Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined

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Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined

Poem #57

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 Victoria E. Burke.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

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X (Close panel)Notes: Transcription

 Editorial note

In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.
Line number 1

 Physical note

There is a blank gap at the top of this page.
Line number 4

 Physical note

The “y” is written over another letter; this word is followed by an imperfectly erased second “y.”
Line number 9

 Physical note

The “i” may correct an earlier “e.”
Line number 32

 Physical note

The “e” appears partly erased, possibly with a comma after it.
Line number 34

 Physical note

There is a blot above this word.
Line number 42

 Physical note

The second “r” is written over “e” in H2.
Line number 46

 Physical note

The “a” is possibly written over an “i.”
Line number 55

 Physical note

The “ff” is written over an imperfectly erased “th.”
Line number 56

 Physical note

This word is corrected from “My” (with a former “y” imperfectly erased and a new “y” crowded in)
Line number 67

 Physical note

This is possibly corrected from “mate”; or “mate” is corrected from “make.”
Line number 80

 Physical note

“w” is in a different hand from the main scribe (possibly H2) and blacker ink, directly above a scribbled out “m.”
Line number 100

 Physical note

The final three lines are enclosed by a curving bracket on the right.
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
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Transcription

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[Untitled]
Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined
Critical Note
In the manuscript there is a large blank space at the top of the page where perhaps a title was intended to be placed.
Why must I thus forever bee confin’d
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
This is a semi-diplomatic transcription in which original spelling and punctuation are retained, abbreviations (such as tildes) are expanded with added letters in italics, “ff” is modernized to “F,” superscriptions are lowered, and major alterations to the text (of a word or more, not individual letters) are noted in the footnotes. The retention of original spelling and punctuation has the potential to get us closer to the choices made by the poet and scribe, but some scribal details (such as abbreviations) do not seem substantive or meaning-bearing and run the risk of alienating a modern reader. The notes point out parallels I see with other writers, and particularly women writers, with the aims of placing Pulter in dialogue with ideas explored by other women around this time, and of tracing a kind of female poetic lineage or alternate canon.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In Pulter’s manuscript, this poem’s conclusion is oddly separated from what precedes it by a sizeable gap—oddly, but also appropriately, since the final lines comprise a vision of the speaker’s final and total liberation from the confinement that the rest of the poem condemns. The envoy indicates the speaker’s confidence that death shall free her scattered atoms to “surround” our universe and recombine to “give a being to another world.” This liberated vision of liberation calmly counteracts the long litany of preceding complaints, in which the speaker rails against the injustice of a vast array of other, implicitly lower, creatures living freely while she cannot (she never explains why). If this part of the poem grows tiresome in repeating its formula, that tiresome formulaic repetition itself might itself model the experience she describes. But she also poignantly expresses concern for loved ones she is powerless to help while stuck in a situation (in apparent solitude and geographic isolation) utterly at odds with the mental freedom she desires, thinks she deserves, and (given world enough and time) envisions arriving with her transformation from being “buried … alive” on earth to experiencing a cosmic exhumation after death.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In this poem the speaker repeatedly uses the language of confinement and restraint. She offers a catalogue of natural creatures who are free, contrasting each with her own immurement inside her house. Some of the creatures mentioned in Pulter’s catalogue are mentioned in the plural and so are not obviously gendered, but many of the individual creatures are female. In several poems, particularly her emblems, Pulter notes the gender of specific animals, giving her analysis an additional relevance to human behaviour (for example, see her laughing female tortoise in The Porcupine [Poem 79]). Animals gendered female in this poem are the bee, beetle, silkworm, catoblepas, amphisbaena, oyster, flying fish, halcyon, swan, ostrich, turtle-dove, cuckoo, su, and canibal. In her discussions of the swan, ostrich, cuckoo, su, and canibal (and obliquely also the halcyon), she refers to their roles as mothers, and the ungendered raven is also a parent. In the case of the turtle-dove she highlights its constancy to one mate, as was typical in references to this bird.
A few poems earlier in the manuscript, Pulter contrasts her confinement in a natural setting with the movement of the planets: “Must I be still confined to this sad grove / Whenas those vast and glorious globes above / Eternally in treble motions move?” (A Solitary Complaint [Poem 54], ll. 1-3). The exact cause of her confinement in Poem 57 is not stated, but the vivid image of being “tied to one habitation” (l. 14) and “shut up in a country grange” (l. 18) suggests that she is required to stay at home, perhaps due to conflict during the civil war. Another meaning of confinement, the period of being in bed after giving birth to a child, was not current until 1774 (OED 4) and so it is not likely the meaning here, though the title of Poem 45 makes clear that she wrote at least one poem soon after childbirth (This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay in, With my Son John [Poem 45]).
The situation of the speaker in Poem 57 invites a comparison with the motif of retreat or retirement often used by royalist writers: numerous critics have seen political significance in images of retreating to nature in poems of the 1640s and 1650s. With an exiled and then murdered king, cavalier poets depicted retreat as the rejection of the world in favour of erotic fulfilment (e.g., Abraham Cowley’s “The Wish”) or as a kind of alternate political action, among other possibilities. Hero Chalmers explains that “As royalists began to be forced into retreat by the sequestration of their estates, ejection from public office, imprisonment, or exile during the 1640s, a rhetoric of paradox emerged in the work of cavalier poets eager to convert withdrawal into self-assertion, disenfranchisement into power, confinement into freedom, and so on” (Royalist Women Writers 1650-1689, Clarendon Press, 2004, p. 105). Katherine Philips, who like Pulter was a royalist poet, wrote a number of poems about retirement from the world which celebrate female friendship (for example, in “Friendship’s Mystery, To my dearest Lucasia” she writes “We court our own Captivity … ’Twere banishment to be set free” [ll. 16, 18]; see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). Retreat, for Pulter, is not an escape to an idyllic natural landscape, but instead a kind of imprisonment which she must suffer alone. Royalist writers also used imagery of imprisonment in their verse, sometimes to reflect their actual incarceration during the 1640s, as in the famous poem by Richard Lovelace “To Althea, From Prison” (see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). The typical movement in poems such as Lovelace’s is to contrast the speaker’s actual restraint with their inner freedom. Lovelace claims to be more free than gods, fish, and winds, but Pulter’s speaker does not celebrate; she links confinement with being “buried thus alive” (l. 20) and “enslaved to solitude” (l. 75). In this poem the speaker’s attitude to her confinement is entirely negative; while her mind is still free, she knows that true freedom will come only after death.
In addition to a work of natural history that we know Pulter read (Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s The historie of the world), and works that she may or may not have read (Edward Topsell’s compilations on four-footed beasts and on serpents), other contemporary sources that she could have known offer catalogues of animals in relation to God’s creation of the world (Josuah Sylvester’s translation of Du Bartas, Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas, and John Swan’s Speculum mundi; for full references see the relevant footnotes below). Thomas Browne discusses a catalogue of creatures in Pseudodoxia epidemica, “almost an encyclopaedia of seventeenth-century misconceptions and new knowledge” (R.H. Robbins, ODNB entry on Browne).


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Physical Note
There is a blank gap at the top of this page.
Why
must I thus forever bee confin’d
Why must I thus forever be confined
Why must I thus forever bee confin’d
2
Against the noble ffreedome of my Mind
Against the noble freedom of my mind—
Against the
Critical Note
The word “noble” may connote here elevated and lofty, but also of a high social status. Pulter was the daughter of an earl and may be expressing indignation at the deprivations of this time of conflict.
noble
Freedome of my Mind
3
When as each hoarie Moth, and Gaudy ffly
Gloss Note
When
Whenas
each
Gloss Note
“hoary” meaning grey- or white-haired; ancient, venerable; mouldy; hairy; possibly confused with “hory,” meaning filthy; “gaudy” meaning brilliantly fine, highly ornate, showy, but not necessarily in the disparaging sense now chiefly meant.
hoary moth, and gaudy fly
When as each
Critical Note
While “hoary” and “gaudy” may simply mean grey-haired or old (OED 1a and c) and brilliantly fine or ornate (OED 3a), respectively, the sense of both terms is probably derogatory (potentially, mouldy or musty [OED 3] and glaringly showy [OED 3a], respectively) given the context: Pulter laments that mere insects such as these have the privilege of freedom while she does not.
hoarie Moth, and Gaudy Fly
4
Within their Spheirs
Physical Note
The “y” is written over another letter; this word is followed by an imperfectly erased second “y.”
injoy
their Liberty
Within their spheres enjoy their liberty?
Within their Spheirs injoy their Liberty
5
The Virgin Bee her luscious Cell forſakes
The virgin bee her luscious cell forsakes
The Virgin Bee
Critical Note
As mentioned in the headnote, many of the animals in Pulter’s catalogue are gendered female, and several are mothers.
her
luscious Cell forsakes
6
And on A Thouſand fflowers pleaſure Takes
And on a thousand flowers pleasure takes;
And
Critical Note
In keeping with the series of contrasts that the poet is drawing between the unworthy or thoughtless freedom of mere insects and her own unjust imprisonment, she is here highlighting the apparent paradox of the virginal bee taking pleasure from a thousand flowers. This sexually suggestive formulation contrasts with the ways in which the speaker constructs herself as a faithful wife later in the poem (for example, see ll. 69-70).
on A Thousand Flowers pleasure Takes
7
The glistring Beetle casts her Stag like Horns
The
Gloss Note
glittering
glist’ring
Critical Note
This passage conflates stag beetles and scarab or dung beetles. Male stag beetles have large mouth parts resembling antlers, probably used in fighting. Dung beetles form balls of feces as food and protection for their larvae, and may roll the balls quite far before burying them. Pliny indicated that “tumbling upon their back in dung, [dung beetles] do roll it into great round balls with their feet; and therein doe make nests for to bestow the little grubs (which are their young) against the cold of winter.” Trans. Philemon Holland, The History of the World (London, 1601), 1:326. The idea of the beetle rolling dung from east to west to call “great Nature” alludes to the ancient Egyptian tendency to compare the scarab beetle rolling a ball of dung along the ground to the sun god rolling the sun across the sky.
beetle
Gloss Note
sheds
casts
her stag-like horns,
The glistring Beetle casts her Stag like Horns
8
The next Year new her Stately ffront adorns
The next year new her stately
Gloss Note
forehead
front
adorns:
The next Year new her Stately Front adorns
9
Shee Rowls her Unctious
Physical Note
The “i” may correct an earlier “e.”
Embrio
East & West
She rolls her
Gloss Note
greasy
unctuous
embryo east and west
Shee Rowls her Unctious
Gloss Note
Dung beetles protect their larvae in balls of feces (see the note in the elemental edition of this poem for this point and for Pulter’s conflation of two types of beetle). Unctuous means oily or greasy.
Embrio
East & West
10
To call great Nature who hears her behest
To call great Nature, who hears her behest;
To call great Nature who hears her behest
11
The Silk worm ffeeds, then Works, then Shee inv^olv’s,
The silkworm feeds, then works, then she
Gloss Note
cocoons
involves
The Silk worm Feeds, then Works, then Shee
Critical Note
enfolds or envelops, i.e., cocoons. Though this image of cocooning may suggest confinement, the poet indicates that the silkworm does this temporarily to reproduce, but then flies freely until her death. In this context of the female silkworm, to “work” may have the sense of the female labour of weaving, sewing, or embroidering (OED 25). In her autobiography, A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life, which was appended to Natures Pictures drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (1656), Margaret Cavendish refers to the silkworm’s self-sufficiency and to its labour of spinning to illustrate her own process of poetic creation: “yet I must say this in the behalf of my thoughts, that I never found them idle; for if the senses brings no work in, they will work of themselves, like silk-wormes that spinns out of their own bowels” (Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, edited by Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson, Broadview, 2000, p. 59). John Swan describes the bombyx or silk-worm in his Speculum mundi, Or A glasse representing the face of the world shewing both that it did begin, and must also end: the manner how, and time when, being largely examined. Whereunto is joyned an hexameron, or a serious discourse of the causes, continuance, and qualities of things in nature; occasioned as matter pertinent to the work done in the six dayes of the worlds creation (1635), pp. 425-426. He uses the language of breaking free from a prison which is also a house, which parallels Pulter’s imagery in this poem: “when these daintie creatures have made them little husken houses, and spunne out the just length of their silken webs, they eat out themselves from those prisons; and (although they were worms before) yet then they appeare with their prettie wings, and flie about a while” (p. 426). I am grateful to Jessica Wolfe for drawing my attention to Swan and for discussing Thomas Browne with me (for the latter, see below).
involv’s
,
12
Her Self, then Breeds, then fflies till Shee diſſolv’s
Herself, then breeds, then flies till she
Gloss Note
dies
dissolves
.
Her Self, then Breeds, then Flies till Shee
Gloss Note
disintegrates or decomposes
dissolv’s
13
The Baſſalisk that kils by ffaſcination
Gloss Note
mythical reptile, also called a cockatrice, hatched by a snake from a cock’s egg; it “kills by fascination” because its look, like a cast spell, is fatal.
The basilisk, that kills by fascination,
The
Critical Note
A basilisk or cockatrice is a mythical reptile which is said to hatch from a cock’s egg and to be able to kill its prey just by looking (OED). With this animal Pulter moves from her examples of insects to what we would consider to be fantastical creatures. Not all sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers would have agreed with modern conceptions that this was a mythical beast, however. In his Pseudodoxia epidemica, or, Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths (1646), p. 118-121, Thomas Browne investigates various claims about the basilisk, observing (perhaps surprisingly in a work that tests received wisdom) “that such an animall there is, if we evade not the testimony of Scripture, and humane Writers, we cannot safely deny” (p. 118). Edward Topsell in his The historie of serpents. Or, The second booke of liuing creatures wherein is contained their diuine, naturall, and morall descriptions, with their liuely figures, names, conditions, kindes and natures of all venemous beasts: with their seuerall poysons and antidotes; their deepe hatred to mankind, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, and destruction. Necessary and profitable to all sorts of men: collected out of diuine scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: amplified with sundry accidentall histories, hierogliphicks, epigrams, emblems, and aenigmaticall obseruations (1608), p. 125, describes the basilisk’s venom as noxious to humans in particular (see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem; Topsell compares the corrupting beams that issue from a basilisk’s eyes to those from a menstruating woman which impair a mirror). Josuah Sylvester, in his translation Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes (1611), p. 149, describes the basilisk as having “pestilentiall breath / [which] Doth pearce firm Marble, and whose banefull ey / Wounds with a glance, so that the soundest dy.” The basilisk, dipsas, and amphisbaena all figure in Sylvester’s list of “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” (pp. 148-149). Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, writer of an influential work celebrating women which was translated into English in 1652, writes about the gender of the basilisk. The full title of this work is, The glory of women: or, A treatise declaring the excellency and preheminence of women above men, which is proved both by scripture, law, reason, and authority, divine, and humane. Written first in Latine by Henricus Cornelius Agrippa Knight, and doctor both of law and physicke. And presented to Margaret Augusta, Queen of the Austrians and Burgundians. And now translated into English, for the vertuous and beautifull female sex of the Commonwealth of England By Edw. Fleetwood, Gent. In the context of a discussion that sometimes men are worse than the worst of women, Agrippa writes, “Furthermore, the Scriptures declare many men to be condemned to eternal torments, when no woman at any time condemned may be read of: to this may be added in way of testimony a prerogative of brutish nature, because the Eagle which is Queen of all Birds, always of the Female, never of the Male is found: & it is said, that there is but one only Phaenix, and that a Female, which is in Egypt. But on the contrary, of the Serpent, which hath its name from King, I mean the Basiliske, the most poysonous of all venemous creatures, there is none except a Male, which is impossible to be gendered a Female” (p. 18). For another treatment of the basilisk, see Pulter’s The Cockatrice (Emblem 16) [Poem 82].
Bassalisk
that kils
Gloss Note
by casting a spell with its mere gaze
by Fascination
14
Is not Like mee tid’e to one Habitation
Is not like me tied to one habitation;
Is not Like mee tid’e to one Habitation
15
Noe nor the Catablepe whoſe poyſonous eye
No, nor the
Critical Note
“catoblepas” in OED; “The Catoblepas is said to be of like venomous nature, always going with her head into the ground, her sight otherwise being deadly.” Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), 467.
catablepe
whose pois’nous eye,
Noe nor the
Critical Note
A catoblepas was described by ancient authors as an African animal that may have resembled a buffalo or gnu (OED), but Pliny in The historie of the world: commonly called, The naturall historie of C. Plinius Secundus. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor of Physicke (1634, p. 206) groups the basilisk and catoblepas together as venomous serpents whose looks have the power to kill. See “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem for Pliny’s description of these beasts. Like Pliny, whose natural history we know Pulter consulted, given other references in her manuscript, Pulter groups them together (“Though these destroy yet may they freely Range,” l. 17). Pliny attributes the killing of grass and herbs to the basilisk, not the catoblepas, and genders both creatures male. Pulter genders the catoblepas female but does not give the basilisk a gender (see Agrippa’s claim, above, that the basilisk was always male). Pulter’s choice to gender this evil creature as female reminds us that she does not simply depict examples of positive female behaviour in her verse. For another treatment of the catoblepas, see Pulter’s This Fell Catablepe (Emblem 33) [Poem 98].
Catablepe
whose poysonous eye
16
Where ere Shee goes makes Graſs and fflowers die
Where’er she goes, makes grass and flowers die:
Where ere Shee goes makes Grass and Flowers die
17
Though theſe deſtroy yet may they freely Range
Though these destroy, yet may they freely range
Though these destroy yet may they freely Range
18
Whils’t I am Shut up in a Countrey Grange
Whilst I am shut up in a
Gloss Note
country house, farmhouse
country grange
.
Whils’t I am Shut up in a Countrey
Critical Note
A grange is a country house, sometimes with farm buildings attached and the residence of a gentleman farmer (OED). Pulter is likely referring to Broadfield (or Bradfield), which was the name of the estate in the parish of Cottered in Hertfordshire owned by the Pulters. Henry Chauncy’s The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire of 1700 gives the history of the estate, noting that Arthur Pulter retired to Bradfield shortly after the outbreak of the civil war. There he “liv’d a retir’d Life, and thro’ the importunity of his Wife, began to build a very fair House of Brick upon this Mannor, but dying he never finished it” (p. 72). His grandson James Forester ultimately “repaired the Mannor-House, which was much decay’d thro’ the want of finishing it at the time it was built” (p. 74). Perhaps some of Pulter’s despair at her domestic immurement was due to living in an unfinished renovation site.
Grange
my

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19
My looks though Sad would make my freind revive
My
Gloss Note
glances, gazes
looks
, though sad, would make my friend revive;
My looks though Sad would make my
Critical Note
It isn’t clear whom she means by “freind.” Unlike the fatal glances of the basilisk and catoblepas, the speaker’s looks, though sad, would have the opposite effect and would bring a friend back to life.
freind
revive
20
Why must I then bee buried thus alive
Why must I then be buried thus alive?
Why must I then bee buried thus alive
21
The Amphisbena that at both’s ends Kill
The
Gloss Note
mythological serpent with head at each end, able to move in either direction
amphisbaena
, that at both ends kill,
The
Critical Note
The amphisbaena is a mythical serpent with two heads which can move in either direction (OED). Topsell calls this beast the Double-head and observes that “It hath a double-head, as though one mouth were not enough to vtter his poyson” (A historie of serpents [1608], p. 151). For Topsell’s description of its poison, including its risk to pregnant women, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem. Thomas Browne is willing to admit the existence of the basilisk (see note above) but is much more sceptical about the existence of the amphisbaena, concluding that it is impossible for it to have two heads and still be one creature (“Againe, if any such thing there were, it were not to be obtruded by the name of Amphisbaena, or as an animall of one denomination; for properly that animall is not one, but multiplicious or many”; Pseudodoxia epidemica [1646], p. 141).
Amphisbena
that at both’s ends Kill
22
Doth ffreely Slide about where e’re Shee will
Doth freely slide about wheree’er she will;
Doth Freely Slide about where e’re Shee will
23
The Dipſus that doth make Men die w:th Quaffing
The
Gloss Note
mythical serpent whose bite made the bitten want to drink (“quaff”) excessively.
dipsas
that doth make men die with quaffing,
The
Gloss Note
The dipsas is a mythical serpent whose bite was said to cause a raging thirst (OED). For Topsell’s description of the effects of its poison, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem.
Dipsus
that doth make Men die with Quaffing
24
And the Tarantula that Kils w:th Laughing
And the
Gloss Note
laughing was thought to be among the symptoms of a tarantula’s bite.
tarantula, that kills with laughing
,
And
Critical Note
Topsell in The historie of serpents (1608), p. 250, lists the potential reactions to the bite of a tarantula: “there will follow diuers and contrary accidents and symptomes, according to the various constitution, different complexion, and disposition of the partie wounded. For after they are hurt by the Tarantula, you shall see some of them laugh, others contrariwise to weepe, some will clatter out of measure, so that you shall neuer get them to hold their tongues, and othersome againe you shall obserue to be as mute as fishes: this man sleepeth continuallie, and another cannot be brought to any rest at all, but runneth vp and downe, raging and rauing like a mad man.” According to John Swan, after being bitten, people “presently fall a laughing; and if musick be not forthwith brought them, they cannot choose but in a mortall merrie fit take leave of the world and die. Neither can they at all be cured, unless by hearing musick: and (as it is reported) if the cure be not throughly done, they dance ever after at the sound of musicks pleasing strains” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 425).
the Tarantula that Kils with Laughing
25
With that Bold Worm w:ch Kild ye Egiptian Queen
With that bold
Gloss Note
snake
worm
which killed the
Gloss Note
Cleopatra
Egyptian queen
With
Gloss Note
The asp which killed Cleopatra.
that Bold Worm which Kild the Egiptian Queen
26
All ffreely crauling ’bout ye World are Seen
All freely crawling ’bout the world are seen.
All Freely crauling ’bout the World are Seen
27
Thus Inſcects, Reptals that Spontaneus breed
Thus insects, reptiles that
Gloss Note
Aristotle posited that some life forms arose spontaneously from rotting matter.
spontaneous breed
,
Thus
Gloss Note
Pulter has discussed five types of insects, four mythical serpents, a spider, and a snake thus far. Her mixing of fantastical with real might strike us as unusual, but natural histories of the period did the same. In The historie of serpents, Topsell treats not only serpents but also some insects (e.g., bees) and arachnids (spiders).
Inscects, Reptals
that
Gloss Note
a reference to spontaneous generation: “the development of living organisms without the agency of pre-existing living matter, usually considered as resulting from changes taking place in some inorganic substance” (OED 4a). Even creatures that were not created by God enjoy benefits the speaker does not.
Spontaneus breed
28
ffrom Such a Solitude as mine are ffreed
From such a solitude as mine are freed,
From Such a Solitude as mine are Freed
29
And I (oh my Sad heart) and onely I
And I (O my sad heart) and only I
And I (oh my Sad heart) and onely I
30
Must in this Sad confinement living Die
Must in this sad confinement living die.
Must in this Sad confinement
Critical Note
The oxymoron of “living Die” is a poignant depiction of her suffering due to her confinement away from loved ones.
living Die
31
The Swiftest Dolphin and the vastest Whale
The swiftest dolphin and the vastest whale
The Swiftest Dolphin and the vastest Whale
32
Are not immured as I in
Physical Note
The “e” appears partly erased, possibly with a comma after it.
Walle
or Pale
Are not
Gloss Note
enclosed
immured
as I, in wall or
Gloss Note
fence
pale
,
Are not immured as I in Walle or
Critical Note
fence. The image of being enclosed by both walls and a fence suggests that, whether inside or outside on her estate, she is still psychologically trapped.
Pale
33
But every Sort of ffish even as they pleaſe
But every sort of fish, even as they please,
But every Sort of Fish even as they please
34
Doe
Physical Note
There is a blot above this word.
Dive
and Swim about the Spacious Seas
Do dive and swim about the spacious seas;
Doe Dive and Swim about the Spacious Seas
35
Though the dull Oyster from A Rock is torn
Though the dull oyster from a rock is torn,
Though the dull
Critical Note
For another treatment of the oyster, see Pulter’s The Oyster and the Mouse (Emblem 48) [Poem 113].
Oyster
from A Rock is torn
36
Yet Shee with Sayls, and Wind and Tide is boarn
Yet she with sails, and wind, and tide is borne
Yet Shee with Sayls, and Wind and Tide is boarn
37
Or’e all the Swelling Billons at her Pleaſure
O’er all the swelling billows at her pleasure
Or’e all the Swelling
Gloss Note
i.e., billows
Billons
at her Pleasure
38
Untill the Cunning Crab on her takes Seaſure
Until the cunning crab on her takes seizure;
Untill the Cunning Crab on her takes Seasure
39
The fflying ffish though Shee doth oft despair
Critical Note
Samuel Purchas gives this account of the persecuted (and thus, perhaps, apt to despair) flying fish: “Bonitos or Dolphines do chase the flying fish under the water, so that he is glad to flee from them out of the water to save his life.” Purchas his Pilgrims In Five Books (London, 1625), 2:132.
The flying fish, though she doth oft despair,
Critical Note
For an explanation of the flying fish’s despair, see the note in the elemental edition of this poem. For another treatment of the flying fish, see Pulter’s This Flying Fish (Emblem 25) [Poem 90].
The Flying Fish though Shee doth oft despair
40
Yet shee comands the Seas and vaster Ayr
Yet she commands the seas and vaster air;
Yet shee commands the Seas and vaster Ayr
And

