In her shortest complete poem, Pulter imagines waking up on the final day, at the dawn of Christ’s second coming and her own resurrection. To describe this awe-inspiring moment, she turns to traditional biblical metaphors linking the daily cycles of darkness and light, “Night and Morning”, to phases of the afterlife, such as being dead in the grave and rising from it.
As if mimicking the natural cycles of the sun, the poem’s lines alternate between images of darkness and light. This balance is enacted on the page through the capitalization of governing concepts; “Night”, “Grave”, “Darkness”, and “Death” (lines 1, 3, 5) are replaced by “Resurrection”, “Morn”, “Righteousness”, and “Glory” (lines 2 and 4). The poem’s iambic pentameter similarly evokes these oscillating rhythms—that is, until line 5. Here, Pulter breaks the meter with the dactyl, “Conquering”, marking the moment of triumph in the poem when “Death and Night” have been defeated by the “sun of Righteousness.” The brevity of the poem suggests that this battle is quickly won, as is the transition from “Night” in the first line to the “everlasting light” of the last. Christ’s ultimate victory over the darkness on the final day recalls his own resurrection from the tomb and fulfills the promise of John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: / And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die”. Pulter would have been assured of this promise in Protestant teachings of the early-to-mid seventeenth century, including those prescribed by The Book of Common Prayer (1604), which directed mourners to cast their thoughts on the final day when the departed will rise from their graves as Christ once did from his (see Burial Rites in “Curations”).
Much like a brief, affirming prayer, Poem 5 takes on the resolute voice of a first-person speaker who knows that after she undergoes the natural cycles of life and death she will see the light of God on the morning of the final day. Rather than focusing on apocalyptic horrors or the final judgement, Pulter commits to exploring the moment of resurrection. In this way, Poem 5 diverges from those of her contemporaries, George Herbert and John Donne, whose poems often seem to reflect more ambivalence about what the final day may hold for both the chosen and the damned (see Herbert’s “Doomsday” and Donne’s “Sonnet VII” in Doomsday curation).
A different sort of apprehension, however, lurks in and between the lines of Pulter’s poem. Within the seventeenth-century manuscript where the poet’s works are recorded, the word “Night”, the most oft-repeated term in the poem, receives special emphasis as the scribe uses elaborate calligraphic flourishes on the capital letter “N”. That this letter is also enlarged in the title and in the opening line means that “Night,” with its inky curls and elongated tails, visually dominates the space of the short poem (see ‘Night’ in Ink in “Curations”). Throughout many of Pulter’s other poems, “Night” is a force to be reckoned with, so much so that the poet personifies “Night” as the primordial Goddess Nyx (in Latin) and Nox (in Greek), who in some classical traditions gave birth to the Furies (Virgil, The XII Aeneids of Virgil, trans. John Vicars. [London, 1632], p. 413). In Poem 3, for instance, which appears just a few pages before “Of Night and Morning”, the figure of “horrid Night” terrorizes the speaker, sending her “furious issue” to metaphorically lash the speaker’s soul with the serpents that uncurl from their bodies (lines 32-33). “Death”, the speaker imagines, is the only escape from Night’s frequent assaults (lines 50-54). Hence, it is no accident that in her work Pulter extols the light-bringers, Christ and/or Aurora (the Goddess of Dawn), for their ability to defeat “Night” in its many manifestations. This layering of Christian and classical allusions further heightens the speaker’s longing for a victor who will break Night’s cycle and bring forth the “everlasting light”.