Wisest Creatures (Emblem 10)

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Wisest Creatures (Emblem 10)

Poem 76

Original Source

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

Versions

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

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

How to cite these versions

Conventions for these editions

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making

  • Created by Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
  • Encoded by Katherine Poland, Matthew Taylor, Elizabeth Chou, and Emily Andrey, Northwestern University
  • 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 1

 Physical note

in left margin, over several lines: “a: The Birds of / Paradice Mintia / Comont on Dubert: / the 5th day ffol: 241”
Line number 4

 Physical note

in left margin, over several lines: “b: the Same __ / Cometit ye 6:th day / folio 165. / Such a Beast was / Seen by many at / Buldock ffair / 1653”; ascending straight line beneath
Line number 4

 Physical note

original “to” blotted; insertion in H2
Line number 7

 Physical note

in left margin, over several lines: after erased “A”, “c: As the [with double strike-through] / c: ye Cometit on / Duburtus ye 5th day”
Line number 11

 Physical note

in left margin, over several lines: “d: The Stork look / Plinie 2:d book / chap: 25:th Look / Plutarch in ___ / [illegible]”; last word or partial word with blots may be “Issess”
Line number 19

 Physical note

appears corrected from “they”
Line number 19

 Physical note

double strike-through
Line number 19

 Physical note

insertion in H2
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Transcription
Transcription

