The Snail, the Tulip, and the Bee (Emblem 53)

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The Snail, the Tulip, and the Bee (Emblem 53)

Poem #118

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 Whitney Sperrazza.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

  • Created by Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
  • Encoded by Katherine Poland, Matthew Taylor, Elizabeth Chou, and Emily Andrey, Northwestern University
  • Website designed by Sergei Kalugin, Northwestern University
  • IT project consultation by Josh Honn, Northwestern University
  • Project sponsored by Northwestern University, Brock University, and University of Leeds
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X (Close panel)Notes: Transcription
Title note

 Physical note

Unlike surrounding poems in the “Emblems” section, no number precedes this poem.

 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.

 Headnote

Line number 9

 Physical note

“E” and “e” appear written over earlier “i”s
Line number 13

 Physical note

“t” in different hand from main scribe
Line number 19

 Physical note

insertion in different hand from main scribe
Line number 19

 Physical note

double strike-through
Line number 31

 Physical note

double strike-through
Line number 31

 Physical note

in different hand from main scribe
Line number 51

 Physical note

imperfectly erased ascender follows
Line number 52

 Physical note

remainder of page blank, as is reverse
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Transcription
Transcription

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
Physical Note
Unlike surrounding poems in the “Emblems” section, no number precedes this poem.
[Emblem 53]
The Snail, the Tulip, and the Bee
(Emblem 53)
The Snail, the Tulip, and the Bee
(Emblem 53)
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
In my editions of Pulter’s poems, I prioritize accessibility and use my annotations to prompt further exploration. To make the poems accessible to the widest possible audience, I have modernized spelling, punctuation, and capitalization according to American English standards. My longer critical notes aim to demonstrate the complexity of Pulter’s thinking, while opening space for the reader’s own analysis and interpretation. In that same vein, I briefly note Pulter’s revisions to the poem in order to foreground her poetic craft. Her manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations, and I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images as they engage with Pulter’s writing. I offer some references to other early modern texts, but am most interested in drawing out how Pulter’s poems speak to each other as she reflects on clusters of ideas.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
We all know the cliché of the busy bee, but Pulter found in the bee an emblem not of virtuous industry but instead of overzealous curiosity, greed, and poor judgment. After praising “the active Amazonian maid” for her industriousness and herbalist know-how, this emblem tells of how the bee—having collected her fill of nectar, but unable to leave well enough alone—becomes trapped in a tulip when, at day’s end, its petals close around her. The bee works furiously to escape; a snail, similarly caught, falls asleep without a struggle. In the morning, when the petals reopen, the snail simply leaves, while the bee dies of exhaustion. Pulter sees in her garden an all-female community of vegetable, animal, and celestial beings demonstrating the moral which the poem then shows men to have enacted historically, in a sequence of exemplars warning against impatience and fighting fate. While that may be the overall moral, the poem also touches on the tension between confinement and freedom which so often preoccupies Pulter. The framing phrase for the emblem’s moral—“if no hope of liberty you see”—closely tracks the concluding declaration in “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57): “I no liberty expect to see …” Did Pulter identify with the snail or the bee?

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Emblem 53 offers a complex political allegory masquerading as a fable about a “covetous” honey bee, a patient snail, and a “painted” tulip. Alongside the poem’s political themes, Pulter raises questions about gender, science, and nature that echo her interest in these topics throughout the manuscript. Most significantly, there are glimpses in this poem of Pulter’s clever theorization of poetry itself—her ongoing exploration of how poetry makes meaning.
Three distinct, but related, mottoes drive this emblem. The first motto—”then let impatient spirits here but see / what ’tis to struggle with their destiny” (lines 37–8)—concludes the story Pulter tells of a honey bee, enticed by the poet’s sumptuous garden, who tries to gather more “nectar” than she can carry. Straying from the hive for far too long, the bee lands in a tulip alongside a snail just as the sun goes down and the tulip closes its petals. The second and third motto come in sequence at the poem’s end: “’tis valianter by far to live than die” (line 50) and “then if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (lines 51–52). These mottoes follow a catalogue of examples from classical history, mostly warnings about excessive pride and arrogance. Three mottoes is a lot for one emblem, which raises interesting questions as we read this poem. How do the three mottoes work together? Do the stories seem to unfold logically into their concluding mottoes or do the mottoes seem incongruous? How does Pulter use these multiple mottoes to invite us to consider the function of the motto as a feature of emblems?
Pulter’s emblem poems are “naked emblems,” as Millie Godfrey and Sarah C. E. Ross explain in their introduction to Mighty Nimrod (Emblem 1) [Poem 67]. Revising the traditional tripartite structure of the emblem (motto, visual image, and short epigrammatic verse), Pulter omits the visual image (pictura) element such that the reader must glean meaning solely from words. But Pulter’s language in this and many of her emblems is meant to help the reader paint their own picture. Here, for instance, Pulter references specific flowers, tracks the bee’s movements as it flits around the poet’s garden, and fills her lines with evocative descriptions (the morning sun is “lapped in a robe of silver mixed with gray” [line 5]). The emblem’s central characters—the snail, the tulip, and the bee—would also have been easy visual reference points for Pulter’s readers. All three figures were frequently portrayed in early modern emblem books, textual illustrations, and artwork.
All three figures are also at the center of early modern debates surrounding gender and sexuality. Even though none of the poem’s mottoes directly concern these topics, this emblem has much to teach us about Pulter’s interest and intervention in these debates. I track this theme throughout my annotations on the poem, noting, for instance, that Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (7) refers to a community of warrior women in Greek mythology (the Amazons), who were notoriously complicated gendered figures in early modern culture. “Demonstrating that women and men might be performatively interchangeable,” Kathryn Schwarz explains, “Amazons at once substantiate the signifiers of masculinity and threaten to replace the bodies to which they are attached.”
Gloss Note
Source: Schwarz, Tough Love: Amazon Encounters in the English Renaissance (Duke University Press, 2000): 38.
1
Amazons were often at the center of crossdressing plots (Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia), tales of women’s military leadership (Margaret Cavendish’s Bell in Campo), and stories about the relationship between desire and power (William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Pulter’s comparison of the bee to an “Amazonian maid” draws on this popular trope, but we might also read the comparison as an opening nod to the poem’s formal structure. The poem’s first half outlines a distinctly female garden community, populated by “fair Aurora” (1), the “Amazonian” bee” (7), the poet herself (17), and even the snail that slides about “upon her unctuous breast” (29). When the bee’s plot ends at line 37, though, the poem shifts to solely male reference points. Pulter mentions Biron (39), Belisarius (41), Bajazeth (43), and Callisthenes (47) as she guides the reader toward the poem’s concluding motto. But, shifting once more in the final couplet, Pulter ends by reminding us to “think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (52), a return to the female cast of the poem’s first half. In the formal structure of her poem—the gender-bending shifts in metaphors—Pulter brings to mind the threat posed by the figure of the Amazon: the possibility “that women and men might be performatively interchangeable.” In both the content and form of this poem, Pulter raises questions about how gender signifies, and particularly how emblematic, gender-specific metaphors signify.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
53When fair Aurora drest with Raidient Light
When fair
Gloss Note
goddess of dawn
Aurora
, dressed with radiant light,
When
Critical Note
Pulter’s opening reference to “fair Aurora” (Roman goddess of the dawn) initiates the gendered imagery of the poem’s first seven lines, which culminates with Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (line 7). These opening lines, with the Amazon reference as a kind of anchor point, transform the morning garden into a female separatist community—a framing with important implications for how we read the rest of the poem. First, framing the bee’s actions within this context connects the labor of collecting nectar to women’s work, which then prompts us to read Pulter’s later references to poisonous herbs (lines 13–14) and “choice extractions” (line 15) as nods to domestic labor. Second, it links Emblem 53 to other writings in which Pulter explores the intimacies that develop within communities of women, most notably the female friendships throughout her prose romance, The Unfortunate Florinda.
fair Aurora
, dressed with radiant light,
2
Had triumph’d o’re the Gloomey Shades of Night
Had triumphed o’er the gloomy shades of night—
Had triumphed o’er the gloomy shades of
Critical Note
My editorial decision to add an em-dash here turns lines 3–6 into a clause that expands Pulter’s description of Aurora in lines 1–2 and emphasizes the unique formal structure of Pulter’s “naked emblems” (for more on this, see my headnote). Adding the em-dash marks how the concise description of Aurora waking up in the poem’s first two lines becomes a more expansive illustration of Aurora in lines 3–6, a kind of visual unfolding that nods to the pictura element of the traditional emblem structure. For more on the flexible structure of early modern emblems, see Peter Daly, Literature in the Light of the Emblem (University of Toronto Press, 1979).
night
3
When Shee her Virgin beavty first diſcloſes
When she her
Gloss Note
pure
virgin
beauty first discloses,
When she her
Critical Note
Associating Aurora with virginity, Pulter departs from classical tradition in which Aurora is often aggressively sexualized. Pulter retains some of the figure’s fraught sexual history, though, by drawing on conventional blazon imagery, describing Aurora wrapped in a “silver” robe with “roses” ornamenting her “dewy curls.” This description echoes language from earlier poems in the manuscript dedicated to Aurora: To Aurora [1] [Poem 22], To Aurora [2] [Poem 26], and To Aurora [3] [Poem 34]. “To Aurora [3]” is particularly resonant here. In that earlier poem, Aurora “shakes her dewy curls” and fills the flowers—”each gold-enamelled cup”—with “honeydew” (lines 8–9). For more on Pulter’s use of blazon imagery throughout her poems, see Frances E. Dolan’s Exploration, “Hester Pulter and the Blazon in Early Modern England.”
virgin beauty
first
Gloss Note
uncover or expose to view
discloses
,
4
Her dewey Curles Stuck full of half blown Roſes
Her dewy curls stuck full of
Gloss Note
half-blossomed
half-blown
roses,
Her dewy curls stuck full of
Gloss Note
half-bloomed, half-blossomed
half-blown
roses,
5
Lapt in A Robe of Silver mixt with graie
Gloss Note
wrapped up
Lapped
in a robe of silver mixed with gray,
Lapped in a robe of silver mixed with gray,
6
Which did prognoſticate a glorious day
Which did
Gloss Note
foretell
prognosticate
a glorious day—
Which did
Gloss Note
foretell, forecast
prognosticate
a glorious day–
7
Out flew the active Amizonian Maid
Out flew the
Gloss Note
Amazons were legendary female warriors who served a queen; here used figuratively to describe a bee
active Amazonian maid
;
Out flew the
Critical Note

The bee was a familiar subject of early modern emblems, frequently used as a model of ordered government (see Andrea Alciato, Emblematum liber [Padua, 1621], emblem 149) or successful, interdependent economy (see Geoffrey Whitney, Choice of Emblemes [London, 1585], pages 200–201). One seventeenth-century compendium on insects, compiled from the writings of several natural historians, including Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner, and Thomas Moffet, featured a beehive on its frontispiece and described bees as “patterns and precedents of political and economical virtues” (The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures [London, 1658]).

Pulter’s transformation of the bee into an Amazonian figure, however, is more unusual and even a bit contentious. The comparison enhances Pulter’s interrogation of gender in this poem (see my headnote) and connects this emblem to some of the manuscript’s more explicit political poetry (see Curation, The Political Bee).

active Amazonian maid
.
8
The Hills and Dales, not onely Shee Surveyd
The hills and dales not only she surveyed,
The hills and dales not only she surveyed,
9
But out of every Gold
Physical Note
“E” and “e” appear written over earlier “i”s
Enameld
Cup
But out of every gold-enamelled cup
But out of every
Gloss Note
flowers
gold-enamelled cup
10
Her Mornings draught of Nectar Shee did Sup
Her morning’s draft of nectar she did sup.
Her morning’s
Gloss Note
a quantity drawn or extracted
draft
of nectar she did sup.
11
Nay where the Toad, and Spider poyſons found
Nay, where the toad and spider’s poison found,
Nay, where the toad and spider poisons found,
12
Mell Shee Extracts, for this ^ her Wisdome’s Crownd
Gloss Note
honey
Mell
she extracts;
Gloss Note
Bees were reputed to be able to turn poisons into honey.
for this her wisdom’s crowned
.
Gloss Note
honey
Mell
she extracts; for this
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “for this ^ her wisdome’s crownd”
her wisdom’s
crowned.
13
On
Physical Note
“t” in different hand from main scribe
Nightſhade
, Henbane, Helliſh Acconite
On nightshade, henbane, hellish aconite,
On nightshade, henbane, hellish aconite,
14
On Opium, Hemlock, Shee doth Safely lite
On opium,
Gloss Note
This plant, like opium and the three in the previous line, are all poisonous.
hemlock
she doth safely
Gloss Note
land
light
.
On opium, hemlock she doth
Critical Note
All five plants catalogued in these lines are poisonous, but their pollen is not. Consequently, the bee can safely extract pollen but the toad and spider of line 11 (eating the plants’ leaves, flowers, or stems) find “poisons.” Pulter may have gained knowledge of these plants from direct, hands-on experience. There were also several popular herbals circulating by the time she was writing, including John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597) and Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physician Enlarged (London, 1653). The British Library offers a useful peek at Gerard’s Herbal, along with some context on Shakespeare’s use of “henbane” in Hamlet and “nightshade” in Romeo and Juliet.
safely light
.
15
Thus being with choyce Extractions loaded well
Thus being with choice extractions loaded well,
Thus being with
Critical Note
John Milton also uses the verb “extract” to describe the bee’s work in Book 5 of Paradise Lost. Adam calls Eve awake “to mark … how the bee / sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet” (lines 20–25). The noun “extraction” and its verb form “extract” (line 12) had alchemical, medicinal, and culinary connotations in seventeenth-century use. “To extract” is “to obtain (constituent elements, juices, etc.) from a thing or substance by suction, pressure, distillation, or any chemical or mechanical operation” (“extract, v.4a,” OED Online). As evidence for this particular connotation of “extract,” the Oxford English Dictionary cites Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature (London, 1594) and Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum; or, A Natural History (London, 1626), two popular early modern scientific texts with which Pulter may have been familiar. Is Pulter also demonstrating her knowledge of early modern herbals, texts that catalogued plants and their medicinal and culinary uses? If so, her uses of “extract” and “extraction” connect to the catalogue of poisonous plants in lines 13–14. For an extended exploration of “human art” in relation to plants, see View But This Tulip (Emblem 40) [Poem 105].
choice extractions
loaded well,
16
Shee turn’d to flie to her Sexanguler Cell
She turned to fly to her
Gloss Note
six-sided
sexangular
cell.
She turned to fly to her
Gloss Note
six-sided; a reference to the comb shapes of a bee hive
sexangular cell
.
17
But takeing of my Garden in her way
But
Gloss Note
apprehending
taking of
my garden in her way,
But
Gloss Note
to be caught or captured by; the bee is “taken with” the beauty of the narrator’s garden
taking of

This is our first glimpse of the poem’s narrator, often a much more pervasive presence in Pulter’s poems. In early poems in the manuscript, like Made When I Was Sick, 1647 [Poem 31], the entire poem revolves around the narrator’s experience and thoughts. The sparse, late use of the first-person pronoun here, though, is more typical of Pulter’s emblem poems, a few of which never reference the poet directly. See, for instance, Raccoons (Emblem 21) [Poem 86].

