To Aurora [3]

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To Aurora [3]

Poem #34

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: Transcribed and annotated by Leah Knight and Wendy Wall. See transcription conventions.
  • Elemental edition: Edited by Leah Knight and Wendy Wall. See editorial guidelines for this edition.
  • Amplified edition: Edited by Frances E. Dolan.

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

 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 10

 Physical note

“b” appears corrected from “p”
Line number 14

 Physical note

the main editing hand has written “my” directly above “our
Line number 28

 Physical note

“e” was probably originally written as a “u”
Line number 31

 Physical note

“the” in darker ink
Line number 31

 Physical note

“s“ written over another letter
Line number 31

 Physical note

“u” written over a “y” with descender imperfectly erased
Line number 32

 Physical note

“u” crowded into space before next word
Line number 38

 Physical note

written over indecipherable word, last letter with ascender and first letter possibly capital “T” or “G”
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Transcription
Transcription

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To Aurora [3]
To Aurora [3]
To Aurora [3]
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
My “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem is one of many in which Pulter meditates on the dawn. She uses the occasion of the sunrise to reprimand her soul for not being willing to shake off corporeality, suffer death, and be resurrected (along with the “sleeping” body). Playing off of the aubade tradition, the speaker does not sadly bid farewell to a lover, but instead seeks the ultimate moment of what she sees as a heavenly suppression of the flaws of mortal life; the moment of drinking Christ’s redemptive blood (the communion) supersedes the classical Lethe, the river of forgetfulness that one crosses to get to the underworld.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
One of Pulter’s four Aurora poems, this one begins with the classical allusion it shares with the other poems, celebrating the dawn in song (a lyric genre called an aubade), and then dramatically shifts gears and genres, first into natural history and then from the observation of busy insects to wrenching spiritual self-castigation. In the course of the poem, the speaker admits to neglecting god’s laws, failing to fulfill his will, forgetting what really matters, wasting time, fruitless grief, folly and lust, bad dreams, and horrid frights. This is a speaker who admits (even wallows in) doubt but builds to the hope of a spiritual clean slate.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Why? doth Pale Phœbe thus her bevty Shrowd.
Why doth pale
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Phoebe
thus her beauty shroud?
Why doth pale
Gloss Note
moon personified as a goddess
Phoebe
thus her beauty shroud?
2
Why? is her fface inveloped in a Clowd.
Why is her face enveloped in a cloud?
Why is her face enveloped in a cloud?
3
It’s cauſe her borrowed Lusters in the Wain?
Physical Note
“It’s“ in manuscript
Is’t
’cause her borrowed luster’s in the wane,
Is’t ’cause her borrowed luster’s in the wane?
4
Or cauſe Auroras Purple Curtain’s drawn.
Or ’cause
Gloss Note
goddess of the dawn
Aurora’s
purple curtain’s drawn?
Or ’cause
Gloss Note
dawn personified as a goddess
Aurora’s
purple curtain's drawn?
5
T’is Soe, look how Shee bluſhing doth ariſe;
’Tis so: look how she, blushing, doth arise,
’Tis so:
Critical Note
The four questions in the opening lines draw the reader’s attention to the appearance of the personified moon and dawning sun. Then the instruction to “look” in line 5 begins a kind of pan shot that draws the mind’s eye to the horizon where the sun rises, before zooming in on “these flowers.” Directing the reader’s attention to these particular flowers (line 8) and then “these” bees the speaker walks amongst (in line 11), a rhetorical pointing called deixis, the poem tightens and intensifies the focus as it also shifts from the conventional to the quirkily personal.
look
how she blushing doth arise,
6
Chaſeing Sad Darknes with her Orient eyes.
Chasing sad darkness with her
Critical Note
associated with the part of the heavens in which the sun and celestial objects appear to rise; eastern
orient
eyes;
Chasing sad darkness with her
Gloss Note
facing east or the rising sun
orient
eyes.
7
And being Attended with the flying howres;
And being attended with the flying
Gloss Note
Horae, goddesses of the seasons
Hours
,
And being attended with the
Critical Note
The flying hours may be either the swift passage of time or the Hours or Horae, three sister goddesses who presided over the changing seasons.
flying hours
,
8
Shee shakes her Dewey Curles upon these fflowers.
She shakes her dewy curls upon these flowers,
She shakes her dewy curls upon these flowers,
9
ffilling with Honey Dew, each Gold inamlild Cup;
Filling with
Gloss Note
This sugar-rich liquid—excreted by insects, plant galls, and fungi on the leaves of plants—was formerly thought to originate from the sky in a manner similar to dew.
honeydew
each gold-enamelled cup,
Filling with honeydew each gold enameled cup,
10
Whence Bees (their Necter) And
Physical Note
“b” appears corrected from “p”
Ambrotia
Sup.
Whence bees their nectar and
Gloss Note
food of the gods
ambrosia
sup.
Whence bees their nectar and
Gloss Note
Ambrosia was the sweet food of the gods. The word was also used to describe the pollen bees collected.
ambrosia
sup.
11
Thus doe theſe Virgins Spend the Toylſom Day;
Thus do these
Critical Note
bees, regularly seen as virginal and innocent, with associations to the Virgin Mary, largely based on the idea that they reproduced asexually. See Claire Preston, Thomas Browne and the Writing of Science, 77-78.
virgins
spend the toilsome day,
Thus, do these virgins spend the toilsome day,
12
And as I Solely Walk Sting my delay.
And, as I
Gloss Note
solitarily
solely
walk, sting my delay.
And as I
Gloss Note
alone
solely
walk
Critical Note
The virgins seem to be the bees who “sting” the speaker’s “delay,” both stinging her as she loiters or procrastinates and distressing her by offering their “toilsome” industry as a contrast to her indolence. Their stinging virginity is both aggressive and penetrative. In the seventeenth century, there was some confusion about the gender and sexuality of bees. For instance, it was still widely assumed that a king rather than a queen presided over the hive (see Jeffrey Merrick, “Royal Bees: The Gender Politics of the Beehive in Early Modern Europe,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, ed. J. Yolton 18 [1988]: 7-37). One text that did recognize a queen bee, Charles Butler's The Feminine Monarchy, or the History of Bees(Oxford, 1609), describes both virgin wax and virgin honey but does not call bees themselves virgins. But a Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary describes her as hastening “like a busy bee” (Henry Hawkins, Partheneia Sacra [Rouen, 1633], p. 78). The reference to stinging virgins may also reach back to include Phoebe and Aurora, the bashful, blushing goddesses who nonetheless get on with the business of dawn and so, like the insects, reproach the speaker with their industry.
sting my delay.
13
Thus (Ô my god) each Smale deſpiſed inſect;
Thus (O, my God), each small, despised insect
Thus (O my god) each small despised insect,
14
Buz in
Physical Note
the main editing hand has written “my” directly above “our
ourmy
ears, that I thy Laws neglect;
Critical Note
two possible meanings: 1) the insects bother (“buzz”) the speaker because (“that”) she is not obedient to God; or 2) the insects murmur (an alternate meaning of “buzz”) that she is disobedient.
Buzz in my ears, that I Thy laws neglect.
Buzz in my ears, that I thy laws neglect.
15
In doeing what they’r made for, every fly
In doing what they’re made for, every fly
In doing what they’re made for, every fly
16
ffulfuls thy will, (woes mee) Soe doe not I.
Fulfills Thy will; (woe’s me) so do not I.
Fulfills thy will. Woe’s me: so do not I.
17
I was Created to Set forth thy Praiſe,
I was created to set forth Thy praise,
I was created to set forth thy praise;
18
Yet like a wretch I fool away my Dayes;
Yet, like a wretch, I fool away my days
Yet like a wretch I fool away my days
19
In fruitleſs grief, or moyling in the earth:
In fruitless grief, or
Gloss Note
making oneself wet and muddy; wallowing in the mire; trudging; being anxious
moiling in the earth
,
In fruitless grief, or
Critical Note
working and wallowing; Moil is a verb Pulter also uses in “The Pismire” (Poem 35) [Poem 35] to describe the dirty work of earthly life, work that requires one to wallow in the dust and dirt the soul aspires to shake off, becoming dirty and defiled in the process. This includes not just direct engagements with dirt, such as agricultural labor or cleaning, but all labor that embeds us in earthly life.
moiling
in the earth,
20
fforgetting my poor Souls Celestiall Birth.
Forgetting my poor soul’s celestial birth.
Forgetting my poor soul’s celestial birth.
I

