The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge

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The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge

Poem #39

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 Liza Blake.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

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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 1

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“a” blotted and crossed with vertical line; “u” in different hand from main scribe
Line number 3

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“y” in darker ink over an “i”; “on” also in darker ink
Line number 16

 Physical note

“then” in different hand from main scribe
Line number 24

 Physical note

crowded into space between the surrounding words
Line number 59

 Physical note

Last quarter of page is blank, barring what may be a stray pen mark resembling the numeral “2” in the left margin near the bottom.
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
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Transcription

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The perfection of Patience and Knowledg
The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge
The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge
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
Poem 39 has some interesting choices for the editor and readers, both because of the particularities of the manuscript (there are two corrections that have a significant effect on the meaning of the lines around them), and because of the choices required by modernization. Because this is a poem about the quest for (and joys of) knowledge (see the Headnote for this amplified edition), I took these decisions as an editorial challenge: how can we know what the final version of this poem is meant be? How would we translate the poem’s fantasy of total knowledge to editorial fantasies of mastery?
The poem’s answer, of course, is that in our world, this fantasy of knowledge is just that: a fantasy. I have therefore made editorial choices where I see fit, but have also created “ghost” visualizations of what other interesting options there are, not burying these choices in a textual apparatus or in notes only, but keeping them on the page for readers to see and consider.
Critical Note
1. For a project exploring the ways digital forms might help us visualize variants, see Alan Galey’s “Visualizing Variation” project.
1
Those ghost options appear in grey above the choice that replaced them, but, like the poem reminds us, even the most still and motionless buried corpses will not always stay buried: “The sleeping dust will rise and speak” (l. 13). I explain my choices and what is at stake in those editorial decisions in footnotes. In a poem about knowledge, it is best to have as much information as possible, so my notes also include information about the choices made in previous editions, which are cited in the following abbreviated forms:
Christian: an old-spelling annotated dissertation edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012).
Eardley: a modernized and annotated edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley (Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014).
Knight and Wall: a modernized and annotated “Elemental Edition” of Poem 39: Hester Pulter, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge,” ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project.
Quotations from other Pulter poems are from Eardley’s edition, and are cited by line number. In addition, any Biblical quotations are from the King James Bible of 1611 (The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New / newly translated out of the originall tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and reuised, by His Maiesties speciall comandement; appointed to be read in churches [London: by Robert Barker, printer to the Kings most Excellent Maiestie, 1611]), and are cited by chapter and verse. Biblical quotations in the headnote above come from this text, but have been modernized for ease of comparison.
Throughout, I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online (hereafter OED) headwords; for example, since “embryon” exists as a headword in the OED, I have not modernized it to “embryo.” I have also expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. For example, I expanded “sublim’d” into “sublimed,” as a modern reader would naturally read that word with two syllables. In instances where a final “ed” in the manuscript seems to suggest an additional syllable, I have modernized as “èd” (for example, the manuscript’s “Loathed,” pronounced with two syllables for metrical purposes, became modernized as “loathèd”). I have also modernized punctuation, particularly attempting, in the process, to call attention to the structure of the poem’s argument, though all parentheses in the poem are from the manuscript. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences, provide references to echoes in Pulter’s and other works, and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How is an embryo like a corpse? Both are models, in womb or tomb, of patience with cramped quarters—not a quality Pulter herself apparently possessed, since she often rails against her own sequestered state. In tetrameter lines by turns terse and lively, the speaker here alternately lambastes her soul for seeking freedom from this world and offers encouraging analogies of the eventual freeing of other beings once impeded by material bonds. She then envisions her soul’s flight to its celestial place of birth after her own bodily death. Although the pep-talk might work for the soul, it seems to worry the speaker, who seeks assurance that her soul will return to escort her to heaven (somewhat hilariously, she fears sleeping through the trumpeting of the Last Judgment). This reunion of speaker and soul is identified with their mutual perfection, in which their knowledge of worldly mysteries grows clear: transforming griefs to joys, elucidating everything from astronomy to politics, and reuniting them with both friends and a reciprocated knowledge of “[t]he eternal essence.”

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
At first glance, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge” seems to be an extended riff on 1 Corinthians 13:12. Where the Biblical text says, “now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known,” the poem concludes with the fantasy that after the Last Judgment, “we shall know (without which all is none) / The eternal essence, even as we are known” (ll. 58–59). What kind of knowledge, exactly, is promised in these lines is a question throughout the poem. After her soul “jogs” her awake for the Final Judgment, they (the speaker of the poem and her soul) will be refined, while the rest of the world is burned to ashes; “then we shall know” (l. 32), she promises to her soul, a variety of things, from astrology to astronomy to alchemy. The poem imaginatively inhabits the moment of the Last Judgment not in order to think about sin or salvation, but to indulge in the fantasy of total knowledge.
However, the poem also challenges its own fantasy of achieving scientific knowledge: the knowledge of scientific fields gestured to in lines 30–53 seems to be different from the knowledge of the “eternal essence” promised by line 59, or even the love or charity that is the core subject of 1 Corinthians 13.
Critical Note
See the curation Reading (and Transforming) Biblical Sources for a full transcription of 1 Corinthians 13, to put Pulter’s reading in its Biblical context.
1
Indeed, Pulter claims in line 55 that the ultimate knowledge of God will make the cosmological research questions of the poem’s middle “prove toys” (l. 55). Against the ending, Sarah Hutton has argued that the poem is entirely invested in the scientific questions of its own middle: “The anticipated re-union with the divine after death, hardly figures in the main body of the poem—not until the last line. The knowledge described in the poem is entirely secular, specifically cosmological.”
Critical Note
Sara Hutton, “Hester Pulter (c. 1596–1678). A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Epistémè 14 (2008), 10.
2
How you understand the poem’s sudden turn away from astronomy to the divine knowledge offered by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians radically changes your sense of the ultimate argument of the poem. In 1 Corinthians we are told that “whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part …” (1 Corinthians 13:8–9). Is this a poem about scientific knowledge, or about forsaking the partial knowledge offered by worldly things for the more perfect knowledge (and love) of God?
Or is it about something else? The poem starts, after all, in a totally different place again: with an exhortation to her soul to wait more patiently for the death of the body, and a reflection on the natural physical dissolution of all matter. The three disjunctive parts of the poem—on the soul’s relationship to the body and resurrection (ll. 1–29); on scientific knowledges (ll. 30–53); on the knowledge of God (ll. 54–59)—are set up for the reader as a kind of puzzle, “a maze we now live under” (l. 33) that both astounds us (“a maze” could mean a sense of amazement),
Critical Note
OED, s.v. “maze, n.” For a comparable reading of Donne’s disjunctive poetic methods, see Liza Blake, “Lyric and Scientific Epistemologies: Bacon and Donne,” in Gathering Force: Early Modern British Literature in Transition, 1557–1623, volume I, ed. Kristen Poole and Lauren Shohet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019): 171–83, esp. 177–83.
3
and invites us to solve its structure. The poem demands, with these elaborate turns of thought, that we read across and connect all three parts, partly through repetition and careful balancing of images. The first part begins by training you to watch for such patterns, listing four instances of matter in its potential (the unhatched egg; the unborn embryo) and then in its actualization (the chirping bird, the infant freed from the womb). But the repetitions stretch across sections as well: the “sleeping dust” of the corpse (l. 12) piles into the “dunghill globe of earth” (l. 20) that the soul escapes, only to return as the “orbs of wonder” (l. 32) in the second part. Those orbs of wonder that receive so much attention in the second part are themselves both actual globes (perhaps also dunghills, upon closer inspection), and mythological and astrological figures.
Perhaps the answer to all these repetitions, and to the questions the poem raises about its own hybridity, is patience. Despite the fact that the poem has received most attention for its scientific middle, the poem is not called just “The Perfection of Knowledge,” but “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge”; the poem asks you to sit with it, to contemplate it, to go back and re-read as images and even words change meaning with each repetition and in different contexts (surely the “know” of line 32 cannot mean the same thing as the “know” of line 56, which is different again than the one in line 68). Perhaps the knowledge at stake is not just the science of the middle, or the theology of the end, but a kind of training in patient and careful thought, through the exploration of poetic repetition and form. Perhaps this patience is a form of the charity, or love, for which 1 Corinthians 13 advocates.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
My Soul, in
Physical Note
“a” blotted and crossed with vertical line; “u” in different hand from main scribe
Straugling
thou dost Ill,
My soul: in struggling thou dost ill!
My soul, in
Critical Note
In the manuscript this was originally “straggling,” before a second hand corrected it to “struggling.” The correction scolds the soul for resisting (the inevitability of death); the original, for delaying. I have adopted the latter hand’s correction. Christian, Eardley, and Knight and Wall all follow the corrector and give “struggling”.
struggling straggling
thou dost ill.
2
The Chicken in the Shell lies Still:
The chicken in the shell lies still;
The chicken in the shell lies
Critical Note
“Still” has a double meaning here: either the chicken lies motionless in the egg, or it lies yet, it remains. The first perhaps implies that the chicken, before it is born, has not started moving; the second instills the yet-unborn chicken with more potential (it is still in the egg, but will one day break out). Which of the two meanings of “still” one understands will carry forward to the next lines as well: does the corpse lie motionless within the tomb, or does it yet lie in the tomb? Lines 11–15 suggest that the meaning of “still” as “yet” may be intended: the corpse still lies in the tomb, though one day it will rise.
still
;
3
Soe doth the
Physical Note
“y” in darker ink over an “i”; “on” also in darker ink
Embryon
in the Womb,
So doth the embryo in the womb;
So doth the embryon in the womb;
4
Soe doth the Corps, within the Tomb,
So doth the corpse within the tomb;
So doth the
Critical Note
This image potentially works differently than the others: the corpse lying still within a tomb suggests, perhaps, an ending rather than a beginning.
corpse within the tomb
;
5
Soe doth the fflower, Sleep in its Cauſe,
Gloss Note
the flower dies into the earth, its place and material of origin
So doth the flower sleep in its cause
So doth the flower sleep in its
Critical Note
The word “cause” here perhaps refers to the Aristotelian material cause, or matter: the potential for the flower sleeps in the matter that will eventually become that flower, as the potential for the chicken sleeps in the matter of the egg (see also Christian, 207n480). These lines are an echo of Pulter’s earlier poem Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “Those glorious flowers … / … hang their heads and weep / ’Cause in their causes they so soon must sleep. / So man to his first principles must turn …” (ll. 11, 13–15). In this earlier poem, where “cause” is a repeated word, it is clear that causes represent both potential as well as a dissolution of matter back into “first principles” or atoms.
cause
6
Obedient all to Natures Laws.
Obedient, all, to nature’s laws.
Obedient all to Nature’s laws.
7
But tho’ art Still Striving to bee free,
But
Gloss Note
thou art
thou’rt
still striving to be free,
But thou’rt still striving to be free,
8
As if none were in Bonds but thee.
As if none were in bonds but thee.
As if none were in bonds but thee.
9
Though for A time thourt cloath’d w:th Earth:
Though for a time thou’rt clothed with earth,
Though for a time thou’rt
Gloss Note
i.e., though for now you, the soul, are still stuck in a body
clothed with earth
,
10
Er’e long thoult have a happy Birth.
Gloss Note
before
Ere
long
Gloss Note
thou wilt
thou’lt
have a happy birth.
Ere long thou’lt have a happy birth.
11
The Chirping Bird will Break its Shell,
The chirping bird will break its shell;
The chirping bird will break its shell;
12
The Infant Leave it’s Loathed Cell;
The infant leave its loathed cell;
The infant leave its loathèd cell;
13
The Sleeping Dust will rise and Speake,
The sleeping dust will rise and speak,
The sleeping dust will rise and speak,
14
And will her Marble priſon Break:
And will her
Gloss Note
the dust or ashes of the corpse (l.4) will be freed from its tomb
marble prison break
;
And will her
Critical Note
These lines gesture to the Resurrection, in which bodies will re-form and be reunited with their souls to face the Final Judgment.
marble prison break
;
15
The fflower her bevty will diſplay;
The flower her beauty will display;
The flower her beauty will display—
16
Physical Note
“then” in different hand from main scribe
Andthen
my infranchiſed Soul, away
Then, my
Gloss Note
freed from confinement or subjection
enfranchised
soul, away
Critical Note
The manuscript originally read, “And,” and a second hand crossed out “And” and replaced it with “then.” The choice is significant: “and” implies that the soul’s flight will follow naturally with these other natural and supernatural occurrences (a chicken will emerge from an egg, a flower will bloom; the body will resurrect, the soul will travel beyond the sky), while “then” suggests that these natural and supernatural occurrences are perhaps either temporally or even causally linked: at the moment that these things happen, then the soul will rest in everlasting life and light. The editorial tradition is divided on this correction: Christian gives “then”; Eardley, “And”; Knight and Wall, “Then”.
Then And
my enfranchised soul, away
17
Beyond the Skie, will take her flieght,
Beyond the sky will take her flight,
Beyond the sky, will take her flight,
18
And rest aboue the Spheirs of Night;
And rest above the
Gloss Note
concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars)
spheres of night
,
And rest above the spheres of night
19
In everlasting Life And Light.
In everlasting life and light.
In everlasting life and
Critical Note
The triplet, adding a third rhyme to the poem’s usual couplets, perhaps emphasizes the beyond of the soul’s future flight.
light
.
Scorning

