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The Wish

Poem 52

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 Wendy Wall and Leah Knight.
  • Amplified edition: By Lara Dodds.

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

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

 Physical note

Previous poem concludes on same page

 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 3

 Physical note

“es” (and possibly “y”) appear written over earlier letters, last two possibly “l” and certainly “e”
Line number 10

 Physical note

“n” written over another letter, possibly an “h”
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Transcription
Transcription

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
Physical Note
Previous poem concludes on same page
The Wish
The Wish
The Wish
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 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
I have modernized spelling and punctuation in this poem with the aim of enhancing clarity and readability. The notes gloss unfamiliar words and provide cultural and literary contexts.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem combines devotional verse with an interest in physics and astronomy. The image of Pulter as a tired pilgrim crawling toward God contrasts strikingly, in terms of scale, with the rotation of the sun and vastness of the heavens. The speaker’s desire to mutate into a sun is echoed in other poems in which she imagines space travel, the motions of planets, and the freedom of not being bound by human form. In this poem, however, her desire for transformation is linked to a commitment to help those who are vulnerable (children and the poor) and beloved (her friends). The majority of the poem is concerned with how she would return heat and light, as praise, to God, who was the source of all creation.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
“The Wish” is a philosophical thought experiment. While its central conceit—the speaker’s professed desire to have the power of the sun—suggests a paradox or impossibility, the poem uses it to explore the metaphorical possibilities of new philosophical developments. What difference does it make if the stars are suns (and the sun is a star)? “The Wish” offers one possible answer to that question.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Oh that I were a Sun that I might Send
O, that I were a sun that I might send
Oh that I were a sun that I might send
2
My inffluence to every child or ffreind
My influence to every child or friend.
My influence to every child or friend;
3
The poor too I would comfort w:th my
Physical Note
“es” (and possibly “y”) appear written over earlier letters, last two possibly “l” and certainly “e”
Rayes
The poor, too, I would comfort with my rays,
The poor, too, I would comfort with my rays,
4
And all the rest I would return in praiſe
And all the
Gloss Note
of the rays
rest
I would return in praise
And all the rest I would return in praise
5
To him that turns my Nights to endles dayes
To Him that turns my nights to endless days,
To Him that turns my nights to endless days,
6
To him that made of Nothing this great All
Critical Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
To Him that made of nothing this great all
,
To Him that
Critical Note

Creation from nothing (ex nihilo). Some theologians argued that Genesis 1.1 (AV: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”) supported the view that God created the universe from nothing. The opposite view is found in Lucretius’De Rerum Natura: nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit). Lucy Hutchinson, the first translator of De Rerum Natura into English and Pulter’s contemporary, translates this principle as follows:

God never aniething of nothing made;
But soe are mortall men restreind with dread,
As seing severall works in heaven and earth,
And ignorant of the cause that gives them birth,
They thinke a power devine brings forth those things;
But grant that nothing out of nothing springs
1.153-8; cited from Hugh de Quehen, ed. Lucy Hutchinson’s Translation of Lucretius. U of Michigan P, 1996
made of nothing this great all
7
And stuft with Atomes this our Earthly Ball
And stuffed with
Critical Note
minute and indivisible particles, seen as ultimate components of matter; in a less scientific register, very small amounts of anything
atoms
this our earthly ball,
And stuffed with
Critical Note
In Greek philosophy, the atom (from ancient Greek ἄτομος “indivisible”) was considered the smallest particle of all matter (see OED atom, n. 3). Seventeenth-century philosophers such as Rene Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, and Margaret Cavendish revived atomic theory in their attempts to understand the nature of matter.
atoms
this our earthly ball,
8
Where I a weake and weary Pilgrim craul
Where I, a weak and weary pilgrim, crawl
Where I, a weak and weary pilgrim, crawl
9
To him that comforts mee in my Sad Story
To Him that comforts me in my
Gloss Note
life
sad story
,
To Him that comforts me in my sad story,
10
To him that lends to Stars (
Physical Note
“n” written over another letter, possibly an “h”
nay
Suns) their Glory.
To Him that lends to stars (nay,
Critical Note
in referencing the possible plurality of universes and worlds, the speaker is at the forefront of new scientific work on astronomy challenging the older Ptolemaic system.
suns
) their glory.
To Him that lends to stars (
Critical Note