It’s worth noting that this first reference to the poet (one of only two in the poem) is also connected to the garden and the all-female community of the poem’s first half. Perhaps even more interesting, the narrator’s garden is the site of the bee’s demise. We learn the story of the bee and the snail in the next few lines and we might even imagine that the poet is a first-hand witness, watching the snail “slid[e]” out of the tulip in the morning while the bee “fainting lie[s]” (line 35).

my garden
in her way,
18
Though full before Shee could not chooſe but Stay
Though full before, she could not choose but stay
Though full before, she could not choose but stay
19
To See the
Physical Note
insertion in different hand from main scribe
\ curious \
Ouricolas
Physical Note
double strike-through
curious
drest
To see the
Gloss Note
clever, elaborately made
curious
Gloss Note
type of flower
auriculas
dressed
To see the
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “to see the \curious \ ouricolas curious drest”
curious
Gloss Note
primula auricula; also known as mountain cowslip or bear’s ear (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
auriculas
dressed
20
More variously then Iris dewey breast
More variously than
Gloss Note
goddess of the rainbow, also a type of flower
Iris’s
dewy breast.
More variously than
Gloss Note
In Greek mythology, Iris is messenger of the gods and a personification of the rainbow. Iris is also another type of flower. In contemporary botany, iris is a genus of many species of flowering plants like the iris sibirica (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
Iris’s
dewy breast.
21
Then were my Tulips painted in there Pride
Then were my tulips painted in their pride,
Then were my
Critical Note
The tulip has special significance in Pulter’s emblem. She not only makes the center of this flower the location for her fable of the bee and snail (as we’re about to see); she also describes the tulip with language that evokes the “tulipmania” of the early seventeenth century: “painted” (here and again in line 27) and “gilded” (line 34). From the 1580’s to the mid-1630’s, tulips were a prized and elusive commodity, famous in aristocratic gardens and still life paintings, but notoriously difficult to study and classify given their infinite variety. In John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597), Gerard describes the tulips as “a strange and foreign flower” and emphasizes that it is impossible to catalogue all of its varieties: “each new yeare bringeth forth new plants of sundry colours, not before seene” ([London, 1597], Text Creation Partnership digital edition, Early English Books Online, pages 137–140). The craze surrounding the tulip culminated in the Dutch “tulipmania” of the 1630’s, when the price of tulip bulbs inflated drastically (the most expensive specimens went for around 5,000 guilders). We might speculate that Pulter has this recent cultural phenomenon in mind when she describes the tulips first as luxurious garden accessories (“painted in their pride”) and then as the bee’s “painted prison.” See this poem’s Curation (Pulter’s Garden) for examples of Gerard’s tulip woodcuts and Dutch still life paintings featuring the flower. For more on the tulip in early modern English contexts, see Anna Pavord’s The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad (Bloomsbury, 1999), especially chapter 3.
tulips painted
in their pride,
22
Which when this covetous Inſect Eſpi’de
Which, when this covetous insect espied,
Which, when this
Gloss Note
greedy
covetous
insect espied,
23
To carry home her wealth Shee’d not ye power
To carry home her wealth she’d not the power
To carry home her wealth she’d not the power
24
Till Shee had Search’d the Sweets of every fflower
Till she had searched the sweets of every flower.
Till she had searched the sweets of every flower.
the

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25
The Sun, from home, all, Influence Receives
The sun,
Gloss Note
“whom” is spelled as “home” in the manuscript; all are influenced by the sun
from whom all influence receives
,
The sun, from whom all influence receives,
26
Bid them decline, The Tulip cloſ’d her Leaves
Bids them
Gloss Note
bend down, droop
decline
; the tulip closed her
Gloss Note
petals
leaves
,
Bid
Gloss Note
the flowers
them
decline; the tulip closed her leaves,
27
And in that painted Priſon Shut the Bee
And in that painted prison shut the bee,
And in that painted prison shut the bee.
28
With her A Snail, who Slid about to See
Gloss Note
and with
With
her a snail, who slid about (to see
With her a
Critical Note
The third central character in Pulter’s emblem, the snail presented a unique sexual conundrum because of its shell, so early moderns hypothesized that the snail could spontaneously reproduce: “Thou thine own daughter then, and sire, / that son and mother art entire” (Richard Lovelace, “The Snail”). In medieval and early modern art, the snail was often linked to the Virgin Mary as a symbol of virginity. Francesco del Cossa’s Annunciation, for example, includes a snail in the painting’s foreground, positioned directly in front of Mary as she receives the news of her immaculate conception. Geneticist Steve Jones offers a useful account of the history of the snail as a symbol of “sex, age, and death” in his lecture, “Snails in Art and the Art of Snails” (2014), available online through the Museum of London. By the time Pulter was writing, the snail was increasingly cited in debates about the role of reproduction in the plant and animal worlds. Several decades after Pulter’s death in 1678, Dutch anatomist Jan Swammerdam proved that snails were hermaphrodites (Bybel der Natuure, Leiden, 1737). Before that point, as historian of science Domenico Bertolini Meli outlines, hermaphrodites were seen to be rare occurrences, even monsters. Swammerdam’s findings became the basis for arguments on the natural occurrence of hermaphrodites in nature (Meli, “Of Snails and Horsetails: Anatomical Empiricism in the Early Modern Period,” Early Science and Medicine 18.4/5 (2013): 435–452).
snail
, who slid about to see
29
Where to get out upon her Unctious brest
Where to get out) upon her
Gloss Note
greasy
unctuous
breast;
Where to get out upon her
Gloss Note
oily, greasy
unctuous
breast;
30
But Seeing noe hope, Shee laid her down to rest
But seeing no hope, she laid
Gloss Note
herself
her
down to rest,
But seeing no hope, she laid her down to rest,
31
Whilst the Angrie Bee
Physical Note
double strike-through
doth
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\did \
Such A ffluttring Keep
Whilst the angry bee did such a flutt’ring
Gloss Note
make
keep
,
Whilst the angry bee
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “bee doth \did \ such a”
did
such a flutt’ring keep,
32
Shee nor her fellow Priſner could not Sleep
Gloss Note
Neither she
She
nor her fellow pris’ner could not sleep.
She nor her fellow pris’ner could not sleep.
33
But Night being past, Delia diffuſ’d his Rais
But night being past,
Gloss Note
here, Apollo, the sun god (named because he was from the island of Delos, usually called Delius)
Delia
diffused his rays;
But night being past,
Critical Note
Pulter’s use of “Delia,” an unusual and distinctly feminized name for Apollo, the Greek sun god born on the island of Delos, marks a conscious shift from her use of “Aurora,” goddess of the dawn, at the start of the poem. As Victoria Burke notes in her Amplified Edition of Aurora [1] [Poem 3], the feminized Delia, as opposed to Delius, could be a transcription error, but Pulter does use Delia to refer to Apollo in several other poems, including The Eclipse [Poem 1] and The Garden, or the Contention of Flowers [Poem 12]. Given this emblem’s interrogation of gender, we might read Pulter’s slippage here as an invitation. As the female bee (“the active Amazonian maid”) dies and the poem shifts to a cluster of male figures in its closing lines, is Pulter’s switch from Aurora to Delia (and, perhaps, from Delius to Delia) meant to both mark and trouble this transition?
Delia
Gloss Note
spread out
diffused
his rays;
34
The Tulip then her gilded Leaves diſplais
The tulip then her gilded leaves displays.
The tulip then her
Gloss Note
adorned or embellished; a term most often associated with artificial objects
gilded
leaves displays.
35
Out Slid the Snail, the Bee did fainting lie
Out slid the snail; the bee did fainting lie,
Out slid the snail; the bee did fainting lie,
36
And thus with Beating of her Self did die
And thus with beating of herself did die.
And thus with beating of herself did die.
37
Then let impatient Spirits here but See
Then let impatient spirits here but see
Then let impatient spirits here but see
38
What ’tis to Struggle with their destinie
What ’tis to struggle with their destiny.
Critical Note
“Then let impatient spirits here but see / What ’tis to struggle with their destiny.” The first of the poem’s three possible mottoes. Pulter uses the fable of the snail, tulip, and bee to offer a lesson in struggling against destiny. The “impatient” bee struggles against her “painted prison” (line 27), while the patient snail “see[s] no hope” and “lay[s] … down to rest” (line 30). In the poem’s final motto, Pulter reminds us of the snail, tulip, and bee fable (“if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” [lines 51–52]), but the lessons of the two mottoes are slightly different—enough to invite some critical thinking on the part of Pulter’s reader. This motto focuses on destiny, while the poem’s final motto foregrounds liberty. Who are the “impatient spirits” Pulter addresses with this lesson? Who is the “you” of the final motto’s direct address?
What ’tis to struggle with their destiny
.
39
Soe Stout Byrone in Priſon was inrag’d
So
Gloss Note
proud, arrogant
stout
Gloss Note
Charles de Gontant, duc de Biron; a celebrated sixteenth-century French soldier famed for his overweening pride and eventually executed for treason; in George Chapman’s play about him, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Biron’s sword is confiscated by the king.
Biron
in prison was enraged,
So
Gloss Note
proud, haughty
stout
Critical Note

This comparison starts Pulter’s catalogue of male military leaders, rulers, and thinkers—four in total by the poem’s end. As I noted in my headnote, this cast of characters marks a significant gender shift from the female-centric opening of the poem. But this phrase is also formally noteworthy. Rather than using just one or two comparisons to illustrate her point, Pulter here offers an extensive catalogue of examples: “so stout Biron” (line 39), “when Belisarius” (line 41), “so miscre’nt Bajazeth” (line 43), and “when wise Callisthenes” (line 47). The anaphoric “so’s” and “when’s” of these final lines, very typical of Pulter’s emblems, signal her strategic accumulation of these examples. Again, how might Pulter be using her poems to explore how poetic language signifies? See my headnote for more on this question.

Charles de Gontaut, duc de Biron, was a sixteenth-century French military leader eventually involved in conspiracies against the French crown. He was jailed and beheaded for treason in 1602. Alice Eardley cites George Chapman’s play, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Marshall of France (1608) as one possible source for Pulter’s anecdote here. Biron was “notorious for his arrogance,” Eardley notes, and in Chapman’s play his sword is removed from him, “treatment he vigorously resists.” See Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, Ed. Alice Eardley, (Toronto: Iter, 2014), 263 n.513.

Biron
in prison was enraged,
40
Knowing his King was to his Sword ingag’d
Knowing his king was to his sword engaged.
Knowing his king was to his sword engaged.
41
When Bellizarus by A dog was led
When
Gloss Note
successful general of sixth-century Roman emperor Justinian, later accused of conspiracy; reputedly, his eyes were put out and he ended his life as a beggar.
Belisarius
by a dog was led,
When
Gloss Note
Belisarius was a famous military leader of the Byzantine Empire. Pulter here references the apocryphal story that Justinian ordered Belisarius’s eyes put out and that Belisarius became a beggar at the gates of Rome. Looking forward a bit beyond Pulter’s lifetime, Belisarius’s story was especially popular by the end of the eighteenth century. See, for instance, Jean-François Marmontel’s Bélisaire: A Novel (1767), Margaretta Faugères’s closet drama, Belisarius: A Tragedy (1795), and Jacques-Louis David’s painting, “Belisarius Begging for Alms” (1780).
Belisarius
by a dog was led,
42
Being blind hee patiently did beg his Bread
Being blind, he patiently did beg his bread.
Being blind, he patiently did beg his bread.
43
Soe miſcre’nt Bajazet did Shew his Rage
So
Gloss Note
villainous
miscre’nt
Gloss Note
fourteenth-century Turkish Emperor captured in war by Tamburlaine (the “proud Tartar”); in Christopher Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine, Bajazeth kills himself on the bars of his prison.
Bajazeth
did show his rage
So
Gloss Note
an abbreviation of “miscreant”; heretical or pagan, but also villainous
miscre’nt
Critical Note
In Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s poems, she cites Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (published 1590) as a possible source for Pulter’s reference to the Turkish emperor Bajazeth. In Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine defeats Bajazeth and keeps him in a cage, taking him out only to serve as Tamburlaine’s footstool. After a lengthy imprisonment, Bajazeth kills himself by smashing his head against the bars of his cage. See Eardley (ed.), Poems, 263 n.516.
Bajazeth
did show his rage
44
When that proud Tarter put him in A Cage
When that proud Tartar put him in a cage;
When that proud Tartar put him in a cage;
45
Scorning to bee A footstool to his Pride
Scorning to be a footstool to his pride,
Scorning to be a footstool to his pride,
46
Hee daſh’d his Curſed Brains about & died
He dashed his curséd brains about and died.
He dashed his curséd brains about and died.
47
When wiſe Calistines uſ’d with greater Scorn
When wise
Gloss Note
historian for Alexander the Great, reported by some to have been dismembered and displayed in a cage by Alexander in retribution for his criticisms; see Justin (Marcus Justinius), The History of Justin, Taken Out of the Four and Forty Books of Trogus Pompeius (London, 1654), p. 239.
Callisthenes
, used with greater scorn,
When wise
Gloss Note
Callisthenes was a Greek historian, eventually the official historian of Alexander the Great until he was accused of plotting against Alexander. There are several different accounts of his death. Pulter seems to be referencing the version from Ptolemy in which Callisthenes is tortured and hanged in an iron cage.
Callisthenes
, used with greater scorn,
48
Tyrannically mangled Soe was Born
Tyrannically mangled,
Gloss Note
so it
so
was
Gloss Note
endured
borne
,
Tyrannically mangled, so was borne,
hee

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49
Hee being unmov’d Shew’d his Philoſophy
He, being unmoved, showed his philosophy:
He, being unmoved, showed his philosophy:
50
T’is Valianter by far to live then die
’Tis valianter by far to live than die.
Critical Note
The second of the poem’s three mottoes. This message seems specific to Pulter’s lines on Callisthenes, but the connection is puzzling given Callisthenes’s death in prison, without liberty. Is Pulter drawing our attention to the possible incongruities between her anecdotes and their concluding mottos? Or, perhaps, this motto becomes a thread for the poem’s broader message of stoic endurance: be patient and choose life.
’Tis valianter by far to live than die
.
51
Then if noe hope
Physical Note
imperfectly erased ascender follows
of
Liberty you See
Then if no hope of liberty you see
Then if no hope of liberty you see,
52
Think on the Snail, the Tulip and the
Physical Note
remainder of page blank, as is reverse
Bee
Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee.
Critical Note
“Then if no hope of liberty you see, / Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee.” The final of the poem’s three mottoes. Pointing us back to the emblem’s central fable, Pulter’s final lines explicitly mark the snail, tulip, and bee story as a political allegory about liberty, resistance, and stoic endurance. But what of the poem’s complex gender politics? Where do they fit within such an allegory, particularly one written by a Royalist female poet at the height of the English Civil Wars? To explore further the intersections of gender and English Civil War politics, see Hero Chalmers, Royalist Women Writers, 1650–1689 (Oxford University Press, 2004); and Sarah C. E. Ross, Women, Poetry, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2015), especially Chapter 4.
Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee
.
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

We all know the cliché of the busy bee, but Pulter found in the bee an emblem not of virtuous industry but instead of overzealous curiosity, greed, and poor judgment. After praising “the active Amazonian maid” for her industriousness and herbalist know-how, this emblem tells of how the bee—having collected her fill of nectar, but unable to leave well enough alone—becomes trapped in a tulip when, at day’s end, its petals close around her. The bee works furiously to escape; a snail, similarly caught, falls asleep without a struggle. In the morning, when the petals reopen, the snail simply leaves, while the bee dies of exhaustion. Pulter sees in her garden an all-female community of vegetable, animal, and celestial beings demonstrating the moral which the poem then shows men to have enacted historically, in a sequence of exemplars warning against impatience and fighting fate. While that may be the overall moral, the poem also touches on the tension between confinement and freedom which so often preoccupies Pulter. The framing phrase for the emblem’s moral—“if no hope of liberty you see”—closely tracks the concluding declaration in “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57): “I no liberty expect to see …” Did Pulter identify with the snail or the bee?
Line number 1

 Gloss note

goddess of dawn
Line number 3

 Gloss note

pure
Line number 4

 Gloss note

half-blossomed
Line number 5

 Gloss note

wrapped up
Line number 6

 Gloss note

foretell
Line number 7

 Gloss note

Amazons were legendary female warriors who served a queen; here used figuratively to describe a bee
Line number 12

 Gloss note

honey
Line number 12

 Gloss note

Bees were reputed to be able to turn poisons into honey.
Line number 14

 Gloss note

This plant, like opium and the three in the previous line, are all poisonous.
Line number 14

 Gloss note

land
Line number 16

 Gloss note

six-sided
Line number 17

 Gloss note

apprehending
Line number 19

 Gloss note

clever, elaborately made
Line number 19

 Gloss note

type of flower
Line number 20

 Gloss note

goddess of the rainbow, also a type of flower
Line number 25

 Gloss note

“whom” is spelled as “home” in the manuscript; all are influenced by the sun
Line number 26

 Gloss note

bend down, droop
Line number 26

 Gloss note

petals
Line number 28

 Gloss note

and with
Line number 29

 Gloss note

greasy
Line number 30

 Gloss note

herself
Line number 31

 Gloss note

make
Line number 32

 Gloss note

Neither she
Line number 33

 Gloss note

here, Apollo, the sun god (named because he was from the island of Delos, usually called Delius)
Line number 39

 Gloss note

proud, arrogant
Line number 39

 Gloss note

Charles de Gontant, duc de Biron; a celebrated sixteenth-century French soldier famed for his overweening pride and eventually executed for treason; in George Chapman’s play about him, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Biron’s sword is confiscated by the king.
Line number 41

 Gloss note

successful general of sixth-century Roman emperor Justinian, later accused of conspiracy; reputedly, his eyes were put out and he ended his life as a beggar.
Line number 43

 Gloss note

villainous
Line number 43

 Gloss note

fourteenth-century Turkish Emperor captured in war by Tamburlaine (the “proud Tartar”); in Christopher Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine, Bajazeth kills himself on the bars of his prison.
Line number 47

 Gloss note

historian for Alexander the Great, reported by some to have been dismembered and displayed in a cage by Alexander in retribution for his criticisms; see Justin (Marcus Justinius), The History of Justin, Taken Out of the Four and Forty Books of Trogus Pompeius (London, 1654), p. 239.
Line number 48

 Gloss note

so it
Line number 48

 Gloss note

endured
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X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

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Physical Note
Unlike surrounding poems in the “Emblems” section, no number precedes this poem.
[Emblem 53]
The Snail, the Tulip, and the Bee
(Emblem 53)
The Snail, the Tulip, and the Bee
(Emblem 53)
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
In my editions of Pulter’s poems, I prioritize accessibility and use my annotations to prompt further exploration. To make the poems accessible to the widest possible audience, I have modernized spelling, punctuation, and capitalization according to American English standards. My longer critical notes aim to demonstrate the complexity of Pulter’s thinking, while opening space for the reader’s own analysis and interpretation. In that same vein, I briefly note Pulter’s revisions to the poem in order to foreground her poetic craft. Her manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations, and I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images as they engage with Pulter’s writing. I offer some references to other early modern texts, but am most interested in drawing out how Pulter’s poems speak to each other as she reflects on clusters of ideas.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
We all know the cliché of the busy bee, but Pulter found in the bee an emblem not of virtuous industry but instead of overzealous curiosity, greed, and poor judgment. After praising “the active Amazonian maid” for her industriousness and herbalist know-how, this emblem tells of how the bee—having collected her fill of nectar, but unable to leave well enough alone—becomes trapped in a tulip when, at day’s end, its petals close around her. The bee works furiously to escape; a snail, similarly caught, falls asleep without a struggle. In the morning, when the petals reopen, the snail simply leaves, while the bee dies of exhaustion. Pulter sees in her garden an all-female community of vegetable, animal, and celestial beings demonstrating the moral which the poem then shows men to have enacted historically, in a sequence of exemplars warning against impatience and fighting fate. While that may be the overall moral, the poem also touches on the tension between confinement and freedom which so often preoccupies Pulter. The framing phrase for the emblem’s moral—“if no hope of liberty you see”—closely tracks the concluding declaration in “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57): “I no liberty expect to see …” Did Pulter identify with the snail or the bee?