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20
Scorning this Dunghill, Globe of Earth:
Scorning this
Gloss Note
pile of excrement
dunghill
globe of earth,
Scorning this
Gloss Note
The Earth is here imagined as being made up not of earth but of dung.
dunghill globe of Earth
,
21
Shee’l goe from whence Shee had her Birth.
She’ll go
Gloss Note
from where
from whence
she had her birth.
She’ll go from whence she had her birth.
22
But (Ô my Soul) once more, Return
But (O my soul) once more, return,
But (O my soul!)
Critical Note
The speaker here asks her soul to return even after its flight to “everlasting life and light,” thereby creating an interesting question about what or who the “me” is that is speaking the poem (the body? What remains of the speaker without a soul?).
once more return
,
23
And call mee in my Silent Urn.
And call me in my silent urn.
And call me in my silent urn.
24
But
Physical Note
crowded into space between the surrounding words
if
a Sleep I then am found,
But if asleep I then am found,
But if asleep I then am found,
25
Jog mee, and Say the Trump doth Sound.
Gloss Note
rouse; shake
Jog
me, and say
Critical Note
trumpet of Last Judgment; Revelation 8-11.
the trump doth sound
.
Critical Note
Jog or nudge me awake, and tell me the trumpets of the Last Judgment are sounding. For the sounding of the trumpets see the Book of Revelations, chapters 8–10 (see also Eardley, 382).
Jog me, and say the trump doth sound
;
26
Then will I riſe and fly away,
Then will I rise and fly away
Then will I rise and fly away
27
With thee to everlasting Day:
With thee to everlasting day;
With thee, to everlasting day.
28
Then Shall our griefe and past annoys,
Then shall our grief and past annoys,
Then shall our grief and past annoys
29
Bee Swallowed up of infinite Joys;
Be swallowed up
Gloss Note
by or in
of
infinite joys;
Critical Note
i.e., Then all the small annoyances of the past shall be absorbed into infinite joy. See also the poem immediately after Poem 39 in the manuscript, My Soul: Why Art Thou Full of Trouble? [Poem 40], ll. 38–40: “And all my past annoys / Shall swallowed be of infinite glory / And crowned with endless joys.” In both lines, the “of” seems to mean either “by” or “in.” I have added a colon at the end of this couplet, with the presumption that what follows is a list of the joys they can expect.
Be swallowed up of infinite joys
:
30
Then beeing perfect and Sublim’d,
Then, being perfect and
Gloss Note
purified; elevated morally or spiritually; chemically distilled
sublimed
,
Then being perfect and sublimed,
31
Wee Shall diſcern this Globe Calcin’d:
We shall discern this globe
Gloss Note
burnt to ash; purified
calcined
:
We shall discern this globe
Critical Note
In early alchemical terms, to sublime was to purify a substance, perhaps by converting it to a vapor; to calcine was to burn to ashes, “to reduce a mineral or metal to its purest or most refined residuum by driving off or consuming all the more volatile and perishable constituents” (OED, s.v. “sublime, v.,” “calcine, v.”). On Pulter’s alchemy, see Jayne Archer, “‘A Perfect Circle?’: Alchemy in the Poetry of Hester Pulter,” Literature Compass 2 (December 2005): 1–14.
calcined
;
32
Then Shall wee know theſe Orbs of Wonder,
Then shall we know these
Critical Note
the “spheres of night” of l.18; and/or the heavenly bodies themselves
orbs of wonder
,
Then shall we know these orbs of wonder,
33
Which in a maze wee now live under.
Which
Gloss Note
or, possibly, “amaze”: in confusion, terror, wonder
in a maze
we now live under.
Which in
Critical Note
Though I have modernized as “a maze,” the manuscript may in fact read “amaze”; Christian transcribes it as one word, while Eardley and Knight and Wall give it as two. These two mean roughly the same thing—we live in a state of amazement—but “a maze” adds a second layer of meaning: we don’t just live in amazement under the “orbs of wonder,” wondering at the orbs and their motions; the motions of the stars and planets is like a maze, something potentially to be solved, not just wondered at.
a maze amaze
we now live under;
34
And why Sad Saturns heavie eye,
And why sad
Gloss Note
the planet Saturn was understood in astrology to have a baleful influence
Saturn’s heavy eye
And why
Critical Note
In astrology, the planet Saturn frequently represented melancholy. See Alice Eardley, “‘Saturn (whose aspects soe sads my soule)’: Lady Hester Pulter’s Feminine Melancholic Genius,” in New Ways of Looking at Old Texts, IV: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 2002–2006, ed. Michael Denbo (Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, 2008), 239–54.
sad Saturn’s heavy eye
35
ffrowns on mee with Malignancie.
Frowns on me with malignancy;
Frowns on me with malignancy;
36
And why Conjunctions Should foreshew,
And why
Gloss Note
alignment of celestial bodies
conjunctions
should foreshew,
And why conjunctions should foreshow
37
Som mighty Monarchies overthrow.
Some mighty
Physical Note
possibly plural, since spelled “Monarchies” in manuscript
monarchy’s
overthrow;
Some mighty
Critical Note
As Knight and Wall note, the manuscript’s “Monarchies” could be modernized as either “monarchy’s” or “monarchies’”: why the conjunction of the planets could predict the overthrow of one or many monarchies. I have chosen the plural, as the more apocalyptic in this generally apocalyptic poem. Eardley also gives “monarchies’” while Knight and Wall give “monarchy’s”. In the manuscript, line 36 ends in a comma, perhaps suggesting a third way of reading the couplet: if “foreshow” and “overthrow” are parallel verbs both subordinated to “why,” these lines could ask not just why the conjunctions of the planets could be predictive, but also why or how the conjunction of planets could overthrow monarchies—with the conjunctions not just predicting but causing the overthrow of monarchies.
monarchies’ monarchy’s, monarchies
overthrow;
38
And by what (Swift and infinite) Power,
And by what (swift and infinite) power
And by what (swift and infinite) power
39
Sol runs Three Hundred Miles an Hower.
Gloss Note
the sun
Sol
runs three hundred miles an hour.
Gloss Note
“Sol” is the sun; the speaker wonders how “he” moves so quickly across the sky. These lines, which suggest that the sun moves, seem to be contradicted in lines 47–51.
Sol runs three hundred miles an hour
;
40
And Why pale Cinthia, doth Soe change
And why pale
Gloss Note
moon (goddess)
Cynthia
doth so change
And why pale Cynthia doth so change
41
Her Lovly face, as Shee doth Range
Her lovely face as she doth range
Her lovely face as she doth range
all

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42
All Night, a Hunting in the Shade,
All night,
Gloss Note
the classical moon goddess was often represented as a hunter
a-hunting
in the shade;
Gloss Note
“Cynthia” is the moon, who is also the mythological goddess of chastity and the hunt; the speaker seeks the causes of the changing phases of the moon.
All night, a-hunting in the shade
;
43
And how fair Venus, can bee made
And how fair
Gloss Note
second planet from the sun, identified with the morning star (in the “orient” or east) and evening star (in the “occident” or west); both Hesper or Hesperus and Vesper are epithets for the evening star
Venus
can be made
And how fair
Gloss Note
Eardley states that “Hesperus” and “Vesperus” (now usually “Vesper”) were two names for the planet Venus, the former a corruption of the ancient Greek “Eosphorus” or morning star for when Venus appeared in the orient or the east, and the latter the name of the evening star when it appeared in the west (382). The speaker superficially wonders why one planet should have two names, or perhaps wonders, with the phrase “be made,” whether the change of name remakes the planet itself.
Venus can be made
44
Hesperus, in the Orient:
Hesperus, in the orient,
Hesperus in the orient,
45
And Veſperus, in the Occident.
And Vesperus, in the occident;
And Vesperus in the occident;
46
Or whether Etheriall ffier doth Burn,
Or
Critical Note
Paracelsus identified “ethereal fire” as a life force circulating from heaven to earthly beings (Eardley).
whether ethereal fire doth burn
,
Or whether
Critical Note
Eardley connects ethereal fire to Paracelsian philosophy (137n672), from whence it spread as well to alchemical, neo-Platonic, and other branches of philosophy. See, e.g., Joseph Du Chesne, The practice of chymicall, and hermeticall physicke, for the preseruation of heath (London, 1605), sig. P3r–v: “an ethereal fire … is neither hot nor drie, not consuming like the Elementarie fyre, but is a certaine Celestial fyre, … a fyre, I say, contempered, ful of life …”
ethereal fire doth burn
;
47
Or that this Terren Globe, doth turn,
Or that this
Gloss Note
earthly
terrene
globe doth turn,
Or that this terrene globe doth turn,
48
The Sun beeing Center Unto all,
The sun being center unto all,
The sun being center unto all—
49
And that hee ne’re doth riſe or fall,
And that
Gloss Note
the sun
he
ne’er doth rise or fall;
And that he ne’er doth rise or fall—
50
Or whether they have a treble Motion,
Or whether they have
Gloss Note
early modern astronomer Copernicus proposed a three-fold motion of the earth, a theory which controversially reversed ancient ideas
a treble motion
,
Critical Note
Interestingly, the choice in these lines is a minor one; it seems to be between simple heliocentrism and Copernican heliocentrism: either the terrene globe (the Earth) turns around the sun, which is the “center unto all,” or the Earth has a treble motion (in that it spins on its axis, revolves around the sun, and “shifts on its own axis”)—and therefore operates according to Copernican astronomy (Christian, 209n486; see also Eardley, 381). On Pulter’s heliocentrism as potentially Galilean, see Hutton, 5.
Or whether they have a treble motion
,
51
Of which wee have Soe Smale a Notion.
Of which we have so small a notion.
Of which we have so small a notion.
52
All this (and more) wee then Shall know,
All this (and more) we then shall know,
All this (and more) we then shall know,
53
Which are Such wonders here below.
Which are such wonders here below.
Which are such wonders here below.
54
But which will most increaſe our Joys,
But which will most increase our joys
But which will most increase our joys
55
(Compard with which, theſe will prove toys,)
(Compared with which, these will prove
Gloss Note
trifles, whims
toys
):
(Compared with which, these will prove
Critical Note
This couplet initiates the final movement of the poem, in which the long catalog of her extra-terrestrial research program is reduced to insignificance, all her questions being mere “toys” or trifling questions. The interjection “ay me!” in line 57 further adds an affective dimension not necessarily present in earlier lines, helping to signal the change in direction that this final section offers.
toys
),
56
Our unknown freinds wee then Shall know,
Our unknown friends we then shall know,
Our unknown friends we then shall know,
57
Even thoſe (aye mee) wee lost below.
Even those (aye me) we lost below.
Even those (ay me!) we lost below.
58
Nay wee Shall know (without which all is none)
Nay, we shall know (without which all is none)
Nay, we shall know (without which all is none)
59
The Eternall Eſſence, even as wee are
Physical Note
Last quarter of page is blank, barring what may be a stray pen mark resembling the numeral “2” in the left margin near the bottom.
Known
.
The eternal essence, even as we are known.
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, these lines are a clear reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glasse, darkely: but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know euen as also I am knowen” (sig. R1v). There is some ambiguity in this line’s use of passive voice: we will know the eternal essence (God) even as we are known—but by whom? It could mean that we will know God in the same way he knows us (completely), or it could mean that we will know God even as we are known by ourselves, even as we know ourselves—which, then, could be either completely, or incompletely. Does this poem climax with a vision of total, godlike, divine knowledge, or with a worry that the injunction to “know thyself” may, if not fully realized, cause an impartial knowledge of God’s eternal essence? How does this fantasy hold up to the claim of 1 Corinthians 13 that knowledge without love or charity is necessarily partial?
The eternal essence, even as we are known
.
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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

How is an embryo like a corpse? Both are models, in womb or tomb, of patience with cramped quarters—not a quality Pulter herself apparently possessed, since she often rails against her own sequestered state. In tetrameter lines by turns terse and lively, the speaker here alternately lambastes her soul for seeking freedom from this world and offers encouraging analogies of the eventual freeing of other beings once impeded by material bonds. She then envisions her soul’s flight to its celestial place of birth after her own bodily death. Although the pep-talk might work for the soul, it seems to worry the speaker, who seeks assurance that her soul will return to escort her to heaven (somewhat hilariously, she fears sleeping through the trumpeting of the Last Judgment). This reunion of speaker and soul is identified with their mutual perfection, in which their knowledge of worldly mysteries grows clear: transforming griefs to joys, elucidating everything from astronomy to politics, and reuniting them with both friends and a reciprocated knowledge of “[t]he eternal essence.”
Line number 5

 Gloss note

the flower dies into the earth, its place and material of origin
Line number 7

 Gloss note

thou art
Line number 10

 Gloss note

before
Line number 10

 Gloss note

thou wilt
Line number 14

 Gloss note

the dust or ashes of the corpse (l.4) will be freed from its tomb
Line number 16

 Gloss note

freed from confinement or subjection
Line number 18

 Gloss note

concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars)
Line number 20

 Gloss note

pile of excrement
Line number 21

 Gloss note

from where
Line number 25

 Gloss note

rouse; shake
Line number 25

 Critical note

trumpet of Last Judgment; Revelation 8-11.
Line number 29

 Gloss note

by or in
Line number 30

 Gloss note

purified; elevated morally or spiritually; chemically distilled
Line number 31

 Gloss note

burnt to ash; purified
Line number 32

 Critical note

the “spheres of night” of l.18; and/or the heavenly bodies themselves
Line number 33

 Gloss note

or, possibly, “amaze”: in confusion, terror, wonder
Line number 34

 Gloss note

the planet Saturn was understood in astrology to have a baleful influence
Line number 36

 Gloss note

alignment of celestial bodies
Line number 37

 Physical note

possibly plural, since spelled “Monarchies” in manuscript
Line number 39

 Gloss note

the sun
Line number 40

 Gloss note

moon (goddess)
Line number 42

 Gloss note

the classical moon goddess was often represented as a hunter
Line number 43

 Gloss note

second planet from the sun, identified with the morning star (in the “orient” or east) and evening star (in the “occident” or west); both Hesper or Hesperus and Vesper are epithets for the evening star
Line number 46

 Critical note

Paracelsus identified “ethereal fire” as a life force circulating from heaven to earthly beings (Eardley).
Line number 47

 Gloss note

earthly
Line number 49

 Gloss note

the sun
Line number 50

 Gloss note

early modern astronomer Copernicus proposed a three-fold motion of the earth, a theory which controversially reversed ancient ideas
Line number 55