A parenthetical interjection (common in Pulter’s poetry) redefines “stars” as “suns,” which draws upon astronomical speculation about the plurality of worlds by suggesting that each of the stars may be a sun with its own Earth-like planets. This debate appears frequently in seventeenth-century poetry, often in lines that interrogate the metaphorical and philosophical consequences of cosmic pluralism. John Donne’s lament in the First Anniversary (1611) that “the new philosophy calls all in doubt” is a touchstone. Donne suggests that astronomical discovery threatens previous models of social stability:

And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation;
Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot... (209-15)

Other poets, however, explored the creative possibilities of cosmic pluralism, notably Margaret Cavendish, who in Poems and Fancies (1653) published several poems, including “A World in an Eare-ringe,” “If Infinite Worlds There Must be Infinite Centers,” and “A World Made by Atoms.” Cavendish’s “Of Stars” explicitly questions whether stars are suns: “But who knows, but those stars we see by night / Are suns which to some other worlds give light?” (see Poems and Fancies pp. 35-36). These debates also make up the subject of Adam’s conversation with Raphael in book 8 of Paradise Lost:

What if that light
Sent from her [the earth] through the wide transpicuous air,
To the terrestrial moon be as a star
Enlight’ning her by day, as she by night
This Earth? Reciprocal, if land be there
Fields and inhabitants: her [the moon] spots thou seest
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her softened soil, for some to eat
Allotted there; and other suns perhaps
With their attendant moons thou wilt descry
Communicating male and female light,
Which two great sexes animate the world,
Stored in each orb perhaps with some that live. (8.140-52)

John Wilkins’s The Discovery of a World in the Moone (1638) and A Discourse Concerning a New Planet (1640) popularized recent astronomical discoveries in an accessible format for English-speaking audiences.

nay suns
) their glory.
curled line
X (Close panel)Notes: Elemental Edition

 Editorial note

The aim of the elemental edition 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

This poem combines devotional verse with an interest in physics and astronomy. The image of Pulter as a tired pilgrim crawling toward God contrasts strikingly, in terms of scale, with the rotation of the sun and vastness of the heavens. The speaker’s desire to mutate into a sun is echoed in other poems in which she imagines space travel, the motions of planets, and the freedom of not being bound by human form. In this poem, however, her desire for transformation is linked to a commitment to help those who are vulnerable (children and the poor) and beloved (her friends). The majority of the poem is concerned with how she would return heat and light, as praise, to God, who was the source of all creation.
Line number 4

 Gloss note

of the rays
Line number 6

 Critical note

the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
Line number 7

 Critical note

minute and indivisible particles, seen as ultimate components of matter; in a less scientific register, very small amounts of anything
Line number 9

 Gloss note

life
Line number 10

 Critical note

in referencing the possible plurality of universes and worlds, the speaker is at the forefront of new scientific work on astronomy challenging the older Ptolemaic system.
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
Physical Note
Previous poem concludes on same page
The Wish
The Wish
The Wish
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.

— Wendy Wall and Leah Knight
The aim of the elemental edition 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.

— Wendy Wall and Leah Knight
I have modernized spelling and punctuation in this poem with the aim of enhancing clarity and readability. The notes gloss unfamiliar words and provide cultural and literary contexts.