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
[Emblem 10]
Wisest Creatures
(Emblem 10)
The Cunning Cannibal
(Emblem 10)
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How might Christian parents take example from animals who mother well? In this poem, the speaker seems to be defensive about possible objections to parents who are indulgent or lenient with their children. The poem’s erudition is signalled by marginal notes throughout, which corroborate information about animal habits, particularly by citing a 1621 book of commentary on the poetry of the famous French poet, Du Bartas. Drawing from this commentator’s details about female birds, beasts, sharks, and snakes, Pulter is able to show off her up-to-date knowledge of natural history while also wittily defending an unusual kind of seeming maternal cannibalism—those creatures who seem to incorporate and eat their young to protect them. The marginal commentator, which seems to offer Pulter’s information in the scribe’s hand, backs up its textual sources with testimony that one such creature was seen at a local fair. Pulter’s poem thus situates itself in a conversation that intersects poetic religious verse and a seventeenth-century version of zoology along with popular entertainment, while employing a textual apparatus that raises the issue of how we know what we know. Given Pulter’s poignant elegies on the death of her daughter elsewhere in the collection, and given the violence required in this poem to ensure true protection, this emblem perhaps goes beyond its moral approval of good parenting to reveal anxiety about whether humans can protect their offspring. The speaker asks, if animals are so lovingly protective as mothers, why can’t “we” Christians be the same? She then recovers her ground and fiercely denounces severe and negligent parents as having lost their humanity altogether.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
What can a mother do to protect her children? This emblem searches the natural world for models and finds an extreme possibility in an animal Pulter calls a “cannibal.” This creature, which carries its young in a “wallet” under its breast to protect them from predators, might be a marsupial (perhaps an American opossum or an Australian possum) or a mythical beast. The poem compares this creature to sea foxes and vipers, animals thought to ingest their mates, young, or mothers. In several other poems, Pulter advocates “indulgent” parenting, which she defines as the opposite of neglectful: loving children deeply and doing whatever it takes to keep them safe. Here she extends that argument to claim that we find such indulgence in nature, supporting the conclusion that parental indulgence is both natural and wise. Yet there is something horrifying lurking in the poem’s monsters, reference to danger, and central animal, whose name more commonly means a savage beast that eats its own kind. As the poem celebrates parents who “indulge” their children, it hints at darker implications of being an overprotective mother.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
10
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “a: The Birds of / Paradice Mintia / Comont on Dubert: / the 5th day ffol: 241”
Some
a Birds their bee Sure they noe love doe lack
Some
Gloss Note
As a marginal note in the scribe’s hand explained, these are “The Birds of Paradise, Mintia” (It is not clear what “Mintia” references but the correct animal described here is a manucodiat). The marginal note then provides the source of this information as a commentary on the poems of Guillaume de Saluste du Bartas, the renowned French sixteenth-century religious poet. The marginal note refers specifically to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (“Weeks”), epic poems expounding on the book of Genesis in the Bible, which were divided into the days of the week of creation. See Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Salust, Lord Bartas (London,1621), 5th day, p. 241.
birds
there be, sure they no love do lack,
Some
Gloss Note
A marginal note in the scribe’s hand identifies these as “Birds of Paradise” and refers to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day, folio 241 (sig. Ii1r). Goulart describes this bird as shrouded in mystery and the subject of fables: it has no feet or wings but somehow remains perpetually in the air and therefore is never observed unless dead. A bird that transcends the earth appeals to the desire expressed by many of Pulter’s poems to move past mortal suffering and focus on heavenly reward. Pulter writes in more detail about birds of paradise (“manucodiats”) in The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71], including their generosity and parental unity when laying and protecting eggs.
birds
there be, sure they no love do lack,
2
Who bear their Spritely young ones on their Back
Who bear their spritely young ones on their back.
Who bear their sprightly young ones on their back;
3
But of all Beasts the cunning b Caniball
But of all beasts the
Gloss Note
Pulter does not refer here literally to a creature that eats its own kind but to an animal called a canibal, which she also references in Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined [Poem 57]. This poem does go on in later lines, however, to tease out the other meanings of this term by pointing to other animals that use a strikingly benevolent form of temporary cannibalism to protect their young. A marginal note in this poem directs the reader to information on this maternal creature (perhaps a possum) in Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s poetry (in the section, “the 6th Day”; although the page noted is 165, the correct page number is 265). The marginal note then testifies that the beast had been seen at Baldock Fair in 1653. “Baldock is a town in Hertfordshire, not far from where Pulter lived, which traditionally held fairs on the feasts of St. James, St. Andrew, and St. Matthew (July 25, November 30, and September 21)” (Eardley). The word “cunning” can simply mean clever practical skill, but it could hint of a deceptive craftiness.
cunning canibal
But of all beasts, the
Gloss Note
Knowledgeable or clever. Can also have negative connotations (crafty, sly, opportunistic).
cunning
Gloss Note
In the margins, the scribe cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the sixth day, folio 165 (an error for folio 265), and says a cannibal is a beast “seen by many at Baldock Fair 1653.” See A creature called a cannibal? for Goulart’s description of this creature; the Baldock Charter Fair was a street fair established by Royal Charter in Baldock, Hertfordshire.
cannibal
4
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “b: the Same __ / Cometit ye 6:th day / folio 165. / Such a Beast was / Seen by many at / Buldock ffair / 1653”; ascending straight line beneath
In
kindnes
Physical Note
original “to” blotted; insertion in H2
to\to \
her Young excels them all
In kindness to her young excels them all.
In kindness to her young excels them all.
5
ffor Shee A Wallet hath beneath her breast
For she a
Gloss Note
a small pocket covered by a flap of skin
wallet
hath beneath her breast;
For she a
Gloss Note
pouch
wallet
hath beneath her breast;
6
When they’r purſued in that her Young doe Rest
When they’re pursued in
Gloss Note
wallet or pocket
that
her young do rest.
When they’re pursued, in that her young do rest.
7
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: after erased “A”, “c: As the [with double strike-through] / c: ye Cometit on / Duburtus ye 5th day”
As
the Sea cffox all ffiſhes doth out go
As the
Gloss Note
a thrasher shark. A marginal note directs the reader again to information about this animal in Goulart’s 1621 commentary on the poetry of Du Bartas (the section labeled “The 5th Day”).
sea fox
all fishes doth outgo
As the
Gloss Note
A kind of fish. Philemon Holland’s 1603 translation of Plutarch’s The Philosophy describes it as an especially clever fish: “The sea fox will not many times come near unto a hook, he recoileth back and is afraid of some deceitful guile; but say that he chance to be surprised quickly, he maketh shift to wind himself off again: for such is his strength, agility and slippery moisture withal that he will turn himself upside down with his tail upward, in such sort, that when by overturning his stomach all within is come forth, it can not choose but the hook looseth the hold which it had and falleth forth” (p. 971). At this moment in Pulter’s manuscript, a marginal note cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day. Goulart identifies the sea fox as a predatory fish with a long tail who loves its young: “if any danger happen them, he presently swalloweth them down and keepeth them alive in his body, then being escaped, he casteth them up as he received them” (sig. Ff3r-Ff3v). A second note in Pulter’s manuscript draws attention to Goulart, Pliny, and Plutarch on the stork—a bird that does not appear in this poem.
sea fox
all fishes doth outgo
8
In Subtilty, Soe doth her Love o’re fflow
In subtlety, so doth her love o’erflow;
In
Gloss Note
skill; cleverness
subtlety
, so doth her love o’erflow;
9
ffor when her Cubs by Monsters are Purſu’d
For when her cubs by monsters are pursued,
For when her cubs by monsters are pursued,
10
With Love and Wiſedome Shee is Soe indu’de
With love and wisdom she is so
Gloss Note
a pun since it means both “educated” and “something inwardly digested”
endued
With love and wisdom she is so
Gloss Note
The primary meaning is “invested with” (love and honor, in this case), but there might be resonances of a secondary meaning: to digest (as in food).
endued
11
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “d: The Stork look / Plinie 2:d book / chap: 25:th Look / Plutarch in ___ / [illegible]”; last word or partial word with blots may be “Issess”
That
Shee doth Swallow them till danger’s past
Gloss Note
A marginal note references Pliny’s information on a stork, a creature not mentioned in this poem (2nd book, chapter 25).
That she doth swallow them till danger’s passed
,
That she doth swallow them ’til danger’s passed;
12
Then up again alive Shee doth them . Cast
Then up again alive she doth them cast.
Then up again alive she doth them cast.
13
The Viper Soe her Young lins Swallows down
The
Gloss Note
snake, who in folklore was reputed to swallow and vomit up her young to keep them safe.
viper
so her younglings swallows down.
The
Gloss Note
A small venomous snake native to England and Europe. Vipers were fabled to be cannibalistic during both reproduction and birth. According to Pliny’s Natural History, the female viper bites off the male’s head during mating for her “pleasure and delectation.” She then lays eggs “within her belly,” and once the first young viper is delivered, “the rest (impatient of so long delay) eat through the sides of their dam, and kill her.” See Philemon Holland’s translation titled The History of the World (1601), book 10, chapter 62, sig. Dd1r.
viper
so her younglings swallows down—
14
Of all the Rest Sure theſe may wear the Crown
Of all the rest sure
Gloss Note
animals who love and protect their young
these
may wear the crown;
Of all the rest sure these may wear the crown.
15
Then by their Severall Storyes you may See
Then by their several stories you may see
Then by their several stories you may see
16
The Wisest Creatures moſt indulgent bee
The wisest creatures most indulgent be.
The wisest creatures most indulgent be.
17
If they doe Soe what Should wee Christians doe
If they do so, what should we Christians do
If they do so, what should we Christians do,
18
That have the help of Grace and Nature too
That have the help of
Gloss Note
God’s benevolence and blessings
grace
and nature too?
That have the help of Grace and Nature too?
19
Sure
Physical Note
appears corrected from “they”
thoſe
that
Physical Note
double strike-through
doe
their
Physical Note
insertion in H2
\own \
Childrens goods Neglects
Sure those that do their own children’s good neglects
Physical Note
This line is revised in the manuscript; this section originally read: “Sure those that do their.”
Sure those that their own
children’s
Critical Note
Perhaps an odd plural form of the positive benefits that help a child thrive, or material possessions. The latter highlights a subtle economic thread in the poem, together with the word “wallet,” which also meant a beggar’s bag.
goods
Critical Note
This line has a problem with subject-verb agreement. The final word should be “neglect,” as in: those who neglect their own children’s goods. I retain the error so that “neglects” rhymes more cleanly with “insects.”
neglects
20
Are worſe then Birds, Beasſts, ffiſhes, or Inſects
Are worse than birds, beasts, fishes, or insects.
Are worse than birds, beasts, fishes, or insects.
ascending straight line
X (Close panel)Notes: Elemental Edition

 Editorial note

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

 Headnote

How might Christian parents take example from animals who mother well? In this poem, the speaker seems to be defensive about possible objections to parents who are indulgent or lenient with their children. The poem’s erudition is signalled by marginal notes throughout, which corroborate information about animal habits, particularly by citing a 1621 book of commentary on the poetry of the famous French poet, Du Bartas. Drawing from this commentator’s details about female birds, beasts, sharks, and snakes, Pulter is able to show off her up-to-date knowledge of natural history while also wittily defending an unusual kind of seeming maternal cannibalism—those creatures who seem to incorporate and eat their young to protect them. The marginal commentator, which seems to offer Pulter’s information in the scribe’s hand, backs up its textual sources with testimony that one such creature was seen at a local fair. Pulter’s poem thus situates itself in a conversation that intersects poetic religious verse and a seventeenth-century version of zoology along with popular entertainment, while employing a textual apparatus that raises the issue of how we know what we know. Given Pulter’s poignant elegies on the death of her daughter elsewhere in the collection, and given the violence required in this poem to ensure true protection, this emblem perhaps goes beyond its moral approval of good parenting to reveal anxiety about whether humans can protect their offspring. The speaker asks, if animals are so lovingly protective as mothers, why can’t “we” Christians be the same? She then recovers her ground and fiercely denounces severe and negligent parents as having lost their humanity altogether.
Line number 1

