Friday, March 21, 2008

Lady Mary

Lady Mary Wroth is credited with being the first woman to publish a sonnet sequence, and an impressive one it is. Unless you've majored in English or Literature, chances are you haven't heard of her. Yet, during the Renaissance, her sonnets, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, gave insight into a woman's heart and creativity. I sometimes wonder, if when I first read Wroth's sonnets without knowing she was a woman, is there a way to tell from simply reading them that the writer is female? Here are a couple of her sonnets, see if you can tell.

When night's blacke Mantle could most darknesse proue,
And sleepe (deaths Image) did my senses hyre,
From Knowledge of my selfe, then thoughts did moue
Swifter then those, most [switnesse] neede require. swiftnesse
In sleepe, a Chariot drawne by wing'd Desire,
I saw; where sate bright Venus Queene of Loue,
And at her feete her Sonne, still adding Fire
To burning hearts, which she did hold aboue,
But one heart flaming more then all the rest,
The Goddesse held, and put it to my breast,
Deare Sonne now [shut] , said she: thus must we winne; shutt (shoot)
He her obey'd, and martyr'd my poore heart.
I waking hop'd as dreames it would depart,
Yet since, O me, a Lover I haue beene.


Poore Loue in chaines, and fetters like a thiefe
I mett ledd forth, as chast Diana's gaine
Vowing the vntaught Lad should no reliefe
From her receiue, who gloried in fond paine.
She call'd him theife; with vowes he did mainetaine
He neuer stole, but some sadd slight of griefe
Had giuen to those who did his power disdaine,
In which reuenge, his honour was the chiefe.
Shee say'd he murther'd and therefor must dye,
He that he caus'd but Loue, did harmes deny,
But, while she thus discoursing with him stood;
The Nymphes vnti'de him, and his chaines tooke off,
Thinking him safe; but he (loose) made a scoffe,
Smiling and scorning them; flew to the wood.

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