A Solitary Complaint

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A Solitary Complaint

Poem 54

Original Source

Hester Pulter, Poems breathed forth by the nobel Hadassas, University of Leeds Library, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt q 32

Versions

  • Facsimile of manuscript: Photographs provided by University of Leeds, Brotherton Collection

  • Transcription of manuscript: By Leah Knight and Wendy Wall.
  • Elemental edition: By Leah Knight and Wendy Wall.
  • Amplified edition: By Elizabeth Kolkovich.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

  • Created by Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
  • Encoded by Katherine Poland, Matthew Taylor, Elizabeth Chou, and Emily Andrey, Northwestern University
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X (Close panel)Notes: Transcription
Title note

 Physical note

written in hand H2

 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 4

 Gloss note

“es” probably in H2, with “e” written over earlier “s”
Line number 20

 Physical note

original “Sun” obscured by ink bleedthrough from fol. 75r; insertion in H2
Line number 21
“ſom” written in hand H2
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Transcription
Transcription

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
Physical Note
written in hand H2
A Solitary Complainte
A Solitary Complaint
Critical Note
The title draws attention to the speaker’s isolation (“solitary” as “secluded”) and prepares the reader for a plaintive poem; alternatively, it might suggest that the speaker has only one complaint (“solitary” as “single instance”).
A Solitary Complaint
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. When a note relies on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda (Toronto: Iter, 2014), I cite her text generally as “Eardley.” Although my own interests guide my editorial decisions, I aim to facilitate multiple readings rather than to direct interpretation in a restrictive way. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In this poem, Pulter reveals what we might see as “planet envy.” She contrasts her confinement to life on Earth (and on her estate) with the vast freedom of mobility seen in the solar system. Pulter uses the occasion of a devotional poem to ask God to convert her into a satellite planet that will “roll” or rotate around him. As in other of her poems, Pulter displays her detailed knowledge of contemporary findings in astronomy, including the numbers of moons orbiting Jupiter and the possible existence of multiple solar systems or galaxies. In this poem, science is not at all in conflict with a quest for secular knowledge. And, as in Poem 48, she ends by contingently promising to create future praise that implicitly will supersede her mortal poetic production, something possible if God grants her wish for freedom. The anguished repetition in the final lines—“For Thee and only Thee I will adore; / My God, my God forever, evermore”—demonstrate her yearning to embody the cycles and returns in action in the vast sky.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“A Solitary Complaint” conceives of the solar system in a strikingly modern way. It reveals Pulter’s scientific knowledge and acceptance of the heliocentric model of the universe (the notion that the universe’s center is the sun, not the Earth), which was still controversial at the time. The poem’s title, written in a different hand from the main scribe in the original manuscript, may or may not be Pulter’s. It identifies the poem as responding to the literary tradition of religious complaint poetry. Both devotional lyric and complaint poetry have been long thought appropriate for female voices and women writers. Pulter’s interest in contemporary science, however, encourages us to expand our ideas about what women wrote in this period. For Pulter, religion and science are compatible. She finds comfort in both the never-ending cycles of the planets and her relationship with God.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Must I bee Still confind to this Sad Grove
Must I be still confined to this sad grove
Must I be still confined to this
Critical Note
Pulter’s country house, Broadfield Hall in Hertfordshire. She wrote often of her seclusion at Broadfield, perhaps connected to her many pregnancies or to illness. “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57), for example, begins with “Why must I thus forever be confined” and laments her being “shut up in a country grange.” In both that poem and this one, Pulter represents her isolation as a lengthy imprisonment, using the words “must,” “confined,” “still,” and “forever.”
sad grove
2
When as those vast and Glorious Globes above
Gloss Note
when
Whenas
those vast and glorious globes above
Gloss Note
when
Whenas
those vast and glorious globes above
3
Eternally in treble Motions Move
Eternally in
Critical Note
the three rotations of planets outlined by Copernicus: rotation on an axis, revolution in an orbit, and conical tilting of an axis
treble motions move
?
Eternally in
Critical Note
The question that begins this poem is a triplet (three lines that rhyme), a relatively rare stanza form that sets this question apart from the rhyming couplets that constitute the rest of the poem. These initial lines contrast stillness in a small space with the planets’ constant motion in an expansive space (see, e.g., the repetition of “move” in lines 3-4). Pulter does the same in “This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay In, With My Son John” (Poem 45), in which she writes of looking out at the night sky while lying sick in bed. Each planet’s “treble” (triple) motions include daily rotation around its axis, yearly orbit around the sun, and conical tilting at its axis. Sarah Hutton speculates that Pulter might have encountered these ideas in Thomas Digges’s 1578 English translation of Copernicus; in Galileo’s books, if she read Italian or Latin; or in English poetry, such as Henry More’s 1646 Philosophical Poems (“Hester Pulter [c. 1596-1678]. A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Episteme, vol. 14, 2008, journals.openedition.org/episteme/729). Few women poets engaged as directly with scientific theory in this period; another example is Margaret Cavendish, whose “A World in an Earring” also envisions a Copernican model of the universe. For a less enthusiastic poetic response to heliocentrism, see John Donne’s “An Anatomy of the World.” For excerpts from Digges, More, Cavendish, and Donne, see the “Curations” for this poem in The Pulter Project.
treble motions move
?
4
Thrice happy
Gloss Note
“es” probably in H2, with “e” written over earlier “s”
Hermes
moves in endles day
Gloss Note
extremely
Thrice
happy
Gloss Note
Mercury, messenger god
Hermes
moves in endless day,
Thrice happy
Gloss Note
Mercury, messenger god
Hermes
moves in endless day,
5
Beeing underneath the Suns illustrous Raie
Being underneath the sun’s illustrious ray.
Being underneath the sun’s
Gloss Note
shining brightly; noble, distinguished
illustrious
ray.
6
Next Lovly Venus Swiftly Hurries Round
Next lovely Venus swiftly hurries round
Next lovely Venus swiftly hurries round
7
The Suns Bright Throne, w:th equall Luster Crownd
The sun’s bright throne, with equal luster crowned.
The sun’s bright throne, with equal luster
Critical Note
The poem uses monarchical imagery, such as a throne and crowns, to imagine the solar system as a court with a monarch (the sun), lords (planets), and attendants (moons).
crowned
.
8
Next Tellus to whom Sol his Light extends
Next
Critical Note
Earth, or the goddess of the Earth; this and the next three lines describe how the Earth circles the “orb” (or orbit) of the sun, while the moon (“Cynthia”) orbits the Earth; the male sun shines on the female moon continuously, though she appears, from the perspective of a person on Earth, to change.
Tellus
, to whom
Critical Note
the sun’s light
Sol his light
extends,
Next
Gloss Note
Earth
Tellus
, to whom Sol his
Critical Note
the sun’s light
light
extends,
9
Runs Round his Orb, ffair Cinthia her Attends
Runs round his orb; fair
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Cynthia
her attends,
Runs round his orb; fair
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Cynthia
her attends,
10
Whom hee Irradiates with constant Light
Whom he
Gloss Note
illuminates
irradiates
with constant light,
Whom he
Gloss Note
shines upon
irradiates
with constant light,
11
Though Shee apears Soe various to our Sight
Though she appears so various to our sight.
Though she appears so
Gloss Note
varied; changing
various
to our sight.
12
Mars Soldiar LIke, noe Sabboath ever knowes
Gloss Note
god of war
Mars
, soldier-like, no
Gloss Note
time of rest
sabbath
ever knows,
Gloss Note
god of war
Mars
, soldier-like, no
Gloss Note
religious day of rest
sabbath
ever knows,
13
ffor Round the ffount of Light hee ever goes
For round the fount of light he ever goes.
For round the fount of light he ever goes.
14
Then Jupiter attended like a King
Then
Gloss Note
largest planet; chief Roman god
Jupiter
, attended like a king,
Then
Gloss Note
largest planet; chief Roman god
Jupiter
, attended like a king,
15
ffour Raidient Moons hee in his Train doth bring
Four radiant moons he in his
Critical Note
people following, accompanying, or attending on a person, usually one of high rank or importance; a body of attendants, retainers, or followers; Galileo discovered the fact that Jupiter has four moons in 1610.
train
doth bring.
Four radiant moons he in his train doth bring.
16
Saturn as many ffollowing his Huge Spheir
Saturn, as
Critical Note
many moons
many
following his huge sphere,
Saturn, as
Critical Note
many moons
many
following his huge sphere
17
At least noe more to our dim Sight apear.
At least no more to our dim sight appear.
(At least no more to our dim sight appear).
18
All these in Circle Phœbus glorious Mound
All these encircle
Gloss Note
the sun god’s
Phoebus’s
glorious mound,
All these encircle
Gloss Note
the sun god’s
Phoebus’
glorious mound,
19
By whom with Splendour all theſe Stars are ^Crown’d
By whom, with splendor, all these stars are
Gloss Note
glorified; adorned with a circular ornament on the head; dignified or endowed with beauty
crowned
.
By whom, with splendor, all these
Gloss Note
planets
stars
are crowned.
but