 Gloss note

As a marginal note in the scribe’s hand explained, these are “The Birds of Paradise, Mintia” (It is not clear what “Mintia” references but the correct animal described here is a manucodiat). The marginal note then provides the source of this information as a commentary on the poems of Guillaume de Saluste du Bartas, the renowned French sixteenth-century religious poet. The marginal note refers specifically to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (“Weeks”), epic poems expounding on the book of Genesis in the Bible, which were divided into the days of the week of creation. See Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Salust, Lord Bartas (London,1621), 5th day, p. 241.
Line number 3

 Gloss note

Pulter does not refer here literally to a creature that eats its own kind but to an animal called a canibal, which she also references in Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined [Poem 57]. This poem does go on in later lines, however, to tease out the other meanings of this term by pointing to other animals that use a strikingly benevolent form of temporary cannibalism to protect their young. A marginal note in this poem directs the reader to information on this maternal creature (perhaps a possum) in Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s poetry (in the section, “the 6th Day”; although the page noted is 165, the correct page number is 265). The marginal note then testifies that the beast had been seen at Baldock Fair in 1653. “Baldock is a town in Hertfordshire, not far from where Pulter lived, which traditionally held fairs on the feasts of St. James, St. Andrew, and St. Matthew (July 25, November 30, and September 21)” (Eardley). The word “cunning” can simply mean clever practical skill, but it could hint of a deceptive craftiness.
Line number 5

 Gloss note

a small pocket covered by a flap of skin
Line number 6

 Gloss note

wallet or pocket
Line number 7

 Gloss note

a thrasher shark. A marginal note directs the reader again to information about this animal in Goulart’s 1621 commentary on the poetry of Du Bartas (the section labeled “The 5th Day”).
Line number 10

 Gloss note

a pun since it means both “educated” and “something inwardly digested”
Line number 11

 Gloss note

A marginal note references Pliny’s information on a stork, a creature not mentioned in this poem (2nd book, chapter 25).
Line number 13

 Gloss note

snake, who in folklore was reputed to swallow and vomit up her young to keep them safe.
Line number 14

 Gloss note

animals who love and protect their young
Line number 18

 Gloss note

God’s benevolence and blessings
Sorry, but there are no notes associated with any currently displayed witness.
X (Close panel)Elemental Edition
Elemental Edition

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
[Emblem 10]
Wisest Creatures
(Emblem 10)
The Cunning Cannibal
(Emblem 10)
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
How might Christian parents take example from animals who mother well? In this poem, the speaker seems to be defensive about possible objections to parents who are indulgent or lenient with their children. The poem’s erudition is signalled by marginal notes throughout, which corroborate information about animal habits, particularly by citing a 1621 book of commentary on the poetry of the famous French poet, Du Bartas. Drawing from this commentator’s details about female birds, beasts, sharks, and snakes, Pulter is able to show off her up-to-date knowledge of natural history while also wittily defending an unusual kind of seeming maternal cannibalism—those creatures who seem to incorporate and eat their young to protect them. The marginal commentator, which seems to offer Pulter’s information in the scribe’s hand, backs up its textual sources with testimony that one such creature was seen at a local fair. Pulter’s poem thus situates itself in a conversation that intersects poetic religious verse and a seventeenth-century version of zoology along with popular entertainment, while employing a textual apparatus that raises the issue of how we know what we know. Given Pulter’s poignant elegies on the death of her daughter elsewhere in the collection, and given the violence required in this poem to ensure true protection, this emblem perhaps goes beyond its moral approval of good parenting to reveal anxiety about whether humans can protect their offspring. The speaker asks, if animals are so lovingly protective as mothers, why can’t “we” Christians be the same? She then recovers her ground and fiercely denounces severe and negligent parents as having lost their humanity altogether.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
What can a mother do to protect her children? This emblem searches the natural world for models and finds an extreme possibility in an animal Pulter calls a “cannibal.” This creature, which carries its young in a “wallet” under its breast to protect them from predators, might be a marsupial (perhaps an American opossum or an Australian possum) or a mythical beast. The poem compares this creature to sea foxes and vipers, animals thought to ingest their mates, young, or mothers. In several other poems, Pulter advocates “indulgent” parenting, which she defines as the opposite of neglectful: loving children deeply and doing whatever it takes to keep them safe. Here she extends that argument to claim that we find such indulgence in nature, supporting the conclusion that parental indulgence is both natural and wise. Yet there is something horrifying lurking in the poem’s monsters, reference to danger, and central animal, whose name more commonly means a savage beast that eats its own kind. As the poem celebrates parents who “indulge” their children, it hints at darker implications of being an overprotective mother.

