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Why doe you thus torment my poorest hart?
why doe you cleerest eyes obʃcure all day
from mee loves poorest vaʃsall, can my ʃmart
ad triumph to your Croune, make noe delay
butt quickly O conclude, and doe nott stay,
rebellions must bee crusht by preʃent art
yett I a subiect ame wt out dismaye,
for loyalty I iustly claime great part,
butt if thos cruell eyes will nott impart
a favourable ʃenʃure, Oh poore claye
how can an new mould bee to eaʃe my ʃmart?
noe an new death must all thes ills repay,
Then wellcom death ʃince by thos eyes I dy,
Love looke, are any cleerer in your skye;/
Why do you thus torment my poorest heart?
Why do you clearest eyes obscure all day
from me, loves poorest vassal? Can my smart
add triumph to your crown? Make no delay
but quickly oh conclude, and do not stay.
Rebellions must be crushed by present art,
yet I a subject am without dismay;
for loyalty I justly claim great part,
but if those cruel eyes will not impart
a favourable censure, oh poor clay,
how can a new mould be to ease my smart?
No, a new death must all these ills repay.
Then welcome death, since by those eyes I die,
love look, are any clearer in your sky?
N1 (p. 24): This is a song sung by the Prince of Corinth and overheard by Pamphilia and Amphilanthus. Unfortunately, music only exists for one song in the manuscript continuation of Urania (see N14), but we are told that this song is sung 'to an od kind of music' (24), although the prince's voice is 'suteable to his ditty' (24). Katie Larson (private communication) suggests that the idea of the song being odd might mean that it is unusual, rather than odd having a pejorative meaning, especially given the Prince’s ‘suitable voice’. (For song in Wroth in general see Katie R. Larson, The Matter of Song in Early Modern England, OUP, 2019.) The Prince’s song and state are provoked by his unrequited love for ‘a scornefull, senceles creature’ (27). The song is in the form of a sonnet using the kind of elaborate rhyme scheme found, for example, in Wroth’s uncle Philip Sidney’s ‘Astrophil and Stella’: ABAB BABA ABAB CC.
heart: the tortured heart is a common image in Wroth’s poetry.
obscure all day/from me: i.e. block out the day’s light. Note the clever use of enjambment where the break of the line mimics the obscuring.
Rebellions: the political overtones in this poem are worth noting: the scornful lover is a ruler with a crown, rejecting the rebellion of the speaker, who is a loyal subject, but nevertheless one who will be crushed by ‘art’. Like so much of Wroth’s work, especially Urania, the vicissitudes of desire cannot be separated from anxieties over Jacobean foreign policy, forward Protestant demands for engagement in religious conflict, and some resistance to increasingly arbitrary monarchical power.
poor clay: it what the body is fashioned from (in the story of Genesis).
new mould: i.e. a refashioned body (clay in a new mould) as opposed to ‘welcome death’, which is the only escape from the frustrated lover’s torment.
Had I loved butt att that rate
which hath bin̅ ordain’d by fate
to all your kinde;
I had full requited bin̅
nor your slighting mee had ʃeene,
nor once repined
neglect to find,
as in least ʃort to bee mine
My hart denies
I doe think no thought butt thee,
nor deʃire more light to ʃee
then what doth riʃe
from thy faire eyes,
in exceʃs of my respect
the fault doth rest
thou dost pretty love impart,
as can lodge in woemans hart
non showld bee prest
beeyound ther best,
then againe thou cowldst restore,
and woeman bee
I made thee against thy will
to remaine vngratefull still
by binding thee
ʃoe much to mee;
Had I loved but at that rate
which has been ordained by fate
to all your kind,
I had full requited been,
nor your slighting me had seen,
nor once repined
neglect to find.
as in least sort to be mine
my heart denies.
I do think no thought but thee,
nor desire more light to see
than what doth rise
from thy fair eyes.
in excess of my respect
the fault doth rest;
thou dost pretty love impart,
as can lodge in woman’s heart,
none should be pressed
beyond their best.
than again thou couldst restore
and woman be;
I made thee against thy will
to remain ungrateful still
by binding thee
so much to me.
N2 (pp. 30-31): This poem is a remarkable example of the intersection between Wroth’s invented characters and their parallel figures ‘in real life’, as well as an example of how the fictionalisation enables Wroth to make some subtle points about her characters and about emotional and political contexts. This is a song composed by Amphilanthus and presented to Antissia ‘when hee made a shew of love’ to her (30), even though it was meant for ‘a higher beauty’ (that is, for Pamphilia). We are not told how the song has made its way from Antissia into Pamphilia’s repertoire; one can only assume that Amphilanthus presented it to her as the true recipient. The song was indeed written by William Herbert, Wroth’s lover and the ‘real life’ equivalent of Amphilanthus, and it exists in six extant manuscripts, ascribed to Herbert in three of them. So Wroth has taken Herbert’s song/poem, ‘given’ it to Amphilanthus, but imagined a situation in which Pamphilia would sing the song and thus underlines the irony of this male lament that is in a sense a have your cake and eat it too position: if only he had loved as women do, he would have been requited, but women are in fact unreliable, ‘ungrateful’, because of their being bound to the male lover’s desire. Because Wroth contrives to have the song sung by a woman rather than a man, it becomes part of her exploration of female desire in a world of casual misogyny. The fictional context is also ironic, because at this point in the narrative, Pamphilia is married to the King of Tartaria, and Amphilanthus is married to the Princess of Slavonia. Amphilanthus, in a fascinating example of politically significant wish-fulfilment, has become the Holy Roman Emperor, which would, if it happened in real life, offer a Protestant ascendancy in Europe, just as Pamphilia’s marriage offers a reconciliation between East and West.
Manuscripts containing the poem: British Library Additional manuscripts: 25303, fol. 130v; 21433, fols. 119v-120v; 10309, fols. 125-125v; British Library Harley MS 6917 fols. 33v-34; National Library of Scotland MS 6504, fol. 98v; National Library of Scotland MS 2067, fols. 1-1v.
For a detailed examination of the poetic interactions between Wroth and Herbert see Mary Ellen Lamb, ‘“Can you suspect a change in me”: Poems by Mary Wroth and William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke’, in Katherine R. Larson et al., eds., Re-Reading Mary Wroth (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 53-68.
that rate: with that intensity, at that level.
