Lady Mary Wroth added to her prose romance The Countess of Montgomery's Urania a sonnet sequence, "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus." The concluding sonnet signaled the end of the reader's process, but also of the writer's process. Wroth's speaker addresses her muse,
280 "MY PAIN, STILL SMOTHERED IN MY GRIEVÈD BREAST"
a common trope to place at the beginning of Renaissance poetry, as poets call for the muse's guidance in their writing. In this stanza Wroth instead dismisses her muse, bidding her "lay thy self to rest," after a job well accomplished that left her muse happy. She tells her, "Sleep in the quiet of a faithful love," a reference to the topic, in part, of Wroth's romance and sonnets. They do not focus on love alone, but on the crucial aspect of fidelity in love.
As a poet the speaker understands that her words no longer belong to her once on the page and digested by readers. Instead "these fantasies" should now "move / Some other hearts." The speaker emphasizes that her muse has faithfully presented the truth to her readers and now must focus on that topic herself. She should address truth, and its "eternal goodness" will lead the muse, and the poet by extension, to the "Enjoying of true joy the most and best, / The endless gain which never will remove." Love alone does not lead to joy; it must be bolstered by truth and fidelity to prove beneficial. Wroth emphasizes joy as the result of practicing truth through its repetition as an internal rhyme. Her muse cannot be responsible for teaching young lovers about passion; they must turn to "the discourse of Venus and her sun," where the term sun acts as a pun for son, referencing Venus's son, Cupid, the Roman god of love. Those figures sought only to cause humans to fall in love. They had no interest in making the lovers remain faithful to one another, as the poet does.
Wroth notes that Venus's "stories of great love" must ignite the fire that will cause young lovers to "Get heat to write the fortunes they have won." She emphasizes the power of literature, "the story," in inspiring passion in others. The speaker concludes by telling her muse, by extension Lady Wroth herself, "And thus leave off; what's past shows you can love; / Now let your constancy your honor prove." It was not enough to tell of love or to fall in love. Only protracted fidelity to the loved one over time could prove one's honor and allow the one who loved the pure joy a faithful love could yield.
"MY PAIN, STILL SMOTHERED IN MY GRIEVED BREAST" Lady Mary Wroth (1621) Lady Mary Wroth included in her prose romance The Countess of Montgomery's Urania a sonnet sequence titled "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus." Scholars refer to her sonnets by their first lines, with Sonnet 68 opening, "My pain, still smothered in my grieved breast." The topic of this sonnet is clear: The speaker has suffered a loss that she tries to conceal from others. Wroth uses frequent alliteration in this poem with frequent repetition of the s sound for emphasis. In her opening she emphasizes the degree of her speaker's suffering with the phrase still smothered, where smothered indicates an act involving great effort by the speaker. While her breast "Seeks for some ease," it finds no "passage" to be able to discharge "this unwelcome guest." Here Wroth adopts the figurative language of personification to increase the immediacy of her statement. All readers would understand the idea of a guest who, although not welcome to his host, expects hospitality.
The greater the effort the speaker expends to rid herself of grief, the "most fast his burdens bind, / Like to a ship on Goodwin's cast by wind," where she refers to Goodwin Sands, a group of shoals that marked the entrance to the Strait of Dover. She extends the metaphor of the ship, describing herself as struggling as a stuck ship might, only to be "more deep in sand" as a result of striving for release. Finally "she be lost" and "so am I, in this kind, / Sunk, and devoured, and swallowed by unrest." The grounded ship, assaulted by the oceans and eaten by some enormous beast, works well as a metaphor to aid the reader's understanding of the full measure of the speaker's suffering. She has no hope, enjoys "Nothing of pleasure," and has thoughts that wander helplessly. She decides to send those thoughts away, telling them, "cry / Hope's perished, Love tempest-beaten, Joy lost." In a thoroughly convincing statement, the speaker notes, "Killing Despair hath all these blessings crossed." Here the term Killing acts as an adjective, again emphasizing the devastation Despair can cause.
The speaker concludes by emphasizing that one may secretly hope for relief from any pain, whether the hope is logical or not: "Yet Faith still cries, Love will not falsify." The faith to which she refers is a foolish trust, proved so by the preceding lines. Foolish or no, it remains as stubbornly as does the grief, trying to
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convince the speaker that love cannot be false. Despite evidence to the contrary, the speaker may at first glance seem to believe her own propaganda, that any such pure passion can not be sullied by distrust or betrayal. It is, however, upon closer consideration an ironic statement.
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