On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty

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On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty

Poem #27

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 Andrea Crow.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

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

 Physical note

“K” possibly minuscule. terminal “-es’ graph in “kinges”; “On the kinges” written in H2, and “most exelent magisty” in another hand, not that of main scribe; to right of “magisty,” straight ascending line with two dots below near centre.
Title note

 Physical note

in another hand, different from the two used in the title and from the main scribe; curved bracket to left encloses two lines of title

 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

double strike-through; “Boughs” directly above “Bowes”
Line number 5

 Physical note

directly above “Pallas Sacred”
Line number 13

 Physical note

“re” written over earlier letters
Line number 14

 Physical note

“M” written over initial minuscule letter; “a” may be blotted; appears to cover earlier letter (likely “u”)
Line number 15

 Physical note

“M” darker, covering lower-case “m”
Line number 16

 Physical note

preceding blank space shows erased “Dea” and possible ascender (as for “l”)
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
“K” possibly minuscule. terminal “-es’ graph in “kinges”; “On the kinges” written in H2, and “most exelent magisty” in another hand, not that of main scribe; to right of “magisty,” straight ascending line with two dots below near centre.
On the Kinges moſt exelent magisty
Physical Note
in another hand, different from the two used in the title and from the main scribe; curved bracket to left encloses two lines of title
K. Charles 1st.
Physical Note
The title is probably all in Pulter’s hand, but in two different inks (changing at “Most Excellent Majesty”). In the manuscript, “K. Charles 1st” is written to the right of the title and a curved bracket; this is all possibly in the same early eighteenth-century hand which appears elsewhere in the manuscript.
On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty
On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty
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
My editions aim to make Pulter’s poetry accessible in two ways. First, I facilitate basic legibility through modernizing spelling and punctuation according to standard American usage and through glossing unfamiliar words, points of intertexuality, and relevant historical contexts. Second, I want to help readers perceive Pulter’s nuanced approach to form and image, both within individual poems and in the extended patterns and ideas that take shape over the course of the manuscript. With this in mind, I have incorporated interpretive readings of the poems into my notes to provide insight into how Pulter’s poetics work and to spur readers to participate in the value-adding work of bringing Pulter’s writing the attentive level of interpretation it deserves.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Written, it appears, before the revolutions of the 1640s endangered England’s King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria—or at least before they ended the king’s life—this paean sees Pulter’s royalism at its most contented. The poem begins with conventional classical imagery and praise before shifting to a larger and revolving cosmic stage, where the victor’s crown which “encircle[s]” Charles’s brow is echoed in both the lowly “orbs” of Pulter’s ilk and the “shining spheres” she imagines the king and queen inhabiting after death. This brief poem outlines a theological version of the water cycle, where truth, peace, and grace fall from heaven to sluice through virtuous rulers into humbler humans, before the worthy all evaporate upward into heaven’s glory, to become the source of blessings they once sought; but the collapse of social distinction envisioned in this almost impossibly distant future does not signal, to be clear, any desire on the poet’s part for political revolution on earth.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” is a densely allusive and highly ambiguous political poem. While on the surface the poem implies an encomium to Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria, the speaker’s expressed desire for political stasis continually comes up against the inevitability of cycles of dissolution and transformation that are so central to Pulter’s poetry. Even as the poem articulates a Royalist longing for the continuation of Charles’s reign, it simultaneously suggests that such resistance to change is as outmoded as the geocentric model of the universe. The poem develops comparisons also made elsewhere in Pulter’s work between Charles I, the sun god Phoebus (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Apollo), and Julius Caesar. Its engagement with figures from Roman literature is in dialogue with the also notably ambivalent final book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Caesar, like Charles and Henrietta Maria in this poem, is transformed into a star. Although this poem is written from a speaking-position located prior to the Interregnum, such ominous allusions to the death of a ruler suggest that this poem might have been written after Charles’s death. “On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” also demonstrates the importance of women’s authority in Pulter’s work: Minerva is one of several recurring powerful female characters in Pulter’s collection. In this poem, she emphasizes the centrality of women’s roles in maintaining the state by creatively incorporating the myth of Apollo’s birth under the olive-tree that Minerva created, and by reworking Ovid’s depiction of a ruler’s apotheosis to include Henrietta Maria, treating her as equal to Charles in terms of her significance to the fate of the country. The queen is not mentioned in the title of this poem, but its structure serves to equate her importance with that of the king, turning from praise for Charles in the first eight lines to praise for Henrietta Maria, and finally collapsing both into a third-person collective “they” in the final eight lines.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Victorious Palm, triumphing Lawrell
Physical Note
double strike-through; “Boughs” directly above “Bowes”
BowesBoughs
Gloss Note
The palm and laurel were classical symbols of victory.
Victorious palm, triumphing laurel boughs
,
Victorious
Critical Note
The palm branch is a symbol of victory in the Roman tradition and also alludes to the Christian passion narrative. The palm bears special relevance to the references and images in this poem and throughout Pulter’s manuscript. The palm tree is where the phoenix, a recurring character in Pulter’s poetry, rebirths itself (see Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Rolfe Humphries (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2018), XV.393-98). Additionally, the sun god Phoebus, whom Pulter frequently uses as a figure for Charles I, was said to have been born between a palm tree and an olive tree on the island of Delos. Phoebus is thus sometimes referred to as “Delius,” while his twin sister Diana, is called Delia (see Metamorphoses VI.333-337). In Pulter’s collection, however, “Delia” is consistently used to refer to Phoebus rather than his sister, as in line 16 of this poem. Additionally, according to Christian tradition, palm branches were waved and strewn in the path of Christ at his entrance into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death (known as Palm Sunday), a connection that weaves an ominous undertone into this hopeful encomium. The phoenix, the cyclically returning sun, and the resurrected Christ all might imply Charles I’s rebirth through his son at the restoration of the monarchy.
palm
, triumphing
Gloss Note
The laurel, like the palm, is also a Roman symbol of victory closely associated with Apollo. He is often depicted wearing a laurel wreath. Virgil describes the tree, also one of Caesar Augustus’ (r. 27 BCE-14 CE) favored symbols, as sacred to Apollo. See Virgil, Aeneid, trans. Frederick Ahi (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007), 7.59-63 and note to ln. 71 on p. 383.
laurel
boughs,
2
Encircles round illustrious Casars Browes
Encircles round illustrious
Gloss Note
a generic term for a Roman emperor, to whom Charles I is likened here
Caesar’s
brows,
Critical Note
The phrase “encircle round”—along with the subsequent “our humble orbs” (7), “shining spheres” (13), and “by the primum mobile turned round” (15)—incorporate one of the most dominant motifs in Pulter’s manuscript: the circle. Pulter typically uses the circle to grapple with her inevitable mortality, imagining the dissolution of the body into its elemental form and the celestial afterlife of the soul. See, for example, The Revolution [Poem 16], The Circle [1] [Poem 17], The Circle [2] [Poem 21], The Circle [3] [Poem 25], and The Circle [4] [Poem 36]. Her transposition of this conceit to the context of the rise and fall of monarchs in this poem exemplifies Pulter’s portrayal of the personal and the political as closely intertwined.
Encircles round
Critical Note
Illustrious most overtly means “famous.” However, like another of Pulter’s favorite terms, “influence,” the word at once evokes the ruler’s power and imagines him as an empty vessel directed by outside forces. Pulter cannily plays with this paradox: she frequently employs morphological variations on the word “illustrate” when discussing Charles I. This collocation invites the reader to consider the relationship between the astronomical phenomena of the natural world and the reigns of rulers. The term “illustrious” is ambiguous with regard to agency: it depicts the monarch as a powerful enlightening influence while also making him a passive receptacle who is filled with that “luster” by a higher power; cf. On that Unparalleled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]: “Unless our God doth a second Charles illustrate / (Which oh, deny not), all our hopes are frustrate” (35-36).
illustrious
Critical Note
Although “Caesar” was the title given to Roman rulers, Pulter, like many of her contemporaries, often uses the term to refer to English monarchs, in this case, Charles I. Pulter also refers to Charles I as Caesar in Upon the Imprisonment of His Sacred Majesty [Poem 13], where she writes, “And thy o’erflowing vengeance thunder down / On these usurpers of our Caesar’s crown” (5-6). The fact that “Caesar” was often used to refer to Julius Caesar in particular is especially relevant given this poem’s similarities to Book XV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which the palm and laurel also serve as central images, and which tells the story of Caesar’s transformation into a star, like that of Charles I and Henrietta Maria in this poem. See Metamorphoses XV.837-848.
Caesar’s
brows,
3
Whoſe valour fills with wonder future Story
Whose valor fills with wonder future
Gloss Note
history
story
Whose valor fills with wonder future story
4
Whilst vertue Crowns him with imortall Glory
Whilst virtue crowns him with immortal glory.
Whilst virtue crowns him with immortal glory.
5
Let Pallas Sacred
Physical Note
directly above “Pallas Sacred”
bright Minerva’s
Olive Tree Still Grow
Let
Gloss Note
In the manuscript, the phrase “bright Minerva’s” is written directly above “Pallas Sacred,” which is underlined. Minerva is the Roman goddess identified with the Greek Pallas, an epithet of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war.
bright Minerva’s
Gloss Note
Athena’s sacred olive tree, seen as the source of prosperity in Athens
olive tree
still grow
Let bright
Critical Note
Pulter apparently emends the name originally copied out in the manuscript, “Pallas.” Pallas may refer to Minerva (i.e. the Greek goddess Athena), the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, a correction consistent with Pulter’s specific engagement with Roman literature and history in this poem. The original version of the line may have been intended to refer not only to Athena/Minerva but also to a character in the Aeneid named Pallas, to whom Aeneas extends an olive branch as a sign of peace. See VIII.110-16.
Minerva’s
Gloss Note
The olive tree is a symbol of both peace and victory. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas offers Evander’s son Pallas an olive branch as a sign of peace (see note 6 above). In Metamorphoses, Ovid recounts how Minerva won Athens in a contest with Neptune by causing an olive tree to rise from the ground, which she gifted to the city (VI.70-102).
olive tree
Critical Note
The word “still” can mean “consistently,” here expressing the speaker’s desire for the monarch’s reign to continue uninterrupted into the future. Yet “still,” in the sense of “unmoving,” paradoxically also implies a desires for stasis that is at odds with the “grow[th]” with which the word is paired. This tension suggests that the speaker’s desire that the kingdom will remain unchanged is doomed to be disappointed by the inevitable cycles of growth and transformation so central in Pulter’s work.
still grow
6
To Shade his Throne, whence truth and Peace^may flow
To shade his throne, whence truth and peace may flow
Gloss Note
The image of Minerva’s olive tree shading Caesar’s throne extends Pulter’s implicit comparison between Charles I and Phoebus, as Roman myth held that the god was born between an olive tree and a palm tree.
To shade his throne
, whence truth and peace may flow
7
Down to our Humble Orbs; O let him live
Down to our humble orbs; O let him live
Critical Note
The “orbs” referenced here may refer to lower cosmic spheres, particularly the earth, or to the eyes of the monarchical subjects looking to the heavens. The comparison, explicit or implicit, of Charles I to the sun is a recurrent motif in Pulter’s poems. Cf. The Eclipse [Poem 1] and On that Unparalled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]. This comparison is an extension both of Pulter’s use of Apollo the sun god as a figure for Charles I and her interest in the relationship between celestial bodies and political change.
Down to our humble orbs
; O let him live
8
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give.
Critical Note
“Heaven” may be intended to be elided into a single beat (“heav’n”), as is the case in much of early modern poetry. If taken as two syllables, the extra beat in this line metrically may echo the speaker’s desire to stretch out and sustain a state of contentment against the cycles of fortune.
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give
.
9
And let his Lovly, Loyall, Royall Queen
And let his lovely, loyal, royal queen
And let his
Critical Note
The alliteration and internal rhyme in the phrase “lovely, loyal, royal” lyrically underscores the speaker’s desire for political continuity and harmony.
lovely, loyal, royal
Gloss Note
Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria.
queen
10
To all Succeeding Ages Still bee Seen
To all succeeding ages still be seen
To all succeeding ages still be seen
11
A most unparrild pattern of true Love
A most
Critical Note
The manuscript has “unparilld”; modernizing to “unparalleled” would add two syllables to the line, so we have chosen this more metrical abbreviation.
unparalled
pattern of true love,
A most
Critical Note
Pulter’s elision of “unparalleled” to “unparalled” both maintains the line’s metrical regularity and aurally suggests a wish to see Henrietta Maria also remain “unperiled,” free from peril or threat.
unparalled
pattern of true love,
12
Begun on earth ending in Heaven above
Begun on earth, ending in Heaven above.
Begun on earth, ending in Heaven above.
13
O let them in their Shineing
Physical Note
“re” written over earlier letters
Sphere’s
bee fixt
O
Critical Note
possibly a reference to an Aristotelian, geocentric model of the universe, in which the deceased king and queen after death join the outermost concentric sphere, which carried the “fixed” stars, controlled the motion of all other spheres, and was itself controlled by supernatural agency
let them in their shining spheres be fixed
O let them in their shining spheres be fixed
14
And never with Prodigious
Physical Note
“M” written over initial minuscule letter; “a” may be blotted; appears to cover earlier letter (likely “u”)
Met^eoars mixt
And never with
Gloss Note
Meteors were among the unusual natural phenomena long thought to act as signs of divine judgment.
prodigious meteors
mixed,
And never with
Critical Note
The term “prodigious” carries several resonances, both positive and negative: ominous, unnatural, amazing, or excellent (OED). This ambiguous word choice indicates Pulter’s speaker’s discomfort with the possible negative outcomes of future political changes, while also suggesting that this resistance is not only futile against the inevitable cycles that are fundamental to Pulter’s cosmology, but also fails to account for the possible good that might come from unpredictable changes.
prodigious
meteors mixed,
15
But by the
Physical Note
“M” darker, covering lower-case “m”
PrimūmMobile
turn’d Round
But by the
Gloss Note
in medieval Ptolemaic astronomy, the outer sphere which carried the inner spheres in its daily revolution around the earth; more generally, any original driving force; often an epithet for God
primum mobile
turned round:
But by the
Critical Note
The primum mobile is the outermost sphere in the geocentric model of the universe, responsible for governing the movements of all celestial bodies. However, many of Pulter’s poems demonstrate her belief in a heliocentric universe (see The Eclipse [Poem 1], Amplified Edition, note to line 18). This reference thus suggests that the speaker of this poem is futilely desiring an outmoded stasis that cannot be maintained. On Pulter and heliocentrism, see Louisa Hall, “Hester Pulter’s Brave New Worlds,” in Immortality and the Body in the Age of Milton, ed. John Rumrich and Stephen Fallon (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018): 171-86.
primum mobile
turned round:
16
Lasting as
Physical Note
preceding blank space shows erased “Dea” and possible ascender (as for “l”)
Delia’s
let their Race bee ffound
Lasting as
Gloss Note
Delia is an epithet for Artemis, as Delios or Delius is for Apollo (since these divine Greek twins were both on the island of Delos).
Delia’s
let their race be found.
Lasting as
Gloss Note
Though Delia is typically a nickname for the goddess Diana, throughout Pulter’s manuscript she uses this name to refer to Delia’s brother Phoebus. The appellation refers to their birth on the island of Delos. See notes to lines 1 and 5.
Delia’s
let their
Critical Note
“Race” again evinces the tension in this poem between a desire for continuity, suggested by “race” in the sense of a social group imagined to be homogenous and bounded, and the constant encroachment of change, suggested by “race” in the sense of a running or riding contest and the journey through one’s life (OED).
race
be found.
And

