without numbers, then each pair of stanzas should be separated with a blank line:

==Uninspired Parodies==
{{stanzabreak|I}}
The aeroplane's alight<BR>
With twinkle bulbs and neon.<BR>
I tell you, that's a flight<BR>
I'd rather see than be on.<BR>

{{stanzabreak|II}}
To sow a field you do not need<BR>
To know your [[w:cotyledon|cotyledon]] &ndash;<BR>
Instead of study ere I seed<BR>
I'd rather seed and be done.<BR>
Uninspired Parodies
I

The aeroplane's alight
With twinkle bulbs and neon.
I tell you, that's a flight
I'd rather see than be on.

II

To sow a field you do not need
To know your cotyledon
Instead of study ere I seed
I'd rather seed and be done.

Indentation[edit]

If a single stanza has more than four lines, it is usually worth explicitly indicating the rhyme scheme by indentation. Any stanza with only two rhymes is easy to indent: the first rhyme takes no indentation and the second takes one level of indentation, like this (scheme ABABB):

And oft by yon blue gushing stream<BR>
&nbsp; Shall Sorrow lean her drooping head,<BR>
And feed deep thought with many a dream,<BR>
&nbsp; And lingering pause, and lightly tread,&ndash;<BR>
&nbsp; Fond wretch! as if her step disturb'd the dead!<BR>
And oft by yon blue gushing stream
  Shall Sorrow lean her drooping head,
And feed deep thought with many a dream,
  And lingering pause, and lightly tread,–
  Fond wretch! as if her step disturb'd the dead!

Notice the extra space after the &nbsp;one level of indentation actually adds two spaces.

Isolated couplets are never indented; thus, the last two lines in the following stanza (with scheme ABABCC) are not indented.

Away! we know that tears are vain,<BR>
&nbsp; That death nor heeds nor hears distress &ndash;<BR>
Will this unteach us to complain?<BR>
&nbsp; Or make one mourner weep the less?<BR>
And thou &ndash; who tell'st me to forget,<BR>
Thy looks are wan &ndash; thine eyes are wet.<BR>
Away! we know that tears are vain,
  That death nor heeds nor hears distress –
Will this unteach us to complain?
  Or make one mourner weep the less?
And thou – who tell'st me to forget,
Thy looks are wan – thine eyes are wet.

Two levels of indentation may be used for rhyme schemes such as ABCABC, but three levels is pushing it. At some point, you must decide to "collapse" two rhymes into one — for example, indenting ABCDDABCDD as if it were ABCAAABCAA or AABCCAABCC. Of course, if you happen to possess an authoritative copy of the original work, it makes sense to preserve the poet's own formatting to the extent possible on Wikisource. And when it comes to modern poetry, such as that of E.E. Cummings, all bets are off!

Line numbering[edit]

For long works (more than a few dozen lines) without numbered stanzas, it is extremely useful to add line numbers to the text for the convenience of those readers who wish to cite particular lines or passages. No really good standard for this kind of markup has emerged on Wikisource yet, so here is the method I have become accustomed to using: Each fifth line is marked in a small blue font, to the right of the end of the line (so as not to interfere with the indentation). Each fiftieth line, in long works such as ', is additionally marked with an HTML anchor to facilitate direct linking. For example:

...
If night is mute, yet the returning sun  &nbsp; <small><font color="#0000FF">295</font></small><BR>
 Kindles the voices of the morning birds;<BR>
 Nor at thy bidding less exultingly<BR>
 Than birds rejoicing in the golden day,<BR>
 The Anarchies of Africa unleash<BR><span id="Hellas300"></span>
 Their tempest-winged cities of the sea,  &nbsp; <small><font color="#0000FF">300</font></small><BR>
 To speak in thunder to the rebel world.<BR>
...
If night is mute, yet the returning sun   295
Kindles the voices of the morning birds;
Nor at thy bidding less exultingly
Than birds rejoicing in the golden day,
The Anarchies of Africa unleash
Their tempest-winged cities of the sea,   300
To speak in thunder to the rebel world.

Notice that the HTML anchor is positioned on the line before the fiftieth; notice again the extra spaces around the &nbsp; entity, which move the line number some distance away from the text of the line itself.


Punctuation[edit]

Punctuation is always tricky. In general, most poems are designed to be grammatical, so if you find a passage like

If that high world, which lies beyond
  Our own, surviving love endears
If there the cherished heart be fond
  The eye the same – except in tears
How welcome those untrodden spheres!

you can be reasonably certain that it's missing a few key commas and semicolons, and perhaps some dashes. At that point, it's time to check the Wikisource text against an authoritative print edition, or take a representative sample of online versions and compare their punctuation styles.

It's virtually assured that no two online versions will use the same punctuation; many of them don't even get the words right! Whether dealing with punctuation or wording, it's worth knowing the principle of lectio difficilior potior ("the more difficult reading is the stronger") — for example, many online sources falsely "correct" the word hath to that in Byron's "." Thus, I prefer punctuation styles replete with semicolons and dashes (at least for Romantic poetry), and am leery of sources containing a large number of commas, since a comma might indicate a "devolved" semicolon, colon, or dash.

Dashes[edit]

When formatting pre-1900 poetry, I prefer to use the "British" dash style: the shorter en-dash (–) where an American would typically use the longer em-dash (—). In fact, I distinguish between the two dashes as follows: The en-dash indicates a grammatical pause, while the em-dash indicates a break or sudden stop in speech, independent of English grammar.

"I don't understand," said the inspector. "In fact—"

"Don't you see?" exclaimed George. "I'm trying to tell you – Darlington is a gorilla!"

Notice that the exclamation point, being part of the exclamation italicized for emphasis, is also italicized. This is true for question marks as well, but not for any other punctuation, such as periods or commas.

Many poets of the Romantic period were fond of using dashes in conjunction with commas, periods, or colons. In such cases, the en-dash should follow immediately upon the heels of the other symbol, with no space, like this:– or this,– unless the symbol is an exclamation point or question mark.

Annotation[edit]

I believe part of Wikisource's unique appeal is the ease of linking to other Wikimedia projects, such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Therefore, it is important to annotate all Wikisource's works, including poems, with the most relevant links possible. In general, words and concepts which are familiar to a majority of high-school-educated native English speakers should not be linked at all; too few links is probably better than too many. As a general rule, unfamiliar words should be linked to Wiktionary; unfamiliar concepts should be linked to Wikipedia. But always consider which of your options contains the most relevant and useful information on the question foremost in the reader's mind. For example, the word fane prompts the question, "What does that word mean?" and the question is best answered by a link to Wiktionary. The phrase Second Temple, on the other hand, prompts questions unrelated to the meaning of Second or Temple; the appropriate link is to the Wikipedia article.

Perhaps less obviously, the phrase Duke of York should often be linked to the Wikipedia article on James II of England, rather than to the article whose title is literally "Duke of York" (which lists everyone ever to hold that title); and when Robin Cook refers in one of his speeches to the Prime Minister, a piped link to Tony Blair is in order.

A technical note on MediaWiki syntax: Piped links to Wikipedia or Wiktionary can be created using a non-obvious shorthand: [[w:foo|]], with nothing following the pipe, will produce foo, a link to Wikipedia; and [[wikt:foo|]] will produce foo, a link to Wiktionary.