My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?

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My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?

Poem 49

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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  • Project sponsored by Northwestern University, Brock University, and University of Leeds
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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 14

 Physical note

“i” appears written over “a”
Line number 17

 Physical note

“p” partly blotted
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
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Transcription

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
[Untitled]
My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?
[Untitled]
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
The model cheer and calm of strangled larks and sacrificial lambs are proffered as alternatives to the speaker’s restlessly throbbing heart and obstinately death-averse soul. As she does in other poems, Pulter writes to reprimand her soul for being afraid to die. Yet the poem’s opening rapid-fire interrogation mimics the very “unrest” it critiques. Similarly, the catalogue of creatures who coolly meet their fates is punctuated by disjunctions (“Yet … But … But”) which castigate the speaker. Only in the poem’s last lines are we released from this pattern of self-shaming, when the enjambment formally suggests, in an echo of the content, the greater scope of an afterlife unconfined by fleshly exemplars and our failures to live up to them.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?” is one of Pulter’s brief devotional lyrics, in this case chastising her own heart and soul for their “sighs and sobs”, and comparing them to various creatures—the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix—who offer themselves up willingly for death. The “ail[ments]” and “unrest” of line 2 may be the generic woes that typically afflict the devotional speaker, who endures the earthly life, and who both longs for union with the divine and is unwilling to give up the human body. But the poem may also reflect more specifically on aging, as “thy sorrows with thy years increase” (line 8). The speaker “wouldst have the course of nature turn”, rather than offering herself up to the more sudden sacrifices of the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix. The lark, the lamb, and the phoenix all have associations with the praise of God or with Christ himself, willingly sacrificing themselves to death. Pulter’s use of these images owes much to the emblematic mode of thinking that is evident in the emblem poem series later in the manuscript.
Attempting to persuade the soul of the miraculous glory that would follow death, the concluding five lines rely on a cluster of images and words that recurs in Pulter’s devotional poetry: obliviation, calcination, and refinement. Her emphasis here is on the necessary calcination of the impure flesh, in death, and its “infinite” refinement, to achieve glory beyond. These lines are almost certainly indebted to George Herbert, who evokes a similar devotional concept in the opening stanza of “Easter”. Here, he describes the salvation of the believer made possible through Christ’s sacrifice: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). Herbert’s devotional lyrics are a clear influence on Pulter’s but in this poem, as is usual in the comparison between them, Pulter’s emphasis is more material and Herbert’s is more metaphorical and explicitly doctrinal.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
My Heart why dost thou Throb Soe in my^Breast
My heart, why dost thou throb so in my breast?
My heart, why dost thou throb so in my breast?
2
What dost thou Aild? w:t cauſeth thy unrest
What, dost thou ail? What causeth thy unrest?
What dost thou
Physical Note
“aild” in the manuscript
ail
? What causeth thy unrest?
3
Dost thou not know that as the fflames Aſcend
Dost thou not know that, as the flames ascend,
Dost thou not know that as the flames ascend,
4
Soe Man in Sorrow doth begin and end
So man in sorrow doth begin and end?
So man in sorrow doth begin and end?
5
The Spritely Lark how cheerfully Shee Sings
The
Gloss Note
vivacious
sprightly
lark, how cheerfully she sings,
The
Gloss Note
