The Circle [1]

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The Circle [1]

Poem 17

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 Elizabeth Scott-Baumann.

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.
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Transcription
Transcription

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
The Circle [1]
The Circle [1]
The Circle [1]
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
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Where ideas of revolution sometimes inspire Pulter, here a metaphorical water cycle—with tears evaporating into cloudy sighs which, in turn, rain down again—is castigated for having “no end”: that is, it is both ceaseless and purposeless, since there’s “no ease” in sighs and tears that are “vain.” Yet she cannot stop: indeed, she diagnoses the vanity of tears in a line that is itself infused with a sigh (the interjected “ah me”). Although the speaker realizes she is caught in a vicious circle, she also determines that it is better not to succumb either to airy sighs or watery tears: instead, she must cycle between them until she attains her proper end in earthy “dust,” the element that signals her divine origin here, as in many of Pulter’s poems. Thus, the speaker’s initial portrayal of her all-too-human weakness—embodied in the mercurial weather of her emotional responses—is finally countered by her confident expression of trust in God and contentment that even his annihilation of her shall be to his glory.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
The first circle in this poem is the endless cycle of grief: “there is no end”. Yet Pulter finds an alternative vision in other kinds of cycle: spiritual, meteorological, alchemical. The speaker imagines her emotions and their physical manifestations climatically: her sighs become tears, and as the tears fall “in vain” they evaporate again and become sighs, just as air condenses into rain clouds and rain evaporates again. Pulter draws on the convention of using hyperbolic meteorological images for emotions, often influenced by Petrarch and also seen in, for instance, John Donne’s ’A Valediction forbidding mourning’ (see ‘Donne’s Circles’ in Curations for this poem). The turn to God at l. 15 breaks the cycle of grief while forging another cycle, that of the believer’s continuity with God: she was created by God and could even be annihilated by God. Pulter’s claim “Of nothing Thou didst me create” endorses God’s power in the face of major philosophical controversies over creation and matter which were also central to the poetry of Lucy Hutchinson and Margaret Cavendish (see ‘Matter and Creation’ in Curations for this poem for Margaret Cavendish’s ’Nature Calls a Counsel, which is Motion, Figure, Matter, and Life, to Advise about Making the World’).
The phrase “crumble me to dust”, amongst many other images in Pulter’s poem, evokes George Herbert (see ‘Dust and Devotional Lyric’ in Curations for this poem for Herbert’s “Church Monuments”). In other poems by Pulter about transformation, similar ideas of of dissolution, condensation and dust take on a more specifically alchemical meaning (see Curations for this poem as well as The Circle [2] [Poem 21] and The Hope [Poem 65]). The closing rhyme of story / glory creates a counterweight to the despair in human agency. The suggestion of Pulter’s “story”, in the sense of the poem itself as well as her life narrative, mitigates some of the willing self-abasement of the poem. This poem also appears in Women Poets of the English Civil War, ed. Sarah C.E. Ross and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann. While I have modernised here, as in that edition, I have chosen to punctuate slightly differently, demonstrating some of the effects of editorial decisions on tone and meaning. In Women Poets of the English Civil War, Ross and I ended line 8 with a period and line 21 with a comma, while here I have experimented with slightly more open punctuation at these line endings, playing out the poem’s themes of cyclical and ongoing movement.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
In Sighs and tears there is noe end
In sighs and tears there is no end;
In sighs and tears there is no end;
2
My Soule on Heaven alone depend
My soul, on heaven alone depend.
My soul, on heaven alone depend.
3
Sighs like the Ayer doth Clowds condence
Sighs like the air doth clouds
Gloss Note
liquefy
condense
,
Gloss Note
as the air condenses into clouds (and rain), so the speaker’s sighs condense into tears
Sighs like the air doth clouds condense
4
Which tears from our Sad eyes diſpence
Which tears from our sad eyes dispense.
Which tears from our sad eyes dispense.
5
Trust me in Sighs there is noe eaſe
Trust me, in sighs there is no ease:
Trust me: in sighs there is no ease,
6
Noe more then Wind doth Calm the Seas
No more than wind doth calm the seas;
No more than wind doth calm the seas
7
And tears (Ah mee) deſcend in vain
And tears (ah me) descend in vain;
And tears (ah me) descend in vain,
8
To Sighs they rarifie againe
To sighs they
Gloss Note
dissipate, purify
rarefy
again.
To sighs they
Gloss Note
to become thin, less substantial; to purify
rarify
again:
9
In this Sad Circle I run round
In this sad circle I run round,
In this sad circle I run round,
10
Till giddyly I tumble down
Till giddily I tumble down;
Till giddily I tumble down.
11
But Should poor I Suſpier to Ayer
But should poor I
Gloss Note
sigh; breathe
suspire
to air,
But should poor I
Gloss Note
to sigh or breathe
suspire
to air,
12
I know the Sad fruits of despair
I know the sad fruits of despair.
I know the sad fruits of despair;
13
Or Should I into tears diſſolve
Or should I into tears dissolve
Or should I into tears dissolve,
14
What Horrour would my Soule invoule
What horror would my soul
Gloss Note
entangle, envelop
involve
.
What horror would my soul
Gloss Note
To enfold, envelop, overwhelm. Rarely, but resonantly given the poem’s title, it could also mean “to turn over in the mind; to revolve”. MS = invoule
involve
.
15
Then Gracious God in thee Il’e trust
Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust,
Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust
16
Although thou crumble mee to dust
Although Thou crumble me to
Critical Note
original, formative elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
.
Although Thou crumble me to dust.
17
Noe Griefe Shall Soe emergent bee
No grief shall so
Gloss Note
arising, especially unexpectedly
emergent
be
No grief shall so
Gloss Note
unexpected; pressing
emergent
be
18
To Seperate my Soule from thee
To separate my soul from Thee.
To separate my soul from Thee;
19
Of noething thou didst mee create
Gloss Note
The idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
Of nothing Thou didst me create
,
Of nothing Thou didst me create
20
And Shouldst thou now Annihillate
And shouldst Thou now annihilate,
And should’st Thou now annihilate,
ab