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17
And when thoſe Glittring Globes are all Diſſolv’d
And when those glitt’ring
Gloss Note
the “spheres” of line 13
globes
are all dissolved,
And when
Gloss Note
the sun and the moon.
those glittering globes
are all dissolved,
18
Let them in endles Glory bee involvd
Let
Gloss Note
the king and queen
them
in endless glory be involved;
Gloss Note
I.e. “Let them be incorporated into endless glory.” The Latin root word of “involve,” “volvere,” meaning “to roll,” connects this movement to the other cyclical images in this poem.
Let them in endless glory be involved
;
19
Till when let Grace and bleſſing from above
Till when, let grace and blessing from above
Till when, let grace and blessing from above
20
Deſcend on them and all that doe them love.
Descend on them, and all that do them love.
Descend on them, and all that do them love.
curled line
X (Close panel)Notes: Elemental Edition
Title note

 Physical note

The title is probably all in Pulter’s hand, but in two different inks (changing at “Most Excellent Majesty”). In the manuscript, “K. Charles 1st” is written to the right of the title and a curved bracket; this is all possibly in the same early eighteenth-century hand which appears elsewhere in the manuscript.

 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

Written, it appears, before the revolutions of the 1640s endangered England’s King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria—or at least before they ended the king’s life—this paean sees Pulter’s royalism at its most contented. The poem begins with conventional classical imagery and praise before shifting to a larger and revolving cosmic stage, where the victor’s crown which “encircle[s]” Charles’s brow is echoed in both the lowly “orbs” of Pulter’s ilk and the “shining spheres” she imagines the king and queen inhabiting after death. This brief poem outlines a theological version of the water cycle, where truth, peace, and grace fall from heaven to sluice through virtuous rulers into humbler humans, before the worthy all evaporate upward into heaven’s glory, to become the source of blessings they once sought; but the collapse of social distinction envisioned in this almost impossibly distant future does not signal, to be clear, any desire on the poet’s part for political revolution on earth.
Line number 1

 Gloss note

The palm and laurel were classical symbols of victory.
Line number 2

 Gloss note

a generic term for a Roman emperor, to whom Charles I is likened here
Line number 3

 Gloss note

history
Line number 5

 Gloss note

In the manuscript, the phrase “bright Minerva’s” is written directly above “Pallas Sacred,” which is underlined. Minerva is the Roman goddess identified with the Greek Pallas, an epithet of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war.
Line number 5

 Gloss note

Athena’s sacred olive tree, seen as the source of prosperity in Athens
Line number 11

 Critical note

The manuscript has “unparilld”; modernizing to “unparalleled” would add two syllables to the line, so we have chosen this more metrical abbreviation.
Line number 13

 Critical note

possibly a reference to an Aristotelian, geocentric model of the universe, in which the deceased king and queen after death join the outermost concentric sphere, which carried the “fixed” stars, controlled the motion of all other spheres, and was itself controlled by supernatural agency
Line number 14

