My Love is Fair

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My Love is Fair

Poem 59

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 Frances E. Dolan.

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
  • Website designed by Sergei Kalugin, Northwestern University
  • IT project consultation by Josh Honn, Northwestern University
  • 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 6

 Physical note

“d” appears written over “t”
Line number 29

 Physical note

second “d” appears crowded between surrounding letters
Line number 32

 Physical note

possible erasure of single letter in space afterward
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
My Loue is Fair
My Love is Fair
My Love Is Fair
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 “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem is unusual for Pulter in both form and content: written in a bouncing iambic trimeter, with frequent feminine rhymes (a formal quality not irrelevant to the content), it features a proposition in the title which is promptly queried in the text. The speaker skeptically or sneeringly questions whether the interlocutor’s beloved is indeed “so wondrous fair”—which of course unfairly exaggerates the lover’s actual claim. What follows is an interrogatory blazon alluding to specific body parts, among other outstanding qualities, of various divinities. These questions are asked, as though in a dramatic monologue, to determine if the beloved’s measurements measure up to this high standard. The quizzed suitor appears to respond in the affirmative, so the speaker urges him to start wooing. While the allusion to Aurora is highly Pulterian, the poem’s eroticized bodily detail and courtship advice are unusual in her works (although, also on courtship, see “The Turtle and his Paramour” [Emblem 47] [Poem 112]).

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem is organized around questions and its title raises one for the reader: whose love is fair? The whole poem is in the second person, in which the speaker interrogates an interlocutor about “thy” love and then, finally satisfied that she is so wondrous that she exceeds every precedent, urges him to woo her. Here the speaker acts as a kind of wing man to the lover, playing something like the role Diana O’Hara identifies as the “go-between.” These go-betweens served as “movers,” “suitors,” “speakers,” and “brokers” of marriage in Tudor courtships as depicted on the stage and in church court depositions (Diana O’Hara, Courtship and Constraint: Rethinking the Making of Marriage in Tudor England [Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000], pp. 99-121). The blazon tradition always installs a third party, the addressee to whom the speaker “blazons” or trumpets the virtues of his beloved, both announcing possession of her and seeming to advertise her (Nancy J. Vickers, “‘The blazon of sweet beauty’s best’: Shakespeare’s Lucrece,” in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Harman [Methuen, 1985], pp. 95-115). Pulter’s speaker here is that third party, pointing out the beloved’s virtues to the apparently reluctant suitor. This dynamic is unusual in poetry. We can easily find triangulation in love poetry: in many poems, male speakers address their rivals or warn other men against women in general or in particular; in Aphra Behn’s “Invitation,” the female speaker steps between one Damon and a “cruel shepherdess,” in the hopes of taking her place as his beloved. Shakespeare writes sonnets urging the young man to procreate, but they focus on the beauty of the young man, which should leave a record, and on the offspring, rather than the prospective wife. While these are all triangles (and you can see some of them under “Triangulation and the Second Person” in the “Curations” for this poem) they all work differently than does Pulter’s triangle in this poem, in which a speaker advises the addressee to pursue a woman pronto. We find something like this dynamic more often in the drama, as Beatrice and Benedick’s friends push them together in Much Ado About Nothing, or Cesario urges Orsino not to flag in his pursuit of Olivia in Twelfth Night. The poem also treats the temporal urgency central to seduction poems in a novel way. In most carpe diem seduction poems, male speakers threaten women with time’s ravages, urging them to surrender to wooing posthaste; here the speaker works to motivate an apparently hesitant lover, arguing that the beloved’s fairness warrants urgent pursuit.
The speaker’s close attention to another’s beloved blurs the distinction between mine and thine. Pulter’s dialogic poems can often be read as dialogues within the self. Might the two parties here also be sides of the same person? The speaker’s careful inventory of female beauty links this poem—which seems in many ways impersonal—to Pulter’s blazons of her dead daughter (Poem 11) and of her own body (Poem 51). When Pulter describes a human body in detail, she focuses on the female body. Whereas the blazon has often been understood as a “divide and conquer” strategy, by which a male speaker dissects and masters a female beloved, Pulter suggests the blazon’s possibilities for turning the female gaze on the female body. She uses the blazon’s conventions to capture her memory of her daughter, her memory of her own young flesh, her frank appraisal of her aging body, and even, in this highly stylized poem, her appreciation of what wondrous fairness in a woman might look, smell, and sound like as well as the ridiculous standards women have to meet before men feel motivated to woo. The dense tissue of allusion should not distract from the keen observation it accompanies. Read in relation to Pulter’s other poetry, the absence of religion is striking here, as are its consequences for the poem’s teleology. The insistent interrogation builds toward persuading the lover to ride off a-wooing—giddyup!—not, as so often in Pulter, to die and rise again. Within its secular arc, the poem ends with a beginning, wooing rather than marriage.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
And is thy Love Soe Wonderous ffair
And is thy love so wondrous fair?
And is thy love so wondrous fair?
2
Hath Shee Herſillias Shineing Hair
Hath she
Critical Note
a figure in Roman myth; see George Sandys’s translation of Ovid: “a Star shot from the Skie, / Whose golden beames inflam’d Hersilia’s haire.” Ouid’s Metamorphosis Englished (London, 1628), p.414.
Hersilia’s
shining hair;
Hath she
Critical Note
Wife of Romulus, one of the founders of Rome, Hersilia was deified after death as the goddess Hora. As Sandys’s translation of Ovid describes this, “a star shot from the sky / Whose golden beams inflamed Hersilia’s hair” (Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished . . . by G. S. [1632], sig. Ll1v).
Hersilia’s
shining hair,
3
Junos Count’nance Pallas, Eye
Gloss Note
Juno is the chief Olympian goddess; “count’nance” means “face”; Pallas is an epithet for Athena.
Juno’s count’nance; Pallas’s eye
,
Gloss Note
Juno was Jupiter’s wife, renowned for her beauty.
Juno’s
count’nance,
Critical Note
Pallas may refer to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. Homer often describes her using a Greek epithet that might be translated as “bright-eyed” or “with gleaming eyes.” The phrase “Pallas’s eye” is not unique to Pulter. Barnabe Barnes’s sonnet LXIV mentions “Pallas’s eye, and Venus’s rosie cheeke, / And Phoebe’s forehead” (Parthenophil and Parthenophe Sonnets [London, 1593]).
Pallas’s
eye,
4
ffull of Awfull Majestie
Full of
Gloss Note
awe-inspiring
awful
majesty?
Full of awful majesty?
5
In Loves Story dost thou ffind
In love’s story dost thou find
In love’s story dost thou find
6
Physical Note
“d” appears written over “t”
Cupid
with one Glance Strock blind
Gloss Note
god of love
Cupid
with one glance struck blind?
Cupid with one glance struck blind?
7
Doth her cheeks excell Auroras
Doth her cheeks excel
Gloss Note
goddess of dawn
Aurora’s
,
Doth her cheeks excel
Gloss Note
goddess of the dawn
Aurora’s
8
And her ffragrant breath Sweet ffloras
And her fragrant breath sweet
Gloss Note
goddess of flowers
Flora’s
?
And her fragrant breath sweet
Gloss Note
goddess of flowers or spring
Flora’s
?
9
Venus Ruby Lips and Smile
Gloss Note
goddess of love; Aphrodite
Venus’s
ruby lips and smile,
Venus’s ruby lips and smile,
10
That A Stoick would beguile
Gloss Note
that even
That
a
Gloss Note
a practitioner of Greek philosophy espousing indifference and austerity
Stoic
would beguile?
That a
Gloss Note
That might even be able to seduce a Stoic, that is, a member of a group who strive to master their passions and emotions.
Stoic
would beguile?
11
Gallitea’s Neck and Breast
Gloss Note
a beautiful statue carved by Pygmalion, who fell in love with her; she was brought to life by Aphrodite
Galatea’s
neck and breast
Gloss Note
A sculptor, Pygmalion made a statue so beautiful he fell in love with it: Galatea, whose name in Greek indicates having “milk-white” skin. Galatea also appears as a sea-nymph in love with Acis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Galatea’s
neck and breast,
12
On Which Idalias Boy doth rest
On which
Gloss Note
Eros or Cupid; Idalia is an epithet for Aphrodite (Perseus Digital Collections).
Idalia’s boy
doth rest?
On which
Gloss Note
Venus was associated with the island of Idalia, near Cyprus. The “Idalian boy” may mean Cupid, her son.
Idalia’s boy
doth rest?
13
Doth her Shoulders Pelops paſs
Doth her shoulders
Gloss Note
in Greek mythology, killed and served by his father to gods, who, after eating one shoulder, restored him to life with an ivory shoulder
Pelops’s
Gloss Note
surpass
pass
?
Doth her shoulders
Critical Note
All of the other comparisons are to women and goddesses. This one is to a man, Pelops, the son of Tantalus. What’s so special about his shoulder? His father cut Pelops into pieces and made him into a stew to offer to the gods. The only god to consume the offering, Demeter, ate the left shoulder. Rejecting the offering, the other gods reassembled and resurrected Pelops, replacing the eaten shoulder with an ivory one (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 6). Pulter’s allusion here describes the beloved’s shoulder as ivory, linking it to the image of Galatea, Pygmalion’s “lass,” the statue with whom he fell in love. Both these references to ivory racialize the beloved, emphasizing her whiteness. The reference to Pelops might also stir up thoughts of cannibalism, the stew pot, and the prosthesis.
Pelops’s
Gloss Note
surpass
pass
,
14
Or Pigmalians Ivory Laſs
Or
Gloss Note
See note on Galatea.
Pygmalion’s ivory lass
?
Or
Gloss Note
Galatea (mentioned in l. 11) was “Pygmalion’s ivory lass.”
Pygmalion’s ivory lass
?
15
Doth her Ellegant Sweet Speeches
Doth her elegant sweet speeches
Doth her elegant sweet speeches
16
Most comand when Shee beſeeches
Most command when she beseeches?
Most command when she beseeches?
17
Like Diana Taul and Chast
Like
Gloss Note
goddess of the moon
Diana
, tall and chaste,
Like
Gloss Note
goddess of the moon and of chastity
Diana
tall and chaste
18
And as Slender when imbrac’t
And as slender when embraced?
And as slender when embraced?
19
Doth her Bevty Phœbus darken
Doth her beauty
Gloss Note
god of the sun
Phoebus
darken?
Doth her beauty
Gloss Note
the sun
Phoebus
darken?
20
Doe the Spheirs Stand Still and hearken
Do
Gloss Note
concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars) and producing perfectly harmonious sound
the spheres
stand still and hearken
Do the spheres stand still and hearken
when

