A Dialogue Between Two Sisters, Virgins Bewailing Their Solitary Life

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A Dialogue Between Two Sisters, Virgins Bewailing Their Solitary Life

Poem 56

Original Source

Hester Pulter, Poems breathed forth by the nobel Hadassas, University of Leeds Library, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt q 32

Versions

  • Facsimile of manuscript: Photographs provided by University of Leeds, Brotherton Collection

  • Transcription of manuscript: By Leah Knight and Wendy Wall.
  • Elemental edition: By Leah Knight and Wendy Wall.
  • Amplified edition: By Sarah C. E. Ross.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

  • Created by Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
  • Encoded by Katherine Poland, Matthew Taylor, Elizabeth Chou, and Emily Andrey, Northwestern University
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X (Close panel)Notes: Transcription

 Editorial note

In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.
Line number 8

 Physical note

imperfectly erased
Line number 26

 Physical note

words crowded slightly; “U” in unstrung originally a minuscule, corrected to majuscule
Line number 32

 Physical note

“ed” is written over imperfectly erased “ly”
Line number 38

 Physical note

in different hand from main scribe
Line number 39

 Physical note

“i” written over other letter, perhaps “e”
Line number 43

 Physical note

“i” appears written over earlier “e”
Line number 44

 Physical note

“m” written over imperfectly erased “I”
Line number 51

 Physical note

part of “s” in darker ink, possibly over earlier “r”
Line number 53

 Physical note

“e” is fainter, perhaps imperfectly erased
Line number 54

 Physical note

A tilde-shaped line follows the poem; the remaining third of the page and the reverse are blank.
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
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Transcription

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A Dialogue between two Sisters Virgins bewailing their Solitary life. P: P:. ff: P: .
Critical Note
The title is followed by two sets of initials, “P. P.”, presumably for Pulter’s daughter, Penelope Pulter (1633-55), and “F. P.”, another daughter named in the poem as Anne Pulter (1635-60).
A Dialogue Between Two Sisters, Virgins Bewailing Their Solitary Life
Critical Note
MS = P.P., F.P. The “F” seems to be an error, as the two speakers are clearly identified in the poem as Penelope and Anne. These are poetic versions of Pulter’s two daughters Penelope (1633-55) and Anne (1635-66). For other poems addressed to her daughters, see “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2) and "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38).
A Dialogue Between Two Sisters, Virgins, Bewailing their Solitary Life, P.P., A.P.
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
The aim of the elemental edition is to make the poems accessible to the largest variety of readers, which involves modernizing spelling and punctuation as well as adding basic glosses. Spelling and punctuation reflect current standard American usage; punctuation highlights syntax which might otherwise be obscure. Outmoded but still familiar word forms (“thou,” “‘tis,” “hold’st”) are not modernized, and we do not modernize grammar when the sense remains legible. After a brief headnote aimed at offering a “way in” to the poem’s unique qualities and connections with other verse by Pulter or her contemporaries, the edition features a minimum of notes and interpretative framing to allow more immediate engagement with the poem. Glosses clarify synonyms or showcase various possible meanings in Pulter’s time. Other notes identify named people and places or clarify obscure material. We rely (without citation) primarily on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the Oxford Reference database, and the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. When we rely on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s work, we cite her text generally (“Eardley”); other sources are cited in full. The result is an edition we consider a springboard for further work on Pulter’s poetry. See full conventions for this edition here.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
My priority in editing these poems has been to modernise, and to achieve interpretative and visual clarity, in order to make the poems as accessible as possible to as wide a modern audience as is possible. Spelling is modernised, as is punctuation. Modernising the latter, in particular, often involves a significant act of editorial interpretation, but in my view this is one of the most productive areas of editorial intervention, particularly for a manuscript text such as Pulter’s where the punctuation is erratic compared to modern usage (and, indeed, compared to early modern printed texts).
Critical Note
1. See Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse”, in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 162-178.
1


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Uncharacteristically, Pulter here chooses to write a pastoral dialogue in which two of her daughters express their sorrows in relation to the natural world. Penelope and Anne seek solace for their laments by immersing themselves in a landscape that also appears to be mourning. The source of the speakers’ sadness is unclear: it seems to derive from their awareness of life’s mortality and decay; their frustrated desire to be in heaven; and their awareness of the world’s general imperfections. Because they see the environment through the lens of classical mythology, however, they do not find comfort; instead the particular flowers and birds signal tragic mythological stories of injury, rape, loss, and death. The daughters’ complaints are also intensified by their inability to produce song while surrounded by a natural world that effortlessly emotes sympathetic sorrow. On realizing that they are mortals unable to release their souls into other bodies or to eternal life, they stoically turn to the comfort of a family community cemented by shared sorrow. The poem poignantly ends with them resolving to ease the isolation of their mother Hester. Out of the six poems in the collection in which Pulter specifically mentions her daughters, this is the only verse in which her daughters are portrayed as artistic creators.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem brings together in intriguing ways two poetic modes or forms common in seventeenth-century poetry: the complaint and the dialogue poem. The mode of complaint can be broadly understood as the “woe is me” posture and the rhetorical exposition of emotion deriving from it; typically, complaint is an open-ended expression of woe, in which the grief-stricken speaker expands in an exorbitant way on their lamentable circumstances. Complaint is pervasive in seventeenth-century literature, with foundational examples such as Shakespeare’s A Lover’s Complaint and Spenser’s volume of Complaints (1591) influencing a plethora of amatory, religious, and political applications. For definitions and influential discussions of complaint, see John Kerrigan, Motives of Woe: Shakespeare and "Female Complaint": A Critical Anthology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); Katharine Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 64 (2001): 63-79; Rosalind Smith, Michelle O’Callaghan, and Sarah C. E. Ross, "Complaint", in Catherine Bates (ed.), A Companion to Renaissance Poetry (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), pp. 339-52.
Complaint is often female-voiced, and Pulter’s poem bears multiple markers of the mode. Here, the two speaking virgins occupy a landscape that reflects or shares their woe; they help “poor Philomel”, the nightingale, a common poetic figure for sorrow, to sing a lamenting song; and their sad songs are sung “in vain” (“Then let us cease in vain to make our moan”, line 53). While the reason for the sisters’ woe is not explicitly identified, the poem is a broad complaint against the times, the “base world” offering only “wants and losses” (lines 50, 12). Pulter’s wider body of work suggests a political context for this: the poem’s complaint elements can be usefully read alongside “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2), “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4); "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38), and several other of Pulter’s poems that construe Broadfield as a landscape of loss and loneliness.
At the same time as the poem is a clear example of complaint, its title and form mark it as a dialogue poem, another mode with a “dizzying array of precedents” in the early modern period. (For dialogue poetry, see W. Scott Howard, "Milton’s ‘Hence’: Dialogue and the Shape of History in ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’, in Printed Voices: The Renaissance Culture of Dialogue, ed. Dorothea Heitsch and Jean-François Vallée (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), pp. 157-74). Pastoral dialogues are the clearest precedent here, in the broad tradition of Spenser’s The Shepheard’s Calendar, and the poem reflects the proximity of pastoral and complaint that can also be seen in Spenser’s work (see Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”). Spenser is a likely influence on Pulter’s poetry, with commonalities also evident between “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4) and The Ruines of Time, which was published in Complaints (1591). The Spenserian text closest to “A Dialogue Between Two Sisters” is another poem published in the same volume, The Tears of the Muses.
Pulter’s placement of complaint in a dialogue between two sisters is, however, divergent from dominant traditions. Female complainers are most frequently heard in dialogue with a framing male narrator, whose understanding of the complainer’s (or complainers’) plight is limited, and who is unable to offer any consolation. Kerrigan has reflected productively on the “compulsive dialectic” of framed female-voiced complaint, with a “sense of distortion” and an “interpretative instability” emerging between the woman’s grief and the masculine framing narrator’s incomprehension (p. 12). Pulter’s dialogue, in contrast, is between two female speakers who share and understand each other’s grief, sympathising with each other. Their woes are shared not only with each other, but with all aspects of the landscape around them: “For all things here which do in order rise, / Methinks in woe with us do sympathise” (lines 13-14). And at the end of the poem, the sisters turn to their mother (the implied author of the dialogue poem), promising to go and mitigate her sorrowful loneliness. In its dynamic of female woes shared, the poem can be compared to “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4), in which the woeful Thames outlines her sorrows to the implicitly female framing speaker of the poem. Beyond Pulter’s oeuvre, another female-authored, female-voiced complaint in dialogue is Anne Bradstreet’s A Dialog ue Between Old England and New.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Young Anne
1
Come my deare Sister Sit with mee a while
Young Anne: Come, my dear sister, sit with me awhile
Young Anne: Come, my dear sister, sit with me a while,
2
That wee both Time and Sorrow may beguile
That we both time and sorrow may
Gloss Note
cheat, entertain
beguile
.
That we both Time and Sorrow may beguile;
3
In this Sweet Shade by this cleer Purling Spring
In this sweet shade, by this clear
Gloss Note
rippling, murmuring
purling
spring,
In this sweet shade, by this clear, purling spring,
4
Wee’l Sit and help poor Philomele to Sing
We’ll sit and help poor
Critical Note
in mythology, Tereus rapes Philomela and cuts out her tongue; after she takes revenge, she is turned into a nightingale, a bird known for its beautiful song.
Philomel
to sing;
We’ll sit and help poor
Critical Note
the nightingale. In Greek mythology, Philomela is raped by Tereus, who cuts out her tongue so she is unable to tell anyone what has happened to her; however, she reveals her story in an embroidered tapestry and is metamorphosed into the nightingale. On account of the myth, the nightingale’s song has a long poetic association with sorrow and melancholy; for example, see Milton, “Il Penseroso”, lines 56-64. (In fact, in nature, the female bird is silent and only the male sings.)
Philomel
to sing,
5
And to Compleat the Conſort and the Quire
And to complete the
Gloss Note
harmony
consort
and the choir,
And to complete the
Gloss Note
a company of musicians making music together (OED n.2 4); here, instrumental musicians to complement the vocal “choir”
consort
and the choir,
6
I would I had my Viol you your Lyre
I would I had
Gloss Note
stringed musical instruments
my viol, you your lyre
.
I would I had my
Gloss Note
stringed instruments, the viol played with a bow and the lyre plucked like a harp
viol, you your lyre
.
Elder Pen
7
Aye mee my Sister Time on Restles wheels
Elder Pen: Ay me, my sister! Time on restless wheels
Elder Pen: Ay me, my sister, Time on restless wheels
8
Doth ever turn
Physical Note
imperfectly erased
with
With wings upon his Heels
Doth ever turn with wings upon his heels,
Doth ever turn with wings upon his heels,
9
ffast as the Sand that Huddles through his Glaſs
Fast as the sand that huddles through his
Gloss Note
hourglass
glass
;
Fast as the sand that
Gloss Note
hurries (OED 4b)
huddles
through his
Gloss Note
hourglass
glass
,
10
Regardles of our Tears hee on doth Paſs
Regardless of our tears, he on doth pass.
Regardless of our tears, he on doth pass;
11
Yet in the Shade of this Sad Sycomore
Yet in the shade of this sad
Gloss Note
tree associated with sorrow
sycamore
Yet in the shade of this sad sycamore
12
Wee’l Sit our wants and Loſſes to deplore
We’ll sit, our wants and losses to
Gloss Note
lament
deplore
;
We’ll sit, our wants and losses to
Gloss Note
bewail, lament
deplore
,
13
ffor all things here which doe in order Rise
For all things here which do
Gloss Note
in the natural order
in order
rise,
For all things here which do in
Critical Note
natural order (OED 11c), perhaps with a sense of a fraternity or sorority, a society (OED 8c)
order
rise,
14
Mee thinks in woe with us doe Sympathiſe
Methinks in woe with us do sympathize.
Methinks in woe with us do sympathise.
15
Theſe Cypris like our hopes doe leſſer grow
These
Critical Note
cypresses; trees associated with death and mourning; once cut, they were thought to stop growing; here the speaker sees this lack of growth as a shrinking
cypress
, like our hopes, do lesser grow;
These
Critical Note
a tree traditionally associated with death and mourning (OED 1c)
cypress
, like our hopes, do lesser grow;
16
This Bubling ffount like our Sad eyes doe fllow
This bubbling fount, like our sad eyes, does flow,
This bubbling fount like our sad eyes does flow,
17
And though it doth a greater murmering keep
And though it doth a greater murmuring keep,
And though it doth a greater murmuring keep,
18
Yet wee may teach this living Spring to weep
Yet we may
Critical Note
They could teach the fount to flow more because their weeping exceeds even its output.
teach this living spring to weep
.
Yet we may teach this living spring to weep;
these