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21
I know I have a Spark of Heavenly fier
I know I have a spark of heavenly fire
I know I have a spark of heavenly fire
22
Within my Breast, elce what moves this deſire
Within my breast; else what moves this desire?
Within my breast—else what moves
Critical Note
“This desire” appears to be the desire to respect rather than neglect God’s laws and to escape the body, its folly and lust. At one level, then, it is a desire not to desire earthly pleasures but instead to transcend them. See also Pulter’s poem The Desire [Poem 18].
this desire
?—
23
But ô my Soule’s Soe clog’d with fflesh & bones,
But O, my soul’s so clogged with flesh and bones
But O! My soul’s so clogged with flesh and bones,
24
I Heaven can Reach with nought but Sighs & Gron’s,
I heaven can reach with nought but sighs and groans.
I heaven can reach with naught but sighs and groans.
25
My Slavish Soul, Shake of this Dirt & Dust,
My slavish soul, shake off this dirt and dust,
My slavish soul, shake off this dirt and dust,
26
Put of thy folly, and worſ then folley, Lust.
Put off thy folly, and worse than folly, lust,
Put off thy folly and—worse than folly—
Critical Note
This confession of lust is striking, especially given the social pressures on women to be and seem chaste. While male poets often confess or boast of lust, most female poets do not. The confession of lust adds another layer to the possible meanings of “this desire,” a desire that must be distinguished from other, more bodily desires.
lust
;
27
And through all the Clowds and Skie make way,
And through all the clouds and sky make way;
And through all the clouds and sky make way.
28
There there is Light out Shines
Physical Note
“e” was probably originally written as a “u”
Meridian
Day.
There, there is light outshines
Gloss Note
noon
meridian
day.
Critical Note
In this poem, Pulter twice doubles adverbs (“There, there” [line 28]; “Whither, whither” [line 31]), moving from an assertion of where the focus should be (“there”) to the question that drives the poem: given that the desired destination is clear, why does the speaker keep flying off in other directions?
There, there
, is light outshines
Gloss Note
noon-time or mid-day
meridian
day.
29
Nay that inviſible and Glorious Light,
Nay, that invisible and glorious light
Nay, that invisible and glorious
Critical Note
The oxymoron of the “invisible light” of heaven (the “there” which is never named) mirrors Milton’s description of the “darkness visible” in hell. I’m grateful to Leah Knight for pointing this out, as well as the fact that Pulter uses the phrase “invisible light” in two other poems, “The Center” (Poem 30) [Poem 30] and “Made When I Was Sick” (Poem 31) [Poem 31].
light
,
30
Outshines the Sun, more then ye Sun doth Night.
Outshines the sun more than the sun doth night.
Outshines the sun, more than the sun doth night.
31
Ay mee! O
Physical Note
“the” in darker ink
whither
whither
Physical Note
“s“ written over another letter
do’ſt
Physical Note
“u” written over a “y” with descender imperfectly erased
thou
ffly,
Ay me! O
Gloss Note
where
whither
, whither dost thou fly?
Critical Note
The relationship between “me” and “thou” starting in this line is a bit confusing. “Thou” refers back to “my slavish soul” in line 8. “My body” must die (and be interred in “thy faithful urn”) in order for “my spirit” and “my enfranchised soul” to be released. But “thou” might also include the reader, as the speaker hails both the reluctant part of him or herself and the reader: “hey you! You have to die before you reach ‘that invisible and glorious light.’” The verb “fly” here both remembers the earlier discussion of flies, linking them unsettlingly to the soul, and castigates the soul for flitting about when it should focus instead on rising (line 44). The soul might justly complain that the advice it gets in this poem is confusing: “Don’t fly, rise.”
Ay me! O whither, whither dost thou fly?
32
Before
Physical Note
“u” crowded into space before next word
thou
canst injoy this, thou must Die.
Before thou canst enjoy
Gloss Note
this light
this
, thou must die.
Before thou canst enjoy
Gloss Note
i.e., “that invisible and glorious light”
this
, thou must die.
33
Repentant tears and dust, must clear thy Sight
Repentant tears and dust must clear thy sight
Critical Note
This line captures the paradox that dust will clear one’s sight and cleanse one’s soul. Central to Pulter’s theology, dust is the primordial material from which humans emerge and to which they must return (Ecclesiastes 3.20); mortals must shake off the dirt and dust of their mortality in death. But this line also suggests that dust is cleansing. This may be another example of how Pulter conjoins observation of nature and theological reflection. Birds clean themselves with dust. We might even see a Pulter/poultry identification here. For example, Adam Shewring’s The Plain-Dealing Poulterer: Or, A Poulterer’s Shop Opened (London, 1695), reminds readers that to condition their feathers and eliminate lice and other pests, birds need to bathe themselves “in sand, ashes, or such like” (sig. B6).
Repentant tears and dust must clear thy sight
34
Ere thou canst look on that Refulgent Light;
Gloss Note
before
Ere
thou canst look on that
Gloss Note
brilliant, glorious
refulgent
light.
Ere thou canst look on that
Gloss Note
radiant
refulgent
light.
35
To Sleep in Grave, contented thou must bee,
To sleep
Gloss Note
entombed
in grave
, contented thou must be;
To sleep in grave, contented thou must be;
36
Thy buſie ffancie too, must Sleep with thee.
Thy busy
Gloss Note
imagination
fancy
, too, must sleep with thee.
Thy busy
Gloss Note
imagination
fancy
, too,
Critical Note
The speaker here reminds him or herself and the reader that death will not only stop the body but the mind or imagination. This line marks a pause in the poem to emphasize just what death means. It’s not just that the body will dissolve to dust. The “busy fancy” responsible for anxiety, procrastination, bad dreams, and poetry will also fall still.
must sleep with thee
.
37
Yet though my Body into dust doth turn,
Yet though my body into dust doth turn,
Yet though my body into dust doth turn,
38
An honest Grave will bee thy ffaith full
Physical Note
written over indecipherable word, last letter with ascender and first letter possibly capital “T” or “G”
Urn
.
An honest grave will be thy faithful urn;
An honest grave will be thy faithful urn.
39
But my enfranchiſed Soul to heaven Shall goe,
But my
Gloss Note
freed, privileged
enfranchised
soul to heaven shall go.
But my
Critical Note
“Enfranchised” means here set free from subjection or confinement. Pulter also uses this term in “For I No Liberty Expect to See” (Poem 58) [Poem 58], in which the speaker imagines s/he will achieve liberty only when “dispersed” into atoms but complicates that by describing this dispersed state as being “enfranchised, free as my verse” (line 3). This suggests that poetry provides an earthly preview of what liberty would feel like. “Enfranchise” can also mean “admit to municipal and political privileges” (OED), connected in recent usage with being granted the right to vote. Pulter’s use of the term here participates in a larger pattern of associating freedom not with politics but with death (and, perhaps, with poetry). In “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57) [Poem 57], for example, she writes: “I no liberty expect to have / Until I find my freedom in my grave” (lines 78-79).
enfranchised
soul to heaven shall go;
40
My Dust the while Shall Sweetly Sleep below,
My dust,
Gloss Note
meanwhile
the while
, shall sweetly sleep below.
My dust the
Gloss Note
meanwhile
while
shall sweetly sleep below.
41
ffree Shall I bee from Dreams, and Horrid ffrights,
Free shall I be from dreams and horrid frights;
Free shall I be from dreams, and horrid frights.
42
O welcom, o thrice Welcome, Such a Night.
O welcome, O thrice welcome, such a night.
O welcome, O thrice welcome,
Critical Note
“Such a night”—the night of death’s sleep that clothes the body in “an honest grave”—seems distinct from the night described in the poem’s opening lines, simultaneously lyrical and quotidian. Yet the dawn that launches the poem also provides the imagery of curtains, shrouds, and enveloping, a covering that is protective but will also be swept aside with dawn or resurrection.
such a night
.
but

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43
But at that Grand, and Dread, yet Blest Aſſise,
But at that grand and
Gloss Note
dreadful
dread
, yet blessed
Gloss Note
trial; decree; judgment, with hint of the Christian Last Judgment
assize
,
But at that grand and
Gloss Note
feared
dread
yet blessed
Critical Note
trial; Assize courts heard prosecutions of felonies including murder, punishable by death. Judges from Westminster in London visited provincial towns twice a year, bringing “the strength and influence of the central courts” with them, to try criminal or crown indictments (See Cynthia B. Herrup, The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in Seventeenth-Century England [Cambridge University Press, 1987], pp. 42-43). The second coming of the resurrected Jesus was often described as a trial at which he would divide the saved from the damned (Matthew 25:31-36). This was called Judgment Day or the Last Judgment. Pulter’s reference to the assize here grounds this widely used legal analogy in the specifics of early modern English legal procedure, which included jury participation. Her specificity raises a question: who would stand as the jury at a “blessed assize”?
assize
,
44
The Trump Shall sound, and then the Dead shall riſe
Critical Note
in the book of Revelation in the bible, the trumpet (“trump”) sounds at the Last Judgment, as souls rejoin their bodies and ascend to heaven.
The trump shall sound and then the dead shall rise
.
Critical Note
Just as divine judgment might be understood by analogy to legal procedures, those legal procedures, in Pulter’s England, were intertwined with the church. At the beginning of each semi-annual meeting of an Assize court, a sermon was preached; usually, it was later published. A sermon preached at the Assize held in Hertford (near where Pulter lived) in 1653 invites listeners to “consider the day of judgment” and links the concepts of a final “trump” with judgment as Pulter does here: “The sound of the last trump may well cause a retreat, and call us off from an eager pursuit of the flesh and world (Eccles. 11.9).” See “Curations.”
The trump shall sound, and then the dead shall rise.
45
Then Shall I bee United with my Spirit,
Then shall I be united with my spirit,
Then shall I be united with my spirit,
46
Where wee eternall Glory Shall inherit.
Where we eternal glory shall inherit.
Where we
Critical Note
Once I have achieved glory, who will care how I have spent my life? The final assize or judgment will be an evaluation of each person’s “frail and mortal story.” But after that, these lines claim, the details won’t matter anymore. Once I shine in glory, no one will ask the questions that have motivated and occupied this long poem.
eternal glory
shall inherit.
47
Then who dares aſke, when as I Shine in Glory;
Then, who dares ask,
Gloss Note
when
whenas
I shine in glory,
Then who dares ask, whenas I shine in glory,
48
How I have Spent my frail and Mortal Story?
How I have spent my frail and mortal
Gloss Note
life
story
?
How I have spent my frail and mortal
Gloss Note
history or life
story
?
49
When wee have Drunk not Leath but Christs pure blood
Critical Note
Lethe is a river in Hades that produces forgetfulness; in Christian ritual, communion, or the Eucharist, involves drinking wine that represents the blood of Christ.
When we have drunk not Lethe, but Christ’s pure blood
,
When we have drunk not
Critical Note
In Greek mythology, Lethe was a river in Hades; drinking its water was said to produce forgetfulness. Pulter here contrasts and links drinking this water of oblivion with drinking Christ’s blood in the Eucharist, usually associated with commemoration rather than forgetfulness. At the Last Supper, the gospels tell us, Christ “took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it” to his disciples, “saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you, this do in remembrance of me'.” After the supper he said, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 19-20). While Christ’s blood is then the opposite of the Lethe’s water, prompting memory rather than oblivion, Pulter assigns it a certain reassuring ability to erase bad memories. The poem has moved from the “nectar and ambrosia” the bees “sup” in line 10 to the eucharistic drinking of “Christ’s blood” here in line 49.
Lethe
but Christ’s pure blood,
50
All Shall fogotten bee but what is good.
All shall forgotten be but what is good;
All shall forgotten be but what is good.
51
All Shall bee known that will increaſe our Joy;
All shall be known that will increase our joy;
All shall be known that will increase our joy;
52
Nothing remembred that will Cauſe annoy.
Nothing remembered that will cause annoy.
Critical Note
This line is parallel to the emphasis on “obliviating” or consigning to forgetfulness—scrubbing the memory—in Pulter’s poem “The Desire” (Poem 18) [Poem 18].
Nothing remembered that will cause annoy
.
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X (Close panel)Notes: Elemental Edition

 Editorial note

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

 Headnote

This poem is one of many in which Pulter meditates on the dawn. She uses the occasion of the sunrise to reprimand her soul for not being willing to shake off corporeality, suffer death, and be resurrected (along with the “sleeping” body). Playing off of the aubade tradition, the speaker does not sadly bid farewell to a lover, but instead seeks the ultimate moment of what she sees as a heavenly suppression of the flaws of mortal life; the moment of drinking Christ’s redemptive blood (the communion) supersedes the classical Lethe, the river of forgetfulness that one crosses to get to the underworld.
Line number 1

 Gloss note

moon goddess
Line number 3

 Physical note

“It’s“ in manuscript
Line number 4

 Gloss note

goddess of the dawn
Line number 6

 Critical note

associated with the part of the heavens in which the sun and celestial objects appear to rise; eastern
Line number 7

 Gloss note

Horae, goddesses of the seasons
Line number 9

 Gloss note

This sugar-rich liquid—excreted by insects, plant galls, and fungi on the leaves of plants—was formerly thought to originate from the sky in a manner similar to dew.
Line number 10

 Gloss note

food of the gods
Line number 11

 Critical note

bees, regularly seen as virginal and innocent, with associations to the Virgin Mary, largely based on the idea that they reproduced asexually. See Claire Preston, Thomas Browne and the Writing of Science, 77-78.
Line number 12