— Wendy Wall and Leah Knight
This poem combines devotional verse with an interest in physics and astronomy. The image of Pulter as a tired pilgrim crawling toward God contrasts strikingly, in terms of scale, with the rotation of the sun and vastness of the heavens. The speaker’s desire to mutate into a sun is echoed in other poems in which she imagines space travel, the motions of planets, and the freedom of not being bound by human form. In this poem, however, her desire for transformation is linked to a commitment to help those who are vulnerable (children and the poor) and beloved (her friends). The majority of the poem is concerned with how she would return heat and light, as praise, to God, who was the source of all creation.

— Wendy Wall and Leah Knight
“The Wish” is a philosophical thought experiment. While its central conceit—the speaker’s professed desire to have the power of the sun—suggests a paradox or impossibility, the poem uses it to explore the metaphorical possibilities of new philosophical developments. What difference does it make if the stars are suns (and the sun is a star)? “The Wish” offers one possible answer to that question.

— Wendy Wall and Leah Knight
1
Oh that I were a Sun that I might Send
O, that I were a sun that I might send
Oh that I were a sun that I might send
2
My inffluence to every child or ffreind
My influence to every child or friend.
My influence to every child or friend;
3
The poor too I would comfort w:th my
Physical Note
“es” (and possibly “y”) appear written over earlier letters, last two possibly “l” and certainly “e”
Rayes
The poor, too, I would comfort with my rays,
The poor, too, I would comfort with my rays,
4
And all the rest I would return in praiſe
And all the
Gloss Note
of the rays
rest
I would return in praise
And all the rest I would return in praise
5
To him that turns my Nights to endles dayes
To Him that turns my nights to endless days,
To Him that turns my nights to endless days,
6
To him that made of Nothing this great All
Critical Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
To Him that made of nothing this great all
,
To Him that
Critical Note

Creation from nothing (ex nihilo). Some theologians argued that Genesis 1.1 (AV: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”) supported the view that God created the universe from nothing. The opposite view is found in Lucretius’De Rerum Natura: nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit). Lucy Hutchinson, the first translator of De Rerum Natura into English and Pulter’s contemporary, translates this principle as follows:

God never aniething of nothing made;
But soe are mortall men restreind with dread,
As seing severall works in heaven and earth,
And ignorant of the cause that gives them birth,
They thinke a power devine brings forth those things;
But grant that nothing out of nothing springs
1.153-8; cited from Hugh de Quehen, ed. Lucy Hutchinson’s Translation of Lucretius. U of Michigan P, 1996
made of nothing this great all
7
And stuft with Atomes this our Earthly Ball
And stuffed with
Critical Note
minute and indivisible particles, seen as ultimate components of matter; in a less scientific register, very small amounts of anything
atoms
this our earthly ball,
And stuffed with
Critical Note
In Greek philosophy, the atom (from ancient Greek ἄτομος “indivisible”) was considered the smallest particle of all matter (see OED atom, n. 3). Seventeenth-century philosophers such as Rene Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, and Margaret Cavendish revived atomic theory in their attempts to understand the nature of matter.
atoms
this our earthly ball,
8
Where I a weake and weary Pilgrim craul
Where I, a weak and weary pilgrim, crawl
Where I, a weak and weary pilgrim, crawl
9
To him that comforts mee in my Sad Story
To Him that comforts me in my
Gloss Note
life
sad story
,
To Him that comforts me in my sad story,
10
To him that lends to Stars (
Physical Note
“n” written over another letter, possibly an “h”
nay
Suns) their Glory.
To Him that lends to stars (nay,
Critical Note
in referencing the possible plurality of universes and worlds, the speaker is at the forefront of new scientific work on astronomy challenging the older Ptolemaic system.
suns
) their glory.
To Him that lends to stars (
Critical Note

A parenthetical interjection (common in Pulter’s poetry) redefines “stars” as “suns,” which draws upon astronomical speculation about the plurality of worlds by suggesting that each of the stars may be a sun with its own Earth-like planets. This debate appears frequently in seventeenth-century poetry, often in lines that interrogate the metaphorical and philosophical consequences of cosmic pluralism. John Donne’s lament in the First Anniversary (1611) that “the new philosophy calls all in doubt” is a touchstone. Donne suggests that astronomical discovery threatens previous models of social stability:

And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation;
Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot... (209-15)

Other poets, however, explored the creative possibilities of cosmic pluralism, notably Margaret Cavendish, who in Poems and Fancies (1653) published several poems, including “A World in an Eare-ringe,” “If Infinite Worlds There Must be Infinite Centers,” and “A World Made by Atoms.” Cavendish’s “Of Stars” explicitly questions whether stars are suns: “But who knows, but those stars we see by night / Are suns which to some other worlds give light?” (see Poems and Fancies pp. 35-36). These debates also make up the subject of Adam’s conversation with Raphael in book 8 of Paradise Lost:

What if that light
Sent from her [the earth] through the wide transpicuous air,
To the terrestrial moon be as a star
Enlight’ning her by day, as she by night
This Earth? Reciprocal, if land be there
Fields and inhabitants: her [the moon] spots thou seest
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her softened soil, for some to eat
Allotted there; and other suns perhaps
With their attendant moons thou wilt descry
Communicating male and female light,
Which two great sexes animate the world,
Stored in each orb perhaps with some that live. (8.140-52)

John Wilkins’s The Discovery of a World in the Moone (1638) and A Discourse Concerning a New Planet (1640) popularized recent astronomical discoveries in an accessible format for English-speaking audiences.

nay suns
) their glory.
curled line
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

I have modernized spelling and punctuation in this poem with the aim of enhancing clarity and readability. The notes gloss unfamiliar words and provide cultural and literary contexts.

 Headnote

“The Wish” is a philosophical thought experiment. While its central conceit—the speaker’s professed desire to have the power of the sun—suggests a paradox or impossibility, the poem uses it to explore the metaphorical possibilities of new philosophical developments. What difference does it make if the stars are suns (and the sun is a star)? “The Wish” offers one possible answer to that question.
Line number 6

 Critical note


Creation from nothing (ex nihilo). Some theologians argued that Genesis 1.1 (AV: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”) supported the view that God created the universe from nothing. The opposite view is found in Lucretius’De Rerum Natura: nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit). Lucy Hutchinson, the first translator of De Rerum Natura into English and Pulter’s contemporary, translates this principle as follows:

God never aniething of nothing made;
But soe are mortall men restreind with dread,
As seing severall works in heaven and earth,
And ignorant of the cause that gives them birth,
They thinke a power devine brings forth those things;
But grant that nothing out of nothing springs
1.153-8; cited from Hugh de Quehen, ed. Lucy Hutchinson’s Translation of Lucretius. U of Michigan P, 1996
Line number 7

 Critical note

In Greek philosophy, the atom (from ancient Greek ἄτομος “indivisible”) was considered the smallest particle of all matter (see OED atom, n. 3). Seventeenth-century philosophers such as Rene Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, and Margaret Cavendish revived atomic theory in their attempts to understand the nature of matter.
Line number 10

 Critical note


A parenthetical interjection (common in Pulter’s poetry) redefines “stars” as “suns,” which draws upon astronomical speculation about the plurality of worlds by suggesting that each of the stars may be a sun with its own Earth-like planets. This debate appears frequently in seventeenth-century poetry, often in lines that interrogate the metaphorical and philosophical consequences of cosmic pluralism. John Donne’s lament in the First Anniversary (1611) that “the new philosophy calls all in doubt” is a touchstone. Donne suggests that astronomical discovery threatens previous models of social stability:

And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation;
Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot... (209-15)

