Two Mountebanks (Emblem 6)

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Two Mountebanks (Emblem 6)

Poem #72

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 Samantha Snively and Frances E. Dolan.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

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

 Editorial note

In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.
Line number 2

 Physical note

erasure of earlier illegible letters under “ll”
Line number 5

 Physical note

thick ink on “c” and erasure or blurring of earlier illegible letter
Line number 23

 Physical note

in different hand from main scribe
Line number 23

 Physical note

may correct earlier letters, especially under “i” and “h”
Line number 40

 Physical note

in left margin
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
[Emblem 6]
Two Mountebanks
(Emblem 6)
Two Mountebanks
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
Our “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. Then we use the notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section to place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As we build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—we keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. We hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, we cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined, but that might stir readers today to make new connections (to Harry Potter, for instance). In other words, our curations don’t precede the poems, nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as curators we weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Imagine the perennial struggle between generations as a contest between a young and old doctor, each vying on a public stage to poison the other effectively. In this emblem, the old doctor is triumphant, having killed his young opponent, “the gallant.” Pulter interprets the outcome of this competition as a sage message about the need to respect the wisdom of our elders (our “betters”) when there are competing knowledges on the table. But the generational conflict here is unusually gruesome, in its detailing of the physical torture experienced by the contestants. The age-old divide is also expressed specifically as the opposition between an older tradition of simple herbal-based medicine and newer complex treatments that mix chemicals with natural toxins The older mountebank’s poison seems, on the surface, deceptively simple: it is merely the aconite plant (or wolfsbane). But its power, as the poem acknowledges, derives from its mythological origin: it was spewed from the mouth of Cerebus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades. If the young gallant had read classical mythology instead of just paying attention to the latest medical trends, he would have seen in the natural world around him a hidden current of magical and mysterious powers. What more fitting a message for the emblem genre, itself deceptively simple?

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
One of Pulter’s two emblems featuring a poisonous duel, “Two Mountebanks” can be read as a commentary upon the medical marketplace in seventeenth-century England, as well as a reflection on the very real danger to patients’ bodies that doctors posed. In early modern England, patients had a wide range of medical practitioners to choose from. Licensed physicians from the College of Physicians in London were classically educated and skilled, but often unaffordable. Cheaper options abounded: surgeons could set bones, fix wounds, and administer medicine, but their knowledge was often experiential and, the College claimed, lacking an educated foundation. Apothecaries and chemists could make and administer remedies, but given the English fear of being poisoned by malicious or inexperienced doctors, apothecaries and chemists had to assert their legitimacy and authority continually. Those in the country had to make do with the care options around them—often, a traveling doctor, local midwife, or lady of the house (Wendy Wall, Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama [Cambridge University Press, 2002]). Even as many lay people had some knowledge of how to heal, the College of Physicians was trying to make medical practice by non-College members illegal, claiming that unscrupulous or uneducated quacks could prey on patients and cause serious harm.
Much of educated early modern medicine was Galenic, based on the writings of Galen of Pergamon (129-200/216 AD), a Greek philosopher and surgeon. He believed that the body was governed by four humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood), and that health was achieved by keeping these humors in balance, through careful regulation of food, environment, activity, and personality. Another significant paradigm in the seventeenth century came from the writings of Theophrastus von Hohenheim, otherwise known as Paracelsus (1493-1541). Paracelsus based his chemical remedies on a thorough study of alchemy and the natural world. His writings taught that “like cures like”: if a disease had a chemical origin, it could be cured by a specific chemical remedy, rather than a generalized rebalancing of the humors. Paracelsus brought toxic chemicals like arsenic and mercury into common use, and English patients worried about the introduction of poisons into their remedies. Medical practitioners also worried about the consequences of misunderstanding Paracelsian doctrine. Without careful study, Paracelsus’ “like cures like” doctrine could produce toxic remedies in the hands of unscrupulous doctors like those in Pulter’s poem (Tanya Pollard, “‘No Faith in Physic’: Masquerades of Medicine Onstage and Off,” in Disease, Diagnosis and Cure on the Early Modern Stage, ed. Stephanie Moss and Kaara Petersen [Ashgate, 2004]). Some early modern plays reflect this fear as well: in Act 4, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence gives Juliet a potion to fake her death. It is so convincing that Romeo believes her dead and subsequently poisons himself.
The two mountebanks’ weapons of choice draw upon these two dominant medical paradigms in the seventeenth century: the young gallant’s dressed dish of toads and the chemical poison verdigris echo Paracelsian doctrines of treating diseases with chemical compounds, while the old mountebank turns to classical philosophy and poisons found in nature, a practice closer to Galenism. The young mountebank’s toad-poison causes the older much agony, but he eventually recovers: since his poison had a chemical origin, it presumably could be cured by chemicals as well. In the end, the older mountebank succeeds because of his familiarity with classical knowledge, opposing “youthful” “wit” with “sage” knowledge of classics and the virtues of plants.
However, the final lines of the poem present a paradox: Pulter admonishes her readers to trust their “betters” and not rely on their own wit, but the “better” she uses as an object lesson in this poem is the older mountebank, who remains a dubious medical authority despite his classical training. No one really wins this struggle over knowledge—the two contestants remain mountebanks trading poison. So what counts as reliable knowledge, and who can be trusted with medical authority? In order to discern this, and to avoid false peddlers of knowledge, one must use one’s wit. The poem seems to question the purpose of fighting over medical authority, and to cast suspicion on healers who attempt to build their own reputations by discrediting others. Readers are left with the realization that no medical knowledge is “perfect” or entirely trustworthy.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
6Two Mountebancks contended for A Stage
Two
Gloss Note
peddlers of quack medicines
mountebanks
contended for a
Gloss Note
mountebanks attracted crowds by performing tricks on a “bank,” bench or stage, usually the counter on which street vendors displayed goods to the public
stage
,
Two
Critical Note
Mountebanks were largely considered early modern quacks. The Oxford English Dictionary records that a “quack” is “A person who dishonestly claims to have medical or surgical skill, or who advertises false or fake remedies; a medical impostor” (”quack, n.2.”). A mountebank, however, also served as public entertainment: “An itinerant charlatan who sold supposed medicines and remedies, frequently using various entertainments to attract a crowd of potential customers.”
mountebanks
contended for a
Critical Note
For more on the early modern association of mountebanks and stages, see “Curations.” Thomas Coryat, for instance, notes that the word “mountebank” may derive from Italian for “one who mounts a stage.”
stage
,
2
A Spruce Young Gallant, t’other
Physical Note
erasure of earlier illegible letters under “ll”
well
in Age
A
Gloss Note
brisk, dapper in appearance
spruce
young gallant, t’other well in age.
A spruce young gallant, t’other well in age.
3
The various brags that ffurth’red this contention
The various
Gloss Note
boasts, pompous displays
brags
that furthered this contention
The various brags that furthered this contention
4
Are too too tedious in this place to mention
Are too too tedious in this place to mention.
Are too, too tedious in this place to mention.
5
The Governour of the Town did thus
Physical Note
thick ink on “c” and erasure or blurring of earlier illegible letter
decide
The governor of the town did thus decide
The governor of the town did thus decide
6
That by their Antidotes they Should bee tryed
That by their antidotes they should be
Gloss Note
tested
tried
.
That by their antidotes they should be
Gloss Note
tested and evaluated
tried
.
7
Each of them poyſon Should the other give
Each of them poison should the other give,
Each of them poison should the other give,
8
And ^hee that by Preparatives did live
And he that by
Gloss Note
medicines; preliminary acts; omens or warnings; acts that exemplify subsequent cases
preparatives
did live
And he that by
Gloss Note
medicines to prepare patient for treatment
preparatives
did live
9
Should have the preſent Stage & future Glory
Should have the present stage and future glory,
Should have the present stage and future glory,
10
And the defunct Should live in this Sad Story
And the defunct should live in this
Gloss Note
this poem; his life
sad story
.
And the
Gloss Note
the one who died
defunct
should live in this sad story.
11
The Lots were drawn the Young man first did dreſs
The lots were drawn, the young man first did
Gloss Note
prepare
dress
The lots were drawn. The young man first did dress
12
An Ugly Toad in Sippets for his Meſs
An ugly toad in
Gloss Note
bread pieces used for dipping
sippets
for his
Gloss Note
serving of food
mess
,
An ugly
Critical Note
William Ramesey, the personal physician of Charles II, writing in 1665, notes that toads emit poison through their “urine, spittle, and breath, and also by the bite” (Life’s Security, 226-229). He also records that they are “pernicious, by their quality and cold juice which they yield to such as eat them” (229). See the extracts from William Ramesey in “Curations.”
toad
in
Gloss Note
pieces of bread used for dipping in sauce
sippets
for his mess,
13
With Verdigrease for Sauce, this hee preſents
With
Gloss Note
greenish colored poisonous material forming on metals
verdigris
for sauce, this he presents,
With
Gloss Note
A green or greenish blue substance obtained artificially by putting acid on thin plates of copper (or a green rust naturally forming on copper and brass). Verdigris was often used as a pigment, as a dye, and in medicine. The young quacksalver doubles the doses of poison he serves up. We find a similar poison-on-poison recipe in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), which describes the Grinch as “a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich / With arsenic sauce.”
verdigris
for sauce. This he presents,
14
Which the ould Mountebanck Sadly Reſents
Which the old mountebank sadly
Gloss Note
feels injury or anger; smells out, detects, or perceives
resents
;
Which the old mountebank sadly resents;
15
Yet hee with ma^ny ffaces eat it up
Yet he with many
Gloss Note
expressions
faces
Physical Note
manuscript has “eat,” as in l. 31 below
ate
it up.
Yet he with many faces
Physical Note
The manuscript has “eat,” as in line 31.
ate
it up.
16
The Sauce he most unwilling did Sup
The sauce he most unwilling did sup,
The sauce he most unwilling did sup,
17
ffor the Young Quacksalver would never lean
For the young
Gloss Note
charlatan physician
quacksalver
would never
Critical Note
“lean” means “rest” but this word also plays on a meaning made explicit in the next line, to “make lean or thin.” According to the traditional rhyme: “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, / His wife could eat no lean: / And so betwixt them both, you see, / They lick'd the platter clean.”
lean
For the young
Gloss Note
false doctor or medical practitioner. According to the OED, “quacksalver” was in common usage in the seventeenth century, but in the eighteenth century was replaced by “quack,” a term still in use today.
quacksalver
would never
Gloss Note
let up
lean
18
Till like Jack Sprat hee lickt the platter clean
Till, like Jack Sprat, he licked the platter clean.
Critical Note
Alice Eardley glosses this couplet as follows: “the young quacksalver would not bend in his resolve to force the older mountebank to consume the whole of his concoction” (Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Eardley [Toronto: Iter/Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014]). The reference to Jack Sprat refers to an oft-repeated proverb: “Jack Sprat he loved no fat, and his wife she lov’d no lean: / And yet betwixt them both, they lick’t the platters clean” (John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs [Cambridge, 1678], p. 293). While that proverb draws attention to the Sprats’ team effort, here the younger mountebank forces the older one to lick up every bit of the poisoned mess on his own.
Till like Jack Sprat he licked the platter clean
.
19
Then looking that hee Should have ffal’n & died
Then, looking that he should have fall’n and died,
Then looking that he should have fall’n and died
20
his Young Antagonist hee did deride
His young antagonist he did
Gloss Note
laugh in scorn
deride
,
His young antagonist he did
Gloss Note
mock
deride
Saying