 Gloss note

solitarily
Line number 14

 Critical note

two possible meanings: 1) the insects bother (“buzz”) the speaker because (“that”) she is not obedient to God; or 2) the insects murmur (an alternate meaning of “buzz”) that she is disobedient.
Line number 19

 Gloss note

making oneself wet and muddy; wallowing in the mire; trudging; being anxious
Line number 28

 Gloss note

noon
Line number 31

 Gloss note

where
Line number 32

 Gloss note

this light
Line number 34

 Gloss note

before
Line number 34

 Gloss note

brilliant, glorious
Line number 35

 Gloss note

entombed
Line number 36

 Gloss note

imagination
Line number 39

 Gloss note

freed, privileged
Line number 40

 Gloss note

meanwhile
Line number 43

 Gloss note

dreadful
Line number 43

 Gloss note

trial; decree; judgment, with hint of the Christian Last Judgment
Line number 44

 Critical note

in the book of Revelation in the bible, the trumpet (“trump”) sounds at the Last Judgment, as souls rejoin their bodies and ascend to heaven.
Line number 47

 Gloss note

when
Line number 48

 Gloss note

life
Line number 49

 Critical note

Lethe is a river in Hades that produces forgetfulness; in Christian ritual, communion, or the Eucharist, involves drinking wine that represents the blood of Christ.
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X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

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To Aurora [3]
To Aurora [3]
To Aurora [3]
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
My “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
This poem is one of many in which Pulter meditates on the dawn. She uses the occasion of the sunrise to reprimand her soul for not being willing to shake off corporeality, suffer death, and be resurrected (along with the “sleeping” body). Playing off of the aubade tradition, the speaker does not sadly bid farewell to a lover, but instead seeks the ultimate moment of what she sees as a heavenly suppression of the flaws of mortal life; the moment of drinking Christ’s redemptive blood (the communion) supersedes the classical Lethe, the river of forgetfulness that one crosses to get to the underworld.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
One of Pulter’s four Aurora poems, this one begins with the classical allusion it shares with the other poems, celebrating the dawn in song (a lyric genre called an aubade), and then dramatically shifts gears and genres, first into natural history and then from the observation of busy insects to wrenching spiritual self-castigation. In the course of the poem, the speaker admits to neglecting god’s laws, failing to fulfill his will, forgetting what really matters, wasting time, fruitless grief, folly and lust, bad dreams, and horrid frights. This is a speaker who admits (even wallows in) doubt but builds to the hope of a spiritual clean slate.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
Why? doth Pale Phœbe thus her bevty Shrowd.
Why doth pale
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Phoebe
thus her beauty shroud?
Why doth pale
Gloss Note
moon personified as a goddess
Phoebe
thus her beauty shroud?
2
Why? is her fface inveloped in a Clowd.
Why is her face enveloped in a cloud?
Why is her face enveloped in a cloud?
3
It’s cauſe her borrowed Lusters in the Wain?
Physical Note
“It’s“ in manuscript
Is’t
’cause her borrowed luster’s in the wane,
Is’t ’cause her borrowed luster’s in the wane?
4
Or cauſe Auroras Purple Curtain’s drawn.
Or ’cause
Gloss Note
goddess of the dawn
Aurora’s
purple curtain’s drawn?
Or ’cause
Gloss Note
dawn personified as a goddess
Aurora’s
purple curtain's drawn?
5
T’is Soe, look how Shee bluſhing doth ariſe;
’Tis so: look how she, blushing, doth arise,
’Tis so:
Critical Note
The four questions in the opening lines draw the reader’s attention to the appearance of the personified moon and dawning sun. Then the instruction to “look” in line 5 begins a kind of pan shot that draws the mind’s eye to the horizon where the sun rises, before zooming in on “these flowers.” Directing the reader’s attention to these particular flowers (line 8) and then “these” bees the speaker walks amongst (in line 11), a rhetorical pointing called deixis, the poem tightens and intensifies the focus as it also shifts from the conventional to the quirkily personal.
look
how she blushing doth arise,
6
Chaſeing Sad Darknes with her Orient eyes.
Chasing sad darkness with her
Critical Note
associated with the part of the heavens in which the sun and celestial objects appear to rise; eastern
orient
eyes;
Chasing sad darkness with her
Gloss Note
facing east or the rising sun
orient
eyes.
7
And being Attended with the flying howres;
And being attended with the flying
Gloss Note
Horae, goddesses of the seasons
Hours
,
And being attended with the
Critical Note
The flying hours may be either the swift passage of time or the Hours or Horae, three sister goddesses who presided over the changing seasons.
flying hours
,
8
Shee shakes her Dewey Curles upon these fflowers.
She shakes her dewy curls upon these flowers,
She shakes her dewy curls upon these flowers,
9
ffilling with Honey Dew, each Gold inamlild Cup;
Filling with
Gloss Note
This sugar-rich liquid—excreted by insects, plant galls, and fungi on the leaves of plants—was formerly thought to originate from the sky in a manner similar to dew.
honeydew
each gold-enamelled cup,
Filling with honeydew each gold enameled cup,
10
Whence Bees (their Necter) And
Physical Note
“b” appears corrected from “p”
Ambrotia
Sup.
Whence bees their nectar and
Gloss Note
food of the gods
ambrosia
sup.
Whence bees their nectar and
Gloss Note
Ambrosia was the sweet food of the gods. The word was also used to describe the pollen bees collected.
ambrosia
sup.
11
Thus doe theſe Virgins Spend the Toylſom Day;
Thus do these
Critical Note
bees, regularly seen as virginal and innocent, with associations to the Virgin Mary, largely based on the idea that they reproduced asexually. See Claire Preston, Thomas Browne and the Writing of Science, 77-78.
virgins
spend the toilsome day,
Thus, do these virgins spend the toilsome day,
12
And as I Solely Walk Sting my delay.
And, as I
Gloss Note
solitarily
solely
walk, sting my delay.
And as I
Gloss Note
alone
solely
walk
Critical Note
The virgins seem to be the bees who “sting” the speaker’s “delay,” both stinging her as she loiters or procrastinates and distressing her by offering their “toilsome” industry as a contrast to her indolence. Their stinging virginity is both aggressive and penetrative. In the seventeenth century, there was some confusion about the gender and sexuality of bees. For instance, it was still widely assumed that a king rather than a queen presided over the hive (see Jeffrey Merrick, “Royal Bees: The Gender Politics of the Beehive in Early Modern Europe,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, ed. J. Yolton 18 [1988]: 7-37). One text that did recognize a queen bee, Charles Butler's The Feminine Monarchy, or the History of Bees(Oxford, 1609), describes both virgin wax and virgin honey but does not call bees themselves virgins. But a Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary describes her as hastening “like a busy bee” (Henry Hawkins, Partheneia Sacra [Rouen, 1633], p. 78). The reference to stinging virgins may also reach back to include Phoebe and Aurora, the bashful, blushing goddesses who nonetheless get on with the business of dawn and so, like the insects, reproach the speaker with their industry.
sting my delay.
13
Thus (Ô my god) each Smale deſpiſed inſect;
Thus (O, my God), each small, despised insect
Thus (O my god) each small despised insect,
14
Buz in
Physical Note
the main editing hand has written “my” directly above “our
ourmy
ears, that I thy Laws neglect;
Critical Note
two possible meanings: 1) the insects bother (“buzz”) the speaker because (“that”) she is not obedient to God; or 2) the insects murmur (an alternate meaning of “buzz”) that she is disobedient.
Buzz in my ears, that I Thy laws neglect.
Buzz in my ears, that I thy laws neglect.
15
In doeing what they’r made for, every fly
In doing what they’re made for, every fly
In doing what they’re made for, every fly
16
ffulfuls thy will, (woes mee) Soe doe not I.
Fulfills Thy will; (woe’s me) so do not I.
Fulfills thy will. Woe’s me: so do not I.
17
I was Created to Set forth thy Praiſe,
I was created to set forth Thy praise,
I was created to set forth thy praise;
18
Yet like a wretch I fool away my Dayes;
Yet, like a wretch, I fool away my days
Yet like a wretch I fool away my days
19
In fruitleſs grief, or moyling in the earth:
In fruitless grief, or
Gloss Note
making oneself wet and muddy; wallowing in the mire; trudging; being anxious
moiling in the earth
,
In fruitless grief, or
Critical Note
working and wallowing; Moil is a verb Pulter also uses in “The Pismire” (Poem 35) [Poem 35] to describe the dirty work of earthly life, work that requires one to wallow in the dust and dirt the soul aspires to shake off, becoming dirty and defiled in the process. This includes not just direct engagements with dirt, such as agricultural labor or cleaning, but all labor that embeds us in earthly life.
moiling
in the earth,
20
fforgetting my poor Souls Celestiall Birth.
Forgetting my poor soul’s celestial birth.
Forgetting my poor soul’s celestial birth.
I

