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The Hope

Poem #65

Original Source

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

Versions

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

  • Transcription of manuscript: By Leah Knight and Wendy Wall.
  • Elemental edition: By Leah Knight and Wendy Wall.
  • Amplified edition: By Elizabeth Scott-Baumann.
  • Amplified edition: By Liza Blake.
  • Amplified edition: By Liza Blake.
  • Amplified edition: By Liza Blake.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

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

 Physical note

poem in H2

 Editorial note

In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.
Line number 13

 Physical note

first “e” blotted out after “E”
Line number 15

 Physical note

remaining third of page blank
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Transcription

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Physical Note
poem in H2
The Hope
January : 1665 :
Physical Note
This poem is in a different hand from that of the main scribe, probably Pulter’s. Below the title is the date “January, 1665” also in Pulter’s hand.
The Hope
Critical Note
In both this poem’s title reference to ‘The Hope’ and its narrative of reduction to dust, Pulter may allude to the Book of Common Prayer (which laid out the forms of worship for the post-Reformation church in England) and especially its burial service: “Forasmuch it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (See Dust in ‘The Order for The Burial of the Dead’ in Curations for this poem.)
The Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition A
The [Uncertain] Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition B
The Hope [for Resurrection]
January 1665 Amplified Edition C
The Hope [for Final Death]
January 1665 Amplified Edition D
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“I have been half in love with easeful Death,” wrote Keats; “Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath.” Pulter does as much in this poem, which begins like a love letter to Death. Its writer promises to throw herself into Death’s arms and let it use her body as it desires—if Death would only come. But the morbid seduction of the opening couplets soon shifts, as often in Pulter’s verse, to a fascinated meditation on the material reconfigurations which might follow our earthly life. Vital salt, vapor, atoms, and world-annihilating fire are all quickly canvassed as mere stages in a larger cosmological revolution directed by the only figure who upstages Death in Pulter’s dramatis personae: the God who, she confidently predicts, shall turn the world upside-down by atomizing Death and returning her to life. The poem’s dramatic forward thrust through a single protracted sentence—driven by nearly breathless anaphoric hypotaxis, projecting us into an imagined future (“And then,” “Then,” “Nay, when,” “And when,” “And all,” “And even”)—is brought up short by a full stop and final confession: the speaker has no idea how what she envisions can actually come to be.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
From its opening, “Dear Death … I’ll throw myself into thy arms”, this poem evokes the panache and paradox of John Donne’s ’Holy Sonnets’ (See ‘Dear Death’ in Curations for this poem). In his poem ’Batter my heart’, Donne deploys similar erotic metaphors of embrace, while his ‘Death, be not proud’ addresses Death directly as Pulter does here (See also Pulter’s poem The Welcome [Poem 19] which opens “Dear death thou’rt welcome…”). Pulter’s characteristic approach, though, is to infuse this daring address to death with another register of imagery, that of alchemy: God breaks down and builds up the speaker not through ravishment, as with Donne, but through chemical transformation. In the original manuscript, this poem’s only full stop is halfway through the final line. This provides a sense of completion after the uplifting hope that God “Will raise me unto life”. Yet this hope is undercut by several other formal features: with fifteen lines, she extends beyond sonnet length; using a triplet after six couplets, she creates the anticipation of a further line which is not fulfilled; after the full stop in line 15 she creates abrupt uncertainty with the half line “I know not how”, a thought left hanging. The poem’s form questions its promised “hope”. (See Alice Eardley, ‘“I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe”: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse’ in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], pp. 162-78).

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version B [The Uncertain Hope]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the edition you are currently reading—Version B: The Uncertain Hope—I have retained the punctuation of the manuscript (and bolded those original punctuation marks, and colored them red, to call attention to them), but have not added any punctuation of my own. This version relies on the fundamental ambiguity created by the dearth of punctuation in the manuscript itself, which as I argued above leaves the ultimate message of the poem up to the interpreting reader’s personal punctuation decisions.
In this edition I have left the punctuation in the manuscript intact, and have also added extra spaces between each of the words; I do this to invite readers, or students, to print (or copy-paste) the poem and to add their own punctuation, as a kind of exercise that will allow them to gauge their initial reading of the poem. Readers of this poem can also refer themselves to my two alternative Amplified Editions of the poem (Versions C and D), each of which punctuates the poem differently to bring out the resurrective and nihilistic readings, respectively. As the user of this digital edition, you can consult these alternate versions in a variety of ways: you might test your own reading on Version B before comparing your punctuation with my other two options, for instance. Or you might use The Pulter Project’s built-in versioning tools to compare the multiple versions side by side, highlighting differences and discrepancies.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version C [The Hope for Resurrection]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version C: The Hope for Resurrection—I punctuate the poem to bring out and make more readily available the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter unambiguously desires and hopes for a final resurrection after her death. This reading relies on the parts of the poem where Pulter openly announces both her prayers to and her trust in God (“God . . . Will raise me unto life”), and reads those frank protestations of trust as overwhelming any seeming kernels of doubt (“I know not how” God will manage to resurrect me when the matter that makes up my body has been dissolved—but I have faith he will manage).
As mentioned above, the most crucial punctuation decision in this version is the addition of a full stop at the end of the sixth line, which breaks the poem into two equal parts, each of which takes its own journey down into doubt and then back up into reassurance. If there is a full stop at the end of line 6, then Pulter twice worries about physical dissolution, but each time comforts herself with the knowledge that even if she does not know the exact mechanics of how it will happen, God will find a way to resurrect her. This repeated journey—down into doubt about physical dissolution and then back up into faith—parallels that taken in other poems, including especially Dear God, From Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which worries about her body being burned into dust, dissolved into tears, and sighed away into air, only to constantly reassure herself each time that no matter what dissolution she may experience, she can still trust in God.
My other punctuation decisions in this edition also reinforce this reading of a faith in resurrection, and in addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes to this edition that highlight how specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version D [The Hope for Final Death]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version D: The Hope for Final Death—I punctuate the poem to bring out the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter fantasizes about an escalating, total dissolution of her physical body, a dissolution so absolute that it would be impossible for enough material remains to survive to allow God to resurrect her. This reading relies in particular on the two moments where she fantasizes about the destruction of supposedly indestructible things: when she imagines that the “little luz” (the supposedly indestructible bone that served as the kernel of bodily resurrection) will dissolve into dust; and when she insists that “even” atoms—the most fundamental particles of nature, commonly referred to as “indivisibles” in the period—will burn.
My punctuation in this version, much like in the manuscript itself, refuses any hard stops from the moment Pulter starts imagining dissolution until the very last line of the poem. This decision makes the vast majority of the poem a breathy run-on sentence imagining increasing degrees of destruction, which then ends with an abrupt and seemingly ill-founded assertion of faith, that is in turn immediately undercut by a final return to doubt: “I know not how . . .” The poem, then, is a bit like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129, “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” with each clause piling upon the last to communicate increasing mental agitation (in Sonnet 129, agitation born of misogyny; in “The Hope,” agitation born of an uncertainty about death and dissolution). Refusing to break the momentum of Pulter’s fantasies of dissolution in the middle of the poem (as happens in Version C) allows this escalation.
My other punctuation decisions in this version also reinforce the reading of the poem as an escalation of fantasies of destruction so extreme that no feeble, vague protestation of faith can possibly overcome them. In addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes that highlight how these specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for a dissolution so complete that it could not possibly seed any future resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Deare Death deſolve theiſe mortall charms
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms,
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms
Dear Death
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
Dear Death,
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
Critical Note
Adding an exclamation mark at the end of an opening apostrophe (a direct address to a real or allegorical figure) is a common editorial choice, and here additionally augments the passion she attaches to her conjuration of and invitation to “Dear” Death, into whose arms she wants to “throw” herself, and whom she invites to “use my carcass, as thou lust.”
Dear Death!
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
2
And then Ile throw my ſelfe into thy arms
And then I’ll throw myself into thy arms;
And then I’ll throw myself into Thy arms.
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms,
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms;
3
Then though mayest uſe my Carkes as thou lust
Then thou may’st use my carcass as thou
Gloss Note
choose; please
lust
,
Then Thou may’st use my
Gloss Note
dead body
carcass
as Thou lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
,
Then thou mayest use my carcass, as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms. As was mentioned above, adding an exclamation line at the end of the opening apostrophe enhances this reading.
lust
,
4
Untill my boans (and little Luz) bee dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
also known as the “os sacrum,” or sacred bone: a triangular bone low in the spine; in rabbinical legend, the nucleus of the body at the Resurrection
luz
) be
Critical Note
disintegrated matter; also original, formative physical elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
:
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
an esoteric term for a tiny spinal bone, originating from the Hebrew word for a nut and thought to be the seed of rebirth at the Day of Judgement. Some writers, like Nicholas Culpeper, dismissed the luz as a “ridiculous fable” (See The ‘Little Luz’ in Curations for this poem).
luz
) be dust.
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust—
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be
Critical Note
I have put the hardest punctuation mark (until the final line) here, thereby breaking the poem into three distinct phases: the opening, with its loving and erotic conjuration of death (ll. 1–4); the escalating fantasies of physical dissolution (ll. 5–10), and the tentative affirmation and then doubt of God’s ability to resurrect her (ll. 11–15). Adding a colon here recasts the second section as an elaboration on line 4, as if the idea of Death using her until she is dust is what prompts the further fantasies of dissolution that follow immediately after.
dust:
5
Naye when that handfull is blow’n all about
Nay, when that handful is blown all about,
Nay, when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further (no, dust isn’t enough: Death will find and break down that dust into the primary alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust), or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive (no, wait—even if I’m dust, God will find out the more fundamental salt)? The passive construction makes the subject of the “finding” impossible to discern.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? The punctuation I have added here assumes the latter: the dash at the end of line 4 creates a hard break in her disturbing reflections on Death’s “use” of her carcass, and the colon after “Nay” makes the two lines that follow appear to be a longer restatement of that negation, as if she is saying: No: even when I am dust, God will find out the still more essential “vital salt.”
Nay:
when that handful is blown all about,
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? In failing to add any punctuation after “Nay” I suggest that it is the former, as if this line says: No, not just dust: Death will find the more essential alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust, and scatter that as well.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about,
6
Yett still the vitale ſalt will bee fownd out
Yet still the
Gloss Note
The alchemist Paracelsus expanded the Arabic doctrine that two principles, sulfur and mercury, were the roots of all things by adding a third principle, salt.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
salt was one of the three first principles in alchemy, according to Paracelsus, along with mercury and sulphur. Salt represented the body and was found in the ashes (see Lyndy Abraham, Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge: CUP, 2001). In Matthew 5.13 of the Bible, man is also described as “the salt of the earth”.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
What punctuation one adds at the end of line 6 is, perhaps, the most significant indicator for how one reads the poem itself (see the headnote of this version for more detail), and is therefore an important decision for a punctuator: do you read lines 7–8 as a continuation of line 6, or as a new thought?
found out
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
By adding a period or full stop at the end of line 6, I have broken the poem into two balanced parts, each of which dips temporarily into doubt only to be redeemed by faith. For more detail on the importance of the punctuation at the end of this line, see the headnote to this version; it is this single punctuation mark, more than any other, that causes this poem to read as hopeful for resurrection.
found out.
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
Punctuating the end of this line with a comma suggests that the “vital salt” will be found out so it can be further broken down or dispersed, and also allows the “And” that begins line 7 to more immediately and grammatically follow on what comes before.
found out,
7
And when the vapour is breath’d out in Thunder
And
Critical Note
a theory of the source of thunder; see, e.g., “Thunder proceeds from a vapor lifted up from the earth.” Stephen Gosson, The Trumpet of War (London, 1598), A3r.
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And when the vapour is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
,
8
Unto poore Mortalls Loſs, or paine, or wonder
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
9
And all that is in thee to Atoms turn’d
And all that is in thee to
Gloss Note
in ancient Greek philosophy and new seventeenth-century science, minute and indivisible particles of which matter is composed
atoms
turned,
And all that is in Thee to
Gloss Note
the smallest possible particle of which all matter is made
atoms
turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
  
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
,
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
10
And even thoſe Atoms in this Orb is burn’d
And even those atoms in this
Gloss Note
Earth
orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
the earth; possibly also the circular vessel used for distillation in alchemy (see Alchemical Circles in Curations for Poem 1).
this orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
  
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”).
is burned
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, which makes the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). In the hopeful, resurrective reading of the poem, it would not make sense to intensify the destruction, so rather than fixing this grammatical error with punctuation, I have emended the “is” to “[are]”.
[are] burned
,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” I have fixed this seeming error with punctuation, by turning “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). This intensification seemed appropriate as the climax of the section of the poem that escalates destruction.
is burned,
11
Yett still that God that can anihillate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
12
This all, and itt of nothinge recreate
This all, and it
Gloss Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
of nothing recreate
,
This all, and it of nothing recreate,
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.”
it
  
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a resurrective reading of the poem (if they agreed that the word “it” was initially written as “us”) might consider emending the word back to “us”—to edit for first intentions rather than final intentions—to show how she imagined God specifically resurrecting or recreating us humans following the annihilation of “this all.”
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a reading of the poem that refuses the possibility of resurrection might want not only to leave the change ("it" for "us"), but also to point out that if there is indeed a correction here, then it illustrates Pulter editing the the poem to make it less explicitly about resurrection. The edit (from "us" to "itt") changes the claim to make resurrection less certain: rather than God resurrecting us humans, in the revised version God recreates it, the universe as a whole, and the poem deliberately does not specify whether that newly recreated universe would also include us.
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
,
13
Physical Note
first “e” blotted out after “E”
E[e]ven
Hee that hath ſupported mee till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He, that hath supported me till now,
14
To whom my ſoule doth praye and humbly bow
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow
Critical Note
By setting lines 13–14 off by dashes, I have intensified her double affirmation of God’s power to resurrect even her scattered and destroyed body. With this version’s punctuation, lines 11–12 affirm God’s power in general, and lines 13–14 interject his particularly positive track record of his support of her in particular, which then combine to create her very justified belief that God “Will raise me unto life.”
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow—
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
15
Will raiſe mee unto liffe. I know not
Physical Note
remaining third of page blank
how
Will
Gloss Note
allusion to the process, predicted in biblical book of Revelation, by which souls will be restored to their bodies and raised to heaven at the Resurrection, also known as the second coming of Christ or Final Judgment
raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Will raise me unto life. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Critical Note
The ellipses added to the end of the poem communicate the uncertainty behind the final four words in this version, which hopes for final death. This choice enhances the effect of the manuscript version, which trails off without punctuation. Another possibility might have been an exclamation mark to end the poem, which would connote less uncertainty and more exasperation or frustration at her inability to comprehend the mechanics of resurrection.
X (Close panel)Notes: Elemental Edition
Title note

 Physical note

This poem is in a different hand from that of the main scribe, probably Pulter’s. Below the title is the date “January, 1665” also in Pulter’s hand.