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
21
Saying you gave to me a ffulſome diſh
Saying, “You gave to me a
Gloss Note
filling or hard to digest; abundant; excessive; disgusting; lewd
fulsome
dish,
Saying, “you gave to me a
Critical Note
“Fulsome” has a number of meanings, many of which might be possible here. It can be used as an adjective to describe something that is full of some material, abundant or comprehensive. A rarer usage, contemporary with Pulter, means “offending against accepted standards of morality, morally reprehensible, deplorable,” which would certainly describe a dish of poison. “Fulsome” can also mean wearisome or tedious. When used in reference to food, it means “coarse, heavy, filling; difficult to digest, cloying” or “sickening, nauseating (in taste), sickly-sweet.” Fulsome can also describe something that is physically disgusting, filthy, or offensive to the sense of smell. Used in this poem, it points our attention to the way that poison overwhelms all the senses; as a metaphor for false medical knowledge, as Pulter uses it here, it impresses readers with the total threat to their bodies that false doctors pose.
fulsome
dish,
22
But I will neatly Satiſfie your wiſh
But I will neatly satisfy your wish.
But I will neatly satisfy your wish.
23
Ile offer what’s
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\is \
pleaſing to your
Physical Note
may correct earlier letters, especially under “i” and “h”
ſight
I’ll offer what is pleasing to your sight,
I’ll offer what is pleasing to your sight:
24
Nought but this little Peice of Acconite
Naught but this little piece of
Gloss Note
poisonous plant, wolfsbane
aconite
,
Naught but this little piece of
Gloss Note
wolfsbane: a poisonous plant
aconite
,
25
Which as Philoſophers doe all preſume
Which, as philosophers do all presume,
Which, as philosophers do all presume,
26
Had it’s Originall from Serberus Spume
Had its original from
Gloss Note
three-headed dog of underworld
Cerberus’s
Gloss Note
foam
spume
.
Had its original from
Gloss Note
3-headed dog; guards underworld
Cerberus’s
Gloss Note
foam
spume
.
27
When Strong Alcidos drew him up to Earth
When strong
Gloss Note
Hercules
Alcides
drew him up to Earth
When strong
Gloss Note
Hercules
Alcides
drew him up to Earth,
28
His foam gave (Hellish) Acconite its Birth
Gloss Note
Legend has it that aconite grew from the foam of Cerberus’s mouth, when Hercules dragged him from Hades.
His foam gave hellish aconite its birth
.”
His foam gave (hellish) aconite its birth.
29
The young Man fain would have this bit Refuſ’d
The young man
Gloss Note
eagerly
fain
would have this bit refused;
The young man
Gloss Note
gladly, with delight
fain
would have this bit refused.
30
The ould Man to Baf’ling beeing not Uſ’d
The old man to
Gloss Note
being treated with contempt
baffling
being not used,
The old man to
Gloss Note
treating someone with scorn; insult
baffling
being not used
31
Gave him the Root which hee noe Sooner Eat
Gave him the root, which he no sooner ate
Gave him the root, which he no sooner ate
32
But his Sad Heart and every vein did Beat
But his sad heart and every vein did beat,
But his sad heart and every vein did beat.
33
His Mouth to either Ear did Stretch Soe wide
His mouth to either ear did stretch so wide,
His mouth to either ear did stretch so wide
34
And in this horrid poſture Strait he died
And in this horrid posture straight he died.
And in this horrid posture
Critical Note
immediately, right away. In the manuscript, “strait,” which carries the sense of close-fitting, tight, and confined. As a noun, adverb, and adjective, “strait” may give the line an alternate reading of “In this horrid posture confined he died…,” where “strait” modifies the gallant’s posture.
straight
he died.
35
Then let this Teach all in their youth full Age
Then let this teach all in their youthful age
Then let this teach all in their youthful age
36
Not to contest with thoſe are ould and Sage
Not to contest with
Gloss Note
those who
those
are old and
Gloss Note
wise
sage
.
Not to contest with those are old and sage;
37
Nor like This Gallant on their Witt Relie
Nor like this
Gloss Note
fashionable gentleman
gallant
on their wit rely,
Nor like this gallant on their wit rely,
38
Least they like him e’re long doe grining lie
Lest they, like him, ere long do grinning lie;
Least they like him e’re long do grinning lie.
39
This bould Young Quack his proud Attempts did feild
Gloss Note
the young man is defeated by his own prideful shows; “feild,” in early modern usage, captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
This bold young quack, his proud attempts did feild
;
This bold young quack his proud attempts did
Gloss Note
In the manuscript, “feild,” which in early modern usage captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
field
.
40
Physical Note
in left margin
Then
Let mee ever to my betters yield
Then let me ever to my betters yield.
Then let me ever to my betters yield.
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

Imagine the perennial struggle between generations as a contest between a young and old doctor, each vying on a public stage to poison the other effectively. In this emblem, the old doctor is triumphant, having killed his young opponent, “the gallant.” Pulter interprets the outcome of this competition as a sage message about the need to respect the wisdom of our elders (our “betters”) when there are competing knowledges on the table. But the generational conflict here is unusually gruesome, in its detailing of the physical torture experienced by the contestants. The age-old divide is also expressed specifically as the opposition between an older tradition of simple herbal-based medicine and newer complex treatments that mix chemicals with natural toxins The older mountebank’s poison seems, on the surface, deceptively simple: it is merely the aconite plant (or wolfsbane). But its power, as the poem acknowledges, derives from its mythological origin: it was spewed from the mouth of Cerebus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades. If the young gallant had read classical mythology instead of just paying attention to the latest medical trends, he would have seen in the natural world around him a hidden current of magical and mysterious powers. What more fitting a message for the emblem genre, itself deceptively simple?
Line number 1

 Gloss note

peddlers of quack medicines
Line number 1

 Gloss note

mountebanks attracted crowds by performing tricks on a “bank,” bench or stage, usually the counter on which street vendors displayed goods to the public
Line number 2

 Gloss note

brisk, dapper in appearance
Line number 3

 Gloss note

boasts, pompous displays
Line number 6

 Gloss note

tested
Line number 8

 Gloss note

medicines; preliminary acts; omens or warnings; acts that exemplify subsequent cases
Line number 10