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21
I know I have a Spark of Heavenly fier
I know I have a spark of heavenly fire
I know I have a spark of heavenly fire
22
Within my Breast, elce what moves this deſire
Within my breast; else what moves this desire?
Within my breast—else what moves
Critical Note
“This desire” appears to be the desire to respect rather than neglect God’s laws and to escape the body, its folly and lust. At one level, then, it is a desire not to desire earthly pleasures but instead to transcend them. See also Pulter’s poem The Desire [Poem 18].
this desire
?—
23
But ô my Soule’s Soe clog’d with fflesh & bones,
But O, my soul’s so clogged with flesh and bones
But O! My soul’s so clogged with flesh and bones,
24
I Heaven can Reach with nought but Sighs & Gron’s,
I heaven can reach with nought but sighs and groans.
I heaven can reach with naught but sighs and groans.
25
My Slavish Soul, Shake of this Dirt & Dust,
My slavish soul, shake off this dirt and dust,
My slavish soul, shake off this dirt and dust,
26
Put of thy folly, and worſ then folley, Lust.
Put off thy folly, and worse than folly, lust,
Put off thy folly and—worse than folly—
Critical Note
This confession of lust is striking, especially given the social pressures on women to be and seem chaste. While male poets often confess or boast of lust, most female poets do not. The confession of lust adds another layer to the possible meanings of “this desire,” a desire that must be distinguished from other, more bodily desires.
lust
;
27
And through all the Clowds and Skie make way,
And through all the clouds and sky make way;
And through all the clouds and sky make way.
28
There there is Light out Shines
Physical Note
“e” was probably originally written as a “u”
Meridian
Day.
There, there is light outshines
Gloss Note
noon
meridian
day.
Critical Note
In this poem, Pulter twice doubles adverbs (“There, there” [line 28]; “Whither, whither” [line 31]), moving from an assertion of where the focus should be (“there”) to the question that drives the poem: given that the desired destination is clear, why does the speaker keep flying off in other directions?
There, there
, is light outshines
Gloss Note
noon-time or mid-day
meridian
day.
29
Nay that inviſible and Glorious Light,
Nay, that invisible and glorious light
Nay, that invisible and glorious
Critical Note
The oxymoron of the “invisible light” of heaven (the “there” which is never named) mirrors Milton’s description of the “darkness visible” in hell. I’m grateful to Leah Knight for pointing this out, as well as the fact that Pulter uses the phrase “invisible light” in two other poems, “The Center” (Poem 30) [Poem 30] and “Made When I Was Sick” (Poem 31) [Poem 31].
light
,
30
Outshines the Sun, more then ye Sun doth Night.
Outshines the sun more than the sun doth night.
Outshines the sun, more than the sun doth night.
31
Ay mee! O
Physical Note
“the” in darker ink
whither
whither
Physical Note
“s“ written over another letter
do’ſt
Physical Note
“u” written over a “y” with descender imperfectly erased
thou
ffly,
Ay me! O
Gloss Note
where
whither
, whither dost thou fly?
Critical Note
The relationship between “me” and “thou” starting in this line is a bit confusing. “Thou” refers back to “my slavish soul” in line 8. “My body” must die (and be interred in “thy faithful urn”) in order for “my spirit” and “my enfranchised soul” to be released. But “thou” might also include the reader, as the speaker hails both the reluctant part of him or herself and the reader: “hey you! You have to die before you reach ‘that invisible and glorious light.’” The verb “fly” here both remembers the earlier discussion of flies, linking them unsettlingly to the soul, and castigates the soul for flitting about when it should focus instead on rising (line 44). The soul might justly complain that the advice it gets in this poem is confusing: “Don’t fly, rise.”
Ay me! O whither, whither dost thou fly?
32
Before
Physical Note
“u” crowded into space before next word
thou
canst injoy this, thou must Die.
Before thou canst enjoy
Gloss Note
this light
this
, thou must die.
Before thou canst enjoy
Gloss Note
i.e., “that invisible and glorious light”
this
, thou must die.
33
Repentant tears and dust, must clear thy Sight
Repentant tears and dust must clear thy sight
Critical Note
This line captures the paradox that dust will clear one’s sight and cleanse one’s soul. Central to Pulter’s theology, dust is the primordial material from which humans emerge and to which they must return (Ecclesiastes 3.20); mortals must shake off the dirt and dust of their mortality in death. But this line also suggests that dust is cleansing. This may be another example of how Pulter conjoins observation of nature and theological reflection. Birds clean themselves with dust. We might even see a Pulter/poultry identification here. For example, Adam Shewring’s The Plain-Dealing Poulterer: Or, A Poulterer’s Shop Opened (London, 1695), reminds readers that to condition their feathers and eliminate lice and other pests, birds need to bathe themselves “in sand, ashes, or such like” (sig. B6).
Repentant tears and dust must clear thy sight
34
Ere thou canst look on that Refulgent Light;
Gloss Note
before
Ere
thou canst look on that
Gloss Note
brilliant, glorious
refulgent
light.
Ere thou canst look on that
Gloss Note
radiant
refulgent
light.
35
To Sleep in Grave, contented thou must bee,
To sleep
Gloss Note
entombed
in grave
, contented thou must be;
To sleep in grave, contented thou must be;
36
Thy buſie ffancie too, must Sleep with thee.
Thy busy
Gloss Note
imagination
fancy
, too, must sleep with thee.
Thy busy
Gloss Note
imagination
fancy
, too,
Critical Note
The speaker here reminds him or herself and the reader that death will not only stop the body but the mind or imagination. This line marks a pause in the poem to emphasize just what death means. It’s not just that the body will dissolve to dust. The “busy fancy” responsible for anxiety, procrastination, bad dreams, and poetry will also fall still.
must sleep with thee
.
37
Yet though my Body into dust doth turn,
Yet though my body into dust doth turn,
Yet though my body into dust doth turn,
38
An honest Grave will bee thy ffaith full
Physical Note
written over indecipherable word, last letter with ascender and first letter possibly capital “T” or “G”
Urn
.
An honest grave will be thy faithful urn;
An honest grave will be thy faithful urn.
39
But my enfranchiſed Soul to heaven Shall goe,
But my
Gloss Note
freed, privileged
enfranchised
soul to heaven shall go.
But my
Critical Note
“Enfranchised” means here set free from subjection or confinement. Pulter also uses this term in “For I No Liberty Expect to See” (Poem 58) [Poem 58], in which the speaker imagines s/he will achieve liberty only when “dispersed” into atoms but complicates that by describing this dispersed state as being “enfranchised, free as my verse” (line 3). This suggests that poetry provides an earthly preview of what liberty would feel like. “Enfranchise” can also mean “admit to municipal and political privileges” (OED), connected in recent usage with being granted the right to vote. Pulter’s use of the term here participates in a larger pattern of associating freedom not with politics but with death (and, perhaps, with poetry). In “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57) [Poem 57], for example, she writes: “I no liberty expect to have / Until I find my freedom in my grave” (lines 78-79).
enfranchised
soul to heaven shall go;
40
My Dust the while Shall Sweetly Sleep below,
My dust,
Gloss Note
meanwhile
the while
, shall sweetly sleep below.
My dust the
Gloss Note
meanwhile
while
shall sweetly sleep below.
41
ffree Shall I bee from Dreams, and Horrid ffrights,
Free shall I be from dreams and horrid frights;
Free shall I be from dreams, and horrid frights.
42
O welcom, o thrice Welcome, Such a Night.
O welcome, O thrice welcome, such a night.
O welcome, O thrice welcome,
Critical Note
“Such a night”—the night of death’s sleep that clothes the body in “an honest grave”—seems distinct from the night described in the poem’s opening lines, simultaneously lyrical and quotidian. Yet the dawn that launches the poem also provides the imagery of curtains, shrouds, and enveloping, a covering that is protective but will also be swept aside with dawn or resurrection.
such a night
.
but

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43
But at that Grand, and Dread, yet Blest Aſſise,
But at that grand and
Gloss Note
dreadful
dread
, yet blessed
Gloss Note
trial; decree; judgment, with hint of the Christian Last Judgment
assize
,
But at that grand and
Gloss Note
feared
dread
yet blessed
Critical Note
trial; Assize courts heard prosecutions of felonies including murder, punishable by death. Judges from Westminster in London visited provincial towns twice a year, bringing “the strength and influence of the central courts” with them, to try criminal or crown indictments (See Cynthia B. Herrup, The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in Seventeenth-Century England [Cambridge University Press, 1987], pp. 42-43). The second coming of the resurrected Jesus was often described as a trial at which he would divide the saved from the damned (Matthew 25:31-36). This was called Judgment Day or the Last Judgment. Pulter’s reference to the assize here grounds this widely used legal analogy in the specifics of early modern English legal procedure, which included jury participation. Her specificity raises a question: who would stand as the jury at a “blessed assize”?
assize
,
44
The Trump Shall sound, and then the Dead shall riſe
Critical Note
in the book of Revelation in the bible, the trumpet (“trump”) sounds at the Last Judgment, as souls rejoin their bodies and ascend to heaven.
The trump shall sound and then the dead shall rise
.
Critical Note
Just as divine judgment might be understood by analogy to legal procedures, those legal procedures, in Pulter’s England, were intertwined with the church. At the beginning of each semi-annual meeting of an Assize court, a sermon was preached; usually, it was later published. A sermon preached at the Assize held in Hertford (near where Pulter lived) in 1653 invites listeners to “consider the day of judgment” and links the concepts of a final “trump” with judgment as Pulter does here: “The sound of the last trump may well cause a retreat, and call us off from an eager pursuit of the flesh and world (Eccles. 11.9).” See “Curations.”
The trump shall sound, and then the dead shall rise.
45
Then Shall I bee United with my Spirit,
Then shall I be united with my spirit,
Then shall I be united with my spirit,
46
Where wee eternall Glory Shall inherit.
Where we eternal glory shall inherit.
Where we
Critical Note
Once I have achieved glory, who will care how I have spent my life? The final assize or judgment will be an evaluation of each person’s “frail and mortal story.” But after that, these lines claim, the details won’t matter anymore. Once I shine in glory, no one will ask the questions that have motivated and occupied this long poem.
eternal glory
shall inherit.
47
Then who dares aſke, when as I Shine in Glory;
Then, who dares ask,
Gloss Note
when
whenas
I shine in glory,
Then who dares ask, whenas I shine in glory,
48
How I have Spent my frail and Mortal Story?
How I have spent my frail and mortal
Gloss Note
life
story
?
How I have spent my frail and mortal
Gloss Note
history or life
story
?
49
When wee have Drunk not Leath but Christs pure blood
Critical Note
Lethe is a river in Hades that produces forgetfulness; in Christian ritual, communion, or the Eucharist, involves drinking wine that represents the blood of Christ.
When we have drunk not Lethe, but Christ’s pure blood
,
When we have drunk not
Critical Note
In Greek mythology, Lethe was a river in Hades; drinking its water was said to produce forgetfulness. Pulter here contrasts and links drinking this water of oblivion with drinking Christ’s blood in the Eucharist, usually associated with commemoration rather than forgetfulness. At the Last Supper, the gospels tell us, Christ “took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it” to his disciples, “saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you, this do in remembrance of me'.” After the supper he said, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 19-20). While Christ’s blood is then the opposite of the Lethe’s water, prompting memory rather than oblivion, Pulter assigns it a certain reassuring ability to erase bad memories. The poem has moved from the “nectar and ambrosia” the bees “sup” in line 10 to the eucharistic drinking of “Christ’s blood” here in line 49.
Lethe
but Christ’s pure blood,
50
All Shall fogotten bee but what is good.
All shall forgotten be but what is good;
All shall forgotten be but what is good.
51
All Shall bee known that will increaſe our Joy;
All shall be known that will increase our joy;
All shall be known that will increase our joy;
52
Nothing remembred that will Cauſe annoy.
Nothing remembered that will cause annoy.
Critical Note
This line is parallel to the emphasis on “obliviating” or consigning to forgetfulness—scrubbing the memory—in Pulter’s poem “The Desire” (Poem 18) [Poem 18].
Nothing remembered that will cause annoy
.
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X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

My “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”

 Headnote

One of Pulter’s four Aurora poems, this one begins with the classical allusion it shares with the other poems, celebrating the dawn in song (a lyric genre called an aubade), and then dramatically shifts gears and genres, first into natural history and then from the observation of busy insects to wrenching spiritual self-castigation. In the course of the poem, the speaker admits to neglecting god’s laws, failing to fulfill his will, forgetting what really matters, wasting time, fruitless grief, folly and lust, bad dreams, and horrid frights. This is a speaker who admits (even wallows in) doubt but builds to the hope of a spiritual clean slate.
Line number 1

 Gloss note

moon personified as a goddess
Line number 4

 Gloss note

dawn personified as a goddess
Line number 5

 Critical note

The four questions in the opening lines draw the reader’s attention to the appearance of the personified moon and dawning sun. Then the instruction to “look” in line 5 begins a kind of pan shot that draws the mind’s eye to the horizon where the sun rises, before zooming in on “these flowers.” Directing the reader’s attention to these particular flowers (line 8) and then “these” bees the speaker walks amongst (in line 11), a rhetorical pointing called deixis, the poem tightens and intensifies the focus as it also shifts from the conventional to the quirkily personal.
Line number 6