 Gloss note

Meteors were among the unusual natural phenomena long thought to act as signs of divine judgment.
Line number 15

 Gloss note

in medieval Ptolemaic astronomy, the outer sphere which carried the inner spheres in its daily revolution around the earth; more generally, any original driving force; often an epithet for God
Line number 16

 Gloss note

Delia is an epithet for Artemis, as Delios or Delius is for Apollo (since these divine Greek twins were both on the island of Delos).
Line number 17

 Gloss note

the “spheres” of line 13
Line number 18

 Gloss note

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

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Physical Note
“K” possibly minuscule. terminal “-es’ graph in “kinges”; “On the kinges” written in H2, and “most exelent magisty” in another hand, not that of main scribe; to right of “magisty,” straight ascending line with two dots below near centre.
On the Kinges moſt exelent magisty
Physical Note
in another hand, different from the two used in the title and from the main scribe; curved bracket to left encloses two lines of title
K. Charles 1st.
Physical Note
The title is probably all in Pulter’s hand, but in two different inks (changing at “Most Excellent Majesty”). In the manuscript, “K. Charles 1st” is written to the right of the title and a curved bracket; this is all possibly in the same early eighteenth-century hand which appears elsewhere in the manuscript.
On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty
On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty
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
My editions aim to make Pulter’s poetry accessible in two ways. First, I facilitate basic legibility through modernizing spelling and punctuation according to standard American usage and through glossing unfamiliar words, points of intertexuality, and relevant historical contexts. Second, I want to help readers perceive Pulter’s nuanced approach to form and image, both within individual poems and in the extended patterns and ideas that take shape over the course of the manuscript. With this in mind, I have incorporated interpretive readings of the poems into my notes to provide insight into how Pulter’s poetics work and to spur readers to participate in the value-adding work of bringing Pulter’s writing the attentive level of interpretation it deserves.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Written, it appears, before the revolutions of the 1640s endangered England’s King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria—or at least before they ended the king’s life—this paean sees Pulter’s royalism at its most contented. The poem begins with conventional classical imagery and praise before shifting to a larger and revolving cosmic stage, where the victor’s crown which “encircle[s]” Charles’s brow is echoed in both the lowly “orbs” of Pulter’s ilk and the “shining spheres” she imagines the king and queen inhabiting after death. This brief poem outlines a theological version of the water cycle, where truth, peace, and grace fall from heaven to sluice through virtuous rulers into humbler humans, before the worthy all evaporate upward into heaven’s glory, to become the source of blessings they once sought; but the collapse of social distinction envisioned in this almost impossibly distant future does not signal, to be clear, any desire on the poet’s part for political revolution on earth.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” is a densely allusive and highly ambiguous political poem. While on the surface the poem implies an encomium to Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria, the speaker’s expressed desire for political stasis continually comes up against the inevitability of cycles of dissolution and transformation that are so central to Pulter’s poetry. Even as the poem articulates a Royalist longing for the continuation of Charles’s reign, it simultaneously suggests that such resistance to change is as outmoded as the geocentric model of the universe. The poem develops comparisons also made elsewhere in Pulter’s work between Charles I, the sun god Phoebus (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Apollo), and Julius Caesar. Its engagement with figures from Roman literature is in dialogue with the also notably ambivalent final book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Caesar, like Charles and Henrietta Maria in this poem, is transformed into a star. Although this poem is written from a speaking-position located prior to the Interregnum, such ominous allusions to the death of a ruler suggest that this poem might have been written after Charles’s death. “On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” also demonstrates the importance of women’s authority in Pulter’s work: Minerva is one of several recurring powerful female characters in Pulter’s collection. In this poem, she emphasizes the centrality of women’s roles in maintaining the state by creatively incorporating the myth of Apollo’s birth under the olive-tree that Minerva created, and by reworking Ovid’s depiction of a ruler’s apotheosis to include Henrietta Maria, treating her as equal to Charles in terms of her significance to the fate of the country. The queen is not mentioned in the title of this poem, but its structure serves to equate her importance with that of the king, turning from praise for Charles in the first eight lines to praise for Henrietta Maria, and finally collapsing both into a third-person collective “they” in the final eight lines.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Victorious Palm, triumphing Lawrell
Physical Note
double strike-through; “Boughs” directly above “Bowes”
BowesBoughs
Gloss Note
The palm and laurel were classical symbols of victory.
Victorious palm, triumphing laurel boughs
,
Victorious
Critical Note
The palm branch is a symbol of victory in the Roman tradition and also alludes to the Christian passion narrative. The palm bears special relevance to the references and images in this poem and throughout Pulter’s manuscript. The palm tree is where the phoenix, a recurring character in Pulter’s poetry, rebirths itself (see Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Rolfe Humphries (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2018), XV.393-98). Additionally, the sun god Phoebus, whom Pulter frequently uses as a figure for Charles I, was said to have been born between a palm tree and an olive tree on the island of Delos. Phoebus is thus sometimes referred to as “Delius,” while his twin sister Diana, is called Delia (see Metamorphoses VI.333-337). In Pulter’s collection, however, “Delia” is consistently used to refer to Phoebus rather than his sister, as in line 16 of this poem. Additionally, according to Christian tradition, palm branches were waved and strewn in the path of Christ at his entrance into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death (known as Palm Sunday), a connection that weaves an ominous undertone into this hopeful encomium. The phoenix, the cyclically returning sun, and the resurrected Christ all might imply Charles I’s rebirth through his son at the restoration of the monarchy.
palm
, triumphing
Gloss Note
The laurel, like the palm, is also a Roman symbol of victory closely associated with Apollo. He is often depicted wearing a laurel wreath. Virgil describes the tree, also one of Caesar Augustus’ (r. 27 BCE-14 CE) favored symbols, as sacred to Apollo. See Virgil, Aeneid, trans. Frederick Ahi (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007), 7.59-63 and note to ln. 71 on p. 383.
laurel
boughs,
2
Encircles round illustrious Casars Browes
Encircles round illustrious
Gloss Note
a generic term for a Roman emperor, to whom Charles I is likened here
Caesar’s
brows,
Critical Note
The phrase “encircle round”—along with the subsequent “our humble orbs” (7), “shining spheres” (13), and “by the primum mobile turned round” (15)—incorporate one of the most dominant motifs in Pulter’s manuscript: the circle. Pulter typically uses the circle to grapple with her inevitable mortality, imagining the dissolution of the body into its elemental form and the celestial afterlife of the soul. See, for example, The Revolution [Poem 16], The Circle [1] [Poem 17], The Circle [2] [Poem 21], The Circle [3] [Poem 25], and The Circle [4] [Poem 36]. Her transposition of this conceit to the context of the rise and fall of monarchs in this poem exemplifies Pulter’s portrayal of the personal and the political as closely intertwined.
Encircles round
Critical Note
Illustrious most overtly means “famous.” However, like another of Pulter’s favorite terms, “influence,” the word at once evokes the ruler’s power and imagines him as an empty vessel directed by outside forces. Pulter cannily plays with this paradox: she frequently employs morphological variations on the word “illustrate” when discussing Charles I. This collocation invites the reader to consider the relationship between the astronomical phenomena of the natural world and the reigns of rulers. The term “illustrious” is ambiguous with regard to agency: it depicts the monarch as a powerful enlightening influence while also making him a passive receptacle who is filled with that “luster” by a higher power; cf. On that Unparalleled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]: “Unless our God doth a second Charles illustrate / (Which oh, deny not), all our hopes are frustrate” (35-36).
illustrious
Critical Note
Although “Caesar” was the title given to Roman rulers, Pulter, like many of her contemporaries, often uses the term to refer to English monarchs, in this case, Charles I. Pulter also refers to Charles I as Caesar in Upon the Imprisonment of His Sacred Majesty [Poem 13], where she writes, “And thy o’erflowing vengeance thunder down / On these usurpers of our Caesar’s crown” (5-6). The fact that “Caesar” was often used to refer to Julius Caesar in particular is especially relevant given this poem’s similarities to Book XV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which the palm and laurel also serve as central images, and which tells the story of Caesar’s transformation into a star, like that of Charles I and Henrietta Maria in this poem. See Metamorphoses XV.837-848.
Caesar’s
brows,
3
Whoſe valour fills with wonder future Story
Whose valor fills with wonder future
Gloss Note
history
story
Whose valor fills with wonder future story
4
Whilst vertue Crowns him with imortall Glory
Whilst virtue crowns him with immortal glory.
Whilst virtue crowns him with immortal glory.
5
Let Pallas Sacred
Physical Note
directly above “Pallas Sacred”
bright Minerva’s
Olive Tree Still Grow
Let
Gloss Note
In the manuscript, the phrase “bright Minerva’s” is written directly above “Pallas Sacred,” which is underlined. Minerva is the Roman goddess identified with the Greek Pallas, an epithet of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war.
bright Minerva’s
Gloss Note
Athena’s sacred olive tree, seen as the source of prosperity in Athens
olive tree
still grow
Let bright
Critical Note
Pulter apparently emends the name originally copied out in the manuscript, “Pallas.” Pallas may refer to Minerva (i.e. the Greek goddess Athena), the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, a correction consistent with Pulter’s specific engagement with Roman literature and history in this poem. The original version of the line may have been intended to refer not only to Athena/Minerva but also to a character in the Aeneid named Pallas, to whom Aeneas extends an olive branch as a sign of peace. See VIII.110-16.
Minerva’s
Gloss Note
The olive tree is a symbol of both peace and victory. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas offers Evander’s son Pallas an olive branch as a sign of peace (see note 6 above). In Metamorphoses, Ovid recounts how Minerva won Athens in a contest with Neptune by causing an olive tree to rise from the ground, which she gifted to the city (VI.70-102).
olive tree
Critical Note
The word “still” can mean “consistently,” here expressing the speaker’s desire for the monarch’s reign to continue uninterrupted into the future. Yet “still,” in the sense of “unmoving,” paradoxically also implies a desires for stasis that is at odds with the “grow[th]” with which the word is paired. This tension suggests that the speaker’s desire that the kingdom will remain unchanged is doomed to be disappointed by the inevitable cycles of growth and transformation so central in Pulter’s work.
still grow
6
To Shade his Throne, whence truth and Peace^may flow
To shade his throne, whence truth and peace may flow
Gloss Note
The image of Minerva’s olive tree shading Caesar’s throne extends Pulter’s implicit comparison between Charles I and Phoebus, as Roman myth held that the god was born between an olive tree and a palm tree.
To shade his throne
, whence truth and peace may flow
7
Down to our Humble Orbs; O let him live
Down to our humble orbs; O let him live
Critical Note
The “orbs” referenced here may refer to lower cosmic spheres, particularly the earth, or to the eyes of the monarchical subjects looking to the heavens. The comparison, explicit or implicit, of Charles I to the sun is a recurrent motif in Pulter’s poems. Cf. The Eclipse [Poem 1] and On that Unparalled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]. This comparison is an extension both of Pulter’s use of Apollo the sun god as a figure for Charles I and her interest in the relationship between celestial bodies and political change.
Down to our humble orbs
; O let him live
8
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give.
Critical Note
“Heaven” may be intended to be elided into a single beat (“heav’n”), as is the case in much of early modern poetry. If taken as two syllables, the extra beat in this line metrically may echo the speaker’s desire to stretch out and sustain a state of contentment against the cycles of fortune.
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give
.
9
And let his Lovly, Loyall, Royall Queen
And let his lovely, loyal, royal queen
And let his
Critical Note
The alliteration and internal rhyme in the phrase “lovely, loyal, royal” lyrically underscores the speaker’s desire for political continuity and harmony.
lovely, loyal, royal
Gloss Note
Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria.
queen
10
To all Succeeding Ages Still bee Seen
To all succeeding ages still be seen
To all succeeding ages still be seen
11
A most unparrild pattern of true Love
A most
Critical Note
The manuscript has “unparilld”; modernizing to “unparalleled” would add two syllables to the line, so we have chosen this more metrical abbreviation.
unparalled
pattern of true love,
A most
Critical Note
Pulter’s elision of “unparalleled” to “unparalled” both maintains the line’s metrical regularity and aurally suggests a wish to see Henrietta Maria also remain “unperiled,” free from peril or threat.
unparalled
pattern of true love,
12
Begun on earth ending in Heaven above
Begun on earth, ending in Heaven above.
Begun on earth, ending in Heaven above.
13
O let them in their Shineing
Physical Note
“re” written over earlier letters
Sphere’s
bee fixt
O
Critical Note
possibly a reference to an Aristotelian, geocentric model of the universe, in which the deceased king and queen after death join the outermost concentric sphere, which carried the “fixed” stars, controlled the motion of all other spheres, and was itself controlled by supernatural agency
let them in their shining spheres be fixed
O let them in their shining spheres be fixed
14
And never with Prodigious
Physical Note
“M” written over initial minuscule letter; “a” may be blotted; appears to cover earlier letter (likely “u”)
Met^eoars mixt
And never with
Gloss Note
Meteors were among the unusual natural phenomena long thought to act as signs of divine judgment.
prodigious meteors
mixed,
And never with
Critical Note
The term “prodigious” carries several resonances, both positive and negative: ominous, unnatural, amazing, or excellent (OED). This ambiguous word choice indicates Pulter’s speaker’s discomfort with the possible negative outcomes of future political changes, while also suggesting that this resistance is not only futile against the inevitable cycles that are fundamental to Pulter’s cosmology, but also fails to account for the possible good that might come from unpredictable changes.
prodigious
meteors mixed,
15
But by the
Physical Note
“M” darker, covering lower-case “m”
PrimūmMobile
turn’d Round
But by the
Gloss Note
in medieval Ptolemaic astronomy, the outer sphere which carried the inner spheres in its daily revolution around the earth; more generally, any original driving force; often an epithet for God
primum mobile
turned round:
But by the
Critical Note
The primum mobile is the outermost sphere in the geocentric model of the universe, responsible for governing the movements of all celestial bodies. However, many of Pulter’s poems demonstrate her belief in a heliocentric universe (see The Eclipse [Poem 1], Amplified Edition, note to line 18). This reference thus suggests that the speaker of this poem is futilely desiring an outmoded stasis that cannot be maintained. On Pulter and heliocentrism, see Louisa Hall, “Hester Pulter’s Brave New Worlds,” in Immortality and the Body in the Age of Milton, ed. John Rumrich and Stephen Fallon (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018): 171-86.
primum mobile
turned round:
16
Lasting as
Physical Note
preceding blank space shows erased “Dea” and possible ascender (as for “l”)
Delia’s
let their Race bee ffound
Lasting as
Gloss Note
Delia is an epithet for Artemis, as Delios or Delius is for Apollo (since these divine Greek twins were both on the island of Delos).
Delia’s
let their race be found.
Lasting as
Gloss Note
Though Delia is typically a nickname for the goddess Diana, throughout Pulter’s manuscript she uses this name to refer to Delia’s brother Phoebus. The appellation refers to their birth on the island of Delos. See notes to lines 1 and 5.
Delia’s
let their
Critical Note
“Race” again evinces the tension in this poem between a desire for continuity, suggested by “race” in the sense of a social group imagined to be homogenous and bounded, and the constant encroachment of change, suggested by “race” in the sense of a running or riding contest and the journey through one’s life (OED).
race
be found.
And