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41
And thoſe ffair Birds which hover Still above
And
Critical Note
Eardley cites Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon … Du Bartas (London, 1621), l.241, in identifying these birds as manucodes, or birds of paradise.
those fair birds
which hover still above,
And those Fair Birds which hover Still above
42
Which are Soe
Physical Note
The second “r” is written over “e” in H2.
ffarr
indulgent to their Love
Which are so far indulgent to their love
Which are Soe Farr indulgent to their Love
43
To let their ffemales lay upon their Back
To let their females lay upon their back:
To let
Critical Note
As noted in Alice Eardley’s edition, (Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, by Lady Hester Pulter, The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series vol. 32, [Iter and Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014], p. 167), Simon Goulart identified these birds as manucodes or birds of paradise (in A learned summary upon the famous poeme of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas Wherin are discovered all the excellent secretts in metaphysicall physicall, morall, and historicall knowledge. Fitt for the learned to refresh theire memories, and for younger students to abreviat and further theire studies: wherin nature is discovered, art disclosed, and history layd open. Translated out of French, by T.L. D.M.P. [1621], p. 241) For Goulart’s description of the female laying in the male’s back, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. For another treatment of the bird of paradise, see Pulter’s The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71].
their Females lay upon their Back
44
Noe Noble ffreedome Surely they can lack
No noble freedom surely they can lack,
Noe Noble Freedome Surely they can lack
45
Nor doe they ffear the terrables’t Tirants lower
Nor do they fear the terriblest tyrant’s
Gloss Note
scowl
lower
Nor doe they Fear the terrables’t Tirants
Gloss Note
frown or scowl
lower
46
Should shut them in a
Physical Note
The “a” is possibly written over an “i.”
Basteel
or a Tower
Should shut them in a
Gloss Note
prison, fortress
bastille
or a tower,
Should shut them in a
Critical Note
a “Basteel” is a bastille or fortified tower. These structures evoke some of the places of imprisonment royalists endured during the civil war years. For examples, including the Tower of London and the Castle in Oxford, see Jerome de Groot, “Prison Writing, Writing Prison during the 1640s and 1650s,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 193-215 (esp. 195-201).
Basteel or a Tower
47
ffor they disdain to touch this dunghill earth
For they disdain to touch this
Gloss Note
filthy, like a pile of excrement
dunghill
earth;
For they disdain to touch this
Critical Note
The phrase “dunghill earth” is one Pulter uses repeatedly in her poetry. For example, in “O, My Afflicted Solitary Soul [Poem 28] she asks, “Why dost thou in this dunghill earth delight”? (l. 12). See What is a dunghill? in the Curations for The Pismire [Poem 35] by Frances E. Dolan.
dunghill earth
48
Thus they injoy the ffreedome of their Birth
Thus they enjoy the freedom of their birth,
Thus they injoy the Freedome of their Birth
49
But I to Solitude am Still confind
But I to solitude am still confined:
But
Critical Note
This is the second of three depictions of Pulter’s confinement as a kind of solitude (the others are in lines 28 and 75). Not only does she crave freedom of movement, but she also portrays solitude as a kind of restraint or “Curb” on “A Noble Mind” (l. 50). Her use of the term noble in the following line recalls the “noble Freedome of my Mind” (of l. 2), as well as the “Noble Freedome” of the birds of paradise (l. 44), and looks ahead to her willingness to suffer this confinement for a “Noble End” (ll. 93-94), such as her God, king, country, friend, love, or children.
I to Solitude am Still confind
50
The cruelst Curb unto A Noble Mind
The cruelest curb unto a noble mind.
The cruelst Curb unto A Noble Mind
51
The Halcion that Calms the Rufling Seas
The
Gloss Note
bird fabled to calm the wind and waves magically when breeding by building a nest at sea
halcyon
that calms the ruffling seas
The
Critical Note
The halcyon is a green or blue kingfisher thought to magically calm the seas as it tends its floating nest (OED). Swan, after describing the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx who were turned into halcyons, writes, “But without any fiction, this we are sure of, that it is a strange bird, and as it were natures dearest darling; seeing that in favour of her nests and young, the waters leave their raging, the windes their blowing, tempests have forgot to rise, and dayes appeare with quiet calms” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 417). The phrase “halcyon days” was used by royalists to depict the calm of Charles I’s reign before the civil war; Dolores Palomo notes that the myth of the halcyon was rarely used before 1630 by English writers, but that for three decades after that date it was a charged symbol of lost peace (“The Halcyon Moment of Stillness in Royalist Poetry,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, Summer 1981, pp. 205-221 [p. 206]). Pulter herself uses the phrase “halcyon days” in two explicitly royalist poems that lament Charles’s imprisonment in 1647, The Invitation into the Country [Poem 2], l. 111 and The Complaint of Thames, 1647 [Poem 4], l. 36.
Halcion
that Calms the Rufling Seas
52
Is not Restraind but fflyes where ere Shee pleaſe
Is not restrained, but flies where’er she please;
Is not Restraind but Flyes where ere Shee please
53
Nor doth the Swan on Thames her Silver Breast
Nor doth the swan, on
Gloss Note
river in England
Thames
her
Gloss Note
the silver breast of the Thames, i.e., the water
silver breast
,
Nor doth the Swan on
Gloss Note
The poet depicts the River Thames as female with a silver breast, or shining waters.
Thames her
Silver Breast
54
Ask leave to Riſe of from her Downey Nest
Ask leave to rise off from her downy nest;
Ask leave to Rise of from her Downey Nest
55
The Rav’nous Ravens
Physical Note
The “ff” is written over an imperfectly erased “th.”
Deaff
to their Young on’s cry
The
Critical Note
See Job 38:41, “Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.” See also a source cited in another of Pulter’s poems on the raven (Emblem 11, “The dubious raven”), Robert Sanderson, Twenty Sermons Formerly Preached (London, 1656), 282: as Eardley notes, “in a sermon preached at Woburn, England”–under 30 miles from Pulter’s home–“in August 1647 Sanderson notes ‘if God so sufficiently provide for the young ravens, when the dams forsake them: will he not much more take care of us, when not our fathers and mothers forsake us?’”
rav’nous ravens
, deaf to their young ones’ cry,
Critical Note
See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for more on the cruelty of the unmaternal raven, and see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem for Swan’s digression on the potential consequences to parents if they are cruel to their young. For another treatment of the raven, see Pulter’s The Dubious Raven [Poem 77].
The Rav’nous Ravens Deaff to their Young on’s cry
56
Physical Note
This word is corrected from “My” (with a former “y” imperfectly erased and a new “y” crowded in)
May
in the Spacious Ayr most ffreely ffly
May in the spacious air most freely fly;
May in the Spacious Ayr most Freely Fly
57
But I aboue my life my Children Love
But I above my life my children love,
But I
Gloss Note
Though Pulter cannot fly like the birds in her catalogue (the halcyon, swan, or raven) she uses the word “above” to connote that her love for her children is higher than her love for her own life. Each of her chosen birds leaves their nest, thus abandoning their young (as does the ostrich in her next example), while the speaker is in the position of not being able to leave home in order to comfort her own young who are separated from her.
aboue
my life my Children Love
58
Yet I to comfort them cannot Remoue
Yet I, to comfort them,
Gloss Note
Pulter may allude to her inability to leave home (“remove”) to visit her children, perhaps because of her illness or the Civil War.
cannot remove
.
Yet I to comfort them cannot Remoue
59
The ffoolish Ostridg doth her egs expoſe
The
Critical Note
See Job 39:14-15,18: the ostrich “leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them. … What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.”
foolish ostrich
doth her eggs expose
The Foolish
Critical Note
For another treatment of the ostrich, see Pulter’s The Ostrich (Emblem 41) [Poem 106].
Ostridg
doth her egs expose
60
To Thouſand dangers er’e they doe diſcloſe
To thousand dangers ere they do
Gloss Note
hatch
disclose
,
To Thousand dangers er’e they doe
Gloss Note
hatch
disclose
61
Yet proudly Shee by wind and Wing is boarn
Yet proudly she by wind and wing is born;
Yet proudly Shee by wind and Wing is boarn
62
The Swiftest Horſ and Rider Shee doth Scorn
The swiftest horse and rider she doth scorn.
Critical Note
See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for the reference to this story in Job 39:13-18. Swan recalls this biblical passage but adds that when the eggs neglected by their mother hatch, “then the males are forced to feed and cherish them.” He continues by comparing those women who will not nurse their children to the ostrich: “So have I seen many mothers refusing to nurse their children; and, if they could, would have others likewise bear them: but putting them forth, I beleeve many perish for want of care and due attendance: for it is not possible that a nurse should have that tender affection which belongs to a mother; and many times, with the nurses milk, the children suck the nurses vices. Necessitie therefore, and a prudent choice, should seek out nurses; as we see it Gen. 21.7” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 394).
The Swiftest Hors and Rider Shee doth Scorn
but

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63
But I for mine would willingly diſſolve
But I,
Gloss Note
i.e., for her children
for mine
, would willingly
Gloss Note
die
dissolve
,
But
Critical Note
The speaker would willingly die for her children. Pulter uses the word “dissolve” and “dissolution” frequently in her verse as alchemical terms that relate to physical death (as, for example, in the title Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]).
I for mine would willingly dissolve
64
Yet Sad obſcurity doth mee involve
Yet sad obscurity doth me
Gloss Note
envelop, entangle
involve
.
Yet Sad obscurity doth mee
Gloss Note
surround or enfold
involve
65
The mild and Tenderhearted Turtle Dove
The mild and tenderhearted turtledove
The mild and Tenderhearted Turtle Dove
66
That was Soe conſtant to her onely Love
That was so constant to her only love,
That was Soe constant to her onely Love
67
Though Shee reſolves to haue noe Second
Physical Note
This is possibly corrected from “mate”; or “mate” is corrected from “make.”
make
Though she resolves to have no second
Gloss Note
mate
make
,
Though Shee resolves to haue noe Second
Critical Note
i.e., mate (the word may have been corrected from “mate” by the scribe, to rhyme with “take” in the next line). The turtle-dove was famously faithful to its mate. For another treatment of the turtle-dove, see Pulter’s This Poor Turtle Dove (Emblem 20) [Poem 85].
make
68
Yet Shee her fflieght ab^uot the Ayr doth take
Yet she her flight about the air doth take;
Yet Shee her Flieght abuot the Ayr doth take
69
But I that am more conſtant then this Dove
But I, that am more constant than this dove,
But I that am more constant then this Dove
70
Unto my ffirst and last and onely Love
Unto my first and last and only love
Unto
Critical Note
Pulter is referring to her constancy to her husband but since she predeceased him she cannot be making a direct biographical reference to a refusal to remarry after his death.
my First and last and onely Love
71
Cannot from this Sad place (Ay mee) Remove.
Cannot from this sad place (ay me) remove.
Cannot from this Sad place (Ay mee) Remove.
72
The Cuckow that doth put her egs to Nurs
The
Gloss Note
The cuckoo bird lays its solitary egg in the nest of another bird; the cuckoo baby then devours its foster siblings. See Pliny, History of the World, trans. Philemon Holland (London, 1634), 275.
cuckoo
that doth put her eggs to nurse,
The Cuckow that doth put her egs to Nurs
73
Then eats thear ffoster Brothers which is worſ
Then eats their foster brothers, which is worse,
Then
Critical Note
The cuckoo’s offspring eats its foster siblings once it has been reared in another bird’s nest. For a description of this behaviour as described in Pliny's The historie of the world (1634), p. 275, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. The cuckoo was etymologically linked with, and became popularly associated with, the term cuckold, “a derisive name for the husband of an unfaithful wife” (OED), but in the popular imagination it is the male cuckoo who deposits its eggs in another bird’s nest, with the implication being that he has impregnated another man’s wife. Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost ends with the song of the owl and the cuckoo: the refrain for the latter is “The cuckoo then on every tree / Mocks married men; for thus sings he: / ‘Cuckoo! / Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ O, word of fear, / Unpleasing to a married ear” (5.2.886-890, 895-899; edited by H.R. Woudhuysen, Arden edition, third series, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998, p. 295). Pulter focuses on the baby cuckoo’s ingratitude, and perhaps also by extension the mother cuckoo’s ingratitude to the family who raises her offspring, rather than the bird’s association with cuckoldry. Swan discusses the cuckoo’s association with both ingratitude and cuckoldry (see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem). For another treatment of the cuckoo, see Pulter’s The Cuckoo (Emblem 29) [Poem 94].
eats thear Foster Brothers
which is wors
74
Yet this Curst Embleme of ingratitude
Yet this cursed emblem of ingratitude
Yet this Curst Embleme of ingratitude
75
Is not like mee inſlavd to Solitude
Is not like me enslaved to solitude.
Is not like mee
Critical Note
The phrase “enslaved to solitude” again (as in lines 28 and 49) connects the speaker’s suffering with her isolation. In addition, this image of slavery contrasts powerfully with the repeated references to the freedom enjoyed by members of the natural world, no matter how unworthy.
inslavd to Solitude
76
All volateeles from the Eagle to the Dove
All
Gloss Note
flying creatures
volatiles
, from the eagle to the dove,
All
Critical Note
i.e., volatiles: birds. The adjectival form of volatile suggests a relevant connotation to the speaker’s description of the birds (especially the raven, ostrich, and cuckoo): “Readily changing from one interest or mood to another; changeable, fickle; marked or characterized by levity or flightiness” (OED B 4).
volateeles
from the Eagle to the Dove
77
Their ffreedome freely both injoy and Love
Their freedom freely both enjoy and love,
Their Freedome freely both injoy and Love
78
But I noe liberty expect to have
But I no liberty expect to have
But I noe liberty expect to have
79
Untill I find my ffreedome in my Grave
Until I find my freedom in my grave.
Untill I find my Freedome in my Grave
80
The
Physical Note
“w” is in a different hand from the main scribe (possibly H2) and blacker ink, directly above a scribbled out “m.”
SmWiftest
Su, noe Liberty can Lack
The swiftest
Gloss Note
Edward Topsell writes “of a wild beast in the new-found world called Su”: “she flyeth very swift, carrying her young ones upon her back.” The History of Four-Footed Beasts, p.660
su
no liberty can lack
The Swiftest
Critical Note
The su is a beast supposedly from the New World; for Edward Topsell’s description from The historie of foure-footed beastes Describing the true and liuely figure of euery beast, with a discourse of their seuerall names, conditions, kindes, vertues (both naturall and medicinall) countries of their breed, their loue and hate to mankinde, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, preseruation, and destruction. Necessary for all diuines and students, because the story of euery beast is amplified with narrations out of Scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: wherein are declared diuers hyerogliphicks, emblems, epigrams, and other good histories, collected out of all the volumes of Conradus Gesner, and all other writers to this present day (1607), p. 660, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations. Pulter notes that it carries its offspring on its back, but Topsell’s description includes another detail about its savagery and its maternal devotion: if hunters trap her and her children she will kill them rather than allow them to be taken and tamed.
Su
, noe Liberty can Lack
81
That bears her Spritely ofſpring on her back
That bears her sprightly offspring on her back;
That bears her Spritely ofspring on her back
82
The Cannibal when Shee the Huntman hears
The
Gloss Note
Simon Goulart describes the canibal as a small animal which “carrieth her young with her: for along her belly she openeth a bag made of skin … where she hideth them.” A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas (London, 1621), p.1.265.
canibal
, when she the huntsman hears,
The
Critical Note
According to Simon Goulart, the canibal is a small animal from the West Indies who hides her offspring in a pouch in her belly (A learned summary [1621], p. 265; see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for his description). The first sentence of Goulart’s description locates canibals in the country of Chiurca (possibly the island of Curaçao). Sylvester, in Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes, lists a number of “Fierce and vntameable beasts,” the last of which he particularly fears: “I fear the Beast, bred in the bloody Coast / Of Cannibals, which thousand times (almost) / Re-whelps her whelps, and in her tender womb, / She doth as oft her living brood re-tomb” ([1611], p. 152). Syntactically, a beast that lives in “the bloody Coast of Cannibals” suggests a beast that lives in the coast populated by human cannibals, but the description of the beast, and the marginal reference to “Chiurcae,” makes it likely that Sylvester means the fantastical animal called the canibal. For another treatment of the canibal, see Pulter’s The Cunning Canibal (Emblem 10) [Poem 76].
Cannibal
when Shee the Huntman hears
83
Her pretty young lings in a Wallet bears
Her pretty younglings in a
Gloss Note
backpack, pouch
wallet
bears;
Her pretty young lings in a
Gloss Note
bag or pack (i.e., a pouch like a kangaroo’s)
Wallet
bears
thus

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84
Thus from Purſuers they are all Secure
Thus from pursuers they are all secure,
Thus from Pursuers they are all Secure
85
But theſe Sad Shades doth mee Ay mee imure
But
Critical Note
here, seemingly with primary reference to the shade created by the walls of the country house, mentioned above, in which she is “immure[d]”; however, “shade” could also allude to a retired place, sheltered from the world, or to something with only fleeting or unsubstantial existence, such as the visible but impalpable form of a dead person, as well as an inseparable follower or companion
these sad shades
doth me (ay me) immure,
But these Sad Shades doth mee Ay mee immure
86
That I canot aſſist mine in their Sorrow
That I cannot assist
Gloss Note
my children
mine
in their sorrow,
That
Critical Note
The speaker laments that, unlike the su and the canibal, she cannot protect her children from harm. Another beast mentioned in one of the contemporary natural histories who protects her children from harm is the whale. Swan’s Speculum mundi (1635), p. 368 notes of the “Balaena” that “it is a fish which shews great love and affection towards her young ones: For when they are little, being faint and weak, she takes them into her mouth to secure them from tempestuous surges; and when the tempest is over, she spues them again out into the sea. A fit embleme this, to teach all sorts of parents either in Church, Commonwealth, or private families, to provide for, and not destroy those under them; as also to secure them from dangers whensoever they arise.” Though Pulter mentions the whale as vast and free (above, ll. 31-32) she does not mention its maternal actions.
I cannot assist mine in their Sorrow
87
Which makes mee Sigh & weep both Eve and Morrow
Which makes me sigh and weep both eve and morrow.
Which makes mee Sigh & weep both Eve and Morrow
88
The Lyon, Tiger, Elaphant, and Bear:
The lion, tiger, elephant, and bear,
The Lyon, Tiger, Elaphant, and Bear:
89
And Thouſands more, doe noe confinement ffear.
And thousands more, do no confinement fear.
And Thousands more, doe noe confinement Fear.
90
Thus Beasts, Birds, ffiſhes, Equivocall Worm & ffly
Thus beasts, birds, fishes, equivocal worm and fly
Thus
Critical Note
Pulter’s taxonomy of creatures in l. 90 (beasts, birds, fishes, worms, and insects) is close but not identical to Pliny’s, whose books eight through eleven in his The historie of the world treat land beasts, fish and water creatures, fowl and flying creatures, and small creatures and those that crawl on the ground. In the body of her poem Pulter starts with insects, moves to serpents, then fish, then birds, and finally to land beasts, specifically the su and the canibal (fantastical to us, but possibly not to Pulter), only briefly mentioning others in one line (lion, tiger, elephant, and bear, l. 88).
Beasts, Birds, Fishes
,
Critical Note
equivocal: of uncertain nature; since “equivocal generation” relates to spontaneous generation (“equivocal,” OED 3a), and Pulter mentions spontaneously generating reptiles in l. 27, this may be the sense she intends.
Equivocall Worm
& Fly
91
Injoy more liberty (woes mee) then I
Enjoy more liberty (woe’s me!) than I.
Injoy more liberty (
Gloss Note
i.e., woe is me
woes mee
) then I
92
Wer’t for my God, King, Countrey, or my ffreind,
Gloss Note
Were it
Wer’t
for my God, King, country, or my friend,
Wer’t for my God,
Critical Note
Pulter’s reference to the king, and her own willingness to suffer a beheading at l. 95, invites us to see a reference to the martyred Charles I, which indicates a date for the poem of after 30 January 1649.
King
, Countrey, or my Freind,
93
My Love, my Children, twere a Noble End
My love, my children, ’twere a noble end;
My Love, my Children, twere a Noble End
94
Or wer’t for Sin my guilty Head I wo’d hide
Or wer’t for sin, my guilty head I would hide
Or wer’t for Sin my guilty Head I wo’d hide
95
And Patiently the Stroke of Death abide
And patiently the stroke of death abide;
And Patiently the Stroke of Death abide
96
Or wer’t my veniall Slip’s to expiate
Or wer’t my venial slips to
Gloss Note
atone
expiate
,
Or wer’t my
Gloss Note
pardonable, not grave
veniall
Slip’s to
Gloss Note
make amends for
expiate
97
Then my Restraint would have a happie Date
Then my restraint would have a happy
Gloss Note
end
date
;
Then my Restraint would have a happie
Gloss Note
limit or endpoint
Date
98
Or wert for debt I Soon could pay that Score
Or wer’t for debt, I soon could pay that score:
Or
Critical Note
Pulter here concludes another list (just as she has catalogued creatures whose freedom contrasts cruelly with her restraint) to categorize all the things she would be willing to suffer for: her God, king, country, friend, love, children, sin, atonement for minor mistakes, or debt, presumably in a debtors’ prison (ll. 92-98).
wert for debt I Soon could pay that Score
99
But t’is, Oh my Sad Soul, I’le Say noe more
But ’tis, O my sad soul—I’ll say no more.
But
Gloss Note
In this unfinished statement she refuses to state the precise reason for her imprisonment.
t’is, Oh my Sad Soul, I’le, Say noe more
100
To God alone my Suffrings Il’e
Physical Note
The final three lines are enclosed by a curving bracket on the right.
deplore
.
To God alone my suff’rings I’ll
Physical Note
rhyming triplet precedes gap on manuscript page before final lines.
deplore
.
Critical Note
The couplet rhyme scheme of this poem is altered so that the last three lines rhyme as a triplet, which is accentuated by the curved bracket on their right. There is a space in the manuscript between lines 100 and 101, inviting us to see the following poem or section as a postscript.
To God alone my Suffrings Il’e deplore.
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

In Pulter’s manuscript, this poem’s conclusion is oddly separated from what precedes it by a sizeable gap—oddly, but also appropriately, since the final lines comprise a vision of the speaker’s final and total liberation from the confinement that the rest of the poem condemns. The envoy indicates the speaker’s confidence that death shall free her scattered atoms to “surround” our universe and recombine to “give a being to another world.” This liberated vision of liberation calmly counteracts the long litany of preceding complaints, in which the speaker rails against the injustice of a vast array of other, implicitly lower, creatures living freely while she cannot (she never explains why). If this part of the poem grows tiresome in repeating its formula, that tiresome formulaic repetition itself might itself model the experience she describes. But she also poignantly expresses concern for loved ones she is powerless to help while stuck in a situation (in apparent solitude and geographic isolation) utterly at odds with the mental freedom she desires, thinks she deserves, and (given world enough and time) envisions arriving with her transformation from being “buried … alive” on earth to experiencing a cosmic exhumation after death.
Line number 3

 Gloss note

When
Line number 3

 Gloss note

“hoary” meaning grey- or white-haired; ancient, venerable; mouldy; hairy; possibly confused with “hory,” meaning filthy; “gaudy” meaning brilliantly fine, highly ornate, showy, but not necessarily in the disparaging sense now chiefly meant.
Line number 7

 Gloss note

glittering
Line number 7

 Critical note

This passage conflates stag beetles and scarab or dung beetles. Male stag beetles have large mouth parts resembling antlers, probably used in fighting. Dung beetles form balls of feces as food and protection for their larvae, and may roll the balls quite far before burying them. Pliny indicated that “tumbling upon their back in dung, [dung beetles] do roll it into great round balls with their feet; and therein doe make nests for to bestow the little grubs (which are their young) against the cold of winter.” Trans. Philemon Holland, The History of the World (London, 1601), 1:326. The idea of the beetle rolling dung from east to west to call “great Nature” alludes to the ancient Egyptian tendency to compare the scarab beetle rolling a ball of dung along the ground to the sun god rolling the sun across the sky.
Line number 7

 Gloss note

sheds
Line number 8

 Gloss note

forehead
Line number 9

 Gloss note

greasy
Line number 11

 Gloss note

cocoons
Line number 12

 Gloss note

dies
Line number 13

 Gloss note

mythical reptile, also called a cockatrice, hatched by a snake from a cock’s egg; it “kills by fascination” because its look, like a cast spell, is fatal.
Line number 15

 Critical note

“catoblepas” in OED; “The Catoblepas is said to be of like venomous nature, always going with her head into the ground, her sight otherwise being deadly.” Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), 467.
Line number 18

 Gloss note

country house, farmhouse
Line number 19

 Gloss note

glances, gazes
Line number 21

 Gloss note

mythological serpent with head at each end, able to move in either direction
Line number 23

 Gloss note

mythical serpent whose bite made the bitten want to drink (“quaff”) excessively.
Line number 24

 Gloss note

laughing was thought to be among the symptoms of a tarantula’s bite.
Line number 25

 Gloss note

snake
Line number 25

 Gloss note

Cleopatra
Line number 27

 Gloss note

Aristotle posited that some life forms arose spontaneously from rotting matter.
Line number 32

 Gloss note

enclosed
Line number 32

 Gloss note

fence
Line number 39

 Critical note

Samuel Purchas gives this account of the persecuted (and thus, perhaps, apt to despair) flying fish: “Bonitos or Dolphines do chase the flying fish under the water, so that he is glad to flee from them out of the water to save his life.” Purchas his Pilgrims In Five Books (London, 1625), 2:132.
Line number 41

 Critical note

Eardley cites Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon … Du Bartas (London, 1621), l.241, in identifying these birds as manucodes, or birds of paradise.
Line number 45

 Gloss note

scowl
Line number 46

 Gloss note

prison, fortress
Line number 47

 Gloss note

filthy, like a pile of excrement
Line number 51

 Gloss note

bird fabled to calm the wind and waves magically when breeding by building a nest at sea
Line number 53

 Gloss note

river in England
Line number 53

 Gloss note

the silver breast of the Thames, i.e., the water
Line number 55

 Critical note

See Job 38:41, “Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.” See also a source cited in another of Pulter’s poems on the raven (Emblem 11, “The dubious raven”), Robert Sanderson, Twenty Sermons Formerly Preached (London, 1656), 282: as Eardley notes, “in a sermon preached at Woburn, England”–under 30 miles from Pulter’s home–“in August 1647 Sanderson notes ‘if God so sufficiently provide for the young ravens, when the dams forsake them: will he not much more take care of us, when not our fathers and mothers forsake us?’”
Line number 58

 Gloss note

Pulter may allude to her inability to leave home (“remove”) to visit her children, perhaps because of her illness or the Civil War.
Line number 59

 Critical note

See Job 39:14-15,18: the ostrich “leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them. … What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.”
Line number 60

 Gloss note

hatch
Line number 63

 Gloss note

i.e., for her children
Line number 63

 Gloss note

die
Line number 64

 Gloss note

envelop, entangle
Line number 67

 Gloss note

mate
Line number 72

 Gloss note

The cuckoo bird lays its solitary egg in the nest of another bird; the cuckoo baby then devours its foster siblings. See Pliny, History of the World, trans. Philemon Holland (London, 1634), 275.
Line number 76

 Gloss note

flying creatures
Line number 80

 Gloss note

Edward Topsell writes “of a wild beast in the new-found world called Su”: “she flyeth very swift, carrying her young ones upon her back.” The History of Four-Footed Beasts, p.660
Line number 82

 Gloss note

Simon Goulart describes the canibal as a small animal which “carrieth her young with her: for along her belly she openeth a bag made of skin … where she hideth them.” A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas (London, 1621), p.1.265.
Line number 83

 Gloss note

backpack, pouch
Line number 85

 Critical note

here, seemingly with primary reference to the shade created by the walls of the country house, mentioned above, in which she is “immure[d]”; however, “shade” could also allude to a retired place, sheltered from the world, or to something with only fleeting or unsubstantial existence, such as the visible but impalpable form of a dead person, as well as an inseparable follower or companion
Line number 86