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
20
But whether this
Physical Note
original “Sun” obscured by ink bleedthrough from fol. 75r; insertion in H2
Sun\ſun \
his Influence doth owe
But whether this sun his influence doth owe
But whether this sun his
Gloss Note
An exercise of unseen power; the “supposed flowing or streaming from the stars or heavens of an ethereal fluid acting upon the character and destiny of men” (OED).
influence
doth owe
21
Unto
“ſom” written in hand H2
anſom
other Sun, none Sure doth know
Unto some other sun, none sure doth know;
Unto
Critical Note
In the manuscript, the line first reads “another Sun” and is revised to “som[e] other Sun.”
some other sun
, none sure doth
Critical Note
Pulter imagines the possibility of other galaxies in language that emphasizes unity and collaboration, and she contrasts these mutually dependent suns with her own isolation. This moment and her earlier emphasis on “our dim sight” comment on the limitations of modern science as she embraces the vast unknowability of the universe.
know
.
22
But every Orb his ffellow doth illustrate
But every
Gloss Note
planet
orb
his fellow doth
Gloss Note
illuminate; set in a good light; confer honor upon; elucidate
illustrate
,
But every
Gloss Note
planet
orb
his fellow doth
Gloss Note
illumine; confer honor upon
illustrate
,
23
ffor non ye ends of Nature dares to frustrate
For none the
Gloss Note
purposes
ends
of nature dares to frustrate.
For none the
Gloss Note
aims
ends
of nature dares to frustrate.
24
Thus all thoſe Suns and Stars for ever move
Thus all those suns and stars forever move
Thus all those suns and stars forever move
25
About the ffount of Life, & Light, & Love
About the fount of life and light and love.
About the fount of life, and light, and love.
26
Then o my god Iradiate my Sad Soul
Then, O, my God, irradiate my sad soul,
Then, O my God,
Critical Note
She imagines God illuminating her soul with spiritual light, just as the sun lights up the moon.
irradiate
my sad soul,
27
That I about thy Glorious Thron may Rowl
That I about thy glorious throne may
Gloss Note
rotate, turn, pivot around; trust in God
roll
.
That I about thy glorious throne may
Critical Note
To turn or pivot around; to trust in God. The poem uses cyclical imagery common to Pulter’s poetry: revolutions, rolling, turning, and returning. For examples of other poems in which contemplating the planets and moon leads to spiritual pleas or affirmations, see “The Eclipse” (Poem 1) and “The Center” (Poem 30).
roll
.
28
Let mee ye meanst of theſe Stars attend
Let me the
Gloss Note
lowliest
meanest
of these stars attend;
Let me the
Gloss Note
lowliest
meanest
of these stars attend;
29
Then all my raiſe in Prais Shall Reaſcend
Then all my rays, in praise, shall reascend.
Then all my
Critical Note
The manuscript’s spelling of “raise” highlights a pun on “rays”/“raise”; likewise, “praise” may pun on “prays” to encompass both spiritual and astronomical meanings.
rays
in praise shall reascend.
30
ffor thee and onely thee I will adore
For Thee and only Thee I will adore,
For Thee, and only Thee, I will adore,
31
My God my God forever, ever more.
My God, my God, forever, evermore.
My God, my God, forever, ever more.
curled line
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 this poem, Pulter reveals what we might see as “planet envy.” She contrasts her confinement to life on Earth (and on her estate) with the vast freedom of mobility seen in the solar system. Pulter uses the occasion of a devotional poem to ask God to convert her into a satellite planet that will “roll” or rotate around him. As in other of her poems, Pulter displays her detailed knowledge of contemporary findings in astronomy, including the numbers of moons orbiting Jupiter and the possible existence of multiple solar systems or galaxies. In this poem, science is not at all in conflict with a quest for secular knowledge. And, as in Poem 48, she ends by contingently promising to create future praise that implicitly will supersede her mortal poetic production, something possible if God grants her wish for freedom. The anguished repetition in the final lines—“For Thee and only Thee I will adore; / My God, my God forever, evermore”—demonstrate her yearning to embody the cycles and returns in action in the vast sky.
Line number 2