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Emblem 53 offers a complex political allegory masquerading as a fable about a “covetous” honey bee, a patient snail, and a “painted” tulip. Alongside the poem’s political themes, Pulter raises questions about gender, science, and nature that echo her interest in these topics throughout the manuscript. Most significantly, there are glimpses in this poem of Pulter’s clever theorization of poetry itself—her ongoing exploration of how poetry makes meaning.
Three distinct, but related, mottoes drive this emblem. The first motto—”then let impatient spirits here but see / what ’tis to struggle with their destiny” (lines 37–8)—concludes the story Pulter tells of a honey bee, enticed by the poet’s sumptuous garden, who tries to gather more “nectar” than she can carry. Straying from the hive for far too long, the bee lands in a tulip alongside a snail just as the sun goes down and the tulip closes its petals. The second and third motto come in sequence at the poem’s end: “’tis valianter by far to live than die” (line 50) and “then if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (lines 51–52). These mottoes follow a catalogue of examples from classical history, mostly warnings about excessive pride and arrogance. Three mottoes is a lot for one emblem, which raises interesting questions as we read this poem. How do the three mottoes work together? Do the stories seem to unfold logically into their concluding mottoes or do the mottoes seem incongruous? How does Pulter use these multiple mottoes to invite us to consider the function of the motto as a feature of emblems?
Pulter’s emblem poems are “naked emblems,” as Millie Godfrey and Sarah C. E. Ross explain in their introduction to Mighty Nimrod (Emblem 1) [Poem 67]. Revising the traditional tripartite structure of the emblem (motto, visual image, and short epigrammatic verse), Pulter omits the visual image (pictura) element such that the reader must glean meaning solely from words. But Pulter’s language in this and many of her emblems is meant to help the reader paint their own picture. Here, for instance, Pulter references specific flowers, tracks the bee’s movements as it flits around the poet’s garden, and fills her lines with evocative descriptions (the morning sun is “lapped in a robe of silver mixed with gray” [line 5]). The emblem’s central characters—the snail, the tulip, and the bee—would also have been easy visual reference points for Pulter’s readers. All three figures were frequently portrayed in early modern emblem books, textual illustrations, and artwork.
All three figures are also at the center of early modern debates surrounding gender and sexuality. Even though none of the poem’s mottoes directly concern these topics, this emblem has much to teach us about Pulter’s interest and intervention in these debates. I track this theme throughout my annotations on the poem, noting, for instance, that Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (7) refers to a community of warrior women in Greek mythology (the Amazons), who were notoriously complicated gendered figures in early modern culture. “Demonstrating that women and men might be performatively interchangeable,” Kathryn Schwarz explains, “Amazons at once substantiate the signifiers of masculinity and threaten to replace the bodies to which they are attached.”
Gloss Note
Source: Schwarz, Tough Love: Amazon Encounters in the English Renaissance (Duke University Press, 2000): 38.
1
Amazons were often at the center of crossdressing plots (Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia), tales of women’s military leadership (Margaret Cavendish’s Bell in Campo), and stories about the relationship between desire and power (William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Pulter’s comparison of the bee to an “Amazonian maid” draws on this popular trope, but we might also read the comparison as an opening nod to the poem’s formal structure. The poem’s first half outlines a distinctly female garden community, populated by “fair Aurora” (1), the “Amazonian” bee” (7), the poet herself (17), and even the snail that slides about “upon her unctuous breast” (29). When the bee’s plot ends at line 37, though, the poem shifts to solely male reference points. Pulter mentions Biron (39), Belisarius (41), Bajazeth (43), and Callisthenes (47) as she guides the reader toward the poem’s concluding motto. But, shifting once more in the final couplet, Pulter ends by reminding us to “think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (52), a return to the female cast of the poem’s first half. In the formal structure of her poem—the gender-bending shifts in metaphors—Pulter brings to mind the threat posed by the figure of the Amazon: the possibility “that women and men might be performatively interchangeable.” In both the content and form of this poem, Pulter raises questions about how gender signifies, and particularly how emblematic, gender-specific metaphors signify.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
53When fair Aurora drest with Raidient Light
When fair
Gloss Note
goddess of dawn
Aurora
, dressed with radiant light,
When
Critical Note
Pulter’s opening reference to “fair Aurora” (Roman goddess of the dawn) initiates the gendered imagery of the poem’s first seven lines, which culminates with Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (line 7). These opening lines, with the Amazon reference as a kind of anchor point, transform the morning garden into a female separatist community—a framing with important implications for how we read the rest of the poem. First, framing the bee’s actions within this context connects the labor of collecting nectar to women’s work, which then prompts us to read Pulter’s later references to poisonous herbs (lines 13–14) and “choice extractions” (line 15) as nods to domestic labor. Second, it links Emblem 53 to other writings in which Pulter explores the intimacies that develop within communities of women, most notably the female friendships throughout her prose romance, The Unfortunate Florinda.
fair Aurora
, dressed with radiant light,
2
Had triumph’d o’re the Gloomey Shades of Night
Had triumphed o’er the gloomy shades of night—
Had triumphed o’er the gloomy shades of
Critical Note
My editorial decision to add an em-dash here turns lines 3–6 into a clause that expands Pulter’s description of Aurora in lines 1–2 and emphasizes the unique formal structure of Pulter’s “naked emblems” (for more on this, see my headnote). Adding the em-dash marks how the concise description of Aurora waking up in the poem’s first two lines becomes a more expansive illustration of Aurora in lines 3–6, a kind of visual unfolding that nods to the pictura element of the traditional emblem structure. For more on the flexible structure of early modern emblems, see Peter Daly, Literature in the Light of the Emblem (University of Toronto Press, 1979).
night
3
When Shee her Virgin beavty first diſcloſes
When she her
Gloss Note
pure
virgin
beauty first discloses,
When she her
Critical Note
Associating Aurora with virginity, Pulter departs from classical tradition in which Aurora is often aggressively sexualized. Pulter retains some of the figure’s fraught sexual history, though, by drawing on conventional blazon imagery, describing Aurora wrapped in a “silver” robe with “roses” ornamenting her “dewy curls.” This description echoes language from earlier poems in the manuscript dedicated to Aurora: To Aurora [1] [Poem 22], To Aurora [2] [Poem 26], and To Aurora [3] [Poem 34]. “To Aurora [3]” is particularly resonant here. In that earlier poem, Aurora “shakes her dewy curls” and fills the flowers—”each gold-enamelled cup”—with “honeydew” (lines 8–9). For more on Pulter’s use of blazon imagery throughout her poems, see Frances E. Dolan’s Exploration, “Hester Pulter and the Blazon in Early Modern England.”
virgin beauty
first
Gloss Note
uncover or expose to view
discloses
,
4
Her dewey Curles Stuck full of half blown Roſes
Her dewy curls stuck full of
Gloss Note
half-blossomed
half-blown
roses,
Her dewy curls stuck full of
Gloss Note
half-bloomed, half-blossomed
half-blown
roses,
5
Lapt in A Robe of Silver mixt with graie
Gloss Note
wrapped up
Lapped
in a robe of silver mixed with gray,
Lapped in a robe of silver mixed with gray,
6
Which did prognoſticate a glorious day
Which did
Gloss Note
foretell
prognosticate
a glorious day—
Which did
Gloss Note
foretell, forecast
prognosticate
a glorious day–
7
Out flew the active Amizonian Maid
Out flew the
Gloss Note
Amazons were legendary female warriors who served a queen; here used figuratively to describe a bee
active Amazonian maid
;
Out flew the
Critical Note

The bee was a familiar subject of early modern emblems, frequently used as a model of ordered government (see Andrea Alciato, Emblematum liber [Padua, 1621], emblem 149) or successful, interdependent economy (see Geoffrey Whitney, Choice of Emblemes [London, 1585], pages 200–201). One seventeenth-century compendium on insects, compiled from the writings of several natural historians, including Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner, and Thomas Moffet, featured a beehive on its frontispiece and described bees as “patterns and precedents of political and economical virtues” (The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures [London, 1658]).

Pulter’s transformation of the bee into an Amazonian figure, however, is more unusual and even a bit contentious. The comparison enhances Pulter’s interrogation of gender in this poem (see my headnote) and connects this emblem to some of the manuscript’s more explicit political poetry (see Curation, The Political Bee).

active Amazonian maid
.
8
The Hills and Dales, not onely Shee Surveyd
The hills and dales not only she surveyed,
The hills and dales not only she surveyed,
9
But out of every Gold
Physical Note
“E” and “e” appear written over earlier “i”s
Enameld
Cup
But out of every gold-enamelled cup
But out of every
Gloss Note
flowers
gold-enamelled cup
10
Her Mornings draught of Nectar Shee did Sup
Her morning’s draft of nectar she did sup.
Her morning’s
Gloss Note
a quantity drawn or extracted
draft
of nectar she did sup.
11
Nay where the Toad, and Spider poyſons found
Nay, where the toad and spider’s poison found,
Nay, where the toad and spider poisons found,
12
Mell Shee Extracts, for this ^ her Wisdome’s Crownd
Gloss Note
honey
Mell
she extracts;
Gloss Note
Bees were reputed to be able to turn poisons into honey.
for this her wisdom’s crowned
.
Gloss Note
honey
Mell
she extracts; for this
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “for this ^ her wisdome’s crownd”
her wisdom’s
crowned.
13
On
Physical Note
“t” in different hand from main scribe
Nightſhade
, Henbane, Helliſh Acconite
On nightshade, henbane, hellish aconite,
On nightshade, henbane, hellish aconite,
14
On Opium, Hemlock, Shee doth Safely lite
On opium,
Gloss Note
This plant, like opium and the three in the previous line, are all poisonous.
hemlock
she doth safely
Gloss Note
land
light
.
On opium, hemlock she doth
Critical Note
All five plants catalogued in these lines are poisonous, but their pollen is not. Consequently, the bee can safely extract pollen but the toad and spider of line 11 (eating the plants’ leaves, flowers, or stems) find “poisons.” Pulter may have gained knowledge of these plants from direct, hands-on experience. There were also several popular herbals circulating by the time she was writing, including John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597) and Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physician Enlarged (London, 1653). The British Library offers a useful peek at Gerard’s Herbal, along with some context on Shakespeare’s use of “henbane” in Hamlet and “nightshade” in Romeo and Juliet.
safely light
.
15
Thus being with choyce Extractions loaded well
Thus being with choice extractions loaded well,
Thus being with
Critical Note
John Milton also uses the verb “extract” to describe the bee’s work in Book 5 of Paradise Lost. Adam calls Eve awake “to mark … how the bee / sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet” (lines 20–25). The noun “extraction” and its verb form “extract” (line 12) had alchemical, medicinal, and culinary connotations in seventeenth-century use. “To extract” is “to obtain (constituent elements, juices, etc.) from a thing or substance by suction, pressure, distillation, or any chemical or mechanical operation” (“extract, v.4a,” OED Online). As evidence for this particular connotation of “extract,” the Oxford English Dictionary cites Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature (London, 1594) and Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum; or, A Natural History (London, 1626), two popular early modern scientific texts with which Pulter may have been familiar. Is Pulter also demonstrating her knowledge of early modern herbals, texts that catalogued plants and their medicinal and culinary uses? If so, her uses of “extract” and “extraction” connect to the catalogue of poisonous plants in lines 13–14. For an extended exploration of “human art” in relation to plants, see View But This Tulip (Emblem 40) [Poem 105].
choice extractions
loaded well,
16
Shee turn’d to flie to her Sexanguler Cell
She turned to fly to her
Gloss Note
six-sided
sexangular
cell.
She turned to fly to her
Gloss Note
six-sided; a reference to the comb shapes of a bee hive
sexangular cell
.
17
But takeing of my Garden in her way
But
Gloss Note
apprehending
taking of
my garden in her way,
But
Gloss Note
to be caught or captured by; the bee is “taken with” the beauty of the narrator’s garden
taking of

This is our first glimpse of the poem’s narrator, often a much more pervasive presence in Pulter’s poems. In early poems in the manuscript, like Made When I Was Sick, 1647 [Poem 31], the entire poem revolves around the narrator’s experience and thoughts. The sparse, late use of the first-person pronoun here, though, is more typical of Pulter’s emblem poems, a few of which never reference the poet directly. See, for instance, Raccoons (Emblem 21) [Poem 86].

It’s worth noting that this first reference to the poet (one of only two in the poem) is also connected to the garden and the all-female community of the poem’s first half. Perhaps even more interesting, the narrator’s garden is the site of the bee’s demise. We learn the story of the bee and the snail in the next few lines and we might even imagine that the poet is a first-hand witness, watching the snail “slid[e]” out of the tulip in the morning while the bee “fainting lie[s]” (line 35).

my garden
in her way,
18
Though full before Shee could not chooſe but Stay
Though full before, she could not choose but stay
Though full before, she could not choose but stay
19
To See the
Physical Note
insertion in different hand from main scribe
\ curious \
Ouricolas
Physical Note
double strike-through
curious
drest
To see the
Gloss Note
clever, elaborately made
curious
Gloss Note
type of flower
auriculas
dressed
To see the
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “to see the \curious \ ouricolas curious drest”
curious
Gloss Note
primula auricula; also known as mountain cowslip or bear’s ear (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
auriculas
dressed
20
More variously then Iris dewey breast
More variously than
Gloss Note
goddess of the rainbow, also a type of flower
Iris’s
dewy breast.
More variously than
Gloss Note
In Greek mythology, Iris is messenger of the gods and a personification of the rainbow. Iris is also another type of flower. In contemporary botany, iris is a genus of many species of flowering plants like the iris sibirica (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
Iris’s
dewy breast.
21
Then were my Tulips painted in there Pride
Then were my tulips painted in their pride,
Then were my
Critical Note
The tulip has special significance in Pulter’s emblem. She not only makes the center of this flower the location for her fable of the bee and snail (as we’re about to see); she also describes the tulip with language that evokes the “tulipmania” of the early seventeenth century: “painted” (here and again in line 27) and “gilded” (line 34). From the 1580’s to the mid-1630’s, tulips were a prized and elusive commodity, famous in aristocratic gardens and still life paintings, but notoriously difficult to study and classify given their infinite variety. In John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597), Gerard describes the tulips as “a strange and foreign flower” and emphasizes that it is impossible to catalogue all of its varieties: “each new yeare bringeth forth new plants of sundry colours, not before seene” ([London, 1597], Text Creation Partnership digital edition, Early English Books Online, pages 137–140). The craze surrounding the tulip culminated in the Dutch “tulipmania” of the 1630’s, when the price of tulip bulbs inflated drastically (the most expensive specimens went for around 5,000 guilders). We might speculate that Pulter has this recent cultural phenomenon in mind when she describes the tulips first as luxurious garden accessories (“painted in their pride”) and then as the bee’s “painted prison.” See this poem’s Curation (Pulter’s Garden) for examples of Gerard’s tulip woodcuts and Dutch still life paintings featuring the flower. For more on the tulip in early modern English contexts, see Anna Pavord’s The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad (Bloomsbury, 1999), especially chapter 3.
tulips painted
in their pride,
22
Which when this covetous Inſect Eſpi’de
Which, when this covetous insect espied,
Which, when this
Gloss Note
greedy
covetous
insect espied,
23
To carry home her wealth Shee’d not ye power
To carry home her wealth she’d not the power
To carry home her wealth she’d not the power
24
Till Shee had Search’d the Sweets of every fflower
Till she had searched the sweets of every flower.
Till she had searched the sweets of every flower.
the