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19
Theſe Primroſes like us neglected ffade
These primroses, like us, neglected fade,
These primroses, like us, neglected fade,
20
And Violets Sit weeping in the Shade
And violets sit weeping in the shade.
And violets sit weeping in the shade;
21
With us Sad Hiacinthus Sighs out Aye
With us sad
Critical Note
mythological lover of Apollo (god of the sun); Zephrus, the wind god, kills him in a jealous rage and he is turned into a flower; according to Ovid, Apollo wrote lines about his grief, which Phoebus (the sun) imprinted on the flower’s petals (“ay”). See John Gerard, Herbal (London, 1633), 193-4.
Hyacinthus
sighs out, “ay!”
With us, sad
Critical Note
the hyacinth. In Greek mythology, a young man loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus; he is killed by Zephyrus in a jealous rage, and turns into the flower.
Hyacinthus
sighs out “ay”,
22
And lovly Aramantha doth display
And lovely
Critical Note
flower thought never to fade; symbol of immortality sometimes placed on gravestones
Amarantha
doth display
And lovely
Gloss Note
the amaranth, an imaginary flower reputed never to fade
Amarantha
doth display
23
Her bevties here to noe admireing eye
Her beauties here to no admiring eye.
Her beauties here to no admiring eye;
24
Just Soe obliviated wee live and die
Just so,
Gloss Note
made to be forgotten
obliviated
, we live and die;
Just so
Gloss Note
forgotten, committed to oblivion
obliviated
we live and die.
25
And for your Viol and my Theorbo Lute
And for your viol and my
Gloss Note
variety of lute with two sets of tuning pegs and a larger neck
theorbo lute
,
And for your viol and my
Gloss Note
a large lute with two sets of tuning pegs and an extended neck, enabling additional bass strings
theorbo lute
,
26
They
Physical Note
words crowded slightly; “U” in unstrung originally a minuscule, corrected to majuscule
both Unſtrung
upon the Wall hang Mute
They both, unstrung, upon the wall hang mute,
They both unstrung, upon the wall, hang mute,
27
And in a uniſon will Scarcely move
And in a unison will scarcely move,
And in a unison will scarcely move,
28
They’r Soe unuſed Ay mee to Strains of Love
They’re so unused (ay me) to strains of love.
They’re so unused, ay me, to strains of love.
29
With Philomele wee may lament too Late
With Philomel we may lament too late
With
Critical Note
see note to line 4
Philomel
we may lament too late
30
Our most disastrous and too differing ffate
Our most disastrous, and
Critical Note
both the speaker and Philomela are pained by obstacles in expressing their woes (given that the sisters’ instruments are “unstrung”), though Philomela’s fate is much more tragic.
too differing, fate
.
Our most disastrous, and too differing, fate.
31
Oh my Sad Heart would wee might paſs o:r Howers
O my sad heart, would we might pass our hours
O, my sad heart, would we might pass our hours
32
As innocently
Physical Note
“ed” is written over imperfectly erased “ly”
contented
as theſe fflowers
As innocently contented as these flowers,
As innocently contented as these flowers
33
Who Shew their bevties to admireing eyes
Who show their beauties to admiring eyes,
Who show their beauties to admiring eyes,
34
Then breathing Aromatick Odours dies
Then
Gloss Note
exhaling
breathing
aromatic odors, dies.
Then breathing aromatic odours
Critical Note
i.e. die. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
dies
.
35
Come my dear Nan in this Sad Shade wee’l lye
Come, my dear
Gloss Note
nickname for Anne
Nan
, in this sad shade we’ll lie,
Come, my dear
Gloss Note
a common pet-name for “Anne”
Nan
, in this sad shade we’ll lie,
36
And like them Sweetly liue and Sweetly Die
And, like them, sweetly live and sweetly die.
And like them sweetly live and sweetly die.
37
Adonis blood the Enymonie up Rears
Critical Note
young hunter beloved by Venus; after he is killed by a boar, she uses his blood to transform him into a colorful flower (the anemone).
Adonis’ blood the anemone uprears
.
Critical Note
In Greek mythology, Adonis is the young and beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. After he is killed by a wild boar, her tears mingle with his blood to transform him into a brightly-coloured flower, the anemone.
Adonis’ blood the anemone uprears:
38
Who knowes? Such vertue may
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\bee \
in o:r tears
Who knows? Such virtue may be in our tears:
Who knows, such virtue may
Critical Note
The word “be” has been inserted above the line, as a correction in the hand that I take to be Pulter’s own (see Ross (2000), pp. 150-171 and 252-4).
be
in our tears;
39
These
Physical Note
“i” written over other letter, perhaps “e”
vi’lets
, Primroſe, Payles w:ch apears
These violets, primrose,
Gloss Note
florets
pales
which appears,
These vi’lets, primrose,
Critical Note
apparently a type of flower, like others listed in the line. For an approximate meaning, see OED n.1.III.7a: The ray (outer florets) of a typical flower of the family Asteraceae (Compositae).
pales
which
i.e. appear. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
appears
,
40
Perhaps their number Springs from Virgins tears
Perhaps their number springs from virgins’ tears.
Perhaps their number
Critical Note
See note to line 37. For a similar idea, see “The Weeping Wish” (Poem 61): “Oh that my tears that fall down to the earth / Might give some noble, unknown flower birth” (lines 9-10).
springs from virgins’ tears
.
O

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41
O mee I would I might this very hower
O me, I would I might this very hour
O me, I would I might this very hour
42
Sigh my Sad Soul into this July fflower
Sigh my sad soul into this
Gloss Note
carnation
gillyflower
.
Sigh my sad soul into this
Gloss Note
gillyflower
July flower
;
43
Trust mee I ^gladly would
Physical Note
“i” appears written over earlier “e”
trancmigerate
Trust me, I gladly would
Gloss Note
to move to another place; movement of the soul into another body after death; here, to die
transmigrate
,
Trust me, I gladly would
Gloss Note
i.e. transmigrate, the action of the soul passing, after death, into another body (OED 2a)
transmigerate
,
44
That
Physical Note
“m” written over imperfectly erased “I”
my
aflicted life might haue a date
That my afflicted life might have a
Gloss Note
limit, end
date
.
That my afflicted life might
Critical Note
probably in the sense of OED n.2 5: have a limit, an end-point
have a date
,
45
But wee (he las) in Sad obſcurity
But we (alas) in sad obscurity
But we, alas, in sad obscurity
46
Must hopeles live, and Soe I doubt I must die
Must hopeless live, and so, I
Gloss Note
fear
doubt
, must die.
Must hopeless live and so, I doubt, must die.
47
Oh that a recluſe life had bin my ffate
O that a recluse life had been my fate,
O, that a
Gloss Note
a life of seclusion, withdrawal from society
rècluse life
had been my fate,
48
To take our viſits at a Curteous grate
To take our visits at a
Gloss Note
place of confinement named for metal bars that nevertheless permit communication (and so are “courteous”)
courteous grate
.
To take our visits at a
Gloss Note
metal bars (a grate) through which a conversation is taken, as were common at houses of religious seclusion
courteous grate
.
Ann.
49
Stay my Dear Sister I have noe mind to die
Anne: Stay, my dear sister, I have no mind to die;
Anne: Stay, my dear sister, I have no mind to die;
50
A little more of this baſe World Ile trie
A little more of this base world I’ll
Gloss Note
test
try
;
A little more of this base world I’ll try,
51
And if whats future proue like what is
Physical Note
part of “s” in darker ink, possibly over earlier “r”
past
And if what’s future
Gloss Note
prove to be
prove
like what is past,
And if what’s future prove like what is past,
52
I’le patient bee, I can but die at last
I’ll patient be; I can but die at last.
I’ll patient be, I can but die at last.
53
Then let us ceaſe in vain to make our
Physical Note
“e” is fainter, perhaps imperfectly erased
moane
Then let us cease in vain to make our moan,
Then let us cease in vain to make our moan,
54
And go to our Sad Mother Shee’s
Physical Note
A tilde-shaped line follows the poem; the remaining third of the page and the reverse are blank.
alone.
And go to our sad mother; she’s alone.
And go to our sad mother; she’s alone.
tilde-shaped line
X (Close panel)Notes: Elemental Edition
Title note

 Critical note

The title is followed by two sets of initials, “P. P.”, presumably for Pulter’s daughter, Penelope Pulter (1633-55), and “F. P.”, another daughter named in the poem as Anne Pulter (1635-60).