— Leah Knight and Wendy Wall
1
10
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “a: The Birds of / Paradice Mintia / Comont on Dubert: / the 5th day ffol: 241”
Some
a Birds their bee Sure they noe love doe lack
Some
Gloss Note
As a marginal note in the scribe’s hand explained, these are “The Birds of Paradise, Mintia” (It is not clear what “Mintia” references but the correct animal described here is a manucodiat). The marginal note then provides the source of this information as a commentary on the poems of Guillaume de Saluste du Bartas, the renowned French sixteenth-century religious poet. The marginal note refers specifically to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (“Weeks”), epic poems expounding on the book of Genesis in the Bible, which were divided into the days of the week of creation. See Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Salust, Lord Bartas (London,1621), 5th day, p. 241.
birds
there be, sure they no love do lack,
Some
Gloss Note
A marginal note in the scribe’s hand identifies these as “Birds of Paradise” and refers to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day, folio 241 (sig. Ii1r). Goulart describes this bird as shrouded in mystery and the subject of fables: it has no feet or wings but somehow remains perpetually in the air and therefore is never observed unless dead. A bird that transcends the earth appeals to the desire expressed by many of Pulter’s poems to move past mortal suffering and focus on heavenly reward. Pulter writes in more detail about birds of paradise (“manucodiats”) in The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71], including their generosity and parental unity when laying and protecting eggs.
birds
there be, sure they no love do lack,
2
Who bear their Spritely young ones on their Back
Who bear their spritely young ones on their back.
Who bear their sprightly young ones on their back;
3
But of all Beasts the cunning b Caniball
But of all beasts the
Gloss Note
Pulter does not refer here literally to a creature that eats its own kind but to an animal called a canibal, which she also references in Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined [Poem 57]. This poem does go on in later lines, however, to tease out the other meanings of this term by pointing to other animals that use a strikingly benevolent form of temporary cannibalism to protect their young. A marginal note in this poem directs the reader to information on this maternal creature (perhaps a possum) in Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s poetry (in the section, “the 6th Day”; although the page noted is 165, the correct page number is 265). The marginal note then testifies that the beast had been seen at Baldock Fair in 1653. “Baldock is a town in Hertfordshire, not far from where Pulter lived, which traditionally held fairs on the feasts of St. James, St. Andrew, and St. Matthew (July 25, November 30, and September 21)” (Eardley). The word “cunning” can simply mean clever practical skill, but it could hint of a deceptive craftiness.
cunning canibal
But of all beasts, the
Gloss Note
Knowledgeable or clever. Can also have negative connotations (crafty, sly, opportunistic).
cunning
Gloss Note
In the margins, the scribe cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the sixth day, folio 165 (an error for folio 265), and says a cannibal is a beast “seen by many at Baldock Fair 1653.” See A creature called a cannibal? for Goulart’s description of this creature; the Baldock Charter Fair was a street fair established by Royal Charter in Baldock, Hertfordshire.
cannibal
4
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “b: the Same __ / Cometit ye 6:th day / folio 165. / Such a Beast was / Seen by many at / Buldock ffair / 1653”; ascending straight line beneath
In
kindnes
Physical Note
original “to” blotted; insertion in H2
to\to \
her Young excels them all
In kindness to her young excels them all.
In kindness to her young excels them all.
5
ffor Shee A Wallet hath beneath her breast
For she a
Gloss Note
a small pocket covered by a flap of skin
wallet
hath beneath her breast;
For she a
Gloss Note
pouch
wallet
hath beneath her breast;
6
When they’r purſued in that her Young doe Rest
When they’re pursued in
Gloss Note
wallet or pocket
that
her young do rest.
When they’re pursued, in that her young do rest.
7
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: after erased “A”, “c: As the [with double strike-through] / c: ye Cometit on / Duburtus ye 5th day”
As
the Sea cffox all ffiſhes doth out go
As the
Gloss Note
a thrasher shark. A marginal note directs the reader again to information about this animal in Goulart’s 1621 commentary on the poetry of Du Bartas (the section labeled “The 5th Day”).
sea fox
all fishes doth outgo
As the
Gloss Note
A kind of fish. Philemon Holland’s 1603 translation of Plutarch’s The Philosophy describes it as an especially clever fish: “The sea fox will not many times come near unto a hook, he recoileth back and is afraid of some deceitful guile; but say that he chance to be surprised quickly, he maketh shift to wind himself off again: for such is his strength, agility and slippery moisture withal that he will turn himself upside down with his tail upward, in such sort, that when by overturning his stomach all within is come forth, it can not choose but the hook looseth the hold which it had and falleth forth” (p. 971). At this moment in Pulter’s manuscript, a marginal note cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day. Goulart identifies the sea fox as a predatory fish with a long tail who loves its young: “if any danger happen them, he presently swalloweth them down and keepeth them alive in his body, then being escaped, he casteth them up as he received them” (sig. Ff3r-Ff3v). A second note in Pulter’s manuscript draws attention to Goulart, Pliny, and Plutarch on the stork—a bird that does not appear in this poem.
sea fox
all fishes doth outgo
8
In Subtilty, Soe doth her Love o’re fflow
In subtlety, so doth her love o’erflow;
In
Gloss Note
skill; cleverness
subtlety
, so doth her love o’erflow;
9
ffor when her Cubs by Monsters are Purſu’d
For when her cubs by monsters are pursued,
For when her cubs by monsters are pursued,
10
With Love and Wiſedome Shee is Soe indu’de
With love and wisdom she is so
Gloss Note
a pun since it means both “educated” and “something inwardly digested”
endued
With love and wisdom she is so
Gloss Note
The primary meaning is “invested with” (love and honor, in this case), but there might be resonances of a secondary meaning: to digest (as in food).
endued
11
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “d: The Stork look / Plinie 2:d book / chap: 25:th Look / Plutarch in ___ / [illegible]”; last word or partial word with blots may be “Issess”
That
Shee doth Swallow them till danger’s past
Gloss Note
A marginal note references Pliny’s information on a stork, a creature not mentioned in this poem (2nd book, chapter 25).
That she doth swallow them till danger’s passed
,
That she doth swallow them ’til danger’s passed;
12
Then up again alive Shee doth them . Cast
Then up again alive she doth them cast.
Then up again alive she doth them cast.
13
The Viper Soe her Young lins Swallows down
The
Gloss Note
snake, who in folklore was reputed to swallow and vomit up her young to keep them safe.
viper
so her younglings swallows down.
The
Gloss Note
A small venomous snake native to England and Europe. Vipers were fabled to be cannibalistic during both reproduction and birth. According to Pliny’s Natural History, the female viper bites off the male’s head during mating for her “pleasure and delectation.” She then lays eggs “within her belly,” and once the first young viper is delivered, “the rest (impatient of so long delay) eat through the sides of their dam, and kill her.” See Philemon Holland’s translation titled The History of the World (1601), book 10, chapter 62, sig. Dd1r.
viper
so her younglings swallows down—
14
Of all the Rest Sure theſe may wear the Crown
Of all the rest sure
Gloss Note
animals who love and protect their young
these
may wear the crown;
Of all the rest sure these may wear the crown.
15
Then by their Severall Storyes you may See
Then by their several stories you may see
Then by their several stories you may see
16
The Wisest Creatures moſt indulgent bee
The wisest creatures most indulgent be.
The wisest creatures most indulgent be.
17
If they doe Soe what Should wee Christians doe
If they do so, what should we Christians do
If they do so, what should we Christians do,
18
That have the help of Grace and Nature too
That have the help of
Gloss Note
God’s benevolence and blessings
grace
and nature too?
That have the help of Grace and Nature too?
19
Sure
Physical Note
appears corrected from “they”
thoſe
that
Physical Note
double strike-through
doe
their
Physical Note
insertion in H2
\own \
Childrens goods Neglects
Sure those that do their own children’s good neglects
Physical Note
This line is revised in the manuscript; this section originally read: “Sure those that do their.”
Sure those that their own
children’s
Critical Note
Perhaps an odd plural form of the positive benefits that help a child thrive, or material possessions. The latter highlights a subtle economic thread in the poem, together with the word “wallet,” which also meant a beggar’s bag.
goods
Critical Note
This line has a problem with subject-verb agreement. The final word should be “neglect,” as in: those who neglect their own children’s goods. I retain the error so that “neglects” rhymes more cleanly with “insects.”
neglects
20
Are worſe then Birds, Beasſts, ffiſhes, or Inſects
Are worse than birds, beasts, fishes, or insects.
Are worse than birds, beasts, fishes, or insects.
ascending straight line
X (Close panel)Notes: Amplified Edition

 Editorial note

In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.