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25
The Sun, from home, all, Influence Receives
The sun,
Gloss Note
“whom” is spelled as “home” in the manuscript; all are influenced by the sun
from whom all influence receives
,
The sun, from whom all influence receives,
26
Bid them decline, The Tulip cloſ’d her Leaves
Bids them
Gloss Note
bend down, droop
decline
; the tulip closed her
Gloss Note
petals
leaves
,
Bid
Gloss Note
the flowers
them
decline; the tulip closed her leaves,
27
And in that painted Priſon Shut the Bee
And in that painted prison shut the bee,
And in that painted prison shut the bee.
28
With her A Snail, who Slid about to See
Gloss Note
and with
With
her a snail, who slid about (to see
With her a
Critical Note
The third central character in Pulter’s emblem, the snail presented a unique sexual conundrum because of its shell, so early moderns hypothesized that the snail could spontaneously reproduce: “Thou thine own daughter then, and sire, / that son and mother art entire” (Richard Lovelace, “The Snail”). In medieval and early modern art, the snail was often linked to the Virgin Mary as a symbol of virginity. Francesco del Cossa’s Annunciation, for example, includes a snail in the painting’s foreground, positioned directly in front of Mary as she receives the news of her immaculate conception. Geneticist Steve Jones offers a useful account of the history of the snail as a symbol of “sex, age, and death” in his lecture, “Snails in Art and the Art of Snails” (2014), available online through the Museum of London. By the time Pulter was writing, the snail was increasingly cited in debates about the role of reproduction in the plant and animal worlds. Several decades after Pulter’s death in 1678, Dutch anatomist Jan Swammerdam proved that snails were hermaphrodites (Bybel der Natuure, Leiden, 1737). Before that point, as historian of science Domenico Bertolini Meli outlines, hermaphrodites were seen to be rare occurrences, even monsters. Swammerdam’s findings became the basis for arguments on the natural occurrence of hermaphrodites in nature (Meli, “Of Snails and Horsetails: Anatomical Empiricism in the Early Modern Period,” Early Science and Medicine 18.4/5 (2013): 435–452).
snail
, who slid about to see
29
Where to get out upon her Unctious brest
Where to get out) upon her
Gloss Note
greasy
unctuous
breast;
Where to get out upon her
Gloss Note
oily, greasy
unctuous
breast;
30
But Seeing noe hope, Shee laid her down to rest
But seeing no hope, she laid
Gloss Note
herself
her
down to rest,
But seeing no hope, she laid her down to rest,
31
Whilst the Angrie Bee
Physical Note
double strike-through
doth
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\did \
Such A ffluttring Keep
Whilst the angry bee did such a flutt’ring
Gloss Note
make
keep
,
Whilst the angry bee
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “bee doth \did \ such a”
did
such a flutt’ring keep,
32
Shee nor her fellow Priſner could not Sleep
Gloss Note
Neither she
She
nor her fellow pris’ner could not sleep.
She nor her fellow pris’ner could not sleep.
33
But Night being past, Delia diffuſ’d his Rais
But night being past,
Gloss Note
here, Apollo, the sun god (named because he was from the island of Delos, usually called Delius)
Delia
diffused his rays;
But night being past,
Critical Note
Pulter’s use of “Delia,” an unusual and distinctly feminized name for Apollo, the Greek sun god born on the island of Delos, marks a conscious shift from her use of “Aurora,” goddess of the dawn, at the start of the poem. As Victoria Burke notes in her Amplified Edition of Aurora [1] [Poem 3], the feminized Delia, as opposed to Delius, could be a transcription error, but Pulter does use Delia to refer to Apollo in several other poems, including The Eclipse [Poem 1] and The Garden, or the Contention of Flowers [Poem 12]. Given this emblem’s interrogation of gender, we might read Pulter’s slippage here as an invitation. As the female bee (“the active Amazonian maid”) dies and the poem shifts to a cluster of male figures in its closing lines, is Pulter’s switch from Aurora to Delia (and, perhaps, from Delius to Delia) meant to both mark and trouble this transition?
Delia
Gloss Note
spread out
diffused
his rays;
34
The Tulip then her gilded Leaves diſplais
The tulip then her gilded leaves displays.
The tulip then her
Gloss Note
adorned or embellished; a term most often associated with artificial objects
gilded
leaves displays.
35
Out Slid the Snail, the Bee did fainting lie
Out slid the snail; the bee did fainting lie,
Out slid the snail; the bee did fainting lie,
36
And thus with Beating of her Self did die
And thus with beating of herself did die.
And thus with beating of herself did die.
37
Then let impatient Spirits here but See
Then let impatient spirits here but see
Then let impatient spirits here but see
38
What ’tis to Struggle with their destinie
What ’tis to struggle with their destiny.
Critical Note
“Then let impatient spirits here but see / What ’tis to struggle with their destiny.” The first of the poem’s three possible mottoes. Pulter uses the fable of the snail, tulip, and bee to offer a lesson in struggling against destiny. The “impatient” bee struggles against her “painted prison” (line 27), while the patient snail “see[s] no hope” and “lay[s] … down to rest” (line 30). In the poem’s final motto, Pulter reminds us of the snail, tulip, and bee fable (“if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” [lines 51–52]), but the lessons of the two mottoes are slightly different—enough to invite some critical thinking on the part of Pulter’s reader. This motto focuses on destiny, while the poem’s final motto foregrounds liberty. Who are the “impatient spirits” Pulter addresses with this lesson? Who is the “you” of the final motto’s direct address?
What ’tis to struggle with their destiny
.
39
Soe Stout Byrone in Priſon was inrag’d
So
Gloss Note
proud, arrogant
stout
Gloss Note
Charles de Gontant, duc de Biron; a celebrated sixteenth-century French soldier famed for his overweening pride and eventually executed for treason; in George Chapman’s play about him, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Biron’s sword is confiscated by the king.
Biron
in prison was enraged,
So
Gloss Note
proud, haughty
stout
Critical Note

This comparison starts Pulter’s catalogue of male military leaders, rulers, and thinkers—four in total by the poem’s end. As I noted in my headnote, this cast of characters marks a significant gender shift from the female-centric opening of the poem. But this phrase is also formally noteworthy. Rather than using just one or two comparisons to illustrate her point, Pulter here offers an extensive catalogue of examples: “so stout Biron” (line 39), “when Belisarius” (line 41), “so miscre’nt Bajazeth” (line 43), and “when wise Callisthenes” (line 47). The anaphoric “so’s” and “when’s” of these final lines, very typical of Pulter’s emblems, signal her strategic accumulation of these examples. Again, how might Pulter be using her poems to explore how poetic language signifies? See my headnote for more on this question.

Charles de Gontaut, duc de Biron, was a sixteenth-century French military leader eventually involved in conspiracies against the French crown. He was jailed and beheaded for treason in 1602. Alice Eardley cites George Chapman’s play, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Marshall of France (1608) as one possible source for Pulter’s anecdote here. Biron was “notorious for his arrogance,” Eardley notes, and in Chapman’s play his sword is removed from him, “treatment he vigorously resists.” See Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, Ed. Alice Eardley, (Toronto: Iter, 2014), 263 n.513.

Biron
in prison was enraged,
40
Knowing his King was to his Sword ingag’d
Knowing his king was to his sword engaged.
Knowing his king was to his sword engaged.
41
When Bellizarus by A dog was led
When
Gloss Note
successful general of sixth-century Roman emperor Justinian, later accused of conspiracy; reputedly, his eyes were put out and he ended his life as a beggar.
Belisarius
by a dog was led,
When
Gloss Note
Belisarius was a famous military leader of the Byzantine Empire. Pulter here references the apocryphal story that Justinian ordered Belisarius’s eyes put out and that Belisarius became a beggar at the gates of Rome. Looking forward a bit beyond Pulter’s lifetime, Belisarius’s story was especially popular by the end of the eighteenth century. See, for instance, Jean-François Marmontel’s Bélisaire: A Novel (1767), Margaretta Faugères’s closet drama, Belisarius: A Tragedy (1795), and Jacques-Louis David’s painting, “Belisarius Begging for Alms” (1780).
Belisarius
by a dog was led,
42
Being blind hee patiently did beg his Bread
Being blind, he patiently did beg his bread.
Being blind, he patiently did beg his bread.
43
Soe miſcre’nt Bajazet did Shew his Rage
So
Gloss Note
villainous
miscre’nt
Gloss Note
fourteenth-century Turkish Emperor captured in war by Tamburlaine (the “proud Tartar”); in Christopher Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine, Bajazeth kills himself on the bars of his prison.
Bajazeth
did show his rage
So
Gloss Note
an abbreviation of “miscreant”; heretical or pagan, but also villainous
miscre’nt
Critical Note
In Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s poems, she cites Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (published 1590) as a possible source for Pulter’s reference to the Turkish emperor Bajazeth. In Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine defeats Bajazeth and keeps him in a cage, taking him out only to serve as Tamburlaine’s footstool. After a lengthy imprisonment, Bajazeth kills himself by smashing his head against the bars of his cage. See Eardley (ed.), Poems, 263 n.516.
Bajazeth
did show his rage
44
When that proud Tarter put him in A Cage
When that proud Tartar put him in a cage;
When that proud Tartar put him in a cage;
45
Scorning to bee A footstool to his Pride
Scorning to be a footstool to his pride,
Scorning to be a footstool to his pride,
46
Hee daſh’d his Curſed Brains about & died
He dashed his curséd brains about and died.
He dashed his curséd brains about and died.
47
When wiſe Calistines uſ’d with greater Scorn
When wise
Gloss Note
historian for Alexander the Great, reported by some to have been dismembered and displayed in a cage by Alexander in retribution for his criticisms; see Justin (Marcus Justinius), The History of Justin, Taken Out of the Four and Forty Books of Trogus Pompeius (London, 1654), p. 239.
Callisthenes
, used with greater scorn,
When wise
Gloss Note
Callisthenes was a Greek historian, eventually the official historian of Alexander the Great until he was accused of plotting against Alexander. There are several different accounts of his death. Pulter seems to be referencing the version from Ptolemy in which Callisthenes is tortured and hanged in an iron cage.
Callisthenes
, used with greater scorn,
48
Tyrannically mangled Soe was Born
Tyrannically mangled,
Gloss Note
so it
so
was
Gloss Note
endured
borne
,
Tyrannically mangled, so was borne,
hee

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Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
49
Hee being unmov’d Shew’d his Philoſophy
He, being unmoved, showed his philosophy:
He, being unmoved, showed his philosophy:
50
T’is Valianter by far to live then die
’Tis valianter by far to live than die.
Critical Note
The second of the poem’s three mottoes. This message seems specific to Pulter’s lines on Callisthenes, but the connection is puzzling given Callisthenes’s death in prison, without liberty. Is Pulter drawing our attention to the possible incongruities between her anecdotes and their concluding mottos? Or, perhaps, this motto becomes a thread for the poem’s broader message of stoic endurance: be patient and choose life.
’Tis valianter by far to live than die
.
51
Then if noe hope
Physical Note
imperfectly erased ascender follows
of
Liberty you See
Then if no hope of liberty you see
Then if no hope of liberty you see,
52
Think on the Snail, the Tulip and the
Physical Note
remainder of page blank, as is reverse
Bee
Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee.
Critical Note
“Then if no hope of liberty you see, / Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee.” The final of the poem’s three mottoes. Pointing us back to the emblem’s central fable, Pulter’s final lines explicitly mark the snail, tulip, and bee story as a political allegory about liberty, resistance, and stoic endurance. But what of the poem’s complex gender politics? Where do they fit within such an allegory, particularly one written by a Royalist female poet at the height of the English Civil Wars? To explore further the intersections of gender and English Civil War politics, see Hero Chalmers, Royalist Women Writers, 1650–1689 (Oxford University Press, 2004); and Sarah C. E. Ross, Women, Poetry, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2015), especially Chapter 4.
Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee
.
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

In my editions of Pulter’s poems, I prioritize accessibility and use my annotations to prompt further exploration. To make the poems accessible to the widest possible audience, I have modernized spelling, punctuation, and capitalization according to American English standards. My longer critical notes aim to demonstrate the complexity of Pulter’s thinking, while opening space for the reader’s own analysis and interpretation. In that same vein, I briefly note Pulter’s revisions to the poem in order to foreground her poetic craft. Her manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations, and I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images as they engage with Pulter’s writing. I offer some references to other early modern texts, but am most interested in drawing out how Pulter’s poems speak to each other as she reflects on clusters of ideas.

 Headnote

Emblem 53 offers a complex political allegory masquerading as a fable about a “covetous” honey bee, a patient snail, and a “painted” tulip. Alongside the poem’s political themes, Pulter raises questions about gender, science, and nature that echo her interest in these topics throughout the manuscript. Most significantly, there are glimpses in this poem of Pulter’s clever theorization of poetry itself—her ongoing exploration of how poetry makes meaning.
Three distinct, but related, mottoes drive this emblem. The first motto—”then let impatient spirits here but see / what ’tis to struggle with their destiny” (lines 37–8)—concludes the story Pulter tells of a honey bee, enticed by the poet’s sumptuous garden, who tries to gather more “nectar” than she can carry. Straying from the hive for far too long, the bee lands in a tulip alongside a snail just as the sun goes down and the tulip closes its petals. The second and third motto come in sequence at the poem’s end: “’tis valianter by far to live than die” (line 50) and “then if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (lines 51–52). These mottoes follow a catalogue of examples from classical history, mostly warnings about excessive pride and arrogance. Three mottoes is a lot for one emblem, which raises interesting questions as we read this poem. How do the three mottoes work together? Do the stories seem to unfold logically into their concluding mottoes or do the mottoes seem incongruous? How does Pulter use these multiple mottoes to invite us to consider the function of the motto as a feature of emblems?
Pulter’s emblem poems are “naked emblems,” as Millie Godfrey and Sarah C. E. Ross explain in their introduction to Mighty Nimrod (Emblem 1) [Poem 67]. Revising the traditional tripartite structure of the emblem (motto, visual image, and short epigrammatic verse), Pulter omits the visual image (pictura) element such that the reader must glean meaning solely from words. But Pulter’s language in this and many of her emblems is meant to help the reader paint their own picture. Here, for instance, Pulter references specific flowers, tracks the bee’s movements as it flits around the poet’s garden, and fills her lines with evocative descriptions (the morning sun is “lapped in a robe of silver mixed with gray” [line 5]). The emblem’s central characters—the snail, the tulip, and the bee—would also have been easy visual reference points for Pulter’s readers. All three figures were frequently portrayed in early modern emblem books, textual illustrations, and artwork.
All three figures are also at the center of early modern debates surrounding gender and sexuality. Even though none of the poem’s mottoes directly concern these topics, this emblem has much to teach us about Pulter’s interest and intervention in these debates. I track this theme throughout my annotations on the poem, noting, for instance, that Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (7) refers to a community of warrior women in Greek mythology (the Amazons), who were notoriously complicated gendered figures in early modern culture. “Demonstrating that women and men might be performatively interchangeable,” Kathryn Schwarz explains, “Amazons at once substantiate the signifiers of masculinity and threaten to replace the bodies to which they are attached.”
Gloss Note
Source: Schwarz, Tough Love: Amazon Encounters in the English Renaissance (Duke University Press, 2000): 38.
1
Amazons were often at the center of crossdressing plots (Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia), tales of women’s military leadership (Margaret Cavendish’s Bell in Campo), and stories about the relationship between desire and power (William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Pulter’s comparison of the bee to an “Amazonian maid” draws on this popular trope, but we might also read the comparison as an opening nod to the poem’s formal structure. The poem’s first half outlines a distinctly female garden community, populated by “fair Aurora” (1), the “Amazonian” bee” (7), the poet herself (17), and even the snail that slides about “upon her unctuous breast” (29). When the bee’s plot ends at line 37, though, the poem shifts to solely male reference points. Pulter mentions Biron (39), Belisarius (41), Bajazeth (43), and Callisthenes (47) as she guides the reader toward the poem’s concluding motto. But, shifting once more in the final couplet, Pulter ends by reminding us to “think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (52), a return to the female cast of the poem’s first half. In the formal structure of her poem—the gender-bending shifts in metaphors—Pulter brings to mind the threat posed by the figure of the Amazon: the possibility “that women and men might be performatively interchangeable.” In both the content and form of this poem, Pulter raises questions about how gender signifies, and particularly how emblematic, gender-specific metaphors signify.
Line number 1

 Critical note

Pulter’s opening reference to “fair Aurora” (Roman goddess of the dawn) initiates the gendered imagery of the poem’s first seven lines, which culminates with Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (line 7). These opening lines, with the Amazon reference as a kind of anchor point, transform the morning garden into a female separatist community—a framing with important implications for how we read the rest of the poem. First, framing the bee’s actions within this context connects the labor of collecting nectar to women’s work, which then prompts us to read Pulter’s later references to poisonous herbs (lines 13–14) and “choice extractions” (line 15) as nods to domestic labor. Second, it links Emblem 53 to other writings in which Pulter explores the intimacies that develop within communities of women, most notably the female friendships throughout her prose romance, The Unfortunate Florinda.
Line number 2

 Critical note

My editorial decision to add an em-dash here turns lines 3–6 into a clause that expands Pulter’s description of Aurora in lines 1–2 and emphasizes the unique formal structure of Pulter’s “naked emblems” (for more on this, see my headnote). Adding the em-dash marks how the concise description of Aurora waking up in the poem’s first two lines becomes a more expansive illustration of Aurora in lines 3–6, a kind of visual unfolding that nods to the pictura element of the traditional emblem structure. For more on the flexible structure of early modern emblems, see Peter Daly, Literature in the Light of the Emblem (University of Toronto Press, 1979).
Line number 3

 Critical note

Associating Aurora with virginity, Pulter departs from classical tradition in which Aurora is often aggressively sexualized. Pulter retains some of the figure’s fraught sexual history, though, by drawing on conventional blazon imagery, describing Aurora wrapped in a “silver” robe with “roses” ornamenting her “dewy curls.” This description echoes language from earlier poems in the manuscript dedicated to Aurora: To Aurora [1] [Poem 22], To Aurora [2] [Poem 26], and To Aurora [3] [Poem 34]. “To Aurora [3]” is particularly resonant here. In that earlier poem, Aurora “shakes her dewy curls” and fills the flowers—”each gold-enamelled cup”—with “honeydew” (lines 8–9). For more on Pulter’s use of blazon imagery throughout her poems, see Frances E. Dolan’s Exploration, “Hester Pulter and the Blazon in Early Modern England.”
Line number 3

 Gloss note

uncover or expose to view
Line number 4

 Gloss note

half-bloomed, half-blossomed
Line number 6

 Gloss note

foretell, forecast
Line number 7

 Critical note


The bee was a familiar subject of early modern emblems, frequently used as a model of ordered government (see Andrea Alciato, Emblematum liber [Padua, 1621], emblem 149) or successful, interdependent economy (see Geoffrey Whitney, Choice of Emblemes [London, 1585], pages 200–201). One seventeenth-century compendium on insects, compiled from the writings of several natural historians, including Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner, and Thomas Moffet, featured a beehive on its frontispiece and described bees as “patterns and precedents of political and economical virtues” (The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures [London, 1658]).