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
21
When Shee quavers on the Vial
When she
Gloss Note
plays music with a trill on a stringed Renaissance instrument
quavers on the viol
?
When she
Gloss Note
plays
quavers
on the viol?
22
Like the Sunbeams on the Diall
Like the sunbeams on the
Gloss Note
sun dial
dial
,
Like the sunbeams on the
Gloss Note
sundial
dial
23
Doth Shee Govern ffate and Chance
Doth she govern fate and chance?
Doth she govern fate and chance?
24
To her Muſick doth Time Dance
To her music doth time dance?
To her music doth Time dance?
25
And when Shee doth Touch a Lute
And when she doth touch a lute,
And when she doth touch a lute
26
Doe the Muſes all stand Mute
Do the
Gloss Note
goddesses of inspiration
Muses
all stand mute?
Critical Note
The praise shifts into a higher gear at l. 20, when the speaker’s questions move from physical beauty to musical talent on the viol and lute, to which seven lines are devoted. Since the questions turn to whether the beloved’s talent has the extraordinary power to govern fate and chance and to control the passage of time, one wonders if the answers could possibly be affirmative. The following question in l. 27 emphasizes that the qualities being considered at this point are superhuman.
Do the muses all stand mute?
27
Is Shee of Saturnian Iſſew
Is she of
Gloss Note
of Saturn, father of the Olympian gods; therefore, divine generally
Saturnian
issue?
Is she of
Gloss Note
child of gods or divine
Saturnian issue
?
28
Are her Lims wrapt up in Tiſſew
Are her limbs wrapped up in
Gloss Note
rich cloth, often interwoven with gold or silver
tissue
?
Are her limbs wrapped up in
Gloss Note
fine, luminous cloth
tissue
?
29
Her
Physical Note
second “d” appears crowded between surrounding letters
Hidden
parts like Aphrodite
Her hidden parts like
Gloss Note
goddess of love; Venus
Aphrodite
,
Her hidden parts like
Critical Note
Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love and fertility, was often depicted with one hand shielding her genitals. As a consequence, any nude female figure covering her genitals with one hand became known as a “Venus pudica” or modest Venus. According to Valerie Traub, “with her ambivalent gestures of both modesty and revelation, the Venus pudica replaced Eve as the dominant trope for anatomical illustration of the female body, employed throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on title pages and frontispieces” (Traub, Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], p. 117).
Aphrodite
,
30
But as Coy as Amphitrite
But
Gloss Note
a mermaid goddess of the sea, “coy” because she worked to evade the amorous advances of Poseidon, god of the sea.
as coy as Amphitrite
?
But as coy as
Critical Note

Amphitrite refused Neptune’s proposal of marriage and fled from him. Her “coyness” may refer to this reluctance to marry, which Neptune overcame by sending a dolphin to persuade or seize her. The dolphin, then, played a role similar to that of the speaker of Pulter’s poem, facilitating courtship. The reference to coy Amphitrite here sets up the reference to Philanthropos in the next line.

In the references to Saturnian issue, Aphrodite, and Amphitrite, Pulter may be sending up the strategy of comparison she employs here, piling up allusions to goddesses rather than human women. Even Orlando’s poetry, ridiculed in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, refers to human women, however apocryphal or dubious: “Helen’s cheek, but not her heart, / Cleopatra’s majesty, / Atalanta’s better part, / Sad Lucretia’s modesty” (3.2.142-45, new Pelican edition, ed. Frances E. Dolan [Penguin, 2017]).

Amphitrite
?
31
Why then Philanthropas bestride
Why then,
Critical Note
The name (etymologically, “lover of humanity”) refers in classical literature to the dolphin; it is based on the animal’s alleged friendliness to people, which in some cases included allowing people to ride (“bestride”) them. A dolphin was said either to have negotiated with Amphitrite on Poseidon’s behalf (see previous line) or to have abducted her so that Poseidon might marry her (The Theoi Project).
Philanthropas bestride
,
Why, then
Critical Note

This name means lover of mankind. It was also a “standard epithet” for the dolphin, which was depicted from antiquity on as loving humans (especially men and boys) and their music, and providing them with speedy transit and even rescue. “The stories of the dolphin as ‘philanthropos’ occur not merely in folklore and in minor, undiscriminating authors, but in the most authoritative and reputable of the ancients” (John Creaser, “Dolphins in Lycidas,” Review of English Studies 36.142 [1985]: pp. 235-43, esp. p. 238).

The dolphin is often depicted in visual art and in literature as ridden by humans or as transporting humans. Cupid or Eros and Apollo were often depicted astride a dolphin, as was the ancient Greek poet Arion, whom, according to legend, dolphins rescued when he leaped into the sea to avoid being murdered by pirates. One romance uses the same verb Pulter does here (bestride) to describe Arion: “Upon the trembling billows was descry’d / Arion with a golden Harpe in’s hand, / Who a huge crooked Dolphine did bestride / And in the dancing waves did bravely ride” (Francis Kinnaston, Leoline and Sydanis [London, 1642], sig. K2v). This vision of Arion links making music with riding the dolphin. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon similarly links the two, remembering hearing “a mermaid on a dolphin’s back / Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath / That the rude sea grew civil at her song / And certain stars shot madly from their spheres / To hear the sea-maid’s music” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2.1.150-54). In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a dolphin helps to rescue the shipwrecked Sebastian, who, the Captain reassures Viola, bound himself “to a strong mast, that lived upon the sea, / Where like Arion on the dolphin’s back, / I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves” (TN 1.2). Both of these quotations are from the third edition of the Norton Shakespeare (2016). In Milton’s “Lycidas,” too, the poet calls on “ye Dolphins” to “waft the hapless youth” (line 164), that is, the drowned friend the poem commemorates, apparently drawing on these associations of the dolphin with rescue and perhaps even with the transport of the dead for burial or the soul for salvation (see Creaser). In urging the lover to hop on a dolphin to pursue his beloved, Pulter reinforces the link between the musical fair one and Amphitrite, draws on all of these traditions of dolphins assisting humans (especially men)—and suggests that the fair beloved lies across the sea or in the realm of myth.

Philanthropos
bestride,
32
And after her a Woing
Physical Note
possible erasure of single letter in space afterward
Ride
And after her a-wooing ride.
And after her a-wooing ride!
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

This poem is unusual for Pulter in both form and content: written in a bouncing iambic trimeter, with frequent feminine rhymes (a formal quality not irrelevant to the content), it features a proposition in the title which is promptly queried in the text. The speaker skeptically or sneeringly questions whether the interlocutor’s beloved is indeed “so wondrous fair”—which of course unfairly exaggerates the lover’s actual claim. What follows is an interrogatory blazon alluding to specific body parts, among other outstanding qualities, of various divinities. These questions are asked, as though in a dramatic monologue, to determine if the beloved’s measurements measure up to this high standard. The quizzed suitor appears to respond in the affirmative, so the speaker urges him to start wooing. While the allusion to Aurora is highly Pulterian, the poem’s eroticized bodily detail and courtship advice are unusual in her works (although, also on courtship, see “The Turtle and his Paramour” [Emblem 47] [Poem 112]).
Line number 2

 Critical note

a figure in Roman myth; see George Sandys’s translation of Ovid: “a Star shot from the Skie, / Whose golden beames inflam’d Hersilia’s haire.” Ouid’s Metamorphosis Englished (London, 1628), p.414.
Line number 3

 Gloss note

Juno is the chief Olympian goddess; “count’nance” means “face”; Pallas is an epithet for Athena.
Line number 4

 Gloss note

awe-inspiring
Line number 6

 Gloss note

god of love
Line number 7

 Gloss note

goddess of dawn
Line number 8

 Gloss note

goddess of flowers
Line number 9

 Gloss note

goddess of love; Aphrodite
Line number 10

 Gloss note

that even
Line number 10

 Gloss note

a practitioner of Greek philosophy espousing indifference and austerity
Line number 11

 Gloss note

a beautiful statue carved by Pygmalion, who fell in love with her; she was brought to life by Aphrodite
Line number 12

 Gloss note

Eros or Cupid; Idalia is an epithet for Aphrodite (Perseus Digital Collections).
Line number 13

 Gloss note

in Greek mythology, killed and served by his father to gods, who, after eating one shoulder, restored him to life with an ivory shoulder
Line number 13