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17
And when thoſe Glittring Globes are all Diſſolv’d
And when those glitt’ring
Gloss Note
the “spheres” of line 13
globes
are all dissolved,
And when
Gloss Note
the sun and the moon.
those glittering globes
are all dissolved,
18
Let them in endles Glory bee involvd
Let
Gloss Note
the king and queen
them
in endless glory be involved;
Gloss Note
I.e. “Let them be incorporated into endless glory.” The Latin root word of “involve,” “volvere,” meaning “to roll,” connects this movement to the other cyclical images in this poem.
Let them in endless glory be involved
;
19
Till when let Grace and bleſſing from above
Till when, let grace and blessing from above
Till when, let grace and blessing from above
20
Deſcend on them and all that doe them love.
Descend on them, and all that do them love.
Descend on them, and all that do them love.
curled line
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

My editions aim to make Pulter’s poetry accessible in two ways. First, I facilitate basic legibility through modernizing spelling and punctuation according to standard American usage and through glossing unfamiliar words, points of intertexuality, and relevant historical contexts. Second, I want to help readers perceive Pulter’s nuanced approach to form and image, both within individual poems and in the extended patterns and ideas that take shape over the course of the manuscript. With this in mind, I have incorporated interpretive readings of the poems into my notes to provide insight into how Pulter’s poetics work and to spur readers to participate in the value-adding work of bringing Pulter’s writing the attentive level of interpretation it deserves.

 Headnote

“On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” is a densely allusive and highly ambiguous political poem. While on the surface the poem implies an encomium to Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria, the speaker’s expressed desire for political stasis continually comes up against the inevitability of cycles of dissolution and transformation that are so central to Pulter’s poetry. Even as the poem articulates a Royalist longing for the continuation of Charles’s reign, it simultaneously suggests that such resistance to change is as outmoded as the geocentric model of the universe. The poem develops comparisons also made elsewhere in Pulter’s work between Charles I, the sun god Phoebus (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Apollo), and Julius Caesar. Its engagement with figures from Roman literature is in dialogue with the also notably ambivalent final book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Caesar, like Charles and Henrietta Maria in this poem, is transformed into a star. Although this poem is written from a speaking-position located prior to the Interregnum, such ominous allusions to the death of a ruler suggest that this poem might have been written after Charles’s death. “On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” also demonstrates the importance of women’s authority in Pulter’s work: Minerva is one of several recurring powerful female characters in Pulter’s collection. In this poem, she emphasizes the centrality of women’s roles in maintaining the state by creatively incorporating the myth of Apollo’s birth under the olive-tree that Minerva created, and by reworking Ovid’s depiction of a ruler’s apotheosis to include Henrietta Maria, treating her as equal to Charles in terms of her significance to the fate of the country. The queen is not mentioned in the title of this poem, but its structure serves to equate her importance with that of the king, turning from praise for Charles in the first eight lines to praise for Henrietta Maria, and finally collapsing both into a third-person collective “they” in the final eight lines.
Line number 1