 Headnote

What can a mother do to protect her children? This emblem searches the natural world for models and finds an extreme possibility in an animal Pulter calls a “cannibal.” This creature, which carries its young in a “wallet” under its breast to protect them from predators, might be a marsupial (perhaps an American opossum or an Australian possum) or a mythical beast. The poem compares this creature to sea foxes and vipers, animals thought to ingest their mates, young, or mothers. In several other poems, Pulter advocates “indulgent” parenting, which she defines as the opposite of neglectful: loving children deeply and doing whatever it takes to keep them safe. Here she extends that argument to claim that we find such indulgence in nature, supporting the conclusion that parental indulgence is both natural and wise. Yet there is something horrifying lurking in the poem’s monsters, reference to danger, and central animal, whose name more commonly means a savage beast that eats its own kind. As the poem celebrates parents who “indulge” their children, it hints at darker implications of being an overprotective mother.
Line number 1

 Gloss note

A marginal note in the scribe’s hand identifies these as “Birds of Paradise” and refers to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day, folio 241 (sig. Ii1r). Goulart describes this bird as shrouded in mystery and the subject of fables: it has no feet or wings but somehow remains perpetually in the air and therefore is never observed unless dead. A bird that transcends the earth appeals to the desire expressed by many of Pulter’s poems to move past mortal suffering and focus on heavenly reward. Pulter writes in more detail about birds of paradise (“manucodiats”) in The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71], including their generosity and parental unity when laying and protecting eggs.
Line number 3

 Gloss note

Knowledgeable or clever. Can also have negative connotations (crafty, sly, opportunistic).
Line number 3

 Gloss note

In the margins, the scribe cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the sixth day, folio 165 (an error for folio 265), and says a cannibal is a beast “seen by many at Baldock Fair 1653.” See A creature called a cannibal? for Goulart’s description of this creature; the Baldock Charter Fair was a street fair established by Royal Charter in Baldock, Hertfordshire.
Line number 5

 Gloss note

pouch
Line number 7

 Gloss note

A kind of fish. Philemon Holland’s 1603 translation of Plutarch’s The Philosophy describes it as an especially clever fish: “The sea fox will not many times come near unto a hook, he recoileth back and is afraid of some deceitful guile; but say that he chance to be surprised quickly, he maketh shift to wind himself off again: for such is his strength, agility and slippery moisture withal that he will turn himself upside down with his tail upward, in such sort, that when by overturning his stomach all within is come forth, it can not choose but the hook looseth the hold which it had and falleth forth” (p. 971). At this moment in Pulter’s manuscript, a marginal note cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day. Goulart identifies the sea fox as a predatory fish with a long tail who loves its young: “if any danger happen them, he presently swalloweth them down and keepeth them alive in his body, then being escaped, he casteth them up as he received them” (sig. Ff3r-Ff3v). A second note in Pulter’s manuscript draws attention to Goulart, Pliny, and Plutarch on the stork—a bird that does not appear in this poem.
Line number 8

 Gloss note

skill; cleverness
Line number 10

 Gloss note

The primary meaning is “invested with” (love and honor, in this case), but there might be resonances of a secondary meaning: to digest (as in food).
Line number 13

 Gloss note

A small venomous snake native to England and Europe. Vipers were fabled to be cannibalistic during both reproduction and birth. According to Pliny’s Natural History, the female viper bites off the male’s head during mating for her “pleasure and delectation.” She then lays eggs “within her belly,” and once the first young viper is delivered, “the rest (impatient of so long delay) eat through the sides of their dam, and kill her.” See Philemon Holland’s translation titled The History of the World (1601), book 10, chapter 62, sig. Dd1r.
Line number 19

 Physical note

This line is revised in the manuscript; this section originally read: “Sure those that do their.”
Line number 19

 Critical note

Perhaps an odd plural form of the positive benefits that help a child thrive, or material possessions. The latter highlights a subtle economic thread in the poem, together with the word “wallet,” which also meant a beggar’s bag.
Line number 19

 Critical note

This line has a problem with subject-verb agreement. The final word should be “neglect,” as in: those who neglect their own children’s goods. I retain the error so that “neglects” rhymes more cleanly with “insects.”
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X (Close panel)Amplified Edition
Amplified Edition

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder

Facsimile Image Placeholder
[Emblem 10]
Wisest Creatures
(Emblem 10)
The Cunning Cannibal
(Emblem 10)
In these transcriptions we preserve as many details of the original material, textual, and graphic properties of Hester Pulter’s manuscript verse as we have found practical. Whenever possible, for instance, original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, lineation, insertions, deletions, alterations, spacing between words and lines, and indentation are all maintained; abbreviations and brevigraphs are not expanded; and superscript and subscript representations are retained. See full conventions for the transcriptions here.

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

— Elizabeth Kolkovich
In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.

— Elizabeth Kolkovich
How might Christian parents take example from animals who mother well? In this poem, the speaker seems to be defensive about possible objections to parents who are indulgent or lenient with their children. The poem’s erudition is signalled by marginal notes throughout, which corroborate information about animal habits, particularly by citing a 1621 book of commentary on the poetry of the famous French poet, Du Bartas. Drawing from this commentator’s details about female birds, beasts, sharks, and snakes, Pulter is able to show off her up-to-date knowledge of natural history while also wittily defending an unusual kind of seeming maternal cannibalism—those creatures who seem to incorporate and eat their young to protect them. The marginal commentator, which seems to offer Pulter’s information in the scribe’s hand, backs up its textual sources with testimony that one such creature was seen at a local fair. Pulter’s poem thus situates itself in a conversation that intersects poetic religious verse and a seventeenth-century version of zoology along with popular entertainment, while employing a textual apparatus that raises the issue of how we know what we know. Given Pulter’s poignant elegies on the death of her daughter elsewhere in the collection, and given the violence required in this poem to ensure true protection, this emblem perhaps goes beyond its moral approval of good parenting to reveal anxiety about whether humans can protect their offspring. The speaker asks, if animals are so lovingly protective as mothers, why can’t “we” Christians be the same? She then recovers her ground and fiercely denounces severe and negligent parents as having lost their humanity altogether.