See Appendix (at end, after Poem 19) for images of the poem as it appears in four British Library Manuscripts.
Most deere, more hapy ʃoverainʃing harts
free from flattering
murdering peeces prove your ʃweet eye darts
Joys from deʃire ʃcattering,
you knowe murdering
A crime by all condemn’d, is this your skill,
nor cauʃ’d nor furdering,
thos humours flowing
butt if itt bee you love to fleet, and role
poor slaves for honors showing
and pitty wanting cry alas wo’s mee;/
Most dear, more happy sovereign[i]sing hearts,
free from flattering,
murdering pieces prove your sweet eye darts,
joys from desire scattering.
You know murdering
a crime by all condemned; is this your skill?
Nor caused nor furthering.
those humours flowing,
but if it be you love to fleet, and rule
poor slaves for honours showing
and pity wanting cry, ‘alas, woe’s me!’
N3 (p. 40): This is a song sung by a farmer’s daughter named Fancy who was initially resistant to the idea of being tied down to a domestic life: ‘mee thought a little mirthe was better then ties att home, brawling of brats, monthes keepings-in, houswyfery, and dairies, and a pudder of all home-made troubles’ (38). But having been scornful of her lovers she began to be conscious of growing old and being alone, and accordingly now regrets that she rejected the offer of marriage from the equally aptly-named Love, son of the King’s chief herdsman.
The poem itself takes the form of a sonnet in the so-called English rhyme scheme of ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG. The poem intertwines images of desire and images that have a political implication: so, for example, hearts are rulers (sovereignising) free from the kind of courtly flatterers familiar to any in the Jacobean court. The control exerted over the victim of desire leads to rebellion, so that the person apparently empowered will end up as abandoned and as wanting in fulfilment as the speaker and her allies. The poem can also be placed in the tradition of female-voiced complaint (for an analysis see Rosalind Smith, Michelle O’Callaghan and Sarah C. E. Ross, ‘Complaint’, in Catherine Bates, ed., A Companion to Renaissance Poetry (Wiley Blackwell, 2018), pp. 339-52.), where ‘woe’s me’ is the cry of those who are abandoned by their lovers.
dear: punning on most valuable and most beloved.
sovereignising: ruling over (like a sovereign).
murdering pieces: pieces are guns (that murder).
Nor caused nor furthering: the ‘murder’ is the rejection of the one who desires, so there will be no advance possible.
humours: in humoral theory, the four humours (yellow and black bile, blood, and phlegm) represented bodily and psychological states. By the 1620s the idea included the notion of what we might characterise as sensations and feelings, as alluded to here.
fleet: from flout: reject or sneer at.
role/poor slaves: this may mean rule poor slaves, or more obscurely roll as in disturb.
Honor now injoye the day
Love is falen into desmay,
nay is conquer’d, yeeld all right
honor, honor, now is all
in honors ʃight for a doombe
or thinke light affections thrall
dare apeere, noe now ’t’is gall
Honor Monarck is of Love,
vnder him affections move,
heere hee brightly shines alone,
poore love like meane sphears appeere,
in him’s onely brightnes cleere,
had I knowne him thus before,
myne’ armes, I had layd att his dore,
this doth knowledg true bring forthe
Arrowes, bowe, darts, and wings
wch death brought to mortallings
All I offer up to you
Deere Honour, as the Monarck true;/
[‘Behold the great God of Love’]
Honour now enjoy the day,
love is fallen into dismay,
nay is conquered, yield all right
to the power of his might.
Honour, honour, now is all,
Captive Cupid, sees his fall.
in honour’s sight for a doom,
or think light affection’s thrall
dare appear, no now ‘tis gall.
Honour Monarch is of Love,
under him affections move.
here he brightly shines alone,
poor love like mean spheres appear
in him only brightness clear.
Had I known him thus before,
mine arms I had laid at his door.
this doth knowledge true bring forth,
arrows, bow, darts, and wings,
which death brought to mortalings,
all I offer up to you
dear Honour, as the Monarch true.
N4 (pp. 47-48): This poem comes from a masque staged by Pamphilia’s husband, Rodomandro, King of Tartaria. Wroth herself participated in the elaborate masques which were such a feature of the entertainment at King James’s court, dancing in Ben Jonson’s Masque of Blackness in 1605, for example. There are a considerable number of masques staged and described in both parts of Urania. The masque was rather like a combination of drama, opera and ballet, with spectacular scenery and special effects. The women who participated in masque performances, such as Wroth, had to have a considerable level of skill. This particular masque features masquers dressed ‘after the Tartarian fashion’ (46). The masque involves Cupid being berated by Honour for his wanton behaviour, and Cupid is in this process stripped of his bow and arrow and his wings. This song is Cupid’s response: a plea for forgiveness and a recognition of a higher power involved in Love. The masque and accompanying songs have some associations with the treatment of desire and of the figures of Cupid and Venus in Love’s Victory.
Crossed out line: this may well have been more of a title than the first line of the poem, referring to Cupid.
Honour: Honour is personified in the masque as outlined in the romance.
fall: so Honour has replaced Cupid.
doom: i.e. a decree, a judgement (OED). Honour, unlike Cupid, will not preside over a ‘light’ love, only a serious one.
mine arms: so Cupid will lay the weapons that cause humans such anguish through their desire at Honour’s feet.
mortalings: i.e. mortals, who in this image are subject to mortality and to the pains of desire.
This is Honors holly day
now sheapheard ʃwains, neatheards play
Cupid wills itt ʃoe
kings, and princes come alonge
you shall ʃafely paʃs from wronge
Fond deʃire is now layd waste
truth of love in his stead plaste
honor guids you now,
‘T’is true Cupid was deʃire,
therefor thus doth bowe,
Love”s nott Love, that vainely flings
like a harmfull waspe that stings
therin I did miʃs
deʃire should nott bee stil’d love
butt wt honors wings to move
bright love tells vs this
Honor like the brightest morne
shines while Clowded love is worne
and conʃum’d to dust,
like faire flowrs long being pulld
dy, and wither if nott culld
slighted like the wurst
Honor’s Cupids la̭w̭fṷll iust borne [‘iust borne’ inserted above] kinge;/
This is Honour’s holy day,
now shepherd[s], swains, neatheards play,
Cupid wills it so.