 Gloss note

my children
Line number 92

 Gloss note

Were it
Line number 96

 Gloss note

atone
Line number 97

 Gloss note

end
Line number 100

 Physical note

rhyming triplet precedes gap on manuscript page before final lines.
Line number 102

 Gloss note

in ancient Greek philosophy, hypothetical particles, minute and indivisible, held as ultimate particles of matter; in emergent scientific theories in the seventeenth century, each of the particles of which matter is ultimately composed
Line number 103

 Gloss note

freed from confinement or subjection
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X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

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[Untitled]
Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined
Critical Note
In the manuscript there is a large blank space at the top of the page where perhaps a title was intended to be placed.
Why must I thus forever bee confin’d
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
This is a semi-diplomatic transcription in which original spelling and punctuation are retained, abbreviations (such as tildes) are expanded with added letters in italics, “ff” is modernized to “F,” superscriptions are lowered, and major alterations to the text (of a word or more, not individual letters) are noted in the footnotes. The retention of original spelling and punctuation has the potential to get us closer to the choices made by the poet and scribe, but some scribal details (such as abbreviations) do not seem substantive or meaning-bearing and run the risk of alienating a modern reader. The notes point out parallels I see with other writers, and particularly women writers, with the aims of placing Pulter in dialogue with ideas explored by other women around this time, and of tracing a kind of female poetic lineage or alternate canon.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In Pulter’s manuscript, this poem’s conclusion is oddly separated from what precedes it by a sizeable gap—oddly, but also appropriately, since the final lines comprise a vision of the speaker’s final and total liberation from the confinement that the rest of the poem condemns. The envoy indicates the speaker’s confidence that death shall free her scattered atoms to “surround” our universe and recombine to “give a being to another world.” This liberated vision of liberation calmly counteracts the long litany of preceding complaints, in which the speaker rails against the injustice of a vast array of other, implicitly lower, creatures living freely while she cannot (she never explains why). If this part of the poem grows tiresome in repeating its formula, that tiresome formulaic repetition itself might itself model the experience she describes. But she also poignantly expresses concern for loved ones she is powerless to help while stuck in a situation (in apparent solitude and geographic isolation) utterly at odds with the mental freedom she desires, thinks she deserves, and (given world enough and time) envisions arriving with her transformation from being “buried … alive” on earth to experiencing a cosmic exhumation after death.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In this poem the speaker repeatedly uses the language of confinement and restraint. She offers a catalogue of natural creatures who are free, contrasting each with her own immurement inside her house. Some of the creatures mentioned in Pulter’s catalogue are mentioned in the plural and so are not obviously gendered, but many of the individual creatures are female. In several poems, particularly her emblems, Pulter notes the gender of specific animals, giving her analysis an additional relevance to human behaviour (for example, see her laughing female tortoise in The Porcupine [Poem 79]). Animals gendered female in this poem are the bee, beetle, silkworm, catoblepas, amphisbaena, oyster, flying fish, halcyon, swan, ostrich, turtle-dove, cuckoo, su, and canibal. In her discussions of the swan, ostrich, cuckoo, su, and canibal (and obliquely also the halcyon), she refers to their roles as mothers, and the ungendered raven is also a parent. In the case of the turtle-dove she highlights its constancy to one mate, as was typical in references to this bird.
A few poems earlier in the manuscript, Pulter contrasts her confinement in a natural setting with the movement of the planets: “Must I be still confined to this sad grove / Whenas those vast and glorious globes above / Eternally in treble motions move?” (A Solitary Complaint [Poem 54], ll. 1-3). The exact cause of her confinement in Poem 57 is not stated, but the vivid image of being “tied to one habitation” (l. 14) and “shut up in a country grange” (l. 18) suggests that she is required to stay at home, perhaps due to conflict during the civil war. Another meaning of confinement, the period of being in bed after giving birth to a child, was not current until 1774 (OED 4) and so it is not likely the meaning here, though the title of Poem 45 makes clear that she wrote at least one poem soon after childbirth (This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay in, With my Son John [Poem 45]).
The situation of the speaker in Poem 57 invites a comparison with the motif of retreat or retirement often used by royalist writers: numerous critics have seen political significance in images of retreating to nature in poems of the 1640s and 1650s. With an exiled and then murdered king, cavalier poets depicted retreat as the rejection of the world in favour of erotic fulfilment (e.g., Abraham Cowley’s “The Wish”) or as a kind of alternate political action, among other possibilities. Hero Chalmers explains that “As royalists began to be forced into retreat by the sequestration of their estates, ejection from public office, imprisonment, or exile during the 1640s, a rhetoric of paradox emerged in the work of cavalier poets eager to convert withdrawal into self-assertion, disenfranchisement into power, confinement into freedom, and so on” (Royalist Women Writers 1650-1689, Clarendon Press, 2004, p. 105). Katherine Philips, who like Pulter was a royalist poet, wrote a number of poems about retirement from the world which celebrate female friendship (for example, in “Friendship’s Mystery, To my dearest Lucasia” she writes “We court our own Captivity … ’Twere banishment to be set free” [ll. 16, 18]; see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). Retreat, for Pulter, is not an escape to an idyllic natural landscape, but instead a kind of imprisonment which she must suffer alone. Royalist writers also used imagery of imprisonment in their verse, sometimes to reflect their actual incarceration during the 1640s, as in the famous poem by Richard Lovelace “To Althea, From Prison” (see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). The typical movement in poems such as Lovelace’s is to contrast the speaker’s actual restraint with their inner freedom. Lovelace claims to be more free than gods, fish, and winds, but Pulter’s speaker does not celebrate; she links confinement with being “buried thus alive” (l. 20) and “enslaved to solitude” (l. 75). In this poem the speaker’s attitude to her confinement is entirely negative; while her mind is still free, she knows that true freedom will come only after death.
In addition to a work of natural history that we know Pulter read (Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s The historie of the world), and works that she may or may not have read (Edward Topsell’s compilations on four-footed beasts and on serpents), other contemporary sources that she could have known offer catalogues of animals in relation to God’s creation of the world (Josuah Sylvester’s translation of Du Bartas, Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas, and John Swan’s Speculum mundi; for full references see the relevant footnotes below). Thomas Browne discusses a catalogue of creatures in Pseudodoxia epidemica, “almost an encyclopaedia of seventeenth-century misconceptions and new knowledge” (R.H. Robbins, ODNB entry on Browne).


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Physical Note
There is a blank gap at the top of this page.
Why
must I thus forever bee confin’d
Why must I thus forever be confined
Why must I thus forever bee confin’d
2
Against the noble ffreedome of my Mind
Against the noble freedom of my mind—
Against the
Critical Note
The word “noble” may connote here elevated and lofty, but also of a high social status. Pulter was the daughter of an earl and may be expressing indignation at the deprivations of this time of conflict.
noble
Freedome of my Mind
3
When as each hoarie Moth, and Gaudy ffly
Gloss Note
When
Whenas
each
Gloss Note
“hoary” meaning grey- or white-haired; ancient, venerable; mouldy; hairy; possibly confused with “hory,” meaning filthy; “gaudy” meaning brilliantly fine, highly ornate, showy, but not necessarily in the disparaging sense now chiefly meant.
hoary moth, and gaudy fly
When as each
Critical Note
While “hoary” and “gaudy” may simply mean grey-haired or old (OED 1a and c) and brilliantly fine or ornate (OED 3a), respectively, the sense of both terms is probably derogatory (potentially, mouldy or musty [OED 3] and glaringly showy [OED 3a], respectively) given the context: Pulter laments that mere insects such as these have the privilege of freedom while she does not.
hoarie Moth, and Gaudy Fly
4
Within their Spheirs
Physical Note
The “y” is written over another letter; this word is followed by an imperfectly erased second “y.”
injoy
their Liberty
Within their spheres enjoy their liberty?
Within their Spheirs injoy their Liberty
5
The Virgin Bee her luscious Cell forſakes
The virgin bee her luscious cell forsakes
The Virgin Bee
Critical Note
As mentioned in the headnote, many of the animals in Pulter’s catalogue are gendered female, and several are mothers.
her
luscious Cell forsakes
6
And on A Thouſand fflowers pleaſure Takes
And on a thousand flowers pleasure takes;
And
Critical Note
In keeping with the series of contrasts that the poet is drawing between the unworthy or thoughtless freedom of mere insects and her own unjust imprisonment, she is here highlighting the apparent paradox of the virginal bee taking pleasure from a thousand flowers. This sexually suggestive formulation contrasts with the ways in which the speaker constructs herself as a faithful wife later in the poem (for example, see ll. 69-70).
on A Thousand Flowers pleasure Takes
7
The glistring Beetle casts her Stag like Horns
The
Gloss Note
glittering
glist’ring
Critical Note
This passage conflates stag beetles and scarab or dung beetles. Male stag beetles have large mouth parts resembling antlers, probably used in fighting. Dung beetles form balls of feces as food and protection for their larvae, and may roll the balls quite far before burying them. Pliny indicated that “tumbling upon their back in dung, [dung beetles] do roll it into great round balls with their feet; and therein doe make nests for to bestow the little grubs (which are their young) against the cold of winter.” Trans. Philemon Holland, The History of the World (London, 1601), 1:326. The idea of the beetle rolling dung from east to west to call “great Nature” alludes to the ancient Egyptian tendency to compare the scarab beetle rolling a ball of dung along the ground to the sun god rolling the sun across the sky.
beetle
Gloss Note
sheds
casts
her stag-like horns,
The glistring Beetle casts her Stag like Horns
8
The next Year new her Stately ffront adorns
The next year new her stately
Gloss Note
forehead
front
adorns:
The next Year new her Stately Front adorns
9
Shee Rowls her Unctious
Physical Note
The “i” may correct an earlier “e.”
Embrio
East & West
She rolls her
Gloss Note
greasy
unctuous
embryo east and west
Shee Rowls her Unctious
Gloss Note
Dung beetles protect their larvae in balls of feces (see the note in the elemental edition of this poem for this point and for Pulter’s conflation of two types of beetle). Unctuous means oily or greasy.
Embrio
East & West
10
To call great Nature who hears her behest
To call great Nature, who hears her behest;
To call great Nature who hears her behest
11
The Silk worm ffeeds, then Works, then Shee inv^olv’s,
The silkworm feeds, then works, then she
Gloss Note
cocoons
involves
The Silk worm Feeds, then Works, then Shee
Critical Note
enfolds or envelops, i.e., cocoons. Though this image of cocooning may suggest confinement, the poet indicates that the silkworm does this temporarily to reproduce, but then flies freely until her death. In this context of the female silkworm, to “work” may have the sense of the female labour of weaving, sewing, or embroidering (OED 25). In her autobiography, A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life, which was appended to Natures Pictures drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (1656), Margaret Cavendish refers to the silkworm’s self-sufficiency and to its labour of spinning to illustrate her own process of poetic creation: “yet I must say this in the behalf of my thoughts, that I never found them idle; for if the senses brings no work in, they will work of themselves, like silk-wormes that spinns out of their own bowels” (Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, edited by Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson, Broadview, 2000, p. 59). John Swan describes the bombyx or silk-worm in his Speculum mundi, Or A glasse representing the face of the world shewing both that it did begin, and must also end: the manner how, and time when, being largely examined. Whereunto is joyned an hexameron, or a serious discourse of the causes, continuance, and qualities of things in nature; occasioned as matter pertinent to the work done in the six dayes of the worlds creation (1635), pp. 425-426. He uses the language of breaking free from a prison which is also a house, which parallels Pulter’s imagery in this poem: “when these daintie creatures have made them little husken houses, and spunne out the just length of their silken webs, they eat out themselves from those prisons; and (although they were worms before) yet then they appeare with their prettie wings, and flie about a while” (p. 426). I am grateful to Jessica Wolfe for drawing my attention to Swan and for discussing Thomas Browne with me (for the latter, see below).
involv’s
,
12
Her Self, then Breeds, then fflies till Shee diſſolv’s
Herself, then breeds, then flies till she
Gloss Note
dies
dissolves
.
Her Self, then Breeds, then Flies till Shee
Gloss Note
disintegrates or decomposes
dissolv’s
13
The Baſſalisk that kils by ffaſcination
Gloss Note
mythical reptile, also called a cockatrice, hatched by a snake from a cock’s egg; it “kills by fascination” because its look, like a cast spell, is fatal.
The basilisk, that kills by fascination,
The
Critical Note
A basilisk or cockatrice is a mythical reptile which is said to hatch from a cock’s egg and to be able to kill its prey just by looking (OED). With this animal Pulter moves from her examples of insects to what we would consider to be fantastical creatures. Not all sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers would have agreed with modern conceptions that this was a mythical beast, however. In his Pseudodoxia epidemica, or, Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths (1646), p. 118-121, Thomas Browne investigates various claims about the basilisk, observing (perhaps surprisingly in a work that tests received wisdom) “that such an animall there is, if we evade not the testimony of Scripture, and humane Writers, we cannot safely deny” (p. 118). Edward Topsell in his The historie of serpents. Or, The second booke of liuing creatures wherein is contained their diuine, naturall, and morall descriptions, with their liuely figures, names, conditions, kindes and natures of all venemous beasts: with their seuerall poysons and antidotes; their deepe hatred to mankind, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, and destruction. Necessary and profitable to all sorts of men: collected out of diuine scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: amplified with sundry accidentall histories, hierogliphicks, epigrams, emblems, and aenigmaticall obseruations (1608), p. 125, describes the basilisk’s venom as noxious to humans in particular (see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem; Topsell compares the corrupting beams that issue from a basilisk’s eyes to those from a menstruating woman which impair a mirror). Josuah Sylvester, in his translation Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes (1611), p. 149, describes the basilisk as having “pestilentiall breath / [which] Doth pearce firm Marble, and whose banefull ey / Wounds with a glance, so that the soundest dy.” The basilisk, dipsas, and amphisbaena all figure in Sylvester’s list of “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” (pp. 148-149). Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, writer of an influential work celebrating women which was translated into English in 1652, writes about the gender of the basilisk. The full title of this work is, The glory of women: or, A treatise declaring the excellency and preheminence of women above men, which is proved both by scripture, law, reason, and authority, divine, and humane. Written first in Latine by Henricus Cornelius Agrippa Knight, and doctor both of law and physicke. And presented to Margaret Augusta, Queen of the Austrians and Burgundians. And now translated into English, for the vertuous and beautifull female sex of the Commonwealth of England By Edw. Fleetwood, Gent. In the context of a discussion that sometimes men are worse than the worst of women, Agrippa writes, “Furthermore, the Scriptures declare many men to be condemned to eternal torments, when no woman at any time condemned may be read of: to this may be added in way of testimony a prerogative of brutish nature, because the Eagle which is Queen of all Birds, always of the Female, never of the Male is found: & it is said, that there is but one only Phaenix, and that a Female, which is in Egypt. But on the contrary, of the Serpent, which hath its name from King, I mean the Basiliske, the most poysonous of all venemous creatures, there is none except a Male, which is impossible to be gendered a Female” (p. 18). For another treatment of the basilisk, see Pulter’s The Cockatrice (Emblem 16) [Poem 82].
Bassalisk
that kils
Gloss Note
by casting a spell with its mere gaze
by Fascination
14
Is not Like mee tid’e to one Habitation
Is not like me tied to one habitation;
Is not Like mee tid’e to one Habitation
15
Noe nor the Catablepe whoſe poyſonous eye
No, nor the
Critical Note
“catoblepas” in OED; “The Catoblepas is said to be of like venomous nature, always going with her head into the ground, her sight otherwise being deadly.” Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), 467.
catablepe
whose pois’nous eye,
Noe nor the
Critical Note
A catoblepas was described by ancient authors as an African animal that may have resembled a buffalo or gnu (OED), but Pliny in The historie of the world: commonly called, The naturall historie of C. Plinius Secundus. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor of Physicke (1634, p. 206) groups the basilisk and catoblepas together as venomous serpents whose looks have the power to kill. See “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem for Pliny’s description of these beasts. Like Pliny, whose natural history we know Pulter consulted, given other references in her manuscript, Pulter groups them together (“Though these destroy yet may they freely Range,” l. 17). Pliny attributes the killing of grass and herbs to the basilisk, not the catoblepas, and genders both creatures male. Pulter genders the catoblepas female but does not give the basilisk a gender (see Agrippa’s claim, above, that the basilisk was always male). Pulter’s choice to gender this evil creature as female reminds us that she does not simply depict examples of positive female behaviour in her verse. For another treatment of the catoblepas, see Pulter’s This Fell Catablepe (Emblem 33) [Poem 98].
Catablepe
whose poysonous eye
16
Where ere Shee goes makes Graſs and fflowers die
Where’er she goes, makes grass and flowers die:
Where ere Shee goes makes Grass and Flowers die
17
Though theſe deſtroy yet may they freely Range
Though these destroy, yet may they freely range
Though these destroy yet may they freely Range
18
Whils’t I am Shut up in a Countrey Grange
Whilst I am shut up in a
Gloss Note
country house, farmhouse
country grange
.
Whils’t I am Shut up in a Countrey
Critical Note
A grange is a country house, sometimes with farm buildings attached and the residence of a gentleman farmer (OED). Pulter is likely referring to Broadfield (or Bradfield), which was the name of the estate in the parish of Cottered in Hertfordshire owned by the Pulters. Henry Chauncy’s The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire of 1700 gives the history of the estate, noting that Arthur Pulter retired to Bradfield shortly after the outbreak of the civil war. There he “liv’d a retir’d Life, and thro’ the importunity of his Wife, began to build a very fair House of Brick upon this Mannor, but dying he never finished it” (p. 72). His grandson James Forester ultimately “repaired the Mannor-House, which was much decay’d thro’ the want of finishing it at the time it was built” (p. 74). Perhaps some of Pulter’s despair at her domestic immurement was due to living in an unfinished renovation site.
Grange
my

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19
My looks though Sad would make my freind revive
My
Gloss Note
glances, gazes
looks
, though sad, would make my friend revive;
My looks though Sad would make my
Critical Note
It isn’t clear whom she means by “freind.” Unlike the fatal glances of the basilisk and catoblepas, the speaker’s looks, though sad, would have the opposite effect and would bring a friend back to life.
freind
revive
20
Why must I then bee buried thus alive
Why must I then be buried thus alive?
Why must I then bee buried thus alive
21
The Amphisbena that at both’s ends Kill
The
Gloss Note
mythological serpent with head at each end, able to move in either direction
amphisbaena
, that at both ends kill,
The
Critical Note
The amphisbaena is a mythical serpent with two heads which can move in either direction (OED). Topsell calls this beast the Double-head and observes that “It hath a double-head, as though one mouth were not enough to vtter his poyson” (A historie of serpents [1608], p. 151). For Topsell’s description of its poison, including its risk to pregnant women, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem. Thomas Browne is willing to admit the existence of the basilisk (see note above) but is much more sceptical about the existence of the amphisbaena, concluding that it is impossible for it to have two heads and still be one creature (“Againe, if any such thing there were, it were not to be obtruded by the name of Amphisbaena, or as an animall of one denomination; for properly that animall is not one, but multiplicious or many”; Pseudodoxia epidemica [1646], p. 141).
Amphisbena
that at both’s ends Kill
22
Doth ffreely Slide about where e’re Shee will
Doth freely slide about wheree’er she will;
Doth Freely Slide about where e’re Shee will
23
The Dipſus that doth make Men die w:th Quaffing
The
Gloss Note
mythical serpent whose bite made the bitten want to drink (“quaff”) excessively.
dipsas
that doth make men die with quaffing,
The
Gloss Note
The dipsas is a mythical serpent whose bite was said to cause a raging thirst (OED). For Topsell’s description of the effects of its poison, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem.
Dipsus
that doth make Men die with Quaffing
24
And the Tarantula that Kils w:th Laughing
And the
Gloss Note
laughing was thought to be among the symptoms of a tarantula’s bite.
tarantula, that kills with laughing
,
And
Critical Note
Topsell in The historie of serpents (1608), p. 250, lists the potential reactions to the bite of a tarantula: “there will follow diuers and contrary accidents and symptomes, according to the various constitution, different complexion, and disposition of the partie wounded. For after they are hurt by the Tarantula, you shall see some of them laugh, others contrariwise to weepe, some will clatter out of measure, so that you shall neuer get them to hold their tongues, and othersome againe you shall obserue to be as mute as fishes: this man sleepeth continuallie, and another cannot be brought to any rest at all, but runneth vp and downe, raging and rauing like a mad man.” According to John Swan, after being bitten, people “presently fall a laughing; and if musick be not forthwith brought them, they cannot choose but in a mortall merrie fit take leave of the world and die. Neither can they at all be cured, unless by hearing musick: and (as it is reported) if the cure be not throughly done, they dance ever after at the sound of musicks pleasing strains” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 425).
the Tarantula that Kils with Laughing
25
With that Bold Worm w:ch Kild ye Egiptian Queen
With that bold
Gloss Note
snake
worm
which killed the
Gloss Note
Cleopatra
Egyptian queen
With
Gloss Note
The asp which killed Cleopatra.
that Bold Worm which Kild the Egiptian Queen
26
All ffreely crauling ’bout ye World are Seen
All freely crawling ’bout the world are seen.
All Freely crauling ’bout the World are Seen
27
Thus Inſcects, Reptals that Spontaneus breed
Thus insects, reptiles that
Gloss Note
Aristotle posited that some life forms arose spontaneously from rotting matter.
spontaneous breed
,
Thus
Gloss Note
Pulter has discussed five types of insects, four mythical serpents, a spider, and a snake thus far. Her mixing of fantastical with real might strike us as unusual, but natural histories of the period did the same. In The historie of serpents, Topsell treats not only serpents but also some insects (e.g., bees) and arachnids (spiders).
Inscects, Reptals
that
Gloss Note
a reference to spontaneous generation: “the development of living organisms without the agency of pre-existing living matter, usually considered as resulting from changes taking place in some inorganic substance” (OED 4a). Even creatures that were not created by God enjoy benefits the speaker does not.
Spontaneus breed
28
ffrom Such a Solitude as mine are ffreed
From such a solitude as mine are freed,
From Such a Solitude as mine are Freed
29
And I (oh my Sad heart) and onely I
And I (O my sad heart) and only I
And I (oh my Sad heart) and onely I
30
Must in this Sad confinement living Die
Must in this sad confinement living die.
Must in this Sad confinement
Critical Note
The oxymoron of “living Die” is a poignant depiction of her suffering due to her confinement away from loved ones.
living Die
31
The Swiftest Dolphin and the vastest Whale
The swiftest dolphin and the vastest whale
The Swiftest Dolphin and the vastest Whale
32
Are not immured as I in
Physical Note
The “e” appears partly erased, possibly with a comma after it.
Walle
or Pale
Are not
Gloss Note
enclosed
immured
as I, in wall or
Gloss Note
fence
pale
,
Are not immured as I in Walle or
Critical Note
fence. The image of being enclosed by both walls and a fence suggests that, whether inside or outside on her estate, she is still psychologically trapped.
Pale
33
But every Sort of ffish even as they pleaſe
But every sort of fish, even as they please,
But every Sort of Fish even as they please
34
Doe
Physical Note
There is a blot above this word.
Dive
and Swim about the Spacious Seas
Do dive and swim about the spacious seas;
Doe Dive and Swim about the Spacious Seas
35
Though the dull Oyster from A Rock is torn
Though the dull oyster from a rock is torn,
Though the dull
Critical Note
For another treatment of the oyster, see Pulter’s The Oyster and the Mouse (Emblem 48) [Poem 113].
Oyster
from A Rock is torn
36
Yet Shee with Sayls, and Wind and Tide is boarn
Yet she with sails, and wind, and tide is borne
Yet Shee with Sayls, and Wind and Tide is boarn
37
Or’e all the Swelling Billons at her Pleaſure
O’er all the swelling billows at her pleasure
Or’e all the Swelling
Gloss Note
i.e., billows
Billons
at her Pleasure
38
Untill the Cunning Crab on her takes Seaſure
Until the cunning crab on her takes seizure;
Untill the Cunning Crab on her takes Seasure
39
The fflying ffish though Shee doth oft despair
Critical Note
Samuel Purchas gives this account of the persecuted (and thus, perhaps, apt to despair) flying fish: “Bonitos or Dolphines do chase the flying fish under the water, so that he is glad to flee from them out of the water to save his life.” Purchas his Pilgrims In Five Books (London, 1625), 2:132.
The flying fish, though she doth oft despair,
Critical Note
For an explanation of the flying fish’s despair, see the note in the elemental edition of this poem. For another treatment of the flying fish, see Pulter’s This Flying Fish (Emblem 25) [Poem 90].
The Flying Fish though Shee doth oft despair
40
Yet shee comands the Seas and vaster Ayr
Yet she commands the seas and vaster air;
Yet shee commands the Seas and vaster Ayr
And