 Gloss note

trifles, whims
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X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

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The perfection of Patience and Knowledg
The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge
The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge
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
Poem 39 has some interesting choices for the editor and readers, both because of the particularities of the manuscript (there are two corrections that have a significant effect on the meaning of the lines around them), and because of the choices required by modernization. Because this is a poem about the quest for (and joys of) knowledge (see the Headnote for this amplified edition), I took these decisions as an editorial challenge: how can we know what the final version of this poem is meant be? How would we translate the poem’s fantasy of total knowledge to editorial fantasies of mastery?
The poem’s answer, of course, is that in our world, this fantasy of knowledge is just that: a fantasy. I have therefore made editorial choices where I see fit, but have also created “ghost” visualizations of what other interesting options there are, not burying these choices in a textual apparatus or in notes only, but keeping them on the page for readers to see and consider.
Critical Note
1. For a project exploring the ways digital forms might help us visualize variants, see Alan Galey’s “Visualizing Variation” project.
1
Those ghost options appear in grey above the choice that replaced them, but, like the poem reminds us, even the most still and motionless buried corpses will not always stay buried: “The sleeping dust will rise and speak” (l. 13). I explain my choices and what is at stake in those editorial decisions in footnotes. In a poem about knowledge, it is best to have as much information as possible, so my notes also include information about the choices made in previous editions, which are cited in the following abbreviated forms:
Christian: an old-spelling annotated dissertation edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012).
Eardley: a modernized and annotated edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley (Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014).
Knight and Wall: a modernized and annotated “Elemental Edition” of Poem 39: Hester Pulter, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge,” ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project.
Quotations from other Pulter poems are from Eardley’s edition, and are cited by line number. In addition, any Biblical quotations are from the King James Bible of 1611 (The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New / newly translated out of the originall tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and reuised, by His Maiesties speciall comandement; appointed to be read in churches [London: by Robert Barker, printer to the Kings most Excellent Maiestie, 1611]), and are cited by chapter and verse. Biblical quotations in the headnote above come from this text, but have been modernized for ease of comparison.
Throughout, I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online (hereafter OED) headwords; for example, since “embryon” exists as a headword in the OED, I have not modernized it to “embryo.” I have also expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. For example, I expanded “sublim’d” into “sublimed,” as a modern reader would naturally read that word with two syllables. In instances where a final “ed” in the manuscript seems to suggest an additional syllable, I have modernized as “èd” (for example, the manuscript’s “Loathed,” pronounced with two syllables for metrical purposes, became modernized as “loathèd”). I have also modernized punctuation, particularly attempting, in the process, to call attention to the structure of the poem’s argument, though all parentheses in the poem are from the manuscript. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences, provide references to echoes in Pulter’s and other works, and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How is an embryo like a corpse? Both are models, in womb or tomb, of patience with cramped quarters—not a quality Pulter herself apparently possessed, since she often rails against her own sequestered state. In tetrameter lines by turns terse and lively, the speaker here alternately lambastes her soul for seeking freedom from this world and offers encouraging analogies of the eventual freeing of other beings once impeded by material bonds. She then envisions her soul’s flight to its celestial place of birth after her own bodily death. Although the pep-talk might work for the soul, it seems to worry the speaker, who seeks assurance that her soul will return to escort her to heaven (somewhat hilariously, she fears sleeping through the trumpeting of the Last Judgment). This reunion of speaker and soul is identified with their mutual perfection, in which their knowledge of worldly mysteries grows clear: transforming griefs to joys, elucidating everything from astronomy to politics, and reuniting them with both friends and a reciprocated knowledge of “[t]he eternal essence.”

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
At first glance, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge” seems to be an extended riff on 1 Corinthians 13:12. Where the Biblical text says, “now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known,” the poem concludes with the fantasy that after the Last Judgment, “we shall know (without which all is none) / The eternal essence, even as we are known” (ll. 58–59). What kind of knowledge, exactly, is promised in these lines is a question throughout the poem. After her soul “jogs” her awake for the Final Judgment, they (the speaker of the poem and her soul) will be refined, while the rest of the world is burned to ashes; “then we shall know” (l. 32), she promises to her soul, a variety of things, from astrology to astronomy to alchemy. The poem imaginatively inhabits the moment of the Last Judgment not in order to think about sin or salvation, but to indulge in the fantasy of total knowledge.
However, the poem also challenges its own fantasy of achieving scientific knowledge: the knowledge of scientific fields gestured to in lines 30–53 seems to be different from the knowledge of the “eternal essence” promised by line 59, or even the love or charity that is the core subject of 1 Corinthians 13.
Critical Note
See the curation Reading (and Transforming) Biblical Sources for a full transcription of 1 Corinthians 13, to put Pulter’s reading in its Biblical context.
1
Indeed, Pulter claims in line 55 that the ultimate knowledge of God will make the cosmological research questions of the poem’s middle “prove toys” (l. 55). Against the ending, Sarah Hutton has argued that the poem is entirely invested in the scientific questions of its own middle: “The anticipated re-union with the divine after death, hardly figures in the main body of the poem—not until the last line. The knowledge described in the poem is entirely secular, specifically cosmological.”
Critical Note
Sara Hutton, “Hester Pulter (c. 1596–1678). A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Epistémè 14 (2008), 10.
2
How you understand the poem’s sudden turn away from astronomy to the divine knowledge offered by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians radically changes your sense of the ultimate argument of the poem. In 1 Corinthians we are told that “whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part …” (1 Corinthians 13:8–9). Is this a poem about scientific knowledge, or about forsaking the partial knowledge offered by worldly things for the more perfect knowledge (and love) of God?
Or is it about something else? The poem starts, after all, in a totally different place again: with an exhortation to her soul to wait more patiently for the death of the body, and a reflection on the natural physical dissolution of all matter. The three disjunctive parts of the poem—on the soul’s relationship to the body and resurrection (ll. 1–29); on scientific knowledges (ll. 30–53); on the knowledge of God (ll. 54–59)—are set up for the reader as a kind of puzzle, “a maze we now live under” (l. 33) that both astounds us (“a maze” could mean a sense of amazement),
Critical Note
OED, s.v. “maze, n.” For a comparable reading of Donne’s disjunctive poetic methods, see Liza Blake, “Lyric and Scientific Epistemologies: Bacon and Donne,” in Gathering Force: Early Modern British Literature in Transition, 1557–1623, volume I, ed. Kristen Poole and Lauren Shohet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019): 171–83, esp. 177–83.
3
and invites us to solve its structure. The poem demands, with these elaborate turns of thought, that we read across and connect all three parts, partly through repetition and careful balancing of images. The first part begins by training you to watch for such patterns, listing four instances of matter in its potential (the unhatched egg; the unborn embryo) and then in its actualization (the chirping bird, the infant freed from the womb). But the repetitions stretch across sections as well: the “sleeping dust” of the corpse (l. 12) piles into the “dunghill globe of earth” (l. 20) that the soul escapes, only to return as the “orbs of wonder” (l. 32) in the second part. Those orbs of wonder that receive so much attention in the second part are themselves both actual globes (perhaps also dunghills, upon closer inspection), and mythological and astrological figures.
Perhaps the answer to all these repetitions, and to the questions the poem raises about its own hybridity, is patience. Despite the fact that the poem has received most attention for its scientific middle, the poem is not called just “The Perfection of Knowledge,” but “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge”; the poem asks you to sit with it, to contemplate it, to go back and re-read as images and even words change meaning with each repetition and in different contexts (surely the “know” of line 32 cannot mean the same thing as the “know” of line 56, which is different again than the one in line 68). Perhaps the knowledge at stake is not just the science of the middle, or the theology of the end, but a kind of training in patient and careful thought, through the exploration of poetic repetition and form. Perhaps this patience is a form of the charity, or love, for which 1 Corinthians 13 advocates.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
My Soul, in
Physical Note
“a” blotted and crossed with vertical line; “u” in different hand from main scribe
Straugling
thou dost Ill,
My soul: in struggling thou dost ill!
My soul, in
Critical Note
In the manuscript this was originally “straggling,” before a second hand corrected it to “struggling.” The correction scolds the soul for resisting (the inevitability of death); the original, for delaying. I have adopted the latter hand’s correction. Christian, Eardley, and Knight and Wall all follow the corrector and give “struggling”.
struggling straggling
thou dost ill.
2
The Chicken in the Shell lies Still:
The chicken in the shell lies still;
The chicken in the shell lies
Critical Note
“Still” has a double meaning here: either the chicken lies motionless in the egg, or it lies yet, it remains. The first perhaps implies that the chicken, before it is born, has not started moving; the second instills the yet-unborn chicken with more potential (it is still in the egg, but will one day break out). Which of the two meanings of “still” one understands will carry forward to the next lines as well: does the corpse lie motionless within the tomb, or does it yet lie in the tomb? Lines 11–15 suggest that the meaning of “still” as “yet” may be intended: the corpse still lies in the tomb, though one day it will rise.
still
;
3
Soe doth the
Physical Note
“y” in darker ink over an “i”; “on” also in darker ink
Embryon
in the Womb,
So doth the embryo in the womb;
So doth the embryon in the womb;
4
Soe doth the Corps, within the Tomb,
So doth the corpse within the tomb;
So doth the
Critical Note
This image potentially works differently than the others: the corpse lying still within a tomb suggests, perhaps, an ending rather than a beginning.
corpse within the tomb
;
5
Soe doth the fflower, Sleep in its Cauſe,
Gloss Note
the flower dies into the earth, its place and material of origin
So doth the flower sleep in its cause
So doth the flower sleep in its
Critical Note
The word “cause” here perhaps refers to the Aristotelian material cause, or matter: the potential for the flower sleeps in the matter that will eventually become that flower, as the potential for the chicken sleeps in the matter of the egg (see also Christian, 207n480). These lines are an echo of Pulter’s earlier poem Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “Those glorious flowers … / … hang their heads and weep / ’Cause in their causes they so soon must sleep. / So man to his first principles must turn …” (ll. 11, 13–15). In this earlier poem, where “cause” is a repeated word, it is clear that causes represent both potential as well as a dissolution of matter back into “first principles” or atoms.
cause
6
Obedient all to Natures Laws.
Obedient, all, to nature’s laws.
Obedient all to Nature’s laws.
7
But tho’ art Still Striving to bee free,
But
Gloss Note
thou art
thou’rt
still striving to be free,
But thou’rt still striving to be free,
8
As if none were in Bonds but thee.
As if none were in bonds but thee.
As if none were in bonds but thee.
9
Though for A time thourt cloath’d w:th Earth:
Though for a time thou’rt clothed with earth,
Though for a time thou’rt
Gloss Note
i.e., though for now you, the soul, are still stuck in a body
clothed with earth
,
10
Er’e long thoult have a happy Birth.
Gloss Note
before
Ere
long
Gloss Note
thou wilt
thou’lt
have a happy birth.
Ere long thou’lt have a happy birth.
11
The Chirping Bird will Break its Shell,
The chirping bird will break its shell;
The chirping bird will break its shell;
12
The Infant Leave it’s Loathed Cell;
The infant leave its loathed cell;
The infant leave its loathèd cell;
13
The Sleeping Dust will rise and Speake,
The sleeping dust will rise and speak,
The sleeping dust will rise and speak,
14
And will her Marble priſon Break:
And will her
Gloss Note
the dust or ashes of the corpse (l.4) will be freed from its tomb
marble prison break
;
And will her
Critical Note
These lines gesture to the Resurrection, in which bodies will re-form and be reunited with their souls to face the Final Judgment.
marble prison break
;
15
The fflower her bevty will diſplay;
The flower her beauty will display;
The flower her beauty will display—
16
Physical Note
“then” in different hand from main scribe
Andthen
my infranchiſed Soul, away
Then, my
Gloss Note
freed from confinement or subjection
enfranchised
soul, away
Critical Note
The manuscript originally read, “And,” and a second hand crossed out “And” and replaced it with “then.” The choice is significant: “and” implies that the soul’s flight will follow naturally with these other natural and supernatural occurrences (a chicken will emerge from an egg, a flower will bloom; the body will resurrect, the soul will travel beyond the sky), while “then” suggests that these natural and supernatural occurrences are perhaps either temporally or even causally linked: at the moment that these things happen, then the soul will rest in everlasting life and light. The editorial tradition is divided on this correction: Christian gives “then”; Eardley, “And”; Knight and Wall, “Then”.
Then And
my enfranchised soul, away
17
Beyond the Skie, will take her flieght,
Beyond the sky will take her flight,
Beyond the sky, will take her flight,
18
And rest aboue the Spheirs of Night;
And rest above the
Gloss Note
concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars)
spheres of night
,
And rest above the spheres of night
19
In everlasting Life And Light.
In everlasting life and light.
In everlasting life and
Critical Note
The triplet, adding a third rhyme to the poem’s usual couplets, perhaps emphasizes the beyond of the soul’s future flight.
light
.
Scorning

