Faderman, Lillian. Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present. New York: William Morrow, 1981.
"TO MY LORD COLRANE, IN ANSWER TO HIS COMPLEMENTAL VERSES SENT ME UNDER THE NAME OF CLEA-NOR" Anne Killigrew (1686) Anne Killigrew takes special care in her "To My Lord Colrane" to appear grateful for a poem written to her by Henry Hare, second baron Colrane. While the occasion for the poem remains unclear, Killigrew obviously felt a burden to respond. Her effuse praise in comparing the baron to the greatest poets, including Virgil, cannot be taken seriously. She engaged in the over-writing that would become popular with males as well as females in the 18th century; her contemporary John Dryden used in lavish overstatement in his odes written to various persons, including to Killigrew after her untimely death. What appears obsequious to modern sensibilities was simply a convention, especially crucial for women in Killigrew's era. By adopting a tone of utter humility, Killigrew might prevent the criticism commonly voiced against women writers.
Killigrew describes in the first line her own muse as "dull . . . in heavy slumbers" and "Indulging sloth . . . fancying little worthy her employ" (1-2). Nothing could be further from the truth for Killigrew herself, but her self-deprecating stance proved necessary to the occasion. "Cleanor's obliging strains," where Cleanor is the neoclassical name assigned to Hare, supposedly shake the poet from her stupor as she reads his lines "with fancy richly fraught, / Re-read, and then revolved them in her thought" (29-30). Her second stanza remains almost laughable in its fawning attempts to elevate the baron's verse. The speaker's muse asks rhetorically, "And can it be? She said, and can it be? / That 'mong the Great Ones I a poet see?" (11-12). Killigrew next praises the baron for not allowing politics, "formal pride" (14), or "Destructive vice, expensive vanity" (15) to distract him from his art, as they do other poets. She concludes that stanza,
But here with wonder and with joy I find,
I'th' noble born, a no less noble mind;
One, who on ancestors, does not rely
For fame, in merit, as in title, high!
Killigrew continues in this complimentary manner through her third stanza, in which she notes that Virgil wrote A Smothered Gnat, referencing a mock-heroic thought to be written by Virgil that Edmund Spenser had reproduced. She makes the point that verse is sometimes meant for instruction, to show by its perfection the weakness in others.
A genuine Augustan poet, Anne Killigrew could adapt herself to her situation. A great part of the Augustan tradition was the relation of the poet's personal experience to universal moral principles. Women supposedly lacked the capacity to do so, but Killigrew proved she possessed more than enough capacity, both intellectual and artistic, to join the chorus of male voices of her age. Projecting an image of vulnerable modesty in her salute to the baron Colrane helped protect her against attack by those voices.
"TO PENSHURST" Ben Jonson (1616) Critics agree that Ben Jonson sought to fashion the Sidney family estate of Penshurst into an emblem representing his own ideals. He writes one of the first poems of place in "To Penshurst" and attempts to show how an aristocratic property may manifest grace without pretension when managed by a family noble in habits, as well as bloodlines. He had long admired the Sidneys, especially Robert Sidney, who eventually inherited the family title, earl of Leicester, after the death of his older brother, the famous poet Philip. Although Robert had financial problems, he never failed to welcome the poet to the family home of Penshurst in Kent. Jonson also became friends with Sir Robert's children, particularly Mary, named for her poet aunt, Mary Sidney Herbert, countess of Pembroke. As Lady Mary Wroth Mary Sidney would later take up the family pen and become a prose and poetry writer. Jonson would dedicate poems to Mary and her sister, Philip (named for her uncle, whom the family adored), and brother, William, as well as to Wroth's husband, the earl of Pembroke.
Jonson believed that greatness was revealed through graceful and proper living, rather than inheritance, and he stresses that theme in this, one of his most famous poems. He writes in 102 lines of rhyming couplets in what critics term his finest effort to express his personal belief in social justice and individual responsibility. His tone is one of reverence, appropriate to his belief that the family embodies his ideals, a fact obvious in their family home. He begins, "Thou art not, Penshurst, built to envious show," as he personifies the estate, adding that this home does not boast touchstone or marble, "polished pillars, or a roof of gold." Rather
Thou joy'st in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water; therein thou art fair.