lively, sportive.
spritely
Critical Note
in Latin, “aluda”, and so associated with praise (“laud”) of God (see Helen Wilcox (ed.), The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 148). In a related aspect of its symbolism, the lark was known for singing as it rose in flight (see Herbert, “Easter Wings”, line 18).
lark
, how cheerfully she sings
6
Untill the Hawk her little Neck of wrings
Until the hawk her little neck off wrings;
Until the hawk her little neck off wrings,
7
Yet thou to Sigh and Sob dost never ceaſe
Yet thou to sigh and sob dost never cease
Yet thou to sigh and sob dost never cease
8
Becauſe thy Sorrowes w:th thy Years increaſe
Because thy sorrows with thy years increase.
Because thy sorrows with thy years increase.
9
The Milkwhite Lamb that on the Alter lyes
The milk-white lamb that on the altar lies
The milk-white
Critical Note
The lamb has implications of Christ, as the Lamb of God, offering himself up as a sacrifice for humankind.
lamb that on the altar lies
10
Yields himſelfe up a quiet Sacrifice
Yields himself up a quiet sacrifice;
Yields himself up a quiet sacrifice,
11
But thou wouldst have the courſ of Nature turn
But thou wouldst have the course of nature turn
But thou wouldst have the course of nature turn
12
Rather then in aflictions furnice Burn
Rather than in affliction’s furnace burn.
Rather than in affliction’s furnace burn.
13
The Phœnix doth aſſume her ffunerall Pier
The
Gloss Note
in classical myth, a bird said to burn itself on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its wings; the bird rises from the ashes with renewed youth
phoenix
doth
Gloss Note
accept, undertake
assume
her funeral pyre,
The
Gloss Note
a mythical bird which burns itself to ashes on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its own wings (only to rise from its ashes to live again). Unsurprisingly, the phoenix was used by early Christian writers as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.
phoenix
doth assume her funeral pyre,
14
And
Physical Note
“i” appears written over “a”
in
thoſe fflagrant Odours doth expire
And in those
Gloss Note
blazing, hot, or to do with the visible appearance of flame; but also possibly fragrant (a sense pertinent to “odors”)
flagrant
odors doth expire;
And in those
Critical Note
blazing, burning. The phoenix was thought to build its funeral pyre from branches of cinnamon and aromatic spices, hence “flagrant odours”. See Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s Natural History, p. 271.
flagrant
odours doth expire,
15
But thou my Soul unwilling art to die
But thou, my soul, unwilling art to die,
But thou, my soul, unwilling art to die
16
And in thy Grave obliviated lye
And in thy grave
Gloss Note
forgotten
obliviated
lie,
And in thy grave
Gloss Note
forgotten, committed to oblivion
obliviated
lie,
17
Although it would thy
Physical Note
“p” partly blotted
dropſie
part Calcine
Although it would thy
Gloss Note
mixed with impurities; modified from manuscript’s “dropsie,” in which “p” is partly blotted
drossy
part
Gloss Note
burn to ash, purify
calcine
Although it would thy
Critical Note
“thy drossy part” is the “impure” part of one’s being; and “calcine” means to burn to ashes, consume; and also to purify or refine by consuming the grosser part (OED v. 2a and 1c). For a direct comparison to these final lines, see George Herbert, “Easter”: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). See also Pulter’s Dear God, from Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which uses a similar image: “Though grief calcine my flesh to dust” (line 4).
Textual Note
The manuscript reads “dropsie” in line 17, with the "p" obscured by an ink blot. I read this as a deliberate ink blot correcting an error, although “dropsie” would provide an alternative set of possible meanings: "dropsy” can mean “charged with water” (OED B.b), and “calcine” can mean “dessicate” (OED 1b). The Herbert allusion makes “drossy” a far preferable reading here, but the alternative set of meanings may contribute to the scribe’s apparent uncertainty.
drossy part calcine
18
Away, and infinitely Refine
Away, and infinitely refine
Away, and infinitely refine
19
Thy ffleſh that it more Gloriously may Shine
Thy flesh, that it more gloriously may shine.
Thy flesh, that it more gloriously may shine.
X (Close panel)Notes: 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.