 Critical note

The palm branch is a symbol of victory in the Roman tradition and also alludes to the Christian passion narrative. The palm bears special relevance to the references and images in this poem and throughout Pulter’s manuscript. The palm tree is where the phoenix, a recurring character in Pulter’s poetry, rebirths itself (see Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Rolfe Humphries (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2018), XV.393-98). Additionally, the sun god Phoebus, whom Pulter frequently uses as a figure for Charles I, was said to have been born between a palm tree and an olive tree on the island of Delos. Phoebus is thus sometimes referred to as “Delius,” while his twin sister Diana, is called Delia (see Metamorphoses VI.333-337). In Pulter’s collection, however, “Delia” is consistently used to refer to Phoebus rather than his sister, as in line 16 of this poem. Additionally, according to Christian tradition, palm branches were waved and strewn in the path of Christ at his entrance into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death (known as Palm Sunday), a connection that weaves an ominous undertone into this hopeful encomium. The phoenix, the cyclically returning sun, and the resurrected Christ all might imply Charles I’s rebirth through his son at the restoration of the monarchy.
Line number 1

 Gloss note

The laurel, like the palm, is also a Roman symbol of victory closely associated with Apollo. He is often depicted wearing a laurel wreath. Virgil describes the tree, also one of Caesar Augustus’ (r. 27 BCE-14 CE) favored symbols, as sacred to Apollo. See Virgil, Aeneid, trans. Frederick Ahi (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007), 7.59-63 and note to ln. 71 on p. 383.
Line number 2

 Critical note

The phrase “encircle round”—along with the subsequent “our humble orbs” (7), “shining spheres” (13), and “by the primum mobile turned round” (15)—incorporate one of the most dominant motifs in Pulter’s manuscript: the circle. Pulter typically uses the circle to grapple with her inevitable mortality, imagining the dissolution of the body into its elemental form and the celestial afterlife of the soul. See, for example, The Revolution [Poem 16], The Circle [1] [Poem 17], The Circle [2] [Poem 21], The Circle [3] [Poem 25], and The Circle [4] [Poem 36]. Her transposition of this conceit to the context of the rise and fall of monarchs in this poem exemplifies Pulter’s portrayal of the personal and the political as closely intertwined.
Line number 2

 Critical note

Illustrious most overtly means “famous.” However, like another of Pulter’s favorite terms, “influence,” the word at once evokes the ruler’s power and imagines him as an empty vessel directed by outside forces. Pulter cannily plays with this paradox: she frequently employs morphological variations on the word “illustrate” when discussing Charles I. This collocation invites the reader to consider the relationship between the astronomical phenomena of the natural world and the reigns of rulers. The term “illustrious” is ambiguous with regard to agency: it depicts the monarch as a powerful enlightening influence while also making him a passive receptacle who is filled with that “luster” by a higher power; cf. On that Unparalleled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]: “Unless our God doth a second Charles illustrate / (Which oh, deny not), all our hopes are frustrate” (35-36).
Line number 2

 Critical note

Although “Caesar” was the title given to Roman rulers, Pulter, like many of her contemporaries, often uses the term to refer to English monarchs, in this case, Charles I. Pulter also refers to Charles I as Caesar in Upon the Imprisonment of His Sacred Majesty [Poem 13], where she writes, “And thy o’erflowing vengeance thunder down / On these usurpers of our Caesar’s crown” (5-6). The fact that “Caesar” was often used to refer to Julius Caesar in particular is especially relevant given this poem’s similarities to Book XV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which the palm and laurel also serve as central images, and which tells the story of Caesar’s transformation into a star, like that of Charles I and Henrietta Maria in this poem. See Metamorphoses XV.837-848.
Line number 5

 Critical note

Pulter apparently emends the name originally copied out in the manuscript, “Pallas.” Pallas may refer to Minerva (i.e. the Greek goddess Athena), the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, a correction consistent with Pulter’s specific engagement with Roman literature and history in this poem. The original version of the line may have been intended to refer not only to Athena/Minerva but also to a character in the Aeneid named Pallas, to whom Aeneas extends an olive branch as a sign of peace. See VIII.110-16.
Line number 5

 Gloss note

The olive tree is a symbol of both peace and victory. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas offers Evander’s son Pallas an olive branch as a sign of peace (see note 6 above). In Metamorphoses, Ovid recounts how Minerva won Athens in a contest with Neptune by causing an olive tree to rise from the ground, which she gifted to the city (VI.70-102).
Line number 5

 Critical note

The word “still” can mean “consistently,” here expressing the speaker’s desire for the monarch’s reign to continue uninterrupted into the future. Yet “still,” in the sense of “unmoving,” paradoxically also implies a desires for stasis that is at odds with the “grow[th]” with which the word is paired. This tension suggests that the speaker’s desire that the kingdom will remain unchanged is doomed to be disappointed by the inevitable cycles of growth and transformation so central in Pulter’s work.
Line number 6

 Gloss note

The image of Minerva’s olive tree shading Caesar’s throne extends Pulter’s implicit comparison between Charles I and Phoebus, as Roman myth held that the god was born between an olive tree and a palm tree.
Line number 7

 Critical note

The “orbs” referenced here may refer to lower cosmic spheres, particularly the earth, or to the eyes of the monarchical subjects looking to the heavens. The comparison, explicit or implicit, of Charles I to the sun is a recurrent motif in Pulter’s poems. Cf. The Eclipse [Poem 1] and On that Unparalled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]. This comparison is an extension both of Pulter’s use of Apollo the sun god as a figure for Charles I and her interest in the relationship between celestial bodies and political change.
Line number 8

 Critical note

“Heaven” may be intended to be elided into a single beat (“heav’n”), as is the case in much of early modern poetry. If taken as two syllables, the extra beat in this line metrically may echo the speaker’s desire to stretch out and sustain a state of contentment against the cycles of fortune.
Line number 9

 Critical note

The alliteration and internal rhyme in the phrase “lovely, loyal, royal” lyrically underscores the speaker’s desire for political continuity and harmony.
Line number 9

 Gloss note

Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria.
Line number 11

 Critical note

Pulter’s elision of “unparalleled” to “unparalled” both maintains the line’s metrical regularity and aurally suggests a wish to see Henrietta Maria also remain “unperiled,” free from peril or threat.
Line number 14

 Critical note

The term “prodigious” carries several resonances, both positive and negative: ominous, unnatural, amazing, or excellent (OED). This ambiguous word choice indicates Pulter’s speaker’s discomfort with the possible negative outcomes of future political changes, while also suggesting that this resistance is not only futile against the inevitable cycles that are fundamental to Pulter’s cosmology, but also fails to account for the possible good that might come from unpredictable changes.
Line number 15

 Critical note

The primum mobile is the outermost sphere in the geocentric model of the universe, responsible for governing the movements of all celestial bodies. However, many of Pulter’s poems demonstrate her belief in a heliocentric universe (see The Eclipse [Poem 1], Amplified Edition, note to line 18). This reference thus suggests that the speaker of this poem is futilely desiring an outmoded stasis that cannot be maintained. On Pulter and heliocentrism, see Louisa Hall, “Hester Pulter’s Brave New Worlds,” in Immortality and the Body in the Age of Milton, ed. John Rumrich and Stephen Fallon (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018): 171-86.
Line number 16

 Gloss note

Though Delia is typically a nickname for the goddess Diana, throughout Pulter’s manuscript she uses this name to refer to Delia’s brother Phoebus. The appellation refers to their birth on the island of Delos. See notes to lines 1 and 5.
Line number 16

 Critical note

“Race” again evinces the tension in this poem between a desire for continuity, suggested by “race” in the sense of a social group imagined to be homogenous and bounded, and the constant encroachment of change, suggested by “race” in the sense of a running or riding contest and the journey through one’s life (OED).
Line number 17

 Gloss note

the sun and the moon.
Line number 18

 Gloss note

I.e. “Let them be incorporated into endless glory.” The Latin root word of “involve,” “volvere,” meaning “to roll,” connects this movement to the other cyclical images in this poem.
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition
Amplified Edition

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Physical Note
“K” possibly minuscule. terminal “-es’ graph in “kinges”; “On the kinges” written in H2, and “most exelent magisty” in another hand, not that of main scribe; to right of “magisty,” straight ascending line with two dots below near centre.
On the Kinges moſt exelent magisty
Physical Note
in another hand, different from the two used in the title and from the main scribe; curved bracket to left encloses two lines of title
K. Charles 1st.
Physical Note
The title is probably all in Pulter’s hand, but in two different inks (changing at “Most Excellent Majesty”). In the manuscript, “K. Charles 1st” is written to the right of the title and a curved bracket; this is all possibly in the same early eighteenth-century hand which appears elsewhere in the manuscript.
On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty
On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty
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.

— Andrea Crow
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.

— Andrea Crow
My editions aim to make Pulter’s poetry accessible in two ways. First, I facilitate basic legibility through modernizing spelling and punctuation according to standard American usage and through glossing unfamiliar words, points of intertexuality, and relevant historical contexts. Second, I want to help readers perceive Pulter’s nuanced approach to form and image, both within individual poems and in the extended patterns and ideas that take shape over the course of the manuscript. With this in mind, I have incorporated interpretive readings of the poems into my notes to provide insight into how Pulter’s poetics work and to spur readers to participate in the value-adding work of bringing Pulter’s writing the attentive level of interpretation it deserves.