 Gloss note

surpass
Line number 14

 Gloss note

See note on Galatea.
Line number 17

 Gloss note

goddess of the moon
Line number 19

 Gloss note

god of the sun
Line number 20

 Gloss note

concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars) and producing perfectly harmonious sound
Line number 21

 Gloss note

plays music with a trill on a stringed Renaissance instrument
Line number 22

 Gloss note

sun dial
Line number 26

 Gloss note

goddesses of inspiration
Line number 27

 Gloss note

of Saturn, father of the Olympian gods; therefore, divine generally
Line number 28

 Gloss note

rich cloth, often interwoven with gold or silver
Line number 29

 Gloss note

goddess of love; Venus
Line number 30

 Gloss note

a mermaid goddess of the sea, “coy” because she worked to evade the amorous advances of Poseidon, god of the sea.
Line number 31

 Critical note

The name (etymologically, “lover of humanity”) refers in classical literature to the dolphin; it is based on the animal’s alleged friendliness to people, which in some cases included allowing people to ride (“bestride”) them. A dolphin was said either to have negotiated with Amphitrite on Poseidon’s behalf (see previous line) or to have abducted her so that Poseidon might marry her (The Theoi Project).
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
My Loue is Fair
My Love is Fair
My Love Is Fair
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 “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem is unusual for Pulter in both form and content: written in a bouncing iambic trimeter, with frequent feminine rhymes (a formal quality not irrelevant to the content), it features a proposition in the title which is promptly queried in the text. The speaker skeptically or sneeringly questions whether the interlocutor’s beloved is indeed “so wondrous fair”—which of course unfairly exaggerates the lover’s actual claim. What follows is an interrogatory blazon alluding to specific body parts, among other outstanding qualities, of various divinities. These questions are asked, as though in a dramatic monologue, to determine if the beloved’s measurements measure up to this high standard. The quizzed suitor appears to respond in the affirmative, so the speaker urges him to start wooing. While the allusion to Aurora is highly Pulterian, the poem’s eroticized bodily detail and courtship advice are unusual in her works (although, also on courtship, see “The Turtle and his Paramour” [Emblem 47] [Poem 112]).

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem is organized around questions and its title raises one for the reader: whose love is fair? The whole poem is in the second person, in which the speaker interrogates an interlocutor about “thy” love and then, finally satisfied that she is so wondrous that she exceeds every precedent, urges him to woo her. Here the speaker acts as a kind of wing man to the lover, playing something like the role Diana O’Hara identifies as the “go-between.” These go-betweens served as “movers,” “suitors,” “speakers,” and “brokers” of marriage in Tudor courtships as depicted on the stage and in church court depositions (Diana O’Hara, Courtship and Constraint: Rethinking the Making of Marriage in Tudor England [Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000], pp. 99-121). The blazon tradition always installs a third party, the addressee to whom the speaker “blazons” or trumpets the virtues of his beloved, both announcing possession of her and seeming to advertise her (Nancy J. Vickers, “‘The blazon of sweet beauty’s best’: Shakespeare’s Lucrece,” in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Harman [Methuen, 1985], pp. 95-115). Pulter’s speaker here is that third party, pointing out the beloved’s virtues to the apparently reluctant suitor. This dynamic is unusual in poetry. We can easily find triangulation in love poetry: in many poems, male speakers address their rivals or warn other men against women in general or in particular; in Aphra Behn’s “Invitation,” the female speaker steps between one Damon and a “cruel shepherdess,” in the hopes of taking her place as his beloved. Shakespeare writes sonnets urging the young man to procreate, but they focus on the beauty of the young man, which should leave a record, and on the offspring, rather than the prospective wife. While these are all triangles (and you can see some of them under “Triangulation and the Second Person” in the “Curations” for this poem) they all work differently than does Pulter’s triangle in this poem, in which a speaker advises the addressee to pursue a woman pronto. We find something like this dynamic more often in the drama, as Beatrice and Benedick’s friends push them together in Much Ado About Nothing, or Cesario urges Orsino not to flag in his pursuit of Olivia in Twelfth Night. The poem also treats the temporal urgency central to seduction poems in a novel way. In most carpe diem seduction poems, male speakers threaten women with time’s ravages, urging them to surrender to wooing posthaste; here the speaker works to motivate an apparently hesitant lover, arguing that the beloved’s fairness warrants urgent pursuit.
The speaker’s close attention to another’s beloved blurs the distinction between mine and thine. Pulter’s dialogic poems can often be read as dialogues within the self. Might the two parties here also be sides of the same person? The speaker’s careful inventory of female beauty links this poem—which seems in many ways impersonal—to Pulter’s blazons of her dead daughter (Poem 11) and of her own body (Poem 51). When Pulter describes a human body in detail, she focuses on the female body. Whereas the blazon has often been understood as a “divide and conquer” strategy, by which a male speaker dissects and masters a female beloved, Pulter suggests the blazon’s possibilities for turning the female gaze on the female body. She uses the blazon’s conventions to capture her memory of her daughter, her memory of her own young flesh, her frank appraisal of her aging body, and even, in this highly stylized poem, her appreciation of what wondrous fairness in a woman might look, smell, and sound like as well as the ridiculous standards women have to meet before men feel motivated to woo. The dense tissue of allusion should not distract from the keen observation it accompanies. Read in relation to Pulter’s other poetry, the absence of religion is striking here, as are its consequences for the poem’s teleology. The insistent interrogation builds toward persuading the lover to ride off a-wooing—giddyup!—not, as so often in Pulter, to die and rise again. Within its secular arc, the poem ends with a beginning, wooing rather than marriage.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
And is thy Love Soe Wonderous ffair
And is thy love so wondrous fair?
And is thy love so wondrous fair?
2
Hath Shee Herſillias Shineing Hair
Hath she
Critical Note
a figure in Roman myth; see George Sandys’s translation of Ovid: “a Star shot from the Skie, / Whose golden beames inflam’d Hersilia’s haire.” Ouid’s Metamorphosis Englished (London, 1628), p.414.
Hersilia’s
shining hair;
Hath she
Critical Note
Wife of Romulus, one of the founders of Rome, Hersilia was deified after death as the goddess Hora. As Sandys’s translation of Ovid describes this, “a star shot from the sky / Whose golden beams inflamed Hersilia’s hair” (Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished . . . by G. S. [1632], sig. Ll1v).
Hersilia’s
shining hair,
3
Junos Count’nance Pallas, Eye
Gloss Note
Juno is the chief Olympian goddess; “count’nance” means “face”; Pallas is an epithet for Athena.
Juno’s count’nance; Pallas’s eye
,
Gloss Note
Juno was Jupiter’s wife, renowned for her beauty.
Juno’s
count’nance,
Critical Note
Pallas may refer to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. Homer often describes her using a Greek epithet that might be translated as “bright-eyed” or “with gleaming eyes.” The phrase “Pallas’s eye” is not unique to Pulter. Barnabe Barnes’s sonnet LXIV mentions “Pallas’s eye, and Venus’s rosie cheeke, / And Phoebe’s forehead” (Parthenophil and Parthenophe Sonnets [London, 1593]).
Pallas’s
eye,
4
ffull of Awfull Majestie
Full of
Gloss Note
awe-inspiring
awful
majesty?
Full of awful majesty?
5
In Loves Story dost thou ffind
In love’s story dost thou find
In love’s story dost thou find
6
Physical Note
“d” appears written over “t”
Cupid
with one Glance Strock blind
Gloss Note
god of love
Cupid
with one glance struck blind?
Cupid with one glance struck blind?
7
Doth her cheeks excell Auroras
Doth her cheeks excel
Gloss Note
goddess of dawn
Aurora’s
,
Doth her cheeks excel
Gloss Note
goddess of the dawn
Aurora’s
8
And her ffragrant breath Sweet ffloras
And her fragrant breath sweet
Gloss Note
goddess of flowers
Flora’s
?
And her fragrant breath sweet
Gloss Note
goddess of flowers or spring
Flora’s
?
9
Venus Ruby Lips and Smile
Gloss Note
goddess of love; Aphrodite
Venus’s
ruby lips and smile,
Venus’s ruby lips and smile,
10
That A Stoick would beguile
Gloss Note
that even
That
a
Gloss Note
a practitioner of Greek philosophy espousing indifference and austerity
Stoic
would beguile?
That a
Gloss Note
That might even be able to seduce a Stoic, that is, a member of a group who strive to master their passions and emotions.
Stoic
would beguile?
11
Gallitea’s Neck and Breast
Gloss Note
a beautiful statue carved by Pygmalion, who fell in love with her; she was brought to life by Aphrodite
Galatea’s
neck and breast
Gloss Note
A sculptor, Pygmalion made a statue so beautiful he fell in love with it: Galatea, whose name in Greek indicates having “milk-white” skin. Galatea also appears as a sea-nymph in love with Acis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Galatea’s
neck and breast,
12
On Which Idalias Boy doth rest
On which
Gloss Note
Eros or Cupid; Idalia is an epithet for Aphrodite (Perseus Digital Collections).
Idalia’s boy
doth rest?
On which
Gloss Note
Venus was associated with the island of Idalia, near Cyprus. The “Idalian boy” may mean Cupid, her son.
Idalia’s boy
doth rest?
13
Doth her Shoulders Pelops paſs
Doth her shoulders
Gloss Note
in Greek mythology, killed and served by his father to gods, who, after eating one shoulder, restored him to life with an ivory shoulder
Pelops’s
Gloss Note
surpass
pass
?
Doth her shoulders
Critical Note
All of the other comparisons are to women and goddesses. This one is to a man, Pelops, the son of Tantalus. What’s so special about his shoulder? His father cut Pelops into pieces and made him into a stew to offer to the gods. The only god to consume the offering, Demeter, ate the left shoulder. Rejecting the offering, the other gods reassembled and resurrected Pelops, replacing the eaten shoulder with an ivory one (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 6). Pulter’s allusion here describes the beloved’s shoulder as ivory, linking it to the image of Galatea, Pygmalion’s “lass,” the statue with whom he fell in love. Both these references to ivory racialize the beloved, emphasizing her whiteness. The reference to Pelops might also stir up thoughts of cannibalism, the stew pot, and the prosthesis.
Pelops’s
Gloss Note
surpass
pass
,
14
Or Pigmalians Ivory Laſs
Or
Gloss Note
See note on Galatea.
Pygmalion’s ivory lass
?
Or
Gloss Note
Galatea (mentioned in l. 11) was “Pygmalion’s ivory lass.”
Pygmalion’s ivory lass
?
15
Doth her Ellegant Sweet Speeches
Doth her elegant sweet speeches
Doth her elegant sweet speeches
16
Most comand when Shee beſeeches
Most command when she beseeches?
Most command when she beseeches?
17
Like Diana Taul and Chast
Like
Gloss Note
goddess of the moon
Diana
, tall and chaste,
Like
Gloss Note
goddess of the moon and of chastity
Diana
tall and chaste
18
And as Slender when imbrac’t
And as slender when embraced?
And as slender when embraced?
19
Doth her Bevty Phœbus darken
Doth her beauty
Gloss Note
god of the sun
Phoebus
darken?
Doth her beauty
Gloss Note
the sun
Phoebus
darken?
20
Doe the Spheirs Stand Still and hearken
Do
Gloss Note
concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars) and producing perfectly harmonious sound
the spheres
stand still and hearken
Do the spheres stand still and hearken
when