 Headnote

The model cheer and calm of strangled larks and sacrificial lambs are proffered as alternatives to the speaker’s restlessly throbbing heart and obstinately death-averse soul. As she does in other poems, Pulter writes to reprimand her soul for being afraid to die. Yet the poem’s opening rapid-fire interrogation mimics the very “unrest” it critiques. Similarly, the catalogue of creatures who coolly meet their fates is punctuated by disjunctions (“Yet … But … But”) which castigate the speaker. Only in the poem’s last lines are we released from this pattern of self-shaming, when the enjambment formally suggests, in an echo of the content, the greater scope of an afterlife unconfined by fleshly exemplars and our failures to live up to them.
Line number 5

 Gloss note

vivacious
Line number 13

 Gloss note

in classical myth, a bird said to burn itself on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its wings; the bird rises from the ashes with renewed youth
Line number 13

 Gloss note

accept, undertake
Line number 14

 Gloss note

blazing, hot, or to do with the visible appearance of flame; but also possibly fragrant (a sense pertinent to “odors”)
Line number 16

 Gloss note

forgotten
Line number 17

 Gloss note

mixed with impurities; modified from manuscript’s “dropsie,” in which “p” is partly blotted
Line number 17

 Gloss note

burn to ash, purify
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
[Untitled]
My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?
[Untitled]
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
The model cheer and calm of strangled larks and sacrificial lambs are proffered as alternatives to the speaker’s restlessly throbbing heart and obstinately death-averse soul. As she does in other poems, Pulter writes to reprimand her soul for being afraid to die. Yet the poem’s opening rapid-fire interrogation mimics the very “unrest” it critiques. Similarly, the catalogue of creatures who coolly meet their fates is punctuated by disjunctions (“Yet … But … But”) which castigate the speaker. Only in the poem’s last lines are we released from this pattern of self-shaming, when the enjambment formally suggests, in an echo of the content, the greater scope of an afterlife unconfined by fleshly exemplars and our failures to live up to them.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?” is one of Pulter’s brief devotional lyrics, in this case chastising her own heart and soul for their “sighs and sobs”, and comparing them to various creatures—the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix—who offer themselves up willingly for death. The “ail[ments]” and “unrest” of line 2 may be the generic woes that typically afflict the devotional speaker, who endures the earthly life, and who both longs for union with the divine and is unwilling to give up the human body. But the poem may also reflect more specifically on aging, as “thy sorrows with thy years increase” (line 8). The speaker “wouldst have the course of nature turn”, rather than offering herself up to the more sudden sacrifices of the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix. The lark, the lamb, and the phoenix all have associations with the praise of God or with Christ himself, willingly sacrificing themselves to death. Pulter’s use of these images owes much to the emblematic mode of thinking that is evident in the emblem poem series later in the manuscript.
Attempting to persuade the soul of the miraculous glory that would follow death, the concluding five lines rely on a cluster of images and words that recurs in Pulter’s devotional poetry: obliviation, calcination, and refinement. Her emphasis here is on the necessary calcination of the impure flesh, in death, and its “infinite” refinement, to achieve glory beyond. These lines are almost certainly indebted to George Herbert, who evokes a similar devotional concept in the opening stanza of “Easter”. Here, he describes the salvation of the believer made possible through Christ’s sacrifice: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). Herbert’s devotional lyrics are a clear influence on Pulter’s but in this poem, as is usual in the comparison between them, Pulter’s emphasis is more material and Herbert’s is more metaphorical and explicitly doctrinal.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
My Heart why dost thou Throb Soe in my^Breast
My heart, why dost thou throb so in my breast?
My heart, why dost thou throb so in my breast?
2
What dost thou Aild? w:t cauſeth thy unrest
What, dost thou ail? What causeth thy unrest?
What dost thou
Physical Note
“aild” in the manuscript
ail
? What causeth thy unrest?
3
Dost thou not know that as the fflames Aſcend