 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

“I have been half in love with easeful Death,” wrote Keats; “Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath.” Pulter does as much in this poem, which begins like a love letter to Death. Its writer promises to throw herself into Death’s arms and let it use her body as it desires—if Death would only come. But the morbid seduction of the opening couplets soon shifts, as often in Pulter’s verse, to a fascinated meditation on the material reconfigurations which might follow our earthly life. Vital salt, vapor, atoms, and world-annihilating fire are all quickly canvassed as mere stages in a larger cosmological revolution directed by the only figure who upstages Death in Pulter’s dramatis personae: the God who, she confidently predicts, shall turn the world upside-down by atomizing Death and returning her to life. The poem’s dramatic forward thrust through a single protracted sentence—driven by nearly breathless anaphoric hypotaxis, projecting us into an imagined future (“And then,” “Then,” “Nay, when,” “And when,” “And all,” “And even”)—is brought up short by a full stop and final confession: the speaker has no idea how what she envisions can actually come to be.
Line number 3

 Gloss note

choose; please
Line number 4

 Critical note

also known as the “os sacrum,” or sacred bone: a triangular bone low in the spine; in rabbinical legend, the nucleus of the body at the Resurrection
Line number 4

 Critical note

disintegrated matter; also original, formative physical elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
Line number 6

 Gloss note

The alchemist Paracelsus expanded the Arabic doctrine that two principles, sulfur and mercury, were the roots of all things by adding a third principle, salt.
Line number 7

 Critical note

a theory of the source of thunder; see, e.g., “Thunder proceeds from a vapor lifted up from the earth.” Stephen Gosson, The Trumpet of War (London, 1598), A3r.
Line number 9

 Gloss note

in ancient Greek philosophy and new seventeenth-century science, minute and indivisible particles of which matter is composed
Line number 10

 Gloss note

Earth
Line number 12

 Gloss note

the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
Line number 15

 Gloss note

allusion to the process, predicted in biblical book of Revelation, by which souls will be restored to their bodies and raised to heaven at the Resurrection, also known as the second coming of Christ or Final Judgment
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X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

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Physical Note
poem in H2
The Hope
January : 1665 :
Physical Note
This poem is in a different hand from that of the main scribe, probably Pulter’s. Below the title is the date “January, 1665” also in Pulter’s hand.
The Hope
Critical Note
In both this poem’s title reference to ‘The Hope’ and its narrative of reduction to dust, Pulter may allude to the Book of Common Prayer (which laid out the forms of worship for the post-Reformation church in England) and especially its burial service: “Forasmuch it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (See Dust in ‘The Order for The Burial of the Dead’ in Curations for this poem.)
The Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition A
The [Uncertain] Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition B
The Hope [for Resurrection]
January 1665 Amplified Edition C
The Hope [for Final Death]
January 1665 Amplified Edition D
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“I have been half in love with easeful Death,” wrote Keats; “Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath.” Pulter does as much in this poem, which begins like a love letter to Death. Its writer promises to throw herself into Death’s arms and let it use her body as it desires—if Death would only come. But the morbid seduction of the opening couplets soon shifts, as often in Pulter’s verse, to a fascinated meditation on the material reconfigurations which might follow our earthly life. Vital salt, vapor, atoms, and world-annihilating fire are all quickly canvassed as mere stages in a larger cosmological revolution directed by the only figure who upstages Death in Pulter’s dramatis personae: the God who, she confidently predicts, shall turn the world upside-down by atomizing Death and returning her to life. The poem’s dramatic forward thrust through a single protracted sentence—driven by nearly breathless anaphoric hypotaxis, projecting us into an imagined future (“And then,” “Then,” “Nay, when,” “And when,” “And all,” “And even”)—is brought up short by a full stop and final confession: the speaker has no idea how what she envisions can actually come to be.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
From its opening, “Dear Death … I’ll throw myself into thy arms”, this poem evokes the panache and paradox of John Donne’s ’Holy Sonnets’ (See ‘Dear Death’ in Curations for this poem). In his poem ’Batter my heart’, Donne deploys similar erotic metaphors of embrace, while his ‘Death, be not proud’ addresses Death directly as Pulter does here (See also Pulter’s poem The Welcome [Poem 19] which opens “Dear death thou’rt welcome…”). Pulter’s characteristic approach, though, is to infuse this daring address to death with another register of imagery, that of alchemy: God breaks down and builds up the speaker not through ravishment, as with Donne, but through chemical transformation. In the original manuscript, this poem’s only full stop is halfway through the final line. This provides a sense of completion after the uplifting hope that God “Will raise me unto life”. Yet this hope is undercut by several other formal features: with fifteen lines, she extends beyond sonnet length; using a triplet after six couplets, she creates the anticipation of a further line which is not fulfilled; after the full stop in line 15 she creates abrupt uncertainty with the half line “I know not how”, a thought left hanging. The poem’s form questions its promised “hope”. (See Alice Eardley, ‘“I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe”: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse’ in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], pp. 162-78).

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version B [The Uncertain Hope]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the edition you are currently reading—Version B: The Uncertain Hope—I have retained the punctuation of the manuscript (and bolded those original punctuation marks, and colored them red, to call attention to them), but have not added any punctuation of my own. This version relies on the fundamental ambiguity created by the dearth of punctuation in the manuscript itself, which as I argued above leaves the ultimate message of the poem up to the interpreting reader’s personal punctuation decisions.
In this edition I have left the punctuation in the manuscript intact, and have also added extra spaces between each of the words; I do this to invite readers, or students, to print (or copy-paste) the poem and to add their own punctuation, as a kind of exercise that will allow them to gauge their initial reading of the poem. Readers of this poem can also refer themselves to my two alternative Amplified Editions of the poem (Versions C and D), each of which punctuates the poem differently to bring out the resurrective and nihilistic readings, respectively. As the user of this digital edition, you can consult these alternate versions in a variety of ways: you might test your own reading on Version B before comparing your punctuation with my other two options, for instance. Or you might use The Pulter Project’s built-in versioning tools to compare the multiple versions side by side, highlighting differences and discrepancies.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version C [The Hope for Resurrection]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version C: The Hope for Resurrection—I punctuate the poem to bring out and make more readily available the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter unambiguously desires and hopes for a final resurrection after her death. This reading relies on the parts of the poem where Pulter openly announces both her prayers to and her trust in God (“God . . . Will raise me unto life”), and reads those frank protestations of trust as overwhelming any seeming kernels of doubt (“I know not how” God will manage to resurrect me when the matter that makes up my body has been dissolved—but I have faith he will manage).
As mentioned above, the most crucial punctuation decision in this version is the addition of a full stop at the end of the sixth line, which breaks the poem into two equal parts, each of which takes its own journey down into doubt and then back up into reassurance. If there is a full stop at the end of line 6, then Pulter twice worries about physical dissolution, but each time comforts herself with the knowledge that even if she does not know the exact mechanics of how it will happen, God will find a way to resurrect her. This repeated journey—down into doubt about physical dissolution and then back up into faith—parallels that taken in other poems, including especially Dear God, From Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which worries about her body being burned into dust, dissolved into tears, and sighed away into air, only to constantly reassure herself each time that no matter what dissolution she may experience, she can still trust in God.
My other punctuation decisions in this edition also reinforce this reading of a faith in resurrection, and in addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes to this edition that highlight how specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version D [The Hope for Final Death]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version D: The Hope for Final Death—I punctuate the poem to bring out the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter fantasizes about an escalating, total dissolution of her physical body, a dissolution so absolute that it would be impossible for enough material remains to survive to allow God to resurrect her. This reading relies in particular on the two moments where she fantasizes about the destruction of supposedly indestructible things: when she imagines that the “little luz” (the supposedly indestructible bone that served as the kernel of bodily resurrection) will dissolve into dust; and when she insists that “even” atoms—the most fundamental particles of nature, commonly referred to as “indivisibles” in the period—will burn.
My punctuation in this version, much like in the manuscript itself, refuses any hard stops from the moment Pulter starts imagining dissolution until the very last line of the poem. This decision makes the vast majority of the poem a breathy run-on sentence imagining increasing degrees of destruction, which then ends with an abrupt and seemingly ill-founded assertion of faith, that is in turn immediately undercut by a final return to doubt: “I know not how . . .” The poem, then, is a bit like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129, “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” with each clause piling upon the last to communicate increasing mental agitation (in Sonnet 129, agitation born of misogyny; in “The Hope,” agitation born of an uncertainty about death and dissolution). Refusing to break the momentum of Pulter’s fantasies of dissolution in the middle of the poem (as happens in Version C) allows this escalation.
My other punctuation decisions in this version also reinforce the reading of the poem as an escalation of fantasies of destruction so extreme that no feeble, vague protestation of faith can possibly overcome them. In addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes that highlight how these specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for a dissolution so complete that it could not possibly seed any future resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Deare Death deſolve theiſe mortall charms
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms,
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms
Dear Death
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
Dear Death,
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
Critical Note
Adding an exclamation mark at the end of an opening apostrophe (a direct address to a real or allegorical figure) is a common editorial choice, and here additionally augments the passion she attaches to her conjuration of and invitation to “Dear” Death, into whose arms she wants to “throw” herself, and whom she invites to “use my carcass, as thou lust.”
Dear Death!
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
2
And then Ile throw my ſelfe into thy arms
And then I’ll throw myself into thy arms;
And then I’ll throw myself into Thy arms.
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms,
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms;
3
Then though mayest uſe my Carkes as thou lust
Then thou may’st use my carcass as thou
Gloss Note
choose; please
lust
,
Then Thou may’st use my
Gloss Note
dead body
carcass
as Thou lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
,
Then thou mayest use my carcass, as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms. As was mentioned above, adding an exclamation line at the end of the opening apostrophe enhances this reading.
lust
,
4
Untill my boans (and little Luz) bee dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
also known as the “os sacrum,” or sacred bone: a triangular bone low in the spine; in rabbinical legend, the nucleus of the body at the Resurrection
luz
) be
Critical Note
disintegrated matter; also original, formative physical elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
:
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
an esoteric term for a tiny spinal bone, originating from the Hebrew word for a nut and thought to be the seed of rebirth at the Day of Judgement. Some writers, like Nicholas Culpeper, dismissed the luz as a “ridiculous fable” (See The ‘Little Luz’ in Curations for this poem).
luz
) be dust.
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust—
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be
Critical Note
I have put the hardest punctuation mark (until the final line) here, thereby breaking the poem into three distinct phases: the opening, with its loving and erotic conjuration of death (ll. 1–4); the escalating fantasies of physical dissolution (ll. 5–10), and the tentative affirmation and then doubt of God’s ability to resurrect her (ll. 11–15). Adding a colon here recasts the second section as an elaboration on line 4, as if the idea of Death using her until she is dust is what prompts the further fantasies of dissolution that follow immediately after.
dust:
5
Naye when that handfull is blow’n all about
Nay, when that handful is blown all about,
Nay, when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further (no, dust isn’t enough: Death will find and break down that dust into the primary alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust), or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive (no, wait—even if I’m dust, God will find out the more fundamental salt)? The passive construction makes the subject of the “finding” impossible to discern.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? The punctuation I have added here assumes the latter: the dash at the end of line 4 creates a hard break in her disturbing reflections on Death’s “use” of her carcass, and the colon after “Nay” makes the two lines that follow appear to be a longer restatement of that negation, as if she is saying: No: even when I am dust, God will find out the still more essential “vital salt.”
Nay:
when that handful is blown all about,
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? In failing to add any punctuation after “Nay” I suggest that it is the former, as if this line says: No, not just dust: Death will find the more essential alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust, and scatter that as well.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about,
6
Yett still the vitale ſalt will bee fownd out
Yet still the
Gloss Note
The alchemist Paracelsus expanded the Arabic doctrine that two principles, sulfur and mercury, were the roots of all things by adding a third principle, salt.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
salt was one of the three first principles in alchemy, according to Paracelsus, along with mercury and sulphur. Salt represented the body and was found in the ashes (see Lyndy Abraham, Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge: CUP, 2001). In Matthew 5.13 of the Bible, man is also described as “the salt of the earth”.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
What punctuation one adds at the end of line 6 is, perhaps, the most significant indicator for how one reads the poem itself (see the headnote of this version for more detail), and is therefore an important decision for a punctuator: do you read lines 7–8 as a continuation of line 6, or as a new thought?
found out
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
By adding a period or full stop at the end of line 6, I have broken the poem into two balanced parts, each of which dips temporarily into doubt only to be redeemed by faith. For more detail on the importance of the punctuation at the end of this line, see the headnote to this version; it is this single punctuation mark, more than any other, that causes this poem to read as hopeful for resurrection.
found out.
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
Punctuating the end of this line with a comma suggests that the “vital salt” will be found out so it can be further broken down or dispersed, and also allows the “And” that begins line 7 to more immediately and grammatically follow on what comes before.
found out,
7
And when the vapour is breath’d out in Thunder
And
Critical Note
a theory of the source of thunder; see, e.g., “Thunder proceeds from a vapor lifted up from the earth.” Stephen Gosson, The Trumpet of War (London, 1598), A3r.
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And when the vapour is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
,
8
Unto poore Mortalls Loſs, or paine, or wonder
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
9
And all that is in thee to Atoms turn’d
And all that is in thee to
Gloss Note
in ancient Greek philosophy and new seventeenth-century science, minute and indivisible particles of which matter is composed
atoms
turned,
And all that is in Thee to
Gloss Note
the smallest possible particle of which all matter is made
atoms
turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
  
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
,
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
10
And even thoſe Atoms in this Orb is burn’d
And even those atoms in this
Gloss Note
Earth
orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
the earth; possibly also the circular vessel used for distillation in alchemy (see Alchemical Circles in Curations for Poem 1).
this orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
  
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”).
is burned
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, which makes the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). In the hopeful, resurrective reading of the poem, it would not make sense to intensify the destruction, so rather than fixing this grammatical error with punctuation, I have emended the “is” to “[are]”.
[are] burned
,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” I have fixed this seeming error with punctuation, by turning “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). This intensification seemed appropriate as the climax of the section of the poem that escalates destruction.
is burned,
11
Yett still that God that can anihillate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
12
This all, and itt of nothinge recreate
This all, and it
Gloss Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
of nothing recreate
,
This all, and it of nothing recreate,
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.”
it
  
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a resurrective reading of the poem (if they agreed that the word “it” was initially written as “us”) might consider emending the word back to “us”—to edit for first intentions rather than final intentions—to show how she imagined God specifically resurrecting or recreating us humans following the annihilation of “this all.”
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a reading of the poem that refuses the possibility of resurrection might want not only to leave the change ("it" for "us"), but also to point out that if there is indeed a correction here, then it illustrates Pulter editing the the poem to make it less explicitly about resurrection. The edit (from "us" to "itt") changes the claim to make resurrection less certain: rather than God resurrecting us humans, in the revised version God recreates it, the universe as a whole, and the poem deliberately does not specify whether that newly recreated universe would also include us.
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
,
13
Physical Note
first “e” blotted out after “E”
E[e]ven
Hee that hath ſupported mee till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He, that hath supported me till now,
14
To whom my ſoule doth praye and humbly bow
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow
Critical Note
By setting lines 13–14 off by dashes, I have intensified her double affirmation of God’s power to resurrect even her scattered and destroyed body. With this version’s punctuation, lines 11–12 affirm God’s power in general, and lines 13–14 interject his particularly positive track record of his support of her in particular, which then combine to create her very justified belief that God “Will raise me unto life.”
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow—
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
15
Will raiſe mee unto liffe. I know not
Physical Note
remaining third of page blank
how
Will
Gloss Note
allusion to the process, predicted in biblical book of Revelation, by which souls will be restored to their bodies and raised to heaven at the Resurrection, also known as the second coming of Christ or Final Judgment
raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Will raise me unto life. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Critical Note
The ellipses added to the end of the poem communicate the uncertainty behind the final four words in this version, which hopes for final death. This choice enhances the effect of the manuscript version, which trails off without punctuation. Another possibility might have been an exclamation mark to end the poem, which would connote less uncertainty and more exasperation or frustration at her inability to comprehend the mechanics of resurrection.
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition A
Title note

 Critical note

In both this poem’s title reference to ‘The Hope’ and its narrative of reduction to dust, Pulter may allude to the Book of Common Prayer (which laid out the forms of worship for the post-Reformation church in England) and especially its burial service: “Forasmuch it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (See Dust in ‘The Order for The Burial of the Dead’ in Curations for this poem.)