Kings and princes come along,
you shall safely pass from wrong,
desire was your foe.
Fond desire is now laid waste,
truth of love in his stead placed,
honour guides you now.
‘Tis true Cupid was desire,
fondly using wanton fire,
therefore thus doth bow.
Love’s not Love, that vainly flings
like a harmful wasp that stings
therein I did miss.
Desire should not be styled love,
but with honour’s wings to move;
bright love tells us this.
Honour like the brightest morn
shines while clouded love is worn
and consumed to dust.
Like fair flowers, long being pulled,
die and wither if not culled,
slighted like the worst.
Honour’s Cupid’s just born king.
N5 (pp. 48-49): This song concludes the masque of which N4 is a part: with this song, we are told ‘the masquers danced their last dance to curious voices, Cupid leading the song, which said thus’ (48). The song continues the theme of Cupid conquered by Honour.
shepherds, swains, neatherds: these are three pastoral figures: a swain is a country lover, a neatherd is in charge of cows as a shepherd is of sheep.
desire was your foe: Wroth interrogates desire in much of her writing; here the quelling of Cupid allows for an escape from the control exerted by desire and in the song desire is replaced by love.
Come lusty gamesters of the ʃea
billowes waves, and winds,
Like to ̭most [‘most’ inserted above] louers make your plea
ʃay love all combinds
lett nott Dian rule your sprites
her pale face shuns all delights,
Queene of love is she
like her ʃweet pleaʃant phantiʃies roame,
Juno yett a firme wife is
ʃoe may I bee in my blis,
wisdome doth profeʃs,
Ceares a hous=wife I ʃoone paʃs,
lovers I expreʃs
Venus, my deere ʃea borne Queene
gives mee pleaʃures still vnʃeen
Venus mee com̅aunds,
that by noe means love should grow colde
butt blowe the fire brands
Solls best heat must fill our vaines,
thes are true loves highest straines,
Come lusty gamesters of the sea,
billows, waves and winds,
like to most lovers make your plea,
say love all combines,
let not Dian rule your spirits
her pale face shuns all delights.
Queen of love is she,
like her sweet pleasant fantasies roam
Juno yet a firm wife is,
so may I be in my bliss.
wisdom doth profess,
Ceres a housewife I soon pass
lovers I express.
Venus, my dear sea-born Queen,
gives me pleasures still unseen.
Venus me commands,
that by no means love should grow cold
but blow the fire brands.
Sol’s best heat must fill our veins,
these are true love’s highest strains.
N6 (p. 51): This is a song sung by Antissia during a fit of madness which will eventually be cured later in the narrative. Antissia is, like Pamphilia, in love with Amphilanthus, and his eventual rejection and also it would seem her creative impulses drive her into madness. Antissia goes on to marry Dolorindus, the King of Negropont. Antissia’s symptoms include taking on an equally unbalanced tutor in poetry. This particular song is sung while Dolorindus tries to deal with Antissia’s madness; it is described as a ‘tedious ditty, only noiseworthy but no way sensible’ (50). It is difficult to assess a poem/song which within the narrative is meant to be tedious and unworthy.
lusty gamesters: gamesters can be sportive people and lusty can simply mean strong, but paired together they suggest sexual adventurousness (OED has gamester meaning someone who is licentious or we might say sexually adventurous, as a current meaning in the early seventeenth century).
Dian: Diana, Goddess of the hunt, traditionally associated with chastity.
spirits: where Wroth write ‘sprites’ she intends spirits, a word which carries a complex set of associations ranging from the modern idea of spirit as a person’s vigour (as in spirited) through to the idea of one’s own nature in a metaphysical sense. In a notable sonnet from the ‘Pamphilia to Amphilanthus’ sequence, ‘When everyone to pleasing pastime hies’ Wroth depicts the speaker as seeking respite from court vanities as she talks ‘with my spirit’.
Venus: goddess of love, as in the famous painting by Botticelli, Venus, the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, was said to have been born from the sea foam.
Juno: goddess of love and marriage, wife of Jupiter. Antissia is stating that even in her ‘bliss’ (which implies possible sexual abandonment) she wants to be a ‘firm wife’.
Pallas: Pallas Athena, goddess of war and wisdom.
Ceres: goddess of agriculture, she symbolises fertility and was therefore associated with wedding ceremonies.
Sol’s: the sun
This night the Moone eclipʃed was
butt quickly she did brightlier shine
prognosticating by ʃweet raine
that all things showld bee cleere again,
Coole drops ʃweet moisture, flowers bring
Which fruict bring’s forthe, and ʃoe shall wee
live hopefully all good to ʃee
though in Antipides nott quite bereft
Butt in iust courʃe shall come againe,
And wt pure light both shine, and raigne;
This night the moon eclipsed was
alas,but quickly she did brightlier shine
divine,prognosticating by sweet rain that all things should be clear again.
and flow,cool drops, sweet moisture, flowers bring
to spring,which fruit brings forth and so shall we live hopefully all good to see.
though in Antipodes not quite bereft,
but in just course shall come again,
and with pure light both shine and reign.
N7 (pp. 51-53): This, like N6, is a song sung by Antissia still in her fit of madness. She addresses the song to Melissea, a magician and sage presiding over many of the more magical events in Urania, who will cure Antissia of her madness, which was Dorolindus’s purpose in bringing Antissia to see Melissea. The unusual structure with its two-syllable second and fourth lines in each stanza, might be intended to represent Antissia’s agitated state of mind, though at the same time the elaborate structure is perfectly controlled by Wroth. The speech that Antissia makes following on from the song is, however, much more clearly ‘deranged’ in its excessively flowery language (e.g. describing eyes as ‘flamigerous beacons’).
Antipodes: the idea of the Sun spending winter in the antipodes reflects the notion that it is the sun revolving around the earth, rather than the reverse, which was posited by Copernicus in the mid sixteenth century.