Pulter’s transformation of the bee into an Amazonian figure, however, is more unusual and even a bit contentious. The comparison enhances Pulter’s interrogation of gender in this poem (see my headnote) and connects this emblem to some of the manuscript’s more explicit political poetry (see Curation, The Political Bee).

Line number 9

 Gloss note

flowers
Line number 10

 Gloss note

a quantity drawn or extracted
Line number 12

 Gloss note

honey
Line number 12

 Physical note

revised in the manuscript; “for this ^ her wisdome’s crownd”
Line number 14

 Critical note

All five plants catalogued in these lines are poisonous, but their pollen is not. Consequently, the bee can safely extract pollen but the toad and spider of line 11 (eating the plants’ leaves, flowers, or stems) find “poisons.” Pulter may have gained knowledge of these plants from direct, hands-on experience. There were also several popular herbals circulating by the time she was writing, including John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597) and Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physician Enlarged (London, 1653). The British Library offers a useful peek at Gerard’s Herbal, along with some context on Shakespeare’s use of “henbane” in Hamlet and “nightshade” in Romeo and Juliet.
Line number 15

 Critical note

John Milton also uses the verb “extract” to describe the bee’s work in Book 5 of Paradise Lost. Adam calls Eve awake “to mark … how the bee / sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet” (lines 20–25). The noun “extraction” and its verb form “extract” (line 12) had alchemical, medicinal, and culinary connotations in seventeenth-century use. “To extract” is “to obtain (constituent elements, juices, etc.) from a thing or substance by suction, pressure, distillation, or any chemical or mechanical operation” (“extract, v.4a,” OED Online). As evidence for this particular connotation of “extract,” the Oxford English Dictionary cites Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature (London, 1594) and Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum; or, A Natural History (London, 1626), two popular early modern scientific texts with which Pulter may have been familiar. Is Pulter also demonstrating her knowledge of early modern herbals, texts that catalogued plants and their medicinal and culinary uses? If so, her uses of “extract” and “extraction” connect to the catalogue of poisonous plants in lines 13–14. For an extended exploration of “human art” in relation to plants, see View But This Tulip (Emblem 40) [Poem 105].
Line number 16

 Gloss note

six-sided; a reference to the comb shapes of a bee hive
Line number 17

 Gloss note

to be caught or captured by; the bee is “taken with” the beauty of the narrator’s garden
Line number 17

This is our first glimpse of the poem’s narrator, often a much more pervasive presence in Pulter’s poems. In early poems in the manuscript, like Made When I Was Sick, 1647 [Poem 31], the entire poem revolves around the narrator’s experience and thoughts. The sparse, late use of the first-person pronoun here, though, is more typical of Pulter’s emblem poems, a few of which never reference the poet directly. See, for instance, Raccoons (Emblem 21) [Poem 86].

It’s worth noting that this first reference to the poet (one of only two in the poem) is also connected to the garden and the all-female community of the poem’s first half. Perhaps even more interesting, the narrator’s garden is the site of the bee’s demise. We learn the story of the bee and the snail in the next few lines and we might even imagine that the poet is a first-hand witness, watching the snail “slid[e]” out of the tulip in the morning while the bee “fainting lie[s]” (line 35).

Line number 19

 Physical note

revised in the manuscript; “to see the \curious \ ouricolas curious drest”
Line number 19

 Gloss note

primula auricula; also known as mountain cowslip or bear’s ear (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
Line number 20

 Gloss note

In Greek mythology, Iris is messenger of the gods and a personification of the rainbow. Iris is also another type of flower. In contemporary botany, iris is a genus of many species of flowering plants like the iris sibirica (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
Line number 21

 Critical note

The tulip has special significance in Pulter’s emblem. She not only makes the center of this flower the location for her fable of the bee and snail (as we’re about to see); she also describes the tulip with language that evokes the “tulipmania” of the early seventeenth century: “painted” (here and again in line 27) and “gilded” (line 34). From the 1580’s to the mid-1630’s, tulips were a prized and elusive commodity, famous in aristocratic gardens and still life paintings, but notoriously difficult to study and classify given their infinite variety. In John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597), Gerard describes the tulips as “a strange and foreign flower” and emphasizes that it is impossible to catalogue all of its varieties: “each new yeare bringeth forth new plants of sundry colours, not before seene” ([London, 1597], Text Creation Partnership digital edition, Early English Books Online, pages 137–140). The craze surrounding the tulip culminated in the Dutch “tulipmania” of the 1630’s, when the price of tulip bulbs inflated drastically (the most expensive specimens went for around 5,000 guilders). We might speculate that Pulter has this recent cultural phenomenon in mind when she describes the tulips first as luxurious garden accessories (“painted in their pride”) and then as the bee’s “painted prison.” See this poem’s Curation (Pulter’s Garden) for examples of Gerard’s tulip woodcuts and Dutch still life paintings featuring the flower. For more on the tulip in early modern English contexts, see Anna Pavord’s The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad (Bloomsbury, 1999), especially chapter 3.
Line number 22

 Gloss note

greedy
Line number 26

 Gloss note

the flowers
Line number 28

 Critical note

The third central character in Pulter’s emblem, the snail presented a unique sexual conundrum because of its shell, so early moderns hypothesized that the snail could spontaneously reproduce: “Thou thine own daughter then, and sire, / that son and mother art entire” (Richard Lovelace, “The Snail”). In medieval and early modern art, the snail was often linked to the Virgin Mary as a symbol of virginity. Francesco del Cossa’s Annunciation, for example, includes a snail in the painting’s foreground, positioned directly in front of Mary as she receives the news of her immaculate conception. Geneticist Steve Jones offers a useful account of the history of the snail as a symbol of “sex, age, and death” in his lecture, “Snails in Art and the Art of Snails” (2014), available online through the Museum of London. By the time Pulter was writing, the snail was increasingly cited in debates about the role of reproduction in the plant and animal worlds. Several decades after Pulter’s death in 1678, Dutch anatomist Jan Swammerdam proved that snails were hermaphrodites (Bybel der Natuure, Leiden, 1737). Before that point, as historian of science Domenico Bertolini Meli outlines, hermaphrodites were seen to be rare occurrences, even monsters. Swammerdam’s findings became the basis for arguments on the natural occurrence of hermaphrodites in nature (Meli, “Of Snails and Horsetails: Anatomical Empiricism in the Early Modern Period,” Early Science and Medicine 18.4/5 (2013): 435–452).
Line number 29

 Gloss note

oily, greasy
Line number 31

 Physical note

revised in the manuscript; “bee doth \did \ such a”
Line number 33

 Critical note

Pulter’s use of “Delia,” an unusual and distinctly feminized name for Apollo, the Greek sun god born on the island of Delos, marks a conscious shift from her use of “Aurora,” goddess of the dawn, at the start of the poem. As Victoria Burke notes in her Amplified Edition of Aurora [1] [Poem 3], the feminized Delia, as opposed to Delius, could be a transcription error, but Pulter does use Delia to refer to Apollo in several other poems, including The Eclipse [Poem 1] and The Garden, or the Contention of Flowers [Poem 12]. Given this emblem’s interrogation of gender, we might read Pulter’s slippage here as an invitation. As the female bee (“the active Amazonian maid”) dies and the poem shifts to a cluster of male figures in its closing lines, is Pulter’s switch from Aurora to Delia (and, perhaps, from Delius to Delia) meant to both mark and trouble this transition?
Line number 33

 Gloss note

spread out
Line number 34

 Gloss note

adorned or embellished; a term most often associated with artificial objects
Line number 38

 Critical note

“Then let impatient spirits here but see / What ’tis to struggle with their destiny.” The first of the poem’s three possible mottoes. Pulter uses the fable of the snail, tulip, and bee to offer a lesson in struggling against destiny. The “impatient” bee struggles against her “painted prison” (line 27), while the patient snail “see[s] no hope” and “lay[s] … down to rest” (line 30). In the poem’s final motto, Pulter reminds us of the snail, tulip, and bee fable (“if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” [lines 51–52]), but the lessons of the two mottoes are slightly different—enough to invite some critical thinking on the part of Pulter’s reader. This motto focuses on destiny, while the poem’s final motto foregrounds liberty. Who are the “impatient spirits” Pulter addresses with this lesson? Who is the “you” of the final motto’s direct address?
Line number 39

 Gloss note

proud, haughty
Line number 39

 Critical note


This comparison starts Pulter’s catalogue of male military leaders, rulers, and thinkers—four in total by the poem’s end. As I noted in my headnote, this cast of characters marks a significant gender shift from the female-centric opening of the poem. But this phrase is also formally noteworthy. Rather than using just one or two comparisons to illustrate her point, Pulter here offers an extensive catalogue of examples: “so stout Biron” (line 39), “when Belisarius” (line 41), “so miscre’nt Bajazeth” (line 43), and “when wise Callisthenes” (line 47). The anaphoric “so’s” and “when’s” of these final lines, very typical of Pulter’s emblems, signal her strategic accumulation of these examples. Again, how might Pulter be using her poems to explore how poetic language signifies? See my headnote for more on this question.

Charles de Gontaut, duc de Biron, was a sixteenth-century French military leader eventually involved in conspiracies against the French crown. He was jailed and beheaded for treason in 1602. Alice Eardley cites George Chapman’s play, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Marshall of France (1608) as one possible source for Pulter’s anecdote here. Biron was “notorious for his arrogance,” Eardley notes, and in Chapman’s play his sword is removed from him, “treatment he vigorously resists.” See Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, Ed. Alice Eardley, (Toronto: Iter, 2014), 263 n.513.

Line number 41

 Gloss note

Belisarius was a famous military leader of the Byzantine Empire. Pulter here references the apocryphal story that Justinian ordered Belisarius’s eyes put out and that Belisarius became a beggar at the gates of Rome. Looking forward a bit beyond Pulter’s lifetime, Belisarius’s story was especially popular by the end of the eighteenth century. See, for instance, Jean-François Marmontel’s Bélisaire: A Novel (1767), Margaretta Faugères’s closet drama, Belisarius: A Tragedy (1795), and Jacques-Louis David’s painting, “Belisarius Begging for Alms” (1780).
Line number 43

 Gloss note

an abbreviation of “miscreant”; heretical or pagan, but also villainous
Line number 43

 Critical note

In Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s poems, she cites Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (published 1590) as a possible source for Pulter’s reference to the Turkish emperor Bajazeth. In Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine defeats Bajazeth and keeps him in a cage, taking him out only to serve as Tamburlaine’s footstool. After a lengthy imprisonment, Bajazeth kills himself by smashing his head against the bars of his cage. See Eardley (ed.), Poems, 263 n.516.
Line number 47

 Gloss note

Callisthenes was a Greek historian, eventually the official historian of Alexander the Great until he was accused of plotting against Alexander. There are several different accounts of his death. Pulter seems to be referencing the version from Ptolemy in which Callisthenes is tortured and hanged in an iron cage.
Line number 50

 Critical note

The second of the poem’s three mottoes. This message seems specific to Pulter’s lines on Callisthenes, but the connection is puzzling given Callisthenes’s death in prison, without liberty. Is Pulter drawing our attention to the possible incongruities between her anecdotes and their concluding mottos? Or, perhaps, this motto becomes a thread for the poem’s broader message of stoic endurance: be patient and choose life.
Line number 52

 Critical note

“Then if no hope of liberty you see, / Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee.” The final of the poem’s three mottoes. Pointing us back to the emblem’s central fable, Pulter’s final lines explicitly mark the snail, tulip, and bee story as a political allegory about liberty, resistance, and stoic endurance. But what of the poem’s complex gender politics? Where do they fit within such an allegory, particularly one written by a Royalist female poet at the height of the English Civil Wars? To explore further the intersections of gender and English Civil War politics, see Hero Chalmers, Royalist Women Writers, 1650–1689 (Oxford University Press, 2004); and Sarah C. E. Ross, Women, Poetry, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2015), especially Chapter 4.
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Amplified Edition

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Physical Note
Unlike surrounding poems in the “Emblems” section, no number precedes this poem.
[Emblem 53]
The Snail, the Tulip, and the Bee
(Emblem 53)
The Snail, the Tulip, and the Bee
(Emblem 53)
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.

— Whitney Sperrazza
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.

— Whitney Sperrazza
In my editions of Pulter’s poems, I prioritize accessibility and use my annotations to prompt further exploration. To make the poems accessible to the widest possible audience, I have modernized spelling, punctuation, and capitalization according to American English standards. My longer critical notes aim to demonstrate the complexity of Pulter’s thinking, while opening space for the reader’s own analysis and interpretation. In that same vein, I briefly note Pulter’s revisions to the poem in order to foreground her poetic craft. Her manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations, and I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images as they engage with Pulter’s writing. I offer some references to other early modern texts, but am most interested in drawing out how Pulter’s poems speak to each other as she reflects on clusters of ideas.

— Whitney Sperrazza


— Whitney Sperrazza
We all know the cliché of the busy bee, but Pulter found in the bee an emblem not of virtuous industry but instead of overzealous curiosity, greed, and poor judgment. After praising “the active Amazonian maid” for her industriousness and herbalist know-how, this emblem tells of how the bee—having collected her fill of nectar, but unable to leave well enough alone—becomes trapped in a tulip when, at day’s end, its petals close around her. The bee works furiously to escape; a snail, similarly caught, falls asleep without a struggle. In the morning, when the petals reopen, the snail simply leaves, while the bee dies of exhaustion. Pulter sees in her garden an all-female community of vegetable, animal, and celestial beings demonstrating the moral which the poem then shows men to have enacted historically, in a sequence of exemplars warning against impatience and fighting fate. While that may be the overall moral, the poem also touches on the tension between confinement and freedom which so often preoccupies Pulter. The framing phrase for the emblem’s moral—“if no hope of liberty you see”—closely tracks the concluding declaration in “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57): “I no liberty expect to see …” Did Pulter identify with the snail or the bee?