 Editorial note

The aim of the elemental edition is to make the poems accessible to the largest variety of readers, which involves modernizing spelling and punctuation as well as adding basic glosses. Spelling and punctuation reflect current standard American usage; punctuation highlights syntax which might otherwise be obscure. Outmoded but still familiar word forms (“thou,” “‘tis,” “hold’st”) are not modernized, and we do not modernize grammar when the sense remains legible. After a brief headnote aimed at offering a “way in” to the poem’s unique qualities and connections with other verse by Pulter or her contemporaries, the edition features a minimum of notes and interpretative framing to allow more immediate engagement with the poem. Glosses clarify synonyms or showcase various possible meanings in Pulter’s time. Other notes identify named people and places or clarify obscure material. We rely (without citation) primarily on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the Oxford Reference database, and the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. When we rely on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s work, we cite her text generally (“Eardley”); other sources are cited in full. The result is an edition we consider a springboard for further work on Pulter’s poetry. See full conventions for this edition here.

 Headnote

Uncharacteristically, Pulter here chooses to write a pastoral dialogue in which two of her daughters express their sorrows in relation to the natural world. Penelope and Anne seek solace for their laments by immersing themselves in a landscape that also appears to be mourning. The source of the speakers’ sadness is unclear: it seems to derive from their awareness of life’s mortality and decay; their frustrated desire to be in heaven; and their awareness of the world’s general imperfections. Because they see the environment through the lens of classical mythology, however, they do not find comfort; instead the particular flowers and birds signal tragic mythological stories of injury, rape, loss, and death. The daughters’ complaints are also intensified by their inability to produce song while surrounded by a natural world that effortlessly emotes sympathetic sorrow. On realizing that they are mortals unable to release their souls into other bodies or to eternal life, they stoically turn to the comfort of a family community cemented by shared sorrow. The poem poignantly ends with them resolving to ease the isolation of their mother Hester. Out of the six poems in the collection in which Pulter specifically mentions her daughters, this is the only verse in which her daughters are portrayed as artistic creators.
Line number 2

 Gloss note

cheat, entertain
Line number 3

 Gloss note

rippling, murmuring
Line number 4

 Critical note

in mythology, Tereus rapes Philomela and cuts out her tongue; after she takes revenge, she is turned into a nightingale, a bird known for its beautiful song.
Line number 5

 Gloss note

harmony
Line number 6

 Gloss note

stringed musical instruments
Line number 9

 Gloss note

hourglass
Line number 11

 Gloss note

tree associated with sorrow
Line number 12

 Gloss note

lament
Line number 13

 Gloss note

in the natural order
Line number 15

 Critical note

cypresses; trees associated with death and mourning; once cut, they were thought to stop growing; here the speaker sees this lack of growth as a shrinking
Line number 18

 Critical note

They could teach the fount to flow more because their weeping exceeds even its output.
Line number 21

 Critical note

mythological lover of Apollo (god of the sun); Zephrus, the wind god, kills him in a jealous rage and he is turned into a flower; according to Ovid, Apollo wrote lines about his grief, which Phoebus (the sun) imprinted on the flower’s petals (“ay”). See John Gerard, Herbal (London, 1633), 193-4.
Line number 22

 Critical note

flower thought never to fade; symbol of immortality sometimes placed on gravestones
Line number 24

 Gloss note

made to be forgotten
Line number 25

 Gloss note

variety of lute with two sets of tuning pegs and a larger neck
Line number 30

 Critical note

both the speaker and Philomela are pained by obstacles in expressing their woes (given that the sisters’ instruments are “unstrung”), though Philomela’s fate is much more tragic.
Line number 34

 Gloss note

exhaling
Line number 35

 Gloss note

nickname for Anne
Line number 37

 Critical note

young hunter beloved by Venus; after he is killed by a boar, she uses his blood to transform him into a colorful flower (the anemone).
Line number 39

 Gloss note

florets
Line number 42

 Gloss note

carnation
Line number 43

 Gloss note

to move to another place; movement of the soul into another body after death; here, to die
Line number 44

 Gloss note

limit, end
Line number 46

 Gloss note

fear
Line number 48

 Gloss note

place of confinement named for metal bars that nevertheless permit communication (and so are “courteous”)
Line number 50

 Gloss note

test
Line number 51

 Gloss note

prove to be
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X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
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A Dialogue between two Sisters Virgins bewailing their Solitary life. P: P:. ff: P: .
Critical Note
The title is followed by two sets of initials, “P. P.”, presumably for Pulter’s daughter, Penelope Pulter (1633-55), and “F. P.”, another daughter named in the poem as Anne Pulter (1635-60).
A Dialogue Between Two Sisters, Virgins Bewailing Their Solitary Life
Critical Note
MS = P.P., F.P. The “F” seems to be an error, as the two speakers are clearly identified in the poem as Penelope and Anne. These are poetic versions of Pulter’s two daughters Penelope (1633-55) and Anne (1635-66). For other poems addressed to her daughters, see “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2) and "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38).
A Dialogue Between Two Sisters, Virgins, Bewailing their Solitary Life, P.P., A.P.
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
The aim of the elemental edition is to make the poems accessible to the largest variety of readers, which involves modernizing spelling and punctuation as well as adding basic glosses. Spelling and punctuation reflect current standard American usage; punctuation highlights syntax which might otherwise be obscure. Outmoded but still familiar word forms (“thou,” “‘tis,” “hold’st”) are not modernized, and we do not modernize grammar when the sense remains legible. After a brief headnote aimed at offering a “way in” to the poem’s unique qualities and connections with other verse by Pulter or her contemporaries, the edition features a minimum of notes and interpretative framing to allow more immediate engagement with the poem. Glosses clarify synonyms or showcase various possible meanings in Pulter’s time. Other notes identify named people and places or clarify obscure material. We rely (without citation) primarily on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the Oxford Reference database, and the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. When we rely on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s work, we cite her text generally (“Eardley”); other sources are cited in full. The result is an edition we consider a springboard for further work on Pulter’s poetry. See full conventions for this edition here.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
My priority in editing these poems has been to modernise, and to achieve interpretative and visual clarity, in order to make the poems as accessible as possible to as wide a modern audience as is possible. Spelling is modernised, as is punctuation. Modernising the latter, in particular, often involves a significant act of editorial interpretation, but in my view this is one of the most productive areas of editorial intervention, particularly for a manuscript text such as Pulter’s where the punctuation is erratic compared to modern usage (and, indeed, compared to early modern printed texts).
Critical Note
1. See Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse”, in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 162-178.
1