 Gloss note

this poem; his life
Line number 11

 Gloss note

prepare
Line number 12

 Gloss note

bread pieces used for dipping
Line number 12

 Gloss note

serving of food
Line number 13

 Gloss note

greenish colored poisonous material forming on metals
Line number 14

 Gloss note

feels injury or anger; smells out, detects, or perceives
Line number 15

 Gloss note

expressions
Line number 15

 Physical note

manuscript has “eat,” as in l. 31 below
Line number 17

 Gloss note

charlatan physician
Line number 17

 Critical note

“lean” means “rest” but this word also plays on a meaning made explicit in the next line, to “make lean or thin.” According to the traditional rhyme: “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, / His wife could eat no lean: / And so betwixt them both, you see, / They lick'd the platter clean.”
Line number 20

 Gloss note

laugh in scorn
Line number 21

 Gloss note

filling or hard to digest; abundant; excessive; disgusting; lewd
Line number 24

 Gloss note

poisonous plant, wolfsbane
Line number 26

 Gloss note

three-headed dog of underworld
Line number 26

 Gloss note

foam
Line number 27

 Gloss note

Hercules
Line number 28

 Gloss note

Legend has it that aconite grew from the foam of Cerberus’s mouth, when Hercules dragged him from Hades.
Line number 29

 Gloss note

eagerly
Line number 30

 Gloss note

being treated with contempt
Line number 36

 Gloss note

those who
Line number 36

 Gloss note

wise
Line number 37

 Gloss note

fashionable gentleman
Line number 39

 Gloss note

the young man is defeated by his own prideful shows; “feild,” in early modern usage, captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
[Emblem 6]
Two Mountebanks
(Emblem 6)
Two Mountebanks
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
Our “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. Then we use the notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section to place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As we build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—we keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. We hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, we cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined, but that might stir readers today to make new connections (to Harry Potter, for instance). In other words, our curations don’t precede the poems, nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as curators we weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Imagine the perennial struggle between generations as a contest between a young and old doctor, each vying on a public stage to poison the other effectively. In this emblem, the old doctor is triumphant, having killed his young opponent, “the gallant.” Pulter interprets the outcome of this competition as a sage message about the need to respect the wisdom of our elders (our “betters”) when there are competing knowledges on the table. But the generational conflict here is unusually gruesome, in its detailing of the physical torture experienced by the contestants. The age-old divide is also expressed specifically as the opposition between an older tradition of simple herbal-based medicine and newer complex treatments that mix chemicals with natural toxins The older mountebank’s poison seems, on the surface, deceptively simple: it is merely the aconite plant (or wolfsbane). But its power, as the poem acknowledges, derives from its mythological origin: it was spewed from the mouth of Cerebus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades. If the young gallant had read classical mythology instead of just paying attention to the latest medical trends, he would have seen in the natural world around him a hidden current of magical and mysterious powers. What more fitting a message for the emblem genre, itself deceptively simple?

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
One of Pulter’s two emblems featuring a poisonous duel, “Two Mountebanks” can be read as a commentary upon the medical marketplace in seventeenth-century England, as well as a reflection on the very real danger to patients’ bodies that doctors posed. In early modern England, patients had a wide range of medical practitioners to choose from. Licensed physicians from the College of Physicians in London were classically educated and skilled, but often unaffordable. Cheaper options abounded: surgeons could set bones, fix wounds, and administer medicine, but their knowledge was often experiential and, the College claimed, lacking an educated foundation. Apothecaries and chemists could make and administer remedies, but given the English fear of being poisoned by malicious or inexperienced doctors, apothecaries and chemists had to assert their legitimacy and authority continually. Those in the country had to make do with the care options around them—often, a traveling doctor, local midwife, or lady of the house (Wendy Wall, Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama [Cambridge University Press, 2002]). Even as many lay people had some knowledge of how to heal, the College of Physicians was trying to make medical practice by non-College members illegal, claiming that unscrupulous or uneducated quacks could prey on patients and cause serious harm.
Much of educated early modern medicine was Galenic, based on the writings of Galen of Pergamon (129-200/216 AD), a Greek philosopher and surgeon. He believed that the body was governed by four humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood), and that health was achieved by keeping these humors in balance, through careful regulation of food, environment, activity, and personality. Another significant paradigm in the seventeenth century came from the writings of Theophrastus von Hohenheim, otherwise known as Paracelsus (1493-1541). Paracelsus based his chemical remedies on a thorough study of alchemy and the natural world. His writings taught that “like cures like”: if a disease had a chemical origin, it could be cured by a specific chemical remedy, rather than a generalized rebalancing of the humors. Paracelsus brought toxic chemicals like arsenic and mercury into common use, and English patients worried about the introduction of poisons into their remedies. Medical practitioners also worried about the consequences of misunderstanding Paracelsian doctrine. Without careful study, Paracelsus’ “like cures like” doctrine could produce toxic remedies in the hands of unscrupulous doctors like those in Pulter’s poem (Tanya Pollard, “‘No Faith in Physic’: Masquerades of Medicine Onstage and Off,” in Disease, Diagnosis and Cure on the Early Modern Stage, ed. Stephanie Moss and Kaara Petersen [Ashgate, 2004]). Some early modern plays reflect this fear as well: in Act 4, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence gives Juliet a potion to fake her death. It is so convincing that Romeo believes her dead and subsequently poisons himself.
The two mountebanks’ weapons of choice draw upon these two dominant medical paradigms in the seventeenth century: the young gallant’s dressed dish of toads and the chemical poison verdigris echo Paracelsian doctrines of treating diseases with chemical compounds, while the old mountebank turns to classical philosophy and poisons found in nature, a practice closer to Galenism. The young mountebank’s toad-poison causes the older much agony, but he eventually recovers: since his poison had a chemical origin, it presumably could be cured by chemicals as well. In the end, the older mountebank succeeds because of his familiarity with classical knowledge, opposing “youthful” “wit” with “sage” knowledge of classics and the virtues of plants.
However, the final lines of the poem present a paradox: Pulter admonishes her readers to trust their “betters” and not rely on their own wit, but the “better” she uses as an object lesson in this poem is the older mountebank, who remains a dubious medical authority despite his classical training. No one really wins this struggle over knowledge—the two contestants remain mountebanks trading poison. So what counts as reliable knowledge, and who can be trusted with medical authority? In order to discern this, and to avoid false peddlers of knowledge, one must use one’s wit. The poem seems to question the purpose of fighting over medical authority, and to cast suspicion on healers who attempt to build their own reputations by discrediting others. Readers are left with the realization that no medical knowledge is “perfect” or entirely trustworthy.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
6Two Mountebancks contended for A Stage
Two
Gloss Note
peddlers of quack medicines
mountebanks
contended for a
Gloss Note
mountebanks attracted crowds by performing tricks on a “bank,” bench or stage, usually the counter on which street vendors displayed goods to the public
stage
,
Two
Critical Note
Mountebanks were largely considered early modern quacks. The Oxford English Dictionary records that a “quack” is “A person who dishonestly claims to have medical or surgical skill, or who advertises false or fake remedies; a medical impostor” (”quack, n.2.”). A mountebank, however, also served as public entertainment: “An itinerant charlatan who sold supposed medicines and remedies, frequently using various entertainments to attract a crowd of potential customers.”
mountebanks
contended for a
Critical Note
For more on the early modern association of mountebanks and stages, see “Curations.” Thomas Coryat, for instance, notes that the word “mountebank” may derive from Italian for “one who mounts a stage.”
stage
,
2
A Spruce Young Gallant, t’other
Physical Note
erasure of earlier illegible letters under “ll”
well
in Age
A
Gloss Note
brisk, dapper in appearance
spruce
young gallant, t’other well in age.
A spruce young gallant, t’other well in age.
3
The various brags that ffurth’red this contention
The various
Gloss Note
boasts, pompous displays
brags
that furthered this contention
The various brags that furthered this contention
4
Are too too tedious in this place to mention
Are too too tedious in this place to mention.
Are too, too tedious in this place to mention.
5
The Governour of the Town did thus
Physical Note
thick ink on “c” and erasure or blurring of earlier illegible letter
decide
The governor of the town did thus decide
The governor of the town did thus decide
6
That by their Antidotes they Should bee tryed
That by their antidotes they should be
Gloss Note
tested
tried
.
That by their antidotes they should be
Gloss Note
tested and evaluated
tried
.
7
Each of them poyſon Should the other give
Each of them poison should the other give,
Each of them poison should the other give,
8
And ^hee that by Preparatives did live
And he that by
Gloss Note
medicines; preliminary acts; omens or warnings; acts that exemplify subsequent cases
preparatives
did live
And he that by
Gloss Note
medicines to prepare patient for treatment
preparatives
did live
9
Should have the preſent Stage & future Glory
Should have the present stage and future glory,
Should have the present stage and future glory,
10
And the defunct Should live in this Sad Story
And the defunct should live in this
Gloss Note
this poem; his life
sad story
.
And the
Gloss Note
the one who died
defunct
should live in this sad story.
11
The Lots were drawn the Young man first did dreſs
The lots were drawn, the young man first did
Gloss Note
prepare
dress
The lots were drawn. The young man first did dress
12
An Ugly Toad in Sippets for his Meſs
An ugly toad in
Gloss Note
bread pieces used for dipping
sippets
for his
Gloss Note
serving of food
mess
,
An ugly
Critical Note
William Ramesey, the personal physician of Charles II, writing in 1665, notes that toads emit poison through their “urine, spittle, and breath, and also by the bite” (Life’s Security, 226-229). He also records that they are “pernicious, by their quality and cold juice which they yield to such as eat them” (229). See the extracts from William Ramesey in “Curations.”
toad
in
Gloss Note
pieces of bread used for dipping in sauce
sippets
for his mess,
13
With Verdigrease for Sauce, this hee preſents
With
Gloss Note
greenish colored poisonous material forming on metals
verdigris
for sauce, this he presents,
With
Gloss Note
A green or greenish blue substance obtained artificially by putting acid on thin plates of copper (or a green rust naturally forming on copper and brass). Verdigris was often used as a pigment, as a dye, and in medicine. The young quacksalver doubles the doses of poison he serves up. We find a similar poison-on-poison recipe in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), which describes the Grinch as “a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich / With arsenic sauce.”
verdigris
for sauce. This he presents,
14
Which the ould Mountebanck Sadly Reſents
Which the old mountebank sadly
Gloss Note
feels injury or anger; smells out, detects, or perceives
resents
;
Which the old mountebank sadly resents;
15
Yet hee with ma^ny ffaces eat it up
Yet he with many
Gloss Note
expressions
faces
Physical Note
manuscript has “eat,” as in l. 31 below
ate
it up.
Yet he with many faces
Physical Note
The manuscript has “eat,” as in line 31.
ate
it up.
16
The Sauce he most unwilling did Sup
The sauce he most unwilling did sup,
The sauce he most unwilling did sup,
17
ffor the Young Quacksalver would never lean
For the young
Gloss Note
charlatan physician
quacksalver
would never
Critical Note
“lean” means “rest” but this word also plays on a meaning made explicit in the next line, to “make lean or thin.” According to the traditional rhyme: “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, / His wife could eat no lean: / And so betwixt them both, you see, / They lick'd the platter clean.”
lean
For the young
Gloss Note
false doctor or medical practitioner. According to the OED, “quacksalver” was in common usage in the seventeenth century, but in the eighteenth century was replaced by “quack,” a term still in use today.
quacksalver
would never
Gloss Note
let up
lean
18
Till like Jack Sprat hee lickt the platter clean
Till, like Jack Sprat, he licked the platter clean.
Critical Note
Alice Eardley glosses this couplet as follows: “the young quacksalver would not bend in his resolve to force the older mountebank to consume the whole of his concoction” (Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Eardley [Toronto: Iter/Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014]). The reference to Jack Sprat refers to an oft-repeated proverb: “Jack Sprat he loved no fat, and his wife she lov’d no lean: / And yet betwixt them both, they lick’t the platters clean” (John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs [Cambridge, 1678], p. 293). While that proverb draws attention to the Sprats’ team effort, here the younger mountebank forces the older one to lick up every bit of the poisoned mess on his own.
Till like Jack Sprat he licked the platter clean
.
19
Then looking that hee Should have ffal’n & died
Then, looking that he should have fall’n and died,
Then looking that he should have fall’n and died
20
his Young Antagonist hee did deride
His young antagonist he did
Gloss Note
laugh in scorn
deride
,
His young antagonist he did
Gloss Note
mock
deride
Saying