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Facsimile Image Placeholder

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20
Scorning this Dunghill, Globe of Earth:
Scorning this
Gloss Note
pile of excrement
dunghill
globe of earth,
Scorning this
Gloss Note
The Earth is here imagined as being made up not of earth but of dung.
dunghill globe of Earth
,
21
Shee’l goe from whence Shee had her Birth.
She’ll go
Gloss Note
from where
from whence
she had her birth.
She’ll go from whence she had her birth.
22
But (Ô my Soul) once more, Return
But (O my soul) once more, return,
But (O my soul!)
Critical Note
The speaker here asks her soul to return even after its flight to “everlasting life and light,” thereby creating an interesting question about what or who the “me” is that is speaking the poem (the body? What remains of the speaker without a soul?).
once more return
,
23
And call mee in my Silent Urn.
And call me in my silent urn.
And call me in my silent urn.
24
But
Physical Note
crowded into space between the surrounding words
if
a Sleep I then am found,
But if asleep I then am found,
But if asleep I then am found,
25
Jog mee, and Say the Trump doth Sound.
Gloss Note
rouse; shake
Jog
me, and say
Critical Note
trumpet of Last Judgment; Revelation 8-11.
the trump doth sound
.
Critical Note
Jog or nudge me awake, and tell me the trumpets of the Last Judgment are sounding. For the sounding of the trumpets see the Book of Revelations, chapters 8–10 (see also Eardley, 382).
Jog me, and say the trump doth sound
;
26
Then will I riſe and fly away,
Then will I rise and fly away
Then will I rise and fly away
27
With thee to everlasting Day:
With thee to everlasting day;
With thee, to everlasting day.
28
Then Shall our griefe and past annoys,
Then shall our grief and past annoys,
Then shall our grief and past annoys
29
Bee Swallowed up of infinite Joys;
Be swallowed up
Gloss Note
by or in
of
infinite joys;
Critical Note
i.e., Then all the small annoyances of the past shall be absorbed into infinite joy. See also the poem immediately after Poem 39 in the manuscript, My Soul: Why Art Thou Full of Trouble? [Poem 40], ll. 38–40: “And all my past annoys / Shall swallowed be of infinite glory / And crowned with endless joys.” In both lines, the “of” seems to mean either “by” or “in.” I have added a colon at the end of this couplet, with the presumption that what follows is a list of the joys they can expect.
Be swallowed up of infinite joys
:
30
Then beeing perfect and Sublim’d,
Then, being perfect and
Gloss Note
purified; elevated morally or spiritually; chemically distilled
sublimed
,
Then being perfect and sublimed,
31
Wee Shall diſcern this Globe Calcin’d:
We shall discern this globe
Gloss Note
burnt to ash; purified
calcined
:
We shall discern this globe
Critical Note
In early alchemical terms, to sublime was to purify a substance, perhaps by converting it to a vapor; to calcine was to burn to ashes, “to reduce a mineral or metal to its purest or most refined residuum by driving off or consuming all the more volatile and perishable constituents” (OED, s.v. “sublime, v.,” “calcine, v.”). On Pulter’s alchemy, see Jayne Archer, “‘A Perfect Circle?’: Alchemy in the Poetry of Hester Pulter,” Literature Compass 2 (December 2005): 1–14.
calcined
;
32
Then Shall wee know theſe Orbs of Wonder,
Then shall we know these
Critical Note
the “spheres of night” of l.18; and/or the heavenly bodies themselves
orbs of wonder
,
Then shall we know these orbs of wonder,
33
Which in a maze wee now live under.
Which
Gloss Note
or, possibly, “amaze”: in confusion, terror, wonder
in a maze
we now live under.
Which in
Critical Note
Though I have modernized as “a maze,” the manuscript may in fact read “amaze”; Christian transcribes it as one word, while Eardley and Knight and Wall give it as two. These two mean roughly the same thing—we live in a state of amazement—but “a maze” adds a second layer of meaning: we don’t just live in amazement under the “orbs of wonder,” wondering at the orbs and their motions; the motions of the stars and planets is like a maze, something potentially to be solved, not just wondered at.
a maze amaze
we now live under;
34
And why Sad Saturns heavie eye,
And why sad
Gloss Note
the planet Saturn was understood in astrology to have a baleful influence
Saturn’s heavy eye
And why
Critical Note
In astrology, the planet Saturn frequently represented melancholy. See Alice Eardley, “‘Saturn (whose aspects soe sads my soule)’: Lady Hester Pulter’s Feminine Melancholic Genius,” in New Ways of Looking at Old Texts, IV: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 2002–2006, ed. Michael Denbo (Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, 2008), 239–54.
sad Saturn’s heavy eye
35
ffrowns on mee with Malignancie.
Frowns on me with malignancy;
Frowns on me with malignancy;
36
And why Conjunctions Should foreshew,
And why
Gloss Note
alignment of celestial bodies
conjunctions
should foreshew,
And why conjunctions should foreshow
37
Som mighty Monarchies overthrow.
Some mighty
Physical Note
possibly plural, since spelled “Monarchies” in manuscript
monarchy’s
overthrow;
Some mighty
Critical Note
As Knight and Wall note, the manuscript’s “Monarchies” could be modernized as either “monarchy’s” or “monarchies’”: why the conjunction of the planets could predict the overthrow of one or many monarchies. I have chosen the plural, as the more apocalyptic in this generally apocalyptic poem. Eardley also gives “monarchies’” while Knight and Wall give “monarchy’s”. In the manuscript, line 36 ends in a comma, perhaps suggesting a third way of reading the couplet: if “foreshow” and “overthrow” are parallel verbs both subordinated to “why,” these lines could ask not just why the conjunctions of the planets could be predictive, but also why or how the conjunction of planets could overthrow monarchies—with the conjunctions not just predicting but causing the overthrow of monarchies.
monarchies’ monarchy’s, monarchies
overthrow;
38
And by what (Swift and infinite) Power,
And by what (swift and infinite) power
And by what (swift and infinite) power
39
Sol runs Three Hundred Miles an Hower.
Gloss Note
the sun
Sol
runs three hundred miles an hour.
Gloss Note
“Sol” is the sun; the speaker wonders how “he” moves so quickly across the sky. These lines, which suggest that the sun moves, seem to be contradicted in lines 47–51.
Sol runs three hundred miles an hour
;
40
And Why pale Cinthia, doth Soe change
And why pale
Gloss Note
moon (goddess)
Cynthia
doth so change
And why pale Cynthia doth so change
41
Her Lovly face, as Shee doth Range
Her lovely face as she doth range
Her lovely face as she doth range
all

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42
All Night, a Hunting in the Shade,
All night,
Gloss Note
the classical moon goddess was often represented as a hunter
a-hunting
in the shade;
Gloss Note
“Cynthia” is the moon, who is also the mythological goddess of chastity and the hunt; the speaker seeks the causes of the changing phases of the moon.
All night, a-hunting in the shade
;
43
And how fair Venus, can bee made
And how fair
Gloss Note
second planet from the sun, identified with the morning star (in the “orient” or east) and evening star (in the “occident” or west); both Hesper or Hesperus and Vesper are epithets for the evening star
Venus
can be made
And how fair
Gloss Note
Eardley states that “Hesperus” and “Vesperus” (now usually “Vesper”) were two names for the planet Venus, the former a corruption of the ancient Greek “Eosphorus” or morning star for when Venus appeared in the orient or the east, and the latter the name of the evening star when it appeared in the west (382). The speaker superficially wonders why one planet should have two names, or perhaps wonders, with the phrase “be made,” whether the change of name remakes the planet itself.
Venus can be made
44
Hesperus, in the Orient:
Hesperus, in the orient,
Hesperus in the orient,
45
And Veſperus, in the Occident.
And Vesperus, in the occident;
And Vesperus in the occident;
46
Or whether Etheriall ffier doth Burn,
Or
Critical Note
Paracelsus identified “ethereal fire” as a life force circulating from heaven to earthly beings (Eardley).
whether ethereal fire doth burn
,
Or whether
Critical Note
Eardley connects ethereal fire to Paracelsian philosophy (137n672), from whence it spread as well to alchemical, neo-Platonic, and other branches of philosophy. See, e.g., Joseph Du Chesne, The practice of chymicall, and hermeticall physicke, for the preseruation of heath (London, 1605), sig. P3r–v: “an ethereal fire … is neither hot nor drie, not consuming like the Elementarie fyre, but is a certaine Celestial fyre, … a fyre, I say, contempered, ful of life …”
ethereal fire doth burn
;
47
Or that this Terren Globe, doth turn,
Or that this
Gloss Note
earthly
terrene
globe doth turn,
Or that this terrene globe doth turn,
48
The Sun beeing Center Unto all,
The sun being center unto all,
The sun being center unto all—
49
And that hee ne’re doth riſe or fall,
And that
Gloss Note
the sun
he
ne’er doth rise or fall;
And that he ne’er doth rise or fall—
50
Or whether they have a treble Motion,
Or whether they have
Gloss Note
early modern astronomer Copernicus proposed a three-fold motion of the earth, a theory which controversially reversed ancient ideas
a treble motion
,
Critical Note
Interestingly, the choice in these lines is a minor one; it seems to be between simple heliocentrism and Copernican heliocentrism: either the terrene globe (the Earth) turns around the sun, which is the “center unto all,” or the Earth has a treble motion (in that it spins on its axis, revolves around the sun, and “shifts on its own axis”)—and therefore operates according to Copernican astronomy (Christian, 209n486; see also Eardley, 381). On Pulter’s heliocentrism as potentially Galilean, see Hutton, 5.
Or whether they have a treble motion
,
51
Of which wee have Soe Smale a Notion.
Of which we have so small a notion.
Of which we have so small a notion.
52
All this (and more) wee then Shall know,
All this (and more) we then shall know,
All this (and more) we then shall know,
53
Which are Such wonders here below.
Which are such wonders here below.
Which are such wonders here below.
54
But which will most increaſe our Joys,
But which will most increase our joys
But which will most increase our joys
55
(Compard with which, theſe will prove toys,)
(Compared with which, these will prove
Gloss Note
trifles, whims
toys
):
(Compared with which, these will prove
Critical Note
This couplet initiates the final movement of the poem, in which the long catalog of her extra-terrestrial research program is reduced to insignificance, all her questions being mere “toys” or trifling questions. The interjection “ay me!” in line 57 further adds an affective dimension not necessarily present in earlier lines, helping to signal the change in direction that this final section offers.
toys
),
56
Our unknown freinds wee then Shall know,
Our unknown friends we then shall know,
Our unknown friends we then shall know,
57
Even thoſe (aye mee) wee lost below.
Even those (aye me) we lost below.
Even those (ay me!) we lost below.
58
Nay wee Shall know (without which all is none)
Nay, we shall know (without which all is none)
Nay, we shall know (without which all is none)
59
The Eternall Eſſence, even as wee are
Physical Note
Last quarter of page is blank, barring what may be a stray pen mark resembling the numeral “2” in the left margin near the bottom.
Known
.
The eternal essence, even as we are known.
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, these lines are a clear reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glasse, darkely: but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know euen as also I am knowen” (sig. R1v). There is some ambiguity in this line’s use of passive voice: we will know the eternal essence (God) even as we are known—but by whom? It could mean that we will know God in the same way he knows us (completely), or it could mean that we will know God even as we are known by ourselves, even as we know ourselves—which, then, could be either completely, or incompletely. Does this poem climax with a vision of total, godlike, divine knowledge, or with a worry that the injunction to “know thyself” may, if not fully realized, cause an impartial knowledge of God’s eternal essence? How does this fantasy hold up to the claim of 1 Corinthians 13 that knowledge without love or charity is necessarily partial?
The eternal essence, even as we are known
.
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X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

Poem 39 has some interesting choices for the editor and readers, both because of the particularities of the manuscript (there are two corrections that have a significant effect on the meaning of the lines around them), and because of the choices required by modernization. Because this is a poem about the quest for (and joys of) knowledge (see the Headnote for this amplified edition), I took these decisions as an editorial challenge: how can we know what the final version of this poem is meant be? How would we translate the poem’s fantasy of total knowledge to editorial fantasies of mastery?
The poem’s answer, of course, is that in our world, this fantasy of knowledge is just that: a fantasy. I have therefore made editorial choices where I see fit, but have also created “ghost” visualizations of what other interesting options there are, not burying these choices in a textual apparatus or in notes only, but keeping them on the page for readers to see and consider.
Critical Note
1. For a project exploring the ways digital forms might help us visualize variants, see Alan Galey’s “Visualizing Variation” project.
1
Those ghost options appear in grey above the choice that replaced them, but, like the poem reminds us, even the most still and motionless buried corpses will not always stay buried: “The sleeping dust will rise and speak” (l. 13). I explain my choices and what is at stake in those editorial decisions in footnotes. In a poem about knowledge, it is best to have as much information as possible, so my notes also include information about the choices made in previous editions, which are cited in the following abbreviated forms:
Christian: an old-spelling annotated dissertation edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012).
Eardley: a modernized and annotated edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley (Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014).
Knight and Wall: a modernized and annotated “Elemental Edition” of Poem 39: Hester Pulter, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge,” ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project.
Quotations from other Pulter poems are from Eardley’s edition, and are cited by line number. In addition, any Biblical quotations are from the King James Bible of 1611 (The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New / newly translated out of the originall tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and reuised, by His Maiesties speciall comandement; appointed to be read in churches [London: by Robert Barker, printer to the Kings most Excellent Maiestie, 1611]), and are cited by chapter and verse. Biblical quotations in the headnote above come from this text, but have been modernized for ease of comparison.
Throughout, I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online (hereafter OED) headwords; for example, since “embryon” exists as a headword in the OED, I have not modernized it to “embryo.” I have also expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. For example, I expanded “sublim’d” into “sublimed,” as a modern reader would naturally read that word with two syllables. In instances where a final “ed” in the manuscript seems to suggest an additional syllable, I have modernized as “èd” (for example, the manuscript’s “Loathed,” pronounced with two syllables for metrical purposes, became modernized as “loathèd”). I have also modernized punctuation, particularly attempting, in the process, to call attention to the structure of the poem’s argument, though all parentheses in the poem are from the manuscript. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences, provide references to echoes in Pulter’s and other works, and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities.

