Herebert (before 1333) A poetic paraphrase by William Herebert (d. 1333) of Isaiah 63:1-7 ("Quis est iste qui venit de Edom?"), this poem is a liturgical reading for Wednesday of Holy Week written in the West Midlands dialect of Middle English. A Franciscan friar, Herebert composed some 20 lyrics from French and Latin sources and copied them into own miscellany book, which also contains sermons, recipes and medicinal cures.
"What is he . . ." is a poem of divine retribution. In Herebert's first quatrain, the speaker is a prophet, one of the "watchmen on the walls ofJerusalem" (Isa. 62:6), who sees the approach of the "lordling." The watcher challenges the stranger here and in two further lines; the balance of the poem is a voicing of the response.
That response is vividly heroic and sanguinary. The avenger's clothes are red—"mined" with blood: He has trampled men like grapes in a wine press. Calling himself the "champion to heal mankind in fight" (l. 6), his work is not only the spilling of blood but also the visitation of shame on the transgressors. His clothes are splattered with blood "to their great shame" (l. 13); he has "drowned them all in shame" (l. 23). Furthermore, the avenger has done this all alone with none to aid him. It was his strength alone that brought about this "remedy" ("bote," l. 18), and in its aftermath it is God's mercy ("mylsfolnesse," l. 20) he will rely on.
The poem relies on both translation and exegesis: The unnamed avenger of the Old Testament is refig-ured as the blood-bespattered Christ. This Christ-as-warrior motif is a cognate with the Old English The Dream of the Rood.
See also Middle English lyrics and ballads.
Pezzini, Domenico. "Versions of Latin Hymns in Medieval England: William Herebert and the English Hymnal." Mediaevistik 4 (1991): 297-315. Reimer, Stephen R. The Works of William Herebert, OFM. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1987.
"WHAT IS OUR LIFE?" Sir Walter Raleigh (ca. 1590) This little poem is a witty stringing together of a number of moral commonplaces, held together by the cliché of life as a "play of passion" or "jest" (ll. 1, 10). Sir Walter Raleigh uses theatrical metaphors that were probably drawn from his experience of the public theater at the time: "tyring houses" (l. 3), the backstage areas where the actors prepare for their entrance onto stage, for the womb; costumes for life's various roles; judgmental spectators for neighbors and courtiers; and, finally, the curtain as death. The final lines are typical of Raleigh in that they move from a witty exploration of a commonplace, even clichéd, metaphor to a solemn, plainly spoken moral that is impressive in the powerful directness of its short syllables and ironic final phrase: "Thus march we playing to our latest rest, / Onely we dye in earnest, that's no jest" (ll. 9-10).
Rudick, Michael. "The Text of Raleigh's Lyric, 'What is our Life?' " Studies in Philology 83, no. 1 (1986): 76-87.
"WHEN I WAS FAIR AND YOUNG" Elizabeth I (16th century) This poem cannot be directly linked to a specific biographical incident. It does reflect, in a general way, on the problems of a queen whose private woman's body might want a relationship with someone she loves, but whose public queen's body knows that, if she marries, she must agree to a political alliance with a man who might want to take royal power from her. In reading the poem, it is important to realize that the word mistress (l. 2) did not mean an adultress; rather, "mistress" was a polite way of addressing married and unmarried women. It was also a polite way in which a man could refer to the woman with whom he was in love whether or not their relationship was sexual.
The poem consists of three stanzas, each of which has a rhyme scheme of aabb. In addition, the last line of each stanza is the same, and the third line of each rhymes with the last word of the fourth, more. In the first stanza, Elizabeth I talks about how she behaved as a young woman when "favor graced" her (l. 1). As a result of both her beauty and her personality, or talents, "many" (l. 2) tried to make her their mistress. Her reaction was to "scorn them all" (l. 3), perhaps out of pride in her worldly status, perhaps out of pride in her beauty and accomplishments. She apparently said something like what appears in the last line of all three stanzas, "Go, go, go seek some otherwhere; importune me no more" (ll. 4, 8, 12), to those who claimed they loved her. She chases them away by telling them to look for a partner somewhere else—that is, not with her—and commands them not to "importune"—pray or beg—her anymore. This is probably not an unusual stance for a rich, titled, talented, attractive young woman—or man. A certain kind of self-esteem can often make such people proud and unwilling to believe that there is anyone good enough for them.
Elizabeth receives her comeuppance from someone more powerful: Cupid (or Eros), the son of venus (or Aphrodite), the goddess of love. The "victorious boy" (l. 5), who always wins at love, calls the queen a "scornful dame" who is too "coy" (l. 6). His plan is to "wound her heart," most likely with his golden arrow of love, so she will "learn" (l. 7) what she has been telling her suitors: "Go, go, go seek some otherwhere; importune me no more" (l. 8). In this case, however, it is Cupid who tells the queen not to bother him; she must look somewhere else for help.
Early modern literature often showed love victorious in all encounters. This one is no different. In stanza 3, Elizabeth reveals the change that came about as a result of Cupid's intervention: She "felt straightway a change within [her] breast," or heart, (l. 9). This change resulted in her days being "unquiet," or disturbed, and her nights allowing her no "rest" (l. 10). Tension and turmoil in days and nights, especially the inability to sleep or the occurrence of bad dreams, were characteristics of love problems. Cupid has his revenge on Elizabeth by infecting her with lovesickness. She suffers so terribly from the disease that she now "sore [very much] repents" (l. 11) having ever said, "Go, go, go seek some otherwhere; importune me no more" (l. 12). Thus, the poem seems to say that the scornful attitude toward love of the young Elizabeth was regretted as the queen grew older. It suggests that, on a personal level at least, the queen may have regretted living her private woman's life as a mirror of her public ruler's life as the "virgin Queen." This powerful woman ruler may not have been threatened by a husband-consort who might think that he, as a man, could rule better than she could. unfortunately, though, the private woman is left without the companionship of a loving life partner.
Elizabeth I. Elizabeth I. Collected Works. Edited by Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueller, and Mary Beth Rise. Chicago and London: university of Chicago Press, 2000. Hopkins, Lisa. Writing Renaissance Queens: Texts by and about Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. Newark: University of Delaware Press, and London: Associated University Presses, 2002. Marcus, Leah S. "Queen Elizabeth I as Public and Private Poet: Notes toward a New Edition." In Reading Monarch's Writing: The Poetry of Henry VIII, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I, and James VI/I, edited by Peter C. Herman, 135-153. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002.
Theodora A. Jankowski
Was this article helpful?
Tap into your inner power today. Discover The Untold Secrets Used By Experts To Tap Into The Power Of Your Inner Personality Help You Unleash Your Full Potential. Finally You Can Fully Equip Yourself With These “Must Have” Personality Finding Tools For Creating Your Ideal Lifestyle.