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Uncharacteristically, Pulter here chooses to write a pastoral dialogue in which two of her daughters express their sorrows in relation to the natural world. Penelope and Anne seek solace for their laments by immersing themselves in a landscape that also appears to be mourning. The source of the speakers’ sadness is unclear: it seems to derive from their awareness of life’s mortality and decay; their frustrated desire to be in heaven; and their awareness of the world’s general imperfections. Because they see the environment through the lens of classical mythology, however, they do not find comfort; instead the particular flowers and birds signal tragic mythological stories of injury, rape, loss, and death. The daughters’ complaints are also intensified by their inability to produce song while surrounded by a natural world that effortlessly emotes sympathetic sorrow. On realizing that they are mortals unable to release their souls into other bodies or to eternal life, they stoically turn to the comfort of a family community cemented by shared sorrow. The poem poignantly ends with them resolving to ease the isolation of their mother Hester. Out of the six poems in the collection in which Pulter specifically mentions her daughters, this is the only verse in which her daughters are portrayed as artistic creators.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem brings together in intriguing ways two poetic modes or forms common in seventeenth-century poetry: the complaint and the dialogue poem. The mode of complaint can be broadly understood as the “woe is me” posture and the rhetorical exposition of emotion deriving from it; typically, complaint is an open-ended expression of woe, in which the grief-stricken speaker expands in an exorbitant way on their lamentable circumstances. Complaint is pervasive in seventeenth-century literature, with foundational examples such as Shakespeare’s A Lover’s Complaint and Spenser’s volume of Complaints (1591) influencing a plethora of amatory, religious, and political applications. For definitions and influential discussions of complaint, see John Kerrigan, Motives of Woe: Shakespeare and "Female Complaint": A Critical Anthology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); Katharine Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 64 (2001): 63-79; Rosalind Smith, Michelle O’Callaghan, and Sarah C. E. Ross, "Complaint", in Catherine Bates (ed.), A Companion to Renaissance Poetry (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), pp. 339-52.
Complaint is often female-voiced, and Pulter’s poem bears multiple markers of the mode. Here, the two speaking virgins occupy a landscape that reflects or shares their woe; they help “poor Philomel”, the nightingale, a common poetic figure for sorrow, to sing a lamenting song; and their sad songs are sung “in vain” (“Then let us cease in vain to make our moan”, line 53). While the reason for the sisters’ woe is not explicitly identified, the poem is a broad complaint against the times, the “base world” offering only “wants and losses” (lines 50, 12). Pulter’s wider body of work suggests a political context for this: the poem’s complaint elements can be usefully read alongside “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2), “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4); "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38), and several other of Pulter’s poems that construe Broadfield as a landscape of loss and loneliness.
At the same time as the poem is a clear example of complaint, its title and form mark it as a dialogue poem, another mode with a “dizzying array of precedents” in the early modern period. (For dialogue poetry, see W. Scott Howard, "Milton’s ‘Hence’: Dialogue and the Shape of History in ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’, in Printed Voices: The Renaissance Culture of Dialogue, ed. Dorothea Heitsch and Jean-François Vallée (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), pp. 157-74). Pastoral dialogues are the clearest precedent here, in the broad tradition of Spenser’s The Shepheard’s Calendar, and the poem reflects the proximity of pastoral and complaint that can also be seen in Spenser’s work (see Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”). Spenser is a likely influence on Pulter’s poetry, with commonalities also evident between “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4) and The Ruines of Time, which was published in Complaints (1591). The Spenserian text closest to “A Dialogue Between Two Sisters” is another poem published in the same volume, The Tears of the Muses.
Pulter’s placement of complaint in a dialogue between two sisters is, however, divergent from dominant traditions. Female complainers are most frequently heard in dialogue with a framing male narrator, whose understanding of the complainer’s (or complainers’) plight is limited, and who is unable to offer any consolation. Kerrigan has reflected productively on the “compulsive dialectic” of framed female-voiced complaint, with a “sense of distortion” and an “interpretative instability” emerging between the woman’s grief and the masculine framing narrator’s incomprehension (p. 12). Pulter’s dialogue, in contrast, is between two female speakers who share and understand each other’s grief, sympathising with each other. Their woes are shared not only with each other, but with all aspects of the landscape around them: “For all things here which do in order rise, / Methinks in woe with us do sympathise” (lines 13-14). And at the end of the poem, the sisters turn to their mother (the implied author of the dialogue poem), promising to go and mitigate her sorrowful loneliness. In its dynamic of female woes shared, the poem can be compared to “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4), in which the woeful Thames outlines her sorrows to the implicitly female framing speaker of the poem. Beyond Pulter’s oeuvre, another female-authored, female-voiced complaint in dialogue is Anne Bradstreet’s A Dialog ue Between Old England and New.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Young Anne
1
Come my deare Sister Sit with mee a while
Young Anne: Come, my dear sister, sit with me awhile
Young Anne: Come, my dear sister, sit with me a while,
2
That wee both Time and Sorrow may beguile
That we both time and sorrow may
Gloss Note
cheat, entertain
beguile
.
That we both Time and Sorrow may beguile;
3
In this Sweet Shade by this cleer Purling Spring
In this sweet shade, by this clear
Gloss Note
rippling, murmuring
purling
spring,
In this sweet shade, by this clear, purling spring,
4
Wee’l Sit and help poor Philomele to Sing
We’ll sit and help poor
Critical Note
in mythology, Tereus rapes Philomela and cuts out her tongue; after she takes revenge, she is turned into a nightingale, a bird known for its beautiful song.
Philomel
to sing;
We’ll sit and help poor
Critical Note
the nightingale. In Greek mythology, Philomela is raped by Tereus, who cuts out her tongue so she is unable to tell anyone what has happened to her; however, she reveals her story in an embroidered tapestry and is metamorphosed into the nightingale. On account of the myth, the nightingale’s song has a long poetic association with sorrow and melancholy; for example, see Milton, “Il Penseroso”, lines 56-64. (In fact, in nature, the female bird is silent and only the male sings.)
Philomel
to sing,
5
And to Compleat the Conſort and the Quire
And to complete the
Gloss Note
harmony
consort
and the choir,
And to complete the
Gloss Note
a company of musicians making music together (OED n.2 4); here, instrumental musicians to complement the vocal “choir”
consort
and the choir,
6
I would I had my Viol you your Lyre
I would I had
Gloss Note
stringed musical instruments
my viol, you your lyre
.
I would I had my
Gloss Note
stringed instruments, the viol played with a bow and the lyre plucked like a harp
viol, you your lyre
.
Elder Pen
7
Aye mee my Sister Time on Restles wheels
Elder Pen: Ay me, my sister! Time on restless wheels
Elder Pen: Ay me, my sister, Time on restless wheels
8
Doth ever turn
Physical Note
imperfectly erased
with
With wings upon his Heels
Doth ever turn with wings upon his heels,
Doth ever turn with wings upon his heels,
9
ffast as the Sand that Huddles through his Glaſs
Fast as the sand that huddles through his
Gloss Note
hourglass
glass
;
Fast as the sand that
Gloss Note
hurries (OED 4b)
huddles
through his
Gloss Note
hourglass
glass
,
10
Regardles of our Tears hee on doth Paſs
Regardless of our tears, he on doth pass.
Regardless of our tears, he on doth pass;
11
Yet in the Shade of this Sad Sycomore
Yet in the shade of this sad
Gloss Note
tree associated with sorrow
sycamore
Yet in the shade of this sad sycamore
12
Wee’l Sit our wants and Loſſes to deplore
We’ll sit, our wants and losses to
Gloss Note
lament
deplore
;
We’ll sit, our wants and losses to
Gloss Note
bewail, lament
deplore
,
13
ffor all things here which doe in order Rise
For all things here which do
Gloss Note
in the natural order
in order
rise,
For all things here which do in
Critical Note
natural order (OED 11c), perhaps with a sense of a fraternity or sorority, a society (OED 8c)
order
rise,
14
Mee thinks in woe with us doe Sympathiſe
Methinks in woe with us do sympathize.
Methinks in woe with us do sympathise.
15
Theſe Cypris like our hopes doe leſſer grow
These
Critical Note
cypresses; trees associated with death and mourning; once cut, they were thought to stop growing; here the speaker sees this lack of growth as a shrinking
cypress
, like our hopes, do lesser grow;
These
Critical Note
a tree traditionally associated with death and mourning (OED 1c)
cypress
, like our hopes, do lesser grow;
16
This Bubling ffount like our Sad eyes doe fllow
This bubbling fount, like our sad eyes, does flow,
This bubbling fount like our sad eyes does flow,
17
And though it doth a greater murmering keep
And though it doth a greater murmuring keep,
And though it doth a greater murmuring keep,
18
Yet wee may teach this living Spring to weep
Yet we may
Critical Note
They could teach the fount to flow more because their weeping exceeds even its output.
teach this living spring to weep
.
Yet we may teach this living spring to weep;
these

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19
Theſe Primroſes like us neglected ffade
These primroses, like us, neglected fade,
These primroses, like us, neglected fade,
20
And Violets Sit weeping in the Shade
And violets sit weeping in the shade.
And violets sit weeping in the shade;
21
With us Sad Hiacinthus Sighs out Aye
With us sad
Critical Note
mythological lover of Apollo (god of the sun); Zephrus, the wind god, kills him in a jealous rage and he is turned into a flower; according to Ovid, Apollo wrote lines about his grief, which Phoebus (the sun) imprinted on the flower’s petals (“ay”). See John Gerard, Herbal (London, 1633), 193-4.
Hyacinthus
sighs out, “ay!”
With us, sad
Critical Note
the hyacinth. In Greek mythology, a young man loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus; he is killed by Zephyrus in a jealous rage, and turns into the flower.
Hyacinthus
sighs out “ay”,
22
And lovly Aramantha doth display
And lovely
Critical Note
flower thought never to fade; symbol of immortality sometimes placed on gravestones
Amarantha
doth display
And lovely
Gloss Note
the amaranth, an imaginary flower reputed never to fade
Amarantha
doth display
23
Her bevties here to noe admireing eye
Her beauties here to no admiring eye.
Her beauties here to no admiring eye;
24
Just Soe obliviated wee live and die
Just so,
Gloss Note
made to be forgotten
obliviated
, we live and die;
Just so
Gloss Note
forgotten, committed to oblivion
obliviated
we live and die.
25
And for your Viol and my Theorbo Lute
And for your viol and my
Gloss Note
variety of lute with two sets of tuning pegs and a larger neck
theorbo lute
,
And for your viol and my
Gloss Note
a large lute with two sets of tuning pegs and an extended neck, enabling additional bass strings
theorbo lute
,
26
They
Physical Note
words crowded slightly; “U” in unstrung originally a minuscule, corrected to majuscule
both Unſtrung
upon the Wall hang Mute
They both, unstrung, upon the wall hang mute,
They both unstrung, upon the wall, hang mute,
27
And in a uniſon will Scarcely move
And in a unison will scarcely move,
And in a unison will scarcely move,
28
They’r Soe unuſed Ay mee to Strains of Love
They’re so unused (ay me) to strains of love.
They’re so unused, ay me, to strains of love.
29
With Philomele wee may lament too Late
With Philomel we may lament too late
With
Critical Note
see note to line 4
Philomel
we may lament too late
30
Our most disastrous and too differing ffate
Our most disastrous, and
Critical Note
both the speaker and Philomela are pained by obstacles in expressing their woes (given that the sisters’ instruments are “unstrung”), though Philomela’s fate is much more tragic.
too differing, fate
.
Our most disastrous, and too differing, fate.
31
Oh my Sad Heart would wee might paſs o:r Howers
O my sad heart, would we might pass our hours
O, my sad heart, would we might pass our hours
32
As innocently
Physical Note
“ed” is written over imperfectly erased “ly”
contented
as theſe fflowers
As innocently contented as these flowers,
As innocently contented as these flowers
33
Who Shew their bevties to admireing eyes
Who show their beauties to admiring eyes,
Who show their beauties to admiring eyes,
34
Then breathing Aromatick Odours dies
Then
Gloss Note
exhaling
breathing
aromatic odors, dies.
Then breathing aromatic odours
Critical Note
i.e. die. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
dies
.
35
Come my dear Nan in this Sad Shade wee’l lye
Come, my dear
Gloss Note
nickname for Anne
Nan
, in this sad shade we’ll lie,
Come, my dear
Gloss Note
a common pet-name for “Anne”
Nan
, in this sad shade we’ll lie,
36
And like them Sweetly liue and Sweetly Die
And, like them, sweetly live and sweetly die.
And like them sweetly live and sweetly die.
37
Adonis blood the Enymonie up Rears
Critical Note
young hunter beloved by Venus; after he is killed by a boar, she uses his blood to transform him into a colorful flower (the anemone).
Adonis’ blood the anemone uprears
.
Critical Note
In Greek mythology, Adonis is the young and beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. After he is killed by a wild boar, her tears mingle with his blood to transform him into a brightly-coloured flower, the anemone.
Adonis’ blood the anemone uprears:
38
Who knowes? Such vertue may
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\bee \
in o:r tears
Who knows? Such virtue may be in our tears:
Who knows, such virtue may
Critical Note
The word “be” has been inserted above the line, as a correction in the hand that I take to be Pulter’s own (see Ross (2000), pp. 150-171 and 252-4).
be
in our tears;
39
These
Physical Note
“i” written over other letter, perhaps “e”
vi’lets
, Primroſe, Payles w:ch apears
These violets, primrose,
Gloss Note
florets
pales
which appears,
These vi’lets, primrose,
Critical Note
apparently a type of flower, like others listed in the line. For an approximate meaning, see OED n.1.III.7a: The ray (outer florets) of a typical flower of the family Asteraceae (Compositae).
pales
which
i.e. appear. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
appears
,
40
Perhaps their number Springs from Virgins tears
Perhaps their number springs from virgins’ tears.
Perhaps their number
Critical Note
See note to line 37. For a similar idea, see “The Weeping Wish” (Poem 61): “Oh that my tears that fall down to the earth / Might give some noble, unknown flower birth” (lines 9-10).
springs from virgins’ tears
.
O