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
21
Abrupt, or conſumate, my Story
Gloss Note
to sever or to interrupt suddenly
Abrupt
, or
Gloss Note
In this context, “consummate” means to bring to completion or perfection, or to end.
consummate
my
Gloss Note
life
story
,
Gloss Note
to break off or curtail
Abrupt
, or
Critical Note
All three of these words have complex early modern meanings: “Annihilate” has theological connotations, meaning the destruction of both soul and the body; “Abrupt” (to break off, curtail) was fairly recent in being used as a verb; “consummate” seems to be used here in its sense of “put an end to” (in line with “annihilate” and “abrupt”) though it could also have the more positive (and Biblical) sense of “to perfect” or “to complete”.
consummate
my story
22
Oh let it be unto thy Glory.
O, let it be unto Thy glory.
Oh let it be unto Thy glory.
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

Where ideas of revolution sometimes inspire Pulter, here a metaphorical water cycle—with tears evaporating into cloudy sighs which, in turn, rain down again—is castigated for having “no end”: that is, it is both ceaseless and purposeless, since there’s “no ease” in sighs and tears that are “vain.” Yet she cannot stop: indeed, she diagnoses the vanity of tears in a line that is itself infused with a sigh (the interjected “ah me”). Although the speaker realizes she is caught in a vicious circle, she also determines that it is better not to succumb either to airy sighs or watery tears: instead, she must cycle between them until she attains her proper end in earthy “dust,” the element that signals her divine origin here, as in many of Pulter’s poems. Thus, the speaker’s initial portrayal of her all-too-human weakness—embodied in the mercurial weather of her emotional responses—is finally countered by her confident expression of trust in God and contentment that even his annihilation of her shall be to his glory.
Line number 3

 Gloss note

liquefy
Line number 8

 Gloss note

dissipate, purify
Line number 11

 Gloss note

sigh; breathe
Line number 14

 Gloss note

entangle, envelop
Line number 16

 Critical note

original, formative elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
Line number 17

 Gloss note

arising, especially unexpectedly
Line number 19

 Gloss note

The idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
Line number 21

 Gloss note

to sever or to interrupt suddenly
Line number 21

 Gloss note

In this context, “consummate” means to bring to completion or perfection, or to end.
Line number 21