 Gloss note

facing east or the rising sun
Line number 7

 Critical note

The flying hours may be either the swift passage of time or the Hours or Horae, three sister goddesses who presided over the changing seasons.
Line number 10

 Gloss note

Ambrosia was the sweet food of the gods. The word was also used to describe the pollen bees collected.
Line number 12

 Gloss note

alone
Line number 12

 Critical note

The virgins seem to be the bees who “sting” the speaker’s “delay,” both stinging her as she loiters or procrastinates and distressing her by offering their “toilsome” industry as a contrast to her indolence. Their stinging virginity is both aggressive and penetrative. In the seventeenth century, there was some confusion about the gender and sexuality of bees. For instance, it was still widely assumed that a king rather than a queen presided over the hive (see Jeffrey Merrick, “Royal Bees: The Gender Politics of the Beehive in Early Modern Europe,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, ed. J. Yolton 18 [1988]: 7-37). One text that did recognize a queen bee, Charles Butler's The Feminine Monarchy, or the History of Bees(Oxford, 1609), describes both virgin wax and virgin honey but does not call bees themselves virgins. But a Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary describes her as hastening “like a busy bee” (Henry Hawkins, Partheneia Sacra [Rouen, 1633], p. 78). The reference to stinging virgins may also reach back to include Phoebe and Aurora, the bashful, blushing goddesses who nonetheless get on with the business of dawn and so, like the insects, reproach the speaker with their industry.
Line number 19

 Critical note

working and wallowing; Moil is a verb Pulter also uses in “The Pismire” (Poem 35) [Poem 35] to describe the dirty work of earthly life, work that requires one to wallow in the dust and dirt the soul aspires to shake off, becoming dirty and defiled in the process. This includes not just direct engagements with dirt, such as agricultural labor or cleaning, but all labor that embeds us in earthly life.
Line number 22

 Critical note

“This desire” appears to be the desire to respect rather than neglect God’s laws and to escape the body, its folly and lust. At one level, then, it is a desire not to desire earthly pleasures but instead to transcend them. See also Pulter’s poem The Desire [Poem 18].
Line number 26

 Critical note

This confession of lust is striking, especially given the social pressures on women to be and seem chaste. While male poets often confess or boast of lust, most female poets do not. The confession of lust adds another layer to the possible meanings of “this desire,” a desire that must be distinguished from other, more bodily desires.
Line number 28

 Critical note

In this poem, Pulter twice doubles adverbs (“There, there” [line 28]; “Whither, whither” [line 31]), moving from an assertion of where the focus should be (“there”) to the question that drives the poem: given that the desired destination is clear, why does the speaker keep flying off in other directions?
Line number 28

 Gloss note

noon-time or mid-day
Line number 29

 Critical note

The oxymoron of the “invisible light” of heaven (the “there” which is never named) mirrors Milton’s description of the “darkness visible” in hell. I’m grateful to Leah Knight for pointing this out, as well as the fact that Pulter uses the phrase “invisible light” in two other poems, “The Center” (Poem 30) [Poem 30] and “Made When I Was Sick” (Poem 31) [Poem 31].
Line number 31

 Critical note

The relationship between “me” and “thou” starting in this line is a bit confusing. “Thou” refers back to “my slavish soul” in line 8. “My body” must die (and be interred in “thy faithful urn”) in order for “my spirit” and “my enfranchised soul” to be released. But “thou” might also include the reader, as the speaker hails both the reluctant part of him or herself and the reader: “hey you! You have to die before you reach ‘that invisible and glorious light.’” The verb “fly” here both remembers the earlier discussion of flies, linking them unsettlingly to the soul, and castigates the soul for flitting about when it should focus instead on rising (line 44). The soul might justly complain that the advice it gets in this poem is confusing: “Don’t fly, rise.”
Line number 32

 Gloss note

i.e., “that invisible and glorious light”
Line number 33

 Critical note

This line captures the paradox that dust will clear one’s sight and cleanse one’s soul. Central to Pulter’s theology, dust is the primordial material from which humans emerge and to which they must return (Ecclesiastes 3.20); mortals must shake off the dirt and dust of their mortality in death. But this line also suggests that dust is cleansing. This may be another example of how Pulter conjoins observation of nature and theological reflection. Birds clean themselves with dust. We might even see a Pulter/poultry identification here. For example, Adam Shewring’s The Plain-Dealing Poulterer: Or, A Poulterer’s Shop Opened (London, 1695), reminds readers that to condition their feathers and eliminate lice and other pests, birds need to bathe themselves “in sand, ashes, or such like” (sig. B6).
Line number 34

 Gloss note

radiant
Line number 36

 Gloss note

imagination
Line number 36

 Critical note

The speaker here reminds him or herself and the reader that death will not only stop the body but the mind or imagination. This line marks a pause in the poem to emphasize just what death means. It’s not just that the body will dissolve to dust. The “busy fancy” responsible for anxiety, procrastination, bad dreams, and poetry will also fall still.
Line number 39

 Critical note

“Enfranchised” means here set free from subjection or confinement. Pulter also uses this term in “For I No Liberty Expect to See” (Poem 58) [Poem 58], in which the speaker imagines s/he will achieve liberty only when “dispersed” into atoms but complicates that by describing this dispersed state as being “enfranchised, free as my verse” (line 3). This suggests that poetry provides an earthly preview of what liberty would feel like. “Enfranchise” can also mean “admit to municipal and political privileges” (OED), connected in recent usage with being granted the right to vote. Pulter’s use of the term here participates in a larger pattern of associating freedom not with politics but with death (and, perhaps, with poetry). In “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57) [Poem 57], for example, she writes: “I no liberty expect to have / Until I find my freedom in my grave” (lines 78-79).
Line number 40

 Gloss note

meanwhile
Line number 42

 Critical note

“Such a night”—the night of death’s sleep that clothes the body in “an honest grave”—seems distinct from the night described in the poem’s opening lines, simultaneously lyrical and quotidian. Yet the dawn that launches the poem also provides the imagery of curtains, shrouds, and enveloping, a covering that is protective but will also be swept aside with dawn or resurrection.
Line number 43

 Gloss note

feared
Line number 43

 Critical note

trial; Assize courts heard prosecutions of felonies including murder, punishable by death. Judges from Westminster in London visited provincial towns twice a year, bringing “the strength and influence of the central courts” with them, to try criminal or crown indictments (See Cynthia B. Herrup, The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in Seventeenth-Century England [Cambridge University Press, 1987], pp. 42-43). The second coming of the resurrected Jesus was often described as a trial at which he would divide the saved from the damned (Matthew 25:31-36). This was called Judgment Day or the Last Judgment. Pulter’s reference to the assize here grounds this widely used legal analogy in the specifics of early modern English legal procedure, which included jury participation. Her specificity raises a question: who would stand as the jury at a “blessed assize”?
Line number 44

 Critical note

Just as divine judgment might be understood by analogy to legal procedures, those legal procedures, in Pulter’s England, were intertwined with the church. At the beginning of each semi-annual meeting of an Assize court, a sermon was preached; usually, it was later published. A sermon preached at the Assize held in Hertford (near where Pulter lived) in 1653 invites listeners to “consider the day of judgment” and links the concepts of a final “trump” with judgment as Pulter does here: “The sound of the last trump may well cause a retreat, and call us off from an eager pursuit of the flesh and world (Eccles. 11.9).” See “Curations.”
Line number 46

 Critical note

Once I have achieved glory, who will care how I have spent my life? The final assize or judgment will be an evaluation of each person’s “frail and mortal story.” But after that, these lines claim, the details won’t matter anymore. Once I shine in glory, no one will ask the questions that have motivated and occupied this long poem.
Line number 48

 Gloss note

history or life
Line number 49

 Critical note

In Greek mythology, Lethe was a river in Hades; drinking its water was said to produce forgetfulness. Pulter here contrasts and links drinking this water of oblivion with drinking Christ’s blood in the Eucharist, usually associated with commemoration rather than forgetfulness. At the Last Supper, the gospels tell us, Christ “took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it” to his disciples, “saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you, this do in remembrance of me'.” After the supper he said, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 19-20). While Christ’s blood is then the opposite of the Lethe’s water, prompting memory rather than oblivion, Pulter assigns it a certain reassuring ability to erase bad memories. The poem has moved from the “nectar and ambrosia” the bees “sup” in line 10 to the eucharistic drinking of “Christ’s blood” here in line 49.
Line number 52

 Critical note

This line is parallel to the emphasis on “obliviating” or consigning to forgetfulness—scrubbing the memory—in Pulter’s poem “The Desire” (Poem 18) [Poem 18].
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition
Amplified Edition

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To Aurora [3]
To Aurora [3]
To Aurora [3]
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.

— Frances E. Dolan
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.

— Frances E. Dolan
My “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”

— Frances E. Dolan
This poem is one of many in which Pulter meditates on the dawn. She uses the occasion of the sunrise to reprimand her soul for not being willing to shake off corporeality, suffer death, and be resurrected (along with the “sleeping” body). Playing off of the aubade tradition, the speaker does not sadly bid farewell to a lover, but instead seeks the ultimate moment of what she sees as a heavenly suppression of the flaws of mortal life; the moment of drinking Christ’s redemptive blood (the communion) supersedes the classical Lethe, the river of forgetfulness that one crosses to get to the underworld.

— Frances E. Dolan
One of Pulter’s four Aurora poems, this one begins with the classical allusion it shares with the other poems, celebrating the dawn in song (a lyric genre called an aubade), and then dramatically shifts gears and genres, first into natural history and then from the observation of busy insects to wrenching spiritual self-castigation. In the course of the poem, the speaker admits to neglecting god’s laws, failing to fulfill his will, forgetting what really matters, wasting time, fruitless grief, folly and lust, bad dreams, and horrid frights. This is a speaker who admits (even wallows in) doubt but builds to the hope of a spiritual clean slate.