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41
O mee I would I might this very hower
O me, I would I might this very hour
O me, I would I might this very hour
42
Sigh my Sad Soul into this July fflower
Sigh my sad soul into this
Gloss Note
carnation
gillyflower
.
Sigh my sad soul into this
Gloss Note
gillyflower
July flower
;
43
Trust mee I ^gladly would
Physical Note
“i” appears written over earlier “e”
trancmigerate
Trust me, I gladly would
Gloss Note
to move to another place; movement of the soul into another body after death; here, to die
transmigrate
,
Trust me, I gladly would
Gloss Note
i.e. transmigrate, the action of the soul passing, after death, into another body (OED 2a)
transmigerate
,
44
That
Physical Note
“m” written over imperfectly erased “I”
my
aflicted life might haue a date
That my afflicted life might have a
Gloss Note
limit, end
date
.
That my afflicted life might
Critical Note
probably in the sense of OED n.2 5: have a limit, an end-point
have a date
,
45
But wee (he las) in Sad obſcurity
But we (alas) in sad obscurity
But we, alas, in sad obscurity
46
Must hopeles live, and Soe I doubt I must die
Must hopeless live, and so, I
Gloss Note
fear
doubt
, must die.
Must hopeless live and so, I doubt, must die.
47
Oh that a recluſe life had bin my ffate
O that a recluse life had been my fate,
O, that a
Gloss Note
a life of seclusion, withdrawal from society
rècluse life
had been my fate,
48
To take our viſits at a Curteous grate
To take our visits at a
Gloss Note
place of confinement named for metal bars that nevertheless permit communication (and so are “courteous”)
courteous grate
.
To take our visits at a
Gloss Note
metal bars (a grate) through which a conversation is taken, as were common at houses of religious seclusion
courteous grate
.
Ann.
49
Stay my Dear Sister I have noe mind to die
Anne: Stay, my dear sister, I have no mind to die;
Anne: Stay, my dear sister, I have no mind to die;
50
A little more of this baſe World Ile trie
A little more of this base world I’ll
Gloss Note
test
try
;
A little more of this base world I’ll try,
51
And if whats future proue like what is
Physical Note
part of “s” in darker ink, possibly over earlier “r”
past
And if what’s future
Gloss Note
prove to be
prove
like what is past,
And if what’s future prove like what is past,
52
I’le patient bee, I can but die at last
I’ll patient be; I can but die at last.
I’ll patient be, I can but die at last.
53
Then let us ceaſe in vain to make our
Physical Note
“e” is fainter, perhaps imperfectly erased
moane
Then let us cease in vain to make our moan,
Then let us cease in vain to make our moan,
54
And go to our Sad Mother Shee’s
Physical Note
A tilde-shaped line follows the poem; the remaining third of the page and the reverse are blank.
alone.
And go to our sad mother; she’s alone.
And go to our sad mother; she’s alone.
tilde-shaped line
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition
Title note

 Critical note

MS = P.P., F.P. The “F” seems to be an error, as the two speakers are clearly identified in the poem as Penelope and Anne. These are poetic versions of Pulter’s two daughters Penelope (1633-55) and Anne (1635-66). For other poems addressed to her daughters, see “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2) and "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38).

 Editorial note

My priority in editing these poems has been to modernise, and to achieve interpretative and visual clarity, in order to make the poems as accessible as possible to as wide a modern audience as is possible. Spelling is modernised, as is punctuation. Modernising the latter, in particular, often involves a significant act of editorial interpretation, but in my view this is one of the most productive areas of editorial intervention, particularly for a manuscript text such as Pulter’s where the punctuation is erratic compared to modern usage (and, indeed, compared to early modern printed texts).
Critical Note
1. See Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse”, in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 162-178.
1

 Headnote

This poem brings together in intriguing ways two poetic modes or forms common in seventeenth-century poetry: the complaint and the dialogue poem. The mode of complaint can be broadly understood as the “woe is me” posture and the rhetorical exposition of emotion deriving from it; typically, complaint is an open-ended expression of woe, in which the grief-stricken speaker expands in an exorbitant way on their lamentable circumstances. Complaint is pervasive in seventeenth-century literature, with foundational examples such as Shakespeare’s A Lover’s Complaint and Spenser’s volume of Complaints (1591) influencing a plethora of amatory, religious, and political applications. For definitions and influential discussions of complaint, see John Kerrigan, Motives of Woe: Shakespeare and "Female Complaint": A Critical Anthology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); Katharine Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 64 (2001): 63-79; Rosalind Smith, Michelle O’Callaghan, and Sarah C. E. Ross, "Complaint", in Catherine Bates (ed.), A Companion to Renaissance Poetry (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), pp. 339-52.
Complaint is often female-voiced, and Pulter’s poem bears multiple markers of the mode. Here, the two speaking virgins occupy a landscape that reflects or shares their woe; they help “poor Philomel”, the nightingale, a common poetic figure for sorrow, to sing a lamenting song; and their sad songs are sung “in vain” (“Then let us cease in vain to make our moan”, line 53). While the reason for the sisters’ woe is not explicitly identified, the poem is a broad complaint against the times, the “base world” offering only “wants and losses” (lines 50, 12). Pulter’s wider body of work suggests a political context for this: the poem’s complaint elements can be usefully read alongside “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2), “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4); "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38), and several other of Pulter’s poems that construe Broadfield as a landscape of loss and loneliness.
At the same time as the poem is a clear example of complaint, its title and form mark it as a dialogue poem, another mode with a “dizzying array of precedents” in the early modern period. (For dialogue poetry, see W. Scott Howard, "Milton’s ‘Hence’: Dialogue and the Shape of History in ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’, in Printed Voices: The Renaissance Culture of Dialogue, ed. Dorothea Heitsch and Jean-François Vallée (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), pp. 157-74). Pastoral dialogues are the clearest precedent here, in the broad tradition of Spenser’s The Shepheard’s Calendar, and the poem reflects the proximity of pastoral and complaint that can also be seen in Spenser’s work (see Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”). Spenser is a likely influence on Pulter’s poetry, with commonalities also evident between “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4) and The Ruines of Time, which was published in Complaints (1591). The Spenserian text closest to “A Dialogue Between Two Sisters” is another poem published in the same volume, The Tears of the Muses.
Pulter’s placement of complaint in a dialogue between two sisters is, however, divergent from dominant traditions. Female complainers are most frequently heard in dialogue with a framing male narrator, whose understanding of the complainer’s (or complainers’) plight is limited, and who is unable to offer any consolation. Kerrigan has reflected productively on the “compulsive dialectic” of framed female-voiced complaint, with a “sense of distortion” and an “interpretative instability” emerging between the woman’s grief and the masculine framing narrator’s incomprehension (p. 12). Pulter’s dialogue, in contrast, is between two female speakers who share and understand each other’s grief, sympathising with each other. Their woes are shared not only with each other, but with all aspects of the landscape around them: “For all things here which do in order rise, / Methinks in woe with us do sympathise” (lines 13-14). And at the end of the poem, the sisters turn to their mother (the implied author of the dialogue poem), promising to go and mitigate her sorrowful loneliness. In its dynamic of female woes shared, the poem can be compared to “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4), in which the woeful Thames outlines her sorrows to the implicitly female framing speaker of the poem. Beyond Pulter’s oeuvre, another female-authored, female-voiced complaint in dialogue is Anne Bradstreet’s A Dialog ue Between Old England and New.
Line number 4

 Critical note

the nightingale. In Greek mythology, Philomela is raped by Tereus, who cuts out her tongue so she is unable to tell anyone what has happened to her; however, she reveals her story in an embroidered tapestry and is metamorphosed into the nightingale. On account of the myth, the nightingale’s song has a long poetic association with sorrow and melancholy; for example, see Milton, “Il Penseroso”, lines 56-64. (In fact, in nature, the female bird is silent and only the male sings.)
Line number 5

 Gloss note

a company of musicians making music together (OED n.2 4); here, instrumental musicians to complement the vocal “choir”
Line number 6

 Gloss note

stringed instruments, the viol played with a bow and the lyre plucked like a harp
Line number 9

 Gloss note

hurries (OED 4b)
Line number 9

 Gloss note

hourglass
Line number 12

 Gloss note

bewail, lament
Line number 13

 Critical note

natural order (OED 11c), perhaps with a sense of a fraternity or sorority, a society (OED 8c)
Line number 15

 Critical note

a tree traditionally associated with death and mourning (OED 1c)
Line number 21

 Critical note

the hyacinth. In Greek mythology, a young man loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus; he is killed by Zephyrus in a jealous rage, and turns into the flower.
Line number 22

 Gloss note

the amaranth, an imaginary flower reputed never to fade
Line number 24

 Gloss note

forgotten, committed to oblivion
Line number 25

 Gloss note

a large lute with two sets of tuning pegs and an extended neck, enabling additional bass strings
Line number 29

 Critical note

see note to line 4
Line number 34

 Critical note

i.e. die. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
Line number 35

 Gloss note

a common pet-name for “Anne”
Line number 37

 Critical note

In Greek mythology, Adonis is the young and beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. After he is killed by a wild boar, her tears mingle with his blood to transform him into a brightly-coloured flower, the anemone.
Line number 38

 Critical note

The word “be” has been inserted above the line, as a correction in the hand that I take to be Pulter’s own (see Ross (2000), pp. 150-171 and 252-4).
Line number 39

 Critical note

apparently a type of flower, like others listed in the line. For an approximate meaning, see OED n.1.III.7a: The ray (outer florets) of a typical flower of the family Asteraceae (Compositae).
Line number 39
i.e. appear. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
Line number 40

 Critical note

See note to line 37. For a similar idea, see “The Weeping Wish” (Poem 61): “Oh that my tears that fall down to the earth / Might give some noble, unknown flower birth” (lines 9-10).
Line number 42

 Gloss note

gillyflower
Line number 43

 Gloss note

i.e. transmigrate, the action of the soul passing, after death, into another body (OED 2a)
Line number 44

 Critical note

probably in the sense of OED n.2 5: have a limit, an end-point
Line number 47

 Gloss note

a life of seclusion, withdrawal from society
Line number 48

 Gloss note

metal bars (a grate) through which a conversation is taken, as were common at houses of religious seclusion
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition
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A Dialogue between two Sisters Virgins bewailing their Solitary life. P: P:. ff: P: .
Critical Note
The title is followed by two sets of initials, “P. P.”, presumably for Pulter’s daughter, Penelope Pulter (1633-55), and “F. P.”, another daughter named in the poem as Anne Pulter (1635-60).
A Dialogue Between Two Sisters, Virgins Bewailing Their Solitary Life
Critical Note
MS = P.P., F.P. The “F” seems to be an error, as the two speakers are clearly identified in the poem as Penelope and Anne. These are poetic versions of Pulter’s two daughters Penelope (1633-55) and Anne (1635-66). For other poems addressed to her daughters, see “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2) and "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38).
A Dialogue Between Two Sisters, Virgins, Bewailing their Solitary Life, P.P., A.P.
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

— Sarah C. E. Ross
The aim of the elemental edition is to make the poems accessible to the largest variety of readers, which involves modernizing spelling and punctuation as well as adding basic glosses. Spelling and punctuation reflect current standard American usage; punctuation highlights syntax which might otherwise be obscure. Outmoded but still familiar word forms (“thou,” “‘tis,” “hold’st”) are not modernized, and we do not modernize grammar when the sense remains legible. After a brief headnote aimed at offering a “way in” to the poem’s unique qualities and connections with other verse by Pulter or her contemporaries, the edition features a minimum of notes and interpretative framing to allow more immediate engagement with the poem. Glosses clarify synonyms or showcase various possible meanings in Pulter’s time. Other notes identify named people and places or clarify obscure material. We rely (without citation) primarily on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the Oxford Reference database, and the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. When we rely on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s work, we cite her text generally (“Eardley”); other sources are cited in full. The result is an edition we consider a springboard for further work on Pulter’s poetry. See full conventions for this edition here.