 Gloss note

life
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
The Circle [1]
The Circle [1]
The Circle [1]
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
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Where ideas of revolution sometimes inspire Pulter, here a metaphorical water cycle—with tears evaporating into cloudy sighs which, in turn, rain down again—is castigated for having “no end”: that is, it is both ceaseless and purposeless, since there’s “no ease” in sighs and tears that are “vain.” Yet she cannot stop: indeed, she diagnoses the vanity of tears in a line that is itself infused with a sigh (the interjected “ah me”). Although the speaker realizes she is caught in a vicious circle, she also determines that it is better not to succumb either to airy sighs or watery tears: instead, she must cycle between them until she attains her proper end in earthy “dust,” the element that signals her divine origin here, as in many of Pulter’s poems. Thus, the speaker’s initial portrayal of her all-too-human weakness—embodied in the mercurial weather of her emotional responses—is finally countered by her confident expression of trust in God and contentment that even his annihilation of her shall be to his glory.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
The first circle in this poem is the endless cycle of grief: “there is no end”. Yet Pulter finds an alternative vision in other kinds of cycle: spiritual, meteorological, alchemical. The speaker imagines her emotions and their physical manifestations climatically: her sighs become tears, and as the tears fall “in vain” they evaporate again and become sighs, just as air condenses into rain clouds and rain evaporates again. Pulter draws on the convention of using hyperbolic meteorological images for emotions, often influenced by Petrarch and also seen in, for instance, John Donne’s ’A Valediction forbidding mourning’ (see ‘Donne’s Circles’ in Curations for this poem). The turn to God at l. 15 breaks the cycle of grief while forging another cycle, that of the believer’s continuity with God: she was created by God and could even be annihilated by God. Pulter’s claim “Of nothing Thou didst me create” endorses God’s power in the face of major philosophical controversies over creation and matter which were also central to the poetry of Lucy Hutchinson and Margaret Cavendish (see ‘Matter and Creation’ in Curations for this poem for Margaret Cavendish’s ’Nature Calls a Counsel, which is Motion, Figure, Matter, and Life, to Advise about Making the World’).
The phrase “crumble me to dust”, amongst many other images in Pulter’s poem, evokes George Herbert (see ‘Dust and Devotional Lyric’ in Curations for this poem for Herbert’s “Church Monuments”). In other poems by Pulter about transformation, similar ideas of of dissolution, condensation and dust take on a more specifically alchemical meaning (see Curations for this poem as well as The Circle [2] [Poem 21] and The Hope [Poem 65]). The closing rhyme of story / glory creates a counterweight to the despair in human agency. The suggestion of Pulter’s “story”, in the sense of the poem itself as well as her life narrative, mitigates some of the willing self-abasement of the poem. This poem also appears in Women Poets of the English Civil War, ed. Sarah C.E. Ross and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann. While I have modernised here, as in that edition, I have chosen to punctuate slightly differently, demonstrating some of the effects of editorial decisions on tone and meaning. In Women Poets of the English Civil War, Ross and I ended line 8 with a period and line 21 with a comma, while here I have experimented with slightly more open punctuation at these line endings, playing out the poem’s themes of cyclical and ongoing movement.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
In Sighs and tears there is noe end
In sighs and tears there is no end;
In sighs and tears there is no end;
2
My Soule on Heaven alone depend
My soul, on heaven alone depend.
My soul, on heaven alone depend.
3
Sighs like the Ayer doth Clowds condence
Sighs like the air doth clouds
Gloss Note
liquefy
condense
,
Gloss Note
as the air condenses into clouds (and rain), so the speaker’s sighs condense into tears
Sighs like the air doth clouds condense
4
Which tears from our Sad eyes diſpence
Which tears from our sad eyes dispense.
Which tears from our sad eyes dispense.
5
Trust me in Sighs there is noe eaſe
Trust me, in sighs there is no ease:
Trust me: in sighs there is no ease,
6
Noe more then Wind doth Calm the Seas
No more than wind doth calm the seas;
No more than wind doth calm the seas
7
And tears (Ah mee) deſcend in vain
And tears (ah me) descend in vain;
And tears (ah me) descend in vain,
8
To Sighs they rarifie againe
To sighs they
Gloss Note
dissipate, purify
rarefy
again.
To sighs they
Gloss Note
to become thin, less substantial; to purify
rarify
again:
9
In this Sad Circle I run round
In this sad circle I run round,
In this sad circle I run round,
10
Till giddyly I tumble down
Till giddily I tumble down;
Till giddily I tumble down.
11
But Should poor I Suſpier to Ayer
But should poor I
Gloss Note
sigh; breathe
suspire
to air,
But should poor I
Gloss Note
to sigh or breathe
suspire
to air,
12
I know the Sad fruits of despair
I know the sad fruits of despair.
I know the sad fruits of despair;
13
Or Should I into tears diſſolve
Or should I into tears dissolve
Or should I into tears dissolve,
14
What Horrour would my Soule invoule
What horror would my soul
Gloss Note
entangle, envelop
involve
.
What horror would my soul
Gloss Note
To enfold, envelop, overwhelm. Rarely, but resonantly given the poem’s title, it could also mean “to turn over in the mind; to revolve”. MS = invoule
involve
.
15
Then Gracious God in thee Il’e trust
Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust,
Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust
16
Although thou crumble mee to dust
Although Thou crumble me to
Critical Note
original, formative elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
.
Although Thou crumble me to dust.
17
Noe Griefe Shall Soe emergent bee
No grief shall so
Gloss Note
arising, especially unexpectedly
emergent
be
No grief shall so
Gloss Note
unexpected; pressing
emergent
be
18
To Seperate my Soule from thee
To separate my soul from Thee.
To separate my soul from Thee;
19
Of noething thou didst mee create
Gloss Note
The idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
Of nothing Thou didst me create
,
Of nothing Thou didst me create
20
And Shouldst thou now Annihillate
And shouldst Thou now annihilate,
And should’st Thou now annihilate,
ab