— Elizabeth Kolkovich
What can a mother do to protect her children? This emblem searches the natural world for models and finds an extreme possibility in an animal Pulter calls a “cannibal.” This creature, which carries its young in a “wallet” under its breast to protect them from predators, might be a marsupial (perhaps an American opossum or an Australian possum) or a mythical beast. The poem compares this creature to sea foxes and vipers, animals thought to ingest their mates, young, or mothers. In several other poems, Pulter advocates “indulgent” parenting, which she defines as the opposite of neglectful: loving children deeply and doing whatever it takes to keep them safe. Here she extends that argument to claim that we find such indulgence in nature, supporting the conclusion that parental indulgence is both natural and wise. Yet there is something horrifying lurking in the poem’s monsters, reference to danger, and central animal, whose name more commonly means a savage beast that eats its own kind. As the poem celebrates parents who “indulge” their children, it hints at darker implications of being an overprotective mother.

— Elizabeth Kolkovich
1
10
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “a: The Birds of / Paradice Mintia / Comont on Dubert: / the 5th day ffol: 241”
Some
a Birds their bee Sure they noe love doe lack
Some
Gloss Note
As a marginal note in the scribe’s hand explained, these are “The Birds of Paradise, Mintia” (It is not clear what “Mintia” references but the correct animal described here is a manucodiat). The marginal note then provides the source of this information as a commentary on the poems of Guillaume de Saluste du Bartas, the renowned French sixteenth-century religious poet. The marginal note refers specifically to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (“Weeks”), epic poems expounding on the book of Genesis in the Bible, which were divided into the days of the week of creation. See Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Salust, Lord Bartas (London,1621), 5th day, p. 241.
birds
there be, sure they no love do lack,
Some
Gloss Note
A marginal note in the scribe’s hand identifies these as “Birds of Paradise” and refers to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day, folio 241 (sig. Ii1r). Goulart describes this bird as shrouded in mystery and the subject of fables: it has no feet or wings but somehow remains perpetually in the air and therefore is never observed unless dead. A bird that transcends the earth appeals to the desire expressed by many of Pulter’s poems to move past mortal suffering and focus on heavenly reward. Pulter writes in more detail about birds of paradise (“manucodiats”) in The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71], including their generosity and parental unity when laying and protecting eggs.
birds
there be, sure they no love do lack,
2
Who bear their Spritely young ones on their Back
Who bear their spritely young ones on their back.
Who bear their sprightly young ones on their back;
3
But of all Beasts the cunning b Caniball
But of all beasts the
Gloss Note
Pulter does not refer here literally to a creature that eats its own kind but to an animal called a canibal, which she also references in Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined [Poem 57]. This poem does go on in later lines, however, to tease out the other meanings of this term by pointing to other animals that use a strikingly benevolent form of temporary cannibalism to protect their young. A marginal note in this poem directs the reader to information on this maternal creature (perhaps a possum) in Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s poetry (in the section, “the 6th Day”; although the page noted is 165, the correct page number is 265). The marginal note then testifies that the beast had been seen at Baldock Fair in 1653. “Baldock is a town in Hertfordshire, not far from where Pulter lived, which traditionally held fairs on the feasts of St. James, St. Andrew, and St. Matthew (July 25, November 30, and September 21)” (Eardley). The word “cunning” can simply mean clever practical skill, but it could hint of a deceptive craftiness.
cunning canibal
But of all beasts, the
Gloss Note
Knowledgeable or clever. Can also have negative connotations (crafty, sly, opportunistic).
cunning
Gloss Note
In the margins, the scribe cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the sixth day, folio 165 (an error for folio 265), and says a cannibal is a beast “seen by many at Baldock Fair 1653.” See A creature called a cannibal? for Goulart’s description of this creature; the Baldock Charter Fair was a street fair established by Royal Charter in Baldock, Hertfordshire.
cannibal
4
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “b: the Same __ / Cometit ye 6:th day / folio 165. / Such a Beast was / Seen by many at / Buldock ffair / 1653”; ascending straight line beneath
In
kindnes
Physical Note
original “to” blotted; insertion in H2
to\to \
her Young excels them all
In kindness to her young excels them all.
In kindness to her young excels them all.
5
ffor Shee A Wallet hath beneath her breast
For she a
Gloss Note
a small pocket covered by a flap of skin
wallet
hath beneath her breast;
For she a
Gloss Note
pouch
wallet
hath beneath her breast;
6
When they’r purſued in that her Young doe Rest
When they’re pursued in
Gloss Note
wallet or pocket
that
her young do rest.
When they’re pursued, in that her young do rest.
7
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: after erased “A”, “c: As the [with double strike-through] / c: ye Cometit on / Duburtus ye 5th day”
As
the Sea cffox all ffiſhes doth out go
As the
Gloss Note
a thrasher shark. A marginal note directs the reader again to information about this animal in Goulart’s 1621 commentary on the poetry of Du Bartas (the section labeled “The 5th Day”).
sea fox
all fishes doth outgo
As the
Gloss Note
A kind of fish. Philemon Holland’s 1603 translation of Plutarch’s The Philosophy describes it as an especially clever fish: “The sea fox will not many times come near unto a hook, he recoileth back and is afraid of some deceitful guile; but say that he chance to be surprised quickly, he maketh shift to wind himself off again: for such is his strength, agility and slippery moisture withal that he will turn himself upside down with his tail upward, in such sort, that when by overturning his stomach all within is come forth, it can not choose but the hook looseth the hold which it had and falleth forth” (p. 971). At this moment in Pulter’s manuscript, a marginal note cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day. Goulart identifies the sea fox as a predatory fish with a long tail who loves its young: “if any danger happen them, he presently swalloweth them down and keepeth them alive in his body, then being escaped, he casteth them up as he received them” (sig. Ff3r-Ff3v). A second note in Pulter’s manuscript draws attention to Goulart, Pliny, and Plutarch on the stork—a bird that does not appear in this poem.
sea fox
all fishes doth outgo
8
In Subtilty, Soe doth her Love o’re fflow
In subtlety, so doth her love o’erflow;
In
Gloss Note
skill; cleverness
subtlety
, so doth her love o’erflow;
9
ffor when her Cubs by Monsters are Purſu’d
For when her cubs by monsters are pursued,
For when her cubs by monsters are pursued,
10
With Love and Wiſedome Shee is Soe indu’de
With love and wisdom she is so
Gloss Note
a pun since it means both “educated” and “something inwardly digested”
endued
With love and wisdom she is so
Gloss Note
The primary meaning is “invested with” (love and honor, in this case), but there might be resonances of a secondary meaning: to digest (as in food).
endued
11
Physical Note
in left margin, over several lines: “d: The Stork look / Plinie 2:d book / chap: 25:th Look / Plutarch in ___ / [illegible]”; last word or partial word with blots may be “Issess”
That
Shee doth Swallow them till danger’s past
Gloss Note
A marginal note references Pliny’s information on a stork, a creature not mentioned in this poem (2nd book, chapter 25).
That she doth swallow them till danger’s passed
,
That she doth swallow them ’til danger’s passed;
12
Then up again alive Shee doth them . Cast
Then up again alive she doth them cast.
Then up again alive she doth them cast.
13
The Viper Soe her Young lins Swallows down
The
Gloss Note
snake, who in folklore was reputed to swallow and vomit up her young to keep them safe.
viper
so her younglings swallows down.
The
Gloss Note
A small venomous snake native to England and Europe. Vipers were fabled to be cannibalistic during both reproduction and birth. According to Pliny’s Natural History, the female viper bites off the male’s head during mating for her “pleasure and delectation.” She then lays eggs “within her belly,” and once the first young viper is delivered, “the rest (impatient of so long delay) eat through the sides of their dam, and kill her.” See Philemon Holland’s translation titled The History of the World (1601), book 10, chapter 62, sig. Dd1r.
viper
so her younglings swallows down—
14
Of all the Rest Sure theſe may wear the Crown
Of all the rest sure
Gloss Note
animals who love and protect their young
these
may wear the crown;
Of all the rest sure these may wear the crown.
15
Then by their Severall Storyes you may See
Then by their several stories you may see
Then by their several stories you may see
16
The Wisest Creatures moſt indulgent bee
The wisest creatures most indulgent be.
The wisest creatures most indulgent be.
17
If they doe Soe what Should wee Christians doe
If they do so, what should we Christians do
If they do so, what should we Christians do,
18
That have the help of Grace and Nature too
That have the help of
Gloss Note
God’s benevolence and blessings
grace
and nature too?
That have the help of Grace and Nature too?
19
Sure
Physical Note
appears corrected from “they”
thoſe
that
Physical Note
double strike-through
doe
their
Physical Note
insertion in H2
\own \
Childrens goods Neglects
Sure those that do their own children’s good neglects
Physical Note
This line is revised in the manuscript; this section originally read: “Sure those that do their.”
Sure those that their own
children’s
Critical Note
Perhaps an odd plural form of the positive benefits that help a child thrive, or material possessions. The latter highlights a subtle economic thread in the poem, together with the word “wallet,” which also meant a beggar’s bag.
goods
Critical Note
This line has a problem with subject-verb agreement. The final word should be “neglect,” as in: those who neglect their own children’s goods. I retain the error so that “neglects” rhymes more cleanly with “insects.”
neglects
20
Are worſe then Birds, Beasſts, ffiſhes, or Inſects
Are worse than birds, beasts, fishes, or insects.
Are worse than birds, beasts, fishes, or insects.
ascending straight line
X (Close panel) All 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.
Elemental Edition