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41
And thoſe ffair Birds which hover Still above
And
Critical Note
Eardley cites Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon … Du Bartas (London, 1621), l.241, in identifying these birds as manucodes, or birds of paradise.
those fair birds
which hover still above,
And those Fair Birds which hover Still above
42
Which are Soe
Physical Note
The second “r” is written over “e” in H2.
ffarr
indulgent to their Love
Which are so far indulgent to their love
Which are Soe Farr indulgent to their Love
43
To let their ffemales lay upon their Back
To let their females lay upon their back:
To let
Critical Note
As noted in Alice Eardley’s edition, (Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, by Lady Hester Pulter, The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series vol. 32, [Iter and Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014], p. 167), Simon Goulart identified these birds as manucodes or birds of paradise (in A learned summary upon the famous poeme of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas Wherin are discovered all the excellent secretts in metaphysicall physicall, morall, and historicall knowledge. Fitt for the learned to refresh theire memories, and for younger students to abreviat and further theire studies: wherin nature is discovered, art disclosed, and history layd open. Translated out of French, by T.L. D.M.P. [1621], p. 241) For Goulart’s description of the female laying in the male’s back, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. For another treatment of the bird of paradise, see Pulter’s The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71].
their Females lay upon their Back
44
Noe Noble ffreedome Surely they can lack
No noble freedom surely they can lack,
Noe Noble Freedome Surely they can lack
45
Nor doe they ffear the terrables’t Tirants lower
Nor do they fear the terriblest tyrant’s
Gloss Note
scowl
lower
Nor doe they Fear the terrables’t Tirants
Gloss Note
frown or scowl
lower
46
Should shut them in a
Physical Note
The “a” is possibly written over an “i.”
Basteel
or a Tower
Should shut them in a
Gloss Note
prison, fortress
bastille
or a tower,
Should shut them in a
Critical Note
a “Basteel” is a bastille or fortified tower. These structures evoke some of the places of imprisonment royalists endured during the civil war years. For examples, including the Tower of London and the Castle in Oxford, see Jerome de Groot, “Prison Writing, Writing Prison during the 1640s and 1650s,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 193-215 (esp. 195-201).
Basteel or a Tower
47
ffor they disdain to touch this dunghill earth
For they disdain to touch this
Gloss Note
filthy, like a pile of excrement
dunghill
earth;
For they disdain to touch this
Critical Note
The phrase “dunghill earth” is one Pulter uses repeatedly in her poetry. For example, in “O, My Afflicted Solitary Soul [Poem 28] she asks, “Why dost thou in this dunghill earth delight”? (l. 12). See What is a dunghill? in the Curations for The Pismire [Poem 35] by Frances E. Dolan.
dunghill earth
48
Thus they injoy the ffreedome of their Birth
Thus they enjoy the freedom of their birth,
Thus they injoy the Freedome of their Birth
49
But I to Solitude am Still confind
But I to solitude am still confined:
But
Critical Note
This is the second of three depictions of Pulter’s confinement as a kind of solitude (the others are in lines 28 and 75). Not only does she crave freedom of movement, but she also portrays solitude as a kind of restraint or “Curb” on “A Noble Mind” (l. 50). Her use of the term noble in the following line recalls the “noble Freedome of my Mind” (of l. 2), as well as the “Noble Freedome” of the birds of paradise (l. 44), and looks ahead to her willingness to suffer this confinement for a “Noble End” (ll. 93-94), such as her God, king, country, friend, love, or children.
I to Solitude am Still confind
50
The cruelst Curb unto A Noble Mind
The cruelest curb unto a noble mind.
The cruelst Curb unto A Noble Mind
51
The Halcion that Calms the Rufling Seas
The
Gloss Note
bird fabled to calm the wind and waves magically when breeding by building a nest at sea
halcyon
that calms the ruffling seas
The
Critical Note
The halcyon is a green or blue kingfisher thought to magically calm the seas as it tends its floating nest (OED). Swan, after describing the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx who were turned into halcyons, writes, “But without any fiction, this we are sure of, that it is a strange bird, and as it were natures dearest darling; seeing that in favour of her nests and young, the waters leave their raging, the windes their blowing, tempests have forgot to rise, and dayes appeare with quiet calms” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 417). The phrase “halcyon days” was used by royalists to depict the calm of Charles I’s reign before the civil war; Dolores Palomo notes that the myth of the halcyon was rarely used before 1630 by English writers, but that for three decades after that date it was a charged symbol of lost peace (“The Halcyon Moment of Stillness in Royalist Poetry,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, Summer 1981, pp. 205-221 [p. 206]). Pulter herself uses the phrase “halcyon days” in two explicitly royalist poems that lament Charles’s imprisonment in 1647, The Invitation into the Country [Poem 2], l. 111 and The Complaint of Thames, 1647 [Poem 4], l. 36.
Halcion
that Calms the Rufling Seas
52
Is not Restraind but fflyes where ere Shee pleaſe
Is not restrained, but flies where’er she please;
Is not Restraind but Flyes where ere Shee please
53
Nor doth the Swan on Thames her Silver Breast
Nor doth the swan, on
Gloss Note
river in England
Thames
her
Gloss Note
the silver breast of the Thames, i.e., the water
silver breast
,
Nor doth the Swan on
Gloss Note
The poet depicts the River Thames as female with a silver breast, or shining waters.
Thames her
Silver Breast
54
Ask leave to Riſe of from her Downey Nest
Ask leave to rise off from her downy nest;
Ask leave to Rise of from her Downey Nest
55
The Rav’nous Ravens
Physical Note
The “ff” is written over an imperfectly erased “th.”
Deaff
to their Young on’s cry
The
Critical Note
See Job 38:41, “Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.” See also a source cited in another of Pulter’s poems on the raven (Emblem 11, “The dubious raven”), Robert Sanderson, Twenty Sermons Formerly Preached (London, 1656), 282: as Eardley notes, “in a sermon preached at Woburn, England”–under 30 miles from Pulter’s home–“in August 1647 Sanderson notes ‘if God so sufficiently provide for the young ravens, when the dams forsake them: will he not much more take care of us, when not our fathers and mothers forsake us?’”
rav’nous ravens
, deaf to their young ones’ cry,
Critical Note
See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for more on the cruelty of the unmaternal raven, and see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem for Swan’s digression on the potential consequences to parents if they are cruel to their young. For another treatment of the raven, see Pulter’s The Dubious Raven [Poem 77].
The Rav’nous Ravens Deaff to their Young on’s cry
56
Physical Note
This word is corrected from “My” (with a former “y” imperfectly erased and a new “y” crowded in)
May
in the Spacious Ayr most ffreely ffly
May in the spacious air most freely fly;
May in the Spacious Ayr most Freely Fly
57
But I aboue my life my Children Love
But I above my life my children love,
But I
Gloss Note
Though Pulter cannot fly like the birds in her catalogue (the halcyon, swan, or raven) she uses the word “above” to connote that her love for her children is higher than her love for her own life. Each of her chosen birds leaves their nest, thus abandoning their young (as does the ostrich in her next example), while the speaker is in the position of not being able to leave home in order to comfort her own young who are separated from her.
aboue
my life my Children Love
58
Yet I to comfort them cannot Remoue
Yet I, to comfort them,
Gloss Note
Pulter may allude to her inability to leave home (“remove”) to visit her children, perhaps because of her illness or the Civil War.
cannot remove
.
Yet I to comfort them cannot Remoue
59
The ffoolish Ostridg doth her egs expoſe
The
Critical Note
See Job 39:14-15,18: the ostrich “leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them. … What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.”
foolish ostrich
doth her eggs expose
The Foolish
Critical Note
For another treatment of the ostrich, see Pulter’s The Ostrich (Emblem 41) [Poem 106].
Ostridg
doth her egs expose
60
To Thouſand dangers er’e they doe diſcloſe
To thousand dangers ere they do
Gloss Note
hatch
disclose
,
To Thousand dangers er’e they doe
Gloss Note
hatch
disclose
61
Yet proudly Shee by wind and Wing is boarn
Yet proudly she by wind and wing is born;
Yet proudly Shee by wind and Wing is boarn
62
The Swiftest Horſ and Rider Shee doth Scorn
The swiftest horse and rider she doth scorn.
Critical Note
See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for the reference to this story in Job 39:13-18. Swan recalls this biblical passage but adds that when the eggs neglected by their mother hatch, “then the males are forced to feed and cherish them.” He continues by comparing those women who will not nurse their children to the ostrich: “So have I seen many mothers refusing to nurse their children; and, if they could, would have others likewise bear them: but putting them forth, I beleeve many perish for want of care and due attendance: for it is not possible that a nurse should have that tender affection which belongs to a mother; and many times, with the nurses milk, the children suck the nurses vices. Necessitie therefore, and a prudent choice, should seek out nurses; as we see it Gen. 21.7” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 394).
The Swiftest Hors and Rider Shee doth Scorn
but

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63
But I for mine would willingly diſſolve
But I,
Gloss Note
i.e., for her children
for mine
, would willingly
Gloss Note
die
dissolve
,
But
Critical Note
The speaker would willingly die for her children. Pulter uses the word “dissolve” and “dissolution” frequently in her verse as alchemical terms that relate to physical death (as, for example, in the title Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]).
I for mine would willingly dissolve
64
Yet Sad obſcurity doth mee involve
Yet sad obscurity doth me
Gloss Note
envelop, entangle
involve
.
Yet Sad obscurity doth mee
Gloss Note
surround or enfold
involve
65
The mild and Tenderhearted Turtle Dove
The mild and tenderhearted turtledove
The mild and Tenderhearted Turtle Dove
66
That was Soe conſtant to her onely Love
That was so constant to her only love,
That was Soe constant to her onely Love
67
Though Shee reſolves to haue noe Second
Physical Note
This is possibly corrected from “mate”; or “mate” is corrected from “make.”
make
Though she resolves to have no second
Gloss Note
mate
make
,
Though Shee resolves to haue noe Second
Critical Note
i.e., mate (the word may have been corrected from “mate” by the scribe, to rhyme with “take” in the next line). The turtle-dove was famously faithful to its mate. For another treatment of the turtle-dove, see Pulter’s This Poor Turtle Dove (Emblem 20) [Poem 85].
make
68
Yet Shee her fflieght ab^uot the Ayr doth take
Yet she her flight about the air doth take;
Yet Shee her Flieght abuot the Ayr doth take
69
But I that am more conſtant then this Dove
But I, that am more constant than this dove,
But I that am more constant then this Dove
70
Unto my ffirst and last and onely Love
Unto my first and last and only love
Unto
Critical Note
Pulter is referring to her constancy to her husband but since she predeceased him she cannot be making a direct biographical reference to a refusal to remarry after his death.
my First and last and onely Love
71
Cannot from this Sad place (Ay mee) Remove.
Cannot from this sad place (ay me) remove.
Cannot from this Sad place (Ay mee) Remove.
72
The Cuckow that doth put her egs to Nurs
The
Gloss Note
The cuckoo bird lays its solitary egg in the nest of another bird; the cuckoo baby then devours its foster siblings. See Pliny, History of the World, trans. Philemon Holland (London, 1634), 275.
cuckoo
that doth put her eggs to nurse,
The Cuckow that doth put her egs to Nurs
73
Then eats thear ffoster Brothers which is worſ
Then eats their foster brothers, which is worse,
Then
Critical Note
The cuckoo’s offspring eats its foster siblings once it has been reared in another bird’s nest. For a description of this behaviour as described in Pliny's The historie of the world (1634), p. 275, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. The cuckoo was etymologically linked with, and became popularly associated with, the term cuckold, “a derisive name for the husband of an unfaithful wife” (OED), but in the popular imagination it is the male cuckoo who deposits its eggs in another bird’s nest, with the implication being that he has impregnated another man’s wife. Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost ends with the song of the owl and the cuckoo: the refrain for the latter is “The cuckoo then on every tree / Mocks married men; for thus sings he: / ‘Cuckoo! / Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ O, word of fear, / Unpleasing to a married ear” (5.2.886-890, 895-899; edited by H.R. Woudhuysen, Arden edition, third series, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998, p. 295). Pulter focuses on the baby cuckoo’s ingratitude, and perhaps also by extension the mother cuckoo’s ingratitude to the family who raises her offspring, rather than the bird’s association with cuckoldry. Swan discusses the cuckoo’s association with both ingratitude and cuckoldry (see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem). For another treatment of the cuckoo, see Pulter’s The Cuckoo (Emblem 29) [Poem 94].
eats thear Foster Brothers
which is wors
74
Yet this Curst Embleme of ingratitude
Yet this cursed emblem of ingratitude
Yet this Curst Embleme of ingratitude
75
Is not like mee inſlavd to Solitude
Is not like me enslaved to solitude.
Is not like mee
Critical Note
The phrase “enslaved to solitude” again (as in lines 28 and 49) connects the speaker’s suffering with her isolation. In addition, this image of slavery contrasts powerfully with the repeated references to the freedom enjoyed by members of the natural world, no matter how unworthy.
inslavd to Solitude
76
All volateeles from the Eagle to the Dove
All
Gloss Note
flying creatures
volatiles
, from the eagle to the dove,
All
Critical Note
i.e., volatiles: birds. The adjectival form of volatile suggests a relevant connotation to the speaker’s description of the birds (especially the raven, ostrich, and cuckoo): “Readily changing from one interest or mood to another; changeable, fickle; marked or characterized by levity or flightiness” (OED B 4).
volateeles
from the Eagle to the Dove
77
Their ffreedome freely both injoy and Love
Their freedom freely both enjoy and love,
Their Freedome freely both injoy and Love
78
But I noe liberty expect to have
But I no liberty expect to have
But I noe liberty expect to have
79
Untill I find my ffreedome in my Grave
Until I find my freedom in my grave.
Untill I find my Freedome in my Grave
80
The
Physical Note
“w” is in a different hand from the main scribe (possibly H2) and blacker ink, directly above a scribbled out “m.”
SmWiftest
Su, noe Liberty can Lack
The swiftest
Gloss Note
Edward Topsell writes “of a wild beast in the new-found world called Su”: “she flyeth very swift, carrying her young ones upon her back.” The History of Four-Footed Beasts, p.660
su
no liberty can lack
The Swiftest
Critical Note
The su is a beast supposedly from the New World; for Edward Topsell’s description from The historie of foure-footed beastes Describing the true and liuely figure of euery beast, with a discourse of their seuerall names, conditions, kindes, vertues (both naturall and medicinall) countries of their breed, their loue and hate to mankinde, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, preseruation, and destruction. Necessary for all diuines and students, because the story of euery beast is amplified with narrations out of Scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: wherein are declared diuers hyerogliphicks, emblems, epigrams, and other good histories, collected out of all the volumes of Conradus Gesner, and all other writers to this present day (1607), p. 660, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations. Pulter notes that it carries its offspring on its back, but Topsell’s description includes another detail about its savagery and its maternal devotion: if hunters trap her and her children she will kill them rather than allow them to be taken and tamed.
Su
, noe Liberty can Lack
81
That bears her Spritely ofſpring on her back
That bears her sprightly offspring on her back;
That bears her Spritely ofspring on her back
82
The Cannibal when Shee the Huntman hears
The
Gloss Note
Simon Goulart describes the canibal as a small animal which “carrieth her young with her: for along her belly she openeth a bag made of skin … where she hideth them.” A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas (London, 1621), p.1.265.
canibal
, when she the huntsman hears,
The
Critical Note
According to Simon Goulart, the canibal is a small animal from the West Indies who hides her offspring in a pouch in her belly (A learned summary [1621], p. 265; see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for his description). The first sentence of Goulart’s description locates canibals in the country of Chiurca (possibly the island of Curaçao). Sylvester, in Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes, lists a number of “Fierce and vntameable beasts,” the last of which he particularly fears: “I fear the Beast, bred in the bloody Coast / Of Cannibals, which thousand times (almost) / Re-whelps her whelps, and in her tender womb, / She doth as oft her living brood re-tomb” ([1611], p. 152). Syntactically, a beast that lives in “the bloody Coast of Cannibals” suggests a beast that lives in the coast populated by human cannibals, but the description of the beast, and the marginal reference to “Chiurcae,” makes it likely that Sylvester means the fantastical animal called the canibal. For another treatment of the canibal, see Pulter’s The Cunning Canibal (Emblem 10) [Poem 76].
Cannibal
when Shee the Huntman hears
83
Her pretty young lings in a Wallet bears
Her pretty younglings in a
Gloss Note
backpack, pouch
wallet
bears;
Her pretty young lings in a
Gloss Note
bag or pack (i.e., a pouch like a kangaroo’s)
Wallet
bears
thus

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84
Thus from Purſuers they are all Secure
Thus from pursuers they are all secure,
Thus from Pursuers they are all Secure
85
But theſe Sad Shades doth mee Ay mee imure
But
Critical Note
here, seemingly with primary reference to the shade created by the walls of the country house, mentioned above, in which she is “immure[d]”; however, “shade” could also allude to a retired place, sheltered from the world, or to something with only fleeting or unsubstantial existence, such as the visible but impalpable form of a dead person, as well as an inseparable follower or companion
these sad shades
doth me (ay me) immure,
But these Sad Shades doth mee Ay mee immure
86
That I canot aſſist mine in their Sorrow
That I cannot assist
Gloss Note
my children
mine
in their sorrow,
That
Critical Note
The speaker laments that, unlike the su and the canibal, she cannot protect her children from harm. Another beast mentioned in one of the contemporary natural histories who protects her children from harm is the whale. Swan’s Speculum mundi (1635), p. 368 notes of the “Balaena” that “it is a fish which shews great love and affection towards her young ones: For when they are little, being faint and weak, she takes them into her mouth to secure them from tempestuous surges; and when the tempest is over, she spues them again out into the sea. A fit embleme this, to teach all sorts of parents either in Church, Commonwealth, or private families, to provide for, and not destroy those under them; as also to secure them from dangers whensoever they arise.” Though Pulter mentions the whale as vast and free (above, ll. 31-32) she does not mention its maternal actions.
I cannot assist mine in their Sorrow
87
Which makes mee Sigh & weep both Eve and Morrow
Which makes me sigh and weep both eve and morrow.
Which makes mee Sigh & weep both Eve and Morrow
88
The Lyon, Tiger, Elaphant, and Bear:
The lion, tiger, elephant, and bear,
The Lyon, Tiger, Elaphant, and Bear:
89
And Thouſands more, doe noe confinement ffear.
And thousands more, do no confinement fear.
And Thousands more, doe noe confinement Fear.
90
Thus Beasts, Birds, ffiſhes, Equivocall Worm & ffly
Thus beasts, birds, fishes, equivocal worm and fly
Thus
Critical Note
Pulter’s taxonomy of creatures in l. 90 (beasts, birds, fishes, worms, and insects) is close but not identical to Pliny’s, whose books eight through eleven in his The historie of the world treat land beasts, fish and water creatures, fowl and flying creatures, and small creatures and those that crawl on the ground. In the body of her poem Pulter starts with insects, moves to serpents, then fish, then birds, and finally to land beasts, specifically the su and the canibal (fantastical to us, but possibly not to Pulter), only briefly mentioning others in one line (lion, tiger, elephant, and bear, l. 88).
Beasts, Birds, Fishes
,
Critical Note
equivocal: of uncertain nature; since “equivocal generation” relates to spontaneous generation (“equivocal,” OED 3a), and Pulter mentions spontaneously generating reptiles in l. 27, this may be the sense she intends.
Equivocall Worm
& Fly
91
Injoy more liberty (woes mee) then I
Enjoy more liberty (woe’s me!) than I.
Injoy more liberty (
Gloss Note
i.e., woe is me
woes mee
) then I
92
Wer’t for my God, King, Countrey, or my ffreind,
Gloss Note
Were it
Wer’t
for my God, King, country, or my friend,
Wer’t for my God,
Critical Note
Pulter’s reference to the king, and her own willingness to suffer a beheading at l. 95, invites us to see a reference to the martyred Charles I, which indicates a date for the poem of after 30 January 1649.
King
, Countrey, or my Freind,
93
My Love, my Children, twere a Noble End
My love, my children, ’twere a noble end;
My Love, my Children, twere a Noble End
94
Or wer’t for Sin my guilty Head I wo’d hide
Or wer’t for sin, my guilty head I would hide
Or wer’t for Sin my guilty Head I wo’d hide
95
And Patiently the Stroke of Death abide
And patiently the stroke of death abide;
And Patiently the Stroke of Death abide
96
Or wer’t my veniall Slip’s to expiate
Or wer’t my venial slips to
Gloss Note
atone
expiate
,
Or wer’t my
Gloss Note
pardonable, not grave
veniall
Slip’s to
Gloss Note
make amends for
expiate
97
Then my Restraint would have a happie Date
Then my restraint would have a happy
Gloss Note
end
date
;
Then my Restraint would have a happie
Gloss Note
limit or endpoint
Date
98
Or wert for debt I Soon could pay that Score
Or wer’t for debt, I soon could pay that score:
Or
Critical Note
Pulter here concludes another list (just as she has catalogued creatures whose freedom contrasts cruelly with her restraint) to categorize all the things she would be willing to suffer for: her God, king, country, friend, love, children, sin, atonement for minor mistakes, or debt, presumably in a debtors’ prison (ll. 92-98).
wert for debt I Soon could pay that Score
99
But t’is, Oh my Sad Soul, I’le Say noe more
But ’tis, O my sad soul—I’ll say no more.
But
Gloss Note
In this unfinished statement she refuses to state the precise reason for her imprisonment.
t’is, Oh my Sad Soul, I’le, Say noe more
100
To God alone my Suffrings Il’e
Physical Note
The final three lines are enclosed by a curving bracket on the right.
deplore
.
To God alone my suff’rings I’ll
Physical Note
rhyming triplet precedes gap on manuscript page before final lines.
deplore
.
Critical Note
The couplet rhyme scheme of this poem is altered so that the last three lines rhyme as a triplet, which is accentuated by the curved bracket on their right. There is a space in the manuscript between lines 100 and 101, inviting us to see the following poem or section as a postscript.
To God alone my Suffrings Il’e deplore.
101
For I no liberty expect to see
For I noe Liberty expect to See
102
Until to
Gloss Note
in ancient Greek philosophy, hypothetical particles, minute and indivisible, held as ultimate particles of matter; in emergent scientific theories in the seventeenth century, each of the particles of which matter is ultimately composed
atoms
I disperséd be;
Untill to
Gloss Note
Atoms are indivisible particles from which matter is composed.
Atoms
I dispersed bee
103
Then, being
Gloss Note
freed from confinement or subjection
enfranchised
, free as my verse,
Then
Critical Note
Pulter writes about her freed or “enfranchised” soul or spirit ultimately returning to heaven in several poems, such as The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39], ll. 16-20.
beeing infranchis’d
Free as my Verse
104
I shall surround this spacious universe,
I Shall Surround this Spacious Universe
105
Until, by other atoms thrust and hurled,
Untill by other Atoms thrust and hurl’d
106
We give a being to another world.
Critical Note
Pulter’s suggestion that atoms may form into another world recalls the speculation about alternate worlds in some of Margaret Cavendish’s poetry, such as “Of many Worlds in this World,” “A World in an Eare-Ring,” and “Severall Worlds in severall Circles” (Poems, and fancies [1653], pp. 44-46; see Speculations about Multiple Worlds in Curations for the first of these poems).
Wee give a beeing to a nother World.
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition
Title note

 Critical note

In the manuscript there is a large blank space at the top of the page where perhaps a title was intended to be placed.

 Editorial note

This is a semi-diplomatic transcription in which original spelling and punctuation are retained, abbreviations (such as tildes) are expanded with added letters in italics, “ff” is modernized to “F,” superscriptions are lowered, and major alterations to the text (of a word or more, not individual letters) are noted in the footnotes. The retention of original spelling and punctuation has the potential to get us closer to the choices made by the poet and scribe, but some scribal details (such as abbreviations) do not seem substantive or meaning-bearing and run the risk of alienating a modern reader. The notes point out parallels I see with other writers, and particularly women writers, with the aims of placing Pulter in dialogue with ideas explored by other women around this time, and of tracing a kind of female poetic lineage or alternate canon.

 Headnote

In this poem the speaker repeatedly uses the language of confinement and restraint. She offers a catalogue of natural creatures who are free, contrasting each with her own immurement inside her house. Some of the creatures mentioned in Pulter’s catalogue are mentioned in the plural and so are not obviously gendered, but many of the individual creatures are female. In several poems, particularly her emblems, Pulter notes the gender of specific animals, giving her analysis an additional relevance to human behaviour (for example, see her laughing female tortoise in The Porcupine [Poem 79]). Animals gendered female in this poem are the bee, beetle, silkworm, catoblepas, amphisbaena, oyster, flying fish, halcyon, swan, ostrich, turtle-dove, cuckoo, su, and canibal. In her discussions of the swan, ostrich, cuckoo, su, and canibal (and obliquely also the halcyon), she refers to their roles as mothers, and the ungendered raven is also a parent. In the case of the turtle-dove she highlights its constancy to one mate, as was typical in references to this bird.
A few poems earlier in the manuscript, Pulter contrasts her confinement in a natural setting with the movement of the planets: “Must I be still confined to this sad grove / Whenas those vast and glorious globes above / Eternally in treble motions move?” (A Solitary Complaint [Poem 54], ll. 1-3). The exact cause of her confinement in Poem 57 is not stated, but the vivid image of being “tied to one habitation” (l. 14) and “shut up in a country grange” (l. 18) suggests that she is required to stay at home, perhaps due to conflict during the civil war. Another meaning of confinement, the period of being in bed after giving birth to a child, was not current until 1774 (OED 4) and so it is not likely the meaning here, though the title of Poem 45 makes clear that she wrote at least one poem soon after childbirth (This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay in, With my Son John [Poem 45]).
The situation of the speaker in Poem 57 invites a comparison with the motif of retreat or retirement often used by royalist writers: numerous critics have seen political significance in images of retreating to nature in poems of the 1640s and 1650s. With an exiled and then murdered king, cavalier poets depicted retreat as the rejection of the world in favour of erotic fulfilment (e.g., Abraham Cowley’s “The Wish”) or as a kind of alternate political action, among other possibilities. Hero Chalmers explains that “As royalists began to be forced into retreat by the sequestration of their estates, ejection from public office, imprisonment, or exile during the 1640s, a rhetoric of paradox emerged in the work of cavalier poets eager to convert withdrawal into self-assertion, disenfranchisement into power, confinement into freedom, and so on” (Royalist Women Writers 1650-1689, Clarendon Press, 2004, p. 105). Katherine Philips, who like Pulter was a royalist poet, wrote a number of poems about retirement from the world which celebrate female friendship (for example, in “Friendship’s Mystery, To my dearest Lucasia” she writes “We court our own Captivity … ’Twere banishment to be set free” [ll. 16, 18]; see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). Retreat, for Pulter, is not an escape to an idyllic natural landscape, but instead a kind of imprisonment which she must suffer alone. Royalist writers also used imagery of imprisonment in their verse, sometimes to reflect their actual incarceration during the 1640s, as in the famous poem by Richard Lovelace “To Althea, From Prison” (see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). The typical movement in poems such as Lovelace’s is to contrast the speaker’s actual restraint with their inner freedom. Lovelace claims to be more free than gods, fish, and winds, but Pulter’s speaker does not celebrate; she links confinement with being “buried thus alive” (l. 20) and “enslaved to solitude” (l. 75). In this poem the speaker’s attitude to her confinement is entirely negative; while her mind is still free, she knows that true freedom will come only after death.
In addition to a work of natural history that we know Pulter read (Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s The historie of the world), and works that she may or may not have read (Edward Topsell’s compilations on four-footed beasts and on serpents), other contemporary sources that she could have known offer catalogues of animals in relation to God’s creation of the world (Josuah Sylvester’s translation of Du Bartas, Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas, and John Swan’s Speculum mundi; for full references see the relevant footnotes below). Thomas Browne discusses a catalogue of creatures in Pseudodoxia epidemica, “almost an encyclopaedia of seventeenth-century misconceptions and new knowledge” (R.H. Robbins, ODNB entry on Browne).
Line number 2

 Critical note

The word “noble” may connote here elevated and lofty, but also of a high social status. Pulter was the daughter of an earl and may be expressing indignation at the deprivations of this time of conflict.
Line number 3