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
21
Saying you gave to me a ffulſome diſh
Saying, “You gave to me a
Gloss Note
filling or hard to digest; abundant; excessive; disgusting; lewd
fulsome
dish,
Saying, “you gave to me a
Critical Note
“Fulsome” has a number of meanings, many of which might be possible here. It can be used as an adjective to describe something that is full of some material, abundant or comprehensive. A rarer usage, contemporary with Pulter, means “offending against accepted standards of morality, morally reprehensible, deplorable,” which would certainly describe a dish of poison. “Fulsome” can also mean wearisome or tedious. When used in reference to food, it means “coarse, heavy, filling; difficult to digest, cloying” or “sickening, nauseating (in taste), sickly-sweet.” Fulsome can also describe something that is physically disgusting, filthy, or offensive to the sense of smell. Used in this poem, it points our attention to the way that poison overwhelms all the senses; as a metaphor for false medical knowledge, as Pulter uses it here, it impresses readers with the total threat to their bodies that false doctors pose.
fulsome
dish,
22
But I will neatly Satiſfie your wiſh
But I will neatly satisfy your wish.
But I will neatly satisfy your wish.
23
Ile offer what’s
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\is \
pleaſing to your
Physical Note
may correct earlier letters, especially under “i” and “h”
ſight
I’ll offer what is pleasing to your sight,
I’ll offer what is pleasing to your sight:
24
Nought but this little Peice of Acconite
Naught but this little piece of
Gloss Note
poisonous plant, wolfsbane
aconite
,
Naught but this little piece of
Gloss Note
wolfsbane: a poisonous plant
aconite
,
25
Which as Philoſophers doe all preſume
Which, as philosophers do all presume,
Which, as philosophers do all presume,
26
Had it’s Originall from Serberus Spume
Had its original from
Gloss Note
three-headed dog of underworld
Cerberus’s
Gloss Note
foam
spume
.
Had its original from
Gloss Note
3-headed dog; guards underworld
Cerberus’s
Gloss Note
foam
spume
.
27
When Strong Alcidos drew him up to Earth
When strong
Gloss Note
Hercules
Alcides
drew him up to Earth
When strong
Gloss Note
Hercules
Alcides
drew him up to Earth,
28
His foam gave (Hellish) Acconite its Birth
Gloss Note
Legend has it that aconite grew from the foam of Cerberus’s mouth, when Hercules dragged him from Hades.
His foam gave hellish aconite its birth
.”
His foam gave (hellish) aconite its birth.
29
The young Man fain would have this bit Refuſ’d
The young man
Gloss Note
eagerly
fain
would have this bit refused;
The young man
Gloss Note
gladly, with delight
fain
would have this bit refused.
30
The ould Man to Baf’ling beeing not Uſ’d
The old man to
Gloss Note
being treated with contempt
baffling
being not used,
The old man to
Gloss Note
treating someone with scorn; insult
baffling
being not used
31
Gave him the Root which hee noe Sooner Eat
Gave him the root, which he no sooner ate
Gave him the root, which he no sooner ate
32
But his Sad Heart and every vein did Beat
But his sad heart and every vein did beat,
But his sad heart and every vein did beat.
33
His Mouth to either Ear did Stretch Soe wide
His mouth to either ear did stretch so wide,
His mouth to either ear did stretch so wide
34
And in this horrid poſture Strait he died
And in this horrid posture straight he died.
And in this horrid posture
Critical Note
immediately, right away. In the manuscript, “strait,” which carries the sense of close-fitting, tight, and confined. As a noun, adverb, and adjective, “strait” may give the line an alternate reading of “In this horrid posture confined he died…,” where “strait” modifies the gallant’s posture.
straight
he died.
35
Then let this Teach all in their youth full Age
Then let this teach all in their youthful age
Then let this teach all in their youthful age
36
Not to contest with thoſe are ould and Sage
Not to contest with
Gloss Note
those who
those
are old and
Gloss Note
wise
sage
.
Not to contest with those are old and sage;
37
Nor like This Gallant on their Witt Relie
Nor like this
Gloss Note
fashionable gentleman
gallant
on their wit rely,
Nor like this gallant on their wit rely,
38
Least they like him e’re long doe grining lie
Lest they, like him, ere long do grinning lie;
Least they like him e’re long do grinning lie.
39
This bould Young Quack his proud Attempts did feild
Gloss Note
the young man is defeated by his own prideful shows; “feild,” in early modern usage, captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
This bold young quack, his proud attempts did feild
;
This bold young quack his proud attempts did
Gloss Note
In the manuscript, “feild,” which in early modern usage captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
field
.
40
Physical Note
in left margin
Then
Let mee ever to my betters yield
Then let me ever to my betters yield.
Then let me ever to my betters yield.
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

Our “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. Then we use the notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section to place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As we build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—we keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. We hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, we cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined, but that might stir readers today to make new connections (to Harry Potter, for instance). In other words, our curations don’t precede the poems, nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as curators we weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities.