Dost thou not know that, as the flames ascend,
Dost thou not know that as the flames ascend,
4
Soe Man in Sorrow doth begin and end
So man in sorrow doth begin and end?
So man in sorrow doth begin and end?
5
The Spritely Lark how cheerfully Shee Sings
The
Gloss Note
vivacious
sprightly
lark, how cheerfully she sings,
The
Gloss Note
lively, sportive.
spritely
Critical Note
in Latin, “aluda”, and so associated with praise (“laud”) of God (see Helen Wilcox (ed.), The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 148). In a related aspect of its symbolism, the lark was known for singing as it rose in flight (see Herbert, “Easter Wings”, line 18).
lark
, how cheerfully she sings
6
Untill the Hawk her little Neck of wrings
Until the hawk her little neck off wrings;
Until the hawk her little neck off wrings,
7
Yet thou to Sigh and Sob dost never ceaſe
Yet thou to sigh and sob dost never cease
Yet thou to sigh and sob dost never cease
8
Becauſe thy Sorrowes w:th thy Years increaſe
Because thy sorrows with thy years increase.
Because thy sorrows with thy years increase.
9
The Milkwhite Lamb that on the Alter lyes
The milk-white lamb that on the altar lies
The milk-white
Critical Note
The lamb has implications of Christ, as the Lamb of God, offering himself up as a sacrifice for humankind.
lamb that on the altar lies
10
Yields himſelfe up a quiet Sacrifice
Yields himself up a quiet sacrifice;
Yields himself up a quiet sacrifice,
11
But thou wouldst have the courſ of Nature turn
But thou wouldst have the course of nature turn
But thou wouldst have the course of nature turn
12
Rather then in aflictions furnice Burn
Rather than in affliction’s furnace burn.
Rather than in affliction’s furnace burn.
13
The Phœnix doth aſſume her ffunerall Pier
The
Gloss Note
in classical myth, a bird said to burn itself on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its wings; the bird rises from the ashes with renewed youth
phoenix
doth
Gloss Note
accept, undertake
assume
her funeral pyre,
The
Gloss Note
a mythical bird which burns itself to ashes on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its own wings (only to rise from its ashes to live again). Unsurprisingly, the phoenix was used by early Christian writers as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.
phoenix
doth assume her funeral pyre,
14
And
Physical Note
“i” appears written over “a”
in
thoſe fflagrant Odours doth expire
And in those
Gloss Note
blazing, hot, or to do with the visible appearance of flame; but also possibly fragrant (a sense pertinent to “odors”)
flagrant
odors doth expire;
And in those
Critical Note
blazing, burning. The phoenix was thought to build its funeral pyre from branches of cinnamon and aromatic spices, hence “flagrant odours”. See Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s Natural History, p. 271.
flagrant
odours doth expire,
15
But thou my Soul unwilling art to die
But thou, my soul, unwilling art to die,
But thou, my soul, unwilling art to die
16
And in thy Grave obliviated lye
And in thy grave
Gloss Note
forgotten
obliviated
lie,
And in thy grave
Gloss Note
forgotten, committed to oblivion
obliviated
lie,
17
Although it would thy
Physical Note
“p” partly blotted
dropſie
part Calcine
Although it would thy
Gloss Note
mixed with impurities; modified from manuscript’s “dropsie,” in which “p” is partly blotted
drossy
part
Gloss Note
burn to ash, purify
calcine
Although it would thy
Critical Note
“thy drossy part” is the “impure” part of one’s being; and “calcine” means to burn to ashes, consume; and also to purify or refine by consuming the grosser part (OED v. 2a and 1c). For a direct comparison to these final lines, see George Herbert, “Easter”: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). See also Pulter’s Dear God, from Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which uses a similar image: “Though grief calcine my flesh to dust” (line 4).
Textual Note
The manuscript reads “dropsie” in line 17, with the "p" obscured by an ink blot. I read this as a deliberate ink blot correcting an error, although “dropsie” would provide an alternative set of possible meanings: "dropsy” can mean “charged with water” (OED B.b), and “calcine” can mean “dessicate” (OED 1b). The Herbert allusion makes “drossy” a far preferable reading here, but the alternative set of meanings may contribute to the scribe’s apparent uncertainty.
drossy part calcine
18
Away, and infinitely Refine
Away, and infinitely refine
Away, and infinitely refine
19
Thy ffleſh that it more Gloriously may Shine
Thy flesh, that it more gloriously may shine.
Thy flesh, that it more gloriously may shine.
X (Close panel)Notes: 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