Stay holy fires
of my deʃires
flame nott ʃoe fast
my loves butt young
from bud new sprunge
ʃcarce knows loves taste,
were reddy made
a love ʃcarce greene
was never seene
in withring shade,
if then orethrowne
wt curst denyes
poore hart ʃwell’out
ʃend flames about
wt murdering eyes,
To Court agen
Wher loves inthround,
if they perʃist
and ʃmiles reʃist,
while chast love is ʃcornd
wt fierce lov’s darts,
and wt that store
of harts wch shakes
make martir stakes
still framing more
wher all truth lies
a blaʃe of fire frame
for victors doombe
to true loves name
of my deʃirs
may riʃe, and flame
Pheanix for truth
conʃum’de in youth
burnt to loves fame;/
Stay holy fires
of my desires
flame not so fast;
my love’s but young
from bud new sprung,
scarce knows love’s taste.
were ready made;
a love scarce green
was never seen
in withering shade.
if then overthrown
with cursed denies;
poor heart swell out,
send flames about
with murdering eyes.
to Court again,
where love’s enthroned;
if they persist
and smiles resist
while chaste love is scorned.
with fierce love’s darts,
and with that store,
of hearts which shakes
make martyr stakes
still framing more.
where all truth lies
a blaze of fire frame,
for victors doom
to true loves name.
of my desires
may rise and flame;
Phoenix for truth
consumed in youth
burned to love’s fame.
N8 (pp. 74-75): This is a song sung by the King of Tartaria’s sister. She is overheard by Licandro, the Prince of Athens, who falls violently in love with her (see N9). She is described in considerable detail and summed up as a woman whose ‘rarenes sett harts on fire’ (76).
holy fires: this slightly disconcerting blending of the sacred and the profane evokes a Petrarchan image of desire. It seems unlikely that the image alludes to the so-called Holy Fire acclaimed as a miracle by the Orthodox Church since the fourth century.
murdering eyes: like so much of Wroth’s poetry, eyes feature as both symbols of a gaze which positions women as objects, and as potentially redemptive when they can be used by the woman to counter that gaze.
to Court again: this is another example of Wroth offering a political angle to her treatment of desire: here Love is the ruler and men are summoned to Love’s Court. A distinction is made in the poem between those who acquiesce to Love’s demands, and those who resist and will accordingly be attacked by fierce love’s darts: i.e. Cupid’s arrows, which will therefore take control of desire away from them.
martyr stakes: this is potentially quite a chilling image given the very real execution of martyrs during the sectarian conflict characteristic of the early modern period.
Hecatombe: deriving from the sacrifice of 100 cattle to the gods but generally meaning mass destruction.
Phoenix: the mythical single bird that immolates itself in flames and then a new bird arises from the ashes. The poem itself mimics this movement, as it returns in circular fashion to the images with which it began.
Were ever eyes of ʃuch devinitie
devine? noe they are of the Gods
and ʃoe have ods,
Of the Gods? Noe, more of Eternitie;
They are blew, ʃure they are then heavens sky
kings they rule and com̅aund,
motives of government doe ly
to their imply
and ʃoe att mercy stand,
Bee they nott tow ʃuns, most shiningly
Beam̅ing, noe they are meators rare
wt out compare,
Meators noe? thunderbolts killingly
were they of Gods, they would deale beningly
Tow ʃun̅s were never ʃeene
att once, devinitie
doth that deny
butt lightnings oft have bin̅,
Lightnings O noe, they are induring,
and bright, are they nott Cupids eyes
falen from the skies
while hee is doubly blinded in aluring?
shall I yet name them trust, O then ʃay
They are of Gods, of eyes,
of the heavens, of ayre most bright,
of purest light,
Yett ʃweetest under skies;/
Were ever eyes of such divinity
divine? No, they are of the Gods
and so have odds.
Of the Gods? No, more of eternity;
they are blue, sure they are then Heaven’s sky,
kings they rule and command,
motives of government do lie
to their imply
and so at mercy stand.
Be they not two suns most shiningly
beaming? No, they are meteors rare
Meteors? No? Thunderbolts killingly;
were they of God’s, they would deal benignly,
Two suns were never seen
at once, divinity
doth that deny
but lightnings oft have been.
Lightnings? Oh no, they are enduring
and bright. Are they not Cupid’s eyes
fallen from the skies,
while he is doubly blinded in alluring?
Shall I yet name them trust? Oh then say
they are of Gods, of eyes,
of the heavens, of air most bright,
of purest light,
yet sweetest under skies.
N9 (p. 79): In this companion poem to N8, Licandro unburdens himself of his love for the Princess of Tartaria: it is described as a ‘woefull piece of poetry’ (79), i.e. full of the woe which he feels because his love is unrequited. Like the preceding poem, this one turns upon images of eyes, in this case the blue eyes of Licandro’s beloved. The poem also continues the interconnection between desire and political agency, especially the reference in the first stanza to ‘motives of government’.
doubly blinded: Cupid is traditionally depicted as blind, so that the arrows he shoots that induce desire are distributed randomly.
Fierce love, alas yett lett mee rest,
beeholde my boyling brest:
Lett mee butt slumber, if nott sleepe
continually to weepe
is too great a ʃmart
to a hart,
Transform’d like Niobé to watry powers
in drops of my misfortunes arte;
Cruell, alas, why doe thos eyes
rule of the heavenly skies
Joye in my ruin, my poore streames
flumes can nott [blotted out word] coole [‘coole’ inserted above] our beames
for loves ʃacred fire
Transcendant to the highest powers
In flames of my conʃuming fire
The Firmament may mee imbrace
ther wanderers may finde place
transform’d by love into a space
borowing of lovers trace
wher continuall faire
will tell ayre
wee destined by force,
bred in ire
may yet to evenings faire aspire,
Butt dull earth I see you contend
nott willing I aʃsend,
give mee then fruicts of plenty heere
true increaʃe of beauties cheere,
why doe you create
ʃuch a bate
to ʃinge all harts by ʃuch a fire
conʃuming vs to our last fate;/
Fierce love, alas, yet let me rest,
behold my boiling breast;
let me slumber, if not sleep,
continually to weep
is too great a smart
to a heart,
transformed like Niobé to watery powers
in drops of my misfortune’s art.
Cruel, alas, why do those eyes
rule of the heavenly skies?
Joy in my ruin, my poor streams:
flumes cannot cool our beams,
for love’s sacred fire
transcendent to the highest powers
in flames of my consuming fire.
The firmament may me embrace,
there wanderers may find place
transformed by love into a space
borrowing of lovers’ trace,
where continual fair
will tell air
we destined by force, earth, water, air, fire
bred in ire
may yet to evenings fair aspire.