— Andrea Crow
Written, it appears, before the revolutions of the 1640s endangered England’s King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria—or at least before they ended the king’s life—this paean sees Pulter’s royalism at its most contented. The poem begins with conventional classical imagery and praise before shifting to a larger and revolving cosmic stage, where the victor’s crown which “encircle[s]” Charles’s brow is echoed in both the lowly “orbs” of Pulter’s ilk and the “shining spheres” she imagines the king and queen inhabiting after death. This brief poem outlines a theological version of the water cycle, where truth, peace, and grace fall from heaven to sluice through virtuous rulers into humbler humans, before the worthy all evaporate upward into heaven’s glory, to become the source of blessings they once sought; but the collapse of social distinction envisioned in this almost impossibly distant future does not signal, to be clear, any desire on the poet’s part for political revolution on earth.

— Andrea Crow
“On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” is a densely allusive and highly ambiguous political poem. While on the surface the poem implies an encomium to Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria, the speaker’s expressed desire for political stasis continually comes up against the inevitability of cycles of dissolution and transformation that are so central to Pulter’s poetry. Even as the poem articulates a Royalist longing for the continuation of Charles’s reign, it simultaneously suggests that such resistance to change is as outmoded as the geocentric model of the universe. The poem develops comparisons also made elsewhere in Pulter’s work between Charles I, the sun god Phoebus (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Apollo), and Julius Caesar. Its engagement with figures from Roman literature is in dialogue with the also notably ambivalent final book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Caesar, like Charles and Henrietta Maria in this poem, is transformed into a star. Although this poem is written from a speaking-position located prior to the Interregnum, such ominous allusions to the death of a ruler suggest that this poem might have been written after Charles’s death. “On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” also demonstrates the importance of women’s authority in Pulter’s work: Minerva is one of several recurring powerful female characters in Pulter’s collection. In this poem, she emphasizes the centrality of women’s roles in maintaining the state by creatively incorporating the myth of Apollo’s birth under the olive-tree that Minerva created, and by reworking Ovid’s depiction of a ruler’s apotheosis to include Henrietta Maria, treating her as equal to Charles in terms of her significance to the fate of the country. The queen is not mentioned in the title of this poem, but its structure serves to equate her importance with that of the king, turning from praise for Charles in the first eight lines to praise for Henrietta Maria, and finally collapsing both into a third-person collective “they” in the final eight lines.

— Andrea Crow
1
Victorious Palm, triumphing Lawrell
Physical Note
double strike-through; “Boughs” directly above “Bowes”
BowesBoughs
Gloss Note
The palm and laurel were classical symbols of victory.
Victorious palm, triumphing laurel boughs
,
Victorious
Critical Note
The palm branch is a symbol of victory in the Roman tradition and also alludes to the Christian passion narrative. The palm bears special relevance to the references and images in this poem and throughout Pulter’s manuscript. The palm tree is where the phoenix, a recurring character in Pulter’s poetry, rebirths itself (see Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Rolfe Humphries (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2018), XV.393-98). Additionally, the sun god Phoebus, whom Pulter frequently uses as a figure for Charles I, was said to have been born between a palm tree and an olive tree on the island of Delos. Phoebus is thus sometimes referred to as “Delius,” while his twin sister Diana, is called Delia (see Metamorphoses VI.333-337). In Pulter’s collection, however, “Delia” is consistently used to refer to Phoebus rather than his sister, as in line 16 of this poem. Additionally, according to Christian tradition, palm branches were waved and strewn in the path of Christ at his entrance into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death (known as Palm Sunday), a connection that weaves an ominous undertone into this hopeful encomium. The phoenix, the cyclically returning sun, and the resurrected Christ all might imply Charles I’s rebirth through his son at the restoration of the monarchy.
palm
, triumphing
Gloss Note
The laurel, like the palm, is also a Roman symbol of victory closely associated with Apollo. He is often depicted wearing a laurel wreath. Virgil describes the tree, also one of Caesar Augustus’ (r. 27 BCE-14 CE) favored symbols, as sacred to Apollo. See Virgil, Aeneid, trans. Frederick Ahi (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007), 7.59-63 and note to ln. 71 on p. 383.
laurel
boughs,
2
Encircles round illustrious Casars Browes
Encircles round illustrious
Gloss Note
a generic term for a Roman emperor, to whom Charles I is likened here
Caesar’s
brows,
Critical Note
The phrase “encircle round”—along with the subsequent “our humble orbs” (7), “shining spheres” (13), and “by the primum mobile turned round” (15)—incorporate one of the most dominant motifs in Pulter’s manuscript: the circle. Pulter typically uses the circle to grapple with her inevitable mortality, imagining the dissolution of the body into its elemental form and the celestial afterlife of the soul. See, for example, The Revolution [Poem 16], The Circle [1] [Poem 17], The Circle [2] [Poem 21], The Circle [3] [Poem 25], and The Circle [4] [Poem 36]. Her transposition of this conceit to the context of the rise and fall of monarchs in this poem exemplifies Pulter’s portrayal of the personal and the political as closely intertwined.
Encircles round
Critical Note
Illustrious most overtly means “famous.” However, like another of Pulter’s favorite terms, “influence,” the word at once evokes the ruler’s power and imagines him as an empty vessel directed by outside forces. Pulter cannily plays with this paradox: she frequently employs morphological variations on the word “illustrate” when discussing Charles I. This collocation invites the reader to consider the relationship between the astronomical phenomena of the natural world and the reigns of rulers. The term “illustrious” is ambiguous with regard to agency: it depicts the monarch as a powerful enlightening influence while also making him a passive receptacle who is filled with that “luster” by a higher power; cf. On that Unparalleled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]: “Unless our God doth a second Charles illustrate / (Which oh, deny not), all our hopes are frustrate” (35-36).
illustrious
Critical Note
Although “Caesar” was the title given to Roman rulers, Pulter, like many of her contemporaries, often uses the term to refer to English monarchs, in this case, Charles I. Pulter also refers to Charles I as Caesar in Upon the Imprisonment of His Sacred Majesty [Poem 13], where she writes, “And thy o’erflowing vengeance thunder down / On these usurpers of our Caesar’s crown” (5-6). The fact that “Caesar” was often used to refer to Julius Caesar in particular is especially relevant given this poem’s similarities to Book XV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which the palm and laurel also serve as central images, and which tells the story of Caesar’s transformation into a star, like that of Charles I and Henrietta Maria in this poem. See Metamorphoses XV.837-848.
Caesar’s
brows,
3
Whoſe valour fills with wonder future Story
Whose valor fills with wonder future
Gloss Note
history
story
Whose valor fills with wonder future story
4
Whilst vertue Crowns him with imortall Glory
Whilst virtue crowns him with immortal glory.
Whilst virtue crowns him with immortal glory.
5
Let Pallas Sacred
Physical Note
directly above “Pallas Sacred”
bright Minerva’s
Olive Tree Still Grow
Let
Gloss Note
In the manuscript, the phrase “bright Minerva’s” is written directly above “Pallas Sacred,” which is underlined. Minerva is the Roman goddess identified with the Greek Pallas, an epithet of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war.
bright Minerva’s
Gloss Note
Athena’s sacred olive tree, seen as the source of prosperity in Athens
olive tree
still grow
Let bright
Critical Note
Pulter apparently emends the name originally copied out in the manuscript, “Pallas.” Pallas may refer to Minerva (i.e. the Greek goddess Athena), the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, a correction consistent with Pulter’s specific engagement with Roman literature and history in this poem. The original version of the line may have been intended to refer not only to Athena/Minerva but also to a character in the Aeneid named Pallas, to whom Aeneas extends an olive branch as a sign of peace. See VIII.110-16.
Minerva’s
Gloss Note
The olive tree is a symbol of both peace and victory. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas offers Evander’s son Pallas an olive branch as a sign of peace (see note 6 above). In Metamorphoses, Ovid recounts how Minerva won Athens in a contest with Neptune by causing an olive tree to rise from the ground, which she gifted to the city (VI.70-102).
olive tree
Critical Note
The word “still” can mean “consistently,” here expressing the speaker’s desire for the monarch’s reign to continue uninterrupted into the future. Yet “still,” in the sense of “unmoving,” paradoxically also implies a desires for stasis that is at odds with the “grow[th]” with which the word is paired. This tension suggests that the speaker’s desire that the kingdom will remain unchanged is doomed to be disappointed by the inevitable cycles of growth and transformation so central in Pulter’s work.
still grow
6
To Shade his Throne, whence truth and Peace^may flow
To shade his throne, whence truth and peace may flow
Gloss Note
The image of Minerva’s olive tree shading Caesar’s throne extends Pulter’s implicit comparison between Charles I and Phoebus, as Roman myth held that the god was born between an olive tree and a palm tree.
To shade his throne
, whence truth and peace may flow
7
Down to our Humble Orbs; O let him live
Down to our humble orbs; O let him live
Critical Note
The “orbs” referenced here may refer to lower cosmic spheres, particularly the earth, or to the eyes of the monarchical subjects looking to the heavens. The comparison, explicit or implicit, of Charles I to the sun is a recurrent motif in Pulter’s poems. Cf. The Eclipse [Poem 1] and On that Unparalled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]. This comparison is an extension both of Pulter’s use of Apollo the sun god as a figure for Charles I and her interest in the relationship between celestial bodies and political change.
Down to our humble orbs
; O let him live
8
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give.
Critical Note
“Heaven” may be intended to be elided into a single beat (“heav’n”), as is the case in much of early modern poetry. If taken as two syllables, the extra beat in this line metrically may echo the speaker’s desire to stretch out and sustain a state of contentment against the cycles of fortune.
Still to receive from Heaven, to us to give
.
9
And let his Lovly, Loyall, Royall Queen
And let his lovely, loyal, royal queen
And let his
Critical Note
The alliteration and internal rhyme in the phrase “lovely, loyal, royal” lyrically underscores the speaker’s desire for political continuity and harmony.
lovely, loyal, royal
Gloss Note
Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria.
queen
10
To all Succeeding Ages Still bee Seen
To all succeeding ages still be seen
To all succeeding ages still be seen
11
A most unparrild pattern of true Love
A most
Critical Note
The manuscript has “unparilld”; modernizing to “unparalleled” would add two syllables to the line, so we have chosen this more metrical abbreviation.
unparalled
pattern of true love,
A most
Critical Note
Pulter’s elision of “unparalleled” to “unparalled” both maintains the line’s metrical regularity and aurally suggests a wish to see Henrietta Maria also remain “unperiled,” free from peril or threat.
unparalled
pattern of true love,
12
Begun on earth ending in Heaven above
Begun on earth, ending in Heaven above.
Begun on earth, ending in Heaven above.
13
O let them in their Shineing
Physical Note
“re” written over earlier letters
Sphere’s
bee fixt
O
Critical Note
possibly a reference to an Aristotelian, geocentric model of the universe, in which the deceased king and queen after death join the outermost concentric sphere, which carried the “fixed” stars, controlled the motion of all other spheres, and was itself controlled by supernatural agency
let them in their shining spheres be fixed
O let them in their shining spheres be fixed
14
And never with Prodigious
Physical Note
“M” written over initial minuscule letter; “a” may be blotted; appears to cover earlier letter (likely “u”)
Met^eoars mixt
And never with
Gloss Note
Meteors were among the unusual natural phenomena long thought to act as signs of divine judgment.
prodigious meteors
mixed,
And never with
Critical Note
The term “prodigious” carries several resonances, both positive and negative: ominous, unnatural, amazing, or excellent (OED). This ambiguous word choice indicates Pulter’s speaker’s discomfort with the possible negative outcomes of future political changes, while also suggesting that this resistance is not only futile against the inevitable cycles that are fundamental to Pulter’s cosmology, but also fails to account for the possible good that might come from unpredictable changes.
prodigious
meteors mixed,
15
But by the
Physical Note
“M” darker, covering lower-case “m”
PrimūmMobile
turn’d Round
But by the
Gloss Note
in medieval Ptolemaic astronomy, the outer sphere which carried the inner spheres in its daily revolution around the earth; more generally, any original driving force; often an epithet for God
primum mobile
turned round:
But by the
Critical Note
The primum mobile is the outermost sphere in the geocentric model of the universe, responsible for governing the movements of all celestial bodies. However, many of Pulter’s poems demonstrate her belief in a heliocentric universe (see The Eclipse [Poem 1], Amplified Edition, note to line 18). This reference thus suggests that the speaker of this poem is futilely desiring an outmoded stasis that cannot be maintained. On Pulter and heliocentrism, see Louisa Hall, “Hester Pulter’s Brave New Worlds,” in Immortality and the Body in the Age of Milton, ed. John Rumrich and Stephen Fallon (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018): 171-86.
primum mobile
turned round:
16
Lasting as
Physical Note
preceding blank space shows erased “Dea” and possible ascender (as for “l”)
Delia’s
let their Race bee ffound
Lasting as
Gloss Note
Delia is an epithet for Artemis, as Delios or Delius is for Apollo (since these divine Greek twins were both on the island of Delos).
Delia’s
let their race be found.
Lasting as
Gloss Note
Though Delia is typically a nickname for the goddess Diana, throughout Pulter’s manuscript she uses this name to refer to Delia’s brother Phoebus. The appellation refers to their birth on the island of Delos. See notes to lines 1 and 5.
Delia’s
let their
Critical Note
“Race” again evinces the tension in this poem between a desire for continuity, suggested by “race” in the sense of a social group imagined to be homogenous and bounded, and the constant encroachment of change, suggested by “race” in the sense of a running or riding contest and the journey through one’s life (OED).
race
be found.
And