— Sarah C. E. Ross
My priority in editing these poems has been to modernise, and to achieve interpretative and visual clarity, in order to make the poems as accessible as possible to as wide a modern audience as is possible. Spelling is modernised, as is punctuation. Modernising the latter, in particular, often involves a significant act of editorial interpretation, but in my view this is one of the most productive areas of editorial intervention, particularly for a manuscript text such as Pulter’s where the punctuation is erratic compared to modern usage (and, indeed, compared to early modern printed texts).
Critical Note
1. See Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse”, in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 162-178.
1


— Sarah C. E. Ross
Uncharacteristically, Pulter here chooses to write a pastoral dialogue in which two of her daughters express their sorrows in relation to the natural world. Penelope and Anne seek solace for their laments by immersing themselves in a landscape that also appears to be mourning. The source of the speakers’ sadness is unclear: it seems to derive from their awareness of life’s mortality and decay; their frustrated desire to be in heaven; and their awareness of the world’s general imperfections. Because they see the environment through the lens of classical mythology, however, they do not find comfort; instead the particular flowers and birds signal tragic mythological stories of injury, rape, loss, and death. The daughters’ complaints are also intensified by their inability to produce song while surrounded by a natural world that effortlessly emotes sympathetic sorrow. On realizing that they are mortals unable to release their souls into other bodies or to eternal life, they stoically turn to the comfort of a family community cemented by shared sorrow. The poem poignantly ends with them resolving to ease the isolation of their mother Hester. Out of the six poems in the collection in which Pulter specifically mentions her daughters, this is the only verse in which her daughters are portrayed as artistic creators.

— Sarah C. E. Ross
This poem brings together in intriguing ways two poetic modes or forms common in seventeenth-century poetry: the complaint and the dialogue poem. The mode of complaint can be broadly understood as the “woe is me” posture and the rhetorical exposition of emotion deriving from it; typically, complaint is an open-ended expression of woe, in which the grief-stricken speaker expands in an exorbitant way on their lamentable circumstances. Complaint is pervasive in seventeenth-century literature, with foundational examples such as Shakespeare’s A Lover’s Complaint and Spenser’s volume of Complaints (1591) influencing a plethora of amatory, religious, and political applications. For definitions and influential discussions of complaint, see John Kerrigan, Motives of Woe: Shakespeare and "Female Complaint": A Critical Anthology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); Katharine Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 64 (2001): 63-79; Rosalind Smith, Michelle O’Callaghan, and Sarah C. E. Ross, "Complaint", in Catherine Bates (ed.), A Companion to Renaissance Poetry (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), pp. 339-52.
Complaint is often female-voiced, and Pulter’s poem bears multiple markers of the mode. Here, the two speaking virgins occupy a landscape that reflects or shares their woe; they help “poor Philomel”, the nightingale, a common poetic figure for sorrow, to sing a lamenting song; and their sad songs are sung “in vain” (“Then let us cease in vain to make our moan”, line 53). While the reason for the sisters’ woe is not explicitly identified, the poem is a broad complaint against the times, the “base world” offering only “wants and losses” (lines 50, 12). Pulter’s wider body of work suggests a political context for this: the poem’s complaint elements can be usefully read alongside “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2), “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4); "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38), and several other of Pulter’s poems that construe Broadfield as a landscape of loss and loneliness.
At the same time as the poem is a clear example of complaint, its title and form mark it as a dialogue poem, another mode with a “dizzying array of precedents” in the early modern period. (For dialogue poetry, see W. Scott Howard, "Milton’s ‘Hence’: Dialogue and the Shape of History in ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’, in Printed Voices: The Renaissance Culture of Dialogue, ed. Dorothea Heitsch and Jean-François Vallée (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), pp. 157-74). Pastoral dialogues are the clearest precedent here, in the broad tradition of Spenser’s The Shepheard’s Calendar, and the poem reflects the proximity of pastoral and complaint that can also be seen in Spenser’s work (see Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”). Spenser is a likely influence on Pulter’s poetry, with commonalities also evident between “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4) and The Ruines of Time, which was published in Complaints (1591). The Spenserian text closest to “A Dialogue Between Two Sisters” is another poem published in the same volume, The Tears of the Muses.
Pulter’s placement of complaint in a dialogue between two sisters is, however, divergent from dominant traditions. Female complainers are most frequently heard in dialogue with a framing male narrator, whose understanding of the complainer’s (or complainers’) plight is limited, and who is unable to offer any consolation. Kerrigan has reflected productively on the “compulsive dialectic” of framed female-voiced complaint, with a “sense of distortion” and an “interpretative instability” emerging between the woman’s grief and the masculine framing narrator’s incomprehension (p. 12). Pulter’s dialogue, in contrast, is between two female speakers who share and understand each other’s grief, sympathising with each other. Their woes are shared not only with each other, but with all aspects of the landscape around them: “For all things here which do in order rise, / Methinks in woe with us do sympathise” (lines 13-14). And at the end of the poem, the sisters turn to their mother (the implied author of the dialogue poem), promising to go and mitigate her sorrowful loneliness. In its dynamic of female woes shared, the poem can be compared to “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4), in which the woeful Thames outlines her sorrows to the implicitly female framing speaker of the poem. Beyond Pulter’s oeuvre, another female-authored, female-voiced complaint in dialogue is Anne Bradstreet’s A Dialog ue Between Old England and New.


— Sarah C. E. Ross
Young Anne
1
Come my deare Sister Sit with mee a while
Young Anne: Come, my dear sister, sit with me awhile
Young Anne: Come, my dear sister, sit with me a while,
2
That wee both Time and Sorrow may beguile
That we both time and sorrow may
Gloss Note
cheat, entertain
beguile
.
That we both Time and Sorrow may beguile;
3
In this Sweet Shade by this cleer Purling Spring
In this sweet shade, by this clear
Gloss Note
rippling, murmuring
purling
spring,
In this sweet shade, by this clear, purling spring,
4
Wee’l Sit and help poor Philomele to Sing
We’ll sit and help poor
Critical Note
in mythology, Tereus rapes Philomela and cuts out her tongue; after she takes revenge, she is turned into a nightingale, a bird known for its beautiful song.
Philomel
to sing;
We’ll sit and help poor
Critical Note
the nightingale. In Greek mythology, Philomela is raped by Tereus, who cuts out her tongue so she is unable to tell anyone what has happened to her; however, she reveals her story in an embroidered tapestry and is metamorphosed into the nightingale. On account of the myth, the nightingale’s song has a long poetic association with sorrow and melancholy; for example, see Milton, “Il Penseroso”, lines 56-64. (In fact, in nature, the female bird is silent and only the male sings.)
Philomel
to sing,
5
And to Compleat the Conſort and the Quire
And to complete the
Gloss Note
harmony
consort
and the choir,
And to complete the
Gloss Note
a company of musicians making music together (OED n.2 4); here, instrumental musicians to complement the vocal “choir”
consort
and the choir,
6
I would I had my Viol you your Lyre
I would I had
Gloss Note
stringed musical instruments
my viol, you your lyre
.
I would I had my
Gloss Note
stringed instruments, the viol played with a bow and the lyre plucked like a harp
viol, you your lyre
.
Elder Pen
7
Aye mee my Sister Time on Restles wheels
Elder Pen: Ay me, my sister! Time on restless wheels
Elder Pen: Ay me, my sister, Time on restless wheels
8
Doth ever turn
Physical Note
imperfectly erased
with
With wings upon his Heels
Doth ever turn with wings upon his heels,
Doth ever turn with wings upon his heels,
9
ffast as the Sand that Huddles through his Glaſs
Fast as the sand that huddles through his
Gloss Note
hourglass
glass
;
Fast as the sand that
Gloss Note
hurries (OED 4b)
huddles
through his
Gloss Note
hourglass
glass
,
10
Regardles of our Tears hee on doth Paſs
Regardless of our tears, he on doth pass.
Regardless of our tears, he on doth pass;
11
Yet in the Shade of this Sad Sycomore
Yet in the shade of this sad
Gloss Note
tree associated with sorrow
sycamore
Yet in the shade of this sad sycamore
12
Wee’l Sit our wants and Loſſes to deplore
We’ll sit, our wants and losses to
Gloss Note
lament
deplore
;
We’ll sit, our wants and losses to
Gloss Note
bewail, lament
deplore
,
13
ffor all things here which doe in order Rise
For all things here which do
Gloss Note
in the natural order
in order
rise,
For all things here which do in
Critical Note
natural order (OED 11c), perhaps with a sense of a fraternity or sorority, a society (OED 8c)
order
rise,
14
Mee thinks in woe with us doe Sympathiſe
Methinks in woe with us do sympathize.
Methinks in woe with us do sympathise.
15
Theſe Cypris like our hopes doe leſſer grow
These
Critical Note
cypresses; trees associated with death and mourning; once cut, they were thought to stop growing; here the speaker sees this lack of growth as a shrinking
cypress
, like our hopes, do lesser grow;
These
Critical Note
a tree traditionally associated with death and mourning (OED 1c)
cypress
, like our hopes, do lesser grow;
16
This Bubling ffount like our Sad eyes doe fllow
This bubbling fount, like our sad eyes, does flow,
This bubbling fount like our sad eyes does flow,
17
And though it doth a greater murmering keep
And though it doth a greater murmuring keep,
And though it doth a greater murmuring keep,
18
Yet wee may teach this living Spring to weep
Yet we may
Critical Note
They could teach the fount to flow more because their weeping exceeds even its output.
teach this living spring to weep
.
Yet we may teach this living spring to weep;
these