 Critical note

While “hoary” and “gaudy” may simply mean grey-haired or old (OED 1a and c) and brilliantly fine or ornate (OED 3a), respectively, the sense of both terms is probably derogatory (potentially, mouldy or musty [OED 3] and glaringly showy [OED 3a], respectively) given the context: Pulter laments that mere insects such as these have the privilege of freedom while she does not.
Line number 5

 Critical note

As mentioned in the headnote, many of the animals in Pulter’s catalogue are gendered female, and several are mothers.
Line number 6

 Critical note

In keeping with the series of contrasts that the poet is drawing between the unworthy or thoughtless freedom of mere insects and her own unjust imprisonment, she is here highlighting the apparent paradox of the virginal bee taking pleasure from a thousand flowers. This sexually suggestive formulation contrasts with the ways in which the speaker constructs herself as a faithful wife later in the poem (for example, see ll. 69-70).
Line number 9

 Gloss note

Dung beetles protect their larvae in balls of feces (see the note in the elemental edition of this poem for this point and for Pulter’s conflation of two types of beetle). Unctuous means oily or greasy.
Line number 11

 Critical note

enfolds or envelops, i.e., cocoons. Though this image of cocooning may suggest confinement, the poet indicates that the silkworm does this temporarily to reproduce, but then flies freely until her death. In this context of the female silkworm, to “work” may have the sense of the female labour of weaving, sewing, or embroidering (OED 25). In her autobiography, A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life, which was appended to Natures Pictures drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (1656), Margaret Cavendish refers to the silkworm’s self-sufficiency and to its labour of spinning to illustrate her own process of poetic creation: “yet I must say this in the behalf of my thoughts, that I never found them idle; for if the senses brings no work in, they will work of themselves, like silk-wormes that spinns out of their own bowels” (Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, edited by Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson, Broadview, 2000, p. 59). John Swan describes the bombyx or silk-worm in his Speculum mundi, Or A glasse representing the face of the world shewing both that it did begin, and must also end: the manner how, and time when, being largely examined. Whereunto is joyned an hexameron, or a serious discourse of the causes, continuance, and qualities of things in nature; occasioned as matter pertinent to the work done in the six dayes of the worlds creation (1635), pp. 425-426. He uses the language of breaking free from a prison which is also a house, which parallels Pulter’s imagery in this poem: “when these daintie creatures have made them little husken houses, and spunne out the just length of their silken webs, they eat out themselves from those prisons; and (although they were worms before) yet then they appeare with their prettie wings, and flie about a while” (p. 426). I am grateful to Jessica Wolfe for drawing my attention to Swan and for discussing Thomas Browne with me (for the latter, see below).
Line number 12

 Gloss note

disintegrates or decomposes
Line number 13

 Critical note

A basilisk or cockatrice is a mythical reptile which is said to hatch from a cock’s egg and to be able to kill its prey just by looking (OED). With this animal Pulter moves from her examples of insects to what we would consider to be fantastical creatures. Not all sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers would have agreed with modern conceptions that this was a mythical beast, however. In his Pseudodoxia epidemica, or, Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths (1646), p. 118-121, Thomas Browne investigates various claims about the basilisk, observing (perhaps surprisingly in a work that tests received wisdom) “that such an animall there is, if we evade not the testimony of Scripture, and humane Writers, we cannot safely deny” (p. 118). Edward Topsell in his The historie of serpents. Or, The second booke of liuing creatures wherein is contained their diuine, naturall, and morall descriptions, with their liuely figures, names, conditions, kindes and natures of all venemous beasts: with their seuerall poysons and antidotes; their deepe hatred to mankind, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, and destruction. Necessary and profitable to all sorts of men: collected out of diuine scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: amplified with sundry accidentall histories, hierogliphicks, epigrams, emblems, and aenigmaticall obseruations (1608), p. 125, describes the basilisk’s venom as noxious to humans in particular (see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem; Topsell compares the corrupting beams that issue from a basilisk’s eyes to those from a menstruating woman which impair a mirror). Josuah Sylvester, in his translation Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes (1611), p. 149, describes the basilisk as having “pestilentiall breath / [which] Doth pearce firm Marble, and whose banefull ey / Wounds with a glance, so that the soundest dy.” The basilisk, dipsas, and amphisbaena all figure in Sylvester’s list of “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” (pp. 148-149). Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, writer of an influential work celebrating women which was translated into English in 1652, writes about the gender of the basilisk. The full title of this work is, The glory of women: or, A treatise declaring the excellency and preheminence of women above men, which is proved both by scripture, law, reason, and authority, divine, and humane. Written first in Latine by Henricus Cornelius Agrippa Knight, and doctor both of law and physicke. And presented to Margaret Augusta, Queen of the Austrians and Burgundians. And now translated into English, for the vertuous and beautifull female sex of the Commonwealth of England By Edw. Fleetwood, Gent. In the context of a discussion that sometimes men are worse than the worst of women, Agrippa writes, “Furthermore, the Scriptures declare many men to be condemned to eternal torments, when no woman at any time condemned may be read of: to this may be added in way of testimony a prerogative of brutish nature, because the Eagle which is Queen of all Birds, always of the Female, never of the Male is found: & it is said, that there is but one only Phaenix, and that a Female, which is in Egypt. But on the contrary, of the Serpent, which hath its name from King, I mean the Basiliske, the most poysonous of all venemous creatures, there is none except a Male, which is impossible to be gendered a Female” (p. 18). For another treatment of the basilisk, see Pulter’s The Cockatrice (Emblem 16) [Poem 82].
Line number 13

 Gloss note

by casting a spell with its mere gaze
Line number 15

 Critical note

A catoblepas was described by ancient authors as an African animal that may have resembled a buffalo or gnu (OED), but Pliny in The historie of the world: commonly called, The naturall historie of C. Plinius Secundus. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor of Physicke (1634, p. 206) groups the basilisk and catoblepas together as venomous serpents whose looks have the power to kill. See “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem for Pliny’s description of these beasts. Like Pliny, whose natural history we know Pulter consulted, given other references in her manuscript, Pulter groups them together (“Though these destroy yet may they freely Range,” l. 17). Pliny attributes the killing of grass and herbs to the basilisk, not the catoblepas, and genders both creatures male. Pulter genders the catoblepas female but does not give the basilisk a gender (see Agrippa’s claim, above, that the basilisk was always male). Pulter’s choice to gender this evil creature as female reminds us that she does not simply depict examples of positive female behaviour in her verse. For another treatment of the catoblepas, see Pulter’s This Fell Catablepe (Emblem 33) [Poem 98].
Line number 18

 Critical note

A grange is a country house, sometimes with farm buildings attached and the residence of a gentleman farmer (OED). Pulter is likely referring to Broadfield (or Bradfield), which was the name of the estate in the parish of Cottered in Hertfordshire owned by the Pulters. Henry Chauncy’s The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire of 1700 gives the history of the estate, noting that Arthur Pulter retired to Bradfield shortly after the outbreak of the civil war. There he “liv’d a retir’d Life, and thro’ the importunity of his Wife, began to build a very fair House of Brick upon this Mannor, but dying he never finished it” (p. 72). His grandson James Forester ultimately “repaired the Mannor-House, which was much decay’d thro’ the want of finishing it at the time it was built” (p. 74). Perhaps some of Pulter’s despair at her domestic immurement was due to living in an unfinished renovation site.
Line number 19

 Critical note

It isn’t clear whom she means by “freind.” Unlike the fatal glances of the basilisk and catoblepas, the speaker’s looks, though sad, would have the opposite effect and would bring a friend back to life.
Line number 21

 Critical note

The amphisbaena is a mythical serpent with two heads which can move in either direction (OED). Topsell calls this beast the Double-head and observes that “It hath a double-head, as though one mouth were not enough to vtter his poyson” (A historie of serpents [1608], p. 151). For Topsell’s description of its poison, including its risk to pregnant women, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem. Thomas Browne is willing to admit the existence of the basilisk (see note above) but is much more sceptical about the existence of the amphisbaena, concluding that it is impossible for it to have two heads and still be one creature (“Againe, if any such thing there were, it were not to be obtruded by the name of Amphisbaena, or as an animall of one denomination; for properly that animall is not one, but multiplicious or many”; Pseudodoxia epidemica [1646], p. 141).
Line number 23

 Gloss note

The dipsas is a mythical serpent whose bite was said to cause a raging thirst (OED). For Topsell’s description of the effects of its poison, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem.
Line number 24

 Critical note

Topsell in The historie of serpents (1608), p. 250, lists the potential reactions to the bite of a tarantula: “there will follow diuers and contrary accidents and symptomes, according to the various constitution, different complexion, and disposition of the partie wounded. For after they are hurt by the Tarantula, you shall see some of them laugh, others contrariwise to weepe, some will clatter out of measure, so that you shall neuer get them to hold their tongues, and othersome againe you shall obserue to be as mute as fishes: this man sleepeth continuallie, and another cannot be brought to any rest at all, but runneth vp and downe, raging and rauing like a mad man.” According to John Swan, after being bitten, people “presently fall a laughing; and if musick be not forthwith brought them, they cannot choose but in a mortall merrie fit take leave of the world and die. Neither can they at all be cured, unless by hearing musick: and (as it is reported) if the cure be not throughly done, they dance ever after at the sound of musicks pleasing strains” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 425).
Line number 25

 Gloss note

The asp which killed Cleopatra.
Line number 27

 Gloss note

Pulter has discussed five types of insects, four mythical serpents, a spider, and a snake thus far. Her mixing of fantastical with real might strike us as unusual, but natural histories of the period did the same. In The historie of serpents, Topsell treats not only serpents but also some insects (e.g., bees) and arachnids (spiders).
Line number 27

 Gloss note

a reference to spontaneous generation: “the development of living organisms without the agency of pre-existing living matter, usually considered as resulting from changes taking place in some inorganic substance” (OED 4a). Even creatures that were not created by God enjoy benefits the speaker does not.
Line number 30

 Critical note

The oxymoron of “living Die” is a poignant depiction of her suffering due to her confinement away from loved ones.
Line number 32

 Critical note

fence. The image of being enclosed by both walls and a fence suggests that, whether inside or outside on her estate, she is still psychologically trapped.
Line number 35

 Critical note

For another treatment of the oyster, see Pulter’s The Oyster and the Mouse (Emblem 48) [Poem 113].
Line number 37

 Gloss note

i.e., billows
Line number 39

 Critical note

For an explanation of the flying fish’s despair, see the note in the elemental edition of this poem. For another treatment of the flying fish, see Pulter’s This Flying Fish (Emblem 25) [Poem 90].
Line number 43

 Critical note

As noted in Alice Eardley’s edition, (Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, by Lady Hester Pulter, The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series vol. 32, [Iter and Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014], p. 167), Simon Goulart identified these birds as manucodes or birds of paradise (in A learned summary upon the famous poeme of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas Wherin are discovered all the excellent secretts in metaphysicall physicall, morall, and historicall knowledge. Fitt for the learned to refresh theire memories, and for younger students to abreviat and further theire studies: wherin nature is discovered, art disclosed, and history layd open. Translated out of French, by T.L. D.M.P. [1621], p. 241) For Goulart’s description of the female laying in the male’s back, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. For another treatment of the bird of paradise, see Pulter’s The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71].
Line number 45

 Gloss note

frown or scowl
Line number 46

 Critical note

a “Basteel” is a bastille or fortified tower. These structures evoke some of the places of imprisonment royalists endured during the civil war years. For examples, including the Tower of London and the Castle in Oxford, see Jerome de Groot, “Prison Writing, Writing Prison during the 1640s and 1650s,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 193-215 (esp. 195-201).
Line number 47

 Critical note

The phrase “dunghill earth” is one Pulter uses repeatedly in her poetry. For example, in “O, My Afflicted Solitary Soul [Poem 28] she asks, “Why dost thou in this dunghill earth delight”? (l. 12). See What is a dunghill? in the Curations for The Pismire [Poem 35] by Frances E. Dolan.
Line number 49

 Critical note

This is the second of three depictions of Pulter’s confinement as a kind of solitude (the others are in lines 28 and 75). Not only does she crave freedom of movement, but she also portrays solitude as a kind of restraint or “Curb” on “A Noble Mind” (l. 50). Her use of the term noble in the following line recalls the “noble Freedome of my Mind” (of l. 2), as well as the “Noble Freedome” of the birds of paradise (l. 44), and looks ahead to her willingness to suffer this confinement for a “Noble End” (ll. 93-94), such as her God, king, country, friend, love, or children.
Line number 51

 Critical note

The halcyon is a green or blue kingfisher thought to magically calm the seas as it tends its floating nest (OED). Swan, after describing the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx who were turned into halcyons, writes, “But without any fiction, this we are sure of, that it is a strange bird, and as it were natures dearest darling; seeing that in favour of her nests and young, the waters leave their raging, the windes their blowing, tempests have forgot to rise, and dayes appeare with quiet calms” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 417). The phrase “halcyon days” was used by royalists to depict the calm of Charles I’s reign before the civil war; Dolores Palomo notes that the myth of the halcyon was rarely used before 1630 by English writers, but that for three decades after that date it was a charged symbol of lost peace (“The Halcyon Moment of Stillness in Royalist Poetry,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, Summer 1981, pp. 205-221 [p. 206]). Pulter herself uses the phrase “halcyon days” in two explicitly royalist poems that lament Charles’s imprisonment in 1647, The Invitation into the Country [Poem 2], l. 111 and The Complaint of Thames, 1647 [Poem 4], l. 36.
Line number 53

 Gloss note

The poet depicts the River Thames as female with a silver breast, or shining waters.
Line number 55

 Critical note

See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for more on the cruelty of the unmaternal raven, and see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem for Swan’s digression on the potential consequences to parents if they are cruel to their young. For another treatment of the raven, see Pulter’s The Dubious Raven [Poem 77].
Line number 57

 Gloss note

Though Pulter cannot fly like the birds in her catalogue (the halcyon, swan, or raven) she uses the word “above” to connote that her love for her children is higher than her love for her own life. Each of her chosen birds leaves their nest, thus abandoning their young (as does the ostrich in her next example), while the speaker is in the position of not being able to leave home in order to comfort her own young who are separated from her.
Line number 59

 Critical note

For another treatment of the ostrich, see Pulter’s The Ostrich (Emblem 41) [Poem 106].
Line number 60

 Gloss note

hatch
Line number 62

 Critical note

See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for the reference to this story in Job 39:13-18. Swan recalls this biblical passage but adds that when the eggs neglected by their mother hatch, “then the males are forced to feed and cherish them.” He continues by comparing those women who will not nurse their children to the ostrich: “So have I seen many mothers refusing to nurse their children; and, if they could, would have others likewise bear them: but putting them forth, I beleeve many perish for want of care and due attendance: for it is not possible that a nurse should have that tender affection which belongs to a mother; and many times, with the nurses milk, the children suck the nurses vices. Necessitie therefore, and a prudent choice, should seek out nurses; as we see it Gen. 21.7” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 394).
Line number 63

 Critical note

The speaker would willingly die for her children. Pulter uses the word “dissolve” and “dissolution” frequently in her verse as alchemical terms that relate to physical death (as, for example, in the title Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]).
Line number 64

 Gloss note

surround or enfold
Line number 67

 Critical note

i.e., mate (the word may have been corrected from “mate” by the scribe, to rhyme with “take” in the next line). The turtle-dove was famously faithful to its mate. For another treatment of the turtle-dove, see Pulter’s This Poor Turtle Dove (Emblem 20) [Poem 85].
Line number 70

 Critical note

Pulter is referring to her constancy to her husband but since she predeceased him she cannot be making a direct biographical reference to a refusal to remarry after his death.
Line number 73

 Critical note

The cuckoo’s offspring eats its foster siblings once it has been reared in another bird’s nest. For a description of this behaviour as described in Pliny's The historie of the world (1634), p. 275, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. The cuckoo was etymologically linked with, and became popularly associated with, the term cuckold, “a derisive name for the husband of an unfaithful wife” (OED), but in the popular imagination it is the male cuckoo who deposits its eggs in another bird’s nest, with the implication being that he has impregnated another man’s wife. Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost ends with the song of the owl and the cuckoo: the refrain for the latter is “The cuckoo then on every tree / Mocks married men; for thus sings he: / ‘Cuckoo! / Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ O, word of fear, / Unpleasing to a married ear” (5.2.886-890, 895-899; edited by H.R. Woudhuysen, Arden edition, third series, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998, p. 295). Pulter focuses on the baby cuckoo’s ingratitude, and perhaps also by extension the mother cuckoo’s ingratitude to the family who raises her offspring, rather than the bird’s association with cuckoldry. Swan discusses the cuckoo’s association with both ingratitude and cuckoldry (see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem). For another treatment of the cuckoo, see Pulter’s The Cuckoo (Emblem 29) [Poem 94].
Line number 75

 Critical note

The phrase “enslaved to solitude” again (as in lines 28 and 49) connects the speaker’s suffering with her isolation. In addition, this image of slavery contrasts powerfully with the repeated references to the freedom enjoyed by members of the natural world, no matter how unworthy.
Line number 76

 Critical note

i.e., volatiles: birds. The adjectival form of volatile suggests a relevant connotation to the speaker’s description of the birds (especially the raven, ostrich, and cuckoo): “Readily changing from one interest or mood to another; changeable, fickle; marked or characterized by levity or flightiness” (OED B 4).
Line number 80

 Critical note

The su is a beast supposedly from the New World; for Edward Topsell’s description from The historie of foure-footed beastes Describing the true and liuely figure of euery beast, with a discourse of their seuerall names, conditions, kindes, vertues (both naturall and medicinall) countries of their breed, their loue and hate to mankinde, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, preseruation, and destruction. Necessary for all diuines and students, because the story of euery beast is amplified with narrations out of Scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: wherein are declared diuers hyerogliphicks, emblems, epigrams, and other good histories, collected out of all the volumes of Conradus Gesner, and all other writers to this present day (1607), p. 660, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations. Pulter notes that it carries its offspring on its back, but Topsell’s description includes another detail about its savagery and its maternal devotion: if hunters trap her and her children she will kill them rather than allow them to be taken and tamed.
Line number 82

 Critical note

According to Simon Goulart, the canibal is a small animal from the West Indies who hides her offspring in a pouch in her belly (A learned summary [1621], p. 265; see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for his description). The first sentence of Goulart’s description locates canibals in the country of Chiurca (possibly the island of Curaçao). Sylvester, in Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes, lists a number of “Fierce and vntameable beasts,” the last of which he particularly fears: “I fear the Beast, bred in the bloody Coast / Of Cannibals, which thousand times (almost) / Re-whelps her whelps, and in her tender womb, / She doth as oft her living brood re-tomb” ([1611], p. 152). Syntactically, a beast that lives in “the bloody Coast of Cannibals” suggests a beast that lives in the coast populated by human cannibals, but the description of the beast, and the marginal reference to “Chiurcae,” makes it likely that Sylvester means the fantastical animal called the canibal. For another treatment of the canibal, see Pulter’s The Cunning Canibal (Emblem 10) [Poem 76].
Line number 83

 Gloss note

bag or pack (i.e., a pouch like a kangaroo’s)
Line number 86

 Critical note

The speaker laments that, unlike the su and the canibal, she cannot protect her children from harm. Another beast mentioned in one of the contemporary natural histories who protects her children from harm is the whale. Swan’s Speculum mundi (1635), p. 368 notes of the “Balaena” that “it is a fish which shews great love and affection towards her young ones: For when they are little, being faint and weak, she takes them into her mouth to secure them from tempestuous surges; and when the tempest is over, she spues them again out into the sea. A fit embleme this, to teach all sorts of parents either in Church, Commonwealth, or private families, to provide for, and not destroy those under them; as also to secure them from dangers whensoever they arise.” Though Pulter mentions the whale as vast and free (above, ll. 31-32) she does not mention its maternal actions.
Line number 90

 Critical note

Pulter’s taxonomy of creatures in l. 90 (beasts, birds, fishes, worms, and insects) is close but not identical to Pliny’s, whose books eight through eleven in his The historie of the world treat land beasts, fish and water creatures, fowl and flying creatures, and small creatures and those that crawl on the ground. In the body of her poem Pulter starts with insects, moves to serpents, then fish, then birds, and finally to land beasts, specifically the su and the canibal (fantastical to us, but possibly not to Pulter), only briefly mentioning others in one line (lion, tiger, elephant, and bear, l. 88).
Line number 90

 Critical note

equivocal: of uncertain nature; since “equivocal generation” relates to spontaneous generation (“equivocal,” OED 3a), and Pulter mentions spontaneously generating reptiles in l. 27, this may be the sense she intends.
Line number 91

 Gloss note

i.e., woe is me
Line number 92

 Critical note

Pulter’s reference to the king, and her own willingness to suffer a beheading at l. 95, invites us to see a reference to the martyred Charles I, which indicates a date for the poem of after 30 January 1649.
Line number 96

 Gloss note

pardonable, not grave
Line number 96

 Gloss note

make amends for
Line number 97

 Gloss note

limit or endpoint
Line number 98

 Critical note

Pulter here concludes another list (just as she has catalogued creatures whose freedom contrasts cruelly with her restraint) to categorize all the things she would be willing to suffer for: her God, king, country, friend, love, children, sin, atonement for minor mistakes, or debt, presumably in a debtors’ prison (ll. 92-98).
Line number 99

 Gloss note

In this unfinished statement she refuses to state the precise reason for her imprisonment.
Line number 100

 Critical note

The couplet rhyme scheme of this poem is altered so that the last three lines rhyme as a triplet, which is accentuated by the curved bracket on their right. There is a space in the manuscript between lines 100 and 101, inviting us to see the following poem or section as a postscript.
Line number 102

 Gloss note

Atoms are indivisible particles from which matter is composed.
Line number 103

 Critical note

Pulter writes about her freed or “enfranchised” soul or spirit ultimately returning to heaven in several poems, such as The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39], ll. 16-20.
Line number 106

 Critical note

Pulter’s suggestion that atoms may form into another world recalls the speculation about alternate worlds in some of Margaret Cavendish’s poetry, such as “Of many Worlds in this World,” “A World in an Eare-Ring,” and “Severall Worlds in severall Circles” (Poems, and fancies [1653], pp. 44-46; see Speculations about Multiple Worlds in Curations for the first of these poems).
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[Untitled]
Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined
Critical Note
In the manuscript there is a large blank space at the top of the page where perhaps a title was intended to be placed.
Why must I thus forever bee confin’d
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.

— Victoria E. Burke
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.

— Victoria E. Burke
This is a semi-diplomatic transcription in which original spelling and punctuation are retained, abbreviations (such as tildes) are expanded with added letters in italics, “ff” is modernized to “F,” superscriptions are lowered, and major alterations to the text (of a word or more, not individual letters) are noted in the footnotes. The retention of original spelling and punctuation has the potential to get us closer to the choices made by the poet and scribe, but some scribal details (such as abbreviations) do not seem substantive or meaning-bearing and run the risk of alienating a modern reader. The notes point out parallels I see with other writers, and particularly women writers, with the aims of placing Pulter in dialogue with ideas explored by other women around this time, and of tracing a kind of female poetic lineage or alternate canon.

— Victoria E. Burke
In Pulter’s manuscript, this poem’s conclusion is oddly separated from what precedes it by a sizeable gap—oddly, but also appropriately, since the final lines comprise a vision of the speaker’s final and total liberation from the confinement that the rest of the poem condemns. The envoy indicates the speaker’s confidence that death shall free her scattered atoms to “surround” our universe and recombine to “give a being to another world.” This liberated vision of liberation calmly counteracts the long litany of preceding complaints, in which the speaker rails against the injustice of a vast array of other, implicitly lower, creatures living freely while she cannot (she never explains why). If this part of the poem grows tiresome in repeating its formula, that tiresome formulaic repetition itself might itself model the experience she describes. But she also poignantly expresses concern for loved ones she is powerless to help while stuck in a situation (in apparent solitude and geographic isolation) utterly at odds with the mental freedom she desires, thinks she deserves, and (given world enough and time) envisions arriving with her transformation from being “buried … alive” on earth to experiencing a cosmic exhumation after death.

— Victoria E. Burke
In this poem the speaker repeatedly uses the language of confinement and restraint. She offers a catalogue of natural creatures who are free, contrasting each with her own immurement inside her house. Some of the creatures mentioned in Pulter’s catalogue are mentioned in the plural and so are not obviously gendered, but many of the individual creatures are female. In several poems, particularly her emblems, Pulter notes the gender of specific animals, giving her analysis an additional relevance to human behaviour (for example, see her laughing female tortoise in The Porcupine [Poem 79]). Animals gendered female in this poem are the bee, beetle, silkworm, catoblepas, amphisbaena, oyster, flying fish, halcyon, swan, ostrich, turtle-dove, cuckoo, su, and canibal. In her discussions of the swan, ostrich, cuckoo, su, and canibal (and obliquely also the halcyon), she refers to their roles as mothers, and the ungendered raven is also a parent. In the case of the turtle-dove she highlights its constancy to one mate, as was typical in references to this bird.
A few poems earlier in the manuscript, Pulter contrasts her confinement in a natural setting with the movement of the planets: “Must I be still confined to this sad grove / Whenas those vast and glorious globes above / Eternally in treble motions move?” (A Solitary Complaint [Poem 54], ll. 1-3). The exact cause of her confinement in Poem 57 is not stated, but the vivid image of being “tied to one habitation” (l. 14) and “shut up in a country grange” (l. 18) suggests that she is required to stay at home, perhaps due to conflict during the civil war. Another meaning of confinement, the period of being in bed after giving birth to a child, was not current until 1774 (OED 4) and so it is not likely the meaning here, though the title of Poem 45 makes clear that she wrote at least one poem soon after childbirth (This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay in, With my Son John [Poem 45]).
The situation of the speaker in Poem 57 invites a comparison with the motif of retreat or retirement often used by royalist writers: numerous critics have seen political significance in images of retreating to nature in poems of the 1640s and 1650s. With an exiled and then murdered king, cavalier poets depicted retreat as the rejection of the world in favour of erotic fulfilment (e.g., Abraham Cowley’s “The Wish”) or as a kind of alternate political action, among other possibilities. Hero Chalmers explains that “As royalists began to be forced into retreat by the sequestration of their estates, ejection from public office, imprisonment, or exile during the 1640s, a rhetoric of paradox emerged in the work of cavalier poets eager to convert withdrawal into self-assertion, disenfranchisement into power, confinement into freedom, and so on” (Royalist Women Writers 1650-1689, Clarendon Press, 2004, p. 105). Katherine Philips, who like Pulter was a royalist poet, wrote a number of poems about retirement from the world which celebrate female friendship (for example, in “Friendship’s Mystery, To my dearest Lucasia” she writes “We court our own Captivity … ’Twere banishment to be set free” [ll. 16, 18]; see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). Retreat, for Pulter, is not an escape to an idyllic natural landscape, but instead a kind of imprisonment which she must suffer alone. Royalist writers also used imagery of imprisonment in their verse, sometimes to reflect their actual incarceration during the 1640s, as in the famous poem by Richard Lovelace “To Althea, From Prison” (see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). The typical movement in poems such as Lovelace’s is to contrast the speaker’s actual restraint with their inner freedom. Lovelace claims to be more free than gods, fish, and winds, but Pulter’s speaker does not celebrate; she links confinement with being “buried thus alive” (l. 20) and “enslaved to solitude” (l. 75). In this poem the speaker’s attitude to her confinement is entirely negative; while her mind is still free, she knows that true freedom will come only after death.
In addition to a work of natural history that we know Pulter read (Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s The historie of the world), and works that she may or may not have read (Edward Topsell’s compilations on four-footed beasts and on serpents), other contemporary sources that she could have known offer catalogues of animals in relation to God’s creation of the world (Josuah Sylvester’s translation of Du Bartas, Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas, and John Swan’s Speculum mundi; for full references see the relevant footnotes below). Thomas Browne discusses a catalogue of creatures in Pseudodoxia epidemica, “almost an encyclopaedia of seventeenth-century misconceptions and new knowledge” (R.H. Robbins, ODNB entry on Browne).