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
21
When Shee quavers on the Vial
When she
Gloss Note
plays music with a trill on a stringed Renaissance instrument
quavers on the viol
?
When she
Gloss Note
plays
quavers
on the viol?
22
Like the Sunbeams on the Diall
Like the sunbeams on the
Gloss Note
sun dial
dial
,
Like the sunbeams on the
Gloss Note
sundial
dial
23
Doth Shee Govern ffate and Chance
Doth she govern fate and chance?
Doth she govern fate and chance?
24
To her Muſick doth Time Dance
To her music doth time dance?
To her music doth Time dance?
25
And when Shee doth Touch a Lute
And when she doth touch a lute,
And when she doth touch a lute
26
Doe the Muſes all stand Mute
Do the
Gloss Note
goddesses of inspiration
Muses
all stand mute?
Critical Note
The praise shifts into a higher gear at l. 20, when the speaker’s questions move from physical beauty to musical talent on the viol and lute, to which seven lines are devoted. Since the questions turn to whether the beloved’s talent has the extraordinary power to govern fate and chance and to control the passage of time, one wonders if the answers could possibly be affirmative. The following question in l. 27 emphasizes that the qualities being considered at this point are superhuman.
Do the muses all stand mute?
27
Is Shee of Saturnian Iſſew
Is she of
Gloss Note
of Saturn, father of the Olympian gods; therefore, divine generally
Saturnian
issue?
Is she of
Gloss Note
child of gods or divine
Saturnian issue
?
28
Are her Lims wrapt up in Tiſſew
Are her limbs wrapped up in
Gloss Note
rich cloth, often interwoven with gold or silver
tissue
?
Are her limbs wrapped up in
Gloss Note
fine, luminous cloth
tissue
?
29
Her
Physical Note
second “d” appears crowded between surrounding letters
Hidden
parts like Aphrodite
Her hidden parts like
Gloss Note
goddess of love; Venus
Aphrodite
,
Her hidden parts like
Critical Note
Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love and fertility, was often depicted with one hand shielding her genitals. As a consequence, any nude female figure covering her genitals with one hand became known as a “Venus pudica” or modest Venus. According to Valerie Traub, “with her ambivalent gestures of both modesty and revelation, the Venus pudica replaced Eve as the dominant trope for anatomical illustration of the female body, employed throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on title pages and frontispieces” (Traub, Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], p. 117).
Aphrodite
,
30
But as Coy as Amphitrite
But
Gloss Note
a mermaid goddess of the sea, “coy” because she worked to evade the amorous advances of Poseidon, god of the sea.
as coy as Amphitrite
?
But as coy as
Critical Note

Amphitrite refused Neptune’s proposal of marriage and fled from him. Her “coyness” may refer to this reluctance to marry, which Neptune overcame by sending a dolphin to persuade or seize her. The dolphin, then, played a role similar to that of the speaker of Pulter’s poem, facilitating courtship. The reference to coy Amphitrite here sets up the reference to Philanthropos in the next line.

In the references to Saturnian issue, Aphrodite, and Amphitrite, Pulter may be sending up the strategy of comparison she employs here, piling up allusions to goddesses rather than human women. Even Orlando’s poetry, ridiculed in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, refers to human women, however apocryphal or dubious: “Helen’s cheek, but not her heart, / Cleopatra’s majesty, / Atalanta’s better part, / Sad Lucretia’s modesty” (3.2.142-45, new Pelican edition, ed. Frances E. Dolan [Penguin, 2017]).

Amphitrite
?
31
Why then Philanthropas bestride
Why then,
Critical Note
The name (etymologically, “lover of humanity”) refers in classical literature to the dolphin; it is based on the animal’s alleged friendliness to people, which in some cases included allowing people to ride (“bestride”) them. A dolphin was said either to have negotiated with Amphitrite on Poseidon’s behalf (see previous line) or to have abducted her so that Poseidon might marry her (The Theoi Project).
Philanthropas bestride
,
Why, then
Critical Note

This name means lover of mankind. It was also a “standard epithet” for the dolphin, which was depicted from antiquity on as loving humans (especially men and boys) and their music, and providing them with speedy transit and even rescue. “The stories of the dolphin as ‘philanthropos’ occur not merely in folklore and in minor, undiscriminating authors, but in the most authoritative and reputable of the ancients” (John Creaser, “Dolphins in Lycidas,” Review of English Studies 36.142 [1985]: pp. 235-43, esp. p. 238).

The dolphin is often depicted in visual art and in literature as ridden by humans or as transporting humans. Cupid or Eros and Apollo were often depicted astride a dolphin, as was the ancient Greek poet Arion, whom, according to legend, dolphins rescued when he leaped into the sea to avoid being murdered by pirates. One romance uses the same verb Pulter does here (bestride) to describe Arion: “Upon the trembling billows was descry’d / Arion with a golden Harpe in’s hand, / Who a huge crooked Dolphine did bestride / And in the dancing waves did bravely ride” (Francis Kinnaston, Leoline and Sydanis [London, 1642], sig. K2v). This vision of Arion links making music with riding the dolphin. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon similarly links the two, remembering hearing “a mermaid on a dolphin’s back / Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath / That the rude sea grew civil at her song / And certain stars shot madly from their spheres / To hear the sea-maid’s music” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2.1.150-54). In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a dolphin helps to rescue the shipwrecked Sebastian, who, the Captain reassures Viola, bound himself “to a strong mast, that lived upon the sea, / Where like Arion on the dolphin’s back, / I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves” (TN 1.2). Both of these quotations are from the third edition of the Norton Shakespeare (2016). In Milton’s “Lycidas,” too, the poet calls on “ye Dolphins” to “waft the hapless youth” (line 164), that is, the drowned friend the poem commemorates, apparently drawing on these associations of the dolphin with rescue and perhaps even with the transport of the dead for burial or the soul for salvation (see Creaser). In urging the lover to hop on a dolphin to pursue his beloved, Pulter reinforces the link between the musical fair one and Amphitrite, draws on all of these traditions of dolphins assisting humans (especially men)—and suggests that the fair beloved lies across the sea or in the realm of myth.