 Headnote

One of Pulter’s two emblems featuring a poisonous duel, “Two Mountebanks” can be read as a commentary upon the medical marketplace in seventeenth-century England, as well as a reflection on the very real danger to patients’ bodies that doctors posed. In early modern England, patients had a wide range of medical practitioners to choose from. Licensed physicians from the College of Physicians in London were classically educated and skilled, but often unaffordable. Cheaper options abounded: surgeons could set bones, fix wounds, and administer medicine, but their knowledge was often experiential and, the College claimed, lacking an educated foundation. Apothecaries and chemists could make and administer remedies, but given the English fear of being poisoned by malicious or inexperienced doctors, apothecaries and chemists had to assert their legitimacy and authority continually. Those in the country had to make do with the care options around them—often, a traveling doctor, local midwife, or lady of the house (Wendy Wall, Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama [Cambridge University Press, 2002]). Even as many lay people had some knowledge of how to heal, the College of Physicians was trying to make medical practice by non-College members illegal, claiming that unscrupulous or uneducated quacks could prey on patients and cause serious harm.
Much of educated early modern medicine was Galenic, based on the writings of Galen of Pergamon (129-200/216 AD), a Greek philosopher and surgeon. He believed that the body was governed by four humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood), and that health was achieved by keeping these humors in balance, through careful regulation of food, environment, activity, and personality. Another significant paradigm in the seventeenth century came from the writings of Theophrastus von Hohenheim, otherwise known as Paracelsus (1493-1541). Paracelsus based his chemical remedies on a thorough study of alchemy and the natural world. His writings taught that “like cures like”: if a disease had a chemical origin, it could be cured by a specific chemical remedy, rather than a generalized rebalancing of the humors. Paracelsus brought toxic chemicals like arsenic and mercury into common use, and English patients worried about the introduction of poisons into their remedies. Medical practitioners also worried about the consequences of misunderstanding Paracelsian doctrine. Without careful study, Paracelsus’ “like cures like” doctrine could produce toxic remedies in the hands of unscrupulous doctors like those in Pulter’s poem (Tanya Pollard, “‘No Faith in Physic’: Masquerades of Medicine Onstage and Off,” in Disease, Diagnosis and Cure on the Early Modern Stage, ed. Stephanie Moss and Kaara Petersen [Ashgate, 2004]). Some early modern plays reflect this fear as well: in Act 4, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence gives Juliet a potion to fake her death. It is so convincing that Romeo believes her dead and subsequently poisons himself.
The two mountebanks’ weapons of choice draw upon these two dominant medical paradigms in the seventeenth century: the young gallant’s dressed dish of toads and the chemical poison verdigris echo Paracelsian doctrines of treating diseases with chemical compounds, while the old mountebank turns to classical philosophy and poisons found in nature, a practice closer to Galenism. The young mountebank’s toad-poison causes the older much agony, but he eventually recovers: since his poison had a chemical origin, it presumably could be cured by chemicals as well. In the end, the older mountebank succeeds because of his familiarity with classical knowledge, opposing “youthful” “wit” with “sage” knowledge of classics and the virtues of plants.
However, the final lines of the poem present a paradox: Pulter admonishes her readers to trust their “betters” and not rely on their own wit, but the “better” she uses as an object lesson in this poem is the older mountebank, who remains a dubious medical authority despite his classical training. No one really wins this struggle over knowledge—the two contestants remain mountebanks trading poison. So what counts as reliable knowledge, and who can be trusted with medical authority? In order to discern this, and to avoid false peddlers of knowledge, one must use one’s wit. The poem seems to question the purpose of fighting over medical authority, and to cast suspicion on healers who attempt to build their own reputations by discrediting others. Readers are left with the realization that no medical knowledge is “perfect” or entirely trustworthy.
Line number 1

 Critical note

Mountebanks were largely considered early modern quacks. The Oxford English Dictionary records that a “quack” is “A person who dishonestly claims to have medical or surgical skill, or who advertises false or fake remedies; a medical impostor” (”quack, n.2.”). A mountebank, however, also served as public entertainment: “An itinerant charlatan who sold supposed medicines and remedies, frequently using various entertainments to attract a crowd of potential customers.”
Line number 1

 Critical note

For more on the early modern association of mountebanks and stages, see “Curations.” Thomas Coryat, for instance, notes that the word “mountebank” may derive from Italian for “one who mounts a stage.”
Line number 6

 Gloss note

tested and evaluated
Line number 8

 Gloss note

medicines to prepare patient for treatment
Line number 10

 Gloss note

the one who died
Line number 12

 Critical note

William Ramesey, the personal physician of Charles II, writing in 1665, notes that toads emit poison through their “urine, spittle, and breath, and also by the bite” (Life’s Security, 226-229). He also records that they are “pernicious, by their quality and cold juice which they yield to such as eat them” (229). See the extracts from William Ramesey in “Curations.”
Line number 12

 Gloss note

pieces of bread used for dipping in sauce
Line number 13

 Gloss note

A green or greenish blue substance obtained artificially by putting acid on thin plates of copper (or a green rust naturally forming on copper and brass). Verdigris was often used as a pigment, as a dye, and in medicine. The young quacksalver doubles the doses of poison he serves up. We find a similar poison-on-poison recipe in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), which describes the Grinch as “a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich / With arsenic sauce.”
Line number 15

 Physical note

The manuscript has “eat,” as in line 31.
Line number 17

 Gloss note

false doctor or medical practitioner. According to the OED, “quacksalver” was in common usage in the seventeenth century, but in the eighteenth century was replaced by “quack,” a term still in use today.
Line number 17

 Gloss note

let up
Line number 18

 Critical note

Alice Eardley glosses this couplet as follows: “the young quacksalver would not bend in his resolve to force the older mountebank to consume the whole of his concoction” (Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Eardley [Toronto: Iter/Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014]). The reference to Jack Sprat refers to an oft-repeated proverb: “Jack Sprat he loved no fat, and his wife she lov’d no lean: / And yet betwixt them both, they lick’t the platters clean” (John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs [Cambridge, 1678], p. 293). While that proverb draws attention to the Sprats’ team effort, here the younger mountebank forces the older one to lick up every bit of the poisoned mess on his own.
Line number 20

 Gloss note

mock
Line number 21

 Critical note

“Fulsome” has a number of meanings, many of which might be possible here. It can be used as an adjective to describe something that is full of some material, abundant or comprehensive. A rarer usage, contemporary with Pulter, means “offending against accepted standards of morality, morally reprehensible, deplorable,” which would certainly describe a dish of poison. “Fulsome” can also mean wearisome or tedious. When used in reference to food, it means “coarse, heavy, filling; difficult to digest, cloying” or “sickening, nauseating (in taste), sickly-sweet.” Fulsome can also describe something that is physically disgusting, filthy, or offensive to the sense of smell. Used in this poem, it points our attention to the way that poison overwhelms all the senses; as a metaphor for false medical knowledge, as Pulter uses it here, it impresses readers with the total threat to their bodies that false doctors pose.
Line number 24

 Gloss note

wolfsbane: a poisonous plant
Line number 26

 Gloss note

3-headed dog; guards underworld
Line number 26

 Gloss note

foam
Line number 27

 Gloss note

Hercules
Line number 29

 Gloss note

gladly, with delight
Line number 30

 Gloss note

treating someone with scorn; insult
Line number 34

 Critical note

immediately, right away. In the manuscript, “strait,” which carries the sense of close-fitting, tight, and confined. As a noun, adverb, and adjective, “strait” may give the line an alternate reading of “In this horrid posture confined he died…,” where “strait” modifies the gallant’s posture.
Line number 39

 Gloss note

In the manuscript, “feild,” which in early modern usage captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
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[Emblem 6]
Two Mountebanks
(Emblem 6)
Two Mountebanks
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.

— Samantha Snively and Frances E. Dolan
The aim of the elemental edition is to make the poems accessible to the largest variety of readers, which involves modernizing spelling and punctuation as well as adding basic glosses. Spelling and punctuation reflect current standard American usage; punctuation highlights syntax which might otherwise be obscure. Outmoded but still familiar word forms (“thou,” “‘tis,” “hold’st”) are not modernized, and we do not modernize grammar when the sense remains legible. After a brief headnote aimed at offering a “way in” to the poem’s unique qualities and connections with other verse by Pulter or her contemporaries, the edition features a minimum of notes and interpretative framing to allow more immediate engagement with the poem. Glosses clarify synonyms or showcase various possible meanings in Pulter’s time. Other notes identify named people and places or clarify obscure material. We rely (without citation) primarily on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the Oxford Reference database, and the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. When we rely on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s work, we cite her text generally (“Eardley”); other sources are cited in full. The result is an edition we consider a springboard for further work on Pulter’s poetry. See full conventions for this edition here.

— Samantha Snively and Frances E. Dolan
Our “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. Then we use the notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section to place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As we build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—we keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. We hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, we cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined, but that might stir readers today to make new connections (to Harry Potter, for instance). In other words, our curations don’t precede the poems, nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as curators we weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities.

— Samantha Snively and Frances E. Dolan
Imagine the perennial struggle between generations as a contest between a young and old doctor, each vying on a public stage to poison the other effectively. In this emblem, the old doctor is triumphant, having killed his young opponent, “the gallant.” Pulter interprets the outcome of this competition as a sage message about the need to respect the wisdom of our elders (our “betters”) when there are competing knowledges on the table. But the generational conflict here is unusually gruesome, in its detailing of the physical torture experienced by the contestants. The age-old divide is also expressed specifically as the opposition between an older tradition of simple herbal-based medicine and newer complex treatments that mix chemicals with natural toxins The older mountebank’s poison seems, on the surface, deceptively simple: it is merely the aconite plant (or wolfsbane). But its power, as the poem acknowledges, derives from its mythological origin: it was spewed from the mouth of Cerebus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades. If the young gallant had read classical mythology instead of just paying attention to the latest medical trends, he would have seen in the natural world around him a hidden current of magical and mysterious powers. What more fitting a message for the emblem genre, itself deceptively simple?