 Editorial note

With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

 Headnote

From its opening, “Dear Death … I’ll throw myself into thy arms”, this poem evokes the panache and paradox of John Donne’s ’Holy Sonnets’ (See ‘Dear Death’ in Curations for this poem). In his poem ’Batter my heart’, Donne deploys similar erotic metaphors of embrace, while his ‘Death, be not proud’ addresses Death directly as Pulter does here (See also Pulter’s poem The Welcome [Poem 19] which opens “Dear death thou’rt welcome…”). Pulter’s characteristic approach, though, is to infuse this daring address to death with another register of imagery, that of alchemy: God breaks down and builds up the speaker not through ravishment, as with Donne, but through chemical transformation. In the original manuscript, this poem’s only full stop is halfway through the final line. This provides a sense of completion after the uplifting hope that God “Will raise me unto life”. Yet this hope is undercut by several other formal features: with fifteen lines, she extends beyond sonnet length; using a triplet after six couplets, she creates the anticipation of a further line which is not fulfilled; after the full stop in line 15 she creates abrupt uncertainty with the half line “I know not how”, a thought left hanging. The poem’s form questions its promised “hope”. (See Alice Eardley, ‘“I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe”: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse’ in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], pp. 162-78).
Line number 3

 Gloss note

dead body
Line number 4

 Critical note

an esoteric term for a tiny spinal bone, originating from the Hebrew word for a nut and thought to be the seed of rebirth at the Day of Judgement. Some writers, like Nicholas Culpeper, dismissed the luz as a “ridiculous fable” (See The ‘Little Luz’ in Curations for this poem).
Line number 6

 Critical note

salt was one of the three first principles in alchemy, according to Paracelsus, along with mercury and sulphur. Salt represented the body and was found in the ashes (see Lyndy Abraham, Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge: CUP, 2001). In Matthew 5.13 of the Bible, man is also described as “the salt of the earth”.
Line number 9

 Gloss note

the smallest possible particle of which all matter is made
Line number 10

 Gloss note

the earth; possibly also the circular vessel used for distillation in alchemy (see Alchemical Circles in Curations for Poem 1).
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition A
Amplified Edition A

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Physical Note
poem in H2
The Hope
January : 1665 :
Physical Note
This poem is in a different hand from that of the main scribe, probably Pulter’s. Below the title is the date “January, 1665” also in Pulter’s hand.
The Hope
Critical Note
In both this poem’s title reference to ‘The Hope’ and its narrative of reduction to dust, Pulter may allude to the Book of Common Prayer (which laid out the forms of worship for the post-Reformation church in England) and especially its burial service: “Forasmuch it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (See Dust in ‘The Order for The Burial of the Dead’ in Curations for this poem.)
The Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition A
The [Uncertain] Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition B
The Hope [for Resurrection]
January 1665 Amplified Edition C
The Hope [for Final Death]
January 1665 Amplified Edition D
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
“I have been half in love with easeful Death,” wrote Keats; “Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath.” Pulter does as much in this poem, which begins like a love letter to Death. Its writer promises to throw herself into Death’s arms and let it use her body as it desires—if Death would only come. But the morbid seduction of the opening couplets soon shifts, as often in Pulter’s verse, to a fascinated meditation on the material reconfigurations which might follow our earthly life. Vital salt, vapor, atoms, and world-annihilating fire are all quickly canvassed as mere stages in a larger cosmological revolution directed by the only figure who upstages Death in Pulter’s dramatis personae: the God who, she confidently predicts, shall turn the world upside-down by atomizing Death and returning her to life. The poem’s dramatic forward thrust through a single protracted sentence—driven by nearly breathless anaphoric hypotaxis, projecting us into an imagined future (“And then,” “Then,” “Nay, when,” “And when,” “And all,” “And even”)—is brought up short by a full stop and final confession: the speaker has no idea how what she envisions can actually come to be.

— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
From its opening, “Dear Death … I’ll throw myself into thy arms”, this poem evokes the panache and paradox of John Donne’s ’Holy Sonnets’ (See ‘Dear Death’ in Curations for this poem). In his poem ’Batter my heart’, Donne deploys similar erotic metaphors of embrace, while his ‘Death, be not proud’ addresses Death directly as Pulter does here (See also Pulter’s poem The Welcome [Poem 19] which opens “Dear death thou’rt welcome…”). Pulter’s characteristic approach, though, is to infuse this daring address to death with another register of imagery, that of alchemy: God breaks down and builds up the speaker not through ravishment, as with Donne, but through chemical transformation. In the original manuscript, this poem’s only full stop is halfway through the final line. This provides a sense of completion after the uplifting hope that God “Will raise me unto life”. Yet this hope is undercut by several other formal features: with fifteen lines, she extends beyond sonnet length; using a triplet after six couplets, she creates the anticipation of a further line which is not fulfilled; after the full stop in line 15 she creates abrupt uncertainty with the half line “I know not how”, a thought left hanging. The poem’s form questions its promised “hope”. (See Alice Eardley, ‘“I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe”: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse’ in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], pp. 162-78).

— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version B [The Uncertain Hope]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the edition you are currently reading—Version B: The Uncertain Hope—I have retained the punctuation of the manuscript (and bolded those original punctuation marks, and colored them red, to call attention to them), but have not added any punctuation of my own. This version relies on the fundamental ambiguity created by the dearth of punctuation in the manuscript itself, which as I argued above leaves the ultimate message of the poem up to the interpreting reader’s personal punctuation decisions.
In this edition I have left the punctuation in the manuscript intact, and have also added extra spaces between each of the words; I do this to invite readers, or students, to print (or copy-paste) the poem and to add their own punctuation, as a kind of exercise that will allow them to gauge their initial reading of the poem. Readers of this poem can also refer themselves to my two alternative Amplified Editions of the poem (Versions C and D), each of which punctuates the poem differently to bring out the resurrective and nihilistic readings, respectively. As the user of this digital edition, you can consult these alternate versions in a variety of ways: you might test your own reading on Version B before comparing your punctuation with my other two options, for instance. Or you might use The Pulter Project’s built-in versioning tools to compare the multiple versions side by side, highlighting differences and discrepancies.


— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version C [The Hope for Resurrection]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version C: The Hope for Resurrection—I punctuate the poem to bring out and make more readily available the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter unambiguously desires and hopes for a final resurrection after her death. This reading relies on the parts of the poem where Pulter openly announces both her prayers to and her trust in God (“God . . . Will raise me unto life”), and reads those frank protestations of trust as overwhelming any seeming kernels of doubt (“I know not how” God will manage to resurrect me when the matter that makes up my body has been dissolved—but I have faith he will manage).
As mentioned above, the most crucial punctuation decision in this version is the addition of a full stop at the end of the sixth line, which breaks the poem into two equal parts, each of which takes its own journey down into doubt and then back up into reassurance. If there is a full stop at the end of line 6, then Pulter twice worries about physical dissolution, but each time comforts herself with the knowledge that even if she does not know the exact mechanics of how it will happen, God will find a way to resurrect her. This repeated journey—down into doubt about physical dissolution and then back up into faith—parallels that taken in other poems, including especially Dear God, From Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which worries about her body being burned into dust, dissolved into tears, and sighed away into air, only to constantly reassure herself each time that no matter what dissolution she may experience, she can still trust in God.
My other punctuation decisions in this edition also reinforce this reading of a faith in resurrection, and in addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes to this edition that highlight how specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version D [The Hope for Final Death]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version D: The Hope for Final Death—I punctuate the poem to bring out the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter fantasizes about an escalating, total dissolution of her physical body, a dissolution so absolute that it would be impossible for enough material remains to survive to allow God to resurrect her. This reading relies in particular on the two moments where she fantasizes about the destruction of supposedly indestructible things: when she imagines that the “little luz” (the supposedly indestructible bone that served as the kernel of bodily resurrection) will dissolve into dust; and when she insists that “even” atoms—the most fundamental particles of nature, commonly referred to as “indivisibles” in the period—will burn.
My punctuation in this version, much like in the manuscript itself, refuses any hard stops from the moment Pulter starts imagining dissolution until the very last line of the poem. This decision makes the vast majority of the poem a breathy run-on sentence imagining increasing degrees of destruction, which then ends with an abrupt and seemingly ill-founded assertion of faith, that is in turn immediately undercut by a final return to doubt: “I know not how . . .” The poem, then, is a bit like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129, “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” with each clause piling upon the last to communicate increasing mental agitation (in Sonnet 129, agitation born of misogyny; in “The Hope,” agitation born of an uncertainty about death and dissolution). Refusing to break the momentum of Pulter’s fantasies of dissolution in the middle of the poem (as happens in Version C) allows this escalation.
My other punctuation decisions in this version also reinforce the reading of the poem as an escalation of fantasies of destruction so extreme that no feeble, vague protestation of faith can possibly overcome them. In addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes that highlight how these specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for a dissolution so complete that it could not possibly seed any future resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
1
Deare Death deſolve theiſe mortall charms
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms,
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms
Dear Death
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
Dear Death,
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
Critical Note
Adding an exclamation mark at the end of an opening apostrophe (a direct address to a real or allegorical figure) is a common editorial choice, and here additionally augments the passion she attaches to her conjuration of and invitation to “Dear” Death, into whose arms she wants to “throw” herself, and whom she invites to “use my carcass, as thou lust.”
Dear Death!
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
2
And then Ile throw my ſelfe into thy arms
And then I’ll throw myself into thy arms;
And then I’ll throw myself into Thy arms.
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms,
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms;
3
Then though mayest uſe my Carkes as thou lust
Then thou may’st use my carcass as thou
Gloss Note
choose; please
lust
,
Then Thou may’st use my
Gloss Note
dead body
carcass
as Thou lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
,
Then thou mayest use my carcass, as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms. As was mentioned above, adding an exclamation line at the end of the opening apostrophe enhances this reading.
lust
,
4
Untill my boans (and little Luz) bee dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
also known as the “os sacrum,” or sacred bone: a triangular bone low in the spine; in rabbinical legend, the nucleus of the body at the Resurrection
luz
) be
Critical Note
disintegrated matter; also original, formative physical elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
:
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
an esoteric term for a tiny spinal bone, originating from the Hebrew word for a nut and thought to be the seed of rebirth at the Day of Judgement. Some writers, like Nicholas Culpeper, dismissed the luz as a “ridiculous fable” (See The ‘Little Luz’ in Curations for this poem).
luz
) be dust.
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust—
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be
Critical Note
I have put the hardest punctuation mark (until the final line) here, thereby breaking the poem into three distinct phases: the opening, with its loving and erotic conjuration of death (ll. 1–4); the escalating fantasies of physical dissolution (ll. 5–10), and the tentative affirmation and then doubt of God’s ability to resurrect her (ll. 11–15). Adding a colon here recasts the second section as an elaboration on line 4, as if the idea of Death using her until she is dust is what prompts the further fantasies of dissolution that follow immediately after.
dust:
5
Naye when that handfull is blow’n all about
Nay, when that handful is blown all about,
Nay, when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further (no, dust isn’t enough: Death will find and break down that dust into the primary alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust), or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive (no, wait—even if I’m dust, God will find out the more fundamental salt)? The passive construction makes the subject of the “finding” impossible to discern.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? The punctuation I have added here assumes the latter: the dash at the end of line 4 creates a hard break in her disturbing reflections on Death’s “use” of her carcass, and the colon after “Nay” makes the two lines that follow appear to be a longer restatement of that negation, as if she is saying: No: even when I am dust, God will find out the still more essential “vital salt.”
Nay:
when that handful is blown all about,
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? In failing to add any punctuation after “Nay” I suggest that it is the former, as if this line says: No, not just dust: Death will find the more essential alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust, and scatter that as well.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about,
6
Yett still the vitale ſalt will bee fownd out
Yet still the
Gloss Note
The alchemist Paracelsus expanded the Arabic doctrine that two principles, sulfur and mercury, were the roots of all things by adding a third principle, salt.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
salt was one of the three first principles in alchemy, according to Paracelsus, along with mercury and sulphur. Salt represented the body and was found in the ashes (see Lyndy Abraham, Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge: CUP, 2001). In Matthew 5.13 of the Bible, man is also described as “the salt of the earth”.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
What punctuation one adds at the end of line 6 is, perhaps, the most significant indicator for how one reads the poem itself (see the headnote of this version for more detail), and is therefore an important decision for a punctuator: do you read lines 7–8 as a continuation of line 6, or as a new thought?
found out
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
By adding a period or full stop at the end of line 6, I have broken the poem into two balanced parts, each of which dips temporarily into doubt only to be redeemed by faith. For more detail on the importance of the punctuation at the end of this line, see the headnote to this version; it is this single punctuation mark, more than any other, that causes this poem to read as hopeful for resurrection.
found out.
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
Punctuating the end of this line with a comma suggests that the “vital salt” will be found out so it can be further broken down or dispersed, and also allows the “And” that begins line 7 to more immediately and grammatically follow on what comes before.
found out,
7
And when the vapour is breath’d out in Thunder
And
Critical Note
a theory of the source of thunder; see, e.g., “Thunder proceeds from a vapor lifted up from the earth.” Stephen Gosson, The Trumpet of War (London, 1598), A3r.
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And when the vapour is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
,
8
Unto poore Mortalls Loſs, or paine, or wonder
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
9
And all that is in thee to Atoms turn’d
And all that is in thee to
Gloss Note
in ancient Greek philosophy and new seventeenth-century science, minute and indivisible particles of which matter is composed
atoms
turned,
And all that is in Thee to
Gloss Note
the smallest possible particle of which all matter is made
atoms
turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
  
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
,
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
10
And even thoſe Atoms in this Orb is burn’d
And even those atoms in this
Gloss Note
Earth
orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
the earth; possibly also the circular vessel used for distillation in alchemy (see Alchemical Circles in Curations for Poem 1).
this orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
  
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”).
is burned
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, which makes the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). In the hopeful, resurrective reading of the poem, it would not make sense to intensify the destruction, so rather than fixing this grammatical error with punctuation, I have emended the “is” to “[are]”.
[are] burned
,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” I have fixed this seeming error with punctuation, by turning “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). This intensification seemed appropriate as the climax of the section of the poem that escalates destruction.
is burned,
11
Yett still that God that can anihillate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
12
This all, and itt of nothinge recreate
This all, and it
Gloss Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
of nothing recreate
,
This all, and it of nothing recreate,
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.”
it
  
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a resurrective reading of the poem (if they agreed that the word “it” was initially written as “us”) might consider emending the word back to “us”—to edit for first intentions rather than final intentions—to show how she imagined God specifically resurrecting or recreating us humans following the annihilation of “this all.”
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a reading of the poem that refuses the possibility of resurrection might want not only to leave the change ("it" for "us"), but also to point out that if there is indeed a correction here, then it illustrates Pulter editing the the poem to make it less explicitly about resurrection. The edit (from "us" to "itt") changes the claim to make resurrection less certain: rather than God resurrecting us humans, in the revised version God recreates it, the universe as a whole, and the poem deliberately does not specify whether that newly recreated universe would also include us.
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
,
13
Physical Note
first “e” blotted out after “E”
E[e]ven
Hee that hath ſupported mee till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He, that hath supported me till now,
14
To whom my ſoule doth praye and humbly bow
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow
Critical Note
By setting lines 13–14 off by dashes, I have intensified her double affirmation of God’s power to resurrect even her scattered and destroyed body. With this version’s punctuation, lines 11–12 affirm God’s power in general, and lines 13–14 interject his particularly positive track record of his support of her in particular, which then combine to create her very justified belief that God “Will raise me unto life.”
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow—
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
15
Will raiſe mee unto liffe. I know not
Physical Note
remaining third of page blank
how
Will
Gloss Note
allusion to the process, predicted in biblical book of Revelation, by which souls will be restored to their bodies and raised to heaven at the Resurrection, also known as the second coming of Christ or Final Judgment
raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Will raise me unto life. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Critical Note
The ellipses added to the end of the poem communicate the uncertainty behind the final four words in this version, which hopes for final death. This choice enhances the effect of the manuscript version, which trails off without punctuation. Another possibility might have been an exclamation mark to end the poem, which would connote less uncertainty and more exasperation or frustration at her inability to comprehend the mechanics of resurrection.
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition B

 Editorial note

Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.