Philanthropos
bestride,
32
And after her a Woing
Physical Note
possible erasure of single letter in space afterward
Ride
And after her a-wooing ride.
And after her a-wooing ride!
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

My “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”

 Headnote

This poem is organized around questions and its title raises one for the reader: whose love is fair? The whole poem is in the second person, in which the speaker interrogates an interlocutor about “thy” love and then, finally satisfied that she is so wondrous that she exceeds every precedent, urges him to woo her. Here the speaker acts as a kind of wing man to the lover, playing something like the role Diana O’Hara identifies as the “go-between.” These go-betweens served as “movers,” “suitors,” “speakers,” and “brokers” of marriage in Tudor courtships as depicted on the stage and in church court depositions (Diana O’Hara, Courtship and Constraint: Rethinking the Making of Marriage in Tudor England [Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000], pp. 99-121). The blazon tradition always installs a third party, the addressee to whom the speaker “blazons” or trumpets the virtues of his beloved, both announcing possession of her and seeming to advertise her (Nancy J. Vickers, “‘The blazon of sweet beauty’s best’: Shakespeare’s Lucrece,” in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Harman [Methuen, 1985], pp. 95-115). Pulter’s speaker here is that third party, pointing out the beloved’s virtues to the apparently reluctant suitor. This dynamic is unusual in poetry. We can easily find triangulation in love poetry: in many poems, male speakers address their rivals or warn other men against women in general or in particular; in Aphra Behn’s “Invitation,” the female speaker steps between one Damon and a “cruel shepherdess,” in the hopes of taking her place as his beloved. Shakespeare writes sonnets urging the young man to procreate, but they focus on the beauty of the young man, which should leave a record, and on the offspring, rather than the prospective wife. While these are all triangles (and you can see some of them under “Triangulation and the Second Person” in the “Curations” for this poem) they all work differently than does Pulter’s triangle in this poem, in which a speaker advises the addressee to pursue a woman pronto. We find something like this dynamic more often in the drama, as Beatrice and Benedick’s friends push them together in Much Ado About Nothing, or Cesario urges Orsino not to flag in his pursuit of Olivia in Twelfth Night. The poem also treats the temporal urgency central to seduction poems in a novel way. In most carpe diem seduction poems, male speakers threaten women with time’s ravages, urging them to surrender to wooing posthaste; here the speaker works to motivate an apparently hesitant lover, arguing that the beloved’s fairness warrants urgent pursuit.
The speaker’s close attention to another’s beloved blurs the distinction between mine and thine. Pulter’s dialogic poems can often be read as dialogues within the self. Might the two parties here also be sides of the same person? The speaker’s careful inventory of female beauty links this poem—which seems in many ways impersonal—to Pulter’s blazons of her dead daughter (Poem 11) and of her own body (Poem 51). When Pulter describes a human body in detail, she focuses on the female body. Whereas the blazon has often been understood as a “divide and conquer” strategy, by which a male speaker dissects and masters a female beloved, Pulter suggests the blazon’s possibilities for turning the female gaze on the female body. She uses the blazon’s conventions to capture her memory of her daughter, her memory of her own young flesh, her frank appraisal of her aging body, and even, in this highly stylized poem, her appreciation of what wondrous fairness in a woman might look, smell, and sound like as well as the ridiculous standards women have to meet before men feel motivated to woo. The dense tissue of allusion should not distract from the keen observation it accompanies. Read in relation to Pulter’s other poetry, the absence of religion is striking here, as are its consequences for the poem’s teleology. The insistent interrogation builds toward persuading the lover to ride off a-wooing—giddyup!—not, as so often in Pulter, to die and rise again. Within its secular arc, the poem ends with a beginning, wooing rather than marriage.
Line number 2

 Critical note

Wife of Romulus, one of the founders of Rome, Hersilia was deified after death as the goddess Hora. As Sandys’s translation of Ovid describes this, “a star shot from the sky / Whose golden beams inflamed Hersilia’s hair” (Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished . . . by G. S. [1632], sig. Ll1v).
Line number 3

 Gloss note

Juno was Jupiter’s wife, renowned for her beauty.
Line number 3

 Critical note

Pallas may refer to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. Homer often describes her using a Greek epithet that might be translated as “bright-eyed” or “with gleaming eyes.” The phrase “Pallas’s eye” is not unique to Pulter. Barnabe Barnes’s sonnet LXIV mentions “Pallas’s eye, and Venus’s rosie cheeke, / And Phoebe’s forehead” (Parthenophil and Parthenophe Sonnets [London, 1593]).
Line number 7

 Gloss note

goddess of the dawn
Line number 8

 Gloss note

goddess of flowers or spring
Line number 10

 Gloss note

That might even be able to seduce a Stoic, that is, a member of a group who strive to master their passions and emotions.
Line number 11

 Gloss note

A sculptor, Pygmalion made a statue so beautiful he fell in love with it: Galatea, whose name in Greek indicates having “milk-white” skin. Galatea also appears as a sea-nymph in love with Acis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Line number 12

 Gloss note

Venus was associated with the island of Idalia, near Cyprus. The “Idalian boy” may mean Cupid, her son.
Line number 13

 Critical note

All of the other comparisons are to women and goddesses. This one is to a man, Pelops, the son of Tantalus. What’s so special about his shoulder? His father cut Pelops into pieces and made him into a stew to offer to the gods. The only god to consume the offering, Demeter, ate the left shoulder. Rejecting the offering, the other gods reassembled and resurrected Pelops, replacing the eaten shoulder with an ivory one (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 6). Pulter’s allusion here describes the beloved’s shoulder as ivory, linking it to the image of Galatea, Pygmalion’s “lass,” the statue with whom he fell in love. Both these references to ivory racialize the beloved, emphasizing her whiteness. The reference to Pelops might also stir up thoughts of cannibalism, the stew pot, and the prosthesis.
Line number 13

 Gloss note

surpass
Line number 14

 Gloss note

Galatea (mentioned in l. 11) was “Pygmalion’s ivory lass.”
Line number 17

 Gloss note

goddess of the moon and of chastity
Line number 19

 Gloss note

the sun
Line number 21

 Gloss note

plays
Line number 22

 Gloss note

sundial
Line number 26

 Critical note

The praise shifts into a higher gear at l. 20, when the speaker’s questions move from physical beauty to musical talent on the viol and lute, to which seven lines are devoted. Since the questions turn to whether the beloved’s talent has the extraordinary power to govern fate and chance and to control the passage of time, one wonders if the answers could possibly be affirmative. The following question in l. 27 emphasizes that the qualities being considered at this point are superhuman.
Line number 27

 Gloss note

child of gods or divine
Line number 28

 Gloss note

fine, luminous cloth
Line number 29

 Critical note

Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love and fertility, was often depicted with one hand shielding her genitals. As a consequence, any nude female figure covering her genitals with one hand became known as a “Venus pudica” or modest Venus. According to Valerie Traub, “with her ambivalent gestures of both modesty and revelation, the Venus pudica replaced Eve as the dominant trope for anatomical illustration of the female body, employed throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on title pages and frontispieces” (Traub, Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], p. 117).
Line number 30

 Critical note


Amphitrite refused Neptune’s proposal of marriage and fled from him. Her “coyness” may refer to this reluctance to marry, which Neptune overcame by sending a dolphin to persuade or seize her. The dolphin, then, played a role similar to that of the speaker of Pulter’s poem, facilitating courtship. The reference to coy Amphitrite here sets up the reference to Philanthropos in the next line.

In the references to Saturnian issue, Aphrodite, and Amphitrite, Pulter may be sending up the strategy of comparison she employs here, piling up allusions to goddesses rather than human women. Even Orlando’s poetry, ridiculed in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, refers to human women, however apocryphal or dubious: “Helen’s cheek, but not her heart, / Cleopatra’s majesty, / Atalanta’s better part, / Sad Lucretia’s modesty” (3.2.142-45, new Pelican edition, ed. Frances E. Dolan [Penguin, 2017]).

Line number 31

 Critical note


This name means lover of mankind. It was also a “standard epithet” for the dolphin, which was depicted from antiquity on as loving humans (especially men and boys) and their music, and providing them with speedy transit and even rescue. “The stories of the dolphin as ‘philanthropos’ occur not merely in folklore and in minor, undiscriminating authors, but in the most authoritative and reputable of the ancients” (John Creaser, “Dolphins in Lycidas,” Review of English Studies 36.142 [1985]: pp. 235-43, esp. p. 238).

The dolphin is often depicted in visual art and in literature as ridden by humans or as transporting humans. Cupid or Eros and Apollo were often depicted astride a dolphin, as was the ancient Greek poet Arion, whom, according to legend, dolphins rescued when he leaped into the sea to avoid being murdered by pirates. One romance uses the same verb Pulter does here (bestride) to describe Arion: “Upon the trembling billows was descry’d / Arion with a golden Harpe in’s hand, / Who a huge crooked Dolphine did bestride / And in the dancing waves did bravely ride” (Francis Kinnaston, Leoline and Sydanis [London, 1642], sig. K2v). This vision of Arion links making music with riding the dolphin. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon similarly links the two, remembering hearing “a mermaid on a dolphin’s back / Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath / That the rude sea grew civil at her song / And certain stars shot madly from their spheres / To hear the sea-maid’s music” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2.1.150-54). In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a dolphin helps to rescue the shipwrecked Sebastian, who, the Captain reassures Viola, bound himself “to a strong mast, that lived upon the sea, / Where like Arion on the dolphin’s back, / I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves” (TN 1.2). Both of these quotations are from the third edition of the Norton Shakespeare (2016). In Milton’s “Lycidas,” too, the poet calls on “ye Dolphins” to “waft the hapless youth” (line 164), that is, the drowned friend the poem commemorates, apparently drawing on these associations of the dolphin with rescue and perhaps even with the transport of the dead for burial or the soul for salvation (see Creaser). In urging the lover to hop on a dolphin to pursue his beloved, Pulter reinforces the link between the musical fair one and Amphitrite, draws on all of these traditions of dolphins assisting humans (especially men)—and suggests that the fair beloved lies across the sea or in the realm of myth.

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My Loue is Fair
My Love is Fair
My Love Is Fair
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.

— Frances E. Dolan
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.

— Frances E. Dolan
My “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”

— Frances E. Dolan
This poem is unusual for Pulter in both form and content: written in a bouncing iambic trimeter, with frequent feminine rhymes (a formal quality not irrelevant to the content), it features a proposition in the title which is promptly queried in the text. The speaker skeptically or sneeringly questions whether the interlocutor’s beloved is indeed “so wondrous fair”—which of course unfairly exaggerates the lover’s actual claim. What follows is an interrogatory blazon alluding to specific body parts, among other outstanding qualities, of various divinities. These questions are asked, as though in a dramatic monologue, to determine if the beloved’s measurements measure up to this high standard. The quizzed suitor appears to respond in the affirmative, so the speaker urges him to start wooing. While the allusion to Aurora is highly Pulterian, the poem’s eroticized bodily detail and courtship advice are unusual in her works (although, also on courtship, see “The Turtle and his Paramour” [Emblem 47] [Poem 112]).