 Headnote

At first glance, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge” seems to be an extended riff on 1 Corinthians 13:12. Where the Biblical text says, “now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known,” the poem concludes with the fantasy that after the Last Judgment, “we shall know (without which all is none) / The eternal essence, even as we are known” (ll. 58–59). What kind of knowledge, exactly, is promised in these lines is a question throughout the poem. After her soul “jogs” her awake for the Final Judgment, they (the speaker of the poem and her soul) will be refined, while the rest of the world is burned to ashes; “then we shall know” (l. 32), she promises to her soul, a variety of things, from astrology to astronomy to alchemy. The poem imaginatively inhabits the moment of the Last Judgment not in order to think about sin or salvation, but to indulge in the fantasy of total knowledge.
However, the poem also challenges its own fantasy of achieving scientific knowledge: the knowledge of scientific fields gestured to in lines 30–53 seems to be different from the knowledge of the “eternal essence” promised by line 59, or even the love or charity that is the core subject of 1 Corinthians 13.
Critical Note
See the curation Reading (and Transforming) Biblical Sources for a full transcription of 1 Corinthians 13, to put Pulter’s reading in its Biblical context.
1
Indeed, Pulter claims in line 55 that the ultimate knowledge of God will make the cosmological research questions of the poem’s middle “prove toys” (l. 55). Against the ending, Sarah Hutton has argued that the poem is entirely invested in the scientific questions of its own middle: “The anticipated re-union with the divine after death, hardly figures in the main body of the poem—not until the last line. The knowledge described in the poem is entirely secular, specifically cosmological.”
Critical Note
Sara Hutton, “Hester Pulter (c. 1596–1678). A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Epistémè 14 (2008), 10.
2
How you understand the poem’s sudden turn away from astronomy to the divine knowledge offered by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians radically changes your sense of the ultimate argument of the poem. In 1 Corinthians we are told that “whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part …” (1 Corinthians 13:8–9). Is this a poem about scientific knowledge, or about forsaking the partial knowledge offered by worldly things for the more perfect knowledge (and love) of God?
Or is it about something else? The poem starts, after all, in a totally different place again: with an exhortation to her soul to wait more patiently for the death of the body, and a reflection on the natural physical dissolution of all matter. The three disjunctive parts of the poem—on the soul’s relationship to the body and resurrection (ll. 1–29); on scientific knowledges (ll. 30–53); on the knowledge of God (ll. 54–59)—are set up for the reader as a kind of puzzle, “a maze we now live under” (l. 33) that both astounds us (“a maze” could mean a sense of amazement),
Critical Note
OED, s.v. “maze, n.” For a comparable reading of Donne’s disjunctive poetic methods, see Liza Blake, “Lyric and Scientific Epistemologies: Bacon and Donne,” in Gathering Force: Early Modern British Literature in Transition, 1557–1623, volume I, ed. Kristen Poole and Lauren Shohet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019): 171–83, esp. 177–83.
3
and invites us to solve its structure. The poem demands, with these elaborate turns of thought, that we read across and connect all three parts, partly through repetition and careful balancing of images. The first part begins by training you to watch for such patterns, listing four instances of matter in its potential (the unhatched egg; the unborn embryo) and then in its actualization (the chirping bird, the infant freed from the womb). But the repetitions stretch across sections as well: the “sleeping dust” of the corpse (l. 12) piles into the “dunghill globe of earth” (l. 20) that the soul escapes, only to return as the “orbs of wonder” (l. 32) in the second part. Those orbs of wonder that receive so much attention in the second part are themselves both actual globes (perhaps also dunghills, upon closer inspection), and mythological and astrological figures.
Perhaps the answer to all these repetitions, and to the questions the poem raises about its own hybridity, is patience. Despite the fact that the poem has received most attention for its scientific middle, the poem is not called just “The Perfection of Knowledge,” but “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge”; the poem asks you to sit with it, to contemplate it, to go back and re-read as images and even words change meaning with each repetition and in different contexts (surely the “know” of line 32 cannot mean the same thing as the “know” of line 56, which is different again than the one in line 68). Perhaps the knowledge at stake is not just the science of the middle, or the theology of the end, but a kind of training in patient and careful thought, through the exploration of poetic repetition and form. Perhaps this patience is a form of the charity, or love, for which 1 Corinthians 13 advocates.
Line number 1

 Critical note

In the manuscript this was originally “straggling,” before a second hand corrected it to “struggling.” The correction scolds the soul for resisting (the inevitability of death); the original, for delaying. I have adopted the latter hand’s correction. Christian, Eardley, and Knight and Wall all follow the corrector and give “struggling”.
Line number 2

 Critical note

“Still” has a double meaning here: either the chicken lies motionless in the egg, or it lies yet, it remains. The first perhaps implies that the chicken, before it is born, has not started moving; the second instills the yet-unborn chicken with more potential (it is still in the egg, but will one day break out). Which of the two meanings of “still” one understands will carry forward to the next lines as well: does the corpse lie motionless within the tomb, or does it yet lie in the tomb? Lines 11–15 suggest that the meaning of “still” as “yet” may be intended: the corpse still lies in the tomb, though one day it will rise.
Line number 4

 Critical note

This image potentially works differently than the others: the corpse lying still within a tomb suggests, perhaps, an ending rather than a beginning.
Line number 5

 Critical note

The word “cause” here perhaps refers to the Aristotelian material cause, or matter: the potential for the flower sleeps in the matter that will eventually become that flower, as the potential for the chicken sleeps in the matter of the egg (see also Christian, 207n480). These lines are an echo of Pulter’s earlier poem Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “Those glorious flowers … / … hang their heads and weep / ’Cause in their causes they so soon must sleep. / So man to his first principles must turn …” (ll. 11, 13–15). In this earlier poem, where “cause” is a repeated word, it is clear that causes represent both potential as well as a dissolution of matter back into “first principles” or atoms.
Line number 9

 Gloss note

i.e., though for now you, the soul, are still stuck in a body
Line number 14

 Critical note

These lines gesture to the Resurrection, in which bodies will re-form and be reunited with their souls to face the Final Judgment.
Line number 16

 Critical note

The manuscript originally read, “And,” and a second hand crossed out “And” and replaced it with “then.” The choice is significant: “and” implies that the soul’s flight will follow naturally with these other natural and supernatural occurrences (a chicken will emerge from an egg, a flower will bloom; the body will resurrect, the soul will travel beyond the sky), while “then” suggests that these natural and supernatural occurrences are perhaps either temporally or even causally linked: at the moment that these things happen, then the soul will rest in everlasting life and light. The editorial tradition is divided on this correction: Christian gives “then”; Eardley, “And”; Knight and Wall, “Then”.
Line number 19

 Critical note

The triplet, adding a third rhyme to the poem’s usual couplets, perhaps emphasizes the beyond of the soul’s future flight.
Line number 20

 Gloss note

The Earth is here imagined as being made up not of earth but of dung.
Line number 22

 Critical note

The speaker here asks her soul to return even after its flight to “everlasting life and light,” thereby creating an interesting question about what or who the “me” is that is speaking the poem (the body? What remains of the speaker without a soul?).
Line number 25

 Critical note

Jog or nudge me awake, and tell me the trumpets of the Last Judgment are sounding. For the sounding of the trumpets see the Book of Revelations, chapters 8–10 (see also Eardley, 382).
Line number 29

 Critical note

i.e., Then all the small annoyances of the past shall be absorbed into infinite joy. See also the poem immediately after Poem 39 in the manuscript, My Soul: Why Art Thou Full of Trouble? [Poem 40], ll. 38–40: “And all my past annoys / Shall swallowed be of infinite glory / And crowned with endless joys.” In both lines, the “of” seems to mean either “by” or “in.” I have added a colon at the end of this couplet, with the presumption that what follows is a list of the joys they can expect.
Line number 31

 Critical note

In early alchemical terms, to sublime was to purify a substance, perhaps by converting it to a vapor; to calcine was to burn to ashes, “to reduce a mineral or metal to its purest or most refined residuum by driving off or consuming all the more volatile and perishable constituents” (OED, s.v. “sublime, v.,” “calcine, v.”). On Pulter’s alchemy, see Jayne Archer, “‘A Perfect Circle?’: Alchemy in the Poetry of Hester Pulter,” Literature Compass 2 (December 2005): 1–14.
Line number 33

 Critical note

Though I have modernized as “a maze,” the manuscript may in fact read “amaze”; Christian transcribes it as one word, while Eardley and Knight and Wall give it as two. These two mean roughly the same thing—we live in a state of amazement—but “a maze” adds a second layer of meaning: we don’t just live in amazement under the “orbs of wonder,” wondering at the orbs and their motions; the motions of the stars and planets is like a maze, something potentially to be solved, not just wondered at.
Line number 34

 Critical note

In astrology, the planet Saturn frequently represented melancholy. See Alice Eardley, “‘Saturn (whose aspects soe sads my soule)’: Lady Hester Pulter’s Feminine Melancholic Genius,” in New Ways of Looking at Old Texts, IV: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 2002–2006, ed. Michael Denbo (Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, 2008), 239–54.
Line number 37

 Critical note

As Knight and Wall note, the manuscript’s “Monarchies” could be modernized as either “monarchy’s” or “monarchies’”: why the conjunction of the planets could predict the overthrow of one or many monarchies. I have chosen the plural, as the more apocalyptic in this generally apocalyptic poem. Eardley also gives “monarchies’” while Knight and Wall give “monarchy’s”. In the manuscript, line 36 ends in a comma, perhaps suggesting a third way of reading the couplet: if “foreshow” and “overthrow” are parallel verbs both subordinated to “why,” these lines could ask not just why the conjunctions of the planets could be predictive, but also why or how the conjunction of planets could overthrow monarchies—with the conjunctions not just predicting but causing the overthrow of monarchies.
Line number 39

 Gloss note

“Sol” is the sun; the speaker wonders how “he” moves so quickly across the sky. These lines, which suggest that the sun moves, seem to be contradicted in lines 47–51.
Line number 42

 Gloss note

“Cynthia” is the moon, who is also the mythological goddess of chastity and the hunt; the speaker seeks the causes of the changing phases of the moon.
Line number 43

 Gloss note

Eardley states that “Hesperus” and “Vesperus” (now usually “Vesper”) were two names for the planet Venus, the former a corruption of the ancient Greek “Eosphorus” or morning star for when Venus appeared in the orient or the east, and the latter the name of the evening star when it appeared in the west (382). The speaker superficially wonders why one planet should have two names, or perhaps wonders, with the phrase “be made,” whether the change of name remakes the planet itself.
Line number 46

 Critical note

Eardley connects ethereal fire to Paracelsian philosophy (137n672), from whence it spread as well to alchemical, neo-Platonic, and other branches of philosophy. See, e.g., Joseph Du Chesne, The practice of chymicall, and hermeticall physicke, for the preseruation of heath (London, 1605), sig. P3r–v: “an ethereal fire … is neither hot nor drie, not consuming like the Elementarie fyre, but is a certaine Celestial fyre, … a fyre, I say, contempered, ful of life …”
Line number 50

 Critical note

Interestingly, the choice in these lines is a minor one; it seems to be between simple heliocentrism and Copernican heliocentrism: either the terrene globe (the Earth) turns around the sun, which is the “center unto all,” or the Earth has a treble motion (in that it spins on its axis, revolves around the sun, and “shifts on its own axis”)—and therefore operates according to Copernican astronomy (Christian, 209n486; see also Eardley, 381). On Pulter’s heliocentrism as potentially Galilean, see Hutton, 5.
Line number 55

 Critical note

This couplet initiates the final movement of the poem, in which the long catalog of her extra-terrestrial research program is reduced to insignificance, all her questions being mere “toys” or trifling questions. The interjection “ay me!” in line 57 further adds an affective dimension not necessarily present in earlier lines, helping to signal the change in direction that this final section offers.
Line number 59

 Critical note

As other editors have noted, these lines are a clear reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glasse, darkely: but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know euen as also I am knowen” (sig. R1v). There is some ambiguity in this line’s use of passive voice: we will know the eternal essence (God) even as we are known—but by whom? It could mean that we will know God in the same way he knows us (completely), or it could mean that we will know God even as we are known by ourselves, even as we know ourselves—which, then, could be either completely, or incompletely. Does this poem climax with a vision of total, godlike, divine knowledge, or with a worry that the injunction to “know thyself” may, if not fully realized, cause an impartial knowledge of God’s eternal essence? How does this fantasy hold up to the claim of 1 Corinthians 13 that knowledge without love or charity is necessarily partial?
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition
Amplified Edition

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The perfection of Patience and Knowledg
The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge
The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge
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.

— Liza Blake
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.

— Liza Blake
Poem 39 has some interesting choices for the editor and readers, both because of the particularities of the manuscript (there are two corrections that have a significant effect on the meaning of the lines around them), and because of the choices required by modernization. Because this is a poem about the quest for (and joys of) knowledge (see the Headnote for this amplified edition), I took these decisions as an editorial challenge: how can we know what the final version of this poem is meant be? How would we translate the poem’s fantasy of total knowledge to editorial fantasies of mastery?
The poem’s answer, of course, is that in our world, this fantasy of knowledge is just that: a fantasy. I have therefore made editorial choices where I see fit, but have also created “ghost” visualizations of what other interesting options there are, not burying these choices in a textual apparatus or in notes only, but keeping them on the page for readers to see and consider.
Critical Note
1. For a project exploring the ways digital forms might help us visualize variants, see Alan Galey’s “Visualizing Variation” project.
1
Those ghost options appear in grey above the choice that replaced them, but, like the poem reminds us, even the most still and motionless buried corpses will not always stay buried: “The sleeping dust will rise and speak” (l. 13). I explain my choices and what is at stake in those editorial decisions in footnotes. In a poem about knowledge, it is best to have as much information as possible, so my notes also include information about the choices made in previous editions, which are cited in the following abbreviated forms:
Christian: an old-spelling annotated dissertation edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012).
Eardley: a modernized and annotated edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley (Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014).
Knight and Wall: a modernized and annotated “Elemental Edition” of Poem 39: Hester Pulter, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge,” ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project.
Quotations from other Pulter poems are from Eardley’s edition, and are cited by line number. In addition, any Biblical quotations are from the King James Bible of 1611 (The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New / newly translated out of the originall tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and reuised, by His Maiesties speciall comandement; appointed to be read in churches [London: by Robert Barker, printer to the Kings most Excellent Maiestie, 1611]), and are cited by chapter and verse. Biblical quotations in the headnote above come from this text, but have been modernized for ease of comparison.
Throughout, I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online (hereafter OED) headwords; for example, since “embryon” exists as a headword in the OED, I have not modernized it to “embryo.” I have also expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. For example, I expanded “sublim’d” into “sublimed,” as a modern reader would naturally read that word with two syllables. In instances where a final “ed” in the manuscript seems to suggest an additional syllable, I have modernized as “èd” (for example, the manuscript’s “Loathed,” pronounced with two syllables for metrical purposes, became modernized as “loathèd”). I have also modernized punctuation, particularly attempting, in the process, to call attention to the structure of the poem’s argument, though all parentheses in the poem are from the manuscript. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences, provide references to echoes in Pulter’s and other works, and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities.