 Headnote

How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version B [The Uncertain Hope]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the edition you are currently reading—Version B: The Uncertain Hope—I have retained the punctuation of the manuscript (and bolded those original punctuation marks, and colored them red, to call attention to them), but have not added any punctuation of my own. This version relies on the fundamental ambiguity created by the dearth of punctuation in the manuscript itself, which as I argued above leaves the ultimate message of the poem up to the interpreting reader’s personal punctuation decisions.
In this edition I have left the punctuation in the manuscript intact, and have also added extra spaces between each of the words; I do this to invite readers, or students, to print (or copy-paste) the poem and to add their own punctuation, as a kind of exercise that will allow them to gauge their initial reading of the poem. Readers of this poem can also refer themselves to my two alternative Amplified Editions of the poem (Versions C and D), each of which punctuates the poem differently to bring out the resurrective and nihilistic readings, respectively. As the user of this digital edition, you can consult these alternate versions in a variety of ways: you might test your own reading on Version B before comparing your punctuation with my other two options, for instance. Or you might use The Pulter Project’s built-in versioning tools to compare the multiple versions side by side, highlighting differences and discrepancies.
Line number 1

 Gloss note

either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Line number 1

 Gloss note

either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
Line number 3

 Critical note

The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
Line number 4

 Critical note

As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
Line number 5

 Critical note

This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further (no, dust isn’t enough: Death will find and break down that dust into the primary alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust), or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive (no, wait—even if I’m dust, God will find out the more fundamental salt)? The passive construction makes the subject of the “finding” impossible to discern.
Line number 6

 Critical note

In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
Line number 6

 Critical note

What punctuation one adds at the end of line 6 is, perhaps, the most significant indicator for how one reads the poem itself (see the headnote of this version for more detail), and is therefore an important decision for a punctuator: do you read lines 7–8 as a continuation of line 6, or as a new thought?
Line number 7

 Critical note

Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
Line number 8

 Critical note

The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
Line number 9

 Gloss note

She presumably continues to address Death here.
Line number 9

 Critical note

Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
Line number 10

 Gloss note

“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
Line number 10

 Critical note

Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”).
Line number 12

 Critical note

See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.”
Line number 12

 Critical note

One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
Line number 15

 Gloss note

will resurrect me
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition B
Amplified Edition B

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Physical Note
poem in H2
The Hope
January : 1665 :
Physical Note
This poem is in a different hand from that of the main scribe, probably Pulter’s. Below the title is the date “January, 1665” also in Pulter’s hand.
The Hope
Critical Note
In both this poem’s title reference to ‘The Hope’ and its narrative of reduction to dust, Pulter may allude to the Book of Common Prayer (which laid out the forms of worship for the post-Reformation church in England) and especially its burial service: “Forasmuch it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (See Dust in ‘The Order for The Burial of the Dead’ in Curations for this poem.)
The Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition A
The [Uncertain] Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition B
The Hope [for Resurrection]
January 1665 Amplified Edition C
The Hope [for Final Death]
January 1665 Amplified Edition D
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

— Liza Blake
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.

— Liza Blake
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
“I have been half in love with easeful Death,” wrote Keats; “Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath.” Pulter does as much in this poem, which begins like a love letter to Death. Its writer promises to throw herself into Death’s arms and let it use her body as it desires—if Death would only come. But the morbid seduction of the opening couplets soon shifts, as often in Pulter’s verse, to a fascinated meditation on the material reconfigurations which might follow our earthly life. Vital salt, vapor, atoms, and world-annihilating fire are all quickly canvassed as mere stages in a larger cosmological revolution directed by the only figure who upstages Death in Pulter’s dramatis personae: the God who, she confidently predicts, shall turn the world upside-down by atomizing Death and returning her to life. The poem’s dramatic forward thrust through a single protracted sentence—driven by nearly breathless anaphoric hypotaxis, projecting us into an imagined future (“And then,” “Then,” “Nay, when,” “And when,” “And all,” “And even”)—is brought up short by a full stop and final confession: the speaker has no idea how what she envisions can actually come to be.

— Liza Blake
From its opening, “Dear Death … I’ll throw myself into thy arms”, this poem evokes the panache and paradox of John Donne’s ’Holy Sonnets’ (See ‘Dear Death’ in Curations for this poem). In his poem ’Batter my heart’, Donne deploys similar erotic metaphors of embrace, while his ‘Death, be not proud’ addresses Death directly as Pulter does here (See also Pulter’s poem The Welcome [Poem 19] which opens “Dear death thou’rt welcome…”). Pulter’s characteristic approach, though, is to infuse this daring address to death with another register of imagery, that of alchemy: God breaks down and builds up the speaker not through ravishment, as with Donne, but through chemical transformation. In the original manuscript, this poem’s only full stop is halfway through the final line. This provides a sense of completion after the uplifting hope that God “Will raise me unto life”. Yet this hope is undercut by several other formal features: with fifteen lines, she extends beyond sonnet length; using a triplet after six couplets, she creates the anticipation of a further line which is not fulfilled; after the full stop in line 15 she creates abrupt uncertainty with the half line “I know not how”, a thought left hanging. The poem’s form questions its promised “hope”. (See Alice Eardley, ‘“I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe”: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse’ in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], pp. 162-78).

— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version B [The Uncertain Hope]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the edition you are currently reading—Version B: The Uncertain Hope—I have retained the punctuation of the manuscript (and bolded those original punctuation marks, and colored them red, to call attention to them), but have not added any punctuation of my own. This version relies on the fundamental ambiguity created by the dearth of punctuation in the manuscript itself, which as I argued above leaves the ultimate message of the poem up to the interpreting reader’s personal punctuation decisions.
In this edition I have left the punctuation in the manuscript intact, and have also added extra spaces between each of the words; I do this to invite readers, or students, to print (or copy-paste) the poem and to add their own punctuation, as a kind of exercise that will allow them to gauge their initial reading of the poem. Readers of this poem can also refer themselves to my two alternative Amplified Editions of the poem (Versions C and D), each of which punctuates the poem differently to bring out the resurrective and nihilistic readings, respectively. As the user of this digital edition, you can consult these alternate versions in a variety of ways: you might test your own reading on Version B before comparing your punctuation with my other two options, for instance. Or you might use The Pulter Project’s built-in versioning tools to compare the multiple versions side by side, highlighting differences and discrepancies.


— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version C [The Hope for Resurrection]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version C: The Hope for Resurrection—I punctuate the poem to bring out and make more readily available the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter unambiguously desires and hopes for a final resurrection after her death. This reading relies on the parts of the poem where Pulter openly announces both her prayers to and her trust in God (“God . . . Will raise me unto life”), and reads those frank protestations of trust as overwhelming any seeming kernels of doubt (“I know not how” God will manage to resurrect me when the matter that makes up my body has been dissolved—but I have faith he will manage).
As mentioned above, the most crucial punctuation decision in this version is the addition of a full stop at the end of the sixth line, which breaks the poem into two equal parts, each of which takes its own journey down into doubt and then back up into reassurance. If there is a full stop at the end of line 6, then Pulter twice worries about physical dissolution, but each time comforts herself with the knowledge that even if she does not know the exact mechanics of how it will happen, God will find a way to resurrect her. This repeated journey—down into doubt about physical dissolution and then back up into faith—parallels that taken in other poems, including especially Dear God, From Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which worries about her body being burned into dust, dissolved into tears, and sighed away into air, only to constantly reassure herself each time that no matter what dissolution she may experience, she can still trust in God.
My other punctuation decisions in this edition also reinforce this reading of a faith in resurrection, and in addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes to this edition that highlight how specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version D [The Hope for Final Death]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version D: The Hope for Final Death—I punctuate the poem to bring out the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter fantasizes about an escalating, total dissolution of her physical body, a dissolution so absolute that it would be impossible for enough material remains to survive to allow God to resurrect her. This reading relies in particular on the two moments where she fantasizes about the destruction of supposedly indestructible things: when she imagines that the “little luz” (the supposedly indestructible bone that served as the kernel of bodily resurrection) will dissolve into dust; and when she insists that “even” atoms—the most fundamental particles of nature, commonly referred to as “indivisibles” in the period—will burn.
My punctuation in this version, much like in the manuscript itself, refuses any hard stops from the moment Pulter starts imagining dissolution until the very last line of the poem. This decision makes the vast majority of the poem a breathy run-on sentence imagining increasing degrees of destruction, which then ends with an abrupt and seemingly ill-founded assertion of faith, that is in turn immediately undercut by a final return to doubt: “I know not how . . .” The poem, then, is a bit like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129, “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” with each clause piling upon the last to communicate increasing mental agitation (in Sonnet 129, agitation born of misogyny; in “The Hope,” agitation born of an uncertainty about death and dissolution). Refusing to break the momentum of Pulter’s fantasies of dissolution in the middle of the poem (as happens in Version C) allows this escalation.
My other punctuation decisions in this version also reinforce the reading of the poem as an escalation of fantasies of destruction so extreme that no feeble, vague protestation of faith can possibly overcome them. In addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes that highlight how these specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for a dissolution so complete that it could not possibly seed any future resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Liza Blake
1
Deare Death deſolve theiſe mortall charms
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms,
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms
Dear Death
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
Dear Death,
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
Critical Note
Adding an exclamation mark at the end of an opening apostrophe (a direct address to a real or allegorical figure) is a common editorial choice, and here additionally augments the passion she attaches to her conjuration of and invitation to “Dear” Death, into whose arms she wants to “throw” herself, and whom she invites to “use my carcass, as thou lust.”
Dear Death!
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
2
And then Ile throw my ſelfe into thy arms
And then I’ll throw myself into thy arms;
And then I’ll throw myself into Thy arms.
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms,
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms;
3
Then though mayest uſe my Carkes as thou lust
Then thou may’st use my carcass as thou
Gloss Note
choose; please
lust
,
Then Thou may’st use my
Gloss Note
dead body
carcass
as Thou lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
,
Then thou mayest use my carcass, as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms. As was mentioned above, adding an exclamation line at the end of the opening apostrophe enhances this reading.
lust
,
4
Untill my boans (and little Luz) bee dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
also known as the “os sacrum,” or sacred bone: a triangular bone low in the spine; in rabbinical legend, the nucleus of the body at the Resurrection
luz
) be
Critical Note
disintegrated matter; also original, formative physical elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
:
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
an esoteric term for a tiny spinal bone, originating from the Hebrew word for a nut and thought to be the seed of rebirth at the Day of Judgement. Some writers, like Nicholas Culpeper, dismissed the luz as a “ridiculous fable” (See The ‘Little Luz’ in Curations for this poem).
luz
) be dust.
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust—
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be
Critical Note
I have put the hardest punctuation mark (until the final line) here, thereby breaking the poem into three distinct phases: the opening, with its loving and erotic conjuration of death (ll. 1–4); the escalating fantasies of physical dissolution (ll. 5–10), and the tentative affirmation and then doubt of God’s ability to resurrect her (ll. 11–15). Adding a colon here recasts the second section as an elaboration on line 4, as if the idea of Death using her until she is dust is what prompts the further fantasies of dissolution that follow immediately after.
dust:
5
Naye when that handfull is blow’n all about
Nay, when that handful is blown all about,
Nay, when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further (no, dust isn’t enough: Death will find and break down that dust into the primary alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust), or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive (no, wait—even if I’m dust, God will find out the more fundamental salt)? The passive construction makes the subject of the “finding” impossible to discern.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? The punctuation I have added here assumes the latter: the dash at the end of line 4 creates a hard break in her disturbing reflections on Death’s “use” of her carcass, and the colon after “Nay” makes the two lines that follow appear to be a longer restatement of that negation, as if she is saying: No: even when I am dust, God will find out the still more essential “vital salt.”
Nay:
when that handful is blown all about,
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? In failing to add any punctuation after “Nay” I suggest that it is the former, as if this line says: No, not just dust: Death will find the more essential alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust, and scatter that as well.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about,
6
Yett still the vitale ſalt will bee fownd out
Yet still the
Gloss Note
The alchemist Paracelsus expanded the Arabic doctrine that two principles, sulfur and mercury, were the roots of all things by adding a third principle, salt.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
salt was one of the three first principles in alchemy, according to Paracelsus, along with mercury and sulphur. Salt represented the body and was found in the ashes (see Lyndy Abraham, Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge: CUP, 2001). In Matthew 5.13 of the Bible, man is also described as “the salt of the earth”.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
What punctuation one adds at the end of line 6 is, perhaps, the most significant indicator for how one reads the poem itself (see the headnote of this version for more detail), and is therefore an important decision for a punctuator: do you read lines 7–8 as a continuation of line 6, or as a new thought?
found out
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
By adding a period or full stop at the end of line 6, I have broken the poem into two balanced parts, each of which dips temporarily into doubt only to be redeemed by faith. For more detail on the importance of the punctuation at the end of this line, see the headnote to this version; it is this single punctuation mark, more than any other, that causes this poem to read as hopeful for resurrection.
found out.
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
Punctuating the end of this line with a comma suggests that the “vital salt” will be found out so it can be further broken down or dispersed, and also allows the “And” that begins line 7 to more immediately and grammatically follow on what comes before.
found out,
7
And when the vapour is breath’d out in Thunder
And
Critical Note
a theory of the source of thunder; see, e.g., “Thunder proceeds from a vapor lifted up from the earth.” Stephen Gosson, The Trumpet of War (London, 1598), A3r.
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And when the vapour is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
,
8
Unto poore Mortalls Loſs, or paine, or wonder
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
9
And all that is in thee to Atoms turn’d
And all that is in thee to
Gloss Note
in ancient Greek philosophy and new seventeenth-century science, minute and indivisible particles of which matter is composed
atoms
turned,
And all that is in Thee to
Gloss Note
the smallest possible particle of which all matter is made
atoms
turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
  