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
21
Abrupt, or conſumate, my Story
Gloss Note
to sever or to interrupt suddenly
Abrupt
, or
Gloss Note
In this context, “consummate” means to bring to completion or perfection, or to end.
consummate
my
Gloss Note
life
story
,
Gloss Note
to break off or curtail
Abrupt
, or
Critical Note
All three of these words have complex early modern meanings: “Annihilate” has theological connotations, meaning the destruction of both soul and the body; “Abrupt” (to break off, curtail) was fairly recent in being used as a verb; “consummate” seems to be used here in its sense of “put an end to” (in line with “annihilate” and “abrupt”) though it could also have the more positive (and Biblical) sense of “to perfect” or “to complete”.
consummate
my story
22
Oh let it be unto thy Glory.
O, let it be unto Thy glory.
Oh let it be unto Thy glory.
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

 Headnote

The first circle in this poem is the endless cycle of grief: “there is no end”. Yet Pulter finds an alternative vision in other kinds of cycle: spiritual, meteorological, alchemical. The speaker imagines her emotions and their physical manifestations climatically: her sighs become tears, and as the tears fall “in vain” they evaporate again and become sighs, just as air condenses into rain clouds and rain evaporates again. Pulter draws on the convention of using hyperbolic meteorological images for emotions, often influenced by Petrarch and also seen in, for instance, John Donne’s ’A Valediction forbidding mourning’ (see ‘Donne’s Circles’ in Curations for this poem). The turn to God at l. 15 breaks the cycle of grief while forging another cycle, that of the believer’s continuity with God: she was created by God and could even be annihilated by God. Pulter’s claim “Of nothing Thou didst me create” endorses God’s power in the face of major philosophical controversies over creation and matter which were also central to the poetry of Lucy Hutchinson and Margaret Cavendish (see ‘Matter and Creation’ in Curations for this poem for Margaret Cavendish’s ’Nature Calls a Counsel, which is Motion, Figure, Matter, and Life, to Advise about Making the World’).
The phrase “crumble me to dust”, amongst many other images in Pulter’s poem, evokes George Herbert (see ‘Dust and Devotional Lyric’ in Curations for this poem for Herbert’s “Church Monuments”). In other poems by Pulter about transformation, similar ideas of of dissolution, condensation and dust take on a more specifically alchemical meaning (see Curations for this poem as well as The Circle [2] [Poem 21] and The Hope [Poem 65]). The closing rhyme of story / glory creates a counterweight to the despair in human agency. The suggestion of Pulter’s “story”, in the sense of the poem itself as well as her life narrative, mitigates some of the willing self-abasement of the poem. This poem also appears in Women Poets of the English Civil War, ed. Sarah C.E. Ross and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann. While I have modernised here, as in that edition, I have chosen to punctuate slightly differently, demonstrating some of the effects of editorial decisions on tone and meaning. In Women Poets of the English Civil War, Ross and I ended line 8 with a period and line 21 with a comma, while here I have experimented with slightly more open punctuation at these line endings, playing out the poem’s themes of cyclical and ongoing movement.
Line number 3