— Samantha Snively and Frances E. Dolan
One of Pulter’s two emblems featuring a poisonous duel, “Two Mountebanks” can be read as a commentary upon the medical marketplace in seventeenth-century England, as well as a reflection on the very real danger to patients’ bodies that doctors posed. In early modern England, patients had a wide range of medical practitioners to choose from. Licensed physicians from the College of Physicians in London were classically educated and skilled, but often unaffordable. Cheaper options abounded: surgeons could set bones, fix wounds, and administer medicine, but their knowledge was often experiential and, the College claimed, lacking an educated foundation. Apothecaries and chemists could make and administer remedies, but given the English fear of being poisoned by malicious or inexperienced doctors, apothecaries and chemists had to assert their legitimacy and authority continually. Those in the country had to make do with the care options around them—often, a traveling doctor, local midwife, or lady of the house (Wendy Wall, Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama [Cambridge University Press, 2002]). Even as many lay people had some knowledge of how to heal, the College of Physicians was trying to make medical practice by non-College members illegal, claiming that unscrupulous or uneducated quacks could prey on patients and cause serious harm.
Much of educated early modern medicine was Galenic, based on the writings of Galen of Pergamon (129-200/216 AD), a Greek philosopher and surgeon. He believed that the body was governed by four humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood), and that health was achieved by keeping these humors in balance, through careful regulation of food, environment, activity, and personality. Another significant paradigm in the seventeenth century came from the writings of Theophrastus von Hohenheim, otherwise known as Paracelsus (1493-1541). Paracelsus based his chemical remedies on a thorough study of alchemy and the natural world. His writings taught that “like cures like”: if a disease had a chemical origin, it could be cured by a specific chemical remedy, rather than a generalized rebalancing of the humors. Paracelsus brought toxic chemicals like arsenic and mercury into common use, and English patients worried about the introduction of poisons into their remedies. Medical practitioners also worried about the consequences of misunderstanding Paracelsian doctrine. Without careful study, Paracelsus’ “like cures like” doctrine could produce toxic remedies in the hands of unscrupulous doctors like those in Pulter’s poem (Tanya Pollard, “‘No Faith in Physic’: Masquerades of Medicine Onstage and Off,” in Disease, Diagnosis and Cure on the Early Modern Stage, ed. Stephanie Moss and Kaara Petersen [Ashgate, 2004]). Some early modern plays reflect this fear as well: in Act 4, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence gives Juliet a potion to fake her death. It is so convincing that Romeo believes her dead and subsequently poisons himself.
The two mountebanks’ weapons of choice draw upon these two dominant medical paradigms in the seventeenth century: the young gallant’s dressed dish of toads and the chemical poison verdigris echo Paracelsian doctrines of treating diseases with chemical compounds, while the old mountebank turns to classical philosophy and poisons found in nature, a practice closer to Galenism. The young mountebank’s toad-poison causes the older much agony, but he eventually recovers: since his poison had a chemical origin, it presumably could be cured by chemicals as well. In the end, the older mountebank succeeds because of his familiarity with classical knowledge, opposing “youthful” “wit” with “sage” knowledge of classics and the virtues of plants.
However, the final lines of the poem present a paradox: Pulter admonishes her readers to trust their “betters” and not rely on their own wit, but the “better” she uses as an object lesson in this poem is the older mountebank, who remains a dubious medical authority despite his classical training. No one really wins this struggle over knowledge—the two contestants remain mountebanks trading poison. So what counts as reliable knowledge, and who can be trusted with medical authority? In order to discern this, and to avoid false peddlers of knowledge, one must use one’s wit. The poem seems to question the purpose of fighting over medical authority, and to cast suspicion on healers who attempt to build their own reputations by discrediting others. Readers are left with the realization that no medical knowledge is “perfect” or entirely trustworthy.


— Samantha Snively and Frances E. Dolan
1
6Two Mountebancks contended for A Stage
Two
Gloss Note
peddlers of quack medicines
mountebanks
contended for a
Gloss Note
mountebanks attracted crowds by performing tricks on a “bank,” bench or stage, usually the counter on which street vendors displayed goods to the public
stage
,
Two
Critical Note
Mountebanks were largely considered early modern quacks. The Oxford English Dictionary records that a “quack” is “A person who dishonestly claims to have medical or surgical skill, or who advertises false or fake remedies; a medical impostor” (”quack, n.2.”). A mountebank, however, also served as public entertainment: “An itinerant charlatan who sold supposed medicines and remedies, frequently using various entertainments to attract a crowd of potential customers.”
mountebanks
contended for a
Critical Note
For more on the early modern association of mountebanks and stages, see “Curations.” Thomas Coryat, for instance, notes that the word “mountebank” may derive from Italian for “one who mounts a stage.”
stage
,
2
A Spruce Young Gallant, t’other
Physical Note
erasure of earlier illegible letters under “ll”
well
in Age
A
Gloss Note
brisk, dapper in appearance
spruce
young gallant, t’other well in age.
A spruce young gallant, t’other well in age.
3
The various brags that ffurth’red this contention
The various
Gloss Note
boasts, pompous displays
brags
that furthered this contention
The various brags that furthered this contention
4
Are too too tedious in this place to mention
Are too too tedious in this place to mention.
Are too, too tedious in this place to mention.
5
The Governour of the Town did thus
Physical Note
thick ink on “c” and erasure or blurring of earlier illegible letter
decide
The governor of the town did thus decide
The governor of the town did thus decide
6
That by their Antidotes they Should bee tryed
That by their antidotes they should be
Gloss Note
tested
tried
.
That by their antidotes they should be
Gloss Note
tested and evaluated
tried
.
7
Each of them poyſon Should the other give
Each of them poison should the other give,
Each of them poison should the other give,
8
And ^hee that by Preparatives did live
And he that by
Gloss Note
medicines; preliminary acts; omens or warnings; acts that exemplify subsequent cases
preparatives
did live
And he that by
Gloss Note
medicines to prepare patient for treatment
preparatives
did live
9
Should have the preſent Stage & future Glory
Should have the present stage and future glory,
Should have the present stage and future glory,
10
And the defunct Should live in this Sad Story
And the defunct should live in this
Gloss Note
this poem; his life
sad story
.
And the
Gloss Note
the one who died
defunct
should live in this sad story.
11
The Lots were drawn the Young man first did dreſs
The lots were drawn, the young man first did
Gloss Note
prepare
dress
The lots were drawn. The young man first did dress
12
An Ugly Toad in Sippets for his Meſs
An ugly toad in
Gloss Note
bread pieces used for dipping
sippets
for his
Gloss Note
serving of food
mess
,
An ugly
Critical Note
William Ramesey, the personal physician of Charles II, writing in 1665, notes that toads emit poison through their “urine, spittle, and breath, and also by the bite” (Life’s Security, 226-229). He also records that they are “pernicious, by their quality and cold juice which they yield to such as eat them” (229). See the extracts from William Ramesey in “Curations.”
toad
in
Gloss Note
pieces of bread used for dipping in sauce
sippets
for his mess,
13
With Verdigrease for Sauce, this hee preſents
With
Gloss Note
greenish colored poisonous material forming on metals
verdigris
for sauce, this he presents,
With
Gloss Note
A green or greenish blue substance obtained artificially by putting acid on thin plates of copper (or a green rust naturally forming on copper and brass). Verdigris was often used as a pigment, as a dye, and in medicine. The young quacksalver doubles the doses of poison he serves up. We find a similar poison-on-poison recipe in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), which describes the Grinch as “a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich / With arsenic sauce.”
verdigris
for sauce. This he presents,
14
Which the ould Mountebanck Sadly Reſents
Which the old mountebank sadly
Gloss Note
feels injury or anger; smells out, detects, or perceives
resents
;
Which the old mountebank sadly resents;
15
Yet hee with ma^ny ffaces eat it up
Yet he with many
Gloss Note
expressions
faces
Physical Note
manuscript has “eat,” as in l. 31 below
ate
it up.
Yet he with many faces
Physical Note
The manuscript has “eat,” as in line 31.
ate
it up.
16
The Sauce he most unwilling did Sup
The sauce he most unwilling did sup,
The sauce he most unwilling did sup,
17
ffor the Young Quacksalver would never lean
For the young
Gloss Note
charlatan physician
quacksalver
would never
Critical Note
“lean” means “rest” but this word also plays on a meaning made explicit in the next line, to “make lean or thin.” According to the traditional rhyme: “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, / His wife could eat no lean: / And so betwixt them both, you see, / They lick'd the platter clean.”
lean
For the young
Gloss Note
false doctor or medical practitioner. According to the OED, “quacksalver” was in common usage in the seventeenth century, but in the eighteenth century was replaced by “quack,” a term still in use today.
quacksalver
would never
Gloss Note
let up
lean
18
Till like Jack Sprat hee lickt the platter clean
Till, like Jack Sprat, he licked the platter clean.
Critical Note
Alice Eardley glosses this couplet as follows: “the young quacksalver would not bend in his resolve to force the older mountebank to consume the whole of his concoction” (Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Eardley [Toronto: Iter/Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014]). The reference to Jack Sprat refers to an oft-repeated proverb: “Jack Sprat he loved no fat, and his wife she lov’d no lean: / And yet betwixt them both, they lick’t the platters clean” (John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs [Cambridge, 1678], p. 293). While that proverb draws attention to the Sprats’ team effort, here the younger mountebank forces the older one to lick up every bit of the poisoned mess on his own.
Till like Jack Sprat he licked the platter clean
.
19
Then looking that hee Should have ffal’n & died
Then, looking that he should have fall’n and died,
Then looking that he should have fall’n and died
20
his Young Antagonist hee did deride
His young antagonist he did
Gloss Note
laugh in scorn
deride
,
His young antagonist he did
Gloss Note
mock
deride
Saying