— Liza Blake
How is an embryo like a corpse? Both are models, in womb or tomb, of patience with cramped quarters—not a quality Pulter herself apparently possessed, since she often rails against her own sequestered state. In tetrameter lines by turns terse and lively, the speaker here alternately lambastes her soul for seeking freedom from this world and offers encouraging analogies of the eventual freeing of other beings once impeded by material bonds. She then envisions her soul’s flight to its celestial place of birth after her own bodily death. Although the pep-talk might work for the soul, it seems to worry the speaker, who seeks assurance that her soul will return to escort her to heaven (somewhat hilariously, she fears sleeping through the trumpeting of the Last Judgment). This reunion of speaker and soul is identified with their mutual perfection, in which their knowledge of worldly mysteries grows clear: transforming griefs to joys, elucidating everything from astronomy to politics, and reuniting them with both friends and a reciprocated knowledge of “[t]he eternal essence.”

— Liza Blake
At first glance, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge” seems to be an extended riff on 1 Corinthians 13:12. Where the Biblical text says, “now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known,” the poem concludes with the fantasy that after the Last Judgment, “we shall know (without which all is none) / The eternal essence, even as we are known” (ll. 58–59). What kind of knowledge, exactly, is promised in these lines is a question throughout the poem. After her soul “jogs” her awake for the Final Judgment, they (the speaker of the poem and her soul) will be refined, while the rest of the world is burned to ashes; “then we shall know” (l. 32), she promises to her soul, a variety of things, from astrology to astronomy to alchemy. The poem imaginatively inhabits the moment of the Last Judgment not in order to think about sin or salvation, but to indulge in the fantasy of total knowledge.
However, the poem also challenges its own fantasy of achieving scientific knowledge: the knowledge of scientific fields gestured to in lines 30–53 seems to be different from the knowledge of the “eternal essence” promised by line 59, or even the love or charity that is the core subject of 1 Corinthians 13.
Critical Note
See the curation Reading (and Transforming) Biblical Sources for a full transcription of 1 Corinthians 13, to put Pulter’s reading in its Biblical context.
1
Indeed, Pulter claims in line 55 that the ultimate knowledge of God will make the cosmological research questions of the poem’s middle “prove toys” (l. 55). Against the ending, Sarah Hutton has argued that the poem is entirely invested in the scientific questions of its own middle: “The anticipated re-union with the divine after death, hardly figures in the main body of the poem—not until the last line. The knowledge described in the poem is entirely secular, specifically cosmological.”
Critical Note
Sara Hutton, “Hester Pulter (c. 1596–1678). A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Epistémè 14 (2008), 10.
2
How you understand the poem’s sudden turn away from astronomy to the divine knowledge offered by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians radically changes your sense of the ultimate argument of the poem. In 1 Corinthians we are told that “whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part …” (1 Corinthians 13:8–9). Is this a poem about scientific knowledge, or about forsaking the partial knowledge offered by worldly things for the more perfect knowledge (and love) of God?
Or is it about something else? The poem starts, after all, in a totally different place again: with an exhortation to her soul to wait more patiently for the death of the body, and a reflection on the natural physical dissolution of all matter. The three disjunctive parts of the poem—on the soul’s relationship to the body and resurrection (ll. 1–29); on scientific knowledges (ll. 30–53); on the knowledge of God (ll. 54–59)—are set up for the reader as a kind of puzzle, “a maze we now live under” (l. 33) that both astounds us (“a maze” could mean a sense of amazement),
Critical Note
OED, s.v. “maze, n.” For a comparable reading of Donne’s disjunctive poetic methods, see Liza Blake, “Lyric and Scientific Epistemologies: Bacon and Donne,” in Gathering Force: Early Modern British Literature in Transition, 1557–1623, volume I, ed. Kristen Poole and Lauren Shohet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019): 171–83, esp. 177–83.
3
and invites us to solve its structure. The poem demands, with these elaborate turns of thought, that we read across and connect all three parts, partly through repetition and careful balancing of images. The first part begins by training you to watch for such patterns, listing four instances of matter in its potential (the unhatched egg; the unborn embryo) and then in its actualization (the chirping bird, the infant freed from the womb). But the repetitions stretch across sections as well: the “sleeping dust” of the corpse (l. 12) piles into the “dunghill globe of earth” (l. 20) that the soul escapes, only to return as the “orbs of wonder” (l. 32) in the second part. Those orbs of wonder that receive so much attention in the second part are themselves both actual globes (perhaps also dunghills, upon closer inspection), and mythological and astrological figures.
Perhaps the answer to all these repetitions, and to the questions the poem raises about its own hybridity, is patience. Despite the fact that the poem has received most attention for its scientific middle, the poem is not called just “The Perfection of Knowledge,” but “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge”; the poem asks you to sit with it, to contemplate it, to go back and re-read as images and even words change meaning with each repetition and in different contexts (surely the “know” of line 32 cannot mean the same thing as the “know” of line 56, which is different again than the one in line 68). Perhaps the knowledge at stake is not just the science of the middle, or the theology of the end, but a kind of training in patient and careful thought, through the exploration of poetic repetition and form. Perhaps this patience is a form of the charity, or love, for which 1 Corinthians 13 advocates.


— Liza Blake
1
My Soul, in
Physical Note
“a” blotted and crossed with vertical line; “u” in different hand from main scribe
Straugling
thou dost Ill,
My soul: in struggling thou dost ill!
My soul, in
Critical Note
In the manuscript this was originally “straggling,” before a second hand corrected it to “struggling.” The correction scolds the soul for resisting (the inevitability of death); the original, for delaying. I have adopted the latter hand’s correction. Christian, Eardley, and Knight and Wall all follow the corrector and give “struggling”.
struggling straggling
thou dost ill.
2
The Chicken in the Shell lies Still:
The chicken in the shell lies still;
The chicken in the shell lies
Critical Note
“Still” has a double meaning here: either the chicken lies motionless in the egg, or it lies yet, it remains. The first perhaps implies that the chicken, before it is born, has not started moving; the second instills the yet-unborn chicken with more potential (it is still in the egg, but will one day break out). Which of the two meanings of “still” one understands will carry forward to the next lines as well: does the corpse lie motionless within the tomb, or does it yet lie in the tomb? Lines 11–15 suggest that the meaning of “still” as “yet” may be intended: the corpse still lies in the tomb, though one day it will rise.
still
;
3
Soe doth the
Physical Note
“y” in darker ink over an “i”; “on” also in darker ink
Embryon
in the Womb,
So doth the embryo in the womb;
So doth the embryon in the womb;
4
Soe doth the Corps, within the Tomb,
So doth the corpse within the tomb;
So doth the
Critical Note
This image potentially works differently than the others: the corpse lying still within a tomb suggests, perhaps, an ending rather than a beginning.
corpse within the tomb
;
5
Soe doth the fflower, Sleep in its Cauſe,
Gloss Note
the flower dies into the earth, its place and material of origin
So doth the flower sleep in its cause
So doth the flower sleep in its
Critical Note
The word “cause” here perhaps refers to the Aristotelian material cause, or matter: the potential for the flower sleeps in the matter that will eventually become that flower, as the potential for the chicken sleeps in the matter of the egg (see also Christian, 207n480). These lines are an echo of Pulter’s earlier poem Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “Those glorious flowers … / … hang their heads and weep / ’Cause in their causes they so soon must sleep. / So man to his first principles must turn …” (ll. 11, 13–15). In this earlier poem, where “cause” is a repeated word, it is clear that causes represent both potential as well as a dissolution of matter back into “first principles” or atoms.
cause
6
Obedient all to Natures Laws.
Obedient, all, to nature’s laws.
Obedient all to Nature’s laws.
7
But tho’ art Still Striving to bee free,
But
Gloss Note
thou art
thou’rt
still striving to be free,
But thou’rt still striving to be free,
8
As if none were in Bonds but thee.
As if none were in bonds but thee.
As if none were in bonds but thee.
9
Though for A time thourt cloath’d w:th Earth:
Though for a time thou’rt clothed with earth,
Though for a time thou’rt
Gloss Note
i.e., though for now you, the soul, are still stuck in a body
clothed with earth
,
10
Er’e long thoult have a happy Birth.
Gloss Note
before
Ere
long
Gloss Note
thou wilt
thou’lt
have a happy birth.
Ere long thou’lt have a happy birth.
11
The Chirping Bird will Break its Shell,
The chirping bird will break its shell;
The chirping bird will break its shell;
12
The Infant Leave it’s Loathed Cell;
The infant leave its loathed cell;
The infant leave its loathèd cell;
13
The Sleeping Dust will rise and Speake,
The sleeping dust will rise and speak,
The sleeping dust will rise and speak,
14
And will her Marble priſon Break:
And will her
Gloss Note
the dust or ashes of the corpse (l.4) will be freed from its tomb
marble prison break
;
And will her
Critical Note
These lines gesture to the Resurrection, in which bodies will re-form and be reunited with their souls to face the Final Judgment.
marble prison break
;
15
The fflower her bevty will diſplay;
The flower her beauty will display;
The flower her beauty will display—
16
Physical Note
“then” in different hand from main scribe
Andthen
my infranchiſed Soul, away
Then, my
Gloss Note
freed from confinement or subjection
enfranchised
soul, away
Critical Note
The manuscript originally read, “And,” and a second hand crossed out “And” and replaced it with “then.” The choice is significant: “and” implies that the soul’s flight will follow naturally with these other natural and supernatural occurrences (a chicken will emerge from an egg, a flower will bloom; the body will resurrect, the soul will travel beyond the sky), while “then” suggests that these natural and supernatural occurrences are perhaps either temporally or even causally linked: at the moment that these things happen, then the soul will rest in everlasting life and light. The editorial tradition is divided on this correction: Christian gives “then”; Eardley, “And”; Knight and Wall, “Then”.
Then And
my enfranchised soul, away
17
Beyond the Skie, will take her flieght,
Beyond the sky will take her flight,
Beyond the sky, will take her flight,
18
And rest aboue the Spheirs of Night;
And rest above the
Gloss Note
concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars)
spheres of night
,
And rest above the spheres of night
19
In everlasting Life And Light.
In everlasting life and light.
In everlasting life and
Critical Note
The triplet, adding a third rhyme to the poem’s usual couplets, perhaps emphasizes the beyond of the soul’s future flight.
light
.
Scorning