— Frances E. Dolan
1
Why? doth Pale Phœbe thus her bevty Shrowd.
Why doth pale
Gloss Note
moon goddess
Phoebe
thus her beauty shroud?
Why doth pale
Gloss Note
moon personified as a goddess
Phoebe
thus her beauty shroud?
2
Why? is her fface inveloped in a Clowd.
Why is her face enveloped in a cloud?
Why is her face enveloped in a cloud?
3
It’s cauſe her borrowed Lusters in the Wain?
Physical Note
“It’s“ in manuscript
Is’t
’cause her borrowed luster’s in the wane,
Is’t ’cause her borrowed luster’s in the wane?
4
Or cauſe Auroras Purple Curtain’s drawn.
Or ’cause
Gloss Note
goddess of the dawn
Aurora’s
purple curtain’s drawn?
Or ’cause
Gloss Note
dawn personified as a goddess
Aurora’s
purple curtain's drawn?
5
T’is Soe, look how Shee bluſhing doth ariſe;
’Tis so: look how she, blushing, doth arise,
’Tis so:
Critical Note
The four questions in the opening lines draw the reader’s attention to the appearance of the personified moon and dawning sun. Then the instruction to “look” in line 5 begins a kind of pan shot that draws the mind’s eye to the horizon where the sun rises, before zooming in on “these flowers.” Directing the reader’s attention to these particular flowers (line 8) and then “these” bees the speaker walks amongst (in line 11), a rhetorical pointing called deixis, the poem tightens and intensifies the focus as it also shifts from the conventional to the quirkily personal.
look
how she blushing doth arise,
6
Chaſeing Sad Darknes with her Orient eyes.
Chasing sad darkness with her
Critical Note
associated with the part of the heavens in which the sun and celestial objects appear to rise; eastern
orient
eyes;
Chasing sad darkness with her
Gloss Note
facing east or the rising sun
orient
eyes.
7
And being Attended with the flying howres;
And being attended with the flying
Gloss Note
Horae, goddesses of the seasons
Hours
,
And being attended with the
Critical Note
The flying hours may be either the swift passage of time or the Hours or Horae, three sister goddesses who presided over the changing seasons.
flying hours
,
8
Shee shakes her Dewey Curles upon these fflowers.
She shakes her dewy curls upon these flowers,
She shakes her dewy curls upon these flowers,
9
ffilling with Honey Dew, each Gold inamlild Cup;
Filling with
Gloss Note
This sugar-rich liquid—excreted by insects, plant galls, and fungi on the leaves of plants—was formerly thought to originate from the sky in a manner similar to dew.
honeydew
each gold-enamelled cup,
Filling with honeydew each gold enameled cup,
10
Whence Bees (their Necter) And
Physical Note
“b” appears corrected from “p”
Ambrotia
Sup.
Whence bees their nectar and
Gloss Note
food of the gods
ambrosia
sup.
Whence bees their nectar and
Gloss Note
Ambrosia was the sweet food of the gods. The word was also used to describe the pollen bees collected.
ambrosia
sup.
11
Thus doe theſe Virgins Spend the Toylſom Day;
Thus do these
Critical Note
bees, regularly seen as virginal and innocent, with associations to the Virgin Mary, largely based on the idea that they reproduced asexually. See Claire Preston, Thomas Browne and the Writing of Science, 77-78.
virgins
spend the toilsome day,
Thus, do these virgins spend the toilsome day,
12
And as I Solely Walk Sting my delay.
And, as I
Gloss Note
solitarily
solely
walk, sting my delay.
And as I
Gloss Note
alone
solely
walk
Critical Note
The virgins seem to be the bees who “sting” the speaker’s “delay,” both stinging her as she loiters or procrastinates and distressing her by offering their “toilsome” industry as a contrast to her indolence. Their stinging virginity is both aggressive and penetrative. In the seventeenth century, there was some confusion about the gender and sexuality of bees. For instance, it was still widely assumed that a king rather than a queen presided over the hive (see Jeffrey Merrick, “Royal Bees: The Gender Politics of the Beehive in Early Modern Europe,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, ed. J. Yolton 18 [1988]: 7-37). One text that did recognize a queen bee, Charles Butler's The Feminine Monarchy, or the History of Bees(Oxford, 1609), describes both virgin wax and virgin honey but does not call bees themselves virgins. But a Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary describes her as hastening “like a busy bee” (Henry Hawkins, Partheneia Sacra [Rouen, 1633], p. 78). The reference to stinging virgins may also reach back to include Phoebe and Aurora, the bashful, blushing goddesses who nonetheless get on with the business of dawn and so, like the insects, reproach the speaker with their industry.
sting my delay.
13
Thus (Ô my god) each Smale deſpiſed inſect;
Thus (O, my God), each small, despised insect
Thus (O my god) each small despised insect,
14
Buz in
Physical Note
the main editing hand has written “my” directly above “our
ourmy
ears, that I thy Laws neglect;
Critical Note
two possible meanings: 1) the insects bother (“buzz”) the speaker because (“that”) she is not obedient to God; or 2) the insects murmur (an alternate meaning of “buzz”) that she is disobedient.
Buzz in my ears, that I Thy laws neglect.
Buzz in my ears, that I thy laws neglect.
15
In doeing what they’r made for, every fly
In doing what they’re made for, every fly
In doing what they’re made for, every fly
16
ffulfuls thy will, (woes mee) Soe doe not I.
Fulfills Thy will; (woe’s me) so do not I.
Fulfills thy will. Woe’s me: so do not I.
17
I was Created to Set forth thy Praiſe,
I was created to set forth Thy praise,
I was created to set forth thy praise;
18
Yet like a wretch I fool away my Dayes;
Yet, like a wretch, I fool away my days
Yet like a wretch I fool away my days
19
In fruitleſs grief, or moyling in the earth:
In fruitless grief, or
Gloss Note
making oneself wet and muddy; wallowing in the mire; trudging; being anxious
moiling in the earth
,
In fruitless grief, or
Critical Note
working and wallowing; Moil is a verb Pulter also uses in “The Pismire” (Poem 35) [Poem 35] to describe the dirty work of earthly life, work that requires one to wallow in the dust and dirt the soul aspires to shake off, becoming dirty and defiled in the process. This includes not just direct engagements with dirt, such as agricultural labor or cleaning, but all labor that embeds us in earthly life.
moiling
in the earth,
20
fforgetting my poor Souls Celestiall Birth.
Forgetting my poor soul’s celestial birth.
Forgetting my poor soul’s celestial birth.
I

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21
I know I have a Spark of Heavenly fier
I know I have a spark of heavenly fire
I know I have a spark of heavenly fire
22
Within my Breast, elce what moves this deſire
Within my breast; else what moves this desire?
Within my breast—else what moves
Critical Note
“This desire” appears to be the desire to respect rather than neglect God’s laws and to escape the body, its folly and lust. At one level, then, it is a desire not to desire earthly pleasures but instead to transcend them. See also Pulter’s poem The Desire [Poem 18].
this desire
?—
23
But ô my Soule’s Soe clog’d with fflesh & bones,
But O, my soul’s so clogged with flesh and bones
But O! My soul’s so clogged with flesh and bones,
24
I Heaven can Reach with nought but Sighs & Gron’s,
I heaven can reach with nought but sighs and groans.
I heaven can reach with naught but sighs and groans.
25
My Slavish Soul, Shake of this Dirt & Dust,
My slavish soul, shake off this dirt and dust,
My slavish soul, shake off this dirt and dust,
26
Put of thy folly, and worſ then folley, Lust.
Put off thy folly, and worse than folly, lust,
Put off thy folly and—worse than folly—
Critical Note
This confession of lust is striking, especially given the social pressures on women to be and seem chaste. While male poets often confess or boast of lust, most female poets do not. The confession of lust adds another layer to the possible meanings of “this desire,” a desire that must be distinguished from other, more bodily desires.
lust
;
27
And through all the Clowds and Skie make way,
And through all the clouds and sky make way;
And through all the clouds and sky make way.
28
There there is Light out Shines
Physical Note
“e” was probably originally written as a “u”
Meridian
Day.
There, there is light outshines
Gloss Note
noon
meridian
day.
Critical Note
In this poem, Pulter twice doubles adverbs (“There, there” [line 28]; “Whither, whither” [line 31]), moving from an assertion of where the focus should be (“there”) to the question that drives the poem: given that the desired destination is clear, why does the speaker keep flying off in other directions?
There, there
, is light outshines
Gloss Note
noon-time or mid-day
meridian
day.
29
Nay that inviſible and Glorious Light,
Nay, that invisible and glorious light
Nay, that invisible and glorious
Critical Note
The oxymoron of the “invisible light” of heaven (the “there” which is never named) mirrors Milton’s description of the “darkness visible” in hell. I’m grateful to Leah Knight for pointing this out, as well as the fact that Pulter uses the phrase “invisible light” in two other poems, “The Center” (Poem 30) [Poem 30] and “Made When I Was Sick” (Poem 31) [Poem 31].
light
,
30
Outshines the Sun, more then ye Sun doth Night.
Outshines the sun more than the sun doth night.
Outshines the sun, more than the sun doth night.
31
Ay mee! O
Physical Note
“the” in darker ink
whither
whither
Physical Note
“s“ written over another letter
do’ſt
Physical Note
“u” written over a “y” with descender imperfectly erased
thou
ffly,
Ay me! O
Gloss Note
where
whither
, whither dost thou fly?
Critical Note
The relationship between “me” and “thou” starting in this line is a bit confusing. “Thou” refers back to “my slavish soul” in line 8. “My body” must die (and be interred in “thy faithful urn”) in order for “my spirit” and “my enfranchised soul” to be released. But “thou” might also include the reader, as the speaker hails both the reluctant part of him or herself and the reader: “hey you! You have to die before you reach ‘that invisible and glorious light.’” The verb “fly” here both remembers the earlier discussion of flies, linking them unsettlingly to the soul, and castigates the soul for flitting about when it should focus instead on rising (line 44). The soul might justly complain that the advice it gets in this poem is confusing: “Don’t fly, rise.”
Ay me! O whither, whither dost thou fly?
32
Before
Physical Note
“u” crowded into space before next word
thou
canst injoy this, thou must Die.
Before thou canst enjoy
Gloss Note
this light
this
, thou must die.
Before thou canst enjoy
Gloss Note
i.e., “that invisible and glorious light”
this
, thou must die.
33
Repentant tears and dust, must clear thy Sight
Repentant tears and dust must clear thy sight
Critical Note
This line captures the paradox that dust will clear one’s sight and cleanse one’s soul. Central to Pulter’s theology, dust is the primordial material from which humans emerge and to which they must return (Ecclesiastes 3.20); mortals must shake off the dirt and dust of their mortality in death. But this line also suggests that dust is cleansing. This may be another example of how Pulter conjoins observation of nature and theological reflection. Birds clean themselves with dust. We might even see a Pulter/poultry identification here. For example, Adam Shewring’s The Plain-Dealing Poulterer: Or, A Poulterer’s Shop Opened (London, 1695), reminds readers that to condition their feathers and eliminate lice and other pests, birds need to bathe themselves “in sand, ashes, or such like” (sig. B6).
Repentant tears and dust must clear thy sight
34
Ere thou canst look on that Refulgent Light;
Gloss Note
before
Ere
thou canst look on that
Gloss Note
brilliant, glorious
refulgent
light.
Ere thou canst look on that
Gloss Note
radiant
refulgent
light.
35
To Sleep in Grave, contented thou must bee,
To sleep
Gloss Note
entombed
in grave
, contented thou must be;
To sleep in grave, contented thou must be;
36
Thy buſie ffancie too, must Sleep with thee.
Thy busy
Gloss Note
imagination
fancy
, too, must sleep with thee.
Thy busy
Gloss Note
imagination
fancy
, too,
Critical Note
The speaker here reminds him or herself and the reader that death will not only stop the body but the mind or imagination. This line marks a pause in the poem to emphasize just what death means. It’s not just that the body will dissolve to dust. The “busy fancy” responsible for anxiety, procrastination, bad dreams, and poetry will also fall still.
must sleep with thee
.
37
Yet though my Body into dust doth turn,
Yet though my body into dust doth turn,
Yet though my body into dust doth turn,
38
An honest Grave will bee thy ffaith full
Physical Note
written over indecipherable word, last letter with ascender and first letter possibly capital “T” or “G”
Urn
.
An honest grave will be thy faithful urn;
An honest grave will be thy faithful urn.
39
But my enfranchiſed Soul to heaven Shall goe,
But my
Gloss Note
freed, privileged
enfranchised
soul to heaven shall go.
But my
Critical Note
“Enfranchised” means here set free from subjection or confinement. Pulter also uses this term in “For I No Liberty Expect to See” (Poem 58) [Poem 58], in which the speaker imagines s/he will achieve liberty only when “dispersed” into atoms but complicates that by describing this dispersed state as being “enfranchised, free as my verse” (line 3). This suggests that poetry provides an earthly preview of what liberty would feel like. “Enfranchise” can also mean “admit to municipal and political privileges” (OED), connected in recent usage with being granted the right to vote. Pulter’s use of the term here participates in a larger pattern of associating freedom not with politics but with death (and, perhaps, with poetry). In “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57) [Poem 57], for example, she writes: “I no liberty expect to have / Until I find my freedom in my grave” (lines 78-79).
enfranchised
soul to heaven shall go;
40
My Dust the while Shall Sweetly Sleep below,
My dust,
Gloss Note
meanwhile
the while
, shall sweetly sleep below.
My dust the
Gloss Note
meanwhile
while
shall sweetly sleep below.
41
ffree Shall I bee from Dreams, and Horrid ffrights,
Free shall I be from dreams and horrid frights;
Free shall I be from dreams, and horrid frights.
42
O welcom, o thrice Welcome, Such a Night.
O welcome, O thrice welcome, such a night.
O welcome, O thrice welcome,
Critical Note
“Such a night”—the night of death’s sleep that clothes the body in “an honest grave”—seems distinct from the night described in the poem’s opening lines, simultaneously lyrical and quotidian. Yet the dawn that launches the poem also provides the imagery of curtains, shrouds, and enveloping, a covering that is protective but will also be swept aside with dawn or resurrection.
such a night
.
but