 Gloss note

when
Line number 3

 Critical note

the three rotations of planets outlined by Copernicus: rotation on an axis, revolution in an orbit, and conical tilting of an axis
Line number 4

 Gloss note

extremely
Line number 4

 Gloss note

Mercury, messenger god
Line number 8

 Critical note

Earth, or the goddess of the Earth; this and the next three lines describe how the Earth circles the “orb” (or orbit) of the sun, while the moon (“Cynthia”) orbits the Earth; the male sun shines on the female moon continuously, though she appears, from the perspective of a person on Earth, to change.
Line number 8

 Critical note

the sun’s light
Line number 9

 Gloss note

moon goddess
Line number 10

 Gloss note

illuminates
Line number 12

 Gloss note

god of war
Line number 12

 Gloss note

time of rest
Line number 14

 Gloss note

largest planet; chief Roman god
Line number 15

 Critical note

people following, accompanying, or attending on a person, usually one of high rank or importance; a body of attendants, retainers, or followers; Galileo discovered the fact that Jupiter has four moons in 1610.
Line number 16

 Critical note

many moons
Line number 18

 Gloss note

the sun god’s
Line number 19

 Gloss note

glorified; adorned with a circular ornament on the head; dignified or endowed with beauty
Line number 22

 Gloss note

planet
Line number 22

 Gloss note

illuminate; set in a good light; confer honor upon; elucidate
Line number 23

 Gloss note

purposes
Line number 27

 Gloss note

rotate, turn, pivot around; trust in God
Line number 28

 Gloss note

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

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
Physical Note
written in hand H2
A Solitary Complainte
A Solitary Complaint
Critical Note
The title draws attention to the speaker’s isolation (“solitary” as “secluded”) and prepares the reader for a plaintive poem; alternatively, it might suggest that the speaker has only one complaint (“solitary” as “single instance”).
A Solitary Complaint
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. When a note relies on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda (Toronto: Iter, 2014), I cite her text generally as “Eardley.” Although my own interests guide my editorial decisions, I aim to facilitate multiple readings rather than to direct interpretation in a restrictive way. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In this poem, Pulter reveals what we might see as “planet envy.” She contrasts her confinement to life on Earth (and on her estate) with the vast freedom of mobility seen in the solar system. Pulter uses the occasion of a devotional poem to ask God to convert her into a satellite planet that will “roll” or rotate around him. As in other of her poems, Pulter displays her detailed knowledge of contemporary findings in astronomy, including the numbers of moons orbiting Jupiter and the possible existence of multiple solar systems or galaxies. In this poem, science is not at all in conflict with a quest for secular knowledge. And, as in Poem 48, she ends by contingently promising to create future praise that implicitly will supersede her mortal poetic production, something possible if God grants her wish for freedom. The anguished repetition in the final lines—“For Thee and only Thee I will adore; / My God, my God forever, evermore”—demonstrate her yearning to embody the cycles and returns in action in the vast sky.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“A Solitary Complaint” conceives of the solar system in a strikingly modern way. It reveals Pulter’s scientific knowledge and acceptance of the heliocentric model of the universe (the notion that the universe’s center is the sun, not the Earth), which was still controversial at the time. The poem’s title, written in a different hand from the main scribe in the original manuscript, may or may not be Pulter’s. It identifies the poem as responding to the literary tradition of religious complaint poetry. Both devotional lyric and complaint poetry have been long thought appropriate for female voices and women writers. Pulter’s interest in contemporary science, however, encourages us to expand our ideas about what women wrote in this period. For Pulter, religion and science are compatible. She finds comfort in both the never-ending cycles of the planets and her relationship with God.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Must I bee Still confind to this Sad Grove
Must I be still confined to this sad grove
Must I be still confined to this
Critical Note
Pulter’s country house, Broadfield Hall in Hertfordshire. She wrote often of her seclusion at Broadfield, perhaps connected to her many pregnancies or to illness. “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57), for example, begins with “Why must I thus forever be confined” and laments her being “shut up in a country grange.” In both that poem and this one, Pulter represents her isolation as a lengthy imprisonment, using the words “must,” “confined,” “still,” and “forever.”
sad grove
2
When as those vast and Glorious Globes above
Gloss Note
when
Whenas
those vast and glorious globes above
Gloss Note
when
Whenas
those vast and glorious globes above
3
Eternally in treble Motions Move
Eternally in
Critical Note
the three rotations of planets outlined by Copernicus: rotation on an axis, revolution in an orbit, and conical tilting of an axis
treble motions move
?
Eternally in
Critical Note
The question that begins this poem is a triplet (three lines that rhyme), a relatively rare stanza form that sets this question apart from the rhyming couplets that constitute the rest of the poem. These initial lines contrast stillness in a small space with the planets’ constant motion in an expansive space (see, e.g., the repetition of “move” in lines 3-4). Pulter does the same in “This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay In, With My Son John” (Poem 45), in which she writes of looking out at the night sky while lying sick in bed. Each planet’s “treble” (triple) motions include daily rotation around its axis, yearly orbit around the sun, and conical tilting at its axis. Sarah Hutton speculates that Pulter might have encountered these ideas in Thomas Digges’s 1578 English translation of Copernicus; in Galileo’s books, if she read Italian or Latin; or in English poetry, such as Henry More’s 1646 Philosophical Poems (“Hester Pulter [c. 1596-1678]. A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Episteme, vol. 14, 2008, journals.openedition.org/episteme/729). Few women poets engaged as directly with scientific theory in this period; another example is Margaret Cavendish, whose “A World in an Earring” also envisions a Copernican model of the universe. For a less enthusiastic poetic response to heliocentrism, see John Donne’s “An Anatomy of the World.” For excerpts from Digges, More, Cavendish, and Donne, see the “Curations” for this poem in The Pulter Project.
treble motions move
?
4
Thrice happy
Gloss Note
“es” probably in H2, with “e” written over earlier “s”
Hermes
moves in endles day
Gloss Note
extremely
Thrice
happy
Gloss Note
Mercury, messenger god
Hermes
moves in endless day,
Thrice happy
Gloss Note
Mercury, messenger god
Hermes
moves in endless day,
5
Beeing underneath the Suns illustrous Raie
Being underneath the sun’s illustrious ray.
Being underneath the sun’s
Gloss Note
shining brightly; noble, distinguished
illustrious
ray.
6
Next Lovly Venus Swiftly Hurries Round
Next lovely Venus swiftly hurries round
Next lovely Venus swiftly hurries round
7
The Suns Bright Throne, w:th equall Luster Crownd
The sun’s bright throne, with equal luster crowned.
The sun’s bright throne, with equal luster
Critical Note
The poem uses monarchical imagery, such as a throne and crowns, to imagine the solar system as a court with a monarch (the sun), lords (planets), and attendants (moons).
crowned
.
8
Next Tellus to whom Sol his Light extends
Next
Critical Note
Earth, or the goddess of the Earth; this and the next three lines describe how the Earth circles the “orb” (or orbit) of the sun, while the moon (“Cynthia”) orbits the Earth; the male sun shines on the female moon continuously, though she appears, from the perspective of a person on Earth, to change.
Tellus
, to whom
Critical Note
the sun’s light
Sol his light
extends,
Next
Gloss Note
Earth
Tellus
, to whom Sol his
Critical Note
the sun’s light
light
extends,
9
Runs Round his Orb, ffair Cinthia her Attends
Runs round his orb; fair
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Cynthia
her attends,
Runs round his orb; fair
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Cynthia
her attends,
10
Whom hee Irradiates with constant Light
Whom he
Gloss Note
illuminates
irradiates
with constant light,
Whom he
Gloss Note
shines upon
irradiates
with constant light,
11
Though Shee apears Soe various to our Sight
Though she appears so various to our sight.
Though she appears so
Gloss Note
varied; changing
various
to our sight.
12
Mars Soldiar LIke, noe Sabboath ever knowes
Gloss Note
god of war
Mars
, soldier-like, no
Gloss Note
time of rest
sabbath
ever knows,
Gloss Note
god of war
Mars
, soldier-like, no
Gloss Note
religious day of rest
sabbath
ever knows,
13
ffor Round the ffount of Light hee ever goes
For round the fount of light he ever goes.
For round the fount of light he ever goes.
14
Then Jupiter attended like a King
Then
Gloss Note
largest planet; chief Roman god
Jupiter
, attended like a king,
Then
Gloss Note
largest planet; chief Roman god
Jupiter
, attended like a king,
15
ffour Raidient Moons hee in his Train doth bring
Four radiant moons he in his
Critical Note
people following, accompanying, or attending on a person, usually one of high rank or importance; a body of attendants, retainers, or followers; Galileo discovered the fact that Jupiter has four moons in 1610.
train
doth bring.
Four radiant moons he in his train doth bring.
16
Saturn as many ffollowing his Huge Spheir
Saturn, as
Critical Note
many moons
many
following his huge sphere,
Saturn, as
Critical Note
many moons
many
following his huge sphere
17
At least noe more to our dim Sight apear.
At least no more to our dim sight appear.
(At least no more to our dim sight appear).
18
All these in Circle Phœbus glorious Mound
All these encircle
Gloss Note
the sun god’s
Phoebus’s
glorious mound,
All these encircle
Gloss Note
the sun god’s
Phoebus’
glorious mound,
19
By whom with Splendour all theſe Stars are ^Crown’d
By whom, with splendor, all these stars are
Gloss Note
glorified; adorned with a circular ornament on the head; dignified or endowed with beauty
crowned
.
By whom, with splendor, all these
Gloss Note
planets
stars
are crowned.
but