Other poets, however, explored the creative possibilities of cosmic pluralism, notably Margaret Cavendish, who in Poems and Fancies (1653) published several poems, including “A World in an Eare-ringe,” “If Infinite Worlds There Must be Infinite Centers,” and “A World Made by Atoms.” Cavendish’s “Of Stars” explicitly questions whether stars are suns: “But who knows, but those stars we see by night / Are suns which to some other worlds give light?” (see Poems and Fancies pp. 35-36). These debates also make up the subject of Adam’s conversation with Raphael in book 8 of Paradise Lost:

What if that light
Sent from her [the earth] through the wide transpicuous air,
To the terrestrial moon be as a star
Enlight’ning her by day, as she by night
This Earth? Reciprocal, if land be there
Fields and inhabitants: her [the moon] spots thou seest
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her softened soil, for some to eat
Allotted there; and other suns perhaps
With their attendant moons thou wilt descry
Communicating male and female light,
Which two great sexes animate the world,
Stored in each orb perhaps with some that live. (8.140-52)

John Wilkins’s The Discovery of a World in the Moone (1638) and A Discourse Concerning a New Planet (1640) popularized recent astronomical discoveries in an accessible format for English-speaking audiences.

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

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
Physical Note
Previous poem concludes on same page
The Wish
The Wish
The Wish
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.

— Lara Dodds
The aim of the elemental edition 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.

— Lara Dodds
I have modernized spelling and punctuation in this poem with the aim of enhancing clarity and readability. The notes gloss unfamiliar words and provide cultural and literary contexts.

— Lara Dodds
This poem combines devotional verse with an interest in physics and astronomy. The image of Pulter as a tired pilgrim crawling toward God contrasts strikingly, in terms of scale, with the rotation of the sun and vastness of the heavens. The speaker’s desire to mutate into a sun is echoed in other poems in which she imagines space travel, the motions of planets, and the freedom of not being bound by human form. In this poem, however, her desire for transformation is linked to a commitment to help those who are vulnerable (children and the poor) and beloved (her friends). The majority of the poem is concerned with how she would return heat and light, as praise, to God, who was the source of all creation.

— Lara Dodds
“The Wish” is a philosophical thought experiment. While its central conceit—the speaker’s professed desire to have the power of the sun—suggests a paradox or impossibility, the poem uses it to explore the metaphorical possibilities of new philosophical developments. What difference does it make if the stars are suns (and the sun is a star)? “The Wish” offers one possible answer to that question.

— Lara Dodds
1
Oh that I were a Sun that I might Send
O, that I were a sun that I might send
Oh that I were a sun that I might send
2
My inffluence to every child or ffreind
My influence to every child or friend.
My influence to every child or friend;
3
The poor too I would comfort w:th my
Physical Note
“es” (and possibly “y”) appear written over earlier letters, last two possibly “l” and certainly “e”
Rayes
The poor, too, I would comfort with my rays,
The poor, too, I would comfort with my rays,
4
And all the rest I would return in praiſe
And all the
Gloss Note
of the rays
rest
I would return in praise
And all the rest I would return in praise
5
To him that turns my Nights to endles dayes
To Him that turns my nights to endless days,
To Him that turns my nights to endless days,
6
To him that made of Nothing this great All
Critical Note
the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
To Him that made of nothing this great all
,
To Him that
Critical Note

Creation from nothing (ex nihilo). Some theologians argued that Genesis 1.1 (AV: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”) supported the view that God created the universe from nothing. The opposite view is found in Lucretius’De Rerum Natura: nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit). Lucy Hutchinson, the first translator of De Rerum Natura into English and Pulter’s contemporary, translates this principle as follows:

God never aniething of nothing made;
But soe are mortall men restreind with dread,
As seing severall works in heaven and earth,
And ignorant of the cause that gives them birth,
They thinke a power devine brings forth those things;
But grant that nothing out of nothing springs
1.153-8; cited from Hugh de Quehen, ed. Lucy Hutchinson’s Translation of Lucretius. U of Michigan P, 1996
made of nothing this great all
7
And stuft with Atomes this our Earthly Ball
And stuffed with
Critical Note
minute and indivisible particles, seen as ultimate components of matter; in a less scientific register, very small amounts of anything
atoms
this our earthly ball,
And stuffed with
Critical Note
In Greek philosophy, the atom (from ancient Greek ἄτομος “indivisible”) was considered the smallest particle of all matter (see OED atom, n. 3). Seventeenth-century philosophers such as Rene Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, and Margaret Cavendish revived atomic theory in their attempts to understand the nature of matter.
atoms
this our earthly ball,
8
Where I a weake and weary Pilgrim craul
Where I, a weak and weary pilgrim, crawl
Where I, a weak and weary pilgrim, crawl
9
To him that comforts mee in my Sad Story
To Him that comforts me in my
Gloss Note
life
sad story
,
To Him that comforts me in my sad story,
10
To him that lends to Stars (
Physical Note
“n” written over another letter, possibly an “h”
nay
Suns) their Glory.
To Him that lends to stars (nay,
Critical Note
in referencing the possible plurality of universes and worlds, the speaker is at the forefront of new scientific work on astronomy challenging the older Ptolemaic system.
suns
) their glory.
To Him that lends to stars (
Critical Note

A parenthetical interjection (common in Pulter’s poetry) redefines “stars” as “suns,” which draws upon astronomical speculation about the plurality of worlds by suggesting that each of the stars may be a sun with its own Earth-like planets. This debate appears frequently in seventeenth-century poetry, often in lines that interrogate the metaphorical and philosophical consequences of cosmic pluralism. John Donne’s lament in the First Anniversary (1611) that “the new philosophy calls all in doubt” is a touchstone. Donne suggests that astronomical discovery threatens previous models of social stability:

And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation;
Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot... (209-15)

Other poets, however, explored the creative possibilities of cosmic pluralism, notably Margaret Cavendish, who in Poems and Fancies (1653) published several poems, including “A World in an Eare-ringe,” “If Infinite Worlds There Must be Infinite Centers,” and “A World Made by Atoms.” Cavendish’s “Of Stars” explicitly questions whether stars are suns: “But who knows, but those stars we see by night / Are suns which to some other worlds give light?” (see Poems and Fancies pp. 35-36). These debates also make up the subject of Adam’s conversation with Raphael in book 8 of Paradise Lost:

What if that light
Sent from her [the earth] through the wide transpicuous air,
To the terrestrial moon be as a star
Enlight’ning her by day, as she by night
This Earth? Reciprocal, if land be there
Fields and inhabitants: her [the moon] spots thou seest
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her softened soil, for some to eat
Allotted there; and other suns perhaps
With their attendant moons thou wilt descry
Communicating male and female light,
Which two great sexes animate the world,
Stored in each orb perhaps with some that live. (8.140-52)

John Wilkins’s The Discovery of a World in the Moone (1638) and A Discourse Concerning a New Planet (1640) popularized recent astronomical discoveries in an accessible format for English-speaking audiences.

nay suns
) their glory.
curled line
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Transcription
Title note

 Physical note

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

 Editorial note

I have modernized spelling and punctuation in this poem with the aim of enhancing clarity and readability. The notes gloss unfamiliar words and provide cultural and literary contexts.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

This poem combines devotional verse with an interest in physics and astronomy. The image of Pulter as a tired pilgrim crawling toward God contrasts strikingly, in terms of scale, with the rotation of the sun and vastness of the heavens. The speaker’s desire to mutate into a sun is echoed in other poems in which she imagines space travel, the motions of planets, and the freedom of not being bound by human form. In this poem, however, her desire for transformation is linked to a commitment to help those who are vulnerable (children and the poor) and beloved (her friends). The majority of the poem is concerned with how she would return heat and light, as praise, to God, who was the source of all creation.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