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43
But at that Grand, and Dread, yet Blest Aſſise,
But at that grand and
Gloss Note
dreadful
dread
, yet blessed
Gloss Note
trial; decree; judgment, with hint of the Christian Last Judgment
assize
,
But at that grand and
Gloss Note
feared
dread
yet blessed
Critical Note
trial; Assize courts heard prosecutions of felonies including murder, punishable by death. Judges from Westminster in London visited provincial towns twice a year, bringing “the strength and influence of the central courts” with them, to try criminal or crown indictments (See Cynthia B. Herrup, The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in Seventeenth-Century England [Cambridge University Press, 1987], pp. 42-43). The second coming of the resurrected Jesus was often described as a trial at which he would divide the saved from the damned (Matthew 25:31-36). This was called Judgment Day or the Last Judgment. Pulter’s reference to the assize here grounds this widely used legal analogy in the specifics of early modern English legal procedure, which included jury participation. Her specificity raises a question: who would stand as the jury at a “blessed assize”?
assize
,
44
The Trump Shall sound, and then the Dead shall riſe
Critical Note
in the book of Revelation in the bible, the trumpet (“trump”) sounds at the Last Judgment, as souls rejoin their bodies and ascend to heaven.
The trump shall sound and then the dead shall rise
.
Critical Note
Just as divine judgment might be understood by analogy to legal procedures, those legal procedures, in Pulter’s England, were intertwined with the church. At the beginning of each semi-annual meeting of an Assize court, a sermon was preached; usually, it was later published. A sermon preached at the Assize held in Hertford (near where Pulter lived) in 1653 invites listeners to “consider the day of judgment” and links the concepts of a final “trump” with judgment as Pulter does here: “The sound of the last trump may well cause a retreat, and call us off from an eager pursuit of the flesh and world (Eccles. 11.9).” See “Curations.”
The trump shall sound, and then the dead shall rise.
45
Then Shall I bee United with my Spirit,
Then shall I be united with my spirit,
Then shall I be united with my spirit,
46
Where wee eternall Glory Shall inherit.
Where we eternal glory shall inherit.
Where we
Critical Note
Once I have achieved glory, who will care how I have spent my life? The final assize or judgment will be an evaluation of each person’s “frail and mortal story.” But after that, these lines claim, the details won’t matter anymore. Once I shine in glory, no one will ask the questions that have motivated and occupied this long poem.
eternal glory
shall inherit.
47
Then who dares aſke, when as I Shine in Glory;
Then, who dares ask,
Gloss Note
when
whenas
I shine in glory,
Then who dares ask, whenas I shine in glory,
48
How I have Spent my frail and Mortal Story?
How I have spent my frail and mortal
Gloss Note
life
story
?
How I have spent my frail and mortal
Gloss Note
history or life
story
?
49
When wee have Drunk not Leath but Christs pure blood
Critical Note
Lethe is a river in Hades that produces forgetfulness; in Christian ritual, communion, or the Eucharist, involves drinking wine that represents the blood of Christ.
When we have drunk not Lethe, but Christ’s pure blood
,
When we have drunk not
Critical Note
In Greek mythology, Lethe was a river in Hades; drinking its water was said to produce forgetfulness. Pulter here contrasts and links drinking this water of oblivion with drinking Christ’s blood in the Eucharist, usually associated with commemoration rather than forgetfulness. At the Last Supper, the gospels tell us, Christ “took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it” to his disciples, “saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you, this do in remembrance of me'.” After the supper he said, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 19-20). While Christ’s blood is then the opposite of the Lethe’s water, prompting memory rather than oblivion, Pulter assigns it a certain reassuring ability to erase bad memories. The poem has moved from the “nectar and ambrosia” the bees “sup” in line 10 to the eucharistic drinking of “Christ’s blood” here in line 49.
Lethe
but Christ’s pure blood,
50
All Shall fogotten bee but what is good.
All shall forgotten be but what is good;
All shall forgotten be but what is good.
51
All Shall bee known that will increaſe our Joy;
All shall be known that will increase our joy;
All shall be known that will increase our joy;
52
Nothing remembred that will Cauſe annoy.
Nothing remembered that will cause annoy.
Critical Note
This line is parallel to the emphasis on “obliviating” or consigning to forgetfulness—scrubbing the memory—in Pulter’s poem “The Desire” (Poem 18) [Poem 18].
Nothing remembered that will cause annoy
.
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Transcription

 Editorial note

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

 Editorial note

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

 Editorial note

My “amplified” editions seek to make the poems as accessible as possible by modernizing spelling and punctuation and providing only brief definitions for words, while discursive notes and the materials I gather for the “curations” section place Pulter’s poems into conversations. As I build the curations for a given poem—provisional and quirky as they are—I keep returning to the poem, re-reading, rethinking, and adding layers to the notes. I hope to show that Pulter was intellectually and politically embedded rather than isolated, taking up issues, genres, and tropes that also interested her contemporaries and that sometimes accrue unpredictable salience in later periods. Rather than focusing only on possible sources or influences, I cast a wide net both within the seventeenth century and outside it, trying to catch cultural materials Pulter might have engaged, some she excludes or ignores, and even some she probably could never have imagined. Curations don’t precede the poems nor are they implied by the poems—as if the poem gathers them to itself (although it can sometimes feel that way) or hales them forth. Instead, as a curator I weave the poem into a web of relations, seeking to open out rather than close down interpretive possibilities. This extends to including extracts that are long enough that readers might find things therein that I do not anticipate. I also look for a multi-vectored traffic among Pulter’s poetry and the other materials. What might the materials I’ve gathered help readers see in the poems—or notice is not there? But also, how do the poems bring fresh perspectives into the conversations into which I draw them? The more one reads the poems as participants in wider ranging conversations, the more fascinatingly twisty Pulter appears. Often, I don’t grasp how she upends or comes at conventions aslant until I have mucked about composting my “curations.”
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

This poem is one of many in which Pulter meditates on the dawn. She uses the occasion of the sunrise to reprimand her soul for not being willing to shake off corporeality, suffer death, and be resurrected (along with the “sleeping” body). Playing off of the aubade tradition, the speaker does not sadly bid farewell to a lover, but instead seeks the ultimate moment of what she sees as a heavenly suppression of the flaws of mortal life; the moment of drinking Christ’s redemptive blood (the communion) supersedes the classical Lethe, the river of forgetfulness that one crosses to get to the underworld.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

One of Pulter’s four Aurora poems, this one begins with the classical allusion it shares with the other poems, celebrating the dawn in song (a lyric genre called an aubade), and then dramatically shifts gears and genres, first into natural history and then from the observation of busy insects to wrenching spiritual self-castigation. In the course of the poem, the speaker admits to neglecting god’s laws, failing to fulfill his will, forgetting what really matters, wasting time, fruitless grief, folly and lust, bad dreams, and horrid frights. This is a speaker who admits (even wallows in) doubt but builds to the hope of a spiritual clean slate.
Elemental Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

moon goddess
Amplified Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

moon personified as a goddess
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Physical note

“It’s“ in manuscript
Elemental Edition
Line number 4

 Gloss note

goddess of the dawn
Amplified Edition
Line number 4

 Gloss note

dawn personified as a goddess
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Critical note

The four questions in the opening lines draw the reader’s attention to the appearance of the personified moon and dawning sun. Then the instruction to “look” in line 5 begins a kind of pan shot that draws the mind’s eye to the horizon where the sun rises, before zooming in on “these flowers.” Directing the reader’s attention to these particular flowers (line 8) and then “these” bees the speaker walks amongst (in line 11), a rhetorical pointing called deixis, the poem tightens and intensifies the focus as it also shifts from the conventional to the quirkily personal.
Elemental Edition
Line number 6

 Critical note

associated with the part of the heavens in which the sun and celestial objects appear to rise; eastern
Amplified Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

facing east or the rising sun
Elemental Edition
Line number 7

 Gloss note

Horae, goddesses of the seasons
Amplified Edition
Line number 7

 Critical note

The flying hours may be either the swift passage of time or the Hours or Horae, three sister goddesses who presided over the changing seasons.
Elemental Edition
Line number 9

 Gloss note

This sugar-rich liquid—excreted by insects, plant galls, and fungi on the leaves of plants—was formerly thought to originate from the sky in a manner similar to dew.
Transcription
Line number 10

 Physical note

“b” appears corrected from “p”
Elemental Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

food of the gods
Amplified Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

Ambrosia was the sweet food of the gods. The word was also used to describe the pollen bees collected.
Elemental Edition
Line number 11