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20
But whether this
Physical Note
original “Sun” obscured by ink bleedthrough from fol. 75r; insertion in H2
Sun\ſun \
his Influence doth owe
But whether this sun his influence doth owe
But whether this sun his
Gloss Note
An exercise of unseen power; the “supposed flowing or streaming from the stars or heavens of an ethereal fluid acting upon the character and destiny of men” (OED).
influence
doth owe
21
Unto
“ſom” written in hand H2
anſom
other Sun, none Sure doth know
Unto some other sun, none sure doth know;
Unto
Critical Note
In the manuscript, the line first reads “another Sun” and is revised to “som[e] other Sun.”
some other sun
, none sure doth
Critical Note
Pulter imagines the possibility of other galaxies in language that emphasizes unity and collaboration, and she contrasts these mutually dependent suns with her own isolation. This moment and her earlier emphasis on “our dim sight” comment on the limitations of modern science as she embraces the vast unknowability of the universe.
know
.
22
But every Orb his ffellow doth illustrate
But every
Gloss Note
planet
orb
his fellow doth
Gloss Note
illuminate; set in a good light; confer honor upon; elucidate
illustrate
,
But every
Gloss Note
planet
orb
his fellow doth
Gloss Note
illumine; confer honor upon
illustrate
,
23
ffor non ye ends of Nature dares to frustrate
For none the
Gloss Note
purposes
ends
of nature dares to frustrate.
For none the
Gloss Note
aims
ends
of nature dares to frustrate.
24
Thus all thoſe Suns and Stars for ever move
Thus all those suns and stars forever move
Thus all those suns and stars forever move
25
About the ffount of Life, & Light, & Love
About the fount of life and light and love.
About the fount of life, and light, and love.
26
Then o my god Iradiate my Sad Soul
Then, O, my God, irradiate my sad soul,
Then, O my God,
Critical Note
She imagines God illuminating her soul with spiritual light, just as the sun lights up the moon.
irradiate
my sad soul,
27
That I about thy Glorious Thron may Rowl
That I about thy glorious throne may
Gloss Note
rotate, turn, pivot around; trust in God
roll
.
That I about thy glorious throne may
Critical Note
To turn or pivot around; to trust in God. The poem uses cyclical imagery common to Pulter’s poetry: revolutions, rolling, turning, and returning. For examples of other poems in which contemplating the planets and moon leads to spiritual pleas or affirmations, see “The Eclipse” (Poem 1) and “The Center” (Poem 30).
roll
.
28
Let mee ye meanst of theſe Stars attend
Let me the
Gloss Note
lowliest
meanest
of these stars attend;
Let me the
Gloss Note
lowliest
meanest
of these stars attend;
29
Then all my raiſe in Prais Shall Reaſcend
Then all my rays, in praise, shall reascend.
Then all my
Critical Note
The manuscript’s spelling of “raise” highlights a pun on “rays”/“raise”; likewise, “praise” may pun on “prays” to encompass both spiritual and astronomical meanings.
rays
in praise shall reascend.
30
ffor thee and onely thee I will adore
For Thee and only Thee I will adore,
For Thee, and only Thee, I will adore,
31
My God my God forever, ever more.
My God, my God, forever, evermore.
My God, my God, forever, ever more.
curled line
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition
Title note