Thou hast thy walks for health, as well as sport;
Thy mount, to which the dryads do resort. (7-10)
Jonson celebrates the sylvan, or country life, referring to the dryads, or wood nymphs, then to Pan, Bacchus, and the Muses, to represent the fact that Penshurst fits naturally into its surroundings, unlike estates built simply for the sake of pomp. The speaker notes for the readers, as if taking them on a tour of the grounds, important historic events, allowing Jonson to emphasize Penshurst's connection to the past. One oak tree was planted to celebrate the birth of Sir Philip Sidney, later a Protestant martyr for Queen Elizabeth; in various poems of Jonson's era Sidney symbolized civilization. under another tree the onetime lady of the house, Lady Leicester, went into labor, this fact allowing Jonson to suggest the importance of Penshurst to the future. Another group of trees bears the name Gamage, after Lady Barbara Gamage. All areas remain well populated by animals, some of which are domesticated: "Thy sheep, thy bullocks, kine, and calves do feed; / The middle grounds thy mares and horses breed" (23-24). The estate also provides abundant wild game for its owners' table:
The purpled pheasant with the speckled side; The painted partridge lies in every field, And for thy mess is willing to be killed. And if the high-swollen Medway fail thy dish, Thou hast thy ponds, that pay thee tribute fish. (29-32)
Jonson personifies nature and characterizes her as willingly engaging in service to the Sidney family, as if they represent the natural order as aristocrats sharing their abundance. By writing that if the Medway, a nearby river, does not yield fish, their own ponds will, Jon-son salutes their husbandry and wise care of the land that has become their responsibility. He looks back to previous inhabitants of Penshurst, suggesting that they also acted in a responsible way to preserve the grounds. By referencing the past and the present, Jon-son alludes to a future generation to whom Penshurst will pass in good form due entirely to the Sidneys and their far-sighted attitudes.
Jonson spends many lines detailing the natural bounty of Penshurst, noting the types of wildlife in the pond, orchards, and fruits on vines that "Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach" (44). He alludes to the contrast between the Sidneys and other members of the wealthy landed class, who enjoy the land's benefit only through the sacrifice of those not so fortunate, adding, "And though thy walls be of the country stone / They're reared with no man's ruin, no man's groan" (45-46). Everyone is welcome at Penshurst, regardless of rank, and invited to share in the estate's prosperity. That kindness inspires the visitors to reciprocate. They visit the estate even though they have no special requests to make of the wealthy family:
But all come in, the farmer and the clown, And no one empty-handed, to salute Thy lord and lady, although they have no suit. Some bring a capon, some a rural cake, Some nuts, some apples; some that think they make
The better cheeses bring them. (47-53)
He makes the point that the Sidneys do not need such tribute from neighbors, where the term clown means
"yokel," but their enlightened natures cause them to accept all such gifts and to invite the visitors to share their "liberal board" in generous hospitality. Jonson counted himself among those fortunate visitors. As he details, Penshurst is a place "Where the same beer and bread, and selfsame wine, / That is his lordship's shall be also mine" (63-64). He again contrasts the Sidneys' hospitality with the forced hospitality at other "great men's tables" (66), where he is directed where to sit and what he can and cannot eat. By contrast, at Penshurst,
Here no man tells my cups; not, standing by, A waiter doth my gluttony envy, But gives me what I call, and lets me eat; He knows below he shall find plenty of meat. (68-70)
Even the servant, here referred to as a waiter, is not anxious about food, as he will also enjoy the bounty.
Jonson makes clear his belief that the Sidneys have been rewarded precisely because of their generous attitude. He includes the family as part of Penshurst's pride, led by a "noble, fruitful, chaste" (90) lady. Her children, who learn religion and mature each day into gentle spirits, learn even more from their parents' examples than the books they study, as they "Read in their virtuous parents' noble parts" (97). He concludes with four lines that again contrast Penshurst with the other aristocratic estates. While other noblemen may have built monuments to themselves, the master of Penshurst has constructed a true home to occupy:
Now, Penshurst, they that will proportion thee With other edifices, when they see Those proud, ambitious heaps, and nothing else, May say, their lords have built, but thy lord dwells.
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