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
,
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
10
And even thoſe Atoms in this Orb is burn’d
And even those atoms in this
Gloss Note
Earth
orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
the earth; possibly also the circular vessel used for distillation in alchemy (see Alchemical Circles in Curations for Poem 1).
this orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
  
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”).
is burned
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, which makes the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). In the hopeful, resurrective reading of the poem, it would not make sense to intensify the destruction, so rather than fixing this grammatical error with punctuation, I have emended the “is” to “[are]”.
[are] burned
,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” I have fixed this seeming error with punctuation, by turning “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). This intensification seemed appropriate as the climax of the section of the poem that escalates destruction.
is burned,
11
Yett still that God that can anihillate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
12
This all, and itt of nothinge recreate
This all, and it
Gloss Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
of nothing recreate
,
This all, and it of nothing recreate,
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.”
it
  
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a resurrective reading of the poem (if they agreed that the word “it” was initially written as “us”) might consider emending the word back to “us”—to edit for first intentions rather than final intentions—to show how she imagined God specifically resurrecting or recreating us humans following the annihilation of “this all.”
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a reading of the poem that refuses the possibility of resurrection might want not only to leave the change ("it" for "us"), but also to point out that if there is indeed a correction here, then it illustrates Pulter editing the the poem to make it less explicitly about resurrection. The edit (from "us" to "itt") changes the claim to make resurrection less certain: rather than God resurrecting us humans, in the revised version God recreates it, the universe as a whole, and the poem deliberately does not specify whether that newly recreated universe would also include us.
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
,
13
Physical Note
first “e” blotted out after “E”
E[e]ven
Hee that hath ſupported mee till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He, that hath supported me till now,
14
To whom my ſoule doth praye and humbly bow
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow
Critical Note
By setting lines 13–14 off by dashes, I have intensified her double affirmation of God’s power to resurrect even her scattered and destroyed body. With this version’s punctuation, lines 11–12 affirm God’s power in general, and lines 13–14 interject his particularly positive track record of his support of her in particular, which then combine to create her very justified belief that God “Will raise me unto life.”
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow—
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
15
Will raiſe mee unto liffe. I know not
Physical Note
remaining third of page blank
how
Will
Gloss Note
allusion to the process, predicted in biblical book of Revelation, by which souls will be restored to their bodies and raised to heaven at the Resurrection, also known as the second coming of Christ or Final Judgment
raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Will raise me unto life. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Critical Note
The ellipses added to the end of the poem communicate the uncertainty behind the final four words in this version, which hopes for final death. This choice enhances the effect of the manuscript version, which trails off without punctuation. Another possibility might have been an exclamation mark to end the poem, which would connote less uncertainty and more exasperation or frustration at her inability to comprehend the mechanics of resurrection.
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition C

 Editorial note

Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.

 Headnote

How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
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“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
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This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version C [The Hope for Resurrection]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
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In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
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Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
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—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
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And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
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The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version C: The Hope for Resurrection—I punctuate the poem to bring out and make more readily available the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter unambiguously desires and hopes for a final resurrection after her death. This reading relies on the parts of the poem where Pulter openly announces both her prayers to and her trust in God (“God . . . Will raise me unto life”), and reads those frank protestations of trust as overwhelming any seeming kernels of doubt (“I know not how” God will manage to resurrect me when the matter that makes up my body has been dissolved—but I have faith he will manage).
As mentioned above, the most crucial punctuation decision in this version is the addition of a full stop at the end of the sixth line, which breaks the poem into two equal parts, each of which takes its own journey down into doubt and then back up into reassurance. If there is a full stop at the end of line 6, then Pulter twice worries about physical dissolution, but each time comforts herself with the knowledge that even if she does not know the exact mechanics of how it will happen, God will find a way to resurrect her. This repeated journey—down into doubt about physical dissolution and then back up into faith—parallels that taken in other poems, including especially Dear God, From Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which worries about her body being burned into dust, dissolved into tears, and sighed away into air, only to constantly reassure herself each time that no matter what dissolution she may experience, she can still trust in God.
My other punctuation decisions in this edition also reinforce this reading of a faith in resurrection, and in addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes to this edition that highlight how specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.
Line number 1

 Gloss note

either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Line number 1

 Gloss note

either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
Line number 3

 Critical note

The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
Line number 4

 Critical note

As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
Line number 5

 Critical note

This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? The punctuation I have added here assumes the latter: the dash at the end of line 4 creates a hard break in her disturbing reflections on Death’s “use” of her carcass, and the colon after “Nay” makes the two lines that follow appear to be a longer restatement of that negation, as if she is saying: No: even when I am dust, God will find out the still more essential “vital salt.”
Line number 6

 Critical note

In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
Line number 6

 Critical note

By adding a period or full stop at the end of line 6, I have broken the poem into two balanced parts, each of which dips temporarily into doubt only to be redeemed by faith. For more detail on the importance of the punctuation at the end of this line, see the headnote to this version; it is this single punctuation mark, more than any other, that causes this poem to read as hopeful for resurrection.
Line number 7

 Critical note

Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
Line number 8

 Critical note

The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
Line number 9

 Gloss note

She presumably continues to address Death here.
Line number 9

 Critical note

Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
Line number 10

 Gloss note

“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
Line number 10

 Critical note

Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, which makes the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). In the hopeful, resurrective reading of the poem, it would not make sense to intensify the destruction, so rather than fixing this grammatical error with punctuation, I have emended the “is” to “[are]”.
Line number 12

 Critical note

See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a resurrective reading of the poem (if they agreed that the word “it” was initially written as “us”) might consider emending the word back to “us”—to edit for first intentions rather than final intentions—to show how she imagined God specifically resurrecting or recreating us humans following the annihilation of “this all.”
Line number 12

 Critical note

One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
Line number 14

 Critical note

By setting lines 13–14 off by dashes, I have intensified her double affirmation of God’s power to resurrect even her scattered and destroyed body. With this version’s punctuation, lines 11–12 affirm God’s power in general, and lines 13–14 interject his particularly positive track record of his support of her in particular, which then combine to create her very justified belief that God “Will raise me unto life.”
Line number 15

 Gloss note

will resurrect me
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition C
Amplified Edition C

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Physical Note
poem in H2
The Hope
January : 1665 :
Physical Note
This poem is in a different hand from that of the main scribe, probably Pulter’s. Below the title is the date “January, 1665” also in Pulter’s hand.
The Hope
Critical Note
In both this poem’s title reference to ‘The Hope’ and its narrative of reduction to dust, Pulter may allude to the Book of Common Prayer (which laid out the forms of worship for the post-Reformation church in England) and especially its burial service: “Forasmuch it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (See Dust in ‘The Order for The Burial of the Dead’ in Curations for this poem.)
The Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition A
The [Uncertain] Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition B
The Hope [for Resurrection]
January 1665 Amplified Edition C
The Hope [for Final Death]
January 1665 Amplified Edition D
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

— Liza Blake
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.

— Liza Blake
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
“I have been half in love with easeful Death,” wrote Keats; “Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath.” Pulter does as much in this poem, which begins like a love letter to Death. Its writer promises to throw herself into Death’s arms and let it use her body as it desires—if Death would only come. But the morbid seduction of the opening couplets soon shifts, as often in Pulter’s verse, to a fascinated meditation on the material reconfigurations which might follow our earthly life. Vital salt, vapor, atoms, and world-annihilating fire are all quickly canvassed as mere stages in a larger cosmological revolution directed by the only figure who upstages Death in Pulter’s dramatis personae: the God who, she confidently predicts, shall turn the world upside-down by atomizing Death and returning her to life. The poem’s dramatic forward thrust through a single protracted sentence—driven by nearly breathless anaphoric hypotaxis, projecting us into an imagined future (“And then,” “Then,” “Nay, when,” “And when,” “And all,” “And even”)—is brought up short by a full stop and final confession: the speaker has no idea how what she envisions can actually come to be.

— Liza Blake
From its opening, “Dear Death … I’ll throw myself into thy arms”, this poem evokes the panache and paradox of John Donne’s ’Holy Sonnets’ (See ‘Dear Death’ in Curations for this poem). In his poem ’Batter my heart’, Donne deploys similar erotic metaphors of embrace, while his ‘Death, be not proud’ addresses Death directly as Pulter does here (See also Pulter’s poem The Welcome [Poem 19] which opens “Dear death thou’rt welcome…”). Pulter’s characteristic approach, though, is to infuse this daring address to death with another register of imagery, that of alchemy: God breaks down and builds up the speaker not through ravishment, as with Donne, but through chemical transformation. In the original manuscript, this poem’s only full stop is halfway through the final line. This provides a sense of completion after the uplifting hope that God “Will raise me unto life”. Yet this hope is undercut by several other formal features: with fifteen lines, she extends beyond sonnet length; using a triplet after six couplets, she creates the anticipation of a further line which is not fulfilled; after the full stop in line 15 she creates abrupt uncertainty with the half line “I know not how”, a thought left hanging. The poem’s form questions its promised “hope”. (See Alice Eardley, ‘“I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe”: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse’ in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], pp. 162-78).

— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version B [The Uncertain Hope]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the edition you are currently reading—Version B: The Uncertain Hope—I have retained the punctuation of the manuscript (and bolded those original punctuation marks, and colored them red, to call attention to them), but have not added any punctuation of my own. This version relies on the fundamental ambiguity created by the dearth of punctuation in the manuscript itself, which as I argued above leaves the ultimate message of the poem up to the interpreting reader’s personal punctuation decisions.
In this edition I have left the punctuation in the manuscript intact, and have also added extra spaces between each of the words; I do this to invite readers, or students, to print (or copy-paste) the poem and to add their own punctuation, as a kind of exercise that will allow them to gauge their initial reading of the poem. Readers of this poem can also refer themselves to my two alternative Amplified Editions of the poem (Versions C and D), each of which punctuates the poem differently to bring out the resurrective and nihilistic readings, respectively. As the user of this digital edition, you can consult these alternate versions in a variety of ways: you might test your own reading on Version B before comparing your punctuation with my other two options, for instance. Or you might use The Pulter Project’s built-in versioning tools to compare the multiple versions side by side, highlighting differences and discrepancies.


— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version C [The Hope for Resurrection]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version C: The Hope for Resurrection—I punctuate the poem to bring out and make more readily available the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter unambiguously desires and hopes for a final resurrection after her death. This reading relies on the parts of the poem where Pulter openly announces both her prayers to and her trust in God (“God . . . Will raise me unto life”), and reads those frank protestations of trust as overwhelming any seeming kernels of doubt (“I know not how” God will manage to resurrect me when the matter that makes up my body has been dissolved—but I have faith he will manage).
As mentioned above, the most crucial punctuation decision in this version is the addition of a full stop at the end of the sixth line, which breaks the poem into two equal parts, each of which takes its own journey down into doubt and then back up into reassurance. If there is a full stop at the end of line 6, then Pulter twice worries about physical dissolution, but each time comforts herself with the knowledge that even if she does not know the exact mechanics of how it will happen, God will find a way to resurrect her. This repeated journey—down into doubt about physical dissolution and then back up into faith—parallels that taken in other poems, including especially Dear God, From Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which worries about her body being burned into dust, dissolved into tears, and sighed away into air, only to constantly reassure herself each time that no matter what dissolution she may experience, she can still trust in God.
My other punctuation decisions in this edition also reinforce this reading of a faith in resurrection, and in addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes to this edition that highlight how specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version D [The Hope for Final Death]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version D: The Hope for Final Death—I punctuate the poem to bring out the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter fantasizes about an escalating, total dissolution of her physical body, a dissolution so absolute that it would be impossible for enough material remains to survive to allow God to resurrect her. This reading relies in particular on the two moments where she fantasizes about the destruction of supposedly indestructible things: when she imagines that the “little luz” (the supposedly indestructible bone that served as the kernel of bodily resurrection) will dissolve into dust; and when she insists that “even” atoms—the most fundamental particles of nature, commonly referred to as “indivisibles” in the period—will burn.
My punctuation in this version, much like in the manuscript itself, refuses any hard stops from the moment Pulter starts imagining dissolution until the very last line of the poem. This decision makes the vast majority of the poem a breathy run-on sentence imagining increasing degrees of destruction, which then ends with an abrupt and seemingly ill-founded assertion of faith, that is in turn immediately undercut by a final return to doubt: “I know not how . . .” The poem, then, is a bit like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129, “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” with each clause piling upon the last to communicate increasing mental agitation (in Sonnet 129, agitation born of misogyny; in “The Hope,” agitation born of an uncertainty about death and dissolution). Refusing to break the momentum of Pulter’s fantasies of dissolution in the middle of the poem (as happens in Version C) allows this escalation.
My other punctuation decisions in this version also reinforce the reading of the poem as an escalation of fantasies of destruction so extreme that no feeble, vague protestation of faith can possibly overcome them. In addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes that highlight how these specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for a dissolution so complete that it could not possibly seed any future resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Liza Blake
1
Deare Death deſolve theiſe mortall charms
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms,
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms
Dear Death
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
Dear Death,
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
Critical Note
Adding an exclamation mark at the end of an opening apostrophe (a direct address to a real or allegorical figure) is a common editorial choice, and here additionally augments the passion she attaches to her conjuration of and invitation to “Dear” Death, into whose arms she wants to “throw” herself, and whom she invites to “use my carcass, as thou lust.”
Dear Death!
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
2
And then Ile throw my ſelfe into thy arms
And then I’ll throw myself into thy arms;
And then I’ll throw myself into Thy arms.
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms,
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms;
3
Then though mayest uſe my Carkes as thou lust
Then thou may’st use my carcass as thou
Gloss Note
choose; please
lust
,
Then Thou may’st use my
Gloss Note
dead body
carcass
as Thou lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
,
Then thou mayest use my carcass, as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms. As was mentioned above, adding an exclamation line at the end of the opening apostrophe enhances this reading.
lust
,
4
Untill my boans (and little Luz) bee dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
also known as the “os sacrum,” or sacred bone: a triangular bone low in the spine; in rabbinical legend, the nucleus of the body at the Resurrection
luz
) be
Critical Note
disintegrated matter; also original, formative physical elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
:
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
an esoteric term for a tiny spinal bone, originating from the Hebrew word for a nut and thought to be the seed of rebirth at the Day of Judgement. Some writers, like Nicholas Culpeper, dismissed the luz as a “ridiculous fable” (See The ‘Little Luz’ in Curations for this poem).
luz
) be dust.
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust—
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be
Critical Note
I have put the hardest punctuation mark (until the final line) here, thereby breaking the poem into three distinct phases: the opening, with its loving and erotic conjuration of death (ll. 1–4); the escalating fantasies of physical dissolution (ll. 5–10), and the tentative affirmation and then doubt of God’s ability to resurrect her (ll. 11–15). Adding a colon here recasts the second section as an elaboration on line 4, as if the idea of Death using her until she is dust is what prompts the further fantasies of dissolution that follow immediately after.
dust:
5
Naye when that handfull is blow’n all about
Nay, when that handful is blown all about,
Nay, when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further (no, dust isn’t enough: Death will find and break down that dust into the primary alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust), or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive (no, wait—even if I’m dust, God will find out the more fundamental salt)? The passive construction makes the subject of the “finding” impossible to discern.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? The punctuation I have added here assumes the latter: the dash at the end of line 4 creates a hard break in her disturbing reflections on Death’s “use” of her carcass, and the colon after “Nay” makes the two lines that follow appear to be a longer restatement of that negation, as if she is saying: No: even when I am dust, God will find out the still more essential “vital salt.”
Nay:
when that handful is blown all about,
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? In failing to add any punctuation after “Nay” I suggest that it is the former, as if this line says: No, not just dust: Death will find the more essential alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust, and scatter that as well.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about,
6
Yett still the vitale ſalt will bee fownd out
Yet still the
Gloss Note
The alchemist Paracelsus expanded the Arabic doctrine that two principles, sulfur and mercury, were the roots of all things by adding a third principle, salt.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
salt was one of the three first principles in alchemy, according to Paracelsus, along with mercury and sulphur. Salt represented the body and was found in the ashes (see Lyndy Abraham, Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge: CUP, 2001). In Matthew 5.13 of the Bible, man is also described as “the salt of the earth”.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
What punctuation one adds at the end of line 6 is, perhaps, the most significant indicator for how one reads the poem itself (see the headnote of this version for more detail), and is therefore an important decision for a punctuator: do you read lines 7–8 as a continuation of line 6, or as a new thought?
found out
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
By adding a period or full stop at the end of line 6, I have broken the poem into two balanced parts, each of which dips temporarily into doubt only to be redeemed by faith. For more detail on the importance of the punctuation at the end of this line, see the headnote to this version; it is this single punctuation mark, more than any other, that causes this poem to read as hopeful for resurrection.
found out.
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
Punctuating the end of this line with a comma suggests that the “vital salt” will be found out so it can be further broken down or dispersed, and also allows the “And” that begins line 7 to more immediately and grammatically follow on what comes before.
found out,
7
And when the vapour is breath’d out in Thunder
And
Critical Note
a theory of the source of thunder; see, e.g., “Thunder proceeds from a vapor lifted up from the earth.” Stephen Gosson, The Trumpet of War (London, 1598), A3r.
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And when the vapour is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
,
8
Unto poore Mortalls Loſs, or paine, or wonder
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
9
And all that is in thee to Atoms turn’d
And all that is in thee to
Gloss Note
in ancient Greek philosophy and new seventeenth-century science, minute and indivisible particles of which matter is composed
atoms
turned,
And all that is in Thee to
Gloss Note
the smallest possible particle of which all matter is made
atoms
turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
  