But dull earth I see you contend;
not willingly I ascend.
Give me then fruits of plenty here
true increase of beauty’s cheer.
Why do you create
such a bait,
to singe all hearts by such a fire
consuming us to our last fate?
N10 (pp. 81-82): This is another song, this time one sung by a group of women who are servants to the Princess of Argos. The song is overheard by two callow young Princes, Lusandrino and Nummerandro, who are entranced by the ‘heavenly voices’ (81).
Niobe: In Greek mythology, Niobe boasted of her fourteen children to Leto, whose two children, Apollo and Artemis, respectively kill Niobe’s seven sons and seven daughters. Niobe turns to stone but weeps constantly so that water gushes from the stone, and so she became an image of constant grief, often associated with the complaint genre in poetry.
flumes: i.e. the water vapour from tears cannot quench the fire of Love.
sacred fire: this echoes the holy fire image of N8.
earth, water, air, fire: these are the four elements.
bait: desire is like a bait on a hook which will lead those captured to be singed by love’s fire.
Beehold this ʃacred fire
in waters curstest ire
remains in mee
disdaining change to ʃee
as hee makes waters touch
his prowd incloʃing my deʃire
and in his boʃome keeps my fire
while I lament too much
This lampe inflamed wt love
conʃumes nott yet doth move
ʃoe doe I waste [in] toile
to clime to honors high
wch wt water, and the time
doth the flame make higher clime
and ʃoe I may riʃe nigh;/
Butt while I heere admire
water, and flames conspire
nott yeeld to mee
noe eaʃe vnto my burning ʃmart
butt extinguish fyry rays
the aulter for my loving bays
to act his latest part;/
Time butt an attome is
limited by powers blis
of heavenly mi̭ght
made by eternall right
for heaven erelasting beeing
makes eternitie the name,
[whole line smudged out]
and mee the attome of my flame,
conʃumed, and burnt by ʃeeing;/
Behold this sacred fire
in water’s curstest ire
remains in me,
disdaining change to see,
as he makes waters touch,
his proud enclosing my desire,
and in his bosom keeps my fire,
while I lament too much.
This lamp enflamed with love
consumes not, yet doth move,
and spends the oil,
so do I waste in toil
to climb to honours high,
which with water, and the time,
doth the flame make higher climb
and so I may rise nigh.
But while I here admire,
water and flames conspire:
not yield to me,
yet cunningly agree
no ease unto my burning smart,
but extinguish fiery rays
the altar for my loving bays,
to act his latest part.
Time but an atom is
limited by power’s bliss
of heavenly might,
made by eternal right,
for heaven everlasting being
makes eternity the name,
and me the atom of my flame,
consumed, and burnt by seeing.
N11 (pp.102-03): This is a song sung by Lindavera, the Princess of Frigia. She is disguised as a shepherdess and is overheard by three young princes: Antidorindo, Verolindo and Floristello. Her song is provoked by her love for the Prince of Albania, and we are told her ‘sweet Voice did express sadness, as her eyes did teares’ (102).
sacred fire: presumably deliberately repeating the image from N10, this again emphasises the power of desire with a battle between the elements of fire and water forming a key part of the poem’s imagery.
water’s curstest ire: the implication of this image is that the speaker/singer’s tears do not dampen the fire of Love. Curstest = most cursed.
his proud: unclear but seems to mean Love’s pride ensures that she is trapped. If we take proud as an adjective, Love is proudly enclosing the speaker; if we take proud as a noun, it can refer to Love as a proud individual, with also some suggestion of sexual predatoriness.
Stanza 2: this stanza explores the paradox at the centre of the poem’s depiction of desire: despite the water (tears) the flames grow stronger, just as the oil lamp burns fiercely yet the amount of oil remains the same (which is perhaps an allusion to the fact that the sacred lamp in the restored Second Temple was able to burn for eight days instead of the single day that the remaining oil should have fuelled). The paradox continues in stanza 3.
in toil: in the manuscript a blotted t makes it possible that this word began as ‘not’ and was probably altered to ‘in’.
loving bays: the bay tree (laurel) wreath, symbol of victory, especially a sign of an acclaimed poet, in this instance laid on the altar it seems to represent the speaker’s tribute/sacrifice for her unrequited love.
atom: in the time when Wroth was writing, an atom referred to a minute particle and also the smallest unit of time (OED). The image in this stanza is then further developed so that at the end the speaker is an atom consumed by her unrequited love.
burnt by seeing: the speaker is, in this final stage of the image of fire/desire, consumed by the sight of her love, who is rejecting her.
Love let mee live, ore let mee dye,
Vʃe mee nott wurʃe then porest fly
who finds ʃome comfort, while alone
I live, and waste in moane;
the billowes beare my ouer throwe
and ʃands they cover in disgrace
of my loves truest face
can you nott feare her curstest frowne?
alas she chides vs that you stay
after her iust denay,
how dare you mortall thus to moue
bow hart, and ʃoule to her least frowne
and ʃenʃur’d thus ly downe;/
Love let me live, or let me die,
use me not worse than poorest fly
who finds some comfort, while alone
I live, and waste in moan.
the billows bear my overthrow,
and sands, they cover in disgrace
of my love’s truest face.
can you not fear her curstest frown?
Alas, she chides us that you stay
after her just denay.
how dare you mortal thus to move?
Bow heart and soul to her least frown,
and censured thus lie down.'
N12 (pp. 113-14): This song comes from another masque. This one is staged by Melissea, the enchantress who presides over the events in the narrative, and often brings about resolutions, and stages enchantments which test the characters. This song is sung by ‘a younge sea-faring lad’ (113) in the masque, who is in love with ‘a dainty sea nimphe’ (113).
waste: i.e. waste away.
shrouding place: i.e. a place to shield/protect him
billows: referencing the ocean theme of the masque and the singer’s character as a seaman.
denay: denial often spelled/pronounced as denay in the period e.g. Shakespeare, 12th Night II.iv.124 ‘My love can give no place, bide no denay’.
sole of love: i.e. she is the only Goddess of love.