 Critical note

bees, regularly seen as virginal and innocent, with associations to the Virgin Mary, largely based on the idea that they reproduced asexually. See Claire Preston, Thomas Browne and the Writing of Science, 77-78.
Elemental Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

solitarily
Amplified Edition
Line number 12

 Gloss note

alone
Amplified Edition
Line number 12

 Critical note

The virgins seem to be the bees who “sting” the speaker’s “delay,” both stinging her as she loiters or procrastinates and distressing her by offering their “toilsome” industry as a contrast to her indolence. Their stinging virginity is both aggressive and penetrative. In the seventeenth century, there was some confusion about the gender and sexuality of bees. For instance, it was still widely assumed that a king rather than a queen presided over the hive (see Jeffrey Merrick, “Royal Bees: The Gender Politics of the Beehive in Early Modern Europe,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, ed. J. Yolton 18 [1988]: 7-37). One text that did recognize a queen bee, Charles Butler's The Feminine Monarchy, or the History of Bees(Oxford, 1609), describes both virgin wax and virgin honey but does not call bees themselves virgins. But a Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary describes her as hastening “like a busy bee” (Henry Hawkins, Partheneia Sacra [Rouen, 1633], p. 78). The reference to stinging virgins may also reach back to include Phoebe and Aurora, the bashful, blushing goddesses who nonetheless get on with the business of dawn and so, like the insects, reproach the speaker with their industry.
Transcription
Line number 14

 Physical note

the main editing hand has written “my” directly above “our
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Critical note

two possible meanings: 1) the insects bother (“buzz”) the speaker because (“that”) she is not obedient to God; or 2) the insects murmur (an alternate meaning of “buzz”) that she is disobedient.
Elemental Edition
Line number 19

 Gloss note

making oneself wet and muddy; wallowing in the mire; trudging; being anxious
Amplified Edition
Line number 19

 Critical note

working and wallowing; Moil is a verb Pulter also uses in “The Pismire” (Poem 35) [Poem 35] to describe the dirty work of earthly life, work that requires one to wallow in the dust and dirt the soul aspires to shake off, becoming dirty and defiled in the process. This includes not just direct engagements with dirt, such as agricultural labor or cleaning, but all labor that embeds us in earthly life.
Amplified Edition
Line number 22

 Critical note

“This desire” appears to be the desire to respect rather than neglect God’s laws and to escape the body, its folly and lust. At one level, then, it is a desire not to desire earthly pleasures but instead to transcend them. See also Pulter’s poem The Desire [Poem 18].
Amplified Edition
Line number 26

 Critical note

This confession of lust is striking, especially given the social pressures on women to be and seem chaste. While male poets often confess or boast of lust, most female poets do not. The confession of lust adds another layer to the possible meanings of “this desire,” a desire that must be distinguished from other, more bodily desires.
Transcription
Line number 28

 Physical note

“e” was probably originally written as a “u”
Elemental Edition
Line number 28

 Gloss note

noon
Amplified Edition
Line number 28

 Critical note

In this poem, Pulter twice doubles adverbs (“There, there” [line 28]; “Whither, whither” [line 31]), moving from an assertion of where the focus should be (“there”) to the question that drives the poem: given that the desired destination is clear, why does the speaker keep flying off in other directions?
Amplified Edition
Line number 28

 Gloss note

noon-time or mid-day
Amplified Edition
Line number 29

 Critical note

The oxymoron of the “invisible light” of heaven (the “there” which is never named) mirrors Milton’s description of the “darkness visible” in hell. I’m grateful to Leah Knight for pointing this out, as well as the fact that Pulter uses the phrase “invisible light” in two other poems, “The Center” (Poem 30) [Poem 30] and “Made When I Was Sick” (Poem 31) [Poem 31].
Transcription
Line number 31

 Physical note

“the” in darker ink
Transcription
Line number 31

 Physical note

“s“ written over another letter
Transcription
Line number 31

 Physical note

“u” written over a “y” with descender imperfectly erased
Elemental Edition
Line number 31

 Gloss note

where
Amplified Edition
Line number 31

 Critical note

The relationship between “me” and “thou” starting in this line is a bit confusing. “Thou” refers back to “my slavish soul” in line 8. “My body” must die (and be interred in “thy faithful urn”) in order for “my spirit” and “my enfranchised soul” to be released. But “thou” might also include the reader, as the speaker hails both the reluctant part of him or herself and the reader: “hey you! You have to die before you reach ‘that invisible and glorious light.’” The verb “fly” here both remembers the earlier discussion of flies, linking them unsettlingly to the soul, and castigates the soul for flitting about when it should focus instead on rising (line 44). The soul might justly complain that the advice it gets in this poem is confusing: “Don’t fly, rise.”
Transcription
Line number 32

 Physical note

“u” crowded into space before next word
Elemental Edition
Line number 32

 Gloss note

this light
Amplified Edition
Line number 32

 Gloss note

i.e., “that invisible and glorious light”
Amplified Edition
Line number 33

 Critical note

This line captures the paradox that dust will clear one’s sight and cleanse one’s soul. Central to Pulter’s theology, dust is the primordial material from which humans emerge and to which they must return (Ecclesiastes 3.20); mortals must shake off the dirt and dust of their mortality in death. But this line also suggests that dust is cleansing. This may be another example of how Pulter conjoins observation of nature and theological reflection. Birds clean themselves with dust. We might even see a Pulter/poultry identification here. For example, Adam Shewring’s The Plain-Dealing Poulterer: Or, A Poulterer’s Shop Opened (London, 1695), reminds readers that to condition their feathers and eliminate lice and other pests, birds need to bathe themselves “in sand, ashes, or such like” (sig. B6).
Elemental Edition
Line number 34

 Gloss note

before
Elemental Edition
Line number 34

 Gloss note

brilliant, glorious
Amplified Edition
Line number 34

 Gloss note

radiant
Elemental Edition
Line number 35

 Gloss note

entombed
Elemental Edition
Line number 36

 Gloss note

imagination
Amplified Edition
Line number 36

 Gloss note

imagination
Amplified Edition
Line number 36

 Critical note

The speaker here reminds him or herself and the reader that death will not only stop the body but the mind or imagination. This line marks a pause in the poem to emphasize just what death means. It’s not just that the body will dissolve to dust. The “busy fancy” responsible for anxiety, procrastination, bad dreams, and poetry will also fall still.
Transcription
Line number 38

 Physical note

written over indecipherable word, last letter with ascender and first letter possibly capital “T” or “G”
Elemental Edition
Line number 39

 Gloss note

freed, privileged
Amplified Edition
Line number 39

 Critical note

“Enfranchised” means here set free from subjection or confinement. Pulter also uses this term in “For I No Liberty Expect to See” (Poem 58) [Poem 58], in which the speaker imagines s/he will achieve liberty only when “dispersed” into atoms but complicates that by describing this dispersed state as being “enfranchised, free as my verse” (line 3). This suggests that poetry provides an earthly preview of what liberty would feel like. “Enfranchise” can also mean “admit to municipal and political privileges” (OED), connected in recent usage with being granted the right to vote. Pulter’s use of the term here participates in a larger pattern of associating freedom not with politics but with death (and, perhaps, with poetry). In “Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined” (Poem 57) [Poem 57], for example, she writes: “I no liberty expect to have / Until I find my freedom in my grave” (lines 78-79).
Elemental Edition
Line number 40

 Gloss note

meanwhile
Amplified Edition
Line number 40

 Gloss note

meanwhile
Amplified Edition
Line number 42

 Critical note

“Such a night”—the night of death’s sleep that clothes the body in “an honest grave”—seems distinct from the night described in the poem’s opening lines, simultaneously lyrical and quotidian. Yet the dawn that launches the poem also provides the imagery of curtains, shrouds, and enveloping, a covering that is protective but will also be swept aside with dawn or resurrection.
Elemental Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

dreadful
Elemental Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

trial; decree; judgment, with hint of the Christian Last Judgment
Amplified Edition
Line number 43

 Gloss note

feared
Amplified Edition
Line number 43

 Critical note

trial; Assize courts heard prosecutions of felonies including murder, punishable by death. Judges from Westminster in London visited provincial towns twice a year, bringing “the strength and influence of the central courts” with them, to try criminal or crown indictments (See Cynthia B. Herrup, The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in Seventeenth-Century England [Cambridge University Press, 1987], pp. 42-43). The second coming of the resurrected Jesus was often described as a trial at which he would divide the saved from the damned (Matthew 25:31-36). This was called Judgment Day or the Last Judgment. Pulter’s reference to the assize here grounds this widely used legal analogy in the specifics of early modern English legal procedure, which included jury participation. Her specificity raises a question: who would stand as the jury at a “blessed assize”?
Elemental Edition
Line number 44

 Critical note

in the book of Revelation in the bible, the trumpet (“trump”) sounds at the Last Judgment, as souls rejoin their bodies and ascend to heaven.
Amplified Edition
Line number 44

 Critical note

Just as divine judgment might be understood by analogy to legal procedures, those legal procedures, in Pulter’s England, were intertwined with the church. At the beginning of each semi-annual meeting of an Assize court, a sermon was preached; usually, it was later published. A sermon preached at the Assize held in Hertford (near where Pulter lived) in 1653 invites listeners to “consider the day of judgment” and links the concepts of a final “trump” with judgment as Pulter does here: “The sound of the last trump may well cause a retreat, and call us off from an eager pursuit of the flesh and world (Eccles. 11.9).” See “Curations.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 46

 Critical note

Once I have achieved glory, who will care how I have spent my life? The final assize or judgment will be an evaluation of each person’s “frail and mortal story.” But after that, these lines claim, the details won’t matter anymore. Once I shine in glory, no one will ask the questions that have motivated and occupied this long poem.
Elemental Edition
Line number 47

 Gloss note

when
Elemental Edition
Line number 48

 Gloss note

life
Amplified Edition
Line number 48

 Gloss note

history or life
Elemental Edition
Line number 49

 Critical note

Lethe is a river in Hades that produces forgetfulness; in Christian ritual, communion, or the Eucharist, involves drinking wine that represents the blood of Christ.
Amplified Edition
Line number 49

 Critical note

In Greek mythology, Lethe was a river in Hades; drinking its water was said to produce forgetfulness. Pulter here contrasts and links drinking this water of oblivion with drinking Christ’s blood in the Eucharist, usually associated with commemoration rather than forgetfulness. At the Last Supper, the gospels tell us, Christ “took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it” to his disciples, “saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you, this do in remembrance of me'.” After the supper he said, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 19-20). While Christ’s blood is then the opposite of the Lethe’s water, prompting memory rather than oblivion, Pulter assigns it a certain reassuring ability to erase bad memories. The poem has moved from the “nectar and ambrosia” the bees “sup” in line 10 to the eucharistic drinking of “Christ’s blood” here in line 49.
Amplified Edition
Line number 52

 Critical note

This line is parallel to the emphasis on “obliviating” or consigning to forgetfulness—scrubbing the memory—in Pulter’s poem “The Desire” (Poem 18) [Poem 18].
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