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
,
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
10
And even thoſe Atoms in this Orb is burn’d
And even those atoms in this
Gloss Note
Earth
orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
the earth; possibly also the circular vessel used for distillation in alchemy (see Alchemical Circles in Curations for Poem 1).
this orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
  
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”).
is burned
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, which makes the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). In the hopeful, resurrective reading of the poem, it would not make sense to intensify the destruction, so rather than fixing this grammatical error with punctuation, I have emended the “is” to “[are]”.
[are] burned
,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” I have fixed this seeming error with punctuation, by turning “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). This intensification seemed appropriate as the climax of the section of the poem that escalates destruction.
is burned,
11
Yett still that God that can anihillate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
12
This all, and itt of nothinge recreate
This all, and it
Gloss Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
of nothing recreate
,
This all, and it of nothing recreate,
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.”
it
  
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a resurrective reading of the poem (if they agreed that the word “it” was initially written as “us”) might consider emending the word back to “us”—to edit for first intentions rather than final intentions—to show how she imagined God specifically resurrecting or recreating us humans following the annihilation of “this all.”
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a reading of the poem that refuses the possibility of resurrection might want not only to leave the change ("it" for "us"), but also to point out that if there is indeed a correction here, then it illustrates Pulter editing the the poem to make it less explicitly about resurrection. The edit (from "us" to "itt") changes the claim to make resurrection less certain: rather than God resurrecting us humans, in the revised version God recreates it, the universe as a whole, and the poem deliberately does not specify whether that newly recreated universe would also include us.
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
,
13
Physical Note
first “e” blotted out after “E”
E[e]ven
Hee that hath ſupported mee till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He, that hath supported me till now,
14
To whom my ſoule doth praye and humbly bow
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow
Critical Note
By setting lines 13–14 off by dashes, I have intensified her double affirmation of God’s power to resurrect even her scattered and destroyed body. With this version’s punctuation, lines 11–12 affirm God’s power in general, and lines 13–14 interject his particularly positive track record of his support of her in particular, which then combine to create her very justified belief that God “Will raise me unto life.”
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow—
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
15
Will raiſe mee unto liffe. I know not
Physical Note
remaining third of page blank
how
Will
Gloss Note
allusion to the process, predicted in biblical book of Revelation, by which souls will be restored to their bodies and raised to heaven at the Resurrection, also known as the second coming of Christ or Final Judgment
raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Will raise me unto life. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Critical Note
The ellipses added to the end of the poem communicate the uncertainty behind the final four words in this version, which hopes for final death. This choice enhances the effect of the manuscript version, which trails off without punctuation. Another possibility might have been an exclamation mark to end the poem, which would connote less uncertainty and more exasperation or frustration at her inability to comprehend the mechanics of resurrection.
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition D

 Editorial note

Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.

 Headnote

How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version D [The Hope for Final Death]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version D: The Hope for Final Death—I punctuate the poem to bring out the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter fantasizes about an escalating, total dissolution of her physical body, a dissolution so absolute that it would be impossible for enough material remains to survive to allow God to resurrect her. This reading relies in particular on the two moments where she fantasizes about the destruction of supposedly indestructible things: when she imagines that the “little luz” (the supposedly indestructible bone that served as the kernel of bodily resurrection) will dissolve into dust; and when she insists that “even” atoms—the most fundamental particles of nature, commonly referred to as “indivisibles” in the period—will burn.
My punctuation in this version, much like in the manuscript itself, refuses any hard stops from the moment Pulter starts imagining dissolution until the very last line of the poem. This decision makes the vast majority of the poem a breathy run-on sentence imagining increasing degrees of destruction, which then ends with an abrupt and seemingly ill-founded assertion of faith, that is in turn immediately undercut by a final return to doubt: “I know not how . . .” The poem, then, is a bit like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129, “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” with each clause piling upon the last to communicate increasing mental agitation (in Sonnet 129, agitation born of misogyny; in “The Hope,” agitation born of an uncertainty about death and dissolution). Refusing to break the momentum of Pulter’s fantasies of dissolution in the middle of the poem (as happens in Version C) allows this escalation.
My other punctuation decisions in this version also reinforce the reading of the poem as an escalation of fantasies of destruction so extreme that no feeble, vague protestation of faith can possibly overcome them. In addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes that highlight how these specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for a dissolution so complete that it could not possibly seed any future resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.
Line number 1

 Critical note

Adding an exclamation mark at the end of an opening apostrophe (a direct address to a real or allegorical figure) is a common editorial choice, and here additionally augments the passion she attaches to her conjuration of and invitation to “Dear” Death, into whose arms she wants to “throw” herself, and whom she invites to “use my carcass, as thou lust.”
Line number 1

 Gloss note

either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Line number 1

 Gloss note

either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
Line number 3

 Critical note

The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms. As was mentioned above, adding an exclamation line at the end of the opening apostrophe enhances this reading.
Line number 4

 Critical note

As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
Line number 4

 Critical note

I have put the hardest punctuation mark (until the final line) here, thereby breaking the poem into three distinct phases: the opening, with its loving and erotic conjuration of death (ll. 1–4); the escalating fantasies of physical dissolution (ll. 5–10), and the tentative affirmation and then doubt of God’s ability to resurrect her (ll. 11–15). Adding a colon here recasts the second section as an elaboration on line 4, as if the idea of Death using her until she is dust is what prompts the further fantasies of dissolution that follow immediately after.
Line number 5

 Critical note

This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? In failing to add any punctuation after “Nay” I suggest that it is the former, as if this line says: No, not just dust: Death will find the more essential alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust, and scatter that as well.
Line number 6

 Critical note

In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
Line number 6

 Critical note

Punctuating the end of this line with a comma suggests that the “vital salt” will be found out so it can be further broken down or dispersed, and also allows the “And” that begins line 7 to more immediately and grammatically follow on what comes before.
Line number 7

 Critical note

Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
Line number 8

 Critical note

The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
Line number 9

 Gloss note

She presumably continues to address Death here.
Line number 9

 Critical note

Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
Line number 10

 Gloss note

“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
Line number 10

 Critical note

Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” I have fixed this seeming error with punctuation, by turning “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). This intensification seemed appropriate as the climax of the section of the poem that escalates destruction.
Line number 12

 Critical note

See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a reading of the poem that refuses the possibility of resurrection might want not only to leave the change ("it" for "us"), but also to point out that if there is indeed a correction here, then it illustrates Pulter editing the the poem to make it less explicitly about resurrection. The edit (from "us" to "itt") changes the claim to make resurrection less certain: rather than God resurrecting us humans, in the revised version God recreates it, the universe as a whole, and the poem deliberately does not specify whether that newly recreated universe would also include us.
Line number 12

 Critical note

One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
Line number 15

 Gloss note

will resurrect me
Line number 15

 Critical note

The ellipses added to the end of the poem communicate the uncertainty behind the final four words in this version, which hopes for final death. This choice enhances the effect of the manuscript version, which trails off without punctuation. Another possibility might have been an exclamation mark to end the poem, which would connote less uncertainty and more exasperation or frustration at her inability to comprehend the mechanics of resurrection.
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition D
Amplified Edition D

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Physical Note
poem in H2
The Hope
January : 1665 :
Physical Note
This poem is in a different hand from that of the main scribe, probably Pulter’s. Below the title is the date “January, 1665” also in Pulter’s hand.
The Hope
Critical Note
In both this poem’s title reference to ‘The Hope’ and its narrative of reduction to dust, Pulter may allude to the Book of Common Prayer (which laid out the forms of worship for the post-Reformation church in England) and especially its burial service: “Forasmuch it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (See Dust in ‘The Order for The Burial of the Dead’ in Curations for this poem.)
The Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition A
The [Uncertain] Hope
January 1665 Amplified Edition B
The Hope [for Resurrection]
January 1665 Amplified Edition C
The Hope [for Final Death]
January 1665 Amplified Edition D
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

— Liza Blake
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.

— Liza Blake
With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.

— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.


— Liza Blake
“I have been half in love with easeful Death,” wrote Keats; “Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath.” Pulter does as much in this poem, which begins like a love letter to Death. Its writer promises to throw herself into Death’s arms and let it use her body as it desires—if Death would only come. But the morbid seduction of the opening couplets soon shifts, as often in Pulter’s verse, to a fascinated meditation on the material reconfigurations which might follow our earthly life. Vital salt, vapor, atoms, and world-annihilating fire are all quickly canvassed as mere stages in a larger cosmological revolution directed by the only figure who upstages Death in Pulter’s dramatis personae: the God who, she confidently predicts, shall turn the world upside-down by atomizing Death and returning her to life. The poem’s dramatic forward thrust through a single protracted sentence—driven by nearly breathless anaphoric hypotaxis, projecting us into an imagined future (“And then,” “Then,” “Nay, when,” “And when,” “And all,” “And even”)—is brought up short by a full stop and final confession: the speaker has no idea how what she envisions can actually come to be.

— Liza Blake
From its opening, “Dear Death … I’ll throw myself into thy arms”, this poem evokes the panache and paradox of John Donne’s ’Holy Sonnets’ (See ‘Dear Death’ in Curations for this poem). In his poem ’Batter my heart’, Donne deploys similar erotic metaphors of embrace, while his ‘Death, be not proud’ addresses Death directly as Pulter does here (See also Pulter’s poem The Welcome [Poem 19] which opens “Dear death thou’rt welcome…”). Pulter’s characteristic approach, though, is to infuse this daring address to death with another register of imagery, that of alchemy: God breaks down and builds up the speaker not through ravishment, as with Donne, but through chemical transformation. In the original manuscript, this poem’s only full stop is halfway through the final line. This provides a sense of completion after the uplifting hope that God “Will raise me unto life”. Yet this hope is undercut by several other formal features: with fifteen lines, she extends beyond sonnet length; using a triplet after six couplets, she creates the anticipation of a further line which is not fulfilled; after the full stop in line 15 she creates abrupt uncertainty with the half line “I know not how”, a thought left hanging. The poem’s form questions its promised “hope”. (See Alice Eardley, ‘“I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe”: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse’ in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], pp. 162-78).

— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version B [The Uncertain Hope]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the edition you are currently reading—Version B: The Uncertain Hope—I have retained the punctuation of the manuscript (and bolded those original punctuation marks, and colored them red, to call attention to them), but have not added any punctuation of my own. This version relies on the fundamental ambiguity created by the dearth of punctuation in the manuscript itself, which as I argued above leaves the ultimate message of the poem up to the interpreting reader’s personal punctuation decisions.
In this edition I have left the punctuation in the manuscript intact, and have also added extra spaces between each of the words; I do this to invite readers, or students, to print (or copy-paste) the poem and to add their own punctuation, as a kind of exercise that will allow them to gauge their initial reading of the poem. Readers of this poem can also refer themselves to my two alternative Amplified Editions of the poem (Versions C and D), each of which punctuates the poem differently to bring out the resurrective and nihilistic readings, respectively. As the user of this digital edition, you can consult these alternate versions in a variety of ways: you might test your own reading on Version B before comparing your punctuation with my other two options, for instance. Or you might use The Pulter Project’s built-in versioning tools to compare the multiple versions side by side, highlighting differences and discrepancies.


— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version C [The Hope for Resurrection]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version C: The Hope for Resurrection—I punctuate the poem to bring out and make more readily available the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter unambiguously desires and hopes for a final resurrection after her death. This reading relies on the parts of the poem where Pulter openly announces both her prayers to and her trust in God (“God . . . Will raise me unto life”), and reads those frank protestations of trust as overwhelming any seeming kernels of doubt (“I know not how” God will manage to resurrect me when the matter that makes up my body has been dissolved—but I have faith he will manage).
As mentioned above, the most crucial punctuation decision in this version is the addition of a full stop at the end of the sixth line, which breaks the poem into two equal parts, each of which takes its own journey down into doubt and then back up into reassurance. If there is a full stop at the end of line 6, then Pulter twice worries about physical dissolution, but each time comforts herself with the knowledge that even if she does not know the exact mechanics of how it will happen, God will find a way to resurrect her. This repeated journey—down into doubt about physical dissolution and then back up into faith—parallels that taken in other poems, including especially Dear God, From Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which worries about her body being burned into dust, dissolved into tears, and sighed away into air, only to constantly reassure herself each time that no matter what dissolution she may experience, she can still trust in God.
My other punctuation decisions in this edition also reinforce this reading of a faith in resurrection, and in addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes to this edition that highlight how specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Liza Blake
How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version D [The Hope for Final Death]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version D: The Hope for Final Death—I punctuate the poem to bring out the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter fantasizes about an escalating, total dissolution of her physical body, a dissolution so absolute that it would be impossible for enough material remains to survive to allow God to resurrect her. This reading relies in particular on the two moments where she fantasizes about the destruction of supposedly indestructible things: when she imagines that the “little luz” (the supposedly indestructible bone that served as the kernel of bodily resurrection) will dissolve into dust; and when she insists that “even” atoms—the most fundamental particles of nature, commonly referred to as “indivisibles” in the period—will burn.
My punctuation in this version, much like in the manuscript itself, refuses any hard stops from the moment Pulter starts imagining dissolution until the very last line of the poem. This decision makes the vast majority of the poem a breathy run-on sentence imagining increasing degrees of destruction, which then ends with an abrupt and seemingly ill-founded assertion of faith, that is in turn immediately undercut by a final return to doubt: “I know not how . . .” The poem, then, is a bit like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129, “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” with each clause piling upon the last to communicate increasing mental agitation (in Sonnet 129, agitation born of misogyny; in “The Hope,” agitation born of an uncertainty about death and dissolution). Refusing to break the momentum of Pulter’s fantasies of dissolution in the middle of the poem (as happens in Version C) allows this escalation.
My other punctuation decisions in this version also reinforce the reading of the poem as an escalation of fantasies of destruction so extreme that no feeble, vague protestation of faith can possibly overcome them. In addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes that highlight how these specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for a dissolution so complete that it could not possibly seed any future resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.


— Liza Blake
1
Deare Death deſolve theiſe mortall charms
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms,
Dear Death, dissolve these mortal charms
Dear Death
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
Dear Death,
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
Critical Note
Adding an exclamation mark at the end of an opening apostrophe (a direct address to a real or allegorical figure) is a common editorial choice, and here additionally augments the passion she attaches to her conjuration of and invitation to “Dear” Death, into whose arms she wants to “throw” herself, and whom she invites to “use my carcass, as thou lust.”
Dear Death!
Gloss Note
either “disintegrate, decompose”; or, figuratively, “loosen, unfasten, detach, release, set free”
Dissolve
these
Gloss Note
either those attractions of my living body; or those magical spells that hold my body together
mortal charms
,
2
And then Ile throw my ſelfe into thy arms
And then I’ll throw myself into thy arms;
And then I’ll throw myself into Thy arms.
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms,
And then I’ll throw my self into thy arms;
3
Then though mayest uſe my Carkes as thou lust
Then thou may’st use my carcass as thou
Gloss Note
choose; please
lust
,
Then Thou may’st use my
Gloss Note
dead body
carcass
as Thou lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
Then thou mayest use my carcass as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms.
lust
,
Then thou mayest use my carcass, as thou
Critical Note
The sexual connotations of the word “lust,” meaning desire (“you can do as you wish with my body”), add to the romantic or even erotic image already set up by line 2, where she imagines herself throwing herself into Death’s arms. As was mentioned above, adding an exclamation line at the end of the opening apostrophe enhances this reading.
lust
,
4
Untill my boans (and little Luz) bee dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
also known as the “os sacrum,” or sacred bone: a triangular bone low in the spine; in rabbinical legend, the nucleus of the body at the Resurrection
luz
) be
Critical Note
disintegrated matter; also original, formative physical elements; see Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
dust
:
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
an esoteric term for a tiny spinal bone, originating from the Hebrew word for a nut and thought to be the seed of rebirth at the Day of Judgement. Some writers, like Nicholas Culpeper, dismissed the luz as a “ridiculous fable” (See The ‘Little Luz’ in Curations for this poem).
luz
) be dust.
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be dust—
Until my bones (and little
Critical Note
As other editors have noted, the luz is a small bone, usually understood as indestructible and therefore imagined as the seed of bodily resurrection at the Final Judgment. See John Gregory, Gregorii posthuma, or, Certain learned tracts (London, 1649): “at the last Daie, a kinde of Plastical Dew shall fall down upon the Dead, and ingender with Luz, the little Bone spoken of before: and so out of this, all the rest of our Bones, and the whole Man shall spring forth” (70). See also Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s Curation The ‘Little Luz’. Emphasizing that even the seed of resurrection is to be turned into dust suggests, perhaps, a hope that nothing will remain to allow for resurrection.
luz
) be
Critical Note
I have put the hardest punctuation mark (until the final line) here, thereby breaking the poem into three distinct phases: the opening, with its loving and erotic conjuration of death (ll. 1–4); the escalating fantasies of physical dissolution (ll. 5–10), and the tentative affirmation and then doubt of God’s ability to resurrect her (ll. 11–15). Adding a colon here recasts the second section as an elaboration on line 4, as if the idea of Death using her until she is dust is what prompts the further fantasies of dissolution that follow immediately after.
dust:
5
Naye when that handfull is blow’n all about
Nay, when that handful is blown all about,
Nay, when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further (no, dust isn’t enough: Death will find and break down that dust into the primary alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust), or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive (no, wait—even if I’m dust, God will find out the more fundamental salt)? The passive construction makes the subject of the “finding” impossible to discern.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? The punctuation I have added here assumes the latter: the dash at the end of line 4 creates a hard break in her disturbing reflections on Death’s “use” of her carcass, and the colon after “Nay” makes the two lines that follow appear to be a longer restatement of that negation, as if she is saying: No: even when I am dust, God will find out the still more essential “vital salt.”
Nay:
when that handful is blown all about,
Critical Note
This “Nay” represents a major crux for potential punctuators; is it an emphatic exclamation as she realizes she hasn’t gone far enough and intends to go still further, or is it a cessation of the dissolving chain of thought and a turn to the positive? In failing to add any punctuation after “Nay” I suggest that it is the former, as if this line says: No, not just dust: Death will find the more essential alchemical element of salt, smaller even than dust, and scatter that as well.
Nay
when that handful is blown all about,
6
Yett still the vitale ſalt will bee fownd out
Yet still the
Gloss Note
The alchemist Paracelsus expanded the Arabic doctrine that two principles, sulfur and mercury, were the roots of all things by adding a third principle, salt.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
salt was one of the three first principles in alchemy, according to Paracelsus, along with mercury and sulphur. Salt represented the body and was found in the ashes (see Lyndy Abraham, Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge: CUP, 2001). In Matthew 5.13 of the Bible, man is also described as “the salt of the earth”.
vital salt
will be found out;
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
What punctuation one adds at the end of line 6 is, perhaps, the most significant indicator for how one reads the poem itself (see the headnote of this version for more detail), and is therefore an important decision for a punctuator: do you read lines 7–8 as a continuation of line 6, or as a new thought?
found out
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
By adding a period or full stop at the end of line 6, I have broken the poem into two balanced parts, each of which dips temporarily into doubt only to be redeemed by faith. For more detail on the importance of the punctuation at the end of this line, see the headnote to this version; it is this single punctuation mark, more than any other, that causes this poem to read as hopeful for resurrection.
found out.
Yet still the
Critical Note
In Paracelsian philosophy, all objects had three “principles”: sulphur, which made things combustible; salt, which gave things solidity, and mercury, which made things fluid or vaporous (and gave them “virtues, powers and arcana”); see Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance, 2nd, revised ed. (Basel: Karger, 1982), 100–104, quotation from 101. Pulter’s “vital salt” would be, therefore, more elemental or primary even than dust.
vital salt
will be
Critical Note
Punctuating the end of this line with a comma suggests that the “vital salt” will be found out so it can be further broken down or dispersed, and also allows the “And” that begins line 7 to more immediately and grammatically follow on what comes before.
found out,
7
And when the vapour is breath’d out in Thunder
And
Critical Note
a theory of the source of thunder; see, e.g., “Thunder proceeds from a vapor lifted up from the earth.” Stephen Gosson, The Trumpet of War (London, 1598), A3r.
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And when the vapour is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
And
Critical Note
Following the invocation of Paracelsian “vital salt,” vapor also conjures the principle of mercury, sometimes associated with the spirit (with salt being associated with the body). In Meterologica II.ix, Aristotle argues that thunder is caused by the forceful exhalation of air from a cloud (Aristotle, Meteorologica, ed. H.D.P. Lee [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952], 223–25). The clause “When the vapor is breathed out in thunder” potentially works, therefore, both at the microcosmic level (when the spirit is forced out of the body: a “mortal’s loss, and pain”) and the macrocosmic level (some natural disaster leading to “mortals’ loss, and pain, and wonder”).
when the vapor is breathed out in thunder
,
8
Unto poore Mortalls Loſs, or paine, or wonder
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals’ loss, or pain, or wonder,
Unto poor mortals
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
Unto poor mortal’s
Critical Note
The list “loss, or pain, or wonder” is remarkable; if they are exclusive ors, then the vapor brings either loss, pain, or wonder (but not all of them); if they are inclusive ors, then “pain” is being used an an appositive redefinition of “loss,” and “wonder” redefines them both. Though the exclusive or seems the more obvious choice, remember that Pulter elsewhere writes in paradox: “When all’s to chaos turned there will be peace” (Universal Dissolution [Poem 6], l. 152).
loss, or pain, or wonder
,
9
And all that is in thee to Atoms turn’d
And all that is in thee to
Gloss Note
in ancient Greek philosophy and new seventeenth-century science, minute and indivisible particles of which matter is composed
atoms
turned,
And all that is in Thee to
Gloss Note
the smallest possible particle of which all matter is made
atoms
turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
  
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
,
And all that is in
Gloss Note
She presumably continues to address Death here.
thee
Critical Note
Though Pulter is sometimes inconsistent in the way she talks about the fundamental particles of nature (see Liza Blake, “Hester Pulter’s Particle Physics and the Poetics of Involution,” JEMCS 20 (2020): 71–98; and Alice Eardley, “Hester Pulter’s ‘Indivisibles’ and the Challenges of Annotating Early Modern Women’s Poetry,” SEL 52 [2012]: 117–41), atoms were often also called “indivisibles” in the seventeenth century, and here may indicate the final and most extreme division of matter in the poem, which moves from “dust” to “salt” to “atoms”—and then imagines those atoms burned.
to atoms turned
10
And even thoſe Atoms in this Orb is burn’d
And even those atoms in this
Gloss Note
Earth
orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
the earth; possibly also the circular vessel used for distillation in alchemy (see Alchemical Circles in Curations for Poem 1).
this orb
is burned,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
  
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”).
is burned
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” It can be fixed with punctuation, if you turn “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, which makes the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). In the hopeful, resurrective reading of the poem, it would not make sense to intensify the destruction, so rather than fixing this grammatical error with punctuation, I have emended the “is” to “[are]”.
[are] burned
,
And even those atoms in
Gloss Note
“this orb” is presumably the globe or Earth, but if one is tracing the exchanges between microcosm and macrocosm in the poem it could also possibly refer to the body.
this orb
Critical Note
Lines 9–10 potentially have a textual error, if you understand the singular verb “is” to modify the plural “atoms.” I have fixed this seeming error with punctuation, by turning “And even those atoms in this orb” to an intensifying interjection, making the subject of the verb the “all” of line 9 (“all . . . is burned”). This intensification seemed appropriate as the climax of the section of the poem that escalates destruction.
is burned,
11
Yett still that God that can anihillate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
Yet still that God that can annihilate
12
This all, and itt of nothinge recreate
This all, and it
Gloss Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
of nothing recreate
,
This all, and it of nothing recreate,
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.”
it
  
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a resurrective reading of the poem (if they agreed that the word “it” was initially written as “us”) might consider emending the word back to “us”—to edit for first intentions rather than final intentions—to show how she imagined God specifically resurrecting or recreating us humans following the annihilation of “this all.”
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
This all, and
Critical Note
See the Curation Manuscript Ambiguities for my discussion of the possibility that this word is possibly an “us” that was corrected or altered to “it.” An editor trying to emphasize a reading of the poem that refuses the possibility of resurrection might want not only to leave the change ("it" for "us"), but also to point out that if there is indeed a correction here, then it illustrates Pulter editing the the poem to make it less explicitly about resurrection. The edit (from "us" to "itt") changes the claim to make resurrection less certain: rather than God resurrecting us humans, in the revised version God recreates it, the universe as a whole, and the poem deliberately does not specify whether that newly recreated universe would also include us.
it
Critical Note
One major school of thought, drawing on Genesis 1:1, advocated that God made the universe ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Here, unusually, Pulter pairs the idea that God can create ex nihilo with the reminder that he can also annihilate everything to create that nothingness in the first place.
of nothing recreate
,
13
Physical Note
first “e” blotted out after “E”
E[e]ven
Hee that hath ſupported mee till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He that hath supported me till now
Even He that hath supported me till now,
Even He, that hath supported me till now,
14
To whom my ſoule doth praye and humbly bow
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow
Critical Note
By setting lines 13–14 off by dashes, I have intensified her double affirmation of God’s power to resurrect even her scattered and destroyed body. With this version’s punctuation, lines 11–12 affirm God’s power in general, and lines 13–14 interject his particularly positive track record of his support of her in particular, which then combine to create her very justified belief that God “Will raise me unto life.”
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow—
To whom my soul doth pray and humbly bow,
15
Will raiſe mee unto liffe. I know not
Physical Note
remaining third of page blank
how
Will
Gloss Note
allusion to the process, predicted in biblical book of Revelation, by which souls will be restored to their bodies and raised to heaven at the Resurrection, also known as the second coming of Christ or Final Judgment
raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Will raise me unto life. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how.
Gloss Note
will resurrect me
Will raise me unto life
. I know not how
Critical Note
The ellipses added to the end of the poem communicate the uncertainty behind the final four words in this version, which hopes for final death. This choice enhances the effect of the manuscript version, which trails off without punctuation. Another possibility might have been an exclamation mark to end the poem, which would connote less uncertainty and more exasperation or frustration at her inability to comprehend the mechanics of resurrection.
X (Close panel) All Notes
Transcription
Title note

 Physical note

poem in H2
Elemental Edition
Title note

 Physical note

This poem is in a different hand from that of the main scribe, probably Pulter’s. Below the title is the date “January, 1665” also in Pulter’s hand.
Amplified Edition A
Title note

 Critical note

In both this poem’s title reference to ‘The Hope’ and its narrative of reduction to dust, Pulter may allude to the Book of Common Prayer (which laid out the forms of worship for the post-Reformation church in England) and especially its burial service: “Forasmuch it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (See Dust in ‘The Order for The Burial of the Dead’ in Curations for this poem.)
Transcription