 Headnote

“My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?” is one of Pulter’s brief devotional lyrics, in this case chastising her own heart and soul for their “sighs and sobs”, and comparing them to various creatures—the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix—who offer themselves up willingly for death. The “ail[ments]” and “unrest” of line 2 may be the generic woes that typically afflict the devotional speaker, who endures the earthly life, and who both longs for union with the divine and is unwilling to give up the human body. But the poem may also reflect more specifically on aging, as “thy sorrows with thy years increase” (line 8). The speaker “wouldst have the course of nature turn”, rather than offering herself up to the more sudden sacrifices of the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix. The lark, the lamb, and the phoenix all have associations with the praise of God or with Christ himself, willingly sacrificing themselves to death. Pulter’s use of these images owes much to the emblematic mode of thinking that is evident in the emblem poem series later in the manuscript.
Attempting to persuade the soul of the miraculous glory that would follow death, the concluding five lines rely on a cluster of images and words that recurs in Pulter’s devotional poetry: obliviation, calcination, and refinement. Her emphasis here is on the necessary calcination of the impure flesh, in death, and its “infinite” refinement, to achieve glory beyond. These lines are almost certainly indebted to George Herbert, who evokes a similar devotional concept in the opening stanza of “Easter”. Here, he describes the salvation of the believer made possible through Christ’s sacrifice: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). Herbert’s devotional lyrics are a clear influence on Pulter’s but in this poem, as is usual in the comparison between them, Pulter’s emphasis is more material and Herbert’s is more metaphorical and explicitly doctrinal.
Line number 2

 Physical note

“aild” in the manuscript
Line number 5

 Gloss note

lively, sportive.
Line number 5

 Critical note

in Latin, “aluda”, and so associated with praise (“laud”) of God (see Helen Wilcox (ed.), The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 148). In a related aspect of its symbolism, the lark was known for singing as it rose in flight (see Herbert, “Easter Wings”, line 18).
Line number 9

 Critical note

The lamb has implications of Christ, as the Lamb of God, offering himself up as a sacrifice for humankind.
Line number 13

 Gloss note

a mythical bird which burns itself to ashes on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its own wings (only to rise from its ashes to live again). Unsurprisingly, the phoenix was used by early Christian writers as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.
Line number 14

 Critical note

blazing, burning. The phoenix was thought to build its funeral pyre from branches of cinnamon and aromatic spices, hence “flagrant odours”. See Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s Natural History, p. 271.
Line number 16

 Gloss note

forgotten, committed to oblivion
Line number 17

 Critical note

“thy drossy part” is the “impure” part of one’s being; and “calcine” means to burn to ashes, consume; and also to purify or refine by consuming the grosser part (OED v. 2a and 1c). For a direct comparison to these final lines, see George Herbert, “Easter”: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). See also Pulter’s Dear God, from Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which uses a similar image: “Though grief calcine my flesh to dust” (line 4).
Line number 17

 Textual note

The manuscript reads “dropsie” in line 17, with the "p" obscured by an ink blot. I read this as a deliberate ink blot correcting an error, although “dropsie” would provide an alternative set of possible meanings: "dropsy” can mean “charged with water” (OED B.b), and “calcine” can mean “dessicate” (OED 1b). The Herbert allusion makes “drossy” a far preferable reading here, but the alternative set of meanings may contribute to the scribe’s apparent uncertainty.
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[Untitled]
My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?
[Untitled]
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
The model cheer and calm of strangled larks and sacrificial lambs are proffered as alternatives to the speaker’s restlessly throbbing heart and obstinately death-averse soul. As she does in other poems, Pulter writes to reprimand her soul for being afraid to die. Yet the poem’s opening rapid-fire interrogation mimics the very “unrest” it critiques. Similarly, the catalogue of creatures who coolly meet their fates is punctuated by disjunctions (“Yet … But … But”) which castigate the speaker. Only in the poem’s last lines are we released from this pattern of self-shaming, when the enjambment formally suggests, in an echo of the content, the greater scope of an afterlife unconfined by fleshly exemplars and our failures to live up to them.