 Editorial note

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

 Editorial note

In my editions, I prioritize accessibility and multiple interpretive possibilities. To prepare these poems for a wide range of readers, I have modernized erratic early modern spelling, punctuation, and capitalization to conform to standard American usage. I gloss archaic definitions and confusing syntax, and I expand contractions, unless needed to maintain the integrity of the poem’s form. My notes investigate how Pulter’s poems engage with the literature and culture of mid-seventeenth-century England. At the same time, I emphasize how her poems are unique, how they respond to one another and seem to reveal their author’s individual circumstances and philosophies. It is worth noting that although Pulter’s poems survive in only one known source, they are not necessarily stable texts. The source manuscript features variants and revisions that invite multiple interpretations. I encourage readers to refer to the manuscript transcriptions and images on this site; my notes alert readers when the manuscript’s original spelling or physical features are especially worth considering.
Elemental Edition

 Headnote

How might Christian parents take example from animals who mother well? In this poem, the speaker seems to be defensive about possible objections to parents who are indulgent or lenient with their children. The poem’s erudition is signalled by marginal notes throughout, which corroborate information about animal habits, particularly by citing a 1621 book of commentary on the poetry of the famous French poet, Du Bartas. Drawing from this commentator’s details about female birds, beasts, sharks, and snakes, Pulter is able to show off her up-to-date knowledge of natural history while also wittily defending an unusual kind of seeming maternal cannibalism—those creatures who seem to incorporate and eat their young to protect them. The marginal commentator, which seems to offer Pulter’s information in the scribe’s hand, backs up its textual sources with testimony that one such creature was seen at a local fair. Pulter’s poem thus situates itself in a conversation that intersects poetic religious verse and a seventeenth-century version of zoology along with popular entertainment, while employing a textual apparatus that raises the issue of how we know what we know. Given Pulter’s poignant elegies on the death of her daughter elsewhere in the collection, and given the violence required in this poem to ensure true protection, this emblem perhaps goes beyond its moral approval of good parenting to reveal anxiety about whether humans can protect their offspring. The speaker asks, if animals are so lovingly protective as mothers, why can’t “we” Christians be the same? She then recovers her ground and fiercely denounces severe and negligent parents as having lost their humanity altogether.
Amplified Edition

 Headnote

What can a mother do to protect her children? This emblem searches the natural world for models and finds an extreme possibility in an animal Pulter calls a “cannibal.” This creature, which carries its young in a “wallet” under its breast to protect them from predators, might be a marsupial (perhaps an American opossum or an Australian possum) or a mythical beast. The poem compares this creature to sea foxes and vipers, animals thought to ingest their mates, young, or mothers. In several other poems, Pulter advocates “indulgent” parenting, which she defines as the opposite of neglectful: loving children deeply and doing whatever it takes to keep them safe. Here she extends that argument to claim that we find such indulgence in nature, supporting the conclusion that parental indulgence is both natural and wise. Yet there is something horrifying lurking in the poem’s monsters, reference to danger, and central animal, whose name more commonly means a savage beast that eats its own kind. As the poem celebrates parents who “indulge” their children, it hints at darker implications of being an overprotective mother.
Transcription
Line number 1

 Physical note

in left margin, over several lines: “a: The Birds of / Paradice Mintia / Comont on Dubert: / the 5th day ffol: 241”
Elemental Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