— Whitney Sperrazza
Emblem 53 offers a complex political allegory masquerading as a fable about a “covetous” honey bee, a patient snail, and a “painted” tulip. Alongside the poem’s political themes, Pulter raises questions about gender, science, and nature that echo her interest in these topics throughout the manuscript. Most significantly, there are glimpses in this poem of Pulter’s clever theorization of poetry itself—her ongoing exploration of how poetry makes meaning.
Three distinct, but related, mottoes drive this emblem. The first motto—”then let impatient spirits here but see / what ’tis to struggle with their destiny” (lines 37–8)—concludes the story Pulter tells of a honey bee, enticed by the poet’s sumptuous garden, who tries to gather more “nectar” than she can carry. Straying from the hive for far too long, the bee lands in a tulip alongside a snail just as the sun goes down and the tulip closes its petals. The second and third motto come in sequence at the poem’s end: “’tis valianter by far to live than die” (line 50) and “then if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (lines 51–52). These mottoes follow a catalogue of examples from classical history, mostly warnings about excessive pride and arrogance. Three mottoes is a lot for one emblem, which raises interesting questions as we read this poem. How do the three mottoes work together? Do the stories seem to unfold logically into their concluding mottoes or do the mottoes seem incongruous? How does Pulter use these multiple mottoes to invite us to consider the function of the motto as a feature of emblems?
Pulter’s emblem poems are “naked emblems,” as Millie Godfrey and Sarah C. E. Ross explain in their introduction to Mighty Nimrod (Emblem 1) [Poem 67]. Revising the traditional tripartite structure of the emblem (motto, visual image, and short epigrammatic verse), Pulter omits the visual image (pictura) element such that the reader must glean meaning solely from words. But Pulter’s language in this and many of her emblems is meant to help the reader paint their own picture. Here, for instance, Pulter references specific flowers, tracks the bee’s movements as it flits around the poet’s garden, and fills her lines with evocative descriptions (the morning sun is “lapped in a robe of silver mixed with gray” [line 5]). The emblem’s central characters—the snail, the tulip, and the bee—would also have been easy visual reference points for Pulter’s readers. All three figures were frequently portrayed in early modern emblem books, textual illustrations, and artwork.
All three figures are also at the center of early modern debates surrounding gender and sexuality. Even though none of the poem’s mottoes directly concern these topics, this emblem has much to teach us about Pulter’s interest and intervention in these debates. I track this theme throughout my annotations on the poem, noting, for instance, that Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (7) refers to a community of warrior women in Greek mythology (the Amazons), who were notoriously complicated gendered figures in early modern culture. “Demonstrating that women and men might be performatively interchangeable,” Kathryn Schwarz explains, “Amazons at once substantiate the signifiers of masculinity and threaten to replace the bodies to which they are attached.”
Gloss Note
Source: Schwarz, Tough Love: Amazon Encounters in the English Renaissance (Duke University Press, 2000): 38.
1
Amazons were often at the center of crossdressing plots (Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia), tales of women’s military leadership (Margaret Cavendish’s Bell in Campo), and stories about the relationship between desire and power (William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Pulter’s comparison of the bee to an “Amazonian maid” draws on this popular trope, but we might also read the comparison as an opening nod to the poem’s formal structure. The poem’s first half outlines a distinctly female garden community, populated by “fair Aurora” (1), the “Amazonian” bee” (7), the poet herself (17), and even the snail that slides about “upon her unctuous breast” (29). When the bee’s plot ends at line 37, though, the poem shifts to solely male reference points. Pulter mentions Biron (39), Belisarius (41), Bajazeth (43), and Callisthenes (47) as she guides the reader toward the poem’s concluding motto. But, shifting once more in the final couplet, Pulter ends by reminding us to “think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (52), a return to the female cast of the poem’s first half. In the formal structure of her poem—the gender-bending shifts in metaphors—Pulter brings to mind the threat posed by the figure of the Amazon: the possibility “that women and men might be performatively interchangeable.” In both the content and form of this poem, Pulter raises questions about how gender signifies, and particularly how emblematic, gender-specific metaphors signify.


— Whitney Sperrazza
1
53When fair Aurora drest with Raidient Light
When fair
Gloss Note
goddess of dawn
Aurora
, dressed with radiant light,
When
Critical Note
Pulter’s opening reference to “fair Aurora” (Roman goddess of the dawn) initiates the gendered imagery of the poem’s first seven lines, which culminates with Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (line 7). These opening lines, with the Amazon reference as a kind of anchor point, transform the morning garden into a female separatist community—a framing with important implications for how we read the rest of the poem. First, framing the bee’s actions within this context connects the labor of collecting nectar to women’s work, which then prompts us to read Pulter’s later references to poisonous herbs (lines 13–14) and “choice extractions” (line 15) as nods to domestic labor. Second, it links Emblem 53 to other writings in which Pulter explores the intimacies that develop within communities of women, most notably the female friendships throughout her prose romance, The Unfortunate Florinda.
fair Aurora
, dressed with radiant light,
2
Had triumph’d o’re the Gloomey Shades of Night
Had triumphed o’er the gloomy shades of night—
Had triumphed o’er the gloomy shades of
Critical Note
My editorial decision to add an em-dash here turns lines 3–6 into a clause that expands Pulter’s description of Aurora in lines 1–2 and emphasizes the unique formal structure of Pulter’s “naked emblems” (for more on this, see my headnote). Adding the em-dash marks how the concise description of Aurora waking up in the poem’s first two lines becomes a more expansive illustration of Aurora in lines 3–6, a kind of visual unfolding that nods to the pictura element of the traditional emblem structure. For more on the flexible structure of early modern emblems, see Peter Daly, Literature in the Light of the Emblem (University of Toronto Press, 1979).
night
3
When Shee her Virgin beavty first diſcloſes
When she her
Gloss Note
pure
virgin
beauty first discloses,
When she her
Critical Note
Associating Aurora with virginity, Pulter departs from classical tradition in which Aurora is often aggressively sexualized. Pulter retains some of the figure’s fraught sexual history, though, by drawing on conventional blazon imagery, describing Aurora wrapped in a “silver” robe with “roses” ornamenting her “dewy curls.” This description echoes language from earlier poems in the manuscript dedicated to Aurora: To Aurora [1] [Poem 22], To Aurora [2] [Poem 26], and To Aurora [3] [Poem 34]. “To Aurora [3]” is particularly resonant here. In that earlier poem, Aurora “shakes her dewy curls” and fills the flowers—”each gold-enamelled cup”—with “honeydew” (lines 8–9). For more on Pulter’s use of blazon imagery throughout her poems, see Frances E. Dolan’s Exploration, “Hester Pulter and the Blazon in Early Modern England.”
virgin beauty
first
Gloss Note
uncover or expose to view
discloses
,
4
Her dewey Curles Stuck full of half blown Roſes
Her dewy curls stuck full of
Gloss Note
half-blossomed
half-blown
roses,
Her dewy curls stuck full of
Gloss Note
half-bloomed, half-blossomed
half-blown
roses,
5
Lapt in A Robe of Silver mixt with graie
Gloss Note
wrapped up
Lapped
in a robe of silver mixed with gray,
Lapped in a robe of silver mixed with gray,
6
Which did prognoſticate a glorious day
Which did
Gloss Note
foretell
prognosticate
a glorious day—
Which did
Gloss Note
foretell, forecast
prognosticate
a glorious day–
7
Out flew the active Amizonian Maid
Out flew the
Gloss Note
Amazons were legendary female warriors who served a queen; here used figuratively to describe a bee
active Amazonian maid
;
Out flew the
Critical Note

The bee was a familiar subject of early modern emblems, frequently used as a model of ordered government (see Andrea Alciato, Emblematum liber [Padua, 1621], emblem 149) or successful, interdependent economy (see Geoffrey Whitney, Choice of Emblemes [London, 1585], pages 200–201). One seventeenth-century compendium on insects, compiled from the writings of several natural historians, including Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner, and Thomas Moffet, featured a beehive on its frontispiece and described bees as “patterns and precedents of political and economical virtues” (The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures [London, 1658]).

Pulter’s transformation of the bee into an Amazonian figure, however, is more unusual and even a bit contentious. The comparison enhances Pulter’s interrogation of gender in this poem (see my headnote) and connects this emblem to some of the manuscript’s more explicit political poetry (see Curation, The Political Bee).

active Amazonian maid
.
8
The Hills and Dales, not onely Shee Surveyd
The hills and dales not only she surveyed,
The hills and dales not only she surveyed,
9
But out of every Gold
Physical Note
“E” and “e” appear written over earlier “i”s
Enameld
Cup
But out of every gold-enamelled cup
But out of every
Gloss Note
flowers
gold-enamelled cup
10
Her Mornings draught of Nectar Shee did Sup
Her morning’s draft of nectar she did sup.
Her morning’s
Gloss Note
a quantity drawn or extracted
draft
of nectar she did sup.
11
Nay where the Toad, and Spider poyſons found
Nay, where the toad and spider’s poison found,
Nay, where the toad and spider poisons found,
12
Mell Shee Extracts, for this ^ her Wisdome’s Crownd
Gloss Note
honey
Mell
she extracts;
Gloss Note
Bees were reputed to be able to turn poisons into honey.
for this her wisdom’s crowned
.
Gloss Note
honey
Mell
she extracts; for this
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “for this ^ her wisdome’s crownd”
her wisdom’s
crowned.
13
On
Physical Note
“t” in different hand from main scribe
Nightſhade
, Henbane, Helliſh Acconite
On nightshade, henbane, hellish aconite,
On nightshade, henbane, hellish aconite,
14
On Opium, Hemlock, Shee doth Safely lite
On opium,
Gloss Note
This plant, like opium and the three in the previous line, are all poisonous.
hemlock
she doth safely
Gloss Note
land
light
.
On opium, hemlock she doth
Critical Note
All five plants catalogued in these lines are poisonous, but their pollen is not. Consequently, the bee can safely extract pollen but the toad and spider of line 11 (eating the plants’ leaves, flowers, or stems) find “poisons.” Pulter may have gained knowledge of these plants from direct, hands-on experience. There were also several popular herbals circulating by the time she was writing, including John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597) and Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physician Enlarged (London, 1653). The British Library offers a useful peek at Gerard’s Herbal, along with some context on Shakespeare’s use of “henbane” in Hamlet and “nightshade” in Romeo and Juliet.
safely light
.
15
Thus being with choyce Extractions loaded well
Thus being with choice extractions loaded well,
Thus being with
Critical Note
John Milton also uses the verb “extract” to describe the bee’s work in Book 5 of Paradise Lost. Adam calls Eve awake “to mark … how the bee / sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet” (lines 20–25). The noun “extraction” and its verb form “extract” (line 12) had alchemical, medicinal, and culinary connotations in seventeenth-century use. “To extract” is “to obtain (constituent elements, juices, etc.) from a thing or substance by suction, pressure, distillation, or any chemical or mechanical operation” (“extract, v.4a,” OED Online). As evidence for this particular connotation of “extract,” the Oxford English Dictionary cites Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature (London, 1594) and Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum; or, A Natural History (London, 1626), two popular early modern scientific texts with which Pulter may have been familiar. Is Pulter also demonstrating her knowledge of early modern herbals, texts that catalogued plants and their medicinal and culinary uses? If so, her uses of “extract” and “extraction” connect to the catalogue of poisonous plants in lines 13–14. For an extended exploration of “human art” in relation to plants, see View But This Tulip (Emblem 40) [Poem 105].
choice extractions
loaded well,
16
Shee turn’d to flie to her Sexanguler Cell
She turned to fly to her
Gloss Note
six-sided
sexangular
cell.
She turned to fly to her
Gloss Note
six-sided; a reference to the comb shapes of a bee hive
sexangular cell
.
17
But takeing of my Garden in her way
But
Gloss Note
apprehending
taking of
my garden in her way,
But
Gloss Note
to be caught or captured by; the bee is “taken with” the beauty of the narrator’s garden
taking of

This is our first glimpse of the poem’s narrator, often a much more pervasive presence in Pulter’s poems. In early poems in the manuscript, like Made When I Was Sick, 1647 [Poem 31], the entire poem revolves around the narrator’s experience and thoughts. The sparse, late use of the first-person pronoun here, though, is more typical of Pulter’s emblem poems, a few of which never reference the poet directly. See, for instance, Raccoons (Emblem 21) [Poem 86].

It’s worth noting that this first reference to the poet (one of only two in the poem) is also connected to the garden and the all-female community of the poem’s first half. Perhaps even more interesting, the narrator’s garden is the site of the bee’s demise. We learn the story of the bee and the snail in the next few lines and we might even imagine that the poet is a first-hand witness, watching the snail “slid[e]” out of the tulip in the morning while the bee “fainting lie[s]” (line 35).

my garden
in her way,
18
Though full before Shee could not chooſe but Stay
Though full before, she could not choose but stay
Though full before, she could not choose but stay
19
To See the
Physical Note
insertion in different hand from main scribe
\ curious \
Ouricolas
Physical Note
double strike-through
curious
drest
To see the
Gloss Note
clever, elaborately made
curious
Gloss Note
type of flower
auriculas
dressed
To see the
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “to see the \curious \ ouricolas curious drest”
curious
Gloss Note
primula auricula; also known as mountain cowslip or bear’s ear (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
auriculas
dressed
20
More variously then Iris dewey breast
More variously than
Gloss Note
goddess of the rainbow, also a type of flower
Iris’s
dewy breast.
More variously than
Gloss Note
In Greek mythology, Iris is messenger of the gods and a personification of the rainbow. Iris is also another type of flower. In contemporary botany, iris is a genus of many species of flowering plants like the iris sibirica (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
Iris’s
dewy breast.
21
Then were my Tulips painted in there Pride
Then were my tulips painted in their pride,
Then were my
Critical Note
The tulip has special significance in Pulter’s emblem. She not only makes the center of this flower the location for her fable of the bee and snail (as we’re about to see); she also describes the tulip with language that evokes the “tulipmania” of the early seventeenth century: “painted” (here and again in line 27) and “gilded” (line 34). From the 1580’s to the mid-1630’s, tulips were a prized and elusive commodity, famous in aristocratic gardens and still life paintings, but notoriously difficult to study and classify given their infinite variety. In John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597), Gerard describes the tulips as “a strange and foreign flower” and emphasizes that it is impossible to catalogue all of its varieties: “each new yeare bringeth forth new plants of sundry colours, not before seene” ([London, 1597], Text Creation Partnership digital edition, Early English Books Online, pages 137–140). The craze surrounding the tulip culminated in the Dutch “tulipmania” of the 1630’s, when the price of tulip bulbs inflated drastically (the most expensive specimens went for around 5,000 guilders). We might speculate that Pulter has this recent cultural phenomenon in mind when she describes the tulips first as luxurious garden accessories (“painted in their pride”) and then as the bee’s “painted prison.” See this poem’s Curation (Pulter’s Garden) for examples of Gerard’s tulip woodcuts and Dutch still life paintings featuring the flower. For more on the tulip in early modern English contexts, see Anna Pavord’s The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad (Bloomsbury, 1999), especially chapter 3.
tulips painted
in their pride,
22
Which when this covetous Inſect Eſpi’de
Which, when this covetous insect espied,
Which, when this
Gloss Note
greedy
covetous
insect espied,
23
To carry home her wealth Shee’d not ye power
To carry home her wealth she’d not the power
To carry home her wealth she’d not the power
24
Till Shee had Search’d the Sweets of every fflower
Till she had searched the sweets of every flower.
Till she had searched the sweets of every flower.
the