— Frances E. Dolan
This poem is organized around questions and its title raises one for the reader: whose love is fair? The whole poem is in the second person, in which the speaker interrogates an interlocutor about “thy” love and then, finally satisfied that she is so wondrous that she exceeds every precedent, urges him to woo her. Here the speaker acts as a kind of wing man to the lover, playing something like the role Diana O’Hara identifies as the “go-between.” These go-betweens served as “movers,” “suitors,” “speakers,” and “brokers” of marriage in Tudor courtships as depicted on the stage and in church court depositions (Diana O’Hara, Courtship and Constraint: Rethinking the Making of Marriage in Tudor England [Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000], pp. 99-121). The blazon tradition always installs a third party, the addressee to whom the speaker “blazons” or trumpets the virtues of his beloved, both announcing possession of her and seeming to advertise her (Nancy J. Vickers, “‘The blazon of sweet beauty’s best’: Shakespeare’s Lucrece,” in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Harman [Methuen, 1985], pp. 95-115). Pulter’s speaker here is that third party, pointing out the beloved’s virtues to the apparently reluctant suitor. This dynamic is unusual in poetry. We can easily find triangulation in love poetry: in many poems, male speakers address their rivals or warn other men against women in general or in particular; in Aphra Behn’s “Invitation,” the female speaker steps between one Damon and a “cruel shepherdess,” in the hopes of taking her place as his beloved. Shakespeare writes sonnets urging the young man to procreate, but they focus on the beauty of the young man, which should leave a record, and on the offspring, rather than the prospective wife. While these are all triangles (and you can see some of them under “Triangulation and the Second Person” in the “Curations” for this poem) they all work differently than does Pulter’s triangle in this poem, in which a speaker advises the addressee to pursue a woman pronto. We find something like this dynamic more often in the drama, as Beatrice and Benedick’s friends push them together in Much Ado About Nothing, or Cesario urges Orsino not to flag in his pursuit of Olivia in Twelfth Night. The poem also treats the temporal urgency central to seduction poems in a novel way. In most carpe diem seduction poems, male speakers threaten women with time’s ravages, urging them to surrender to wooing posthaste; here the speaker works to motivate an apparently hesitant lover, arguing that the beloved’s fairness warrants urgent pursuit.
The speaker’s close attention to another’s beloved blurs the distinction between mine and thine. Pulter’s dialogic poems can often be read as dialogues within the self. Might the two parties here also be sides of the same person? The speaker’s careful inventory of female beauty links this poem—which seems in many ways impersonal—to Pulter’s blazons of her dead daughter (Poem 11) and of her own body (Poem 51). When Pulter describes a human body in detail, she focuses on the female body. Whereas the blazon has often been understood as a “divide and conquer” strategy, by which a male speaker dissects and masters a female beloved, Pulter suggests the blazon’s possibilities for turning the female gaze on the female body. She uses the blazon’s conventions to capture her memory of her daughter, her memory of her own young flesh, her frank appraisal of her aging body, and even, in this highly stylized poem, her appreciation of what wondrous fairness in a woman might look, smell, and sound like as well as the ridiculous standards women have to meet before men feel motivated to woo. The dense tissue of allusion should not distract from the keen observation it accompanies. Read in relation to Pulter’s other poetry, the absence of religion is striking here, as are its consequences for the poem’s teleology. The insistent interrogation builds toward persuading the lover to ride off a-wooing—giddyup!—not, as so often in Pulter, to die and rise again. Within its secular arc, the poem ends with a beginning, wooing rather than marriage.


— Frances E. Dolan
1
And is thy Love Soe Wonderous ffair
And is thy love so wondrous fair?
And is thy love so wondrous fair?
2
Hath Shee Herſillias Shineing Hair
Hath she
Critical Note
a figure in Roman myth; see George Sandys’s translation of Ovid: “a Star shot from the Skie, / Whose golden beames inflam’d Hersilia’s haire.” Ouid’s Metamorphosis Englished (London, 1628), p.414.
Hersilia’s
shining hair;
Hath she
Critical Note
Wife of Romulus, one of the founders of Rome, Hersilia was deified after death as the goddess Hora. As Sandys’s translation of Ovid describes this, “a star shot from the sky / Whose golden beams inflamed Hersilia’s hair” (Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished . . . by G. S. [1632], sig. Ll1v).
Hersilia’s
shining hair,
3
Junos Count’nance Pallas, Eye
Gloss Note
Juno is the chief Olympian goddess; “count’nance” means “face”; Pallas is an epithet for Athena.
Juno’s count’nance; Pallas’s eye
,
Gloss Note
Juno was Jupiter’s wife, renowned for her beauty.
Juno’s
count’nance,
Critical Note
Pallas may refer to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. Homer often describes her using a Greek epithet that might be translated as “bright-eyed” or “with gleaming eyes.” The phrase “Pallas’s eye” is not unique to Pulter. Barnabe Barnes’s sonnet LXIV mentions “Pallas’s eye, and Venus’s rosie cheeke, / And Phoebe’s forehead” (Parthenophil and Parthenophe Sonnets [London, 1593]).
Pallas’s
eye,
4
ffull of Awfull Majestie
Full of
Gloss Note
awe-inspiring
awful
majesty?
Full of awful majesty?
5
In Loves Story dost thou ffind
In love’s story dost thou find
In love’s story dost thou find
6
Physical Note
“d” appears written over “t”
Cupid
with one Glance Strock blind
Gloss Note
god of love
Cupid
with one glance struck blind?
Cupid with one glance struck blind?
7
Doth her cheeks excell Auroras
Doth her cheeks excel
Gloss Note
goddess of dawn
Aurora’s
,
Doth her cheeks excel
Gloss Note
goddess of the dawn
Aurora’s
8
And her ffragrant breath Sweet ffloras
And her fragrant breath sweet
Gloss Note
goddess of flowers
Flora’s
?
And her fragrant breath sweet
Gloss Note
goddess of flowers or spring
Flora’s
?
9
Venus Ruby Lips and Smile
Gloss Note
goddess of love; Aphrodite
Venus’s
ruby lips and smile,
Venus’s ruby lips and smile,
10
That A Stoick would beguile
Gloss Note
that even
That
a
Gloss Note
a practitioner of Greek philosophy espousing indifference and austerity
Stoic
would beguile?
That a
Gloss Note
That might even be able to seduce a Stoic, that is, a member of a group who strive to master their passions and emotions.
Stoic
would beguile?
11
Gallitea’s Neck and Breast
Gloss Note
a beautiful statue carved by Pygmalion, who fell in love with her; she was brought to life by Aphrodite
Galatea’s
neck and breast
Gloss Note
A sculptor, Pygmalion made a statue so beautiful he fell in love with it: Galatea, whose name in Greek indicates having “milk-white” skin. Galatea also appears as a sea-nymph in love with Acis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Galatea’s
neck and breast,
12
On Which Idalias Boy doth rest
On which
Gloss Note
Eros or Cupid; Idalia is an epithet for Aphrodite (Perseus Digital Collections).
Idalia’s boy
doth rest?
On which
Gloss Note
Venus was associated with the island of Idalia, near Cyprus. The “Idalian boy” may mean Cupid, her son.
Idalia’s boy
doth rest?
13
Doth her Shoulders Pelops paſs
Doth her shoulders
Gloss Note
in Greek mythology, killed and served by his father to gods, who, after eating one shoulder, restored him to life with an ivory shoulder
Pelops’s
Gloss Note
surpass
pass
?
Doth her shoulders
Critical Note
All of the other comparisons are to women and goddesses. This one is to a man, Pelops, the son of Tantalus. What’s so special about his shoulder? His father cut Pelops into pieces and made him into a stew to offer to the gods. The only god to consume the offering, Demeter, ate the left shoulder. Rejecting the offering, the other gods reassembled and resurrected Pelops, replacing the eaten shoulder with an ivory one (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 6). Pulter’s allusion here describes the beloved’s shoulder as ivory, linking it to the image of Galatea, Pygmalion’s “lass,” the statue with whom he fell in love. Both these references to ivory racialize the beloved, emphasizing her whiteness. The reference to Pelops might also stir up thoughts of cannibalism, the stew pot, and the prosthesis.
Pelops’s
Gloss Note
surpass
pass
,
14
Or Pigmalians Ivory Laſs
Or
Gloss Note
See note on Galatea.
Pygmalion’s ivory lass
?
Or
Gloss Note
Galatea (mentioned in l. 11) was “Pygmalion’s ivory lass.”
Pygmalion’s ivory lass
?
15
Doth her Ellegant Sweet Speeches
Doth her elegant sweet speeches
Doth her elegant sweet speeches
16
Most comand when Shee beſeeches
Most command when she beseeches?
Most command when she beseeches?
17
Like Diana Taul and Chast
Like
Gloss Note
goddess of the moon
Diana
, tall and chaste,
Like
Gloss Note
goddess of the moon and of chastity
Diana
tall and chaste
18
And as Slender when imbrac’t
And as slender when embraced?
And as slender when embraced?
19
Doth her Bevty Phœbus darken
Doth her beauty
Gloss Note
god of the sun
Phoebus
darken?
Doth her beauty
Gloss Note
the sun
Phoebus
darken?
20
Doe the Spheirs Stand Still and hearken
Do
Gloss Note
concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars) and producing perfectly harmonious sound
the spheres
stand still and hearken
Do the spheres stand still and hearken
when