As a marginal note in the scribe’s hand explained, these are “The Birds of Paradise, Mintia” (It is not clear what “Mintia” references but the correct animal described here is a manucodiat). The marginal note then provides the source of this information as a commentary on the poems of Guillaume de Saluste du Bartas, the renowned French sixteenth-century religious poet. The marginal note refers specifically to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (“Weeks”), epic poems expounding on the book of Genesis in the Bible, which were divided into the days of the week of creation. See Simon Goulart, A Learned Summary Upon the Famous Poem of William of Salust, Lord Bartas (London,1621), 5th day, p. 241.
Amplified Edition
Line number 1

 Gloss note

A marginal note in the scribe’s hand identifies these as “Birds of Paradise” and refers to Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day, folio 241 (sig. Ii1r). Goulart describes this bird as shrouded in mystery and the subject of fables: it has no feet or wings but somehow remains perpetually in the air and therefore is never observed unless dead. A bird that transcends the earth appeals to the desire expressed by many of Pulter’s poems to move past mortal suffering and focus on heavenly reward. Pulter writes in more detail about birds of paradise (“manucodiats”) in The Manucodiats (Emblem 5) [Poem 71], including their generosity and parental unity when laying and protecting eggs.
Elemental Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

Pulter does not refer here literally to a creature that eats its own kind but to an animal called a canibal, which she also references in Why Must I Thus Forever Be Confined [Poem 57]. This poem does go on in later lines, however, to tease out the other meanings of this term by pointing to other animals that use a strikingly benevolent form of temporary cannibalism to protect their young. A marginal note in this poem directs the reader to information on this maternal creature (perhaps a possum) in Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s poetry (in the section, “the 6th Day”; although the page noted is 165, the correct page number is 265). The marginal note then testifies that the beast had been seen at Baldock Fair in 1653. “Baldock is a town in Hertfordshire, not far from where Pulter lived, which traditionally held fairs on the feasts of St. James, St. Andrew, and St. Matthew (July 25, November 30, and September 21)” (Eardley). The word “cunning” can simply mean clever practical skill, but it could hint of a deceptive craftiness.
Amplified Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

Knowledgeable or clever. Can also have negative connotations (crafty, sly, opportunistic).
Amplified Edition
Line number 3

 Gloss note

In the margins, the scribe cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the sixth day, folio 165 (an error for folio 265), and says a cannibal is a beast “seen by many at Baldock Fair 1653.” See A creature called a cannibal? for Goulart’s description of this creature; the Baldock Charter Fair was a street fair established by Royal Charter in Baldock, Hertfordshire.
Transcription
Line number 4

 Physical note

in left margin, over several lines: “b: the Same __ / Cometit ye 6:th day / folio 165. / Such a Beast was / Seen by many at / Buldock ffair / 1653”; ascending straight line beneath
Transcription
Line number 4

 Physical note

original “to” blotted; insertion in H2
Elemental Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

a small pocket covered by a flap of skin
Amplified Edition
Line number 5

 Gloss note

pouch
Elemental Edition
Line number 6

 Gloss note

wallet or pocket
Transcription
Line number 7

 Physical note

in left margin, over several lines: after erased “A”, “c: As the [with double strike-through] / c: ye Cometit on / Duburtus ye 5th day”
Elemental Edition
Line number 7

 Gloss note

a thrasher shark. A marginal note directs the reader again to information about this animal in Goulart’s 1621 commentary on the poetry of Du Bartas (the section labeled “The 5th Day”).
Amplified Edition
Line number 7

 Gloss note

A kind of fish. Philemon Holland’s 1603 translation of Plutarch’s The Philosophy describes it as an especially clever fish: “The sea fox will not many times come near unto a hook, he recoileth back and is afraid of some deceitful guile; but say that he chance to be surprised quickly, he maketh shift to wind himself off again: for such is his strength, agility and slippery moisture withal that he will turn himself upside down with his tail upward, in such sort, that when by overturning his stomach all within is come forth, it can not choose but the hook looseth the hold which it had and falleth forth” (p. 971). At this moment in Pulter’s manuscript, a marginal note cites Simon Goulart’s commentary on Du Bartas’s Semaines (1621), the fifth day. Goulart identifies the sea fox as a predatory fish with a long tail who loves its young: “if any danger happen them, he presently swalloweth them down and keepeth them alive in his body, then being escaped, he casteth them up as he received them” (sig. Ff3r-Ff3v). A second note in Pulter’s manuscript draws attention to Goulart, Pliny, and Plutarch on the stork—a bird that does not appear in this poem.
Amplified Edition
Line number 8

 Gloss note

skill; cleverness
Elemental Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

a pun since it means both “educated” and “something inwardly digested”
Amplified Edition
Line number 10

 Gloss note

The primary meaning is “invested with” (love and honor, in this case), but there might be resonances of a secondary meaning: to digest (as in food).
Transcription
Line number 11

 Physical note

in left margin, over several lines: “d: The Stork look / Plinie 2:d book / chap: 25:th Look / Plutarch in ___ / [illegible]”; last word or partial word with blots may be “Issess”
Elemental Edition
Line number 11

 Gloss note

A marginal note references Pliny’s information on a stork, a creature not mentioned in this poem (2nd book, chapter 25).
Elemental Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

snake, who in folklore was reputed to swallow and vomit up her young to keep them safe.
Amplified Edition
Line number 13

 Gloss note

A small venomous snake native to England and Europe. Vipers were fabled to be cannibalistic during both reproduction and birth. According to Pliny’s Natural History, the female viper bites off the male’s head during mating for her “pleasure and delectation.” She then lays eggs “within her belly,” and once the first young viper is delivered, “the rest (impatient of so long delay) eat through the sides of their dam, and kill her.” See Philemon Holland’s translation titled The History of the World (1601), book 10, chapter 62, sig. Dd1r.
Elemental Edition
Line number 14

 Gloss note

animals who love and protect their young
Elemental Edition
Line number 18

 Gloss note

God’s benevolence and blessings
Transcription
Line number 19

 Physical note

appears corrected from “they”
Transcription
Line number 19

 Physical note

double strike-through
Transcription
Line number 19

 Physical note

insertion in H2
Amplified Edition
Line number 19

 Physical note

This line is revised in the manuscript; this section originally read: “Sure those that do their.”
Amplified Edition
Line number 19

 Critical note

Perhaps an odd plural form of the positive benefits that help a child thrive, or material possessions. The latter highlights a subtle economic thread in the poem, together with the word “wallet,” which also meant a beggar’s bag.
Amplified Edition
Line number 19

 Critical note

This line has a problem with subject-verb agreement. The final word should be “neglect,” as in: those who neglect their own children’s goods. I retain the error so that “neglects” rhymes more cleanly with “insects.”
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