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17
And when thoſe Glittring Globes are all Diſſolv’d
And when those glitt’ring
Gloss Note
the “spheres” of line 13
globes
are all dissolved,
And when
Gloss Note
the sun and the moon.
those glittering globes
are all dissolved,
18
Let them in endles Glory bee involvd
Let
Gloss Note
the king and queen
them
in endless glory be involved;
Gloss Note
I.e. “Let them be incorporated into endless glory.” The Latin root word of “involve,” “volvere,” meaning “to roll,” connects this movement to the other cyclical images in this poem.
Let them in endless glory be involved
;
19
Till when let Grace and bleſſing from above
Till when, let grace and blessing from above
Till when, let grace and blessing from above
20
Deſcend on them and all that doe them love.
Descend on them, and all that do them love.
Descend on them, and all that do them love.
curled line
X (Close panel) All Notes
Transcription
Title note

 Physical note

“K” possibly minuscule. terminal “-es’ graph in “kinges”; “On the kinges” written in H2, and “most exelent magisty” in another hand, not that of main scribe; to right of “magisty,” straight ascending line with two dots below near centre.
Transcription
Title note

 Physical note

in another hand, different from the two used in the title and from the main scribe; curved bracket to left encloses two lines of title
Elemental Edition
Title note

 Physical note

The title is probably all in Pulter’s hand, but in two different inks (changing at “Most Excellent Majesty”). In the manuscript, “K. Charles 1st” is written to the right of the title and a curved bracket; this is all possibly in the same early eighteenth-century hand which appears elsewhere in the manuscript.
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

My editions aim to make Pulter’s poetry accessible in two ways. First, I facilitate basic legibility through modernizing spelling and punctuation according to standard American usage and through glossing unfamiliar words, points of intertexuality, and relevant historical contexts. Second, I want to help readers perceive Pulter’s nuanced approach to form and image, both within individual poems and in the extended patterns and ideas that take shape over the course of the manuscript. With this in mind, I have incorporated interpretive readings of the poems into my notes to provide insight into how Pulter’s poetics work and to spur readers to participate in the value-adding work of bringing Pulter’s writing the attentive level of interpretation it deserves.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

Written, it appears, before the revolutions of the 1640s endangered England’s King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria—or at least before they ended the king’s life—this paean sees Pulter’s royalism at its most contented. The poem begins with conventional classical imagery and praise before shifting to a larger and revolving cosmic stage, where the victor’s crown which “encircle[s]” Charles’s brow is echoed in both the lowly “orbs” of Pulter’s ilk and the “shining spheres” she imagines the king and queen inhabiting after death. This brief poem outlines a theological version of the water cycle, where truth, peace, and grace fall from heaven to sluice through virtuous rulers into humbler humans, before the worthy all evaporate upward into heaven’s glory, to become the source of blessings they once sought; but the collapse of social distinction envisioned in this almost impossibly distant future does not signal, to be clear, any desire on the poet’s part for political revolution on earth.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

“On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” is a densely allusive and highly ambiguous political poem. While on the surface the poem implies an encomium to Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria, the speaker’s expressed desire for political stasis continually comes up against the inevitability of cycles of dissolution and transformation that are so central to Pulter’s poetry. Even as the poem articulates a Royalist longing for the continuation of Charles’s reign, it simultaneously suggests that such resistance to change is as outmoded as the geocentric model of the universe. The poem develops comparisons also made elsewhere in Pulter’s work between Charles I, the sun god Phoebus (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Apollo), and Julius Caesar. Its engagement with figures from Roman literature is in dialogue with the also notably ambivalent final book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Caesar, like Charles and Henrietta Maria in this poem, is transformed into a star. Although this poem is written from a speaking-position located prior to the Interregnum, such ominous allusions to the death of a ruler suggest that this poem might have been written after Charles’s death. “On the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” also demonstrates the importance of women’s authority in Pulter’s work: Minerva is one of several recurring powerful female characters in Pulter’s collection. In this poem, she emphasizes the centrality of women’s roles in maintaining the state by creatively incorporating the myth of Apollo’s birth under the olive-tree that Minerva created, and by reworking Ovid’s depiction of a ruler’s apotheosis to include Henrietta Maria, treating her as equal to Charles in terms of her significance to the fate of the country. The queen is not mentioned in the title of this poem, but its structure serves to equate her importance with that of the king, turning from praise for Charles in the first eight lines to praise for Henrietta Maria, and finally collapsing both into a third-person collective “they” in the final eight lines.
Transcription
Line number 1

 Physical note

double strike-through; “Boughs” directly above “Bowes”
Elemental Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

The palm and laurel were classical symbols of victory.
Amplified Edition
Line number 1

 Critical note

The palm branch is a symbol of victory in the Roman tradition and also alludes to the Christian passion narrative. The palm bears special relevance to the references and images in this poem and throughout Pulter’s manuscript. The palm tree is where the phoenix, a recurring character in Pulter’s poetry, rebirths itself (see Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Rolfe Humphries (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2018), XV.393-98). Additionally, the sun god Phoebus, whom Pulter frequently uses as a figure for Charles I, was said to have been born between a palm tree and an olive tree on the island of Delos. Phoebus is thus sometimes referred to as “Delius,” while his twin sister Diana, is called Delia (see Metamorphoses VI.333-337). In Pulter’s collection, however, “Delia” is consistently used to refer to Phoebus rather than his sister, as in line 16 of this poem. Additionally, according to Christian tradition, palm branches were waved and strewn in the path of Christ at his entrance into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death (known as Palm Sunday), a connection that weaves an ominous undertone into this hopeful encomium. The phoenix, the cyclically returning sun, and the resurrected Christ all might imply Charles I’s rebirth through his son at the restoration of the monarchy.
Amplified Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