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19
Theſe Primroſes like us neglected ffade
These primroses, like us, neglected fade,
These primroses, like us, neglected fade,
20
And Violets Sit weeping in the Shade
And violets sit weeping in the shade.
And violets sit weeping in the shade;
21
With us Sad Hiacinthus Sighs out Aye
With us sad
Critical Note
mythological lover of Apollo (god of the sun); Zephrus, the wind god, kills him in a jealous rage and he is turned into a flower; according to Ovid, Apollo wrote lines about his grief, which Phoebus (the sun) imprinted on the flower’s petals (“ay”). See John Gerard, Herbal (London, 1633), 193-4.
Hyacinthus
sighs out, “ay!”
With us, sad
Critical Note
the hyacinth. In Greek mythology, a young man loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus; he is killed by Zephyrus in a jealous rage, and turns into the flower.
Hyacinthus
sighs out “ay”,
22
And lovly Aramantha doth display
And lovely
Critical Note
flower thought never to fade; symbol of immortality sometimes placed on gravestones
Amarantha
doth display
And lovely
Gloss Note
the amaranth, an imaginary flower reputed never to fade
Amarantha
doth display
23
Her bevties here to noe admireing eye
Her beauties here to no admiring eye.
Her beauties here to no admiring eye;
24
Just Soe obliviated wee live and die
Just so,
Gloss Note
made to be forgotten
obliviated
, we live and die;
Just so
Gloss Note
forgotten, committed to oblivion
obliviated
we live and die.
25
And for your Viol and my Theorbo Lute
And for your viol and my
Gloss Note
variety of lute with two sets of tuning pegs and a larger neck
theorbo lute
,
And for your viol and my
Gloss Note
a large lute with two sets of tuning pegs and an extended neck, enabling additional bass strings
theorbo lute
,
26
They
Physical Note
words crowded slightly; “U” in unstrung originally a minuscule, corrected to majuscule
both Unſtrung
upon the Wall hang Mute
They both, unstrung, upon the wall hang mute,
They both unstrung, upon the wall, hang mute,
27
And in a uniſon will Scarcely move
And in a unison will scarcely move,
And in a unison will scarcely move,
28
They’r Soe unuſed Ay mee to Strains of Love
They’re so unused (ay me) to strains of love.
They’re so unused, ay me, to strains of love.
29
With Philomele wee may lament too Late
With Philomel we may lament too late
With
Critical Note
see note to line 4
Philomel
we may lament too late
30
Our most disastrous and too differing ffate
Our most disastrous, and
Critical Note
both the speaker and Philomela are pained by obstacles in expressing their woes (given that the sisters’ instruments are “unstrung”), though Philomela’s fate is much more tragic.
too differing, fate
.
Our most disastrous, and too differing, fate.
31
Oh my Sad Heart would wee might paſs o:r Howers
O my sad heart, would we might pass our hours
O, my sad heart, would we might pass our hours
32
As innocently
Physical Note
“ed” is written over imperfectly erased “ly”
contented
as theſe fflowers
As innocently contented as these flowers,
As innocently contented as these flowers
33
Who Shew their bevties to admireing eyes
Who show their beauties to admiring eyes,
Who show their beauties to admiring eyes,
34
Then breathing Aromatick Odours dies
Then
Gloss Note
exhaling
breathing
aromatic odors, dies.
Then breathing aromatic odours
Critical Note
i.e. die. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
dies
.
35
Come my dear Nan in this Sad Shade wee’l lye
Come, my dear
Gloss Note
nickname for Anne
Nan
, in this sad shade we’ll lie,
Come, my dear
Gloss Note
a common pet-name for “Anne”
Nan
, in this sad shade we’ll lie,
36
And like them Sweetly liue and Sweetly Die
And, like them, sweetly live and sweetly die.
And like them sweetly live and sweetly die.
37
Adonis blood the Enymonie up Rears
Critical Note
young hunter beloved by Venus; after he is killed by a boar, she uses his blood to transform him into a colorful flower (the anemone).
Adonis’ blood the anemone uprears
.
Critical Note
In Greek mythology, Adonis is the young and beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. After he is killed by a wild boar, her tears mingle with his blood to transform him into a brightly-coloured flower, the anemone.
Adonis’ blood the anemone uprears:
38
Who knowes? Such vertue may
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\bee \
in o:r tears
Who knows? Such virtue may be in our tears:
Who knows, such virtue may
Critical Note
The word “be” has been inserted above the line, as a correction in the hand that I take to be Pulter’s own (see Ross (2000), pp. 150-171 and 252-4).
be
in our tears;
39
These
Physical Note
“i” written over other letter, perhaps “e”
vi’lets
, Primroſe, Payles w:ch apears
These violets, primrose,
Gloss Note
florets
pales
which appears,
These vi’lets, primrose,
Critical Note
apparently a type of flower, like others listed in the line. For an approximate meaning, see OED n.1.III.7a: The ray (outer florets) of a typical flower of the family Asteraceae (Compositae).
pales
which
i.e. appear. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
appears
,
40
Perhaps their number Springs from Virgins tears
Perhaps their number springs from virgins’ tears.
Perhaps their number
Critical Note
See note to line 37. For a similar idea, see “The Weeping Wish” (Poem 61): “Oh that my tears that fall down to the earth / Might give some noble, unknown flower birth” (lines 9-10).
springs from virgins’ tears
.
O

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41
O mee I would I might this very hower
O me, I would I might this very hour
O me, I would I might this very hour
42
Sigh my Sad Soul into this July fflower
Sigh my sad soul into this
Gloss Note
carnation
gillyflower
.
Sigh my sad soul into this
Gloss Note
gillyflower
July flower
;
43
Trust mee I ^gladly would
Physical Note
“i” appears written over earlier “e”
trancmigerate
Trust me, I gladly would
Gloss Note
to move to another place; movement of the soul into another body after death; here, to die
transmigrate
,
Trust me, I gladly would
Gloss Note
i.e. transmigrate, the action of the soul passing, after death, into another body (OED 2a)
transmigerate
,
44
That
Physical Note
“m” written over imperfectly erased “I”
my
aflicted life might haue a date
That my afflicted life might have a
Gloss Note
limit, end
date
.
That my afflicted life might
Critical Note
probably in the sense of OED n.2 5: have a limit, an end-point
have a date
,
45
But wee (he las) in Sad obſcurity
But we (alas) in sad obscurity
But we, alas, in sad obscurity
46
Must hopeles live, and Soe I doubt I must die
Must hopeless live, and so, I
Gloss Note
fear
doubt
, must die.
Must hopeless live and so, I doubt, must die.
47
Oh that a recluſe life had bin my ffate
O that a recluse life had been my fate,
O, that a
Gloss Note
a life of seclusion, withdrawal from society
rècluse life
had been my fate,
48
To take our viſits at a Curteous grate
To take our visits at a
Gloss Note
place of confinement named for metal bars that nevertheless permit communication (and so are “courteous”)
courteous grate
.
To take our visits at a
Gloss Note
metal bars (a grate) through which a conversation is taken, as were common at houses of religious seclusion
courteous grate
.
Ann.
49
Stay my Dear Sister I have noe mind to die
Anne: Stay, my dear sister, I have no mind to die;
Anne: Stay, my dear sister, I have no mind to die;
50
A little more of this baſe World Ile trie
A little more of this base world I’ll
Gloss Note
test
try
;
A little more of this base world I’ll try,
51
And if whats future proue like what is
Physical Note
part of “s” in darker ink, possibly over earlier “r”
past
And if what’s future
Gloss Note
prove to be
prove
like what is past,
And if what’s future prove like what is past,
52
I’le patient bee, I can but die at last
I’ll patient be; I can but die at last.
I’ll patient be, I can but die at last.
53
Then let us ceaſe in vain to make our
Physical Note
“e” is fainter, perhaps imperfectly erased
moane
Then let us cease in vain to make our moan,
Then let us cease in vain to make our moan,
54
And go to our Sad Mother Shee’s
Physical Note
A tilde-shaped line follows the poem; the remaining third of the page and the reverse are blank.
alone.
And go to our sad mother; she’s alone.
And go to our sad mother; she’s alone.
tilde-shaped line
X (Close panel) All Notes
Elemental Edition
Title note

 Critical note

The title is followed by two sets of initials, “P. P.”, presumably for Pulter’s daughter, Penelope Pulter (1633-55), and “F. P.”, another daughter named in the poem as Anne Pulter (1635-60).
Amplified Edition
Title note

 Critical note

MS = P.P., F.P. The “F” seems to be an error, as the two speakers are clearly identified in the poem as Penelope and Anne. These are poetic versions of Pulter’s two daughters Penelope (1633-55) and Anne (1635-66). For other poems addressed to her daughters, see “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2) and "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38).
Transcription

 Editorial note

In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.
Elemental Edition

 Editorial note

The aim of the elemental edition is to make the poems accessible to the largest variety of readers, which involves modernizing spelling and punctuation as well as adding basic glosses. Spelling and punctuation reflect current standard American usage; punctuation highlights syntax which might otherwise be obscure. Outmoded but still familiar word forms (“thou,” “‘tis,” “hold’st”) are not modernized, and we do not modernize grammar when the sense remains legible. After a brief headnote aimed at offering a “way in” to the poem’s unique qualities and connections with other verse by Pulter or her contemporaries, the edition features a minimum of notes and interpretative framing to allow more immediate engagement with the poem. Glosses clarify synonyms or showcase various possible meanings in Pulter’s time. Other notes identify named people and places or clarify obscure material. We rely (without citation) primarily on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the Oxford Reference database, and the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. When we rely on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s work, we cite her text generally (“Eardley”); other sources are cited in full. The result is an edition we consider a springboard for further work on Pulter’s poetry. See full conventions for this edition here.
Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

My priority in editing these poems has been to modernise, and to achieve interpretative and visual clarity, in order to make the poems as accessible as possible to as wide a modern audience as is possible. Spelling is modernised, as is punctuation. Modernising the latter, in particular, often involves a significant act of editorial interpretation, but in my view this is one of the most productive areas of editorial intervention, particularly for a manuscript text such as Pulter’s where the punctuation is erratic compared to modern usage (and, indeed, compared to early modern printed texts).
Critical Note
1. See Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse”, in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 162-178.
1
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

Uncharacteristically, Pulter here chooses to write a pastoral dialogue in which two of her daughters express their sorrows in relation to the natural world. Penelope and Anne seek solace for their laments by immersing themselves in a landscape that also appears to be mourning. The source of the speakers’ sadness is unclear: it seems to derive from their awareness of life’s mortality and decay; their frustrated desire to be in heaven; and their awareness of the world’s general imperfections. Because they see the environment through the lens of classical mythology, however, they do not find comfort; instead the particular flowers and birds signal tragic mythological stories of injury, rape, loss, and death. The daughters’ complaints are also intensified by their inability to produce song while surrounded by a natural world that effortlessly emotes sympathetic sorrow. On realizing that they are mortals unable to release their souls into other bodies or to eternal life, they stoically turn to the comfort of a family community cemented by shared sorrow. The poem poignantly ends with them resolving to ease the isolation of their mother Hester. Out of the six poems in the collection in which Pulter specifically mentions her daughters, this is the only verse in which her daughters are portrayed as artistic creators.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

