> > I have a question involving the encoding of print-era poetry. How would
> > one encode the left hand line spacing in the following text:
[Paul F. Schaffner]
> I think that many have resorted to some variant on <L REND="indent1">,
> <L REND="indent2"> etc. where "1" and "2" represent indentation steps
> (or tab stops, if you like).
That's certainly how I've always handled this sort of thing, and trained
encoders to do likewise. I would agree that this isn't mere presentation: it
belongs to the semantics of the poem. There are some who take that line of
thought further and argue that in such cases the white space on the page
that falls within what one might call the "bounding box" of the stanza block
is part of the authorial text, made up of space "characters" specified by
the poet, which should therefore be represented in the markup of the <l> by
an equivalent number of non-breaking space characters in the canonical
That is probably a safer approach than "indentation" encoding where the
pattern is symmetrical across a vertical axis. This quite common in German
(and possibly other) Baroque poetry, and George Herbert's Easter Wings is
perhaps the best-known case in Eng Lit. It's interesting to Google for this
item and see the different ways in which on-line representations of it
inevitably fall some way short of what Herbert's original printer managed.
The whole effect in the original print edition (where the poem spans a
double spread and the print runs at right angles to that on the preceding
and following pages) depends on the necessity of physically rotating the
volume 90 degrees anti-clockwise before the poem can be read. Even if you
were sure users had one of those fancy swivelling flat screen displays (with
its software driver duly disabled, of course, so the text was forced to
rotate as the aspect ratio was shifted) you'd be hard pressed to encode, let
alone replicate, this effect and so retain an essential feature of the
reading experience offered by the original.
I think we ought sometimes to admit that we're beaten....