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20
Scorning this Dunghill, Globe of Earth:
Scorning this
Gloss Note
pile of excrement
dunghill
globe of earth,
Scorning this
Gloss Note
The Earth is here imagined as being made up not of earth but of dung.
dunghill globe of Earth
,
21
Shee’l goe from whence Shee had her Birth.
She’ll go
Gloss Note
from where
from whence
she had her birth.
She’ll go from whence she had her birth.
22
But (Ô my Soul) once more, Return
But (O my soul) once more, return,
But (O my soul!)
Critical Note
The speaker here asks her soul to return even after its flight to “everlasting life and light,” thereby creating an interesting question about what or who the “me” is that is speaking the poem (the body? What remains of the speaker without a soul?).
once more return
,
23
And call mee in my Silent Urn.
And call me in my silent urn.
And call me in my silent urn.
24
But
Physical Note
crowded into space between the surrounding words
if
a Sleep I then am found,
But if asleep I then am found,
But if asleep I then am found,
25
Jog mee, and Say the Trump doth Sound.
Gloss Note
rouse; shake
Jog
me, and say
Critical Note
trumpet of Last Judgment; Revelation 8-11.
the trump doth sound
.
Critical Note
Jog or nudge me awake, and tell me the trumpets of the Last Judgment are sounding. For the sounding of the trumpets see the Book of Revelations, chapters 8–10 (see also Eardley, 382).
Jog me, and say the trump doth sound
;
26
Then will I riſe and fly away,
Then will I rise and fly away
Then will I rise and fly away
27
With thee to everlasting Day:
With thee to everlasting day;
With thee, to everlasting day.
28
Then Shall our griefe and past annoys,
Then shall our grief and past annoys,
Then shall our grief and past annoys
29
Bee Swallowed up of infinite Joys;
Be swallowed up
Gloss Note
by or in
of
infinite joys;
Critical Note
i.e., Then all the small annoyances of the past shall be absorbed into infinite joy. See also the poem immediately after Poem 39 in the manuscript, My Soul: Why Art Thou Full of Trouble? [Poem 40], ll. 38–40: “And all my past annoys / Shall swallowed be of infinite glory / And crowned with endless joys.” In both lines, the “of” seems to mean either “by” or “in.” I have added a colon at the end of this couplet, with the presumption that what follows is a list of the joys they can expect.
Be swallowed up of infinite joys
:
30
Then beeing perfect and Sublim’d,
Then, being perfect and
Gloss Note
purified; elevated morally or spiritually; chemically distilled
sublimed
,
Then being perfect and sublimed,
31
Wee Shall diſcern this Globe Calcin’d:
We shall discern this globe
Gloss Note
burnt to ash; purified
calcined
:
We shall discern this globe
Critical Note
In early alchemical terms, to sublime was to purify a substance, perhaps by converting it to a vapor; to calcine was to burn to ashes, “to reduce a mineral or metal to its purest or most refined residuum by driving off or consuming all the more volatile and perishable constituents” (OED, s.v. “sublime, v.,” “calcine, v.”). On Pulter’s alchemy, see Jayne Archer, “‘A Perfect Circle?’: Alchemy in the Poetry of Hester Pulter,” Literature Compass 2 (December 2005): 1–14.
calcined
;
32
Then Shall wee know theſe Orbs of Wonder,
Then shall we know these
Critical Note
the “spheres of night” of l.18; and/or the heavenly bodies themselves
orbs of wonder
,
Then shall we know these orbs of wonder,
33
Which in a maze wee now live under.
Which
Gloss Note
or, possibly, “amaze”: in confusion, terror, wonder
in a maze
we now live under.
Which in
Critical Note
Though I have modernized as “a maze,” the manuscript may in fact read “amaze”; Christian transcribes it as one word, while Eardley and Knight and Wall give it as two. These two mean roughly the same thing—we live in a state of amazement—but “a maze” adds a second layer of meaning: we don’t just live in amazement under the “orbs of wonder,” wondering at the orbs and their motions; the motions of the stars and planets is like a maze, something potentially to be solved, not just wondered at.
a maze amaze
we now live under;
34
And why Sad Saturns heavie eye,
And why sad
Gloss Note
the planet Saturn was understood in astrology to have a baleful influence
Saturn’s heavy eye
And why
Critical Note
In astrology, the planet Saturn frequently represented melancholy. See Alice Eardley, “‘Saturn (whose aspects soe sads my soule)’: Lady Hester Pulter’s Feminine Melancholic Genius,” in New Ways of Looking at Old Texts, IV: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 2002–2006, ed. Michael Denbo (Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, 2008), 239–54.
sad Saturn’s heavy eye
35
ffrowns on mee with Malignancie.
Frowns on me with malignancy;
Frowns on me with malignancy;
36
And why Conjunctions Should foreshew,
And why
Gloss Note
alignment of celestial bodies
conjunctions
should foreshew,
And why conjunctions should foreshow
37
Som mighty Monarchies overthrow.
Some mighty
Physical Note
possibly plural, since spelled “Monarchies” in manuscript
monarchy’s
overthrow;
Some mighty
Critical Note
As Knight and Wall note, the manuscript’s “Monarchies” could be modernized as either “monarchy’s” or “monarchies’”: why the conjunction of the planets could predict the overthrow of one or many monarchies. I have chosen the plural, as the more apocalyptic in this generally apocalyptic poem. Eardley also gives “monarchies’” while Knight and Wall give “monarchy’s”. In the manuscript, line 36 ends in a comma, perhaps suggesting a third way of reading the couplet: if “foreshow” and “overthrow” are parallel verbs both subordinated to “why,” these lines could ask not just why the conjunctions of the planets could be predictive, but also why or how the conjunction of planets could overthrow monarchies—with the conjunctions not just predicting but causing the overthrow of monarchies.
monarchies’ monarchy’s, monarchies
overthrow;
38
And by what (Swift and infinite) Power,
And by what (swift and infinite) power
And by what (swift and infinite) power
39
Sol runs Three Hundred Miles an Hower.
Gloss Note
the sun
Sol
runs three hundred miles an hour.
Gloss Note
“Sol” is the sun; the speaker wonders how “he” moves so quickly across the sky. These lines, which suggest that the sun moves, seem to be contradicted in lines 47–51.
Sol runs three hundred miles an hour
;
40
And Why pale Cinthia, doth Soe change
And why pale
Gloss Note
moon (goddess)
Cynthia
doth so change
And why pale Cynthia doth so change
41
Her Lovly face, as Shee doth Range
Her lovely face as she doth range
Her lovely face as she doth range
all

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42
All Night, a Hunting in the Shade,
All night,
Gloss Note
the classical moon goddess was often represented as a hunter
a-hunting
in the shade;
Gloss Note
“Cynthia” is the moon, who is also the mythological goddess of chastity and the hunt; the speaker seeks the causes of the changing phases of the moon.
All night, a-hunting in the shade
;
43
And how fair Venus, can bee made
And how fair
Gloss Note
second planet from the sun, identified with the morning star (in the “orient” or east) and evening star (in the “occident” or west); both Hesper or Hesperus and Vesper are epithets for the evening star
Venus
can be made
And how fair
Gloss Note
Eardley states that “Hesperus” and “Vesperus” (now usually “Vesper”) were two names for the planet Venus, the former a corruption of the ancient Greek “Eosphorus” or morning star for when Venus appeared in the orient or the east, and the latter the name of the evening star when it appeared in the west (382). The speaker superficially wonders why one planet should have two names, or perhaps wonders, with the phrase “be made,” whether the change of name remakes the planet itself.
Venus can be made
44
Hesperus, in the Orient:
Hesperus, in the orient,
Hesperus in the orient,
45
And Veſperus, in the Occident.
And Vesperus, in the occident;
And Vesperus in the occident;
46
Or whether Etheriall ffier doth Burn,
Or
Critical Note
Paracelsus identified “ethereal fire” as a life force circulating from heaven to earthly beings (Eardley).
whether ethereal fire doth burn
,
Or whether
Critical Note
Eardley connects ethereal fire to Paracelsian philosophy (137n672), from whence it spread as well to alchemical, neo-Platonic, and other branches of philosophy. See, e.g., Joseph Du Chesne, The practice of chymicall, and hermeticall physicke, for the preseruation of heath (London, 1605), sig. P3r–v: “an ethereal fire … is neither hot nor drie, not consuming like the Elementarie fyre, but is a certaine Celestial fyre, … a fyre, I say, contempered, ful of life …”
ethereal fire doth burn
;
47
Or that this Terren Globe, doth turn,
Or that this
Gloss Note
earthly
terrene
globe doth turn,
Or that this terrene globe doth turn,
48
The Sun beeing Center Unto all,
The sun being center unto all,
The sun being center unto all—
49
And that hee ne’re doth riſe or fall,
And that
Gloss Note
the sun
he
ne’er doth rise or fall;
And that he ne’er doth rise or fall—
50
Or whether they have a treble Motion,
Or whether they have
Gloss Note
early modern astronomer Copernicus proposed a three-fold motion of the earth, a theory which controversially reversed ancient ideas
a treble motion
,
Critical Note
Interestingly, the choice in these lines is a minor one; it seems to be between simple heliocentrism and Copernican heliocentrism: either the terrene globe (the Earth) turns around the sun, which is the “center unto all,” or the Earth has a treble motion (in that it spins on its axis, revolves around the sun, and “shifts on its own axis”)—and therefore operates according to Copernican astronomy (Christian, 209n486; see also Eardley, 381). On Pulter’s heliocentrism as potentially Galilean, see Hutton, 5.
Or whether they have a treble motion
,
51
Of which wee have Soe Smale a Notion.
Of which we have so small a notion.
Of which we have so small a notion.
52
All this (and more) wee then Shall know,
All this (and more) we then shall know,
All this (and more) we then shall know,
53
Which are Such wonders here below.
Which are such wonders here below.
Which are such wonders here below.
54
But which will most increaſe our Joys,
But which will most increase our joys
But which will most increase our joys
55
(Compard with which, theſe will prove toys,)
(Compared with which, these will prove
Gloss Note
trifles, whims
toys
):
(Compared with which, these will prove
Critical Note
This couplet initiates the final movement of the poem, in which the long catalog of her extra-terrestrial research program is reduced to insignificance, all her questions being mere “toys” or trifling questions. The interjection “ay me!” in line 57 further adds an affective dimension not necessarily present in earlier lines, helping to signal the change in direction that this final section offers.
toys
),
56
Our unknown freinds wee then Shall know,
Our unknown friends we then shall know,
Our unknown friends we then shall know,
57
Even thoſe (aye mee) wee lost below.
Even those (aye me) we lost below.
Even those (ay me!) we lost below.
58
Nay wee Shall know (without which all is none)
Nay, we shall know (without which all is none)
Nay, we shall know (without which all is none)
59
The Eternall Eſſence, even as wee are
Physical Note
Last quarter of page is blank, barring what may be a stray pen mark resembling the numeral “2” in the left margin near the bottom.
Known
.
The eternal essence, even as we are known.
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, these lines are a clear reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glasse, darkely: but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know euen as also I am knowen” (sig. R1v). There is some ambiguity in this line’s use of passive voice: we will know the eternal essence (God) even as we are known—but by whom? It could mean that we will know God in the same way he knows us (completely), or it could mean that we will know God even as we are known by ourselves, even as we know ourselves—which, then, could be either completely, or incompletely. Does this poem climax with a vision of total, godlike, divine knowledge, or with a worry that the injunction to “know thyself” may, if not fully realized, cause an impartial knowledge of God’s eternal essence? How does this fantasy hold up to the claim of 1 Corinthians 13 that knowledge without love or charity is necessarily partial?
The eternal essence, even as we are known
.
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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

Poem 39 has some interesting choices for the editor and readers, both because of the particularities of the manuscript (there are two corrections that have a significant effect on the meaning of the lines around them), and because of the choices required by modernization. Because this is a poem about the quest for (and joys of) knowledge (see the Headnote for this amplified edition), I took these decisions as an editorial challenge: how can we know what the final version of this poem is meant be? How would we translate the poem’s fantasy of total knowledge to editorial fantasies of mastery?
The poem’s answer, of course, is that in our world, this fantasy of knowledge is just that: a fantasy. I have therefore made editorial choices where I see fit, but have also created “ghost” visualizations of what other interesting options there are, not burying these choices in a textual apparatus or in notes only, but keeping them on the page for readers to see and consider.
Critical Note
1. For a project exploring the ways digital forms might help us visualize variants, see Alan Galey’s “Visualizing Variation” project.
1
Those ghost options appear in grey above the choice that replaced them, but, like the poem reminds us, even the most still and motionless buried corpses will not always stay buried: “The sleeping dust will rise and speak” (l. 13). I explain my choices and what is at stake in those editorial decisions in footnotes. In a poem about knowledge, it is best to have as much information as possible, so my notes also include information about the choices made in previous editions, which are cited in the following abbreviated forms:
Christian: an old-spelling annotated dissertation edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012).
Eardley: a modernized and annotated edition of Pulter’s poems: Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley (Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014).
Knight and Wall: a modernized and annotated “Elemental Edition” of Poem 39: Hester Pulter, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge,” ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project.
Quotations from other Pulter poems are from Eardley’s edition, and are cited by line number. In addition, any Biblical quotations are from the King James Bible of 1611 (The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New / newly translated out of the originall tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and reuised, by His Maiesties speciall comandement; appointed to be read in churches [London: by Robert Barker, printer to the Kings most Excellent Maiestie, 1611]), and are cited by chapter and verse. Biblical quotations in the headnote above come from this text, but have been modernized for ease of comparison.
Throughout, I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online (hereafter OED) headwords; for example, since “embryon” exists as a headword in the OED, I have not modernized it to “embryo.” I have also expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. For example, I expanded “sublim’d” into “sublimed,” as a modern reader would naturally read that word with two syllables. In instances where a final “ed” in the manuscript seems to suggest an additional syllable, I have modernized as “èd” (for example, the manuscript’s “Loathed,” pronounced with two syllables for metrical purposes, became modernized as “loathèd”). I have also modernized punctuation, particularly attempting, in the process, to call attention to the structure of the poem’s argument, though all parentheses in the poem are from the manuscript. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences, provide references to echoes in Pulter’s and other works, and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

How is an embryo like a corpse? Both are models, in womb or tomb, of patience with cramped quarters—not a quality Pulter herself apparently possessed, since she often rails against her own sequestered state. In tetrameter lines by turns terse and lively, the speaker here alternately lambastes her soul for seeking freedom from this world and offers encouraging analogies of the eventual freeing of other beings once impeded by material bonds. She then envisions her soul’s flight to its celestial place of birth after her own bodily death. Although the pep-talk might work for the soul, it seems to worry the speaker, who seeks assurance that her soul will return to escort her to heaven (somewhat hilariously, she fears sleeping through the trumpeting of the Last Judgment). This reunion of speaker and soul is identified with their mutual perfection, in which their knowledge of worldly mysteries grows clear: transforming griefs to joys, elucidating everything from astronomy to politics, and reuniting them with both friends and a reciprocated knowledge of “[t]he eternal essence.”
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