— Sarah C. E. Ross
“My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?” is one of Pulter’s brief devotional lyrics, in this case chastising her own heart and soul for their “sighs and sobs”, and comparing them to various creatures—the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix—who offer themselves up willingly for death. The “ail[ments]” and “unrest” of line 2 may be the generic woes that typically afflict the devotional speaker, who endures the earthly life, and who both longs for union with the divine and is unwilling to give up the human body. But the poem may also reflect more specifically on aging, as “thy sorrows with thy years increase” (line 8). The speaker “wouldst have the course of nature turn”, rather than offering herself up to the more sudden sacrifices of the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix. The lark, the lamb, and the phoenix all have associations with the praise of God or with Christ himself, willingly sacrificing themselves to death. Pulter’s use of these images owes much to the emblematic mode of thinking that is evident in the emblem poem series later in the manuscript.
Attempting to persuade the soul of the miraculous glory that would follow death, the concluding five lines rely on a cluster of images and words that recurs in Pulter’s devotional poetry: obliviation, calcination, and refinement. Her emphasis here is on the necessary calcination of the impure flesh, in death, and its “infinite” refinement, to achieve glory beyond. These lines are almost certainly indebted to George Herbert, who evokes a similar devotional concept in the opening stanza of “Easter”. Here, he describes the salvation of the believer made possible through Christ’s sacrifice: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). Herbert’s devotional lyrics are a clear influence on Pulter’s but in this poem, as is usual in the comparison between them, Pulter’s emphasis is more material and Herbert’s is more metaphorical and explicitly doctrinal.