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21
When Shee quavers on the Vial
When she
Gloss Note
plays music with a trill on a stringed Renaissance instrument
quavers on the viol
?
When she
Gloss Note
plays
quavers
on the viol?
22
Like the Sunbeams on the Diall
Like the sunbeams on the
Gloss Note
sun dial
dial
,
Like the sunbeams on the
Gloss Note
sundial
dial
23
Doth Shee Govern ffate and Chance
Doth she govern fate and chance?
Doth she govern fate and chance?
24
To her Muſick doth Time Dance
To her music doth time dance?
To her music doth Time dance?
25
And when Shee doth Touch a Lute
And when she doth touch a lute,
And when she doth touch a lute
26
Doe the Muſes all stand Mute
Do the
Gloss Note
goddesses of inspiration
Muses
all stand mute?
Critical Note
The praise shifts into a higher gear at l. 20, when the speaker’s questions move from physical beauty to musical talent on the viol and lute, to which seven lines are devoted. Since the questions turn to whether the beloved’s talent has the extraordinary power to govern fate and chance and to control the passage of time, one wonders if the answers could possibly be affirmative. The following question in l. 27 emphasizes that the qualities being considered at this point are superhuman.
Do the muses all stand mute?
27
Is Shee of Saturnian Iſſew
Is she of
Gloss Note
of Saturn, father of the Olympian gods; therefore, divine generally
Saturnian
issue?
Is she of
Gloss Note
child of gods or divine
Saturnian issue
?
28
Are her Lims wrapt up in Tiſſew
Are her limbs wrapped up in
Gloss Note
rich cloth, often interwoven with gold or silver
tissue
?
Are her limbs wrapped up in
Gloss Note
fine, luminous cloth
tissue
?
29
Her
Physical Note
second “d” appears crowded between surrounding letters
Hidden
parts like Aphrodite
Her hidden parts like
Gloss Note
goddess of love; Venus
Aphrodite
,
Her hidden parts like
Critical Note
Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love and fertility, was often depicted with one hand shielding her genitals. As a consequence, any nude female figure covering her genitals with one hand became known as a “Venus pudica” or modest Venus. According to Valerie Traub, “with her ambivalent gestures of both modesty and revelation, the Venus pudica replaced Eve as the dominant trope for anatomical illustration of the female body, employed throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on title pages and frontispieces” (Traub, Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], p. 117).
Aphrodite
,
30
But as Coy as Amphitrite
But
Gloss Note
a mermaid goddess of the sea, “coy” because she worked to evade the amorous advances of Poseidon, god of the sea.
as coy as Amphitrite
?
But as coy as
Critical Note

Amphitrite refused Neptune’s proposal of marriage and fled from him. Her “coyness” may refer to this reluctance to marry, which Neptune overcame by sending a dolphin to persuade or seize her. The dolphin, then, played a role similar to that of the speaker of Pulter’s poem, facilitating courtship. The reference to coy Amphitrite here sets up the reference to Philanthropos in the next line.

In the references to Saturnian issue, Aphrodite, and Amphitrite, Pulter may be sending up the strategy of comparison she employs here, piling up allusions to goddesses rather than human women. Even Orlando’s poetry, ridiculed in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, refers to human women, however apocryphal or dubious: “Helen’s cheek, but not her heart, / Cleopatra’s majesty, / Atalanta’s better part, / Sad Lucretia’s modesty” (3.2.142-45, new Pelican edition, ed. Frances E. Dolan [Penguin, 2017]).

Amphitrite
?
31
Why then Philanthropas bestride
Why then,
Critical Note
The name (etymologically, “lover of humanity”) refers in classical literature to the dolphin; it is based on the animal’s alleged friendliness to people, which in some cases included allowing people to ride (“bestride”) them. A dolphin was said either to have negotiated with Amphitrite on Poseidon’s behalf (see previous line) or to have abducted her so that Poseidon might marry her (The Theoi Project).
Philanthropas bestride
,
Why, then
Critical Note

This name means lover of mankind. It was also a “standard epithet” for the dolphin, which was depicted from antiquity on as loving humans (especially men and boys) and their music, and providing them with speedy transit and even rescue. “The stories of the dolphin as ‘philanthropos’ occur not merely in folklore and in minor, undiscriminating authors, but in the most authoritative and reputable of the ancients” (John Creaser, “Dolphins in Lycidas,” Review of English Studies 36.142 [1985]: pp. 235-43, esp. p. 238).

The dolphin is often depicted in visual art and in literature as ridden by humans or as transporting humans. Cupid or Eros and Apollo were often depicted astride a dolphin, as was the ancient Greek poet Arion, whom, according to legend, dolphins rescued when he leaped into the sea to avoid being murdered by pirates. One romance uses the same verb Pulter does here (bestride) to describe Arion: “Upon the trembling billows was descry’d / Arion with a golden Harpe in’s hand, / Who a huge crooked Dolphine did bestride / And in the dancing waves did bravely ride” (Francis Kinnaston, Leoline and Sydanis [London, 1642], sig. K2v). This vision of Arion links making music with riding the dolphin. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon similarly links the two, remembering hearing “a mermaid on a dolphin’s back / Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath / That the rude sea grew civil at her song / And certain stars shot madly from their spheres / To hear the sea-maid’s music” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2.1.150-54). In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a dolphin helps to rescue the shipwrecked Sebastian, who, the Captain reassures Viola, bound himself “to a strong mast, that lived upon the sea, / Where like Arion on the dolphin’s back, / I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves” (TN 1.2). Both of these quotations are from the third edition of the Norton Shakespeare (2016). In Milton’s “Lycidas,” too, the poet calls on “ye Dolphins” to “waft the hapless youth” (line 164), that is, the drowned friend the poem commemorates, apparently drawing on these associations of the dolphin with rescue and perhaps even with the transport of the dead for burial or the soul for salvation (see Creaser). In urging the lover to hop on a dolphin to pursue his beloved, Pulter reinforces the link between the musical fair one and Amphitrite, draws on all of these traditions of dolphins assisting humans (especially men)—and suggests that the fair beloved lies across the sea or in the realm of myth.

Philanthropos
bestride,
32
And after her a Woing
Physical Note
possible erasure of single letter in space afterward
Ride
And after her a-wooing ride.
And after her a-wooing ride!
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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 “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

This poem is unusual for Pulter in both form and content: written in a bouncing iambic trimeter, with frequent feminine rhymes (a formal quality not irrelevant to the content), it features a proposition in the title which is promptly queried in the text. The speaker skeptically or sneeringly questions whether the interlocutor’s beloved is indeed “so wondrous fair”—which of course unfairly exaggerates the lover’s actual claim. What follows is an interrogatory blazon alluding to specific body parts, among other outstanding qualities, of various divinities. These questions are asked, as though in a dramatic monologue, to determine if the beloved’s measurements measure up to this high standard. The quizzed suitor appears to respond in the affirmative, so the speaker urges him to start wooing. While the allusion to Aurora is highly Pulterian, the poem’s eroticized bodily detail and courtship advice are unusual in her works (although, also on courtship, see “The Turtle and his Paramour” [Emblem 47] [Poem 112]).
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

This poem is organized around questions and its title raises one for the reader: whose love is fair? The whole poem is in the second person, in which the speaker interrogates an interlocutor about “thy” love and then, finally satisfied that she is so wondrous that she exceeds every precedent, urges him to woo her. Here the speaker acts as a kind of wing man to the lover, playing something like the role Diana O’Hara identifies as the “go-between.” These go-betweens served as “movers,” “suitors,” “speakers,” and “brokers” of marriage in Tudor courtships as depicted on the stage and in church court depositions (Diana O’Hara, Courtship and Constraint: Rethinking the Making of Marriage in Tudor England [Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000], pp. 99-121). The blazon tradition always installs a third party, the addressee to whom the speaker “blazons” or trumpets the virtues of his beloved, both announcing possession of her and seeming to advertise her (Nancy J. Vickers, “‘The blazon of sweet beauty’s best’: Shakespeare’s Lucrece,” in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Harman [Methuen, 1985], pp. 95-115). Pulter’s speaker here is that third party, pointing out the beloved’s virtues to the apparently reluctant suitor. This dynamic is unusual in poetry. We can easily find triangulation in love poetry: in many poems, male speakers address their rivals or warn other men against women in general or in particular; in Aphra Behn’s “Invitation,” the female speaker steps between one Damon and a “cruel shepherdess,” in the hopes of taking her place as his beloved. Shakespeare writes sonnets urging the young man to procreate, but they focus on the beauty of the young man, which should leave a record, and on the offspring, rather than the prospective wife. While these are all triangles (and you can see some of them under “Triangulation and the Second Person” in the “Curations” for this poem) they all work differently than does Pulter’s triangle in this poem, in which a speaker advises the addressee to pursue a woman pronto. We find something like this dynamic more often in the drama, as Beatrice and Benedick’s friends push them together in Much Ado About Nothing, or Cesario urges Orsino not to flag in his pursuit of Olivia in Twelfth Night. The poem also treats the temporal urgency central to seduction poems in a novel way. In most carpe diem seduction poems, male speakers threaten women with time’s ravages, urging them to surrender to wooing posthaste; here the speaker works to motivate an apparently hesitant lover, arguing that the beloved’s fairness warrants urgent pursuit.
The speaker’s close attention to another’s beloved blurs the distinction between mine and thine. Pulter’s dialogic poems can often be read as dialogues within the self. Might the two parties here also be sides of the same person? The speaker’s careful inventory of female beauty links this poem—which seems in many ways impersonal—to Pulter’s blazons of her dead daughter (Poem 11) and of her own body (Poem 51). When Pulter describes a human body in detail, she focuses on the female body. Whereas the blazon has often been understood as a “divide and conquer” strategy, by which a male speaker dissects and masters a female beloved, Pulter suggests the blazon’s possibilities for turning the female gaze on the female body. She uses the blazon’s conventions to capture her memory of her daughter, her memory of her own young flesh, her frank appraisal of her aging body, and even, in this highly stylized poem, her appreciation of what wondrous fairness in a woman might look, smell, and sound like as well as the ridiculous standards women have to meet before men feel motivated to woo. The dense tissue of allusion should not distract from the keen observation it accompanies. Read in relation to Pulter’s other poetry, the absence of religion is striking here, as are its consequences for the poem’s teleology. The insistent interrogation builds toward persuading the lover to ride off a-wooing—giddyup!—not, as so often in Pulter, to die and rise again. Within its secular arc, the poem ends with a beginning, wooing rather than marriage.
Elemental Edition
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 Critical note