— Victoria E. Burke
1
Physical Note
There is a blank gap at the top of this page.
Why
must I thus forever bee confin’d
Why must I thus forever be confined
Why must I thus forever bee confin’d
2
Against the noble ffreedome of my Mind
Against the noble freedom of my mind—
Against the
Critical Note
The word “noble” may connote here elevated and lofty, but also of a high social status. Pulter was the daughter of an earl and may be expressing indignation at the deprivations of this time of conflict.
noble
Freedome of my Mind
3
When as each hoarie Moth, and Gaudy ffly
Gloss Note
When
Whenas
each
Gloss Note
“hoary” meaning grey- or white-haired; ancient, venerable; mouldy; hairy; possibly confused with “hory,” meaning filthy; “gaudy” meaning brilliantly fine, highly ornate, showy, but not necessarily in the disparaging sense now chiefly meant.
hoary moth, and gaudy fly
When as each
Critical Note
While “hoary” and “gaudy” may simply mean grey-haired or old (OED 1a and c) and brilliantly fine or ornate (OED 3a), respectively, the sense of both terms is probably derogatory (potentially, mouldy or musty [OED 3] and glaringly showy [OED 3a], respectively) given the context: Pulter laments that mere insects such as these have the privilege of freedom while she does not.
hoarie Moth, and Gaudy Fly
4
Within their Spheirs
Physical Note
The “y” is written over another letter; this word is followed by an imperfectly erased second “y.”
injoy
their Liberty
Within their spheres enjoy their liberty?
Within their Spheirs injoy their Liberty
5
The Virgin Bee her luscious Cell forſakes
The virgin bee her luscious cell forsakes
The Virgin Bee
Critical Note
As mentioned in the headnote, many of the animals in Pulter’s catalogue are gendered female, and several are mothers.
her
luscious Cell forsakes
6
And on A Thouſand fflowers pleaſure Takes
And on a thousand flowers pleasure takes;
And
Critical Note
In keeping with the series of contrasts that the poet is drawing between the unworthy or thoughtless freedom of mere insects and her own unjust imprisonment, she is here highlighting the apparent paradox of the virginal bee taking pleasure from a thousand flowers. This sexually suggestive formulation contrasts with the ways in which the speaker constructs herself as a faithful wife later in the poem (for example, see ll. 69-70).
on A Thousand Flowers pleasure Takes
7
The glistring Beetle casts her Stag like Horns
The
Gloss Note
glittering
glist’ring
Critical Note
This passage conflates stag beetles and scarab or dung beetles. Male stag beetles have large mouth parts resembling antlers, probably used in fighting. Dung beetles form balls of feces as food and protection for their larvae, and may roll the balls quite far before burying them. Pliny indicated that “tumbling upon their back in dung, [dung beetles] do roll it into great round balls with their feet; and therein doe make nests for to bestow the little grubs (which are their young) against the cold of winter.” Trans. Philemon Holland, The History of the World (London, 1601), 1:326. The idea of the beetle rolling dung from east to west to call “great Nature” alludes to the ancient Egyptian tendency to compare the scarab beetle rolling a ball of dung along the ground to the sun god rolling the sun across the sky.
beetle
Gloss Note
sheds
casts
her stag-like horns,
The glistring Beetle casts her Stag like Horns
8
The next Year new her Stately ffront adorns
The next year new her stately
Gloss Note
forehead
front
adorns:
The next Year new her Stately Front adorns
9
Shee Rowls her Unctious
Physical Note
The “i” may correct an earlier “e.”
Embrio
East & West
She rolls her
Gloss Note
greasy
unctuous
embryo east and west
Shee Rowls her Unctious
Gloss Note
Dung beetles protect their larvae in balls of feces (see the note in the elemental edition of this poem for this point and for Pulter’s conflation of two types of beetle). Unctuous means oily or greasy.
Embrio
East & West
10
To call great Nature who hears her behest
To call great Nature, who hears her behest;
To call great Nature who hears her behest
11
The Silk worm ffeeds, then Works, then Shee inv^olv’s,
The silkworm feeds, then works, then she
Gloss Note
cocoons
involves
The Silk worm Feeds, then Works, then Shee
Critical Note
enfolds or envelops, i.e., cocoons. Though this image of cocooning may suggest confinement, the poet indicates that the silkworm does this temporarily to reproduce, but then flies freely until her death. In this context of the female silkworm, to “work” may have the sense of the female labour of weaving, sewing, or embroidering (OED 25). In her autobiography, A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life, which was appended to Natures Pictures drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (1656), Margaret Cavendish refers to the silkworm’s self-sufficiency and to its labour of spinning to illustrate her own process of poetic creation: “yet I must say this in the behalf of my thoughts, that I never found them idle; for if the senses brings no work in, they will work of themselves, like silk-wormes that spinns out of their own bowels” (Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, edited by Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson, Broadview, 2000, p. 59). John Swan describes the bombyx or silk-worm in his Speculum mundi, Or A glasse representing the face of the world shewing both that it did begin, and must also end: the manner how, and time when, being largely examined. Whereunto is joyned an hexameron, or a serious discourse of the causes, continuance, and qualities of things in nature; occasioned as matter pertinent to the work done in the six dayes of the worlds creation (1635), pp. 425-426. He uses the language of breaking free from a prison which is also a house, which parallels Pulter’s imagery in this poem: “when these daintie creatures have made them little husken houses, and spunne out the just length of their silken webs, they eat out themselves from those prisons; and (although they were worms before) yet then they appeare with their prettie wings, and flie about a while” (p. 426). I am grateful to Jessica Wolfe for drawing my attention to Swan and for discussing Thomas Browne with me (for the latter, see below).
involv’s
,
12
Her Self, then Breeds, then fflies till Shee diſſolv’s
Herself, then breeds, then flies till she
Gloss Note
dies
dissolves
.
Her Self, then Breeds, then Flies till Shee
Gloss Note
disintegrates or decomposes
dissolv’s
13
The Baſſalisk that kils by ffaſcination
Gloss Note
mythical reptile, also called a cockatrice, hatched by a snake from a cock’s egg; it “kills by fascination” because its look, like a cast spell, is fatal.
The basilisk, that kills by fascination,
The
Critical Note
A basilisk or cockatrice is a mythical reptile which is said to hatch from a cock’s egg and to be able to kill its prey just by looking (OED). With this animal Pulter moves from her examples of insects to what we would consider to be fantastical creatures. Not all sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers would have agreed with modern conceptions that this was a mythical beast, however. In his Pseudodoxia epidemica, or, Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths (1646), p. 118-121, Thomas Browne investigates various claims about the basilisk, observing (perhaps surprisingly in a work that tests received wisdom) “that such an animall there is, if we evade not the testimony of Scripture, and humane Writers, we cannot safely deny” (p. 118). Edward Topsell in his The historie of serpents. Or, The second booke of liuing creatures wherein is contained their diuine, naturall, and morall descriptions, with their liuely figures, names, conditions, kindes and natures of all venemous beasts: with their seuerall poysons and antidotes; their deepe hatred to mankind, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, and destruction. Necessary and profitable to all sorts of men: collected out of diuine scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: amplified with sundry accidentall histories, hierogliphicks, epigrams, emblems, and aenigmaticall obseruations (1608), p. 125, describes the basilisk’s venom as noxious to humans in particular (see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem; Topsell compares the corrupting beams that issue from a basilisk’s eyes to those from a menstruating woman which impair a mirror). Josuah Sylvester, in his translation Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes (1611), p. 149, describes the basilisk as having “pestilentiall breath / [which] Doth pearce firm Marble, and whose banefull ey / Wounds with a glance, so that the soundest dy.” The basilisk, dipsas, and amphisbaena all figure in Sylvester’s list of “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” (pp. 148-149). Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, writer of an influential work celebrating women which was translated into English in 1652, writes about the gender of the basilisk. The full title of this work is, The glory of women: or, A treatise declaring the excellency and preheminence of women above men, which is proved both by scripture, law, reason, and authority, divine, and humane. Written first in Latine by Henricus Cornelius Agrippa Knight, and doctor both of law and physicke. And presented to Margaret Augusta, Queen of the Austrians and Burgundians. And now translated into English, for the vertuous and beautifull female sex of the Commonwealth of England By Edw. Fleetwood, Gent. In the context of a discussion that sometimes men are worse than the worst of women, Agrippa writes, “Furthermore, the Scriptures declare many men to be condemned to eternal torments, when no woman at any time condemned may be read of: to this may be added in way of testimony a prerogative of brutish nature, because the Eagle which is Queen of all Birds, always of the Female, never of the Male is found: & it is said, that there is but one only Phaenix, and that a Female, which is in Egypt. But on the contrary, of the Serpent, which hath its name from King, I mean the Basiliske, the most poysonous of all venemous creatures, there is none except a Male, which is impossible to be gendered a Female” (p. 18). For another treatment of the basilisk, see Pulter’s The Cockatrice (Emblem 16) [Poem 82].
Bassalisk
that kils
Gloss Note
by casting a spell with its mere gaze
by Fascination
14
Is not Like mee tid’e to one Habitation
Is not like me tied to one habitation;
Is not Like mee tid’e to one Habitation
15
Noe nor the Catablepe whoſe poyſonous eye
No, nor the
Critical Note
“catoblepas” in OED; “The Catoblepas is said to be of like venomous nature, always going with her head into the ground, her sight otherwise being deadly.” Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), 467.
catablepe
whose pois’nous eye,
Noe nor the
Critical Note
A catoblepas was described by ancient authors as an African animal that may have resembled a buffalo or gnu (OED), but Pliny in The historie of the world: commonly called, The naturall historie of C. Plinius Secundus. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor of Physicke (1634, p. 206) groups the basilisk and catoblepas together as venomous serpents whose looks have the power to kill. See “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem for Pliny’s description of these beasts. Like Pliny, whose natural history we know Pulter consulted, given other references in her manuscript, Pulter groups them together (“Though these destroy yet may they freely Range,” l. 17). Pliny attributes the killing of grass and herbs to the basilisk, not the catoblepas, and genders both creatures male. Pulter genders the catoblepas female but does not give the basilisk a gender (see Agrippa’s claim, above, that the basilisk was always male). Pulter’s choice to gender this evil creature as female reminds us that she does not simply depict examples of positive female behaviour in her verse. For another treatment of the catoblepas, see Pulter’s This Fell Catablepe (Emblem 33) [Poem 98].
Catablepe
whose poysonous eye
16
Where ere Shee goes makes Graſs and fflowers die
Where’er she goes, makes grass and flowers die:
Where ere Shee goes makes Grass and Flowers die
17
Though theſe deſtroy yet may they freely Range
Though these destroy, yet may they freely range
Though these destroy yet may they freely Range
18
Whils’t I am Shut up in a Countrey Grange
Whilst I am shut up in a
Gloss Note
country house, farmhouse
country grange
.
Whils’t I am Shut up in a Countrey
Critical Note
A grange is a country house, sometimes with farm buildings attached and the residence of a gentleman farmer (OED). Pulter is likely referring to Broadfield (or Bradfield), which was the name of the estate in the parish of Cottered in Hertfordshire owned by the Pulters. Henry Chauncy’s The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire of 1700 gives the history of the estate, noting that Arthur Pulter retired to Bradfield shortly after the outbreak of the civil war. There he “liv’d a retir’d Life, and thro’ the importunity of his Wife, began to build a very fair House of Brick upon this Mannor, but dying he never finished it” (p. 72). His grandson James Forester ultimately “repaired the Mannor-House, which was much decay’d thro’ the want of finishing it at the time it was built” (p. 74). Perhaps some of Pulter’s despair at her domestic immurement was due to living in an unfinished renovation site.
Grange
my

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19
My looks though Sad would make my freind revive
My
Gloss Note
glances, gazes
looks
, though sad, would make my friend revive;
My looks though Sad would make my
Critical Note
It isn’t clear whom she means by “freind.” Unlike the fatal glances of the basilisk and catoblepas, the speaker’s looks, though sad, would have the opposite effect and would bring a friend back to life.
freind
revive
20
Why must I then bee buried thus alive
Why must I then be buried thus alive?
Why must I then bee buried thus alive
21
The Amphisbena that at both’s ends Kill
The
Gloss Note
mythological serpent with head at each end, able to move in either direction
amphisbaena
, that at both ends kill,
The
Critical Note
The amphisbaena is a mythical serpent with two heads which can move in either direction (OED). Topsell calls this beast the Double-head and observes that “It hath a double-head, as though one mouth were not enough to vtter his poyson” (A historie of serpents [1608], p. 151). For Topsell’s description of its poison, including its risk to pregnant women, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem. Thomas Browne is willing to admit the existence of the basilisk (see note above) but is much more sceptical about the existence of the amphisbaena, concluding that it is impossible for it to have two heads and still be one creature (“Againe, if any such thing there were, it were not to be obtruded by the name of Amphisbaena, or as an animall of one denomination; for properly that animall is not one, but multiplicious or many”; Pseudodoxia epidemica [1646], p. 141).
Amphisbena
that at both’s ends Kill
22
Doth ffreely Slide about where e’re Shee will
Doth freely slide about wheree’er she will;
Doth Freely Slide about where e’re Shee will
23
The Dipſus that doth make Men die w:th Quaffing
The
Gloss Note
mythical serpent whose bite made the bitten want to drink (“quaff”) excessively.
dipsas
that doth make men die with quaffing,
The
Gloss Note
The dipsas is a mythical serpent whose bite was said to cause a raging thirst (OED). For Topsell’s description of the effects of its poison, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem.
Dipsus
that doth make Men die with Quaffing
24
And the Tarantula that Kils w:th Laughing
And the
Gloss Note
laughing was thought to be among the symptoms of a tarantula’s bite.
tarantula, that kills with laughing
,
And
Critical Note
Topsell in The historie of serpents (1608), p. 250, lists the potential reactions to the bite of a tarantula: “there will follow diuers and contrary accidents and symptomes, according to the various constitution, different complexion, and disposition of the partie wounded. For after they are hurt by the Tarantula, you shall see some of them laugh, others contrariwise to weepe, some will clatter out of measure, so that you shall neuer get them to hold their tongues, and othersome againe you shall obserue to be as mute as fishes: this man sleepeth continuallie, and another cannot be brought to any rest at all, but runneth vp and downe, raging and rauing like a mad man.” According to John Swan, after being bitten, people “presently fall a laughing; and if musick be not forthwith brought them, they cannot choose but in a mortall merrie fit take leave of the world and die. Neither can they at all be cured, unless by hearing musick: and (as it is reported) if the cure be not throughly done, they dance ever after at the sound of musicks pleasing strains” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 425).
the Tarantula that Kils with Laughing
25
With that Bold Worm w:ch Kild ye Egiptian Queen
With that bold
Gloss Note
snake
worm
which killed the
Gloss Note
Cleopatra
Egyptian queen
With
Gloss Note
The asp which killed Cleopatra.
that Bold Worm which Kild the Egiptian Queen
26
All ffreely crauling ’bout ye World are Seen
All freely crawling ’bout the world are seen.
All Freely crauling ’bout the World are Seen
27
Thus Inſcects, Reptals that Spontaneus breed
Thus insects, reptiles that
Gloss Note
Aristotle posited that some life forms arose spontaneously from rotting matter.
spontaneous breed
,
Thus
Gloss Note
Pulter has discussed five types of insects, four mythical serpents, a spider, and a snake thus far. Her mixing of fantastical with real might strike us as unusual, but natural histories of the period did the same. In The historie of serpents, Topsell treats not only serpents but also some insects (e.g., bees) and arachnids (spiders).
Inscects, Reptals
that
Gloss Note
a reference to spontaneous generation: “the development of living organisms without the agency of pre-existing living matter, usually considered as resulting from changes taking place in some inorganic substance” (OED 4a). Even creatures that were not created by God enjoy benefits the speaker does not.
Spontaneus breed
28
ffrom Such a Solitude as mine are ffreed
From such a solitude as mine are freed,
From Such a Solitude as mine are Freed
29
And I (oh my Sad heart) and onely I
And I (O my sad heart) and only I
And I (oh my Sad heart) and onely I
30
Must in this Sad confinement living Die
Must in this sad confinement living die.
Must in this Sad confinement
Critical Note
The oxymoron of “living Die” is a poignant depiction of her suffering due to her confinement away from loved ones.
living Die
31
The Swiftest Dolphin and the vastest Whale
The swiftest dolphin and the vastest whale
The Swiftest Dolphin and the vastest Whale
32
Are not immured as I in
Physical Note
The “e” appears partly erased, possibly with a comma after it.
Walle
or Pale
Are not
Gloss Note
enclosed
immured
as I, in wall or
Gloss Note
fence
pale
,
Are not immured as I in Walle or
Critical Note
fence. The image of being enclosed by both walls and a fence suggests that, whether inside or outside on her estate, she is still psychologically trapped.
Pale
33
But every Sort of ffish even as they pleaſe
But every sort of fish, even as they please,
But every Sort of Fish even as they please
34
Doe
Physical Note
There is a blot above this word.
Dive
and Swim about the Spacious Seas
Do dive and swim about the spacious seas;
Doe Dive and Swim about the Spacious Seas
35
Though the dull Oyster from A Rock is torn
Though the dull oyster from a rock is torn,
Though the dull
Critical Note
For another treatment of the oyster, see Pulter’s The Oyster and the Mouse (Emblem 48) [Poem 113].
Oyster
from A Rock is torn
36
Yet Shee with Sayls, and Wind and Tide is boarn
Yet she with sails, and wind, and tide is borne
Yet Shee with Sayls, and Wind and Tide is boarn
37
Or’e all the Swelling Billons at her Pleaſure
O’er all the swelling billows at her pleasure
Or’e all the Swelling
Gloss Note
i.e., billows
Billons
at her Pleasure
38
Untill the Cunning Crab on her takes Seaſure
Until the cunning crab on her takes seizure;
Untill the Cunning Crab on her takes Seasure
39
The fflying ffish though Shee doth oft despair
Critical Note
Samuel Purchas gives this account of the persecuted (and thus, perhaps, apt to despair) flying fish: “Bonitos or Dolphines do chase the flying fish under the water, so that he is glad to flee from them out of the water to save his life.” Purchas his Pilgrims In Five Books (London, 1625), 2:132.
The flying fish, though she doth oft despair,
Critical Note
For an explanation of the flying fish’s despair, see the note in the elemental edition of this poem. For another treatment of the flying fish, see Pulter’s This Flying Fish (Emblem 25) [Poem 90].
The Flying Fish though Shee doth oft despair
40
Yet shee comands the Seas and vaster Ayr
Yet she commands the seas and vaster air;
Yet shee commands the Seas and vaster Ayr
And

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41
And thoſe ffair Birds which hover Still above
And
Critical Note
Eardley cites Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon … Du Bartas (London, 1621), l.241, in identifying these birds as manucodes, or birds of paradise.
those fair birds
which hover still above,
And those Fair Birds which hover Still above
42
Which are Soe
Physical Note
The second “r” is written over “e” in H2.
ffarr
indulgent to their Love
Which are so far indulgent to their love
Which are Soe Farr indulgent to their Love
43
To let their ffemales lay upon their Back
To let their females lay upon their back:
To let
Critical Note
As noted in Alice Eardley’s edition, (Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, by Lady Hester Pulter, The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series vol. 32, [Iter and Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014], p. 167), Simon Goulart identified these birds as manucodes or birds of paradise (in A learned summary upon the famous poeme of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas Wherin are discovered all the excellent secretts in metaphysicall physicall, morall, and historicall knowledge. Fitt for the learned to refresh theire memories, and for younger students to abreviat and further theire studies: wherin nature is discovered, art disclosed, and history layd open. Translated out of French, by T.L. D.M.P. [1621], p. 241) For Goulart’s description of the female laying in the male’s back, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. For another treatment of the bird of paradise, see Pulter’s The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71].
their Females lay upon their Back
44
Noe Noble ffreedome Surely they can lack
No noble freedom surely they can lack,
Noe Noble Freedome Surely they can lack
45
Nor doe they ffear the terrables’t Tirants lower
Nor do they fear the terriblest tyrant’s
Gloss Note
scowl
lower
Nor doe they Fear the terrables’t Tirants
Gloss Note
frown or scowl
lower
46
Should shut them in a
Physical Note
The “a” is possibly written over an “i.”
Basteel
or a Tower
Should shut them in a
Gloss Note
prison, fortress
bastille
or a tower,
Should shut them in a
Critical Note
a “Basteel” is a bastille or fortified tower. These structures evoke some of the places of imprisonment royalists endured during the civil war years. For examples, including the Tower of London and the Castle in Oxford, see Jerome de Groot, “Prison Writing, Writing Prison during the 1640s and 1650s,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 193-215 (esp. 195-201).
Basteel or a Tower
47
ffor they disdain to touch this dunghill earth
For they disdain to touch this
Gloss Note
filthy, like a pile of excrement
dunghill
earth;
For they disdain to touch this
Critical Note
The phrase “dunghill earth” is one Pulter uses repeatedly in her poetry. For example, in “O, My Afflicted Solitary Soul [Poem 28] she asks, “Why dost thou in this dunghill earth delight”? (l. 12). See What is a dunghill? in the Curations for The Pismire [Poem 35] by Frances E. Dolan.
dunghill earth
48
Thus they injoy the ffreedome of their Birth
Thus they enjoy the freedom of their birth,
Thus they injoy the Freedome of their Birth
49
But I to Solitude am Still confind
But I to solitude am still confined:
But
Critical Note
This is the second of three depictions of Pulter’s confinement as a kind of solitude (the others are in lines 28 and 75). Not only does she crave freedom of movement, but she also portrays solitude as a kind of restraint or “Curb” on “A Noble Mind” (l. 50). Her use of the term noble in the following line recalls the “noble Freedome of my Mind” (of l. 2), as well as the “Noble Freedome” of the birds of paradise (l. 44), and looks ahead to her willingness to suffer this confinement for a “Noble End” (ll. 93-94), such as her God, king, country, friend, love, or children.
I to Solitude am Still confind
50
The cruelst Curb unto A Noble Mind
The cruelest curb unto a noble mind.
The cruelst Curb unto A Noble Mind
51
The Halcion that Calms the Rufling Seas
The
Gloss Note
bird fabled to calm the wind and waves magically when breeding by building a nest at sea
halcyon
that calms the ruffling seas
The
Critical Note
The halcyon is a green or blue kingfisher thought to magically calm the seas as it tends its floating nest (OED). Swan, after describing the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx who were turned into halcyons, writes, “But without any fiction, this we are sure of, that it is a strange bird, and as it were natures dearest darling; seeing that in favour of her nests and young, the waters leave their raging, the windes their blowing, tempests have forgot to rise, and dayes appeare with quiet calms” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 417). The phrase “halcyon days” was used by royalists to depict the calm of Charles I’s reign before the civil war; Dolores Palomo notes that the myth of the halcyon was rarely used before 1630 by English writers, but that for three decades after that date it was a charged symbol of lost peace (“The Halcyon Moment of Stillness in Royalist Poetry,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, Summer 1981, pp. 205-221 [p. 206]). Pulter herself uses the phrase “halcyon days” in two explicitly royalist poems that lament Charles’s imprisonment in 1647, The Invitation into the Country [Poem 2], l. 111 and The Complaint of Thames, 1647 [Poem 4], l. 36.
Halcion
that Calms the Rufling Seas
52
Is not Restraind but fflyes where ere Shee pleaſe
Is not restrained, but flies where’er she please;
Is not Restraind but Flyes where ere Shee please
53
Nor doth the Swan on Thames her Silver Breast
Nor doth the swan, on
Gloss Note
river in England
Thames
her
Gloss Note
the silver breast of the Thames, i.e., the water
silver breast
,
Nor doth the Swan on
Gloss Note
The poet depicts the River Thames as female with a silver breast, or shining waters.
Thames her
Silver Breast
54
Ask leave to Riſe of from her Downey Nest
Ask leave to rise off from her downy nest;
Ask leave to Rise of from her Downey Nest
55
The Rav’nous Ravens
Physical Note
The “ff” is written over an imperfectly erased “th.”
Deaff
to their Young on’s cry
The
Critical Note
See Job 38:41, “Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.” See also a source cited in another of Pulter’s poems on the raven (Emblem 11, “The dubious raven”), Robert Sanderson, Twenty Sermons Formerly Preached (London, 1656), 282: as Eardley notes, “in a sermon preached at Woburn, England”–under 30 miles from Pulter’s home–“in August 1647 Sanderson notes ‘if God so sufficiently provide for the young ravens, when the dams forsake them: will he not much more take care of us, when not our fathers and mothers forsake us?’”
rav’nous ravens
, deaf to their young ones’ cry,
Critical Note
See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for more on the cruelty of the unmaternal raven, and see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem for Swan’s digression on the potential consequences to parents if they are cruel to their young. For another treatment of the raven, see Pulter’s The Dubious Raven [Poem 77].
The Rav’nous Ravens Deaff to their Young on’s cry
56
Physical Note
This word is corrected from “My” (with a former “y” imperfectly erased and a new “y” crowded in)
May
in the Spacious Ayr most ffreely ffly
May in the spacious air most freely fly;
May in the Spacious Ayr most Freely Fly
57
But I aboue my life my Children Love
But I above my life my children love,
But I
Gloss Note
Though Pulter cannot fly like the birds in her catalogue (the halcyon, swan, or raven) she uses the word “above” to connote that her love for her children is higher than her love for her own life. Each of her chosen birds leaves their nest, thus abandoning their young (as does the ostrich in her next example), while the speaker is in the position of not being able to leave home in order to comfort her own young who are separated from her.
aboue
my life my Children Love
58
Yet I to comfort them cannot Remoue
Yet I, to comfort them,
Gloss Note
Pulter may allude to her inability to leave home (“remove”) to visit her children, perhaps because of her illness or the Civil War.
cannot remove
.
Yet I to comfort them cannot Remoue
59
The ffoolish Ostridg doth her egs expoſe
The
Critical Note
See Job 39:14-15,18: the ostrich “leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them. … What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.”
foolish ostrich
doth her eggs expose
The Foolish
Critical Note
For another treatment of the ostrich, see Pulter’s The Ostrich (Emblem 41) [Poem 106].
Ostridg
doth her egs expose
60
To Thouſand dangers er’e they doe diſcloſe
To thousand dangers ere they do
Gloss Note
hatch
disclose
,
To Thousand dangers er’e they doe
Gloss Note
hatch
disclose
61
Yet proudly Shee by wind and Wing is boarn
Yet proudly she by wind and wing is born;
Yet proudly Shee by wind and Wing is boarn
62
The Swiftest Horſ and Rider Shee doth Scorn
The swiftest horse and rider she doth scorn.
Critical Note
See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for the reference to this story in Job 39:13-18. Swan recalls this biblical passage but adds that when the eggs neglected by their mother hatch, “then the males are forced to feed and cherish them.” He continues by comparing those women who will not nurse their children to the ostrich: “So have I seen many mothers refusing to nurse their children; and, if they could, would have others likewise bear them: but putting them forth, I beleeve many perish for want of care and due attendance: for it is not possible that a nurse should have that tender affection which belongs to a mother; and many times, with the nurses milk, the children suck the nurses vices. Necessitie therefore, and a prudent choice, should seek out nurses; as we see it Gen. 21.7” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 394).
The Swiftest Hors and Rider Shee doth Scorn
but