— Sarah C. E. Ross
1
My Heart why dost thou Throb Soe in my^Breast
My heart, why dost thou throb so in my breast?
My heart, why dost thou throb so in my breast?
2
What dost thou Aild? w:t cauſeth thy unrest
What, dost thou ail? What causeth thy unrest?
What dost thou
Physical Note
“aild” in the manuscript
ail
? What causeth thy unrest?
3
Dost thou not know that as the fflames Aſcend
Dost thou not know that, as the flames ascend,
Dost thou not know that as the flames ascend,
4
Soe Man in Sorrow doth begin and end
So man in sorrow doth begin and end?
So man in sorrow doth begin and end?
5
The Spritely Lark how cheerfully Shee Sings
The
Gloss Note
vivacious
sprightly
lark, how cheerfully she sings,
The
Gloss Note
lively, sportive.
spritely
Critical Note
in Latin, “aluda”, and so associated with praise (“laud”) of God (see Helen Wilcox (ed.), The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 148). In a related aspect of its symbolism, the lark was known for singing as it rose in flight (see Herbert, “Easter Wings”, line 18).
lark
, how cheerfully she sings
6
Untill the Hawk her little Neck of wrings
Until the hawk her little neck off wrings;
Until the hawk her little neck off wrings,
7
Yet thou to Sigh and Sob dost never ceaſe
Yet thou to sigh and sob dost never cease
Yet thou to sigh and sob dost never cease
8
Becauſe thy Sorrowes w:th thy Years increaſe
Because thy sorrows with thy years increase.
Because thy sorrows with thy years increase.
9
The Milkwhite Lamb that on the Alter lyes
The milk-white lamb that on the altar lies
The milk-white
Critical Note
The lamb has implications of Christ, as the Lamb of God, offering himself up as a sacrifice for humankind.
lamb that on the altar lies
10
Yields himſelfe up a quiet Sacrifice
Yields himself up a quiet sacrifice;
Yields himself up a quiet sacrifice,
11
But thou wouldst have the courſ of Nature turn
But thou wouldst have the course of nature turn
But thou wouldst have the course of nature turn
12
Rather then in aflictions furnice Burn
Rather than in affliction’s furnace burn.
Rather than in affliction’s furnace burn.
13
The Phœnix doth aſſume her ffunerall Pier
The
Gloss Note
in classical myth, a bird said to burn itself on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its wings; the bird rises from the ashes with renewed youth
phoenix
doth
Gloss Note
accept, undertake
assume
her funeral pyre,
The
Gloss Note
a mythical bird which burns itself to ashes on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its own wings (only to rise from its ashes to live again). Unsurprisingly, the phoenix was used by early Christian writers as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.
phoenix
doth assume her funeral pyre,
14
And
Physical Note
“i” appears written over “a”
in
thoſe fflagrant Odours doth expire
And in those
Gloss Note
blazing, hot, or to do with the visible appearance of flame; but also possibly fragrant (a sense pertinent to “odors”)
flagrant
odors doth expire;
And in those
Critical Note
blazing, burning. The phoenix was thought to build its funeral pyre from branches of cinnamon and aromatic spices, hence “flagrant odours”. See Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s Natural History, p. 271.
flagrant
odours doth expire,
15
But thou my Soul unwilling art to die
But thou, my soul, unwilling art to die,
But thou, my soul, unwilling art to die
16
And in thy Grave obliviated lye
And in thy grave
Gloss Note
forgotten
obliviated
lie,
And in thy grave
Gloss Note
forgotten, committed to oblivion
obliviated
lie,
17
Although it would thy
Physical Note
“p” partly blotted
dropſie
part Calcine
Although it would thy
Gloss Note
mixed with impurities; modified from manuscript’s “dropsie,” in which “p” is partly blotted
drossy
part
Gloss Note
burn to ash, purify
calcine
Although it would thy
Critical Note
“thy drossy part” is the “impure” part of one’s being; and “calcine” means to burn to ashes, consume; and also to purify or refine by consuming the grosser part (OED v. 2a and 1c). For a direct comparison to these final lines, see George Herbert, “Easter”: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). See also Pulter’s Dear God, from Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which uses a similar image: “Though grief calcine my flesh to dust” (line 4).
Textual Note
The manuscript reads “dropsie” in line 17, with the "p" obscured by an ink blot. I read this as a deliberate ink blot correcting an error, although “dropsie” would provide an alternative set of possible meanings: "dropsy” can mean “charged with water” (OED B.b), and “calcine” can mean “dessicate” (OED 1b). The Herbert allusion makes “drossy” a far preferable reading here, but the alternative set of meanings may contribute to the scribe’s apparent uncertainty.
drossy part calcine
18
Away, and infinitely Refine
Away, and infinitely refine
Away, and infinitely refine
19
Thy ffleſh that it more Gloriously may Shine
Thy flesh, that it more gloriously may shine.
Thy flesh, that it more gloriously may shine.
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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

The model cheer and calm of strangled larks and sacrificial lambs are proffered as alternatives to the speaker’s restlessly throbbing heart and obstinately death-averse soul. As she does in other poems, Pulter writes to reprimand her soul for being afraid to die. Yet the poem’s opening rapid-fire interrogation mimics the very “unrest” it critiques. Similarly, the catalogue of creatures who coolly meet their fates is punctuated by disjunctions (“Yet … But … But”) which castigate the speaker. Only in the poem’s last lines are we released from this pattern of self-shaming, when the enjambment formally suggests, in an echo of the content, the greater scope of an afterlife unconfined by fleshly exemplars and our failures to live up to them.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