 Critical note

The title draws attention to the speaker’s isolation (“solitary” as “secluded”) and prepares the reader for a plaintive poem; alternatively, it might suggest that the speaker has only one complaint (“solitary” as “single instance”).

 Editorial note

In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. When a note relies on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda (Toronto: Iter, 2014), I cite her text generally as “Eardley.” Although my own interests guide my editorial decisions, I aim to facilitate multiple readings rather than to direct interpretation in a restrictive way. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.

 Headnote

“A Solitary Complaint” conceives of the solar system in a strikingly modern way. It reveals Pulter’s scientific knowledge and acceptance of the heliocentric model of the universe (the notion that the universe’s center is the sun, not the Earth), which was still controversial at the time. The poem’s title, written in a different hand from the main scribe in the original manuscript, may or may not be Pulter’s. It identifies the poem as responding to the literary tradition of religious complaint poetry. Both devotional lyric and complaint poetry have been long thought appropriate for female voices and women writers. Pulter’s interest in contemporary science, however, encourages us to expand our ideas about what women wrote in this period. For Pulter, religion and science are compatible. She finds comfort in both the never-ending cycles of the planets and her relationship with God.
Line number 1

 Critical note

Pulter’s country house, Broadfield Hall in Hertfordshire. She wrote often of her seclusion at Broadfield, perhaps connected to her many pregnancies or to illness. “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57), for example, begins with “Why must I thus forever be confined” and laments her being “shut up in a country grange.” In both that poem and this one, Pulter represents her isolation as a lengthy imprisonment, using the words “must,” “confined,” “still,” and “forever.”
Line number 2

 Gloss note

when
Line number 3

 Critical note

The question that begins this poem is a triplet (three lines that rhyme), a relatively rare stanza form that sets this question apart from the rhyming couplets that constitute the rest of the poem. These initial lines contrast stillness in a small space with the planets’ constant motion in an expansive space (see, e.g., the repetition of “move” in lines 3-4). Pulter does the same in “This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay In, With My Son John” (Poem 45), in which she writes of looking out at the night sky while lying sick in bed. Each planet’s “treble” (triple) motions include daily rotation around its axis, yearly orbit around the sun, and conical tilting at its axis. Sarah Hutton speculates that Pulter might have encountered these ideas in Thomas Digges’s 1578 English translation of Copernicus; in Galileo’s books, if she read Italian or Latin; or in English poetry, such as Henry More’s 1646 Philosophical Poems (“Hester Pulter [c. 1596-1678]. A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Episteme, vol. 14, 2008, journals.openedition.org/episteme/729). Few women poets engaged as directly with scientific theory in this period; another example is Margaret Cavendish, whose “A World in an Earring” also envisions a Copernican model of the universe. For a less enthusiastic poetic response to heliocentrism, see John Donne’s “An Anatomy of the World.” For excerpts from Digges, More, Cavendish, and Donne, see the “Curations” for this poem in The Pulter Project.
Line number 4

 Gloss note

Mercury, messenger god
Line number 5

 Gloss note

shining brightly; noble, distinguished
Line number 7

 Critical note

The poem uses monarchical imagery, such as a throne and crowns, to imagine the solar system as a court with a monarch (the sun), lords (planets), and attendants (moons).
Line number 8

 Gloss note

Earth
Line number 8

 Critical note

the sun’s light
Line number 9

 Gloss note

moon goddess
Line number 10

 Gloss note

shines upon
Line number 11

 Gloss note

varied; changing
Line number 12

 Gloss note

god of war
Line number 12

 Gloss note

religious day of rest
Line number 14

 Gloss note

largest planet; chief Roman god
Line number 16

 Critical note

many moons
Line number 18

 Gloss note

the sun god’s
Line number 19

 Gloss note

planets
Line number 20

 Gloss note

An exercise of unseen power; the “supposed flowing or streaming from the stars or heavens of an ethereal fluid acting upon the character and destiny of men” (OED).
Line number 21

 Critical note

In the manuscript, the line first reads “another Sun” and is revised to “som[e] other Sun.”
Line number 21

 Critical note

Pulter imagines the possibility of other galaxies in language that emphasizes unity and collaboration, and she contrasts these mutually dependent suns with her own isolation. This moment and her earlier emphasis on “our dim sight” comment on the limitations of modern science as she embraces the vast unknowability of the universe.
Line number 22

 Gloss note

planet
Line number 22

 Gloss note

illumine; confer honor upon
Line number 23

 Gloss note

aims
Line number 26

 Critical note

She imagines God illuminating her soul with spiritual light, just as the sun lights up the moon.
Line number 27

 Critical note

To turn or pivot around; to trust in God. The poem uses cyclical imagery common to Pulter’s poetry: revolutions, rolling, turning, and returning. For examples of other poems in which contemplating the planets and moon leads to spiritual pleas or affirmations, see “The Eclipse” (Poem 1) and “The Center” (Poem 30).
Line number 28

 Gloss note

lowliest
Line number 29

 Critical note

The manuscript’s spelling of “raise” highlights a pun on “rays”/“raise”; likewise, “praise” may pun on “prays” to encompass both spiritual and astronomical meanings.
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition
Amplified Edition

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Physical Note
written in hand H2
A Solitary Complainte
A Solitary Complaint
Critical Note
The title draws attention to the speaker’s isolation (“solitary” as “secluded”) and prepares the reader for a plaintive poem; alternatively, it might suggest that the speaker has only one complaint (“solitary” as “single instance”).
A Solitary Complaint
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Elizabeth Kolkovich
In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. When a note relies on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda (Toronto: Iter, 2014), I cite her text generally as “Eardley.” Although my own interests guide my editorial decisions, I aim to facilitate multiple readings rather than to direct interpretation in a restrictive way. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.