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63
But I for mine would willingly diſſolve
But I,
Gloss Note
i.e., for her children
for mine
, would willingly
Gloss Note
die
dissolve
,
But
Critical Note
The speaker would willingly die for her children. Pulter uses the word “dissolve” and “dissolution” frequently in her verse as alchemical terms that relate to physical death (as, for example, in the title Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]).
I for mine would willingly dissolve
64
Yet Sad obſcurity doth mee involve
Yet sad obscurity doth me
Gloss Note
envelop, entangle
involve
.
Yet Sad obscurity doth mee
Gloss Note
surround or enfold
involve
65
The mild and Tenderhearted Turtle Dove
The mild and tenderhearted turtledove
The mild and Tenderhearted Turtle Dove
66
That was Soe conſtant to her onely Love
That was so constant to her only love,
That was Soe constant to her onely Love
67
Though Shee reſolves to haue noe Second
Physical Note
This is possibly corrected from “mate”; or “mate” is corrected from “make.”
make
Though she resolves to have no second
Gloss Note
mate
make
,
Though Shee resolves to haue noe Second
Critical Note
i.e., mate (the word may have been corrected from “mate” by the scribe, to rhyme with “take” in the next line). The turtle-dove was famously faithful to its mate. For another treatment of the turtle-dove, see Pulter’s This Poor Turtle Dove (Emblem 20) [Poem 85].
make
68
Yet Shee her fflieght ab^uot the Ayr doth take
Yet she her flight about the air doth take;
Yet Shee her Flieght abuot the Ayr doth take
69
But I that am more conſtant then this Dove
But I, that am more constant than this dove,
But I that am more constant then this Dove
70
Unto my ffirst and last and onely Love
Unto my first and last and only love
Unto
Critical Note
Pulter is referring to her constancy to her husband but since she predeceased him she cannot be making a direct biographical reference to a refusal to remarry after his death.
my First and last and onely Love
71
Cannot from this Sad place (Ay mee) Remove.
Cannot from this sad place (ay me) remove.
Cannot from this Sad place (Ay mee) Remove.
72
The Cuckow that doth put her egs to Nurs
The
Gloss Note
The cuckoo bird lays its solitary egg in the nest of another bird; the cuckoo baby then devours its foster siblings. See Pliny, History of the World, trans. Philemon Holland (London, 1634), 275.
cuckoo
that doth put her eggs to nurse,
The Cuckow that doth put her egs to Nurs
73
Then eats thear ffoster Brothers which is worſ
Then eats their foster brothers, which is worse,
Then
Critical Note
The cuckoo’s offspring eats its foster siblings once it has been reared in another bird’s nest. For a description of this behaviour as described in Pliny's The historie of the world (1634), p. 275, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. The cuckoo was etymologically linked with, and became popularly associated with, the term cuckold, “a derisive name for the husband of an unfaithful wife” (OED), but in the popular imagination it is the male cuckoo who deposits its eggs in another bird’s nest, with the implication being that he has impregnated another man’s wife. Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost ends with the song of the owl and the cuckoo: the refrain for the latter is “The cuckoo then on every tree / Mocks married men; for thus sings he: / ‘Cuckoo! / Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ O, word of fear, / Unpleasing to a married ear” (5.2.886-890, 895-899; edited by H.R. Woudhuysen, Arden edition, third series, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998, p. 295). Pulter focuses on the baby cuckoo’s ingratitude, and perhaps also by extension the mother cuckoo’s ingratitude to the family who raises her offspring, rather than the bird’s association with cuckoldry. Swan discusses the cuckoo’s association with both ingratitude and cuckoldry (see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem). For another treatment of the cuckoo, see Pulter’s The Cuckoo (Emblem 29) [Poem 94].
eats thear Foster Brothers
which is wors
74
Yet this Curst Embleme of ingratitude
Yet this cursed emblem of ingratitude
Yet this Curst Embleme of ingratitude
75
Is not like mee inſlavd to Solitude
Is not like me enslaved to solitude.
Is not like mee
Critical Note
The phrase “enslaved to solitude” again (as in lines 28 and 49) connects the speaker’s suffering with her isolation. In addition, this image of slavery contrasts powerfully with the repeated references to the freedom enjoyed by members of the natural world, no matter how unworthy.
inslavd to Solitude
76
All volateeles from the Eagle to the Dove
All
Gloss Note
flying creatures
volatiles
, from the eagle to the dove,
All
Critical Note
i.e., volatiles: birds. The adjectival form of volatile suggests a relevant connotation to the speaker’s description of the birds (especially the raven, ostrich, and cuckoo): “Readily changing from one interest or mood to another; changeable, fickle; marked or characterized by levity or flightiness” (OED B 4).
volateeles
from the Eagle to the Dove
77
Their ffreedome freely both injoy and Love
Their freedom freely both enjoy and love,
Their Freedome freely both injoy and Love
78
But I noe liberty expect to have
But I no liberty expect to have
But I noe liberty expect to have
79
Untill I find my ffreedome in my Grave
Until I find my freedom in my grave.
Untill I find my Freedome in my Grave
80
The
Physical Note
“w” is in a different hand from the main scribe (possibly H2) and blacker ink, directly above a scribbled out “m.”
SmWiftest
Su, noe Liberty can Lack
The swiftest
Gloss Note
Edward Topsell writes “of a wild beast in the new-found world called Su”: “she flyeth very swift, carrying her young ones upon her back.” The History of Four-Footed Beasts, p.660
su
no liberty can lack
The Swiftest
Critical Note
The su is a beast supposedly from the New World; for Edward Topsell’s description from The historie of foure-footed beastes Describing the true and liuely figure of euery beast, with a discourse of their seuerall names, conditions, kindes, vertues (both naturall and medicinall) countries of their breed, their loue and hate to mankinde, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, preseruation, and destruction. Necessary for all diuines and students, because the story of euery beast is amplified with narrations out of Scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: wherein are declared diuers hyerogliphicks, emblems, epigrams, and other good histories, collected out of all the volumes of Conradus Gesner, and all other writers to this present day (1607), p. 660, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations. Pulter notes that it carries its offspring on its back, but Topsell’s description includes another detail about its savagery and its maternal devotion: if hunters trap her and her children she will kill them rather than allow them to be taken and tamed.
Su
, noe Liberty can Lack
81
That bears her Spritely ofſpring on her back
That bears her sprightly offspring on her back;
That bears her Spritely ofspring on her back
82
The Cannibal when Shee the Huntman hears
The
Gloss Note
Simon Goulart describes the canibal as a small animal which “carrieth her young with her: for along her belly she openeth a bag made of skin … where she hideth them.” A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas (London, 1621), p.1.265.
canibal
, when she the huntsman hears,
The
Critical Note
According to Simon Goulart, the canibal is a small animal from the West Indies who hides her offspring in a pouch in her belly (A learned summary [1621], p. 265; see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for his description). The first sentence of Goulart’s description locates canibals in the country of Chiurca (possibly the island of Curaçao). Sylvester, in Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes, lists a number of “Fierce and vntameable beasts,” the last of which he particularly fears: “I fear the Beast, bred in the bloody Coast / Of Cannibals, which thousand times (almost) / Re-whelps her whelps, and in her tender womb, / She doth as oft her living brood re-tomb” ([1611], p. 152). Syntactically, a beast that lives in “the bloody Coast of Cannibals” suggests a beast that lives in the coast populated by human cannibals, but the description of the beast, and the marginal reference to “Chiurcae,” makes it likely that Sylvester means the fantastical animal called the canibal. For another treatment of the canibal, see Pulter’s The Cunning Canibal (Emblem 10) [Poem 76].
Cannibal
when Shee the Huntman hears
83
Her pretty young lings in a Wallet bears
Her pretty younglings in a
Gloss Note
backpack, pouch
wallet
bears;
Her pretty young lings in a
Gloss Note
bag or pack (i.e., a pouch like a kangaroo’s)
Wallet
bears
thus

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84
Thus from Purſuers they are all Secure
Thus from pursuers they are all secure,
Thus from Pursuers they are all Secure
85
But theſe Sad Shades doth mee Ay mee imure
But
Critical Note
here, seemingly with primary reference to the shade created by the walls of the country house, mentioned above, in which she is “immure[d]”; however, “shade” could also allude to a retired place, sheltered from the world, or to something with only fleeting or unsubstantial existence, such as the visible but impalpable form of a dead person, as well as an inseparable follower or companion
these sad shades
doth me (ay me) immure,
But these Sad Shades doth mee Ay mee immure
86
That I canot aſſist mine in their Sorrow
That I cannot assist
Gloss Note
my children
mine
in their sorrow,
That
Critical Note
The speaker laments that, unlike the su and the canibal, she cannot protect her children from harm. Another beast mentioned in one of the contemporary natural histories who protects her children from harm is the whale. Swan’s Speculum mundi (1635), p. 368 notes of the “Balaena” that “it is a fish which shews great love and affection towards her young ones: For when they are little, being faint and weak, she takes them into her mouth to secure them from tempestuous surges; and when the tempest is over, she spues them again out into the sea. A fit embleme this, to teach all sorts of parents either in Church, Commonwealth, or private families, to provide for, and not destroy those under them; as also to secure them from dangers whensoever they arise.” Though Pulter mentions the whale as vast and free (above, ll. 31-32) she does not mention its maternal actions.
I cannot assist mine in their Sorrow
87
Which makes mee Sigh & weep both Eve and Morrow
Which makes me sigh and weep both eve and morrow.
Which makes mee Sigh & weep both Eve and Morrow
88
The Lyon, Tiger, Elaphant, and Bear:
The lion, tiger, elephant, and bear,
The Lyon, Tiger, Elaphant, and Bear:
89
And Thouſands more, doe noe confinement ffear.
And thousands more, do no confinement fear.
And Thousands more, doe noe confinement Fear.
90
Thus Beasts, Birds, ffiſhes, Equivocall Worm & ffly
Thus beasts, birds, fishes, equivocal worm and fly
Thus
Critical Note
Pulter’s taxonomy of creatures in l. 90 (beasts, birds, fishes, worms, and insects) is close but not identical to Pliny’s, whose books eight through eleven in his The historie of the world treat land beasts, fish and water creatures, fowl and flying creatures, and small creatures and those that crawl on the ground. In the body of her poem Pulter starts with insects, moves to serpents, then fish, then birds, and finally to land beasts, specifically the su and the canibal (fantastical to us, but possibly not to Pulter), only briefly mentioning others in one line (lion, tiger, elephant, and bear, l. 88).
Beasts, Birds, Fishes
,
Critical Note
equivocal: of uncertain nature; since “equivocal generation” relates to spontaneous generation (“equivocal,” OED 3a), and Pulter mentions spontaneously generating reptiles in l. 27, this may be the sense she intends.
Equivocall Worm
& Fly
91
Injoy more liberty (woes mee) then I
Enjoy more liberty (woe’s me!) than I.
Injoy more liberty (
Gloss Note
i.e., woe is me
woes mee
) then I
92
Wer’t for my God, King, Countrey, or my ffreind,
Gloss Note
Were it
Wer’t
for my God, King, country, or my friend,
Wer’t for my God,
Critical Note
Pulter’s reference to the king, and her own willingness to suffer a beheading at l. 95, invites us to see a reference to the martyred Charles I, which indicates a date for the poem of after 30 January 1649.
King
, Countrey, or my Freind,
93
My Love, my Children, twere a Noble End
My love, my children, ’twere a noble end;
My Love, my Children, twere a Noble End
94
Or wer’t for Sin my guilty Head I wo’d hide
Or wer’t for sin, my guilty head I would hide
Or wer’t for Sin my guilty Head I wo’d hide
95
And Patiently the Stroke of Death abide
And patiently the stroke of death abide;
And Patiently the Stroke of Death abide
96
Or wer’t my veniall Slip’s to expiate
Or wer’t my venial slips to
Gloss Note
atone
expiate
,
Or wer’t my
Gloss Note
pardonable, not grave
veniall
Slip’s to
Gloss Note
make amends for
expiate
97
Then my Restraint would have a happie Date
Then my restraint would have a happy
Gloss Note
end
date
;
Then my Restraint would have a happie
Gloss Note
limit or endpoint
Date
98
Or wert for debt I Soon could pay that Score
Or wer’t for debt, I soon could pay that score:
Or
Critical Note
Pulter here concludes another list (just as she has catalogued creatures whose freedom contrasts cruelly with her restraint) to categorize all the things she would be willing to suffer for: her God, king, country, friend, love, children, sin, atonement for minor mistakes, or debt, presumably in a debtors’ prison (ll. 92-98).
wert for debt I Soon could pay that Score
99
But t’is, Oh my Sad Soul, I’le Say noe more
But ’tis, O my sad soul—I’ll say no more.
But
Gloss Note
In this unfinished statement she refuses to state the precise reason for her imprisonment.
t’is, Oh my Sad Soul, I’le, Say noe more
100
To God alone my Suffrings Il’e
Physical Note
The final three lines are enclosed by a curving bracket on the right.
deplore
.
To God alone my suff’rings I’ll
Physical Note
rhyming triplet precedes gap on manuscript page before final lines.
deplore
.
Critical Note
The couplet rhyme scheme of this poem is altered so that the last three lines rhyme as a triplet, which is accentuated by the curved bracket on their right. There is a space in the manuscript between lines 100 and 101, inviting us to see the following poem or section as a postscript.
To God alone my Suffrings Il’e deplore.
101
For I no liberty expect to see
For I noe Liberty expect to See
102
Until to
Gloss Note
in ancient Greek philosophy, hypothetical particles, minute and indivisible, held as ultimate particles of matter; in emergent scientific theories in the seventeenth century, each of the particles of which matter is ultimately composed
atoms
I disperséd be;
Untill to
Gloss Note
Atoms are indivisible particles from which matter is composed.
Atoms
I dispersed bee
103
Then, being
Gloss Note
freed from confinement or subjection
enfranchised
, free as my verse,
Then
Critical Note
Pulter writes about her freed or “enfranchised” soul or spirit ultimately returning to heaven in several poems, such as The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39], ll. 16-20.
beeing infranchis’d
Free as my Verse
104
I shall surround this spacious universe,
I Shall Surround this Spacious Universe
105
Until, by other atoms thrust and hurled,
Untill by other Atoms thrust and hurl’d
106
We give a being to another world.
Critical Note
Pulter’s suggestion that atoms may form into another world recalls the speculation about alternate worlds in some of Margaret Cavendish’s poetry, such as “Of many Worlds in this World,” “A World in an Eare-Ring,” and “Severall Worlds in severall Circles” (Poems, and fancies [1653], pp. 44-46; see Speculations about Multiple Worlds in Curations for the first of these poems).
Wee give a beeing to a nother World.
X (Close panel) All Notes
Amplified Edition
Title note

 Critical note

In the manuscript there is a large blank space at the top of the page where perhaps a title was intended to be placed.
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

This is a semi-diplomatic transcription in which original spelling and punctuation are retained, abbreviations (such as tildes) are expanded with added letters in italics, “ff” is modernized to “F,” superscriptions are lowered, and major alterations to the text (of a word or more, not individual letters) are noted in the footnotes. The retention of original spelling and punctuation has the potential to get us closer to the choices made by the poet and scribe, but some scribal details (such as abbreviations) do not seem substantive or meaning-bearing and run the risk of alienating a modern reader. The notes point out parallels I see with other writers, and particularly women writers, with the aims of placing Pulter in dialogue with ideas explored by other women around this time, and of tracing a kind of female poetic lineage or alternate canon.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

In Pulter’s manuscript, this poem’s conclusion is oddly separated from what precedes it by a sizeable gap—oddly, but also appropriately, since the final lines comprise a vision of the speaker’s final and total liberation from the confinement that the rest of the poem condemns. The envoy indicates the speaker’s confidence that death shall free her scattered atoms to “surround” our universe and recombine to “give a being to another world.” This liberated vision of liberation calmly counteracts the long litany of preceding complaints, in which the speaker rails against the injustice of a vast array of other, implicitly lower, creatures living freely while she cannot (she never explains why). If this part of the poem grows tiresome in repeating its formula, that tiresome formulaic repetition itself might itself model the experience she describes. But she also poignantly expresses concern for loved ones she is powerless to help while stuck in a situation (in apparent solitude and geographic isolation) utterly at odds with the mental freedom she desires, thinks she deserves, and (given world enough and time) envisions arriving with her transformation from being “buried … alive” on earth to experiencing a cosmic exhumation after death.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

In this poem the speaker repeatedly uses the language of confinement and restraint. She offers a catalogue of natural creatures who are free, contrasting each with her own immurement inside her house. Some of the creatures mentioned in Pulter’s catalogue are mentioned in the plural and so are not obviously gendered, but many of the individual creatures are female. In several poems, particularly her emblems, Pulter notes the gender of specific animals, giving her analysis an additional relevance to human behaviour (for example, see her laughing female tortoise in The Porcupine [Poem 79]). Animals gendered female in this poem are the bee, beetle, silkworm, catoblepas, amphisbaena, oyster, flying fish, halcyon, swan, ostrich, turtle-dove, cuckoo, su, and canibal. In her discussions of the swan, ostrich, cuckoo, su, and canibal (and obliquely also the halcyon), she refers to their roles as mothers, and the ungendered raven is also a parent. In the case of the turtle-dove she highlights its constancy to one mate, as was typical in references to this bird.
A few poems earlier in the manuscript, Pulter contrasts her confinement in a natural setting with the movement of the planets: “Must I be still confined to this sad grove / Whenas those vast and glorious globes above / Eternally in treble motions move?” (A Solitary Complaint [Poem 54], ll. 1-3). The exact cause of her confinement in Poem 57 is not stated, but the vivid image of being “tied to one habitation” (l. 14) and “shut up in a country grange” (l. 18) suggests that she is required to stay at home, perhaps due to conflict during the civil war. Another meaning of confinement, the period of being in bed after giving birth to a child, was not current until 1774 (OED 4) and so it is not likely the meaning here, though the title of Poem 45 makes clear that she wrote at least one poem soon after childbirth (This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay in, With my Son John [Poem 45]).
The situation of the speaker in Poem 57 invites a comparison with the motif of retreat or retirement often used by royalist writers: numerous critics have seen political significance in images of retreating to nature in poems of the 1640s and 1650s. With an exiled and then murdered king, cavalier poets depicted retreat as the rejection of the world in favour of erotic fulfilment (e.g., Abraham Cowley’s “The Wish”) or as a kind of alternate political action, among other possibilities. Hero Chalmers explains that “As royalists began to be forced into retreat by the sequestration of their estates, ejection from public office, imprisonment, or exile during the 1640s, a rhetoric of paradox emerged in the work of cavalier poets eager to convert withdrawal into self-assertion, disenfranchisement into power, confinement into freedom, and so on” (Royalist Women Writers 1650-1689, Clarendon Press, 2004, p. 105). Katherine Philips, who like Pulter was a royalist poet, wrote a number of poems about retirement from the world which celebrate female friendship (for example, in “Friendship’s Mystery, To my dearest Lucasia” she writes “We court our own Captivity … ’Twere banishment to be set free” [ll. 16, 18]; see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). Retreat, for Pulter, is not an escape to an idyllic natural landscape, but instead a kind of imprisonment which she must suffer alone. Royalist writers also used imagery of imprisonment in their verse, sometimes to reflect their actual incarceration during the 1640s, as in the famous poem by Richard Lovelace “To Althea, From Prison” (see Versifying Captivity in Curations for this poem). The typical movement in poems such as Lovelace’s is to contrast the speaker’s actual restraint with their inner freedom. Lovelace claims to be more free than gods, fish, and winds, but Pulter’s speaker does not celebrate; she links confinement with being “buried thus alive” (l. 20) and “enslaved to solitude” (l. 75). In this poem the speaker’s attitude to her confinement is entirely negative; while her mind is still free, she knows that true freedom will come only after death.
In addition to a work of natural history that we know Pulter read (Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s The historie of the world), and works that she may or may not have read (Edward Topsell’s compilations on four-footed beasts and on serpents), other contemporary sources that she could have known offer catalogues of animals in relation to God’s creation of the world (Josuah Sylvester’s translation of Du Bartas, Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas, and John Swan’s Speculum mundi; for full references see the relevant footnotes below). Thomas Browne discusses a catalogue of creatures in Pseudodoxia epidemica, “almost an encyclopaedia of seventeenth-century misconceptions and new knowledge” (R.H. Robbins, ODNB entry on Browne).
Transcription
Line number 1

 Physical note

There is a blank gap at the top of this page.
Amplified Edition
Line number 2

 Critical note

The word “noble” may connote here elevated and lofty, but also of a high social status. Pulter was the daughter of an earl and may be expressing indignation at the deprivations of this time of conflict.
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

When
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

“hoary” meaning grey- or white-haired; ancient, venerable; mouldy; hairy; possibly confused with “hory,” meaning filthy; “gaudy” meaning brilliantly fine, highly ornate, showy, but not necessarily in the disparaging sense now chiefly meant.
Amplified Edition
Line number 3

 Critical note

While “hoary” and “gaudy” may simply mean grey-haired or old (OED 1a and c) and brilliantly fine or ornate (OED 3a), respectively, the sense of both terms is probably derogatory (potentially, mouldy or musty [OED 3] and glaringly showy [OED 3a], respectively) given the context: Pulter laments that mere insects such as these have the privilege of freedom while she does not.
Transcription
Line number 4

 Physical note

The “y” is written over another letter; this word is followed by an imperfectly erased second “y.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Critical note

As mentioned in the headnote, many of the animals in Pulter’s catalogue are gendered female, and several are mothers.
Amplified Edition
Line number 6

 Critical note

In keeping with the series of contrasts that the poet is drawing between the unworthy or thoughtless freedom of mere insects and her own unjust imprisonment, she is here highlighting the apparent paradox of the virginal bee taking pleasure from a thousand flowers. This sexually suggestive formulation contrasts with the ways in which the speaker constructs herself as a faithful wife later in the poem (for example, see ll. 69-70).
Elemental Edition
Line number 7

 Gloss note

glittering
Elemental Edition
Line number 7

 Critical note

This passage conflates stag beetles and scarab or dung beetles. Male stag beetles have large mouth parts resembling antlers, probably used in fighting. Dung beetles form balls of feces as food and protection for their larvae, and may roll the balls quite far before burying them. Pliny indicated that “tumbling upon their back in dung, [dung beetles] do roll it into great round balls with their feet; and therein doe make nests for to bestow the little grubs (which are their young) against the cold of winter.” Trans. Philemon Holland, The History of the World (London, 1601), 1:326. The idea of the beetle rolling dung from east to west to call “great Nature” alludes to the ancient Egyptian tendency to compare the scarab beetle rolling a ball of dung along the ground to the sun god rolling the sun across the sky.
Elemental Edition
Line number 7

 Gloss note

sheds
Elemental Edition
Line number 8

 Gloss note

forehead
Transcription
Line number 9

 Physical note

The “i” may correct an earlier “e.”
Elemental Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

greasy
Amplified Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

Dung beetles protect their larvae in balls of feces (see the note in the elemental edition of this poem for this point and for Pulter’s conflation of two types of beetle). Unctuous means oily or greasy.
Elemental Edition
Line number 11

 Gloss note

cocoons
Amplified Edition
Line number 11

 Critical note

enfolds or envelops, i.e., cocoons. Though this image of cocooning may suggest confinement, the poet indicates that the silkworm does this temporarily to reproduce, but then flies freely until her death. In this context of the female silkworm, to “work” may have the sense of the female labour of weaving, sewing, or embroidering (OED 25). In her autobiography, A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life, which was appended to Natures Pictures drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (1656), Margaret Cavendish refers to the silkworm’s self-sufficiency and to its labour of spinning to illustrate her own process of poetic creation: “yet I must say this in the behalf of my thoughts, that I never found them idle; for if the senses brings no work in, they will work of themselves, like silk-wormes that spinns out of their own bowels” (Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, edited by Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson, Broadview, 2000, p. 59). John Swan describes the bombyx or silk-worm in his Speculum mundi, Or A glasse representing the face of the world shewing both that it did begin, and must also end: the manner how, and time when, being largely examined. Whereunto is joyned an hexameron, or a serious discourse of the causes, continuance, and qualities of things in nature; occasioned as matter pertinent to the work done in the six dayes of the worlds creation (1635), pp. 425-426. He uses the language of breaking free from a prison which is also a house, which parallels Pulter’s imagery in this poem: “when these daintie creatures have made them little husken houses, and spunne out the just length of their silken webs, they eat out themselves from those prisons; and (although they were worms before) yet then they appeare with their prettie wings, and flie about a while” (p. 426). I am grateful to Jessica Wolfe for drawing my attention to Swan and for discussing Thomas Browne with me (for the latter, see below).
Elemental Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

dies
Amplified Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

disintegrates or decomposes
Elemental Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

mythical reptile, also called a cockatrice, hatched by a snake from a cock’s egg; it “kills by fascination” because its look, like a cast spell, is fatal.
Amplified Edition
Line number 13