Love butt a phanteʃie light, and vaine
fluttering butt in poorest braine,
birds in Chimnies make a thunder,
putting ʃilly ʃoules in wounder,
ʃoe doth this love, this all com̅aunder
to a weake poore understander;
ʃlight him, and hee’le your ʃervant bee
adore him, you his slave must bee,
ʃcorne him, O how hee will pray you,
pleaʃe him, and hee’lle ʃure betray you
let nott his faulshood bee esteemed
least your ʃelf bee disesteemed
Crush nott your witts to place him high,
a thought thing, never ʃeene by eye,
implore nott heaven, nor dieties
they know to well his forgeries
nor ʃaints by imprications moue
‘t’is butt the Idolatry of love;/
to bace idolatrie of love;/
Love but a fantasy light and vain,
fluttering but in poorest brain,
birds in chimneys make a thunder,
putting silly souls in wonder.
So doth this love, this all commander,
to a weak, poor understander.
Slight him, and he’ll your servant be,
adore him, you his slave must be,
scorn him, oh how he will pray you,
please him, and he’ll sure betray you.
Let not his falsehood be esteemed
lest yourself be disesteemed.
Crush not your wits to place him high,
a thought thing never seen by eye,
implore not heaven nor deities,
they know too well his forgeries.
Nor saints by imprecations move
‘tis but the idolatry of love.
to base idolatry of love.
N13 (p. 114): This song follows on from the previous one (N12) and is part of the same masque. In this case, an ‘olde sheapheard’, who has been listening to the young seafarer of N12, responds to the young man’s plaintive song: he sings ‘with a rare Voice’ (114).
Love but a fantasy: the old shepherd counters the power of love claimed in the preceding song by positing it as a fleeting and unimportant fantasy. Could also imply fancy.
a thought thing: i.e. a figment of the imagination.
idolatry of love: a slur directed at Catholic worship of idols by the firmly Protestant Wroth.
Was I to blame to trust
thy love like teares when t’is most Just
to Judg of others by our owne while mine
from heads of love
yett fruictles ran, could I ʃuspect that thine
when in my hart each teare did write a line
showld have noe spring butt outward showe,
in maske, wch made mee confident
that thine had bin̅ love to , and noe disguiʃe,
nott love put on, butt taken in,
nor like a ʃcarfe to bee putt of wch lies,
att choiʃe to weare ore leave, butt when thine eyes
did weepe thy hart had bled wt in,
the sky that weeps itt doth nott paine
butt weares the place where in the drops do fall
ʃoe when thy Clowdy lids imparte
thos showers of ʃubtill teares; and ʃeem to call
compaʃsion when you doe not grieve att all
you weepe them, butt they fret my hart,
to thinke you were as faire, ʃoe true
why wowld you then your ʃelves in griefe attire
wt pitty to inlarge my ʃmart
when beauty had enough inflam’d deʃire
and when you were even cumber’d wt my fire
why would you blowe the coals wt art,
Itt was leʃs fault to leave
then having left mee to deceave
for well you might have my unworthe refuʃed
nor cowld I have of wronge complaind
butt ʃince your ʃcorne, you [two words crossed out] wt deceipt [‘wt deceipt’ inserted above] confus’d
my undeʃert you have wt teares excuʃd,
and wt the guilt your ʃelf have staind,
Was I to blame to trust
thy love-like tears, when ‘tis most just
to judge of others’ by our own, while mine
from heads of love and faith did flow,
yet fruitless ran, could I suspect that thine,
when in my heart each tear did write a line,
should have no spring but outward show?
in mask, which made me confident
that thine had been love too, and no disguise,
not love put on, but taken in.
Nor like a scarf to be put off, which lies
at choice to wear or leave, but when thine eyes
did weep, thy heart had bled within.
But as the guileful rain
the sky that weeps it doth not pain,
but wears the place wherein the drops do fall,
so when thy cloudy lids impart
those showers of subtle tears, and seem to call
compassion when you do not grieve at all,
you weep them, but they fret my heart.
to think you were as fair, so true;
why would you then your selves in grief attire
with pity to enlarge my smart,
when beauty had enough inflamed desire,
and when you were even cumbered with my fire,
why would you blow the coals with art?
It was less fault to leave
than, having left me, to deceive,
for well you might have my unworth refused,
nor could I have of wrong complained.
But since your scorn you with deceit confused,
my undesert you have with tears excused,
and with the guilt your self have stained.
N14 (p. 137): This is a poem recited by Amphilanthus. (Unlike N2, there is no evidence that this was written by William Herbert and it did not circulate as widely as N2.) Amphilanthus is stricken because, believing that Pamphilia is betrothed, he is persuaded to marry the princess of Slavonia, but immediately regrets abandoning his vows to Pamphilia. This poem is a product of his melancholy and guilt: ‘I ame the shameless creature, the monster of sacred Vowes’ (138).
Gavin Alexander has noted that the first stanza is used as the lyric in a song ascribed to Alfonso Ferrabosco, which exists in a manuscript held at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. (See Gavin Alexander, ‘The Musical Sidneys’, John Donne Journal 25 (2006): 96-102). Alexander reproduces the musical setting keyed to Wroth’s version of the lyric. Katherine R. Larson has discussed the song at some length in her study The Matter of Song in Early Modern England (OUP, 2019), and a recording of the song is available on the companion website to Larson’s book: https://global.oup.com/booksites/content/9780198843788/.
A version of the poem with a number of variants is transcribed in an anthology that forms part of the Conway papers: see Daniel Starza-Smith, John Donne and the Conway papers (OUP, 2014), p. 241; like N2 this poems will be fully edited in Mary Ellen lamb and Katherine R Larson’s forthcoming edition of Herbert’s poems (MRTS, 2020).
The first stanza is about Pamphilia’s purported (but misrepresented) betrayal. Again we have an image of Love connected to tears, but in this case the tears are divided intro true (Amphilanthus’s) and false (Pamphilia’s, which are only love-like not truly signs of love): he has been betrayed by an ‘outward show’.