 Gloss note

as the air condenses into clouds (and rain), so the speaker’s sighs condense into tears
Line number 8

 Gloss note

to become thin, less substantial; to purify
Line number 11

 Gloss note

to sigh or breathe
Line number 14

 Gloss note

To enfold, envelop, overwhelm. Rarely, but resonantly given the poem’s title, it could also mean “to turn over in the mind; to revolve”. MS = invoule
Line number 17

 Gloss note

unexpected; pressing
Line number 21

 Gloss note

to break off or curtail
Line number 21

 Critical note

All three of these words have complex early modern meanings: “Annihilate” has theological connotations, meaning the destruction of both soul and the body; “Abrupt” (to break off, curtail) was fairly recent in being used as a verb; “consummate” seems to be used here in its sense of “put an end to” (in line with “annihilate” and “abrupt”) though it could also have the more positive (and Biblical) sense of “to perfect” or “to complete”.
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Amplified Edition
Amplified Edition

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
The Circle [1]
The Circle [1]
The Circle [1]
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.

— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
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.

— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
Where ideas of revolution sometimes inspire Pulter, here a metaphorical water cycle—with tears evaporating into cloudy sighs which, in turn, rain down again—is castigated for having “no end”: that is, it is both ceaseless and purposeless, since there’s “no ease” in sighs and tears that are “vain.” Yet she cannot stop: indeed, she diagnoses the vanity of tears in a line that is itself infused with a sigh (the interjected “ah me”). Although the speaker realizes she is caught in a vicious circle, she also determines that it is better not to succumb either to airy sighs or watery tears: instead, she must cycle between them until she attains her proper end in earthy “dust,” the element that signals her divine origin here, as in many of Pulter’s poems. Thus, the speaker’s initial portrayal of her all-too-human weakness—embodied in the mercurial weather of her emotional responses—is finally countered by her confident expression of trust in God and contentment that even his annihilation of her shall be to his glory.

— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
The first circle in this poem is the endless cycle of grief: “there is no end”. Yet Pulter finds an alternative vision in other kinds of cycle: spiritual, meteorological, alchemical. The speaker imagines her emotions and their physical manifestations climatically: her sighs become tears, and as the tears fall “in vain” they evaporate again and become sighs, just as air condenses into rain clouds and rain evaporates again. Pulter draws on the convention of using hyperbolic meteorological images for emotions, often influenced by Petrarch and also seen in, for instance, John Donne’s ’A Valediction forbidding mourning’ (see ‘Donne’s Circles’ in Curations for this poem). The turn to God at l. 15 breaks the cycle of grief while forging another cycle, that of the believer’s continuity with God: she was created by God and could even be annihilated by God. Pulter’s claim “Of nothing Thou didst me create” endorses God’s power in the face of major philosophical controversies over creation and matter which were also central to the poetry of Lucy Hutchinson and Margaret Cavendish (see ‘Matter and Creation’ in Curations for this poem for Margaret Cavendish’s ’Nature Calls a Counsel, which is Motion, Figure, Matter, and Life, to Advise about Making the World’).
The phrase “crumble me to dust”, amongst many other images in Pulter’s poem, evokes George Herbert (see ‘Dust and Devotional Lyric’ in Curations for this poem for Herbert’s “Church Monuments”). In other poems by Pulter about transformation, similar ideas of of dissolution, condensation and dust take on a more specifically alchemical meaning (see Curations for this poem as well as The Circle [2] [Poem 21] and The Hope [Poem 65]). The closing rhyme of story / glory creates a counterweight to the despair in human agency. The suggestion of Pulter’s “story”, in the sense of the poem itself as well as her life narrative, mitigates some of the willing self-abasement of the poem. This poem also appears in Women Poets of the English Civil War, ed. Sarah C.E. Ross and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann. While I have modernised here, as in that edition, I have chosen to punctuate slightly differently, demonstrating some of the effects of editorial decisions on tone and meaning. In Women Poets of the English Civil War, Ross and I ended line 8 with a period and line 21 with a comma, while here I have experimented with slightly more open punctuation at these line endings, playing out the poem’s themes of cyclical and ongoing movement.


— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
1
In Sighs and tears there is noe end
In sighs and tears there is no end;
In sighs and tears there is no end;
2
My Soule on Heaven alone depend
My soul, on heaven alone depend.
My soul, on heaven alone depend.
3
Sighs like the Ayer doth Clowds condence
Sighs like the air doth clouds
Gloss Note
liquefy
condense
,
Gloss Note
as the air condenses into clouds (and rain), so the speaker’s sighs condense into tears
Sighs like the air doth clouds condense
4
Which tears from our Sad eyes diſpence
Which tears from our sad eyes dispense.
Which tears from our sad eyes dispense.
5
Trust me in Sighs there is noe eaſe
Trust me, in sighs there is no ease:
Trust me: in sighs there is no ease,
6
Noe more then Wind doth Calm the Seas
No more than wind doth calm the seas;
No more than wind doth calm the seas
7
And tears (Ah mee) deſcend in vain
And tears (ah me) descend in vain;
And tears (ah me) descend in vain,
8
To Sighs they rarifie againe
To sighs they
Gloss Note
dissipate, purify
rarefy
again.
To sighs they
Gloss Note
to become thin, less substantial; to purify
rarify
again:
9
In this Sad Circle I run round
In this sad circle I run round,
In this sad circle I run round,
10
Till giddyly I tumble down
Till giddily I tumble down;
Till giddily I tumble down.
11
But Should poor I Suſpier to Ayer
But should poor I
Gloss Note
sigh; breathe
suspire
to air,
But should poor I
Gloss Note
to sigh or breathe
suspire
to air,
12
I know the Sad fruits of despair
I know the sad fruits of despair.
I know the sad fruits of despair;
13
Or Should I into tears diſſolve
Or should I into tears dissolve
Or should I into tears dissolve,
14
What Horrour would my Soule invoule
What horror would my soul
Gloss Note
entangle, envelop
involve
.
What horror would my soul
Gloss Note
To enfold, envelop, overwhelm. Rarely, but resonantly given the poem’s title, it could also mean “to turn over in the mind; to revolve”. MS = invoule
involve
.
15
Then Gracious God in thee Il’e trust
Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust,
Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust
16
Although thou crumble mee to dust
Although Thou crumble me to
Critical Note
original, formative elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
.
Although Thou crumble me to dust.
17
Noe Griefe Shall Soe emergent bee
No grief shall so
Gloss Note
arising, especially unexpectedly
emergent
be
No grief shall so
Gloss Note
unexpected; pressing
emergent
be
18
To Seperate my Soule from thee
To separate my soul from Thee.
To separate my soul from Thee;
19
Of noething thou didst mee create
Gloss Note
The idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
Of nothing Thou didst me create
,
Of nothing Thou didst me create
20
And Shouldst thou now Annihillate
And shouldst Thou now annihilate,
And should’st Thou now annihilate,
ab

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21
Abrupt, or conſumate, my Story
Gloss Note
to sever or to interrupt suddenly
Abrupt
, or
Gloss Note
In this context, “consummate” means to bring to completion or perfection, or to end.
consummate
my
Gloss Note
life
story
,
Gloss Note
to break off or curtail
Abrupt
, or
Critical Note
All three of these words have complex early modern meanings: “Annihilate” has theological connotations, meaning the destruction of both soul and the body; “Abrupt” (to break off, curtail) was fairly recent in being used as a verb; “consummate” seems to be used here in its sense of “put an end to” (in line with “annihilate” and “abrupt”) though it could also have the more positive (and Biblical) sense of “to perfect” or “to complete”.
consummate
my story
22
Oh let it be unto thy Glory.
O, let it be unto Thy glory.
Oh let it be unto Thy glory.
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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