 Critical note

A basilisk or cockatrice is a mythical reptile which is said to hatch from a cock’s egg and to be able to kill its prey just by looking (OED). With this animal Pulter moves from her examples of insects to what we would consider to be fantastical creatures. Not all sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers would have agreed with modern conceptions that this was a mythical beast, however. In his Pseudodoxia epidemica, or, Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths (1646), p. 118-121, Thomas Browne investigates various claims about the basilisk, observing (perhaps surprisingly in a work that tests received wisdom) “that such an animall there is, if we evade not the testimony of Scripture, and humane Writers, we cannot safely deny” (p. 118). Edward Topsell in his The historie of serpents. Or, The second booke of liuing creatures wherein is contained their diuine, naturall, and morall descriptions, with their liuely figures, names, conditions, kindes and natures of all venemous beasts: with their seuerall poysons and antidotes; their deepe hatred to mankind, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, and destruction. Necessary and profitable to all sorts of men: collected out of diuine scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: amplified with sundry accidentall histories, hierogliphicks, epigrams, emblems, and aenigmaticall obseruations (1608), p. 125, describes the basilisk’s venom as noxious to humans in particular (see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem; Topsell compares the corrupting beams that issue from a basilisk’s eyes to those from a menstruating woman which impair a mirror). Josuah Sylvester, in his translation Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes (1611), p. 149, describes the basilisk as having “pestilentiall breath / [which] Doth pearce firm Marble, and whose banefull ey / Wounds with a glance, so that the soundest dy.” The basilisk, dipsas, and amphisbaena all figure in Sylvester’s list of “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” (pp. 148-149). Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, writer of an influential work celebrating women which was translated into English in 1652, writes about the gender of the basilisk. The full title of this work is, The glory of women: or, A treatise declaring the excellency and preheminence of women above men, which is proved both by scripture, law, reason, and authority, divine, and humane. Written first in Latine by Henricus Cornelius Agrippa Knight, and doctor both of law and physicke. And presented to Margaret Augusta, Queen of the Austrians and Burgundians. And now translated into English, for the vertuous and beautifull female sex of the Commonwealth of England By Edw. Fleetwood, Gent. In the context of a discussion that sometimes men are worse than the worst of women, Agrippa writes, “Furthermore, the Scriptures declare many men to be condemned to eternal torments, when no woman at any time condemned may be read of: to this may be added in way of testimony a prerogative of brutish nature, because the Eagle which is Queen of all Birds, always of the Female, never of the Male is found: & it is said, that there is but one only Phaenix, and that a Female, which is in Egypt. But on the contrary, of the Serpent, which hath its name from King, I mean the Basiliske, the most poysonous of all venemous creatures, there is none except a Male, which is impossible to be gendered a Female” (p. 18). For another treatment of the basilisk, see Pulter’s The Cockatrice (Emblem 16) [Poem 82].
Amplified Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

by casting a spell with its mere gaze
Elemental Edition
Line number 15

 Critical note

“catoblepas” in OED; “The Catoblepas is said to be of like venomous nature, always going with her head into the ground, her sight otherwise being deadly.” Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), 467.
Amplified Edition
Line number 15

 Critical note

A catoblepas was described by ancient authors as an African animal that may have resembled a buffalo or gnu (OED), but Pliny in The historie of the world: commonly called, The naturall historie of C. Plinius Secundus. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor of Physicke (1634, p. 206) groups the basilisk and catoblepas together as venomous serpents whose looks have the power to kill. See “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem for Pliny’s description of these beasts. Like Pliny, whose natural history we know Pulter consulted, given other references in her manuscript, Pulter groups them together (“Though these destroy yet may they freely Range,” l. 17). Pliny attributes the killing of grass and herbs to the basilisk, not the catoblepas, and genders both creatures male. Pulter genders the catoblepas female but does not give the basilisk a gender (see Agrippa’s claim, above, that the basilisk was always male). Pulter’s choice to gender this evil creature as female reminds us that she does not simply depict examples of positive female behaviour in her verse. For another treatment of the catoblepas, see Pulter’s This Fell Catablepe (Emblem 33) [Poem 98].
Elemental Edition
Line number 18

 Gloss note

country house, farmhouse
Amplified Edition
Line number 18

 Critical note

A grange is a country house, sometimes with farm buildings attached and the residence of a gentleman farmer (OED). Pulter is likely referring to Broadfield (or Bradfield), which was the name of the estate in the parish of Cottered in Hertfordshire owned by the Pulters. Henry Chauncy’s The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire of 1700 gives the history of the estate, noting that Arthur Pulter retired to Bradfield shortly after the outbreak of the civil war. There he “liv’d a retir’d Life, and thro’ the importunity of his Wife, began to build a very fair House of Brick upon this Mannor, but dying he never finished it” (p. 72). His grandson James Forester ultimately “repaired the Mannor-House, which was much decay’d thro’ the want of finishing it at the time it was built” (p. 74). Perhaps some of Pulter’s despair at her domestic immurement was due to living in an unfinished renovation site.
Elemental Edition
Line number 19

 Gloss note

glances, gazes
Amplified Edition
Line number 19

 Critical note

It isn’t clear whom she means by “freind.” Unlike the fatal glances of the basilisk and catoblepas, the speaker’s looks, though sad, would have the opposite effect and would bring a friend back to life.
Elemental Edition
Line number 21

 Gloss note

mythological serpent with head at each end, able to move in either direction
Amplified Edition
Line number 21

 Critical note

The amphisbaena is a mythical serpent with two heads which can move in either direction (OED). Topsell calls this beast the Double-head and observes that “It hath a double-head, as though one mouth were not enough to vtter his poyson” (A historie of serpents [1608], p. 151). For Topsell’s description of its poison, including its risk to pregnant women, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem. Thomas Browne is willing to admit the existence of the basilisk (see note above) but is much more sceptical about the existence of the amphisbaena, concluding that it is impossible for it to have two heads and still be one creature (“Againe, if any such thing there were, it were not to be obtruded by the name of Amphisbaena, or as an animall of one denomination; for properly that animall is not one, but multiplicious or many”; Pseudodoxia epidemica [1646], p. 141).
Elemental Edition
Line number 23

 Gloss note

mythical serpent whose bite made the bitten want to drink (“quaff”) excessively.
Amplified Edition
Line number 23

 Gloss note

The dipsas is a mythical serpent whose bite was said to cause a raging thirst (OED). For Topsell’s description of the effects of its poison, see “Creatures venomous, and offensive to man” in Curations for this poem.
Elemental Edition
Line number 24

 Gloss note

laughing was thought to be among the symptoms of a tarantula’s bite.
Amplified Edition
Line number 24

 Critical note

Topsell in The historie of serpents (1608), p. 250, lists the potential reactions to the bite of a tarantula: “there will follow diuers and contrary accidents and symptomes, according to the various constitution, different complexion, and disposition of the partie wounded. For after they are hurt by the Tarantula, you shall see some of them laugh, others contrariwise to weepe, some will clatter out of measure, so that you shall neuer get them to hold their tongues, and othersome againe you shall obserue to be as mute as fishes: this man sleepeth continuallie, and another cannot be brought to any rest at all, but runneth vp and downe, raging and rauing like a mad man.” According to John Swan, after being bitten, people “presently fall a laughing; and if musick be not forthwith brought them, they cannot choose but in a mortall merrie fit take leave of the world and die. Neither can they at all be cured, unless by hearing musick: and (as it is reported) if the cure be not throughly done, they dance ever after at the sound of musicks pleasing strains” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 425).
Elemental Edition
Line number 25

 Gloss note

snake
Elemental Edition
Line number 25

 Gloss note

Cleopatra
Amplified Edition
Line number 25

 Gloss note

The asp which killed Cleopatra.
Elemental Edition
Line number 27

 Gloss note

Aristotle posited that some life forms arose spontaneously from rotting matter.
Amplified Edition
Line number 27

 Gloss note

Pulter has discussed five types of insects, four mythical serpents, a spider, and a snake thus far. Her mixing of fantastical with real might strike us as unusual, but natural histories of the period did the same. In The historie of serpents, Topsell treats not only serpents but also some insects (e.g., bees) and arachnids (spiders).
Amplified Edition
Line number 27

 Gloss note

a reference to spontaneous generation: “the development of living organisms without the agency of pre-existing living matter, usually considered as resulting from changes taking place in some inorganic substance” (OED 4a). Even creatures that were not created by God enjoy benefits the speaker does not.
Amplified Edition
Line number 30

 Critical note

The oxymoron of “living Die” is a poignant depiction of her suffering due to her confinement away from loved ones.
Transcription
Line number 32

 Physical note

The “e” appears partly erased, possibly with a comma after it.
Elemental Edition
Line number 32

 Gloss note

enclosed
Elemental Edition
Line number 32

 Gloss note

fence
Amplified Edition
Line number 32

 Critical note

fence. The image of being enclosed by both walls and a fence suggests that, whether inside or outside on her estate, she is still psychologically trapped.
Transcription
Line number 34

 Physical note

There is a blot above this word.
Amplified Edition
Line number 35

 Critical note

For another treatment of the oyster, see Pulter’s The Oyster and the Mouse (Emblem 48) [Poem 113].
Amplified Edition
Line number 37

 Gloss note

i.e., billows
Elemental Edition
Line number 39

 Critical note

Samuel Purchas gives this account of the persecuted (and thus, perhaps, apt to despair) flying fish: “Bonitos or Dolphines do chase the flying fish under the water, so that he is glad to flee from them out of the water to save his life.” Purchas his Pilgrims In Five Books (London, 1625), 2:132.
Amplified Edition
Line number 39

 Critical note

For an explanation of the flying fish’s despair, see the note in the elemental edition of this poem. For another treatment of the flying fish, see Pulter’s This Flying Fish (Emblem 25) [Poem 90].
Elemental Edition
Line number 41

 Critical note

Eardley cites Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon … Du Bartas (London, 1621), l.241, in identifying these birds as manucodes, or birds of paradise.
Transcription
Line number 42

 Physical note

The second “r” is written over “e” in H2.
Amplified Edition
Line number 43

 Critical note

As noted in Alice Eardley’s edition, (Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, by Lady Hester Pulter, The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series vol. 32, [Iter and Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014], p. 167), Simon Goulart identified these birds as manucodes or birds of paradise (in A learned summary upon the famous poeme of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas Wherin are discovered all the excellent secretts in metaphysicall physicall, morall, and historicall knowledge. Fitt for the learned to refresh theire memories, and for younger students to abreviat and further theire studies: wherin nature is discovered, art disclosed, and history layd open. Translated out of French, by T.L. D.M.P. [1621], p. 241) For Goulart’s description of the female laying in the male’s back, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. For another treatment of the bird of paradise, see Pulter’s The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71].
Elemental Edition
Line number 45

 Gloss note

scowl
Amplified Edition
Line number 45

 Gloss note

frown or scowl
Transcription
Line number 46

 Physical note

The “a” is possibly written over an “i.”
Elemental Edition
Line number 46

 Gloss note

prison, fortress
Amplified Edition
Line number 46

 Critical note

a “Basteel” is a bastille or fortified tower. These structures evoke some of the places of imprisonment royalists endured during the civil war years. For examples, including the Tower of London and the Castle in Oxford, see Jerome de Groot, “Prison Writing, Writing Prison during the 1640s and 1650s,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 193-215 (esp. 195-201).
Elemental Edition
Line number 47

 Gloss note

filthy, like a pile of excrement
Amplified Edition
Line number 47

 Critical note

The phrase “dunghill earth” is one Pulter uses repeatedly in her poetry. For example, in “O, My Afflicted Solitary Soul [Poem 28] she asks, “Why dost thou in this dunghill earth delight”? (l. 12). See What is a dunghill? in the Curations for The Pismire [Poem 35] by Frances E. Dolan.
Amplified Edition
Line number 49

 Critical note

This is the second of three depictions of Pulter’s confinement as a kind of solitude (the others are in lines 28 and 75). Not only does she crave freedom of movement, but she also portrays solitude as a kind of restraint or “Curb” on “A Noble Mind” (l. 50). Her use of the term noble in the following line recalls the “noble Freedome of my Mind” (of l. 2), as well as the “Noble Freedome” of the birds of paradise (l. 44), and looks ahead to her willingness to suffer this confinement for a “Noble End” (ll. 93-94), such as her God, king, country, friend, love, or children.
Elemental Edition
Line number 51

 Gloss note

bird fabled to calm the wind and waves magically when breeding by building a nest at sea
Amplified Edition
Line number 51

 Critical note

The halcyon is a green or blue kingfisher thought to magically calm the seas as it tends its floating nest (OED). Swan, after describing the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx who were turned into halcyons, writes, “But without any fiction, this we are sure of, that it is a strange bird, and as it were natures dearest darling; seeing that in favour of her nests and young, the waters leave their raging, the windes their blowing, tempests have forgot to rise, and dayes appeare with quiet calms” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 417). The phrase “halcyon days” was used by royalists to depict the calm of Charles I’s reign before the civil war; Dolores Palomo notes that the myth of the halcyon was rarely used before 1630 by English writers, but that for three decades after that date it was a charged symbol of lost peace (“The Halcyon Moment of Stillness in Royalist Poetry,” Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, Summer 1981, pp. 205-221 [p. 206]). Pulter herself uses the phrase “halcyon days” in two explicitly royalist poems that lament Charles’s imprisonment in 1647, The Invitation into the Country [Poem 2], l. 111 and The Complaint of Thames, 1647 [Poem 4], l. 36.
Elemental Edition
Line number 53

 Gloss note

river in England
Elemental Edition
Line number 53

 Gloss note

the silver breast of the Thames, i.e., the water
Amplified Edition
Line number 53

 Gloss note

The poet depicts the River Thames as female with a silver breast, or shining waters.
Transcription
Line number 55

 Physical note

The “ff” is written over an imperfectly erased “th.”
Elemental Edition
Line number 55

 Critical note

See Job 38:41, “Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.” See also a source cited in another of Pulter’s poems on the raven (Emblem 11, “The dubious raven”), Robert Sanderson, Twenty Sermons Formerly Preached (London, 1656), 282: as Eardley notes, “in a sermon preached at Woburn, England”–under 30 miles from Pulter’s home–“in August 1647 Sanderson notes ‘if God so sufficiently provide for the young ravens, when the dams forsake them: will he not much more take care of us, when not our fathers and mothers forsake us?’”
Amplified Edition
Line number 55

 Critical note

See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for more on the cruelty of the unmaternal raven, and see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem for Swan’s digression on the potential consequences to parents if they are cruel to their young. For another treatment of the raven, see Pulter’s The Dubious Raven [Poem 77].
Transcription
Line number 56

 Physical note

This word is corrected from “My” (with a former “y” imperfectly erased and a new “y” crowded in)
Amplified Edition
Line number 57

 Gloss note

Though Pulter cannot fly like the birds in her catalogue (the halcyon, swan, or raven) she uses the word “above” to connote that her love for her children is higher than her love for her own life. Each of her chosen birds leaves their nest, thus abandoning their young (as does the ostrich in her next example), while the speaker is in the position of not being able to leave home in order to comfort her own young who are separated from her.
Elemental Edition
Line number 58

 Gloss note

Pulter may allude to her inability to leave home (“remove”) to visit her children, perhaps because of her illness or the Civil War.
Elemental Edition
Line number 59

 Critical note

See Job 39:14-15,18: the ostrich “leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them. … What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 59

 Critical note

For another treatment of the ostrich, see Pulter’s The Ostrich (Emblem 41) [Poem 106].
Elemental Edition
Line number 60

 Gloss note

hatch
Amplified Edition
Line number 60

 Gloss note

hatch
Amplified Edition
Line number 62

 Critical note

See the note in the elemental edition of this poem for the reference to this story in Job 39:13-18. Swan recalls this biblical passage but adds that when the eggs neglected by their mother hatch, “then the males are forced to feed and cherish them.” He continues by comparing those women who will not nurse their children to the ostrich: “So have I seen many mothers refusing to nurse their children; and, if they could, would have others likewise bear them: but putting them forth, I beleeve many perish for want of care and due attendance: for it is not possible that a nurse should have that tender affection which belongs to a mother; and many times, with the nurses milk, the children suck the nurses vices. Necessitie therefore, and a prudent choice, should seek out nurses; as we see it Gen. 21.7” (Speculum mundi [1635], p. 394).
Elemental Edition
Line number 63

 Gloss note

i.e., for her children
Elemental Edition
Line number 63

 Gloss note

die
Amplified Edition
Line number 63

 Critical note

The speaker would willingly die for her children. Pulter uses the word “dissolve” and “dissolution” frequently in her verse as alchemical terms that relate to physical death (as, for example, in the title Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]).
Elemental Edition
Line number 64

 Gloss note

envelop, entangle
Amplified Edition
Line number 64

 Gloss note

surround or enfold
Transcription
Line number 67

 Physical note

This is possibly corrected from “mate”; or “mate” is corrected from “make.”
Elemental Edition
Line number 67

 Gloss note

mate
Amplified Edition
Line number 67

 Critical note

i.e., mate (the word may have been corrected from “mate” by the scribe, to rhyme with “take” in the next line). The turtle-dove was famously faithful to its mate. For another treatment of the turtle-dove, see Pulter’s This Poor Turtle Dove (Emblem 20) [Poem 85].
Amplified Edition
Line number 70

 Critical note

Pulter is referring to her constancy to her husband but since she predeceased him she cannot be making a direct biographical reference to a refusal to remarry after his death.
Elemental Edition
Line number 72

 Gloss note

The cuckoo bird lays its solitary egg in the nest of another bird; the cuckoo baby then devours its foster siblings. See Pliny, History of the World, trans. Philemon Holland (London, 1634), 275.
Amplified Edition
Line number 73

 Critical note

The cuckoo’s offspring eats its foster siblings once it has been reared in another bird’s nest. For a description of this behaviour as described in Pliny's The historie of the world (1634), p. 275, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem. The cuckoo was etymologically linked with, and became popularly associated with, the term cuckold, “a derisive name for the husband of an unfaithful wife” (OED), but in the popular imagination it is the male cuckoo who deposits its eggs in another bird’s nest, with the implication being that he has impregnated another man’s wife. Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost ends with the song of the owl and the cuckoo: the refrain for the latter is “The cuckoo then on every tree / Mocks married men; for thus sings he: / ‘Cuckoo! / Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ O, word of fear, / Unpleasing to a married ear” (5.2.886-890, 895-899; edited by H.R. Woudhuysen, Arden edition, third series, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998, p. 295). Pulter focuses on the baby cuckoo’s ingratitude, and perhaps also by extension the mother cuckoo’s ingratitude to the family who raises her offspring, rather than the bird’s association with cuckoldry. Swan discusses the cuckoo’s association with both ingratitude and cuckoldry (see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for this poem). For another treatment of the cuckoo, see Pulter’s The Cuckoo (Emblem 29) [Poem 94].
Amplified Edition
Line number 75

 Critical note

The phrase “enslaved to solitude” again (as in lines 28 and 49) connects the speaker’s suffering with her isolation. In addition, this image of slavery contrasts powerfully with the repeated references to the freedom enjoyed by members of the natural world, no matter how unworthy.
Elemental Edition
Line number 76

 Gloss note

flying creatures
Amplified Edition
Line number 76

 Critical note

i.e., volatiles: birds. The adjectival form of volatile suggests a relevant connotation to the speaker’s description of the birds (especially the raven, ostrich, and cuckoo): “Readily changing from one interest or mood to another; changeable, fickle; marked or characterized by levity or flightiness” (OED B 4).
Transcription
Line number 80

 Physical note

“w” is in a different hand from the main scribe (possibly H2) and blacker ink, directly above a scribbled out “m.”
Elemental Edition
Line number 80

 Gloss note

Edward Topsell writes “of a wild beast in the new-found world called Su”: “she flyeth very swift, carrying her young ones upon her back.” The History of Four-Footed Beasts, p.660
Amplified Edition
Line number 80

 Critical note

The su is a beast supposedly from the New World; for Edward Topsell’s description from The historie of foure-footed beastes Describing the true and liuely figure of euery beast, with a discourse of their seuerall names, conditions, kindes, vertues (both naturall and medicinall) countries of their breed, their loue and hate to mankinde, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, preseruation, and destruction. Necessary for all diuines and students, because the story of euery beast is amplified with narrations out of Scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: wherein are declared diuers hyerogliphicks, emblems, epigrams, and other good histories, collected out of all the volumes of Conradus Gesner, and all other writers to this present day (1607), p. 660, see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations. Pulter notes that it carries its offspring on its back, but Topsell’s description includes another detail about its savagery and its maternal devotion: if hunters trap her and her children she will kill them rather than allow them to be taken and tamed.
Elemental Edition
Line number 82

 Gloss note

Simon Goulart describes the canibal as a small animal which “carrieth her young with her: for along her belly she openeth a bag made of skin … where she hideth them.” A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Saluste Lord of Bartas (London, 1621), p.1.265.
Amplified Edition
Line number 82

 Critical note

According to Simon Goulart, the canibal is a small animal from the West Indies who hides her offspring in a pouch in her belly (A learned summary [1621], p. 265; see Good and Bad Animal Parents in Curations for his description). The first sentence of Goulart’s description locates canibals in the country of Chiurca (possibly the island of Curaçao). Sylvester, in Du Bartas his deuine weekes and workes, lists a number of “Fierce and vntameable beasts,” the last of which he particularly fears: “I fear the Beast, bred in the bloody Coast / Of Cannibals, which thousand times (almost) / Re-whelps her whelps, and in her tender womb, / She doth as oft her living brood re-tomb” ([1611], p. 152). Syntactically, a beast that lives in “the bloody Coast of Cannibals” suggests a beast that lives in the coast populated by human cannibals, but the description of the beast, and the marginal reference to “Chiurcae,” makes it likely that Sylvester means the fantastical animal called the canibal. For another treatment of the canibal, see Pulter’s The Cunning Canibal (Emblem 10) [Poem 76].
Elemental Edition
Line number 83

 Gloss note

backpack, pouch
Amplified Edition
Line number 83

 Gloss note

bag or pack (i.e., a pouch like a kangaroo’s)
Elemental Edition
Line number 85

 Critical note

here, seemingly with primary reference to the shade created by the walls of the country house, mentioned above, in which she is “immure[d]”; however, “shade” could also allude to a retired place, sheltered from the world, or to something with only fleeting or unsubstantial existence, such as the visible but impalpable form of a dead person, as well as an inseparable follower or companion
Elemental Edition
Line number 86

 Gloss note

my children
Amplified Edition
Line number 86

 Critical note

The speaker laments that, unlike the su and the canibal, she cannot protect her children from harm. Another beast mentioned in one of the contemporary natural histories who protects her children from harm is the whale. Swan’s Speculum mundi (1635), p. 368 notes of the “Balaena” that “it is a fish which shews great love and affection towards her young ones: For when they are little, being faint and weak, she takes them into her mouth to secure them from tempestuous surges; and when the tempest is over, she spues them again out into the sea. A fit embleme this, to teach all sorts of parents either in Church, Commonwealth, or private families, to provide for, and not destroy those under them; as also to secure them from dangers whensoever they arise.” Though Pulter mentions the whale as vast and free (above, ll. 31-32) she does not mention its maternal actions.
Amplified Edition
Line number 90

 Critical note

Pulter’s taxonomy of creatures in l. 90 (beasts, birds, fishes, worms, and insects) is close but not identical to Pliny’s, whose books eight through eleven in his The historie of the world treat land beasts, fish and water creatures, fowl and flying creatures, and small creatures and those that crawl on the ground. In the body of her poem Pulter starts with insects, moves to serpents, then fish, then birds, and finally to land beasts, specifically the su and the canibal (fantastical to us, but possibly not to Pulter), only briefly mentioning others in one line (lion, tiger, elephant, and bear, l. 88).
Amplified Edition
Line number 90

 Critical note

equivocal: of uncertain nature; since “equivocal generation” relates to spontaneous generation (“equivocal,” OED 3a), and Pulter mentions spontaneously generating reptiles in l. 27, this may be the sense she intends.
Amplified Edition
Line number 91

 Gloss note

i.e., woe is me
Elemental Edition
Line number 92

 Gloss note

Were it
Amplified Edition
Line number 92

 Critical note

Pulter’s reference to the king, and her own willingness to suffer a beheading at l. 95, invites us to see a reference to the martyred Charles I, which indicates a date for the poem of after 30 January 1649.
Elemental Edition
Line number 96

 Gloss note

atone
Amplified Edition
Line number 96

 Gloss note

pardonable, not grave
Amplified Edition
Line number 96

 Gloss note

make amends for
Elemental Edition
Line number 97

 Gloss note

end
Amplified Edition
Line number 97

 Gloss note

limit or endpoint
Amplified Edition
Line number 98

 Critical note

Pulter here concludes another list (just as she has catalogued creatures whose freedom contrasts cruelly with her restraint) to categorize all the things she would be willing to suffer for: her God, king, country, friend, love, children, sin, atonement for minor mistakes, or debt, presumably in a debtors’ prison (ll. 92-98).
Amplified Edition
Line number 99

 Gloss note

In this unfinished statement she refuses to state the precise reason for her imprisonment.
Transcription
Line number 100

 Physical note

The final three lines are enclosed by a curving bracket on the right.
Elemental Edition
Line number 100

 Physical note

rhyming triplet precedes gap on manuscript page before final lines.
Amplified Edition
Line number 100

 Critical note

The couplet rhyme scheme of this poem is altered so that the last three lines rhyme as a triplet, which is accentuated by the curved bracket on their right. There is a space in the manuscript between lines 100 and 101, inviting us to see the following poem or section as a postscript.
Elemental Edition
Line number 102

 Gloss note

in ancient Greek philosophy, hypothetical particles, minute and indivisible, held as ultimate particles of matter; in emergent scientific theories in the seventeenth century, each of the particles of which matter is ultimately composed
Amplified Edition
Line number 102

 Gloss note

Atoms are indivisible particles from which matter is composed.
Elemental Edition
Line number 103

 Gloss note

freed from confinement or subjection
Amplified Edition
Line number 103

 Critical note

Pulter writes about her freed or “enfranchised” soul or spirit ultimately returning to heaven in several poems, such as The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39], ll. 16-20.
Amplified Edition
Line number 106

 Critical note

Pulter’s suggestion that atoms may form into another world recalls the speculation about alternate worlds in some of Margaret Cavendish’s poetry, such as “Of many Worlds in this World,” “A World in an Eare-Ring,” and “Severall Worlds in severall Circles” (Poems, and fancies [1653], pp. 44-46; see Speculations about Multiple Worlds in Curations for the first of these poems).
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