[I]: the manuscript does seem to read O rather than I although it is just possible that the curl at the top is makes it I. Roberts silently emends to I and I does make much more sense than O.
in mask: this image continues the theme of the disconnect between outward show and truth, which is a common image in Wroth’s poetry, but usually from the perspective of the female victim of male duplicity. Amphilanthus himself is, generally, the guilty party, as his symbolic name (lover of many) implies.
guileful rain: possibly linked to the Niobe image in N10, the idea here is that tears are false guides to sincerity, and that they do not show the grief of the person shedding them, but rather wear away the person (Amphilanthus) who witnesses them.
and seem to call: Gosset Mueller edition of Urania Part Two and Roberts have ‘which’ seem to call. Manuscript looks more like ‘and’ but with extensive bleeding through from the other side of the page there is a possibility that it could be ‘which’, though ‘and’ seems more likely.
blow the coals: again the fire/water imagery is used to show Amphilanthus’s despair as his flames are fanned.
The final stanza turns on the paradox of the speaker being undeserving, yet nevertheless being deceived by the apparent grief displayed by Pamphilia.
It was less fault: Roberts has ‘For ‘for ‘Itt’.
unworthy: i.e. less worth, he is not worthy.
Lying vpon the beach,
below mee on the ʃands,
I ʃaw wt in ʃmall reach
A lady ly in bands,
wth armes acroʃs, and hands
infolded in thos twines,
wherby a true love shines
and for loves triumph stands,
bequeath mee noe ʃmall space
wher I may live, and love
butt run in ruins race?
nor yet to gaine deaths trace
you locks of his owne haire,
wittnes I still you beare
in my harts dearest place,
yett faithfull is his haire,
dead is his love, a pretty art
if wee these tvo compare
haire [crossed out word] once cutt of hath share
wt death, loves lyfe beeing fled,
to shadow haire is fled,
ʃoe are my joys to care.
beehold thy haire outlive
thy faith, thy worthe, and cleere
as thine eys, wth did drive
wrack to my hart, take back
on shriveld harts, and cry
haire outlives constancy;/
Lying upon the beach,
below me on the sands,
I saw within small reach
a lady lie in bands,
with arms across and hands
enfolded in those twines,
whereby a true love shines
and for loves triumph stands.
bequeath me no small space,
where I may live and love,
but run in ruins race?
Nor yet to gain death’s trace.
You locks of his own hair,
witness I still you bear,
in my heart’s dearest place.
yet faithful is his hair,
dead is his love, a pretty art
if we these two compare.
Hair once cut off has share
with death: love’s life being fled,
to shadow hair is fled,
so are my joys to care.
behold thy hair outlive
thy faith, thy worth, and clear
as thine eyes, which did drive
wrack to my heart, take back,
these relics, lay the rack
on shrivelled hearts and cry:
‘hair outlives constancy!’
N15 (p. 144): This poem is part of a poetic exchange but the poems presented to Urania and Selarina do not exist: the manuscript has blank spaces for them, but Wroth has not inserted them (p. 142). This poem is presented by a shepherd to Amphilanthus as a kind of poetic tonic intended to cheer him up. The poem itself is a narrative which Josephine Roberts notes as being related to a song from the Portuguese romance Diana, by Montemayor (1559, English translation by Batholemew Yong, 1598). The song from Diana was loosely translated by Philip Sidney, and the first stanza was translated by Wroth’s father Robert Sidney (Philip’s brother).
Philip Sidney’s version:
What changes here, O hair,
I see since I saw you:
How ill fits you this green to wear,
For hope the colour due.
Indeed I well did hope,
Though hope were mixed with fear,
No other shepherd should have scope
Once to approach this here,
Ah hair, how many days
My Dian made me show
With thousand pretty childish plays,
If I ware you or no,
Alas how oft with tears,
O tears of guileful breast
She seemed full of jealous fears
Whereat I did but jest.
Tell me, O hair of gold,
If I then faulty be
That trust those killing eyes, I would,
Since they did warrant me.
Have you not seen her mood,
What streams of tears she spent,
Till that I swore my faith so stood
As her words had it bent.
Who hath such beauty seen
In one that changeth so?
Or where one’s love so constant been?
Whoever saw such woe?
Ah hair, are you not grieved
To come from whence you be,
Seeing how once you saw I lived,
To see me as you see.
On sandy bank of late
I saw this woman sit,
Where sooner die than change my state,
She with her finger writ:
Thus my belief was stayed,
Behold Love’s mighty hand
On things were by a woman said,
And written in the sand. (Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, 1598, pp. 487-88, modernised by Paul Salzman).
Robert Sidney’s single stanza:
She whom I loved, and love shall still,
Sitting on this then blessed sand,
Wrote with to me heaven-opening hand,
‘First will I die ere change I will’.
Oh unjust force of love unjust
That thus a man’s belief should rest
On words conceived in woman’s breast
And vows enrolled in dust. (from ‘Poems of Robert Sidney’, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones, English 30 (1981): 54, modernised by Paul Salzman.
bands: i.e. bonds.
shines: Roberts has ‘shines’, Urania edition has ‘climbs’: it is hard to decide between these but shines seems to make more sense in the context of the stanza and the overall poem’s treatment of the lock of hair.
to shadow hair is fled: in this image, the hair cut from the lover is dead, like the love they once shared.
behold thy hair: the tradition of a lock of hair signifying love and faithfulness is longstanding: the most commonly cited early modern example is Donne’s ‘The Relic’.
wrack to my heart…lay the rack on shrivelled hearts,: in the first half of this image the faithless eyes are sees as shipwrecking the heart, and then the ‘shriveled’ heart is laid on a rack to be punished like a victim of torture who is stretched on the rack.
Come deere lett’s waulke into this spring
wher wee may heere the ʃweet birds ʃing
and lett us leave this darckʃum place
wher Cupid never yett had grace
For loves bright light
must us delight,
and Cupids fire
must still respire,
and brightest showe in darckest night
hee lives in highest spheares above,
and from his beames gives worlds ther light,
hee raigning Cround wt ʃweets delight,
In darknes spite
hee rules in light,
for Cupids fire
must still reʃpire
And brightest show in dullest night,
hee’s perfect heat, and strives to moue
wher equall flames wt him showes love
In Coldes despite
hee rules in might
For Cupids fire
must still aspire
And pow’rfulst show in darckest night;/
Come dear let’s walk into this Spring
where we may hear the sweet birds sing,
and let us leave this darksome place
where Cupid never yet had grace.
For love’s bright light
must us delight,
and Cupid’s fire
must still respire,
and brightest show in darkest night.
he lives in highest spheres above,
and from his beams gives worlds their light,
he reigning crowned with sweet’s delight.
