most loved songs of the dozens written by the Cavalier poet Thomas Carew was "Ask Me No More Where Jove Bestows," a lyric poem set to music in various ways. It exists in several forms, with the five four-line verses bearing the rhyme scheme aabbccddeeffgghhiijj. Carew adopts nature imagery to make the point that although time passes, evidenced by changes in the natural state of earth and heaven, the beauty of a woman remains eternal. He uses repetition of the opening phrase, "Ask me no more," to emphasize the simple and effective theme of beauty as a mystery, a riddle that no one can solve.
He begins, "Ask me no more where Jove bestows, / When June is past, the fading rose," using the traditional symbol of romantic love and of woman as a sexual being, the rose. This rose fades as summer moves into fall, but the next lines make clear that they actually "as in their causes, sleep" in the beauty of the speaker's lover. The term causes alludes to Aristotelian philosophy that suggested objects may remain latent in whatever causes them. For example, one popular theory held that within a man's seed dwelled a tiny fully formed man, called a homunculus, the cause of humans. As his fellow poets did, Carew often called upon mythic and classical references to add solemnity to his subject matter.
The second verse again bids listeners not to ask the speaker "whither do stray / The golden atoms of the day," noting they become powder for his lover's hair, prepared "in pure love" by heaven. The third voice repeats the refrain "Ask me no more," this time adding, "whither doth haste / The nightingale when May is past." In this instance, although a creature seems to disappear at a certain season, in actuality it "winters" in his lover's throat. Carew softens the harsh sound and image of "throat" by including in the phrase the descriptors "sweet dividing throat," where dividing means "harmonious." After the repeated refrain opening the fifth verse, the speaker adds, "where those stars light, / That downwards fall in the dead of night." His readers need no longer worry about the stars' fate, as they sit in his lover's eyes, "and there / Fixed become, as in their sphere." He not only suggests that her eyes are lit with a celestial light, but that they represent the entire universe, or sphere. The speaker concludes his rendition of answers to the question he asks others not to propose by saying, "Ask me no more if east or west / The phoenix builds her spicy nest," extending the use of birds as traditional symbols of women. The phoenix proves a crucial reference, as in mythology it builds its nest with spicy shrubbery and then immolates itself every 500 years to arise a brand new creation. Carew's last couplet reads of the phoenix, "for unto you at last she flies, / And in your fragrant bosom dies." It is a pleasing imagery if not a logical one, sustaining the suggestion of his lover as a universe unto herself, harboring in her breast a dead bird who by definition never really dies, but continually recreates itself. Whether Carew intends to suggest his lover's ability constantly to renew her attraction, or simply to suggest that her beauty does not fade, he produces a light, sonorous poem that could be easily sung by performers and audience members alike. It reflects the emotion common to Cavalier lyric poems, which sought to entertain, more than instruct.
ASTELL, MARY (1666-1731) Mary Astell was born into a working-class family at Newcastle-on-Tyne, where her father worked as a merchant. Her early life remains a mystery, and while for a time historians believed she was educated by a clergyman uncle, that theory fell into disfavor upon the discovery that he died when Astell was quite young. She likely educated herself through reading, allowing her later to advocate the same for other women. Both of her parents died before she reached 18 years, and Astell moved to London, where she may first have occupied a small modest house and later lived with Lady Catherine Jones. Lady Catherine's activity in court circles allowed Astell's exposure to other educated females interested in changing the economic and vocational situation for women. Another close friend, Lady Elizabeth Hastings, furnished Astell a quarterly allowance, allowing her to live on Swan's Walk in Chelsea.
Astell was somewhat of an anomaly for her era, publishing tracts and literature supporting women's natural equality to men. While never a proponent of female independence from society's patriarchal structure, she believed that women should be allowed to reach their full potential within economic and legal subordination to their fathers and husbands. At age 18 she wrote the poem "Ambition," lambasting men for their desire for earthly immortality through writing, rather than for spiritual immortality. She also commented on her disregard for those who criticized her words because they did not meet cultural expectations that women remain passive. In addition to writing two pamphlets and six books, Astell engaged in a spirited correspondence with the Reverend John Norris of Bemerton, discussing the love all Christians owe to God. In 1689 she presented a collection of her religious poetry, known to later scholars as the Rawlinson Manuscript, to the archbishop of Canterbury.
Astell's first publication, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694), presently housed in the British Museum, suggested that women form an all-female community in which they might achieve education and share supportive friendships. In her concern for women and education, she echoed themes expressed in the previous generation by the writer and poet Margaret Cavendish, duchess of Newcastle. As Ruth Perry writes, Astell's "sense of self was very much bound up in relationships with other women; she both needed and relied upon the community of friends who supported her." Her focus on female friendships carried on the tradition of the 17th-century writer Katherine Philips, who also believed such relationships imperative to the mental and emotional health of women. One of Astell's most important relationships formed with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, to whom she dedicated her A Serious Proposal. She asks her readers, "For since god has given women as well as men intelligent souls, why
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