With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

Where ideas of revolution sometimes inspire Pulter, here a metaphorical water cycle—with tears evaporating into cloudy sighs which, in turn, rain down again—is castigated for having “no end”: that is, it is both ceaseless and purposeless, since there’s “no ease” in sighs and tears that are “vain.” Yet she cannot stop: indeed, she diagnoses the vanity of tears in a line that is itself infused with a sigh (the interjected “ah me”). Although the speaker realizes she is caught in a vicious circle, she also determines that it is better not to succumb either to airy sighs or watery tears: instead, she must cycle between them until she attains her proper end in earthy “dust,” the element that signals her divine origin here, as in many of Pulter’s poems. Thus, the speaker’s initial portrayal of her all-too-human weakness—embodied in the mercurial weather of her emotional responses—is finally countered by her confident expression of trust in God and contentment that even his annihilation of her shall be to his glory.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

The first circle in this poem is the endless cycle of grief: “there is no end”. Yet Pulter finds an alternative vision in other kinds of cycle: spiritual, meteorological, alchemical. The speaker imagines her emotions and their physical manifestations climatically: her sighs become tears, and as the tears fall “in vain” they evaporate again and become sighs, just as air condenses into rain clouds and rain evaporates again. Pulter draws on the convention of using hyperbolic meteorological images for emotions, often influenced by Petrarch and also seen in, for instance, John Donne’s ’A Valediction forbidding mourning’ (see ‘Donne’s Circles’ in Curations for this poem). The turn to God at l. 15 breaks the cycle of grief while forging another cycle, that of the believer’s continuity with God: she was created by God and could even be annihilated by God. Pulter’s claim “Of nothing Thou didst me create” endorses God’s power in the face of major philosophical controversies over creation and matter which were also central to the poetry of Lucy Hutchinson and Margaret Cavendish (see ‘Matter and Creation’ in Curations for this poem for Margaret Cavendish’s ’Nature Calls a Counsel, which is Motion, Figure, Matter, and Life, to Advise about Making the World’).
The phrase “crumble me to dust”, amongst many other images in Pulter’s poem, evokes George Herbert (see ‘Dust and Devotional Lyric’ in Curations for this poem for Herbert’s “Church Monuments”). In other poems by Pulter about transformation, similar ideas of of dissolution, condensation and dust take on a more specifically alchemical meaning (see Curations for this poem as well as The Circle [2] [Poem 21] and The Hope [Poem 65]). The closing rhyme of story / glory creates a counterweight to the despair in human agency. The suggestion of Pulter’s “story”, in the sense of the poem itself as well as her life narrative, mitigates some of the willing self-abasement of the poem. This poem also appears in Women Poets of the English Civil War, ed. Sarah C.E. Ross and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann. While I have modernised here, as in that edition, I have chosen to punctuate slightly differently, demonstrating some of the effects of editorial decisions on tone and meaning. In Women Poets of the English Civil War, Ross and I ended line 8 with a period and line 21 with a comma, while here I have experimented with slightly more open punctuation at these line endings, playing out the poem’s themes of cyclical and ongoing movement.
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

liquefy
Amplified Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

as the air condenses into clouds (and rain), so the speaker’s sighs condense into tears
Elemental Edition
Line number 8

 Gloss note

dissipate, purify
Amplified Edition
Line number 8

 Gloss note

to become thin, less substantial; to purify
Elemental Edition
Line number 11

 Gloss note

sigh; breathe
Amplified Edition
Line number 11

 Gloss note

to sigh or breathe
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

entangle, envelop
Amplified Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

To enfold, envelop, overwhelm. Rarely, but resonantly given the poem’s title, it could also mean “to turn over in the mind; to revolve”. MS = invoule
Elemental Edition
Line number 16

 Critical note

original, formative elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
Elemental Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

arising, especially unexpectedly
Amplified Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

unexpected; pressing
Elemental Edition
Line number 19

 Gloss note

The idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
Elemental Edition
Line number 21

 Gloss note

to sever or to interrupt suddenly
Elemental Edition
Line number 21

 Gloss note

In this context, “consummate” means to bring to completion or perfection, or to end.
Elemental Edition
Line number 21

 Gloss note

life
Amplified Edition
Line number 21

 Gloss note

to break off or curtail
Amplified Edition
Line number 21

 Critical note

All three of these words have complex early modern meanings: “Annihilate” has theological connotations, meaning the destruction of both soul and the body; “Abrupt” (to break off, curtail) was fairly recent in being used as a verb; “consummate” seems to be used here in its sense of “put an end to” (in line with “annihilate” and “abrupt”) though it could also have the more positive (and Biblical) sense of “to perfect” or “to complete”.
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