The laurel, like the palm, is also a Roman symbol of victory closely associated with Apollo. He is often depicted wearing a laurel wreath. Virgil describes the tree, also one of Caesar Augustus’ (r. 27 BCE-14 CE) favored symbols, as sacred to Apollo. See Virgil, Aeneid, trans. Frederick Ahi (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007), 7.59-63 and note to ln. 71 on p. 383.
Elemental Edition
Line number 2

 Gloss note

a generic term for a Roman emperor, to whom Charles I is likened here
Amplified Edition
Line number 2

 Critical note

The phrase “encircle round”—along with the subsequent “our humble orbs” (7), “shining spheres” (13), and “by the primum mobile turned round” (15)—incorporate one of the most dominant motifs in Pulter’s manuscript: the circle. Pulter typically uses the circle to grapple with her inevitable mortality, imagining the dissolution of the body into its elemental form and the celestial afterlife of the soul. See, for example, The Revolution [Poem 16], The Circle [1] [Poem 17], The Circle [2] [Poem 21], The Circle [3] [Poem 25], and The Circle [4] [Poem 36]. Her transposition of this conceit to the context of the rise and fall of monarchs in this poem exemplifies Pulter’s portrayal of the personal and the political as closely intertwined.
Amplified Edition
Line number 2

 Critical note

Illustrious most overtly means “famous.” However, like another of Pulter’s favorite terms, “influence,” the word at once evokes the ruler’s power and imagines him as an empty vessel directed by outside forces. Pulter cannily plays with this paradox: she frequently employs morphological variations on the word “illustrate” when discussing Charles I. This collocation invites the reader to consider the relationship between the astronomical phenomena of the natural world and the reigns of rulers. The term “illustrious” is ambiguous with regard to agency: it depicts the monarch as a powerful enlightening influence while also making him a passive receptacle who is filled with that “luster” by a higher power; cf. On that Unparalleled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]: “Unless our God doth a second Charles illustrate / (Which oh, deny not), all our hopes are frustrate” (35-36).
Amplified Edition
Line number 2

 Critical note

Although “Caesar” was the title given to Roman rulers, Pulter, like many of her contemporaries, often uses the term to refer to English monarchs, in this case, Charles I. Pulter also refers to Charles I as Caesar in Upon the Imprisonment of His Sacred Majesty [Poem 13], where she writes, “And thy o’erflowing vengeance thunder down / On these usurpers of our Caesar’s crown” (5-6). The fact that “Caesar” was often used to refer to Julius Caesar in particular is especially relevant given this poem’s similarities to Book XV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which the palm and laurel also serve as central images, and which tells the story of Caesar’s transformation into a star, like that of Charles I and Henrietta Maria in this poem. See Metamorphoses XV.837-848.
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

history
Transcription
Line number 5

 Physical note

directly above “Pallas Sacred”
Elemental Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

In the manuscript, the phrase “bright Minerva’s” is written directly above “Pallas Sacred,” which is underlined. Minerva is the Roman goddess identified with the Greek Pallas, an epithet of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war.
Elemental Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

Athena’s sacred olive tree, seen as the source of prosperity in Athens
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Critical note

Pulter apparently emends the name originally copied out in the manuscript, “Pallas.” Pallas may refer to Minerva (i.e. the Greek goddess Athena), the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, a correction consistent with Pulter’s specific engagement with Roman literature and history in this poem. The original version of the line may have been intended to refer not only to Athena/Minerva but also to a character in the Aeneid named Pallas, to whom Aeneas extends an olive branch as a sign of peace. See VIII.110-16.
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

The olive tree is a symbol of both peace and victory. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas offers Evander’s son Pallas an olive branch as a sign of peace (see note 6 above). In Metamorphoses, Ovid recounts how Minerva won Athens in a contest with Neptune by causing an olive tree to rise from the ground, which she gifted to the city (VI.70-102).
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Critical note

The word “still” can mean “consistently,” here expressing the speaker’s desire for the monarch’s reign to continue uninterrupted into the future. Yet “still,” in the sense of “unmoving,” paradoxically also implies a desires for stasis that is at odds with the “grow[th]” with which the word is paired. This tension suggests that the speaker’s desire that the kingdom will remain unchanged is doomed to be disappointed by the inevitable cycles of growth and transformation so central in Pulter’s work.
Amplified Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

The image of Minerva’s olive tree shading Caesar’s throne extends Pulter’s implicit comparison between Charles I and Phoebus, as Roman myth held that the god was born between an olive tree and a palm tree.
Amplified Edition
Line number 7

 Critical note

The “orbs” referenced here may refer to lower cosmic spheres, particularly the earth, or to the eyes of the monarchical subjects looking to the heavens. The comparison, explicit or implicit, of Charles I to the sun is a recurrent motif in Pulter’s poems. Cf. The Eclipse [Poem 1] and On that Unparalled Prince Charles the First, His Horrid Murder [Poem 8]. This comparison is an extension both of Pulter’s use of Apollo the sun god as a figure for Charles I and her interest in the relationship between celestial bodies and political change.
Amplified Edition
Line number 8

 Critical note

“Heaven” may be intended to be elided into a single beat (“heav’n”), as is the case in much of early modern poetry. If taken as two syllables, the extra beat in this line metrically may echo the speaker’s desire to stretch out and sustain a state of contentment against the cycles of fortune.
Amplified Edition
Line number 9

 Critical note

The alliteration and internal rhyme in the phrase “lovely, loyal, royal” lyrically underscores the speaker’s desire for political continuity and harmony.
Amplified Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria.
Elemental Edition
Line number 11

 Critical note

The manuscript has “unparilld”; modernizing to “unparalleled” would add two syllables to the line, so we have chosen this more metrical abbreviation.
Amplified Edition
Line number 11

 Critical note

Pulter’s elision of “unparalleled” to “unparalled” both maintains the line’s metrical regularity and aurally suggests a wish to see Henrietta Maria also remain “unperiled,” free from peril or threat.
Transcription
Line number 13

 Physical note

“re” written over earlier letters
Elemental Edition
Line number 13

 Critical note

possibly a reference to an Aristotelian, geocentric model of the universe, in which the deceased king and queen after death join the outermost concentric sphere, which carried the “fixed” stars, controlled the motion of all other spheres, and was itself controlled by supernatural agency
Transcription
Line number 14

 Physical note

“M” written over initial minuscule letter; “a” may be blotted; appears to cover earlier letter (likely “u”)
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

Meteors were among the unusual natural phenomena long thought to act as signs of divine judgment.
Amplified Edition
Line number 14

 Critical note

The term “prodigious” carries several resonances, both positive and negative: ominous, unnatural, amazing, or excellent (OED). This ambiguous word choice indicates Pulter’s speaker’s discomfort with the possible negative outcomes of future political changes, while also suggesting that this resistance is not only futile against the inevitable cycles that are fundamental to Pulter’s cosmology, but also fails to account for the possible good that might come from unpredictable changes.
Transcription
Line number 15

 Physical note

“M” darker, covering lower-case “m”
Elemental Edition
Line number 15

 Gloss note

in medieval Ptolemaic astronomy, the outer sphere which carried the inner spheres in its daily revolution around the earth; more generally, any original driving force; often an epithet for God
Amplified Edition
Line number 15

 Critical note

The primum mobile is the outermost sphere in the geocentric model of the universe, responsible for governing the movements of all celestial bodies. However, many of Pulter’s poems demonstrate her belief in a heliocentric universe (see The Eclipse [Poem 1], Amplified Edition, note to line 18). This reference thus suggests that the speaker of this poem is futilely desiring an outmoded stasis that cannot be maintained. On Pulter and heliocentrism, see Louisa Hall, “Hester Pulter’s Brave New Worlds,” in Immortality and the Body in the Age of Milton, ed. John Rumrich and Stephen Fallon (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018): 171-86.
Transcription
Line number 16

 Physical note

preceding blank space shows erased “Dea” and possible ascender (as for “l”)
Elemental Edition
Line number 16

 Gloss note

Delia is an epithet for Artemis, as Delios or Delius is for Apollo (since these divine Greek twins were both on the island of Delos).
Amplified Edition
Line number 16

 Gloss note

Though Delia is typically a nickname for the goddess Diana, throughout Pulter’s manuscript she uses this name to refer to Delia’s brother Phoebus. The appellation refers to their birth on the island of Delos. See notes to lines 1 and 5.
Amplified Edition
Line number 16

 Critical note

“Race” again evinces the tension in this poem between a desire for continuity, suggested by “race” in the sense of a social group imagined to be homogenous and bounded, and the constant encroachment of change, suggested by “race” in the sense of a running or riding contest and the journey through one’s life (OED).
Elemental Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

the “spheres” of line 13
Amplified Edition
Line number 17

 Gloss note

the sun and the moon.
Elemental Edition
Line number 18

 Gloss note

the king and queen
Amplified Edition
Line number 18

 Gloss note

I.e. “Let them be incorporated into endless glory.” The Latin root word of “involve,” “volvere,” meaning “to roll,” connects this movement to the other cyclical images in this poem.
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