— Elizabeth Kolkovich
In this poem, Pulter reveals what we might see as “planet envy.” She contrasts her confinement to life on Earth (and on her estate) with the vast freedom of mobility seen in the solar system. Pulter uses the occasion of a devotional poem to ask God to convert her into a satellite planet that will “roll” or rotate around him. As in other of her poems, Pulter displays her detailed knowledge of contemporary findings in astronomy, including the numbers of moons orbiting Jupiter and the possible existence of multiple solar systems or galaxies. In this poem, science is not at all in conflict with a quest for secular knowledge. And, as in Poem 48, she ends by contingently promising to create future praise that implicitly will supersede her mortal poetic production, something possible if God grants her wish for freedom. The anguished repetition in the final lines—“For Thee and only Thee I will adore; / My God, my God forever, evermore”—demonstrate her yearning to embody the cycles and returns in action in the vast sky.

— Elizabeth Kolkovich
“A Solitary Complaint” conceives of the solar system in a strikingly modern way. It reveals Pulter’s scientific knowledge and acceptance of the heliocentric model of the universe (the notion that the universe’s center is the sun, not the Earth), which was still controversial at the time. The poem’s title, written in a different hand from the main scribe in the original manuscript, may or may not be Pulter’s. It identifies the poem as responding to the literary tradition of religious complaint poetry. Both devotional lyric and complaint poetry have been long thought appropriate for female voices and women writers. Pulter’s interest in contemporary science, however, encourages us to expand our ideas about what women wrote in this period. For Pulter, religion and science are compatible. She finds comfort in both the never-ending cycles of the planets and her relationship with God.

— Elizabeth Kolkovich
1
Must I bee Still confind to this Sad Grove
Must I be still confined to this sad grove
Must I be still confined to this
Critical Note
Pulter’s country house, Broadfield Hall in Hertfordshire. She wrote often of her seclusion at Broadfield, perhaps connected to her many pregnancies or to illness. “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57), for example, begins with “Why must I thus forever be confined” and laments her being “shut up in a country grange.” In both that poem and this one, Pulter represents her isolation as a lengthy imprisonment, using the words “must,” “confined,” “still,” and “forever.”
sad grove
2
When as those vast and Glorious Globes above
Gloss Note
when
Whenas
those vast and glorious globes above
Gloss Note
when
Whenas
those vast and glorious globes above
3
Eternally in treble Motions Move
Eternally in
Critical Note
the three rotations of planets outlined by Copernicus: rotation on an axis, revolution in an orbit, and conical tilting of an axis
treble motions move
?
Eternally in
Critical Note
The question that begins this poem is a triplet (three lines that rhyme), a relatively rare stanza form that sets this question apart from the rhyming couplets that constitute the rest of the poem. These initial lines contrast stillness in a small space with the planets’ constant motion in an expansive space (see, e.g., the repetition of “move” in lines 3-4). Pulter does the same in “This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay In, With My Son John” (Poem 45), in which she writes of looking out at the night sky while lying sick in bed. Each planet’s “treble” (triple) motions include daily rotation around its axis, yearly orbit around the sun, and conical tilting at its axis. Sarah Hutton speculates that Pulter might have encountered these ideas in Thomas Digges’s 1578 English translation of Copernicus; in Galileo’s books, if she read Italian or Latin; or in English poetry, such as Henry More’s 1646 Philosophical Poems (“Hester Pulter [c. 1596-1678]. A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Episteme, vol. 14, 2008, journals.openedition.org/episteme/729). Few women poets engaged as directly with scientific theory in this period; another example is Margaret Cavendish, whose “A World in an Earring” also envisions a Copernican model of the universe. For a less enthusiastic poetic response to heliocentrism, see John Donne’s “An Anatomy of the World.” For excerpts from Digges, More, Cavendish, and Donne, see the “Curations” for this poem in The Pulter Project.
treble motions move
?
4
Thrice happy
Gloss Note
“es” probably in H2, with “e” written over earlier “s”
Hermes
moves in endles day
Gloss Note
extremely
Thrice
happy
Gloss Note
Mercury, messenger god
Hermes
moves in endless day,
Thrice happy
Gloss Note
Mercury, messenger god
Hermes
moves in endless day,
5
Beeing underneath the Suns illustrous Raie
Being underneath the sun’s illustrious ray.
Being underneath the sun’s
Gloss Note
shining brightly; noble, distinguished
illustrious
ray.
6
Next Lovly Venus Swiftly Hurries Round
Next lovely Venus swiftly hurries round
Next lovely Venus swiftly hurries round
7
The Suns Bright Throne, w:th equall Luster Crownd
The sun’s bright throne, with equal luster crowned.
The sun’s bright throne, with equal luster
Critical Note
The poem uses monarchical imagery, such as a throne and crowns, to imagine the solar system as a court with a monarch (the sun), lords (planets), and attendants (moons).
crowned
.
8
Next Tellus to whom Sol his Light extends
Next
Critical Note
Earth, or the goddess of the Earth; this and the next three lines describe how the Earth circles the “orb” (or orbit) of the sun, while the moon (“Cynthia”) orbits the Earth; the male sun shines on the female moon continuously, though she appears, from the perspective of a person on Earth, to change.
Tellus
, to whom
Critical Note
the sun’s light
Sol his light
extends,
Next
Gloss Note
Earth
Tellus
, to whom Sol his
Critical Note
the sun’s light
light
extends,
9
Runs Round his Orb, ffair Cinthia her Attends
Runs round his orb; fair
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Cynthia
her attends,
Runs round his orb; fair
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Cynthia
her attends,
10
Whom hee Irradiates with constant Light
Whom he
Gloss Note
illuminates
irradiates
with constant light,
Whom he
Gloss Note
shines upon
irradiates
with constant light,
11
Though Shee apears Soe various to our Sight
Though she appears so various to our sight.
Though she appears so
Gloss Note
varied; changing
various
to our sight.
12
Mars Soldiar LIke, noe Sabboath ever knowes
Gloss Note
god of war
Mars
, soldier-like, no
Gloss Note
time of rest
sabbath
ever knows,
Gloss Note
god of war
Mars
, soldier-like, no
Gloss Note
religious day of rest
sabbath
ever knows,
13
ffor Round the ffount of Light hee ever goes
For round the fount of light he ever goes.
For round the fount of light he ever goes.
14
Then Jupiter attended like a King
Then
Gloss Note
largest planet; chief Roman god
Jupiter
, attended like a king,
Then
Gloss Note
largest planet; chief Roman god
Jupiter
, attended like a king,
15
ffour Raidient Moons hee in his Train doth bring
Four radiant moons he in his
Critical Note
people following, accompanying, or attending on a person, usually one of high rank or importance; a body of attendants, retainers, or followers; Galileo discovered the fact that Jupiter has four moons in 1610.
train
doth bring.
Four radiant moons he in his train doth bring.
16
Saturn as many ffollowing his Huge Spheir
Saturn, as
Critical Note
many moons
many
following his huge sphere,
Saturn, as
Critical Note
many moons
many
following his huge sphere
17
At least noe more to our dim Sight apear.
At least no more to our dim sight appear.
(At least no more to our dim sight appear).
18
All these in Circle Phœbus glorious Mound
All these encircle
Gloss Note
the sun god’s
Phoebus’s
glorious mound,
All these encircle
Gloss Note
the sun god’s
Phoebus’
glorious mound,
19
By whom with Splendour all theſe Stars are ^Crown’d
By whom, with splendor, all these stars are
Gloss Note
glorified; adorned with a circular ornament on the head; dignified or endowed with beauty
crowned
.
By whom, with splendor, all these
Gloss Note
planets
stars
are crowned.
but