This poem brings together in intriguing ways two poetic modes or forms common in seventeenth-century poetry: the complaint and the dialogue poem. The mode of complaint can be broadly understood as the “woe is me” posture and the rhetorical exposition of emotion deriving from it; typically, complaint is an open-ended expression of woe, in which the grief-stricken speaker expands in an exorbitant way on their lamentable circumstances. Complaint is pervasive in seventeenth-century literature, with foundational examples such as Shakespeare’s A Lover’s Complaint and Spenser’s volume of Complaints (1591) influencing a plethora of amatory, religious, and political applications. For definitions and influential discussions of complaint, see John Kerrigan, Motives of Woe: Shakespeare and "Female Complaint": A Critical Anthology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); Katharine Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 64 (2001): 63-79; Rosalind Smith, Michelle O’Callaghan, and Sarah C. E. Ross, "Complaint", in Catherine Bates (ed.), A Companion to Renaissance Poetry (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), pp. 339-52.
Complaint is often female-voiced, and Pulter’s poem bears multiple markers of the mode. Here, the two speaking virgins occupy a landscape that reflects or shares their woe; they help “poor Philomel”, the nightingale, a common poetic figure for sorrow, to sing a lamenting song; and their sad songs are sung “in vain” (“Then let us cease in vain to make our moan”, line 53). While the reason for the sisters’ woe is not explicitly identified, the poem is a broad complaint against the times, the “base world” offering only “wants and losses” (lines 50, 12). Pulter’s wider body of work suggests a political context for this: the poem’s complaint elements can be usefully read alongside “The Invitation into the Country” (Poem 2), “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4); "To My Dear Jane, Margaret, and Penelope Pulter, they Being at London, I at Broadfield" (Poem 38), and several other of Pulter’s poems that construe Broadfield as a landscape of loss and loneliness.
At the same time as the poem is a clear example of complaint, its title and form mark it as a dialogue poem, another mode with a “dizzying array of precedents” in the early modern period. (For dialogue poetry, see W. Scott Howard, "Milton’s ‘Hence’: Dialogue and the Shape of History in ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’, in Printed Voices: The Renaissance Culture of Dialogue, ed. Dorothea Heitsch and Jean-François Vallée (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), pp. 157-74). Pastoral dialogues are the clearest precedent here, in the broad tradition of Spenser’s The Shepheard’s Calendar, and the poem reflects the proximity of pastoral and complaint that can also be seen in Spenser’s work (see Craik, “Spenser’s ‘Complaints’ and the New Poet”). Spenser is a likely influence on Pulter’s poetry, with commonalities also evident between “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4) and The Ruines of Time, which was published in Complaints (1591). The Spenserian text closest to “A Dialogue Between Two Sisters” is another poem published in the same volume, The Tears of the Muses.
Pulter’s placement of complaint in a dialogue between two sisters is, however, divergent from dominant traditions. Female complainers are most frequently heard in dialogue with a framing male narrator, whose understanding of the complainer’s (or complainers’) plight is limited, and who is unable to offer any consolation. Kerrigan has reflected productively on the “compulsive dialectic” of framed female-voiced complaint, with a “sense of distortion” and an “interpretative instability” emerging between the woman’s grief and the masculine framing narrator’s incomprehension (p. 12). Pulter’s dialogue, in contrast, is between two female speakers who share and understand each other’s grief, sympathising with each other. Their woes are shared not only with each other, but with all aspects of the landscape around them: “For all things here which do in order rise, / Methinks in woe with us do sympathise” (lines 13-14). And at the end of the poem, the sisters turn to their mother (the implied author of the dialogue poem), promising to go and mitigate her sorrowful loneliness. In its dynamic of female woes shared, the poem can be compared to “The Complaint of Thames, 1647” (Poem 4), in which the woeful Thames outlines her sorrows to the implicitly female framing speaker of the poem. Beyond Pulter’s oeuvre, another female-authored, female-voiced complaint in dialogue is Anne Bradstreet’s A Dialog ue Between Old England and New.
Elemental Edition
Line number 2

 Gloss note

cheat, entertain
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

rippling, murmuring
Elemental Edition
Line number 4

 Critical note

in mythology, Tereus rapes Philomela and cuts out her tongue; after she takes revenge, she is turned into a nightingale, a bird known for its beautiful song.
Amplified Edition
Line number 4

 Critical note

the nightingale. In Greek mythology, Philomela is raped by Tereus, who cuts out her tongue so she is unable to tell anyone what has happened to her; however, she reveals her story in an embroidered tapestry and is metamorphosed into the nightingale. On account of the myth, the nightingale’s song has a long poetic association with sorrow and melancholy; for example, see Milton, “Il Penseroso”, lines 56-64. (In fact, in nature, the female bird is silent and only the male sings.)
Elemental Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

harmony
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

a company of musicians making music together (OED n.2 4); here, instrumental musicians to complement the vocal “choir”
Elemental Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

stringed musical instruments
Amplified Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

stringed instruments, the viol played with a bow and the lyre plucked like a harp
Transcription
Line number 8

 Physical note

imperfectly erased
Elemental Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

hourglass
Amplified Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

hurries (OED 4b)
Amplified Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

hourglass
Elemental Edition
Line number 11

 Gloss note

tree associated with sorrow
Elemental Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

lament
Amplified Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

bewail, lament
Elemental Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

in the natural order
Amplified Edition
Line number 13

 Critical note

natural order (OED 11c), perhaps with a sense of a fraternity or sorority, a society (OED 8c)
Elemental Edition
Line number 15

 Critical note

cypresses; trees associated with death and mourning; once cut, they were thought to stop growing; here the speaker sees this lack of growth as a shrinking
Amplified Edition
Line number 15

 Critical note

a tree traditionally associated with death and mourning (OED 1c)
Elemental Edition
Line number 18

 Critical note

They could teach the fount to flow more because their weeping exceeds even its output.
Elemental Edition
Line number 21

 Critical note

mythological lover of Apollo (god of the sun); Zephrus, the wind god, kills him in a jealous rage and he is turned into a flower; according to Ovid, Apollo wrote lines about his grief, which Phoebus (the sun) imprinted on the flower’s petals (“ay”). See John Gerard, Herbal (London, 1633), 193-4.
Amplified Edition
Line number 21

 Critical note

the hyacinth. In Greek mythology, a young man loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus; he is killed by Zephyrus in a jealous rage, and turns into the flower.
Elemental Edition
Line number 22

 Critical note

flower thought never to fade; symbol of immortality sometimes placed on gravestones
Amplified Edition
Line number 22

 Gloss note

the amaranth, an imaginary flower reputed never to fade
Elemental Edition
Line number 24

 Gloss note

made to be forgotten
Amplified Edition
Line number 24

 Gloss note

forgotten, committed to oblivion
Elemental Edition
Line number 25

 Gloss note

variety of lute with two sets of tuning pegs and a larger neck
Amplified Edition
Line number 25

 Gloss note

a large lute with two sets of tuning pegs and an extended neck, enabling additional bass strings
Transcription
Line number 26

 Physical note

words crowded slightly; “U” in unstrung originally a minuscule, corrected to majuscule
Amplified Edition
Line number 29

 Critical note

see note to line 4
Elemental Edition
Line number 30

 Critical note

both the speaker and Philomela are pained by obstacles in expressing their woes (given that the sisters’ instruments are “unstrung”), though Philomela’s fate is much more tragic.
Transcription
Line number 32

 Physical note

“ed” is written over imperfectly erased “ly”
Elemental Edition
Line number 34

 Gloss note

exhaling
Amplified Edition
Line number 34

 Critical note

i.e. die. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
Elemental Edition
Line number 35

 Gloss note

nickname for Anne
Amplified Edition
Line number 35

 Gloss note

a common pet-name for “Anne”
Elemental Edition
Line number 37

 Critical note

young hunter beloved by Venus; after he is killed by a boar, she uses his blood to transform him into a colorful flower (the anemone).
Amplified Edition
Line number 37

 Critical note

In Greek mythology, Adonis is the young and beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. After he is killed by a wild boar, her tears mingle with his blood to transform him into a brightly-coloured flower, the anemone.
Transcription
Line number 38

 Physical note

in different hand from main scribe
Amplified Edition
Line number 38

 Critical note

The word “be” has been inserted above the line, as a correction in the hand that I take to be Pulter’s own (see Ross (2000), pp. 150-171 and 252-4).
Transcription
Line number 39

 Physical note

“i” written over other letter, perhaps “e”
Elemental Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

florets
Amplified Edition
Line number 39

 Critical note

apparently a type of flower, like others listed in the line. For an approximate meaning, see OED n.1.III.7a: The ray (outer florets) of a typical flower of the family Asteraceae (Compositae).
Amplified Edition
Line number 39
i.e. appear. Verb agreement in Pulter’s verse is not strict; this instance has not been modernised, in order to preserve the rhyme.
Amplified Edition
Line number 40

 Critical note

See note to line 37. For a similar idea, see “The Weeping Wish” (Poem 61): “Oh that my tears that fall down to the earth / Might give some noble, unknown flower birth” (lines 9-10).
Elemental Edition
Line number 42

 Gloss note

carnation
Amplified Edition
Line number 42

 Gloss note

gillyflower
Transcription
Line number 43

 Physical note

“i” appears written over earlier “e”
Elemental Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

to move to another place; movement of the soul into another body after death; here, to die
Amplified Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

i.e. transmigrate, the action of the soul passing, after death, into another body (OED 2a)
Transcription
Line number 44

 Physical note

“m” written over imperfectly erased “I”
Elemental Edition
Line number 44

 Gloss note

limit, end
Amplified Edition
Line number 44

 Critical note

probably in the sense of OED n.2 5: have a limit, an end-point
Elemental Edition
Line number 46

 Gloss note

fear
Amplified Edition
Line number 47

 Gloss note

a life of seclusion, withdrawal from society
Elemental Edition
Line number 48

 Gloss note

place of confinement named for metal bars that nevertheless permit communication (and so are “courteous”)
Amplified Edition
Line number 48

 Gloss note

metal bars (a grate) through which a conversation is taken, as were common at houses of religious seclusion
Elemental Edition
Line number 50

 Gloss note

test
Transcription
Line number 51

 Physical note

part of “s” in darker ink, possibly over earlier “r”
Elemental Edition
Line number 51

 Gloss note

prove to be
Transcription
Line number 53

 Physical note

“e” is fainter, perhaps imperfectly erased
Transcription
Line number 54

 Physical note

A tilde-shaped line follows the poem; the remaining third of the page and the reverse are blank.
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