a figure in Roman myth; see George Sandys’s translation of Ovid: “a Star shot from the Skie, / Whose golden beames inflam’d Hersilia’s haire.” Ouid’s Metamorphosis Englished (London, 1628), p.414.
Amplified Edition
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 Critical note

Wife of Romulus, one of the founders of Rome, Hersilia was deified after death as the goddess Hora. As Sandys’s translation of Ovid describes this, “a star shot from the sky / Whose golden beams inflamed Hersilia’s hair” (Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished . . . by G. S. [1632], sig. Ll1v).
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 Gloss note

Juno is the chief Olympian goddess; “count’nance” means “face”; Pallas is an epithet for Athena.
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Juno was Jupiter’s wife, renowned for her beauty.
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Pallas may refer to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. Homer often describes her using a Greek epithet that might be translated as “bright-eyed” or “with gleaming eyes.” The phrase “Pallas’s eye” is not unique to Pulter. Barnabe Barnes’s sonnet LXIV mentions “Pallas’s eye, and Venus’s rosie cheeke, / And Phoebe’s forehead” (Parthenophil and Parthenophe Sonnets [London, 1593]).
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

awe-inspiring
Transcription
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 Physical note

“d” appears written over “t”
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 Gloss note

god of love
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 Gloss note

goddess of dawn
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

goddess of the dawn
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 Gloss note

goddess of flowers
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 Gloss note

goddess of flowers or spring
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 Gloss note

goddess of love; Aphrodite
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 Gloss note

that even
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a practitioner of Greek philosophy espousing indifference and austerity
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

That might even be able to seduce a Stoic, that is, a member of a group who strive to master their passions and emotions.
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 Gloss note

a beautiful statue carved by Pygmalion, who fell in love with her; she was brought to life by Aphrodite
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 Gloss note

A sculptor, Pygmalion made a statue so beautiful he fell in love with it: Galatea, whose name in Greek indicates having “milk-white” skin. Galatea also appears as a sea-nymph in love with Acis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
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 Gloss note

Eros or Cupid; Idalia is an epithet for Aphrodite (Perseus Digital Collections).
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 Gloss note

Venus was associated with the island of Idalia, near Cyprus. The “Idalian boy” may mean Cupid, her son.
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in Greek mythology, killed and served by his father to gods, who, after eating one shoulder, restored him to life with an ivory shoulder
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 Gloss note

surpass
Amplified Edition
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 Critical note

All of the other comparisons are to women and goddesses. This one is to a man, Pelops, the son of Tantalus. What’s so special about his shoulder? His father cut Pelops into pieces and made him into a stew to offer to the gods. The only god to consume the offering, Demeter, ate the left shoulder. Rejecting the offering, the other gods reassembled and resurrected Pelops, replacing the eaten shoulder with an ivory one (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 6). Pulter’s allusion here describes the beloved’s shoulder as ivory, linking it to the image of Galatea, Pygmalion’s “lass,” the statue with whom he fell in love. Both these references to ivory racialize the beloved, emphasizing her whiteness. The reference to Pelops might also stir up thoughts of cannibalism, the stew pot, and the prosthesis.
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

surpass
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See note on Galatea.
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Galatea (mentioned in l. 11) was “Pygmalion’s ivory lass.”
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goddess of the moon
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goddess of the moon and of chastity
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god of the sun
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the sun
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 Gloss note

concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars) and producing perfectly harmonious sound
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 Gloss note

plays music with a trill on a stringed Renaissance instrument
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plays
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sun dial
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sundial
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 Gloss note

goddesses of inspiration
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 Critical note

The praise shifts into a higher gear at l. 20, when the speaker’s questions move from physical beauty to musical talent on the viol and lute, to which seven lines are devoted. Since the questions turn to whether the beloved’s talent has the extraordinary power to govern fate and chance and to control the passage of time, one wonders if the answers could possibly be affirmative. The following question in l. 27 emphasizes that the qualities being considered at this point are superhuman.
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

of Saturn, father of the Olympian gods; therefore, divine generally
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

child of gods or divine
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rich cloth, often interwoven with gold or silver
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fine, luminous cloth
Transcription
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 Physical note

second “d” appears crowded between surrounding letters
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

goddess of love; Venus
Amplified Edition
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 Critical note

Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love and fertility, was often depicted with one hand shielding her genitals. As a consequence, any nude female figure covering her genitals with one hand became known as a “Venus pudica” or modest Venus. According to Valerie Traub, “with her ambivalent gestures of both modesty and revelation, the Venus pudica replaced Eve as the dominant trope for anatomical illustration of the female body, employed throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on title pages and frontispieces” (Traub, Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], p. 117).
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 Gloss note

a mermaid goddess of the sea, “coy” because she worked to evade the amorous advances of Poseidon, god of the sea.
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 Critical note


Amphitrite refused Neptune’s proposal of marriage and fled from him. Her “coyness” may refer to this reluctance to marry, which Neptune overcame by sending a dolphin to persuade or seize her. The dolphin, then, played a role similar to that of the speaker of Pulter’s poem, facilitating courtship. The reference to coy Amphitrite here sets up the reference to Philanthropos in the next line.

In the references to Saturnian issue, Aphrodite, and Amphitrite, Pulter may be sending up the strategy of comparison she employs here, piling up allusions to goddesses rather than human women. Even Orlando’s poetry, ridiculed in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, refers to human women, however apocryphal or dubious: “Helen’s cheek, but not her heart, / Cleopatra’s majesty, / Atalanta’s better part, / Sad Lucretia’s modesty” (3.2.142-45, new Pelican edition, ed. Frances E. Dolan [Penguin, 2017]).

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 Critical note

The name (etymologically, “lover of humanity”) refers in classical literature to the dolphin; it is based on the animal’s alleged friendliness to people, which in some cases included allowing people to ride (“bestride”) them. A dolphin was said either to have negotiated with Amphitrite on Poseidon’s behalf (see previous line) or to have abducted her so that Poseidon might marry her (The Theoi Project).
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 Critical note


This name means lover of mankind. It was also a “standard epithet” for the dolphin, which was depicted from antiquity on as loving humans (especially men and boys) and their music, and providing them with speedy transit and even rescue. “The stories of the dolphin as ‘philanthropos’ occur not merely in folklore and in minor, undiscriminating authors, but in the most authoritative and reputable of the ancients” (John Creaser, “Dolphins in Lycidas,” Review of English Studies 36.142 [1985]: pp. 235-43, esp. p. 238).

The dolphin is often depicted in visual art and in literature as ridden by humans or as transporting humans. Cupid or Eros and Apollo were often depicted astride a dolphin, as was the ancient Greek poet Arion, whom, according to legend, dolphins rescued when he leaped into the sea to avoid being murdered by pirates. One romance uses the same verb Pulter does here (bestride) to describe Arion: “Upon the trembling billows was descry’d / Arion with a golden Harpe in’s hand, / Who a huge crooked Dolphine did bestride / And in the dancing waves did bravely ride” (Francis Kinnaston, Leoline and Sydanis [London, 1642], sig. K2v). This vision of Arion links making music with riding the dolphin. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon similarly links the two, remembering hearing “a mermaid on a dolphin’s back / Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath / That the rude sea grew civil at her song / And certain stars shot madly from their spheres / To hear the sea-maid’s music” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2.1.150-54). In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a dolphin helps to rescue the shipwrecked Sebastian, who, the Captain reassures Viola, bound himself “to a strong mast, that lived upon the sea, / Where like Arion on the dolphin’s back, / I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves” (TN 1.2). Both of these quotations are from the third edition of the Norton Shakespeare (2016). In Milton’s “Lycidas,” too, the poet calls on “ye Dolphins” to “waft the hapless youth” (line 164), that is, the drowned friend the poem commemorates, apparently drawing on these associations of the dolphin with rescue and perhaps even with the transport of the dead for burial or the soul for salvation (see Creaser). In urging the lover to hop on a dolphin to pursue his beloved, Pulter reinforces the link between the musical fair one and Amphitrite, draws on all of these traditions of dolphins assisting humans (especially men)—and suggests that the fair beloved lies across the sea or in the realm of myth.

Transcription
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 Physical note

possible erasure of single letter in space afterward
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