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25
The Sun, from home, all, Influence Receives
The sun,
Gloss Note
“whom” is spelled as “home” in the manuscript; all are influenced by the sun
from whom all influence receives
,
The sun, from whom all influence receives,
26
Bid them decline, The Tulip cloſ’d her Leaves
Bids them
Gloss Note
bend down, droop
decline
; the tulip closed her
Gloss Note
petals
leaves
,
Bid
Gloss Note
the flowers
them
decline; the tulip closed her leaves,
27
And in that painted Priſon Shut the Bee
And in that painted prison shut the bee,
And in that painted prison shut the bee.
28
With her A Snail, who Slid about to See
Gloss Note
and with
With
her a snail, who slid about (to see
With her a
Critical Note
The third central character in Pulter’s emblem, the snail presented a unique sexual conundrum because of its shell, so early moderns hypothesized that the snail could spontaneously reproduce: “Thou thine own daughter then, and sire, / that son and mother art entire” (Richard Lovelace, “The Snail”). In medieval and early modern art, the snail was often linked to the Virgin Mary as a symbol of virginity. Francesco del Cossa’s Annunciation, for example, includes a snail in the painting’s foreground, positioned directly in front of Mary as she receives the news of her immaculate conception. Geneticist Steve Jones offers a useful account of the history of the snail as a symbol of “sex, age, and death” in his lecture, “Snails in Art and the Art of Snails” (2014), available online through the Museum of London. By the time Pulter was writing, the snail was increasingly cited in debates about the role of reproduction in the plant and animal worlds. Several decades after Pulter’s death in 1678, Dutch anatomist Jan Swammerdam proved that snails were hermaphrodites (Bybel der Natuure, Leiden, 1737). Before that point, as historian of science Domenico Bertolini Meli outlines, hermaphrodites were seen to be rare occurrences, even monsters. Swammerdam’s findings became the basis for arguments on the natural occurrence of hermaphrodites in nature (Meli, “Of Snails and Horsetails: Anatomical Empiricism in the Early Modern Period,” Early Science and Medicine 18.4/5 (2013): 435–452).
snail
, who slid about to see
29
Where to get out upon her Unctious brest
Where to get out) upon her
Gloss Note
greasy
unctuous
breast;
Where to get out upon her
Gloss Note
oily, greasy
unctuous
breast;
30
But Seeing noe hope, Shee laid her down to rest
But seeing no hope, she laid
Gloss Note
herself
her
down to rest,
But seeing no hope, she laid her down to rest,
31
Whilst the Angrie Bee
Physical Note
double strike-through
doth
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\did \
Such A ffluttring Keep
Whilst the angry bee did such a flutt’ring
Gloss Note
make
keep
,
Whilst the angry bee
Physical Note
revised in the manuscript; “bee doth \did \ such a”
did
such a flutt’ring keep,
32
Shee nor her fellow Priſner could not Sleep
Gloss Note
Neither she
She
nor her fellow pris’ner could not sleep.
She nor her fellow pris’ner could not sleep.
33
But Night being past, Delia diffuſ’d his Rais
But night being past,
Gloss Note
here, Apollo, the sun god (named because he was from the island of Delos, usually called Delius)
Delia
diffused his rays;
But night being past,
Critical Note
Pulter’s use of “Delia,” an unusual and distinctly feminized name for Apollo, the Greek sun god born on the island of Delos, marks a conscious shift from her use of “Aurora,” goddess of the dawn, at the start of the poem. As Victoria Burke notes in her Amplified Edition of Aurora [1] [Poem 3], the feminized Delia, as opposed to Delius, could be a transcription error, but Pulter does use Delia to refer to Apollo in several other poems, including The Eclipse [Poem 1] and The Garden, or the Contention of Flowers [Poem 12]. Given this emblem’s interrogation of gender, we might read Pulter’s slippage here as an invitation. As the female bee (“the active Amazonian maid”) dies and the poem shifts to a cluster of male figures in its closing lines, is Pulter’s switch from Aurora to Delia (and, perhaps, from Delius to Delia) meant to both mark and trouble this transition?
Delia
Gloss Note
spread out
diffused
his rays;
34
The Tulip then her gilded Leaves diſplais
The tulip then her gilded leaves displays.
The tulip then her
Gloss Note
adorned or embellished; a term most often associated with artificial objects
gilded
leaves displays.
35
Out Slid the Snail, the Bee did fainting lie
Out slid the snail; the bee did fainting lie,
Out slid the snail; the bee did fainting lie,
36
And thus with Beating of her Self did die
And thus with beating of herself did die.
And thus with beating of herself did die.
37
Then let impatient Spirits here but See
Then let impatient spirits here but see
Then let impatient spirits here but see
38
What ’tis to Struggle with their destinie
What ’tis to struggle with their destiny.
Critical Note
“Then let impatient spirits here but see / What ’tis to struggle with their destiny.” The first of the poem’s three possible mottoes. Pulter uses the fable of the snail, tulip, and bee to offer a lesson in struggling against destiny. The “impatient” bee struggles against her “painted prison” (line 27), while the patient snail “see[s] no hope” and “lay[s] … down to rest” (line 30). In the poem’s final motto, Pulter reminds us of the snail, tulip, and bee fable (“if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” [lines 51–52]), but the lessons of the two mottoes are slightly different—enough to invite some critical thinking on the part of Pulter’s reader. This motto focuses on destiny, while the poem’s final motto foregrounds liberty. Who are the “impatient spirits” Pulter addresses with this lesson? Who is the “you” of the final motto’s direct address?
What ’tis to struggle with their destiny
.
39
Soe Stout Byrone in Priſon was inrag’d
So
Gloss Note
proud, arrogant
stout
Gloss Note
Charles de Gontant, duc de Biron; a celebrated sixteenth-century French soldier famed for his overweening pride and eventually executed for treason; in George Chapman’s play about him, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Biron’s sword is confiscated by the king.
Biron
in prison was enraged,
So
Gloss Note
proud, haughty
stout
Critical Note

This comparison starts Pulter’s catalogue of male military leaders, rulers, and thinkers—four in total by the poem’s end. As I noted in my headnote, this cast of characters marks a significant gender shift from the female-centric opening of the poem. But this phrase is also formally noteworthy. Rather than using just one or two comparisons to illustrate her point, Pulter here offers an extensive catalogue of examples: “so stout Biron” (line 39), “when Belisarius” (line 41), “so miscre’nt Bajazeth” (line 43), and “when wise Callisthenes” (line 47). The anaphoric “so’s” and “when’s” of these final lines, very typical of Pulter’s emblems, signal her strategic accumulation of these examples. Again, how might Pulter be using her poems to explore how poetic language signifies? See my headnote for more on this question.

Charles de Gontaut, duc de Biron, was a sixteenth-century French military leader eventually involved in conspiracies against the French crown. He was jailed and beheaded for treason in 1602. Alice Eardley cites George Chapman’s play, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Marshall of France (1608) as one possible source for Pulter’s anecdote here. Biron was “notorious for his arrogance,” Eardley notes, and in Chapman’s play his sword is removed from him, “treatment he vigorously resists.” See Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, Ed. Alice Eardley, (Toronto: Iter, 2014), 263 n.513.

Biron
in prison was enraged,
40
Knowing his King was to his Sword ingag’d
Knowing his king was to his sword engaged.
Knowing his king was to his sword engaged.
41
When Bellizarus by A dog was led
When
Gloss Note
successful general of sixth-century Roman emperor Justinian, later accused of conspiracy; reputedly, his eyes were put out and he ended his life as a beggar.
Belisarius
by a dog was led,
When
Gloss Note
Belisarius was a famous military leader of the Byzantine Empire. Pulter here references the apocryphal story that Justinian ordered Belisarius’s eyes put out and that Belisarius became a beggar at the gates of Rome. Looking forward a bit beyond Pulter’s lifetime, Belisarius’s story was especially popular by the end of the eighteenth century. See, for instance, Jean-François Marmontel’s Bélisaire: A Novel (1767), Margaretta Faugères’s closet drama, Belisarius: A Tragedy (1795), and Jacques-Louis David’s painting, “Belisarius Begging for Alms” (1780).
Belisarius
by a dog was led,
42
Being blind hee patiently did beg his Bread
Being blind, he patiently did beg his bread.
Being blind, he patiently did beg his bread.
43
Soe miſcre’nt Bajazet did Shew his Rage
So
Gloss Note
villainous
miscre’nt
Gloss Note
fourteenth-century Turkish Emperor captured in war by Tamburlaine (the “proud Tartar”); in Christopher Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine, Bajazeth kills himself on the bars of his prison.
Bajazeth
did show his rage
So
Gloss Note
an abbreviation of “miscreant”; heretical or pagan, but also villainous
miscre’nt
Critical Note
In Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s poems, she cites Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (published 1590) as a possible source for Pulter’s reference to the Turkish emperor Bajazeth. In Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine defeats Bajazeth and keeps him in a cage, taking him out only to serve as Tamburlaine’s footstool. After a lengthy imprisonment, Bajazeth kills himself by smashing his head against the bars of his cage. See Eardley (ed.), Poems, 263 n.516.
Bajazeth
did show his rage
44
When that proud Tarter put him in A Cage
When that proud Tartar put him in a cage;
When that proud Tartar put him in a cage;
45
Scorning to bee A footstool to his Pride
Scorning to be a footstool to his pride,
Scorning to be a footstool to his pride,
46
Hee daſh’d his Curſed Brains about & died
He dashed his curséd brains about and died.
He dashed his curséd brains about and died.
47
When wiſe Calistines uſ’d with greater Scorn
When wise
Gloss Note
historian for Alexander the Great, reported by some to have been dismembered and displayed in a cage by Alexander in retribution for his criticisms; see Justin (Marcus Justinius), The History of Justin, Taken Out of the Four and Forty Books of Trogus Pompeius (London, 1654), p. 239.
Callisthenes
, used with greater scorn,
When wise
Gloss Note
Callisthenes was a Greek historian, eventually the official historian of Alexander the Great until he was accused of plotting against Alexander. There are several different accounts of his death. Pulter seems to be referencing the version from Ptolemy in which Callisthenes is tortured and hanged in an iron cage.
Callisthenes
, used with greater scorn,
48
Tyrannically mangled Soe was Born
Tyrannically mangled,
Gloss Note
so it
so
was
Gloss Note
endured
borne
,
Tyrannically mangled, so was borne,
hee

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49
Hee being unmov’d Shew’d his Philoſophy
He, being unmoved, showed his philosophy:
He, being unmoved, showed his philosophy:
50
T’is Valianter by far to live then die
’Tis valianter by far to live than die.
Critical Note
The second of the poem’s three mottoes. This message seems specific to Pulter’s lines on Callisthenes, but the connection is puzzling given Callisthenes’s death in prison, without liberty. Is Pulter drawing our attention to the possible incongruities between her anecdotes and their concluding mottos? Or, perhaps, this motto becomes a thread for the poem’s broader message of stoic endurance: be patient and choose life.
’Tis valianter by far to live than die
.
51
Then if noe hope
Physical Note
imperfectly erased ascender follows
of
Liberty you See
Then if no hope of liberty you see
Then if no hope of liberty you see,
52
Think on the Snail, the Tulip and the
Physical Note
remainder of page blank, as is reverse
Bee
Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee.
Critical Note
“Then if no hope of liberty you see, / Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee.” The final of the poem’s three mottoes. Pointing us back to the emblem’s central fable, Pulter’s final lines explicitly mark the snail, tulip, and bee story as a political allegory about liberty, resistance, and stoic endurance. But what of the poem’s complex gender politics? Where do they fit within such an allegory, particularly one written by a Royalist female poet at the height of the English Civil Wars? To explore further the intersections of gender and English Civil War politics, see Hero Chalmers, Royalist Women Writers, 1650–1689 (Oxford University Press, 2004); and Sarah C. E. Ross, Women, Poetry, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2015), especially Chapter 4.
Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee
.
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Transcription
Title note

 Physical note

Unlike surrounding poems in the “Emblems” section, no number precedes this poem.
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

In my editions of Pulter’s poems, I prioritize accessibility and use my annotations to prompt further exploration. To make the poems accessible to the widest possible audience, I have modernized spelling, punctuation, and capitalization according to American English standards. My longer critical notes aim to demonstrate the complexity of Pulter’s thinking, while opening space for the reader’s own analysis and interpretation. In that same vein, I briefly note Pulter’s revisions to the poem in order to foreground her poetic craft. Her manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations, and I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images as they engage with Pulter’s writing. I offer some references to other early modern texts, but am most interested in drawing out how Pulter’s poems speak to each other as she reflects on clusters of ideas.
Transcription

 Headnote

Elemental Edition

 Headnote

We all know the cliché of the busy bee, but Pulter found in the bee an emblem not of virtuous industry but instead of overzealous curiosity, greed, and poor judgment. After praising “the active Amazonian maid” for her industriousness and herbalist know-how, this emblem tells of how the bee—having collected her fill of nectar, but unable to leave well enough alone—becomes trapped in a tulip when, at day’s end, its petals close around her. The bee works furiously to escape; a snail, similarly caught, falls asleep without a struggle. In the morning, when the petals reopen, the snail simply leaves, while the bee dies of exhaustion. Pulter sees in her garden an all-female community of vegetable, animal, and celestial beings demonstrating the moral which the poem then shows men to have enacted historically, in a sequence of exemplars warning against impatience and fighting fate. While that may be the overall moral, the poem also touches on the tension between confinement and freedom which so often preoccupies Pulter. The framing phrase for the emblem’s moral—“if no hope of liberty you see”—closely tracks the concluding declaration in “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57): “I no liberty expect to see …” Did Pulter identify with the snail or the bee?
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

Emblem 53 offers a complex political allegory masquerading as a fable about a “covetous” honey bee, a patient snail, and a “painted” tulip. Alongside the poem’s political themes, Pulter raises questions about gender, science, and nature that echo her interest in these topics throughout the manuscript. Most significantly, there are glimpses in this poem of Pulter’s clever theorization of poetry itself—her ongoing exploration of how poetry makes meaning.
Three distinct, but related, mottoes drive this emblem. The first motto—”then let impatient spirits here but see / what ’tis to struggle with their destiny” (lines 37–8)—concludes the story Pulter tells of a honey bee, enticed by the poet’s sumptuous garden, who tries to gather more “nectar” than she can carry. Straying from the hive for far too long, the bee lands in a tulip alongside a snail just as the sun goes down and the tulip closes its petals. The second and third motto come in sequence at the poem’s end: “’tis valianter by far to live than die” (line 50) and “then if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (lines 51–52). These mottoes follow a catalogue of examples from classical history, mostly warnings about excessive pride and arrogance. Three mottoes is a lot for one emblem, which raises interesting questions as we read this poem. How do the three mottoes work together? Do the stories seem to unfold logically into their concluding mottoes or do the mottoes seem incongruous? How does Pulter use these multiple mottoes to invite us to consider the function of the motto as a feature of emblems?
Pulter’s emblem poems are “naked emblems,” as Millie Godfrey and Sarah C. E. Ross explain in their introduction to Mighty Nimrod (Emblem 1) [Poem 67]. Revising the traditional tripartite structure of the emblem (motto, visual image, and short epigrammatic verse), Pulter omits the visual image (pictura) element such that the reader must glean meaning solely from words. But Pulter’s language in this and many of her emblems is meant to help the reader paint their own picture. Here, for instance, Pulter references specific flowers, tracks the bee’s movements as it flits around the poet’s garden, and fills her lines with evocative descriptions (the morning sun is “lapped in a robe of silver mixed with gray” [line 5]). The emblem’s central characters—the snail, the tulip, and the bee—would also have been easy visual reference points for Pulter’s readers. All three figures were frequently portrayed in early modern emblem books, textual illustrations, and artwork.
All three figures are also at the center of early modern debates surrounding gender and sexuality. Even though none of the poem’s mottoes directly concern these topics, this emblem has much to teach us about Pulter’s interest and intervention in these debates. I track this theme throughout my annotations on the poem, noting, for instance, that Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (7) refers to a community of warrior women in Greek mythology (the Amazons), who were notoriously complicated gendered figures in early modern culture. “Demonstrating that women and men might be performatively interchangeable,” Kathryn Schwarz explains, “Amazons at once substantiate the signifiers of masculinity and threaten to replace the bodies to which they are attached.”
Gloss Note
Source: Schwarz, Tough Love: Amazon Encounters in the English Renaissance (Duke University Press, 2000): 38.
1
Amazons were often at the center of crossdressing plots (Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia), tales of women’s military leadership (Margaret Cavendish’s Bell in Campo), and stories about the relationship between desire and power (William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Pulter’s comparison of the bee to an “Amazonian maid” draws on this popular trope, but we might also read the comparison as an opening nod to the poem’s formal structure. The poem’s first half outlines a distinctly female garden community, populated by “fair Aurora” (1), the “Amazonian” bee” (7), the poet herself (17), and even the snail that slides about “upon her unctuous breast” (29). When the bee’s plot ends at line 37, though, the poem shifts to solely male reference points. Pulter mentions Biron (39), Belisarius (41), Bajazeth (43), and Callisthenes (47) as she guides the reader toward the poem’s concluding motto. But, shifting once more in the final couplet, Pulter ends by reminding us to “think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” (52), a return to the female cast of the poem’s first half. In the formal structure of her poem—the gender-bending shifts in metaphors—Pulter brings to mind the threat posed by the figure of the Amazon: the possibility “that women and men might be performatively interchangeable.” In both the content and form of this poem, Pulter raises questions about how gender signifies, and particularly how emblematic, gender-specific metaphors signify.
Elemental Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

goddess of dawn
Amplified Edition
Line number 1

 Critical note

Pulter’s opening reference to “fair Aurora” (Roman goddess of the dawn) initiates the gendered imagery of the poem’s first seven lines, which culminates with Pulter’s description of the bee as “the active Amazonian maid” (line 7). These opening lines, with the Amazon reference as a kind of anchor point, transform the morning garden into a female separatist community—a framing with important implications for how we read the rest of the poem. First, framing the bee’s actions within this context connects the labor of collecting nectar to women’s work, which then prompts us to read Pulter’s later references to poisonous herbs (lines 13–14) and “choice extractions” (line 15) as nods to domestic labor. Second, it links Emblem 53 to other writings in which Pulter explores the intimacies that develop within communities of women, most notably the female friendships throughout her prose romance, The Unfortunate Florinda.
Amplified Edition
Line number 2

 Critical note

My editorial decision to add an em-dash here turns lines 3–6 into a clause that expands Pulter’s description of Aurora in lines 1–2 and emphasizes the unique formal structure of Pulter’s “naked emblems” (for more on this, see my headnote). Adding the em-dash marks how the concise description of Aurora waking up in the poem’s first two lines becomes a more expansive illustration of Aurora in lines 3–6, a kind of visual unfolding that nods to the pictura element of the traditional emblem structure. For more on the flexible structure of early modern emblems, see Peter Daly, Literature in the Light of the Emblem (University of Toronto Press, 1979).
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

pure
Amplified Edition
Line number 3

 Critical note

Associating Aurora with virginity, Pulter departs from classical tradition in which Aurora is often aggressively sexualized. Pulter retains some of the figure’s fraught sexual history, though, by drawing on conventional blazon imagery, describing Aurora wrapped in a “silver” robe with “roses” ornamenting her “dewy curls.” This description echoes language from earlier poems in the manuscript dedicated to Aurora: To Aurora [1] [Poem 22], To Aurora [2] [Poem 26], and To Aurora [3] [Poem 34]. “To Aurora [3]” is particularly resonant here. In that earlier poem, Aurora “shakes her dewy curls” and fills the flowers—”each gold-enamelled cup”—with “honeydew” (lines 8–9). For more on Pulter’s use of blazon imagery throughout her poems, see Frances E. Dolan’s Exploration, “Hester Pulter and the Blazon in Early Modern England.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

uncover or expose to view
Elemental Edition
Line number 4

 Gloss note

half-blossomed
Amplified Edition
Line number 4

 Gloss note

half-bloomed, half-blossomed
Elemental Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

wrapped up
Elemental Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

foretell
Amplified Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

foretell, forecast
Elemental Edition
Line number 7

 Gloss note

Amazons were legendary female warriors who served a queen; here used figuratively to describe a bee
Amplified Edition
Line number 7

 Critical note


The bee was a familiar subject of early modern emblems, frequently used as a model of ordered government (see Andrea Alciato, Emblematum liber [Padua, 1621], emblem 149) or successful, interdependent economy (see Geoffrey Whitney, Choice of Emblemes [London, 1585], pages 200–201). One seventeenth-century compendium on insects, compiled from the writings of several natural historians, including Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner, and Thomas Moffet, featured a beehive on its frontispiece and described bees as “patterns and precedents of political and economical virtues” (The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures [London, 1658]).