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21
Saying you gave to me a ffulſome diſh
Saying, “You gave to me a
Gloss Note
filling or hard to digest; abundant; excessive; disgusting; lewd
fulsome
dish,
Saying, “you gave to me a
Critical Note
“Fulsome” has a number of meanings, many of which might be possible here. It can be used as an adjective to describe something that is full of some material, abundant or comprehensive. A rarer usage, contemporary with Pulter, means “offending against accepted standards of morality, morally reprehensible, deplorable,” which would certainly describe a dish of poison. “Fulsome” can also mean wearisome or tedious. When used in reference to food, it means “coarse, heavy, filling; difficult to digest, cloying” or “sickening, nauseating (in taste), sickly-sweet.” Fulsome can also describe something that is physically disgusting, filthy, or offensive to the sense of smell. Used in this poem, it points our attention to the way that poison overwhelms all the senses; as a metaphor for false medical knowledge, as Pulter uses it here, it impresses readers with the total threat to their bodies that false doctors pose.
fulsome
dish,
22
But I will neatly Satiſfie your wiſh
But I will neatly satisfy your wish.
But I will neatly satisfy your wish.
23
Ile offer what’s
Physical Note
in different hand from main scribe
\is \
pleaſing to your
Physical Note
may correct earlier letters, especially under “i” and “h”
ſight
I’ll offer what is pleasing to your sight,
I’ll offer what is pleasing to your sight:
24
Nought but this little Peice of Acconite
Naught but this little piece of
Gloss Note
poisonous plant, wolfsbane
aconite
,
Naught but this little piece of
Gloss Note
wolfsbane: a poisonous plant
aconite
,
25
Which as Philoſophers doe all preſume
Which, as philosophers do all presume,
Which, as philosophers do all presume,
26
Had it’s Originall from Serberus Spume
Had its original from
Gloss Note
three-headed dog of underworld
Cerberus’s
Gloss Note
foam
spume
.
Had its original from
Gloss Note
3-headed dog; guards underworld
Cerberus’s
Gloss Note
foam
spume
.
27
When Strong Alcidos drew him up to Earth
When strong
Gloss Note
Hercules
Alcides
drew him up to Earth
When strong
Gloss Note
Hercules
Alcides
drew him up to Earth,
28
His foam gave (Hellish) Acconite its Birth
Gloss Note
Legend has it that aconite grew from the foam of Cerberus’s mouth, when Hercules dragged him from Hades.
His foam gave hellish aconite its birth
.”
His foam gave (hellish) aconite its birth.
29
The young Man fain would have this bit Refuſ’d
The young man
Gloss Note
eagerly
fain
would have this bit refused;
The young man
Gloss Note
gladly, with delight
fain
would have this bit refused.
30
The ould Man to Baf’ling beeing not Uſ’d
The old man to
Gloss Note
being treated with contempt
baffling
being not used,
The old man to
Gloss Note
treating someone with scorn; insult
baffling
being not used
31
Gave him the Root which hee noe Sooner Eat
Gave him the root, which he no sooner ate
Gave him the root, which he no sooner ate
32
But his Sad Heart and every vein did Beat
But his sad heart and every vein did beat,
But his sad heart and every vein did beat.
33
His Mouth to either Ear did Stretch Soe wide
His mouth to either ear did stretch so wide,
His mouth to either ear did stretch so wide
34
And in this horrid poſture Strait he died
And in this horrid posture straight he died.
And in this horrid posture
Critical Note
immediately, right away. In the manuscript, “strait,” which carries the sense of close-fitting, tight, and confined. As a noun, adverb, and adjective, “strait” may give the line an alternate reading of “In this horrid posture confined he died…,” where “strait” modifies the gallant’s posture.
straight
he died.
35
Then let this Teach all in their youth full Age
Then let this teach all in their youthful age
Then let this teach all in their youthful age
36
Not to contest with thoſe are ould and Sage
Not to contest with
Gloss Note
those who
those
are old and
Gloss Note
wise
sage
.
Not to contest with those are old and sage;
37
Nor like This Gallant on their Witt Relie
Nor like this
Gloss Note
fashionable gentleman
gallant
on their wit rely,
Nor like this gallant on their wit rely,
38
Least they like him e’re long doe grining lie
Lest they, like him, ere long do grinning lie;
Least they like him e’re long do grinning lie.
39
This bould Young Quack his proud Attempts did feild
Gloss Note
the young man is defeated by his own prideful shows; “feild,” in early modern usage, captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
This bold young quack, his proud attempts did feild
;
This bold young quack his proud attempts did
Gloss Note
In the manuscript, “feild,” which in early modern usage captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
field
.
40
Physical Note
in left margin
Then
Let mee ever to my betters yield
Then let me ever to my betters yield.
Then let me ever to my betters yield.
X (Close panel) All Notes
Transcription

 Editorial note

In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.
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

Our “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. Then we use the notes and the materials we gather for the “curations” section to place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As we build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—we keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. We hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, we cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined, but that might stir readers today to make new connections (to Harry Potter, for instance). In other words, our curations don’t precede the poems, nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as curators we weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

Imagine the perennial struggle between generations as a contest between a young and old doctor, each vying on a public stage to poison the other effectively. In this emblem, the old doctor is triumphant, having killed his young opponent, “the gallant.” Pulter interprets the outcome of this competition as a sage message about the need to respect the wisdom of our elders (our “betters”) when there are competing knowledges on the table. But the generational conflict here is unusually gruesome, in its detailing of the physical torture experienced by the contestants. The age-old divide is also expressed specifically as the opposition between an older tradition of simple herbal-based medicine and newer complex treatments that mix chemicals with natural toxins The older mountebank’s poison seems, on the surface, deceptively simple: it is merely the aconite plant (or wolfsbane). But its power, as the poem acknowledges, derives from its mythological origin: it was spewed from the mouth of Cerebus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades. If the young gallant had read classical mythology instead of just paying attention to the latest medical trends, he would have seen in the natural world around him a hidden current of magical and mysterious powers. What more fitting a message for the emblem genre, itself deceptively simple?
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

