October 25, 2005

E is for Elizabeth

I promised that this series would include poems I loved and wanted to share. I lied a little. I don't love these poems (except maybe the first) but they fascinate me. Their author could be described as a minor poet of the Elizabethan Age - no small achievement, given the company. However, she was more commonly referred to as Gloriana, or as The Virgin Queen, or as Her Majesty, by the Grace of God Queen of England and Ireland, Defender of the Faith.

whE.gif is for Elizabeth Regina

Elizabeth was always academically brilliant, and thanks to her (final) stepmother, Katherine Parr, she was as well educated as any prince. Historians are still arguing over just how able a ruler she was, but she has been recognized as a great queen for over five hundred years. Her reign saw the great flowering of both English political power and English literature, and she trod a delicate political balance in which any misstep could have put England under the sway of a man, probably less able and almost vcertainly with divided loyalties. I have always been fascinated that she also found time to write poems that, while not among the finest of their time (and such a time!) are good enough that they are still anthologized five centuries later. The poems are interesting in their own right, as art and as a window into a unique life; they speak of betrayal and balance, the suspicion and resignation that are part of her role and the heartbreak and grief over aging or lost love common to all women.

Written in her French Psalter

No crooked leg, no bleared eye,
No part deformed out of kind,
Nor yet so ugly half can be
As is the inward suspicious mind.

The Doubt of Future Foes

The doubt of future foes exiles my present joy,
And wit me warns to shun such snares as threaten mine annoy;
For falsehood now doth flow, and subjects' faith doth ebb,
Which should not be if reason ruled or wisdom weaved the web.
But clouds of joys untried do cloak aspiring minds,
Which turn to rain of late repent by changed course of winds.
The top of hope supposed the root upreared shall be,
And fruitless all their grafted guile, as shortly ye shall see.
The dazzled eyes with pride, which great ambition blinds,
Shall be unsealed by worthy wights whose foresight falsehood finds.
The daughter of debate that discord aye doth sow
Shall reap no gain where former rule still peace hath taught to know.
No foreign banished wight shall anchor in this port;
Our realm brooks not seditious sects, let them elsewhere resort.
My rusty sword through rest shall first his edge employ
To poll their tops that seek such change or gape for future joy.

On Monsieur's Departure

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.

Posted by dichroic at October 25, 2005 01:14 PM
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