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20
But whether this
Physical Note
original “Sun” obscured by ink bleedthrough from fol. 75r; insertion in H2
Sun\ſun \
his Influence doth owe
But whether this sun his influence doth owe
But whether this sun his
Gloss Note
An exercise of unseen power; the “supposed flowing or streaming from the stars or heavens of an ethereal fluid acting upon the character and destiny of men” (OED).
influence
doth owe
21
Unto
“ſom” written in hand H2
anſom
other Sun, none Sure doth know
Unto some other sun, none sure doth know;
Unto
Critical Note
In the manuscript, the line first reads “another Sun” and is revised to “som[e] other Sun.”
some other sun
, none sure doth
Critical Note
Pulter imagines the possibility of other galaxies in language that emphasizes unity and collaboration, and she contrasts these mutually dependent suns with her own isolation. This moment and her earlier emphasis on “our dim sight” comment on the limitations of modern science as she embraces the vast unknowability of the universe.
know
.
22
But every Orb his ffellow doth illustrate
But every
Gloss Note
planet
orb
his fellow doth
Gloss Note
illuminate; set in a good light; confer honor upon; elucidate
illustrate
,
But every
Gloss Note
planet
orb
his fellow doth
Gloss Note
illumine; confer honor upon
illustrate
,
23
ffor non ye ends of Nature dares to frustrate
For none the
Gloss Note
purposes
ends
of nature dares to frustrate.
For none the
Gloss Note
aims
ends
of nature dares to frustrate.
24
Thus all thoſe Suns and Stars for ever move
Thus all those suns and stars forever move
Thus all those suns and stars forever move
25
About the ffount of Life, & Light, & Love
About the fount of life and light and love.
About the fount of life, and light, and love.
26
Then o my god Iradiate my Sad Soul
Then, O, my God, irradiate my sad soul,
Then, O my God,
Critical Note
She imagines God illuminating her soul with spiritual light, just as the sun lights up the moon.
irradiate
my sad soul,
27
That I about thy Glorious Thron may Rowl
That I about thy glorious throne may
Gloss Note
rotate, turn, pivot around; trust in God
roll
.
That I about thy glorious throne may
Critical Note
To turn or pivot around; to trust in God. The poem uses cyclical imagery common to Pulter’s poetry: revolutions, rolling, turning, and returning. For examples of other poems in which contemplating the planets and moon leads to spiritual pleas or affirmations, see “The Eclipse” (Poem 1) and “The Center” (Poem 30).
roll
.
28
Let mee ye meanst of theſe Stars attend
Let me the
Gloss Note
lowliest
meanest
of these stars attend;
Let me the
Gloss Note
lowliest
meanest
of these stars attend;
29
Then all my raiſe in Prais Shall Reaſcend
Then all my rays, in praise, shall reascend.
Then all my
Critical Note
The manuscript’s spelling of “raise” highlights a pun on “rays”/“raise”; likewise, “praise” may pun on “prays” to encompass both spiritual and astronomical meanings.
rays
in praise shall reascend.
30
ffor thee and onely thee I will adore
For Thee and only Thee I will adore,
For Thee, and only Thee, I will adore,
31
My God my God forever, ever more.
My God, my God, forever, evermore.
My God, my God, forever, ever more.
curled line
X (Close panel) All Notes
Transcription
Title note

 Physical note

written in hand H2
Amplified Edition
Title note

 Critical note

The title draws attention to the speaker’s isolation (“solitary” as “secluded”) and prepares the reader for a plaintive poem; alternatively, it might suggest that the speaker has only one complaint (“solitary” as “single instance”).
Transcription

 Editorial note

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

 Editorial note

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

 Editorial note

In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. When a note relies on Alice Eardley’s edition of Pulter’s Poems, Emblems, and The Unfortunate Florinda (Toronto: Iter, 2014), I cite her text generally as “Eardley.” Although my own interests guide my editorial decisions, I aim to facilitate multiple readings rather than to direct interpretation in a restrictive way. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

In this poem, Pulter reveals what we might see as “planet envy.” She contrasts her confinement to life on Earth (and on her estate) with the vast freedom of mobility seen in the solar system. Pulter uses the occasion of a devotional poem to ask God to convert her into a satellite planet that will “roll” or rotate around him. As in other of her poems, Pulter displays her detailed knowledge of contemporary findings in astronomy, including the numbers of moons orbiting Jupiter and the possible existence of multiple solar systems or galaxies. In this poem, science is not at all in conflict with a quest for secular knowledge. And, as in Poem 48, she ends by contingently promising to create future praise that implicitly will supersede her mortal poetic production, something possible if God grants her wish for freedom. The anguished repetition in the final lines—“For Thee and only Thee I will adore; / My God, my God forever, evermore”—demonstrate her yearning to embody the cycles and returns in action in the vast sky.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