One of Pulter’s two emblems featuring a poisonous duel, “Two Mountebanks” can be read as a commentary upon the medical marketplace in seventeenth-century England, as well as a reflection on the very real danger to patients’ bodies that doctors posed. In early modern England, patients had a wide range of medical practitioners to choose from. Licensed physicians from the College of Physicians in London were classically educated and skilled, but often unaffordable. Cheaper options abounded: surgeons could set bones, fix wounds, and administer medicine, but their knowledge was often experiential and, the College claimed, lacking an educated foundation. Apothecaries and chemists could make and administer remedies, but given the English fear of being poisoned by malicious or inexperienced doctors, apothecaries and chemists had to assert their legitimacy and authority continually. Those in the country had to make do with the care options around them—often, a traveling doctor, local midwife, or lady of the house (Wendy Wall, Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama [Cambridge University Press, 2002]). Even as many lay people had some knowledge of how to heal, the College of Physicians was trying to make medical practice by non-College members illegal, claiming that unscrupulous or uneducated quacks could prey on patients and cause serious harm.
Much of educated early modern medicine was Galenic, based on the writings of Galen of Pergamon (129-200/216 AD), a Greek philosopher and surgeon. He believed that the body was governed by four humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood), and that health was achieved by keeping these humors in balance, through careful regulation of food, environment, activity, and personality. Another significant paradigm in the seventeenth century came from the writings of Theophrastus von Hohenheim, otherwise known as Paracelsus (1493-1541). Paracelsus based his chemical remedies on a thorough study of alchemy and the natural world. His writings taught that “like cures like”: if a disease had a chemical origin, it could be cured by a specific chemical remedy, rather than a generalized rebalancing of the humors. Paracelsus brought toxic chemicals like arsenic and mercury into common use, and English patients worried about the introduction of poisons into their remedies. Medical practitioners also worried about the consequences of misunderstanding Paracelsian doctrine. Without careful study, Paracelsus’ “like cures like” doctrine could produce toxic remedies in the hands of unscrupulous doctors like those in Pulter’s poem (Tanya Pollard, “‘No Faith in Physic’: Masquerades of Medicine Onstage and Off,” in Disease, Diagnosis and Cure on the Early Modern Stage, ed. Stephanie Moss and Kaara Petersen [Ashgate, 2004]). Some early modern plays reflect this fear as well: in Act 4, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence gives Juliet a potion to fake her death. It is so convincing that Romeo believes her dead and subsequently poisons himself.
The two mountebanks’ weapons of choice draw upon these two dominant medical paradigms in the seventeenth century: the young gallant’s dressed dish of toads and the chemical poison verdigris echo Paracelsian doctrines of treating diseases with chemical compounds, while the old mountebank turns to classical philosophy and poisons found in nature, a practice closer to Galenism. The young mountebank’s toad-poison causes the older much agony, but he eventually recovers: since his poison had a chemical origin, it presumably could be cured by chemicals as well. In the end, the older mountebank succeeds because of his familiarity with classical knowledge, opposing “youthful” “wit” with “sage” knowledge of classics and the virtues of plants.
However, the final lines of the poem present a paradox: Pulter admonishes her readers to trust their “betters” and not rely on their own wit, but the “better” she uses as an object lesson in this poem is the older mountebank, who remains a dubious medical authority despite his classical training. No one really wins this struggle over knowledge—the two contestants remain mountebanks trading poison. So what counts as reliable knowledge, and who can be trusted with medical authority? In order to discern this, and to avoid false peddlers of knowledge, one must use one’s wit. The poem seems to question the purpose of fighting over medical authority, and to cast suspicion on healers who attempt to build their own reputations by discrediting others. Readers are left with the realization that no medical knowledge is “perfect” or entirely trustworthy.
Elemental Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

peddlers of quack medicines
Elemental Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

mountebanks attracted crowds by performing tricks on a “bank,” bench or stage, usually the counter on which street vendors displayed goods to the public
Amplified Edition
Line number 1

 Critical note

Mountebanks were largely considered early modern quacks. The Oxford English Dictionary records that a “quack” is “A person who dishonestly claims to have medical or surgical skill, or who advertises false or fake remedies; a medical impostor” (”quack, n.2.”). A mountebank, however, also served as public entertainment: “An itinerant charlatan who sold supposed medicines and remedies, frequently using various entertainments to attract a crowd of potential customers.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 1

 Critical note

For more on the early modern association of mountebanks and stages, see “Curations.” Thomas Coryat, for instance, notes that the word “mountebank” may derive from Italian for “one who mounts a stage.”
Transcription
Line number 2

 Physical note

erasure of earlier illegible letters under “ll”
Elemental Edition
Line number 2

 Gloss note

brisk, dapper in appearance
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

boasts, pompous displays
Transcription
Line number 5

 Physical note

thick ink on “c” and erasure or blurring of earlier illegible letter
Elemental Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

tested
Amplified Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

tested and evaluated
Elemental Edition
Line number 8

 Gloss note

medicines; preliminary acts; omens or warnings; acts that exemplify subsequent cases
Amplified Edition
Line number 8

 Gloss note

medicines to prepare patient for treatment
Elemental Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

this poem; his life
Amplified Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

the one who died
Elemental Edition
Line number 11

 Gloss note

prepare
Elemental Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

bread pieces used for dipping
Elemental Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

serving of food
Amplified Edition
Line number 12

 Critical note

William Ramesey, the personal physician of Charles II, writing in 1665, notes that toads emit poison through their “urine, spittle, and breath, and also by the bite” (Life’s Security, 226-229). He also records that they are “pernicious, by their quality and cold juice which they yield to such as eat them” (229). See the extracts from William Ramesey in “Curations.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

pieces of bread used for dipping in sauce
Elemental Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

greenish colored poisonous material forming on metals
Amplified Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

A green or greenish blue substance obtained artificially by putting acid on thin plates of copper (or a green rust naturally forming on copper and brass). Verdigris was often used as a pigment, as a dye, and in medicine. The young quacksalver doubles the doses of poison he serves up. We find a similar poison-on-poison recipe in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), which describes the Grinch as “a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich / With arsenic sauce.”
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

feels injury or anger; smells out, detects, or perceives
Elemental Edition
Line number 15

 Gloss note

expressions
Elemental Edition
Line number 15

 Physical note

manuscript has “eat,” as in l. 31 below
Amplified Edition
Line number 15

 Physical note

The manuscript has “eat,” as in line 31.
Elemental Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

charlatan physician
Elemental Edition
Line number 17

 Critical note

“lean” means “rest” but this word also plays on a meaning made explicit in the next line, to “make lean or thin.” According to the traditional rhyme: “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, / His wife could eat no lean: / And so betwixt them both, you see, / They lick'd the platter clean.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

false doctor or medical practitioner. According to the OED, “quacksalver” was in common usage in the seventeenth century, but in the eighteenth century was replaced by “quack,” a term still in use today.
Amplified Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

let up
Amplified Edition
Line number 18

 Critical note

Alice Eardley glosses this couplet as follows: “the young quacksalver would not bend in his resolve to force the older mountebank to consume the whole of his concoction” (Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Eardley [Toronto: Iter/Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014]). The reference to Jack Sprat refers to an oft-repeated proverb: “Jack Sprat he loved no fat, and his wife she lov’d no lean: / And yet betwixt them both, they lick’t the platters clean” (John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs [Cambridge, 1678], p. 293). While that proverb draws attention to the Sprats’ team effort, here the younger mountebank forces the older one to lick up every bit of the poisoned mess on his own.
Elemental Edition
Line number 20

 Gloss note

laugh in scorn
Amplified Edition
Line number 20

 Gloss note

mock
Elemental Edition
Line number 21

 Gloss note

filling or hard to digest; abundant; excessive; disgusting; lewd
Amplified Edition
Line number 21

 Critical note

“Fulsome” has a number of meanings, many of which might be possible here. It can be used as an adjective to describe something that is full of some material, abundant or comprehensive. A rarer usage, contemporary with Pulter, means “offending against accepted standards of morality, morally reprehensible, deplorable,” which would certainly describe a dish of poison. “Fulsome” can also mean wearisome or tedious. When used in reference to food, it means “coarse, heavy, filling; difficult to digest, cloying” or “sickening, nauseating (in taste), sickly-sweet.” Fulsome can also describe something that is physically disgusting, filthy, or offensive to the sense of smell. Used in this poem, it points our attention to the way that poison overwhelms all the senses; as a metaphor for false medical knowledge, as Pulter uses it here, it impresses readers with the total threat to their bodies that false doctors pose.
Transcription
Line number 23

 Physical note

in different hand from main scribe
Transcription
Line number 23

 Physical note

may correct earlier letters, especially under “i” and “h”
Elemental Edition
Line number 24

 Gloss note

poisonous plant, wolfsbane
Amplified Edition
Line number 24

 Gloss note

wolfsbane: a poisonous plant
Elemental Edition
Line number 26

 Gloss note

three-headed dog of underworld
Elemental Edition
Line number 26

 Gloss note

foam
Amplified Edition
Line number 26

 Gloss note

3-headed dog; guards underworld
Amplified Edition
Line number 26

 Gloss note

foam
Elemental Edition
Line number 27

 Gloss note

Hercules
Amplified Edition
Line number 27

 Gloss note

Hercules
Elemental Edition
Line number 28

 Gloss note

Legend has it that aconite grew from the foam of Cerberus’s mouth, when Hercules dragged him from Hades.
Elemental Edition
Line number 29

 Gloss note

eagerly
Amplified Edition
Line number 29

 Gloss note

gladly, with delight
Elemental Edition
Line number 30

 Gloss note

being treated with contempt
Amplified Edition
Line number 30

 Gloss note

treating someone with scorn; insult
Amplified Edition
Line number 34

 Critical note

immediately, right away. In the manuscript, “strait,” which carries the sense of close-fitting, tight, and confined. As a noun, adverb, and adjective, “strait” may give the line an alternate reading of “In this horrid posture confined he died…,” where “strait” modifies the gallant’s posture.
Elemental Edition
Line number 36

 Gloss note

those who
Elemental Edition
Line number 36

 Gloss note

wise
Elemental Edition
Line number 37

 Gloss note

fashionable gentleman
Elemental Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

the young man is defeated by his own prideful shows; “feild,” in early modern usage, captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
Amplified Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

In the manuscript, “feild,” which in early modern usage captures many of the following meanings: affected by touch; felled, as made to fall; foiled; failed; fielded, as in battled.
Transcription
Line number 40

 Physical note

in left margin
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