Meditations on sin Anne Vaughan Lock

(1560) This sonnet sequence, consisting of "The Preface, Expressing the Passioned Minde of the Penitent Sinner" and "A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner, upon the 51st Psalme," was published in 1560, appended to Anne Vaughan Lock's English translation of the French Sermons of John Calvin, upon the songe that Ezechias made after he had been sicke, and afflicted by the hand of God. The 19 verses of the "51st Psalme" reflect on the need for sinners to confess their sins so that they can receive God's forgiveness. Lock's devotional Meditations elaborate and contemporize each verse of the "Psalme" to emphasize Calvinist theology, particularly the idea of repentance. The "Preface," which contains five sonnets, begins a lament about "The loathsome filth of my distained life" (l. 5). Twenty-one sonnets—rhyming abab, cdcd, efef, gg—follow this opening lament in the primary Meditation. The verses of the psalm are printed as marginalia, and the words of the verses are incorporated, repeatedly, into the corresponding sonnets as part of the paraphrasing to emphasize the penitential aspects that the devout must meditate upon.

Lock was a Protestant and a longtime friend and correspondent of John Knox and other Calvinists. Her writings and translations, under her various married surnames, including Dering and Prowse, reinforce her political and religious support of the Reformation. Lock's recent recognition as the translator "A. L." of the Calvin sermons and as author of the sonnet sequence, in spite of a textual note claiming that a friend gave the Meditations to her, has refocused scholarly attention on Lock and the sonnets. The sonnet sequence is now acknowledged to be the first in English. Its female authorship challenges the canon and the traditional lines of influence on sonneteers such as Sir Philip Sidney and William Shakespeare. Additionally, the religious nature of Lock's poems is leading scholars to reconsider women's devotional writing and its place within the literary and polemical traditions.

See also Tudor women poets.

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