“The Wish” is a philosophical thought experiment. While its central conceit—the speaker’s professed desire to have the power of the sun—suggests a paradox or impossibility, the poem uses it to explore the metaphorical possibilities of new philosophical developments. What difference does it make if the stars are suns (and the sun is a star)? “The Wish” offers one possible answer to that question.
Transcription
Line number 3

 Physical note

“es” (and possibly “y”) appear written over earlier letters, last two possibly “l” and certainly “e”
Elemental Edition
Line number 4

 Gloss note

of the rays
Elemental Edition
Line number 6

 Critical note

the idea that the universe was created by God ex nihilo (“from nothing”) was a point of theological doctrine and debate.
Amplified Edition
Line number 6

 Critical note


Creation from nothing (ex nihilo). Some theologians argued that Genesis 1.1 (AV: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”) supported the view that God created the universe from nothing. The opposite view is found in Lucretius’De Rerum Natura: nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit). Lucy Hutchinson, the first translator of De Rerum Natura into English and Pulter’s contemporary, translates this principle as follows:

God never aniething of nothing made;
But soe are mortall men restreind with dread,
As seing severall works in heaven and earth,
And ignorant of the cause that gives them birth,
They thinke a power devine brings forth those things;
But grant that nothing out of nothing springs
1.153-8; cited from Hugh de Quehen, ed. Lucy Hutchinson’s Translation of Lucretius. U of Michigan P, 1996
Elemental Edition
Line number 7

 Critical note

minute and indivisible particles, seen as ultimate components of matter; in a less scientific register, very small amounts of anything
Amplified Edition
Line number 7

 Critical note

In Greek philosophy, the atom (from ancient Greek ἄτομος “indivisible”) was considered the smallest particle of all matter (see OED atom, n. 3). Seventeenth-century philosophers such as Rene Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, and Margaret Cavendish revived atomic theory in their attempts to understand the nature of matter.
Elemental Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

life
Transcription
Line number 10

 Physical note

“n” written over another letter, possibly an “h”
Elemental Edition
Line number 10

 Critical note

in referencing the possible plurality of universes and worlds, the speaker is at the forefront of new scientific work on astronomy challenging the older Ptolemaic system.
Amplified Edition
Line number 10

 Critical note


A parenthetical interjection (common in Pulter’s poetry) redefines “stars” as “suns,” which draws upon astronomical speculation about the plurality of worlds by suggesting that each of the stars may be a sun with its own Earth-like planets. This debate appears frequently in seventeenth-century poetry, often in lines that interrogate the metaphorical and philosophical consequences of cosmic pluralism. John Donne’s lament in the First Anniversary (1611) that “the new philosophy calls all in doubt” is a touchstone. Donne suggests that astronomical discovery threatens previous models of social stability:

And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation;
Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot... (209-15)

Other poets, however, explored the creative possibilities of cosmic pluralism, notably Margaret Cavendish, who in Poems and Fancies (1653) published several poems, including “A World in an Eare-ringe,” “If Infinite Worlds There Must be Infinite Centers,” and “A World Made by Atoms.” Cavendish’s “Of Stars” explicitly questions whether stars are suns: “But who knows, but those stars we see by night / Are suns which to some other worlds give light?” (see Poems and Fancies pp. 35-36). These debates also make up the subject of Adam’s conversation with Raphael in book 8 of Paradise Lost:

What if that light
Sent from her [the earth] through the wide transpicuous air,
To the terrestrial moon be as a star
Enlight’ning her by day, as she by night
This Earth? Reciprocal, if land be there
Fields and inhabitants: her [the moon] spots thou seest
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her softened soil, for some to eat
Allotted there; and other suns perhaps
With their attendant moons thou wilt descry
Communicating male and female light,
Which two great sexes animate the world,
Stored in each orb perhaps with some that live. (8.140-52)

John Wilkins’s The Discovery of a World in the Moone (1638) and A Discourse Concerning a New Planet (1640) popularized recent astronomical discoveries in an accessible format for English-speaking audiences.

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