 Editorial note

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

 Editorial note

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

 Editorial note

With an undergraduate and graduate student audience in mind, this poem has been modernised in spelling and punctuation. Where modernisation would affect form, priority has been given to the integrity of the poem’s formal features (so, for instance, verb endings -est and -eth have been retained unmodernised; where the meter requires it, the verb ending -ed is accented, e.g., “Then shall thy blessèd influence”). Nouns have been capitalized only when there is clear personification. The notes provide information essential to understanding the poem, while the Headnote aims to stimulate readers’ own interpretations through suggesting literary or historical contexts, possible influences, comparable poems (by Pulter and by her predecessors and peers) and relevant critical arguments.
Amplified Edition B

 Editorial note

Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.
Amplified Edition C

 Editorial note

Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.
Amplified Edition D

 Editorial note

Modern editorial theory distinguishes between substantive and accidental features of a text, where “substantive” means, roughly, those features or variants that affect the meaning of a text, and “accidental” designates those features whose alteration would not significantly change a text’s meaning. Accidental features might typically include typeface, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. While an editor usually feels the need to add a note when she introduces an emendation or alters a substantive feature, she might feel free to silently modernize accidental features to make a text easier for modern readers to access and comprehend (indeed, as I note below, I have silently modernized spelling and capitalization in each of these Amplified Editions). However, as Erick Keleman reminds us in Textual Editing and Criticism, “whether one variant is substantive or accidental is a question of interpretation” (Erick Keleman, Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009], 16) and, as I argue in the headnote, this poem offers a prime example of how punctuation is not accidental to this poem, but essential to its comprehension. Pulter’s poem, therefore, offers a useful case study for this long-held debate in textual criticism and editorial theory.
I have modernized the text’s spelling and capitalization to concur with the Oxford English Dictionary Online headwords, and have expanded poetic abbreviations where such expansions would not affect the meter for a modern reader. Quotations from other Pulter poems are from The Pulter Project, and are cited by line number. Notes gloss difficult words and sentences and call attention to interesting textual and interpretive ambiguities, including, especially in this poem, those ambiguities caused by the punctuation (and lack of punctuation) in the original manuscript. For a fuller account of the editorial decisions that went into the punctuation in this version of the poem, please see the Headnote.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

“I have been half in love with easeful Death,” wrote Keats; “Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath.” Pulter does as much in this poem, which begins like a love letter to Death. Its writer promises to throw herself into Death’s arms and let it use her body as it desires—if Death would only come. But the morbid seduction of the opening couplets soon shifts, as often in Pulter’s verse, to a fascinated meditation on the material reconfigurations which might follow our earthly life. Vital salt, vapor, atoms, and world-annihilating fire are all quickly canvassed as mere stages in a larger cosmological revolution directed by the only figure who upstages Death in Pulter’s dramatis personae: the God who, she confidently predicts, shall turn the world upside-down by atomizing Death and returning her to life. The poem’s dramatic forward thrust through a single protracted sentence—driven by nearly breathless anaphoric hypotaxis, projecting us into an imagined future (“And then,” “Then,” “Nay, when,” “And when,” “And all,” “And even”)—is brought up short by a full stop and final confession: the speaker has no idea how what she envisions can actually come to be.
Amplified Edition A

 Headnote

From its opening, “Dear Death … I’ll throw myself into thy arms”, this poem evokes the panache and paradox of John Donne’s ’Holy Sonnets’ (See ‘Dear Death’ in Curations for this poem). In his poem ’Batter my heart’, Donne deploys similar erotic metaphors of embrace, while his ‘Death, be not proud’ addresses Death directly as Pulter does here (See also Pulter’s poem The Welcome [Poem 19] which opens “Dear death thou’rt welcome…”). Pulter’s characteristic approach, though, is to infuse this daring address to death with another register of imagery, that of alchemy: God breaks down and builds up the speaker not through ravishment, as with Donne, but through chemical transformation. In the original manuscript, this poem’s only full stop is halfway through the final line. This provides a sense of completion after the uplifting hope that God “Will raise me unto life”. Yet this hope is undercut by several other formal features: with fifteen lines, she extends beyond sonnet length; using a triplet after six couplets, she creates the anticipation of a further line which is not fulfilled; after the full stop in line 15 she creates abrupt uncertainty with the half line “I know not how”, a thought left hanging. The poem’s form questions its promised “hope”. (See Alice Eardley, ‘“I haue not time to point yr booke … which I desire you yourselfe to doe”: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse’ in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], pp. 162-78).
Amplified Edition B

 Headnote

How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version B [The Uncertain Hope]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the edition you are currently reading—Version B: The Uncertain Hope—I have retained the punctuation of the manuscript (and bolded those original punctuation marks, and colored them red, to call attention to them), but have not added any punctuation of my own. This version relies on the fundamental ambiguity created by the dearth of punctuation in the manuscript itself, which as I argued above leaves the ultimate message of the poem up to the interpreting reader’s personal punctuation decisions.
In this edition I have left the punctuation in the manuscript intact, and have also added extra spaces between each of the words; I do this to invite readers, or students, to print (or copy-paste) the poem and to add their own punctuation, as a kind of exercise that will allow them to gauge their initial reading of the poem. Readers of this poem can also refer themselves to my two alternative Amplified Editions of the poem (Versions C and D), each of which punctuates the poem differently to bring out the resurrective and nihilistic readings, respectively. As the user of this digital edition, you can consult these alternate versions in a variety of ways: you might test your own reading on Version B before comparing your punctuation with my other two options, for instance. Or you might use The Pulter Project’s built-in versioning tools to compare the multiple versions side by side, highlighting differences and discrepancies.
Amplified Edition C

 Headnote

How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
2
This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version C [The Hope for Resurrection]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
3
In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
4
Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
5
—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
6
And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?
Critical Note
One could accumulate many more examples: at times she imagines dust as the end of everything (see The Circle [2] [Poem 21], ll. 13–14: “So man, the universe’s chiefest glory, / His primitive’s dust (alas) doth end his story”), and at other times she worries at the absolute finality of dust: “Should all annihilated be, / Which is as easy unto Thee; / Oh what would then become of me?” (see The Revolution [Poem 16], ll. 22–24).
7
The impossibility of pinning down “The Hope” is best embodied in the following paradox from her Universal Dissolution [Poem 6]: “When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace” (l. 152). My Curation for this poem, Wishing for the End, provides other examples of the somewhat unusual desire for absolute and final death, as well as examples of nihilism, in seventeenth-century poetry.
In editing the poem, therefore, I have pursued the editorial strategy that I believe makes it most possible to experience the poem’s ambiguity to the fullest. This strategy has resulted in three separate Amplified Editions of the poem, which differ only in punctuation: Version B [The Uncertain Hope] contains only the manuscript’s punctuation, which allows readers to insert their own punctuation and to gauge their own readings of the poem; Version C [The Hope for Resurrection] is punctuated to bring out the resurrective reading; and Version D [The Hope for Final Death] is punctuated to bring out the reading that shows her yearning for a final death without resurrection.
***
In the version you are currently reading—Version C: The Hope for Resurrection—I punctuate the poem to bring out and make more readily available the reading that makes it seem as if Pulter unambiguously desires and hopes for a final resurrection after her death. This reading relies on the parts of the poem where Pulter openly announces both her prayers to and her trust in God (“God . . . Will raise me unto life”), and reads those frank protestations of trust as overwhelming any seeming kernels of doubt (“I know not how” God will manage to resurrect me when the matter that makes up my body has been dissolved—but I have faith he will manage).
As mentioned above, the most crucial punctuation decision in this version is the addition of a full stop at the end of the sixth line, which breaks the poem into two equal parts, each of which takes its own journey down into doubt and then back up into reassurance. If there is a full stop at the end of line 6, then Pulter twice worries about physical dissolution, but each time comforts herself with the knowledge that even if she does not know the exact mechanics of how it will happen, God will find a way to resurrect her. This repeated journey—down into doubt about physical dissolution and then back up into faith—parallels that taken in other poems, including especially Dear God, From Thy High Throne Look Down [Poem 63], which worries about her body being burned into dust, dissolved into tears, and sighed away into air, only to constantly reassure herself each time that no matter what dissolution she may experience, she can still trust in God.
My other punctuation decisions in this edition also reinforce this reading of a faith in resurrection, and in addition to the basic glosses that appear in each version, I have added notes to this edition that highlight how specific punctuating decisions create a poem longing for resurrection. I encourage the reader to compare the alternate versions using The Pulter Project’s versioning tools, to see how the punctuation differs across versions, and to consider what difference those changes make; if you would prefer to read the unpunctuated version first, read Version B before reading this one.
Amplified Edition D

 Headnote

How hopeful is “The Hope”? Or rather, for what is it hopeful? The conventional wisdom is that, as a citation of The booke of the common prayer,
Critical Note
See Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s curation for this poem, Dust, and her note on the title in A065a (Hester Pulter, “The Hope. January 1665” [A065a], ed. Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making).
1
“The Hope” refers to the “certain hope of resurrection” at the Final Judgment. However, the poem also indulges itself in a fantasy of total personal dissolution, on par with the Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] imagined earlier in Pulter’s manuscript, but here writ small into the confines of her body. She imagines being dissolved into dust, then broken down into salt (potentially a component of dust), then completely annihilated—but then reminds us that God, somehow, will be able to recreate enough matter to resurrect her: “I know not how.” These four words, placed after the poem’s only period, are the crux of the poem. Do they gesture to a boundless faith (I don’t know the science behind how he will do it, but I know he can because “He . . . hath supported me till now”)? Or do they gesture to a different kind of hope: a hope that maybe her death will not be the seed of a future resurrection, but an end? “I know not how” he could possibly bring me and my body (see The Perfection of Patience and Knowledge [Poem 39]) back from the complete material dissolution I have just imagined: maybe I can hope that he won’t, that death will actually just be the end.
Critical Note
I am indebted for my reading of this poem to Marshelle Woodward, who argued for this poem’s ambiguity in a paper entitled “The Dissolving Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Hester Pulter” at the International Margaret Cavendish Society Conference in 2017. The argument will be published as Marshelle Woodward, “Hester Pulter’s Dissolving Worlds,” in Worldmaking Women: New Essays on the Centrality of Women in Early Modern Literature and Culture, ed. Pamela Hammons and Brandie Siegfried (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, in progress).
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This is one of three interrelated Amplified Editions of Pulter’s poem: Version B [The Uncertain Hope], Version C [The Hope for Resurrection], and Version D [The Hope for Final Death]. The editorial strategy underlying these three separate editions has been specifically designed to demonstrate this poem’s fascinating ambiguity, its ability to be read either as a poem hoping for final, absolute death, or as a poem hoping for resurrection. As I will discuss in this headnote, the ambiguity of the poem’s argument comes in large part from the almost complete lack of punctuation in the original manuscript. This headnote explains how it is that punctuation can so radically alter the meaning of Pulter’s “The Hope”; the end of the headnote describes the editorial principles and punctuating choices I have adopted for this particular Amplified Edition (Version D [The Hope for Final Death]). If you wish to skip to the section of the headnote particular to this Amplified Edition, you can find it at the bottom of this headnote, after the three asterisks (***).
“The Hope” is unusual in comparison to other poems in Pulter’s manuscript collection in that it has especially sparse punctuation. In the original manuscript in which this poem (and all Pulter’s poems) can be found, “The Hope” has six punctuation marks in total: two parentheses enclosing a phrase, two commas used to break up a list, one comma used to break up a line, and one period before the final four words (“I know not how”).
Critical Note
This count does not include apostrophes.
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In addition, the relative scarcity of punctuation in this poem may be authorial. While the majority of the manuscript is written in a neat (and likely professional/scribal) roundhand, this poem, and a few others, are written in a spiky italic hand that also has made frequent corrections to other poems in the manuscript. Though we don’t know for sure to whom any of the hands belong, most editors assume that the spiky hand that makes corrections throughout, and that writes “The Hope” (Poem 65) and The Weeping Wish [Poem 61], is Pulter’s.
Critical Note
Stefan Christian in his dissertation edition merely refers to the second, editorial hand; see Hester Pulter, “The Poems of Lady Hester Pulter (1605?–1678): An Annotated Edition,” ed. Stefan Graham Christian (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2012), 3–6 for his discussion. Alice Eardley in her edition asserts confidently that the hand is Pulter’s (Hester Pulter, Poems, Emblems, and the Unfortunate Florinda, ed. Alice Eardley [Toronto: Iter, Inc. and the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2014], 32–33, 180 n. 825), while Knight and Wall note that the hand is “probably Pulter’s”; see Hester Pulter, “The Hope” (Poem 65, Elemental Edition), ed. Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making, note on title.
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Deciding where and how to punctuate this poem has the potential to radically change the argument of the poem. The poem moves from imagining death to imagining increasingly small dissolutions, to the burning even of atoms, to the turn to God’s abilities, in what Alice Eardley refers to as the poem’s “fluidity and gathering momentum"
Critical Note
Alice Eardley, “‘I haue not time to point yr booke . . . which I desire you yourselfe to doe’: Editing the Form of Early Modern Manuscript Verse,” in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 166; see Scott-Baumann’s Curation Knowledge, Faith and Doubt for an excerpt from Eardley’s essay.
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—but, crucially for these three Amplified Editions, where one might punctuate the poem to pause that momentum radically changes the message. Adding a hard stop (e.g., a semi-colon or period) after line 6, for example, makes a poem unambiguously about the promise of resurrection. With a hard stop after line 6 the poem would divide into two parts, each of which would end with resurrective optimism: even after dissolution into dust, the still-more-essential “vital salt” can “be found out” (ll. 1–6); even when the world is turned into chaos, God will raise me unto life (ll. 7–15). If, on the other hand, one reads the first ten lines as a consecutive accumulation of destruction on increasingly minute scales (where lines 7–8 do not change the subject from line 6, but go on to destroy even the vital salt that has been “found out”), the poem seems to build instead to a darker hope, conjuring image after image of destruction only to end with the (ill-supported) idea that God may, nevertheless, find something to recover.
I believe, therefore, that it is impossible for a modern editor to punctuate this poem in a way that preserves the question (What is the hope?) that I take to be constitutive of the poem itself.
Critical Note
It is of course impossible to say whether Pulter intended her punctuation (or lack thereof) to function this way; early modern punctuation worked differently than modern punctuation. For an overview of early modern views on punctuation, see Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez, “Teaching Punctuation in Early Modern England,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 46 (2010): 35–49; see also my Curation Punctuating Poetry.
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And this belief underlies the editorial strategy for these three editions.
One option for an editor trying to decide what the poem means would be to consider it in light of other poems in the manuscript. Unfortunately, moving out to the rest of Pulter’s corpus only complicates the question of what “The Hope” hopes for. She is a pious poet, and many of her poems share the conviction that God’s “blessèd influence / [will] Triumph o’er Death, her impotence” (Dear God, Turn Not Away Thy Face [Poem 20], ll. 21–22). However, for every poem that trusts in God, there is a poem that fantasizes about the possible absoluteness of physical dissolution. In The Eclipse [Poem 1] she reminds the Earth of its “irrevocable dissolution, / As well as mine” (ll. 22–23), and Universal Dissolution [Poem 6] ends with the following unsettling advice: “Then my unsettled soul, be more resolved, / Seeing all this universe must be dissolved” (ll. 175–76). In The Circle [1] [Poem 17] she cries, “Then, gracious God, in Thee I’ll trust, / Although Thou crumble me to dust” (ll. 15–16): is the trust despite God’s crumbling ambitions, or because of them?