…as chimney sweepers, come to dust.
Few things have stuck with me as long as the funeral song in Act IV of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. While the play is not a favorite of mine, this verse is a thing of perfect beauty that I love as much as any sonnet or soliloquy he wrote elsewhere. In the scene where it appears, two boys sing the song over the corpse of another boy. Except, the dead boy isn’t a boy. She’s a girl in disguise (Imogen), and she isn’t really dead—only sleeping after her stepmother’s failed attempt to fatally poison her. (400 year old Spoiler: when she wakes up, it’s next to her headless step-brother).
So, of course, when I finished my novel dealing with death and grief,1 I titled it, COME TO DUST.
There’s a long story about the years long process of writing this novel that I tell in the Afterword to the book. I’ll reprint that here later, when people have had a chance to buy the book. But the very short version is, I’ve never written anything in my life that was as emotionally personal and painful to put down on paper as this, and if it weren’t for Brian Keene (yeah, that Brian Keene), I probably never would have finished it. Again, that’s a story for another day.
Right now, I just want to tease you with a song, a thumbnail of the cover, and some jacket copy. In one week from today, you’ll be able to buy it. But for now, just enjoy some Shakespeare and then go hug someone you love and tell them what they mean to you, because we all, eventually, come to dust.
“Fear no more the heat o’ the sun”
by William Shakespeare
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!
And the novel:
COME TO DUST
by Bracken MacLeod
coming soon from Maelstrom and Thunderstorm Press.
Ever since her mother abandoned her, five-year-old Sophie has had to depend on her uncle Mitch for everything. But he’s struggling. Restarting a life interrupted by time in prison is hard enough without having to balance work and single parenthood. Mitch is determined to make it work though, striving to keep their family together despite the obstacles in their way, because no matter how difficult things get, they are good for each other. And life for the two of them seems to be looking up. But when Sophie dies tragically, it all comes crashing down. Mitch descends into a crippling grief, coming to understand how little his freedom means without her to share it with. And though released from the sudden responsibility thrust upon him, all he wants is his niece back, safe and alive.
When he gets his wish and scores of children around the world begin to inexplicably rise from the dead—Sophie among them—everything becomes much harder.
Mitch rescues her from the morgue, determined to carve out a normal life for them no matter what, though it soon becomes clear that may not be possible. While the kids who’ve returned behave like living children, they still look very dead. And they can do something else that normal children cannot. Something terrifying. Beliefs differ whether the children’s return is a mercy or a sign of approaching judgment, and a congregation of religious fanatics determined to usher in the apocalypse has their own plan for salvation.
Now Mitch must find a way to save Sophie from an increasingly hostile world that wants to tear them apart and put her back in the ground for good.
1 All my novels are about something. In this instance, while the surface story is about death and grieving, the framework is about what we owe to children. I’ll write more about that some other time.