At first glance, “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge” seems to be an extended riff on 1 Corinthians 13:12. Where the Biblical text says, “now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known,” the poem concludes with the fantasy that after the Last Judgment, “we shall know (without which all is none) / The eternal essence, even as we are known” (ll. 58–59). What kind of knowledge, exactly, is promised in these lines is a question throughout the poem. After her soul “jogs” her awake for the Final Judgment, they (the speaker of the poem and her soul) will be refined, while the rest of the world is burned to ashes; “then we shall know” (l. 32), she promises to her soul, a variety of things, from astrology to astronomy to alchemy. The poem imaginatively inhabits the moment of the Last Judgment not in order to think about sin or salvation, but to indulge in the fantasy of total knowledge.
However, the poem also challenges its own fantasy of achieving scientific knowledge: the knowledge of scientific fields gestured to in lines 30–53 seems to be different from the knowledge of the “eternal essence” promised by line 59, or even the love or charity that is the core subject of 1 Corinthians 13.
Critical Note
See the curation Reading (and Transforming) Biblical Sources for a full transcription of 1 Corinthians 13, to put Pulter’s reading in its Biblical context.
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Indeed, Pulter claims in line 55 that the ultimate knowledge of God will make the cosmological research questions of the poem’s middle “prove toys” (l. 55). Against the ending, Sarah Hutton has argued that the poem is entirely invested in the scientific questions of its own middle: “The anticipated re-union with the divine after death, hardly figures in the main body of the poem—not until the last line. The knowledge described in the poem is entirely secular, specifically cosmological.”
Critical Note
Sara Hutton, “Hester Pulter (c. 1596–1678). A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Epistémè 14 (2008), 10.
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How you understand the poem’s sudden turn away from astronomy to the divine knowledge offered by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians radically changes your sense of the ultimate argument of the poem. In 1 Corinthians we are told that “whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part …” (1 Corinthians 13:8–9). Is this a poem about scientific knowledge, or about forsaking the partial knowledge offered by worldly things for the more perfect knowledge (and love) of God?
Or is it about something else? The poem starts, after all, in a totally different place again: with an exhortation to her soul to wait more patiently for the death of the body, and a reflection on the natural physical dissolution of all matter. The three disjunctive parts of the poem—on the soul’s relationship to the body and resurrection (ll. 1–29); on scientific knowledges (ll. 30–53); on the knowledge of God (ll. 54–59)—are set up for the reader as a kind of puzzle, “a maze we now live under” (l. 33) that both astounds us (“a maze” could mean a sense of amazement),
Critical Note
OED, s.v. “maze, n.” For a comparable reading of Donne’s disjunctive poetic methods, see Liza Blake, “Lyric and Scientific Epistemologies: Bacon and Donne,” in Gathering Force: Early Modern British Literature in Transition, 1557–1623, volume I, ed. Kristen Poole and Lauren Shohet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019): 171–83, esp. 177–83.
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and invites us to solve its structure. The poem demands, with these elaborate turns of thought, that we read across and connect all three parts, partly through repetition and careful balancing of images. The first part begins by training you to watch for such patterns, listing four instances of matter in its potential (the unhatched egg; the unborn embryo) and then in its actualization (the chirping bird, the infant freed from the womb). But the repetitions stretch across sections as well: the “sleeping dust” of the corpse (l. 12) piles into the “dunghill globe of earth” (l. 20) that the soul escapes, only to return as the “orbs of wonder” (l. 32) in the second part. Those orbs of wonder that receive so much attention in the second part are themselves both actual globes (perhaps also dunghills, upon closer inspection), and mythological and astrological figures.
Perhaps the answer to all these repetitions, and to the questions the poem raises about its own hybridity, is patience. Despite the fact that the poem has received most attention for its scientific middle, the poem is not called just “The Perfection of Knowledge,” but “The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge”; the poem asks you to sit with it, to contemplate it, to go back and re-read as images and even words change meaning with each repetition and in different contexts (surely the “know” of line 32 cannot mean the same thing as the “know” of line 56, which is different again than the one in line 68). Perhaps the knowledge at stake is not just the science of the middle, or the theology of the end, but a kind of training in patient and careful thought, through the exploration of poetic repetition and form. Perhaps this patience is a form of the charity, or love, for which 1 Corinthians 13 advocates.
Transcription
Line number 1

 Physical note

“a” blotted and crossed with vertical line; “u” in different hand from main scribe
Amplified Edition
Line number 1

 Critical note

In the manuscript this was originally “straggling,” before a second hand corrected it to “struggling.” The correction scolds the soul for resisting (the inevitability of death); the original, for delaying. I have adopted the latter hand’s correction. Christian, Eardley, and Knight and Wall all follow the corrector and give “struggling”.
Amplified Edition
Line number 2

 Critical note

“Still” has a double meaning here: either the chicken lies motionless in the egg, or it lies yet, it remains. The first perhaps implies that the chicken, before it is born, has not started moving; the second instills the yet-unborn chicken with more potential (it is still in the egg, but will one day break out). Which of the two meanings of “still” one understands will carry forward to the next lines as well: does the corpse lie motionless within the tomb, or does it yet lie in the tomb? Lines 11–15 suggest that the meaning of “still” as “yet” may be intended: the corpse still lies in the tomb, though one day it will rise.
Transcription
Line number 3

 Physical note

“y” in darker ink over an “i”; “on” also in darker ink
Amplified Edition
Line number 4

 Critical note

This image potentially works differently than the others: the corpse lying still within a tomb suggests, perhaps, an ending rather than a beginning.
Elemental Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

the flower dies into the earth, its place and material of origin
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Critical note

The word “cause” here perhaps refers to the Aristotelian material cause, or matter: the potential for the flower sleeps in the matter that will eventually become that flower, as the potential for the chicken sleeps in the matter of the egg (see also Christian, 207n480). These lines are an echo of Pulter’s earlier poem Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “Those glorious flowers … / … hang their heads and weep / ’Cause in their causes they so soon must sleep. / So man to his first principles must turn …” (ll. 11, 13–15). In this earlier poem, where “cause” is a repeated word, it is clear that causes represent both potential as well as a dissolution of matter back into “first principles” or atoms.
Elemental Edition
Line number 7

 Gloss note

thou art
Amplified Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

i.e., though for now you, the soul, are still stuck in a body
Elemental Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

before
Elemental Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

thou wilt
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

the dust or ashes of the corpse (l.4) will be freed from its tomb
Amplified Edition
Line number 14

 Critical note

These lines gesture to the Resurrection, in which bodies will re-form and be reunited with their souls to face the Final Judgment.
Transcription
Line number 16

 Physical note

“then” in different hand from main scribe
Elemental Edition
Line number 16

 Gloss note

freed from confinement or subjection
Amplified Edition
Line number 16

 Critical note

The manuscript originally read, “And,” and a second hand crossed out “And” and replaced it with “then.” The choice is significant: “and” implies that the soul’s flight will follow naturally with these other natural and supernatural occurrences (a chicken will emerge from an egg, a flower will bloom; the body will resurrect, the soul will travel beyond the sky), while “then” suggests that these natural and supernatural occurrences are perhaps either temporally or even causally linked: at the moment that these things happen, then the soul will rest in everlasting life and light. The editorial tradition is divided on this correction: Christian gives “then”; Eardley, “And”; Knight and Wall, “Then”.
Elemental Edition
Line number 18

 Gloss note

concentric hollow globes imagined in ancient astronomy to revolve around the earth, carrying heavenly bodies (moon, sun, planets, fixed stars)
Amplified Edition
Line number 19

 Critical note

The triplet, adding a third rhyme to the poem’s usual couplets, perhaps emphasizes the beyond of the soul’s future flight.
Elemental Edition
Line number 20

 Gloss note

pile of excrement
Amplified Edition
Line number 20

 Gloss note

The Earth is here imagined as being made up not of earth but of dung.
Elemental Edition
Line number 21

 Gloss note

from where
Amplified Edition
Line number 22

 Critical note

The speaker here asks her soul to return even after its flight to “everlasting life and light,” thereby creating an interesting question about what or who the “me” is that is speaking the poem (the body? What remains of the speaker without a soul?).
Transcription
Line number 24

 Physical note

crowded into space between the surrounding words
Elemental Edition
Line number 25

 Gloss note

rouse; shake
Elemental Edition
Line number 25

 Critical note

trumpet of Last Judgment; Revelation 8-11.
Amplified Edition
Line number 25

 Critical note

Jog or nudge me awake, and tell me the trumpets of the Last Judgment are sounding. For the sounding of the trumpets see the Book of Revelations, chapters 8–10 (see also Eardley, 382).
Elemental Edition
Line number 29

 Gloss note

by or in
Amplified Edition
Line number 29

 Critical note

i.e., Then all the small annoyances of the past shall be absorbed into infinite joy. See also the poem immediately after Poem 39 in the manuscript, My Soul: Why Art Thou Full of Trouble? [Poem 40], ll. 38–40: “And all my past annoys / Shall swallowed be of infinite glory / And crowned with endless joys.” In both lines, the “of” seems to mean either “by” or “in.” I have added a colon at the end of this couplet, with the presumption that what follows is a list of the joys they can expect.
Elemental Edition
Line number 30

 Gloss note

purified; elevated morally or spiritually; chemically distilled
Elemental Edition
Line number 31

 Gloss note

burnt to ash; purified
Amplified Edition
Line number 31

 Critical note

In early alchemical terms, to sublime was to purify a substance, perhaps by converting it to a vapor; to calcine was to burn to ashes, “to reduce a mineral or metal to its purest or most refined residuum by driving off or consuming all the more volatile and perishable constituents” (OED, s.v. “sublime, v.,” “calcine, v.”). On Pulter’s alchemy, see Jayne Archer, “‘A Perfect Circle?’: Alchemy in the Poetry of Hester Pulter,” Literature Compass 2 (December 2005): 1–14.
Elemental Edition
Line number 32

 Critical note

the “spheres of night” of l.18; and/or the heavenly bodies themselves
Elemental Edition
Line number 33

 Gloss note

or, possibly, “amaze”: in confusion, terror, wonder
Amplified Edition
Line number 33

 Critical note

Though I have modernized as “a maze,” the manuscript may in fact read “amaze”; Christian transcribes it as one word, while Eardley and Knight and Wall give it as two. These two mean roughly the same thing—we live in a state of amazement—but “a maze” adds a second layer of meaning: we don’t just live in amazement under the “orbs of wonder,” wondering at the orbs and their motions; the motions of the stars and planets is like a maze, something potentially to be solved, not just wondered at.
Elemental Edition
Line number 34

 Gloss note

the planet Saturn was understood in astrology to have a baleful influence
Amplified Edition
Line number 34

 Critical note

In astrology, the planet Saturn frequently represented melancholy. See Alice Eardley, “‘Saturn (whose aspects soe sads my soule)’: Lady Hester Pulter’s Feminine Melancholic Genius,” in New Ways of Looking at Old Texts, IV: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 2002–2006, ed. Michael Denbo (Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, 2008), 239–54.
Elemental Edition
Line number 36

 Gloss note

alignment of celestial bodies
Elemental Edition
Line number 37

 Physical note

possibly plural, since spelled “Monarchies” in manuscript
Amplified Edition
Line number 37

 Critical note

As Knight and Wall note, the manuscript’s “Monarchies” could be modernized as either “monarchy’s” or “monarchies’”: why the conjunction of the planets could predict the overthrow of one or many monarchies. I have chosen the plural, as the more apocalyptic in this generally apocalyptic poem. Eardley also gives “monarchies’” while Knight and Wall give “monarchy’s”. In the manuscript, line 36 ends in a comma, perhaps suggesting a third way of reading the couplet: if “foreshow” and “overthrow” are parallel verbs both subordinated to “why,” these lines could ask not just why the conjunctions of the planets could be predictive, but also why or how the conjunction of planets could overthrow monarchies—with the conjunctions not just predicting but causing the overthrow of monarchies.
Elemental Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

the sun
Amplified Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

“Sol” is the sun; the speaker wonders how “he” moves so quickly across the sky. These lines, which suggest that the sun moves, seem to be contradicted in lines 47–51.
Elemental Edition
Line number 40

 Gloss note

moon (goddess)
Elemental Edition
Line number 42

 Gloss note

the classical moon goddess was often represented as a hunter
Amplified Edition
Line number 42

 Gloss note

“Cynthia” is the moon, who is also the mythological goddess of chastity and the hunt; the speaker seeks the causes of the changing phases of the moon.
Elemental Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

second planet from the sun, identified with the morning star (in the “orient” or east) and evening star (in the “occident” or west); both Hesper or Hesperus and Vesper are epithets for the evening star
Amplified Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

Eardley states that “Hesperus” and “Vesperus” (now usually “Vesper”) were two names for the planet Venus, the former a corruption of the ancient Greek “Eosphorus” or morning star for when Venus appeared in the orient or the east, and the latter the name of the evening star when it appeared in the west (382). The speaker superficially wonders why one planet should have two names, or perhaps wonders, with the phrase “be made,” whether the change of name remakes the planet itself.
Elemental Edition
Line number 46

 Critical note

Paracelsus identified “ethereal fire” as a life force circulating from heaven to earthly beings (Eardley).
Amplified Edition
Line number 46

 Critical note

Eardley connects ethereal fire to Paracelsian philosophy (137n672), from whence it spread as well to alchemical, neo-Platonic, and other branches of philosophy. See, e.g., Joseph Du Chesne, The practice of chymicall, and hermeticall physicke, for the preseruation of heath (London, 1605), sig. P3r–v: “an ethereal fire … is neither hot nor drie, not consuming like the Elementarie fyre, but is a certaine Celestial fyre, … a fyre, I say, contempered, ful of life …”
Elemental Edition
Line number 47

 Gloss note

earthly
Elemental Edition
Line number 49

 Gloss note

the sun
Elemental Edition
Line number 50

 Gloss note

early modern astronomer Copernicus proposed a three-fold motion of the earth, a theory which controversially reversed ancient ideas
Amplified Edition
Line number 50

 Critical note

Interestingly, the choice in these lines is a minor one; it seems to be between simple heliocentrism and Copernican heliocentrism: either the terrene globe (the Earth) turns around the sun, which is the “center unto all,” or the Earth has a treble motion (in that it spins on its axis, revolves around the sun, and “shifts on its own axis”)—and therefore operates according to Copernican astronomy (Christian, 209n486; see also Eardley, 381). On Pulter’s heliocentrism as potentially Galilean, see Hutton, 5.
Elemental Edition
Line number 55

 Gloss note

trifles, whims
Amplified Edition
Line number 55

 Critical note

This couplet initiates the final movement of the poem, in which the long catalog of her extra-terrestrial research program is reduced to insignificance, all her questions being mere “toys” or trifling questions. The interjection “ay me!” in line 57 further adds an affective dimension not necessarily present in earlier lines, helping to signal the change in direction that this final section offers.
Transcription
Line number 59

 Physical note

Last quarter of page is blank, barring what may be a stray pen mark resembling the numeral “2” in the left margin near the bottom.
Amplified Edition
Line number 59

 Critical note

As other editors have noted, these lines are a clear reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glasse, darkely: but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know euen as also I am knowen” (sig. R1v). There is some ambiguity in this line’s use of passive voice: we will know the eternal essence (God) even as we are known—but by whom? It could mean that we will know God in the same way he knows us (completely), or it could mean that we will know God even as we are known by ourselves, even as we know ourselves—which, then, could be either completely, or incompletely. Does this poem climax with a vision of total, godlike, divine knowledge, or with a worry that the injunction to “know thyself” may, if not fully realized, cause an impartial knowledge of God’s eternal essence? How does this fantasy hold up to the claim of 1 Corinthians 13 that knowledge without love or charity is necessarily partial?
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