“My Heart Why Dost Thou Throb So in My Breast?” is one of Pulter’s brief devotional lyrics, in this case chastising her own heart and soul for their “sighs and sobs”, and comparing them to various creatures—the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix—who offer themselves up willingly for death. The “ail[ments]” and “unrest” of line 2 may be the generic woes that typically afflict the devotional speaker, who endures the earthly life, and who both longs for union with the divine and is unwilling to give up the human body. But the poem may also reflect more specifically on aging, as “thy sorrows with thy years increase” (line 8). The speaker “wouldst have the course of nature turn”, rather than offering herself up to the more sudden sacrifices of the lark, the lamb, and the phoenix. The lark, the lamb, and the phoenix all have associations with the praise of God or with Christ himself, willingly sacrificing themselves to death. Pulter’s use of these images owes much to the emblematic mode of thinking that is evident in the emblem poem series later in the manuscript.
Attempting to persuade the soul of the miraculous glory that would follow death, the concluding five lines rely on a cluster of images and words that recurs in Pulter’s devotional poetry: obliviation, calcination, and refinement. Her emphasis here is on the necessary calcination of the impure flesh, in death, and its “infinite” refinement, to achieve glory beyond. These lines are almost certainly indebted to George Herbert, who evokes a similar devotional concept in the opening stanza of “Easter”. Here, he describes the salvation of the believer made possible through Christ’s sacrifice: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). Herbert’s devotional lyrics are a clear influence on Pulter’s but in this poem, as is usual in the comparison between them, Pulter’s emphasis is more material and Herbert’s is more metaphorical and explicitly doctrinal.
Amplified Edition
Line number 2

 Physical note

“aild” in the manuscript
Elemental Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

vivacious
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

lively, sportive.
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Critical note

in Latin, “aluda”, and so associated with praise (“laud”) of God (see Helen Wilcox (ed.), The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 148). In a related aspect of its symbolism, the lark was known for singing as it rose in flight (see Herbert, “Easter Wings”, line 18).
Amplified Edition
Line number 9

 Critical note

The lamb has implications of Christ, as the Lamb of God, offering himself up as a sacrifice for humankind.
Elemental Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

in classical myth, a bird said to burn itself on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its wings; the bird rises from the ashes with renewed youth
Elemental Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

accept, undertake
Amplified Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

a mythical bird which burns itself to ashes on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its own wings (only to rise from its ashes to live again). Unsurprisingly, the phoenix was used by early Christian writers as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.
Transcription
Line number 14

 Physical note

“i” appears written over “a”
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

blazing, hot, or to do with the visible appearance of flame; but also possibly fragrant (a sense pertinent to “odors”)
Amplified Edition
Line number 14

 Critical note

blazing, burning. The phoenix was thought to build its funeral pyre from branches of cinnamon and aromatic spices, hence “flagrant odours”. See Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s Natural History, p. 271.
Elemental Edition
Line number 16

 Gloss note

forgotten
Amplified Edition
Line number 16

 Gloss note

forgotten, committed to oblivion
Transcription
Line number 17

 Physical note

“p” partly blotted
Elemental Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

mixed with impurities; modified from manuscript’s “dropsie,” in which “p” is partly blotted
Elemental Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

burn to ash, purify
Amplified Edition
Line number 17

 Critical note

“thy drossy part” is the “impure” part of one’s being; and “calcine” means to burn to ashes, consume; and also to purify or refine by consuming the grosser part (OED v. 2a and 1c). For a direct comparison to these final lines, see George Herbert, “Easter”: “as his death calcined thee to dust, / His life may make thee gold, and much more just” (lines 5-6). See also Pulter’s Dear God, from Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which uses a similar image: “Though grief calcine my flesh to dust” (line 4).
Amplified Edition
Line number 17

 Textual note

The manuscript reads “dropsie” in line 17, with the "p" obscured by an ink blot. I read this as a deliberate ink blot correcting an error, although “dropsie” would provide an alternative set of possible meanings: "dropsy” can mean “charged with water” (OED B.b), and “calcine” can mean “dessicate” (OED 1b). The Herbert allusion makes “drossy” a far preferable reading here, but the alternative set of meanings may contribute to the scribe’s apparent uncertainty.
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
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