Pulter’s transformation of the bee into an Amazonian figure, however, is more unusual and even a bit contentious. The comparison enhances Pulter’s interrogation of gender in this poem (see my headnote) and connects this emblem to some of the manuscript’s more explicit political poetry (see Curation, The Political Bee).

Transcription
Line number 9

 Physical note

“E” and “e” appear written over earlier “i”s
Amplified Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

flowers
Amplified Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

a quantity drawn or extracted
Elemental Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

honey
Elemental Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

Bees were reputed to be able to turn poisons into honey.
Amplified Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

honey
Amplified Edition
Line number 12

 Physical note

revised in the manuscript; “for this ^ her wisdome’s crownd”
Transcription
Line number 13

 Physical note

“t” in different hand from main scribe
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

This plant, like opium and the three in the previous line, are all poisonous.
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

land
Amplified Edition
Line number 14

 Critical note

All five plants catalogued in these lines are poisonous, but their pollen is not. Consequently, the bee can safely extract pollen but the toad and spider of line 11 (eating the plants’ leaves, flowers, or stems) find “poisons.” Pulter may have gained knowledge of these plants from direct, hands-on experience. There were also several popular herbals circulating by the time she was writing, including John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597) and Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physician Enlarged (London, 1653). The British Library offers a useful peek at Gerard’s Herbal, along with some context on Shakespeare’s use of “henbane” in Hamlet and “nightshade” in Romeo and Juliet.
Amplified Edition
Line number 15

 Critical note

John Milton also uses the verb “extract” to describe the bee’s work in Book 5 of Paradise Lost. Adam calls Eve awake “to mark … how the bee / sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet” (lines 20–25). The noun “extraction” and its verb form “extract” (line 12) had alchemical, medicinal, and culinary connotations in seventeenth-century use. “To extract” is “to obtain (constituent elements, juices, etc.) from a thing or substance by suction, pressure, distillation, or any chemical or mechanical operation” (“extract, v.4a,” OED Online). As evidence for this particular connotation of “extract,” the Oxford English Dictionary cites Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature (London, 1594) and Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum; or, A Natural History (London, 1626), two popular early modern scientific texts with which Pulter may have been familiar. Is Pulter also demonstrating her knowledge of early modern herbals, texts that catalogued plants and their medicinal and culinary uses? If so, her uses of “extract” and “extraction” connect to the catalogue of poisonous plants in lines 13–14. For an extended exploration of “human art” in relation to plants, see View But This Tulip (Emblem 40) [Poem 105].
Elemental Edition
Line number 16

 Gloss note

six-sided
Amplified Edition
Line number 16

 Gloss note

six-sided; a reference to the comb shapes of a bee hive
Elemental Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

apprehending
Amplified Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

to be caught or captured by; the bee is “taken with” the beauty of the narrator’s garden
Amplified Edition
Line number 17

This is our first glimpse of the poem’s narrator, often a much more pervasive presence in Pulter’s poems. In early poems in the manuscript, like Made When I Was Sick, 1647 [Poem 31], the entire poem revolves around the narrator’s experience and thoughts. The sparse, late use of the first-person pronoun here, though, is more typical of Pulter’s emblem poems, a few of which never reference the poet directly. See, for instance, Raccoons (Emblem 21) [Poem 86].

It’s worth noting that this first reference to the poet (one of only two in the poem) is also connected to the garden and the all-female community of the poem’s first half. Perhaps even more interesting, the narrator’s garden is the site of the bee’s demise. We learn the story of the bee and the snail in the next few lines and we might even imagine that the poet is a first-hand witness, watching the snail “slid[e]” out of the tulip in the morning while the bee “fainting lie[s]” (line 35).

Transcription
Line number 19

 Physical note

insertion in different hand from main scribe
Transcription
Line number 19

 Physical note

double strike-through
Elemental Edition
Line number 19

 Gloss note

clever, elaborately made
Elemental Edition
Line number 19

 Gloss note

type of flower
Amplified Edition
Line number 19

 Physical note

revised in the manuscript; “to see the \curious \ ouricolas curious drest”
Amplified Edition
Line number 19

 Gloss note

primula auricula; also known as mountain cowslip or bear’s ear (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
Elemental Edition
Line number 20

 Gloss note

goddess of the rainbow, also a type of flower
Amplified Edition
Line number 20

 Gloss note

In Greek mythology, Iris is messenger of the gods and a personification of the rainbow. Iris is also another type of flower. In contemporary botany, iris is a genus of many species of flowering plants like the iris sibirica (see Curation, Pulter’s Garden, for an image)
Amplified Edition
Line number 21

 Critical note

The tulip has special significance in Pulter’s emblem. She not only makes the center of this flower the location for her fable of the bee and snail (as we’re about to see); she also describes the tulip with language that evokes the “tulipmania” of the early seventeenth century: “painted” (here and again in line 27) and “gilded” (line 34). From the 1580’s to the mid-1630’s, tulips were a prized and elusive commodity, famous in aristocratic gardens and still life paintings, but notoriously difficult to study and classify given their infinite variety. In John Gerard’s The Herbal, or General History of Plants (London, 1597), Gerard describes the tulips as “a strange and foreign flower” and emphasizes that it is impossible to catalogue all of its varieties: “each new yeare bringeth forth new plants of sundry colours, not before seene” ([London, 1597], Text Creation Partnership digital edition, Early English Books Online, pages 137–140). The craze surrounding the tulip culminated in the Dutch “tulipmania” of the 1630’s, when the price of tulip bulbs inflated drastically (the most expensive specimens went for around 5,000 guilders). We might speculate that Pulter has this recent cultural phenomenon in mind when she describes the tulips first as luxurious garden accessories (“painted in their pride”) and then as the bee’s “painted prison.” See this poem’s Curation (Pulter’s Garden) for examples of Gerard’s tulip woodcuts and Dutch still life paintings featuring the flower. For more on the tulip in early modern English contexts, see Anna Pavord’s The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad (Bloomsbury, 1999), especially chapter 3.
Amplified Edition
Line number 22

 Gloss note

greedy
Elemental Edition
Line number 25

 Gloss note

“whom” is spelled as “home” in the manuscript; all are influenced by the sun
Elemental Edition
Line number 26

 Gloss note

bend down, droop
Elemental Edition
Line number 26

 Gloss note

petals
Amplified Edition
Line number 26

 Gloss note

the flowers
Elemental Edition
Line number 28

 Gloss note

and with
Amplified Edition
Line number 28

 Critical note

The third central character in Pulter’s emblem, the snail presented a unique sexual conundrum because of its shell, so early moderns hypothesized that the snail could spontaneously reproduce: “Thou thine own daughter then, and sire, / that son and mother art entire” (Richard Lovelace, “The Snail”). In medieval and early modern art, the snail was often linked to the Virgin Mary as a symbol of virginity. Francesco del Cossa’s Annunciation, for example, includes a snail in the painting’s foreground, positioned directly in front of Mary as she receives the news of her immaculate conception. Geneticist Steve Jones offers a useful account of the history of the snail as a symbol of “sex, age, and death” in his lecture, “Snails in Art and the Art of Snails” (2014), available online through the Museum of London. By the time Pulter was writing, the snail was increasingly cited in debates about the role of reproduction in the plant and animal worlds. Several decades after Pulter’s death in 1678, Dutch anatomist Jan Swammerdam proved that snails were hermaphrodites (Bybel der Natuure, Leiden, 1737). Before that point, as historian of science Domenico Bertolini Meli outlines, hermaphrodites were seen to be rare occurrences, even monsters. Swammerdam’s findings became the basis for arguments on the natural occurrence of hermaphrodites in nature (Meli, “Of Snails and Horsetails: Anatomical Empiricism in the Early Modern Period,” Early Science and Medicine 18.4/5 (2013): 435–452).
Elemental Edition
Line number 29

 Gloss note

greasy
Amplified Edition
Line number 29

 Gloss note

oily, greasy
Elemental Edition
Line number 30

 Gloss note

herself
Transcription
Line number 31

 Physical note

double strike-through
Transcription
Line number 31

 Physical note

in different hand from main scribe
Elemental Edition
Line number 31

 Gloss note

make
Amplified Edition
Line number 31

 Physical note

revised in the manuscript; “bee doth \did \ such a”
Elemental Edition
Line number 32

 Gloss note

Neither she
Elemental Edition
Line number 33

 Gloss note

here, Apollo, the sun god (named because he was from the island of Delos, usually called Delius)
Amplified Edition
Line number 33

 Critical note

Pulter’s use of “Delia,” an unusual and distinctly feminized name for Apollo, the Greek sun god born on the island of Delos, marks a conscious shift from her use of “Aurora,” goddess of the dawn, at the start of the poem. As Victoria Burke notes in her Amplified Edition of Aurora [1] [Poem 3], the feminized Delia, as opposed to Delius, could be a transcription error, but Pulter does use Delia to refer to Apollo in several other poems, including The Eclipse [Poem 1] and The Garden, or the Contention of Flowers [Poem 12]. Given this emblem’s interrogation of gender, we might read Pulter’s slippage here as an invitation. As the female bee (“the active Amazonian maid”) dies and the poem shifts to a cluster of male figures in its closing lines, is Pulter’s switch from Aurora to Delia (and, perhaps, from Delius to Delia) meant to both mark and trouble this transition?
Amplified Edition
Line number 33

 Gloss note

spread out
Amplified Edition
Line number 34

 Gloss note

adorned or embellished; a term most often associated with artificial objects
Amplified Edition
Line number 38

 Critical note

“Then let impatient spirits here but see / What ’tis to struggle with their destiny.” The first of the poem’s three possible mottoes. Pulter uses the fable of the snail, tulip, and bee to offer a lesson in struggling against destiny. The “impatient” bee struggles against her “painted prison” (line 27), while the patient snail “see[s] no hope” and “lay[s] … down to rest” (line 30). In the poem’s final motto, Pulter reminds us of the snail, tulip, and bee fable (“if no hope of liberty you see, / think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee” [lines 51–52]), but the lessons of the two mottoes are slightly different—enough to invite some critical thinking on the part of Pulter’s reader. This motto focuses on destiny, while the poem’s final motto foregrounds liberty. Who are the “impatient spirits” Pulter addresses with this lesson? Who is the “you” of the final motto’s direct address?
Elemental Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

proud, arrogant
Elemental Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

Charles de Gontant, duc de Biron; a celebrated sixteenth-century French soldier famed for his overweening pride and eventually executed for treason; in George Chapman’s play about him, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Biron’s sword is confiscated by the king.
Amplified Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

proud, haughty
Amplified Edition
Line number 39

 Critical note


This comparison starts Pulter’s catalogue of male military leaders, rulers, and thinkers—four in total by the poem’s end. As I noted in my headnote, this cast of characters marks a significant gender shift from the female-centric opening of the poem. But this phrase is also formally noteworthy. Rather than using just one or two comparisons to illustrate her point, Pulter here offers an extensive catalogue of examples: “so stout Biron” (line 39), “when Belisarius” (line 41), “so miscre’nt Bajazeth” (line 43), and “when wise Callisthenes” (line 47). The anaphoric “so’s” and “when’s” of these final lines, very typical of Pulter’s emblems, signal her strategic accumulation of these examples. Again, how might Pulter be using her poems to explore how poetic language signifies? See my headnote for more on this question.

Charles de Gontaut, duc de Biron, was a sixteenth-century French military leader eventually involved in conspiracies against the French crown. He was jailed and beheaded for treason in 1602. Alice Eardley cites George Chapman’s play, The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Marshall of France (1608) as one possible source for Pulter’s anecdote here. Biron was “notorious for his arrogance,” Eardley notes, and in Chapman’s play his sword is removed from him, “treatment he vigorously resists.” See Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, Ed. Alice Eardley, (Toronto: Iter, 2014), 263 n.513.

Elemental Edition
Line number 41

 Gloss note

successful general of sixth-century Roman emperor Justinian, later accused of conspiracy; reputedly, his eyes were put out and he ended his life as a beggar.
Amplified Edition
Line number 41

 Gloss note

Belisarius was a famous military leader of the Byzantine Empire. Pulter here references the apocryphal story that Justinian ordered Belisarius’s eyes put out and that Belisarius became a beggar at the gates of Rome. Looking forward a bit beyond Pulter’s lifetime, Belisarius’s story was especially popular by the end of the eighteenth century. See, for instance, Jean-François Marmontel’s Bélisaire: A Novel (1767), Margaretta Faugères’s closet drama, Belisarius: A Tragedy (1795), and Jacques-Louis David’s painting, “Belisarius Begging for Alms” (1780).
Elemental Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

villainous
Elemental Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

fourteenth-century Turkish Emperor captured in war by Tamburlaine (the “proud Tartar”); in Christopher Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine, Bajazeth kills himself on the bars of his prison.
Amplified Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

an abbreviation of “miscreant”; heretical or pagan, but also villainous
Amplified Edition
Line number 43

 Critical note

In Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s poems, she cites Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (published 1590) as a possible source for Pulter’s reference to the Turkish emperor Bajazeth. In Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine defeats Bajazeth and keeps him in a cage, taking him out only to serve as Tamburlaine’s footstool. After a lengthy imprisonment, Bajazeth kills himself by smashing his head against the bars of his cage. See Eardley (ed.), Poems, 263 n.516.
Elemental Edition
Line number 47

 Gloss note

historian for Alexander the Great, reported by some to have been dismembered and displayed in a cage by Alexander in retribution for his criticisms; see Justin (Marcus Justinius), The History of Justin, Taken Out of the Four and Forty Books of Trogus Pompeius (London, 1654), p. 239.
Amplified Edition
Line number 47

 Gloss note

Callisthenes was a Greek historian, eventually the official historian of Alexander the Great until he was accused of plotting against Alexander. There are several different accounts of his death. Pulter seems to be referencing the version from Ptolemy in which Callisthenes is tortured and hanged in an iron cage.
Elemental Edition
Line number 48

 Gloss note

so it
Elemental Edition
Line number 48

 Gloss note

endured
Amplified Edition
Line number 50

 Critical note

The second of the poem’s three mottoes. This message seems specific to Pulter’s lines on Callisthenes, but the connection is puzzling given Callisthenes’s death in prison, without liberty. Is Pulter drawing our attention to the possible incongruities between her anecdotes and their concluding mottos? Or, perhaps, this motto becomes a thread for the poem’s broader message of stoic endurance: be patient and choose life.
Transcription
Line number 51

 Physical note

imperfectly erased ascender follows
Transcription
Line number 52

 Physical note

remainder of page blank, as is reverse
Amplified Edition
Line number 52

 Critical note

“Then if no hope of liberty you see, / Think on the snail, the tulip, and the bee.” The final of the poem’s three mottoes. Pointing us back to the emblem’s central fable, Pulter’s final lines explicitly mark the snail, tulip, and bee story as a political allegory about liberty, resistance, and stoic endurance. But what of the poem’s complex gender politics? Where do they fit within such an allegory, particularly one written by a Royalist female poet at the height of the English Civil Wars? To explore further the intersections of gender and English Civil War politics, see Hero Chalmers, Royalist Women Writers, 1650–1689 (Oxford University Press, 2004); and Sarah C. E. Ross, Women, Poetry, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2015), especially Chapter 4.
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