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Epigraph in a submission

Hi Everyone, 

I need to include an epigraph in my submission because it is key to the story. It is a song with seven verses, each of which has four lines (on second thoughts, I'll add it below). But I'm wondering the best way to include it in the manuscript. I don't want to put agents off, and when it's double spaced it looks long and sprawling (can I use single spaces for it?). I've played around with punctuation too, and because of the refrain that cuts into how the sentences would be usually punctuated, I've gone for no punctuation. Another thing is the title, which I've centred and italicised part, as below, and I'm wondering if this is appropriate for a manuscript? I've looked at the Jericho advice and gleaned that the best method may to put it on the second page, after the title page and possibly use italics for the whole thing. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. By the way, this is a real song translated from Occitan and hence it is not the most literarily fluent to read, and I'm wondering about that too, although I have tidied it up a little. Here is the song...


Lo Boièr  

(The Song of the Oxherd)

Traditional Occitan folksong


When the oxherd returns from the plough (bis)

And sets his staff upon the ground

A, E, I, O, U

And sets his staff upon the ground


He finds his wife rested by the fire (bis)

Sorrowful and disconsolate

A, E, I, O, U

Sorrowful and disconsolate


Tell me truly if you are ill (bis)

And I will cook a potage for you

A, E, I, O, U

And I will cook a potage for you


With a radish and a cabbage (bis)

And with a thin and meagre lark

A, E, I, O, U

And with a thin and meagre lark


When I am dead, do bury me (bis)

in the deepest of all caverns

A, E, I, O, U

In the deepest of all caverns


With my feet set toward the wall (bis)

And with my head toward the spring

A, E, I, O, U

And with my head toward the spring


When the pilgrims pass that way (bis)

they will drink of sacred water

A, E, I, O, U

They will drink of sacred water


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Replies (10)
  • HI Iren,

    I'm not 100% sure what you're asking here but that's maybe my understanding or otherwise of epigraphs. My take on an epigraph is something that is added to the beginning of each chapter, usually a short passage, two or three lines at most. (Dean Koontz) used to do that a lot quoting from the Book of Counted Sorrows. which sardonically didn't exist until he decided to use all the made up quotes and create the Book of Counted Sorrows himself much later on.

    Anyway, my point is that my understanding of an epigraph is that they are short snippets of information inserted as you go along, not a whole song in one place. If you are planning on using short bits of the song for each chapter then fair enough and I don't think any agent would have an issue with that as long as it's relevant. If you are thinking of dropping the whole song in somewhere in the first three chapters of your manuscript that they tend to request then I'd counsel against doing that.

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    • Thanks for the advice, I'm not sure I fully understand the term epigraph now, although I thought I did, but I will look into it further. I also felt that dropping it in in the beginning of a submission would be off-putting.

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    • Hi just wondering if it would cost you a fortune in Royalties to use it? I think its fine to use at the beginning of the book to set the theme.

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      • As Julie says, it's an old song, so it shouldn't be a problem, but thanks for thinking of that.

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      • Iren, thank you for sharing this. I just listened to it and it's the most haunting song I've ever heard! Since it's from the 13th century, I don't think you'll have trouble using it, but check it out as Caron says. 

        I like Danny's suggestion but if you need to use the whole song in the beginning, I'd shorten it by single spacing because it doesn't look right double spaced. Take out the bis in parenthesis, it ruins the atmosphere. I like your translation, did you leave out the last verse on purpose?

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        • You beat me to it, lol.

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          • 😁

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            • Thanks very much, I'll have a play around and see what looks right. :)

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