“A Solitary Complaint” conceives of the solar system in a strikingly modern way. It reveals Pulter’s scientific knowledge and acceptance of the heliocentric model of the universe (the notion that the universe’s center is the sun, not the Earth), which was still controversial at the time. The poem’s title, written in a different hand from the main scribe in the original manuscript, may or may not be Pulter’s. It identifies the poem as responding to the literary tradition of religious complaint poetry. Both devotional lyric and complaint poetry have been long thought appropriate for female voices and women writers. Pulter’s interest in contemporary science, however, encourages us to expand our ideas about what women wrote in this period. For Pulter, religion and science are compatible. She finds comfort in both the never-ending cycles of the planets and her relationship with God.
Amplified Edition
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 Critical note

Pulter’s country house, Broadfield Hall in Hertfordshire. She wrote often of her seclusion at Broadfield, perhaps connected to her many pregnancies or to illness. “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57), for example, begins with “Why must I thus forever be confined” and laments her being “shut up in a country grange.” In both that poem and this one, Pulter represents her isolation as a lengthy imprisonment, using the words “must,” “confined,” “still,” and “forever.”
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

when
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

when
Elemental Edition
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 Critical note

the three rotations of planets outlined by Copernicus: rotation on an axis, revolution in an orbit, and conical tilting of an axis
Amplified Edition
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 Critical note

The question that begins this poem is a triplet (three lines that rhyme), a relatively rare stanza form that sets this question apart from the rhyming couplets that constitute the rest of the poem. These initial lines contrast stillness in a small space with the planets’ constant motion in an expansive space (see, e.g., the repetition of “move” in lines 3-4). Pulter does the same in “This Was Written in 1648, When I Lay In, With My Son John” (Poem 45), in which she writes of looking out at the night sky while lying sick in bed. Each planet’s “treble” (triple) motions include daily rotation around its axis, yearly orbit around the sun, and conical tilting at its axis. Sarah Hutton speculates that Pulter might have encountered these ideas in Thomas Digges’s 1578 English translation of Copernicus; in Galileo’s books, if she read Italian or Latin; or in English poetry, such as Henry More’s 1646 Philosophical Poems (“Hester Pulter [c. 1596-1678]. A Woman Poet and the New Astronomy,” Etudes Episteme, vol. 14, 2008, journals.openedition.org/episteme/729). Few women poets engaged as directly with scientific theory in this period; another example is Margaret Cavendish, whose “A World in an Earring” also envisions a Copernican model of the universe. For a less enthusiastic poetic response to heliocentrism, see John Donne’s “An Anatomy of the World.” For excerpts from Digges, More, Cavendish, and Donne, see the “Curations” for this poem in The Pulter Project.
Transcription
Line number 4

 Gloss note

“es” probably in H2, with “e” written over earlier “s”
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

extremely
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

Mercury, messenger god
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

Mercury, messenger god
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

shining brightly; noble, distinguished
Amplified Edition
Line number 7

 Critical note

The poem uses monarchical imagery, such as a throne and crowns, to imagine the solar system as a court with a monarch (the sun), lords (planets), and attendants (moons).
Elemental Edition
Line number 8

 Critical note

Earth, or the goddess of the Earth; this and the next three lines describe how the Earth circles the “orb” (or orbit) of the sun, while the moon (“Cynthia”) orbits the Earth; the male sun shines on the female moon continuously, though she appears, from the perspective of a person on Earth, to change.
Elemental Edition
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 Critical note

the sun’s light
Amplified Edition
Line number 8

 Gloss note

Earth
Amplified Edition
Line number 8

 Critical note

the sun’s light
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

moon goddess
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

moon goddess
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

illuminates
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

shines upon
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

varied; changing
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

god of war
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

time of rest
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

god of war
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 Gloss note

religious day of rest
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

largest planet; chief Roman god
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

largest planet; chief Roman god
Elemental Edition
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 Critical note

people following, accompanying, or attending on a person, usually one of high rank or importance; a body of attendants, retainers, or followers; Galileo discovered the fact that Jupiter has four moons in 1610.
Elemental Edition
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 Critical note

many moons
Amplified Edition
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 Critical note

many moons
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

the sun god’s
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

the sun god’s
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

glorified; adorned with a circular ornament on the head; dignified or endowed with beauty
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

planets
Transcription
Line number 20

 Physical note

original “Sun” obscured by ink bleedthrough from fol. 75r; insertion in H2
Amplified Edition
Line number 20

 Gloss note

An exercise of unseen power; the “supposed flowing or streaming from the stars or heavens of an ethereal fluid acting upon the character and destiny of men” (OED).
Transcription
Line number 21
“ſom” written in hand H2
Amplified Edition
Line number 21

 Critical note

In the manuscript, the line first reads “another Sun” and is revised to “som[e] other Sun.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 21

 Critical note

Pulter imagines the possibility of other galaxies in language that emphasizes unity and collaboration, and she contrasts these mutually dependent suns with her own isolation. This moment and her earlier emphasis on “our dim sight” comment on the limitations of modern science as she embraces the vast unknowability of the universe.
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

planet
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

illuminate; set in a good light; confer honor upon; elucidate
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

planet
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

illumine; confer honor upon
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

purposes
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

aims
Amplified Edition
Line number 26

 Critical note

She imagines God illuminating her soul with spiritual light, just as the sun lights up the moon.
Elemental Edition
Line number 27

 Gloss note

rotate, turn, pivot around; trust in God
Amplified Edition
Line number 27

 Critical note

To turn or pivot around; to trust in God. The poem uses cyclical imagery common to Pulter’s poetry: revolutions, rolling, turning, and returning. For examples of other poems in which contemplating the planets and moon leads to spiritual pleas or affirmations, see “The Eclipse” (Poem 1) and “The Center” (Poem 30).
Elemental Edition
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 Gloss note

lowliest
Amplified Edition
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 Gloss note

lowliest
Amplified Edition
Line number 29

 Critical note

The manuscript’s spelling of “raise” highlights a pun on “rays”/“raise”; likewise, “praise” may pun on “prays” to encompass both spiritual and astronomical meanings.
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