In darkness’ spite
he rules in light,
for Cupid’s fire
must still respire,
and brightest show in dullest night.
nor lurks where warm love grows to fade
he’s perfect heat, and strives to move
where equal flames with him shows love.
In cold’s despite
he rules in might,
for Cupid’s fire
must still aspire,
and powerful’st show in darkest night.
N16 (p. 149): This is a song sung to the lute by Steriamus, King of Albania, addressing his wife Urania (one of the main characters in the romance).
Cupid’s fire: unlike previous poems, in this instance fire has positive associations: fire and Cupid are associated with Steriamus’s fulfilled love for his wife.
In darkness spite: i.e. in spite of darkness which Cupid/Love dispels.
Most hapy memory bee euer blest
Wch thus brings into my most weary minde
Joys past though others would them tortures finde,
butt I delighted was in them, though rest
Yett lou’d the fetters did mee slave like binde,
O love, what is thy force? ʃome ʃay thou’rt blind,
noe thou canst ʃee best, and can give [crossed out word] eaʃe best,
and darken nott my first, and deerest choiʃe,
from wch though ʃwerved, I in itt still reioyʃe,
nor lett the fates from mee thoʃe phantʃies drive,
non must the former from my ʃoule unfolde;/
Most happy memory, be ever blessed,
which thus brings into my most weary mind
joys past, though others would them tortures find,
but I delighted was in them, though rest
yet loved the fetters did me slave-like bind.
Oh love, what is thy force? Some say thou art blind.
No, thou canst see best, and give ease best.
and darken not my first and dearest choice,
from which though swerved, I in it still rejoice,
nor let the fates from me those fancies drive.
none must the former from my soul unfold.
N17 (p. 152): This poem, in the sonnet form of ABBA, ABBA, CDDC, EE, follows on shortly after the previous one: Steriamus recalls how (as depicted in the published Part One of the romance) he was at first in love with Pamphilia, until he was magically cured of this passion, and was able to return to his true love for Urania. This poem recollects the earlier love, and the idea that the memory remains even though he is loyal to his wife Urania. The memory (as evoked in the poem) does raise a quite powerful set of emotions in Steriamus, as he recalls his first love, ‘as hee was allmost like to have fallen into a dangerous passion. But Melissea had a careful hand over him, and soe he fell onely into a pretty little frenzy for the time of olde love and memory’ (152). The entire poem is like a re-evocation of first love.
enfold: the final couplet with its enfold/unfold end words, which are almost but not quite homonyms, evokes the paradox of love as a palimpsest where the second love overwrites but does not erase the first.
Returne my thoughts, why fly you ʃoe
ʃorrows may my good outgoe,
Phantʃie’s butt phantasticks skill
the ʃoule alone hath onely will,
whom they implor’d to have the odds
of mortalls all, butt ‘t’would nott bee
for love was high’st inthron’d to ʃee,
and noe thing more then love is light,
then Cupid take thy honor right
thou’rt neither God, nor Earthly sprite;/
Return my thoughts, why fly you so?
Sorrows may my good outgo,
fancy’s but fantastic’s skill
the soul alone has only will.
whom they implored to have the odds,
of mortals all, but ‘twould not be
for love was highest enthroned to see.
and nothing more than love is light,
then Cupid take thy honour right
thou art neither God, nor earthly sprite.
N18 (pp. 411-12): As noted in the Introduction, there are only two poems in Book Two of the manuscript, and in fact they are two variations of what is essentially the same poem. In the first instance, this poem is recited by a so-called ‘Cyprian lady’. She is the daughter of the Duke of Sabro, and during a description to Pamphilia and Amphilanthus of how she fell in love with Andromarko, she explains that she composed this poem while wandering in a wood. The poem is blown by the wind into the hands of Andromarko, and while running to retrieve it, the lady sees him and is smitten. Andromarko is equally smitten (and it turns out that they had previously fallen in love with each other’s pictures).
fantastic’s skill: in early modern usage, a fantastic was an illusion, so the idea expressed here is that fancy is a skilfully-created illusion.
neither God not earthly sprite: in this image Cupid is seen as transitional: not a God (as Venus is) but still a spirit, not an earthly being.
Returne my thoughts, why fly you ʃoe
ʃorrow will my good outgoe
Phant’ʃie’s butt phantastique’s skill
the ʃoule above powrs hath the will,
whom they implor’d to have the ods
of mortals, all, butt ‘t’wowld nott bee
for love from highest heigth did ʃee,
nott Venus darling that is light,
then Cupid take thy honor right,
thou’rt neither God, nor Earthly spright;/
Return my thoughts, why fly you so?
Sorrow will my good outgo,
fancy’s but fantastic’s skill,
the soul above powers has the will.
whom they implored to have the odds,
of mortals all, but ‘twould not be
for love from highest height did see.
not Venus’ darling that is light,
then Cupid take thy honour right,
thou art neither God, nor earthly sprite.
N19 (p. 418): This variation on N18 is not included as a separate poem in Roberts’s edition. Here Andromarko is overheard by Amphilanthus and Pamphilia reciting this poem, which it would seem is intended by Wroth to be a variation on the previous poem: while this is not stated, one can perhaps assume that Andromarko, having obtained the previous poem, is reciting a slightly altered version of it. It is at this point that the manuscript breaks off, so we learn nothing more of this particular pair of lovers.
highest height: changed from highest enthroned in N18.
Venus darling: this alteration from N18, which does not explicitly mention Venus, stresses that Cupid is we might say a creature who mediates between humans and the Goddess Venus.
While overall N19 is almost the same as N18, the mention of Venus coming from Andromarko’s mouth, rather than the lady’s, indicates how powerful desire is in this narrative, as we see it constantly undoing women and men equally.
Images of manuscript versions of ‘Had I loved’ (ascribed to William Herbert) in four British Library manuscripts.
BL Additional MS 10309, fol. 125
BL Additional MS 10309, fol. 125v
BL Additional MS 21433, fol. 119v
BL Additional MS 21433, fol. 120
BL Additional MS 21433, fol. 120v
BL Additional MS 25303, fol. 130v
BL Harley MS 6917, fol. 33v
BL Harley MS 6917, fol. 34