(1601) "Queen and Huntress" is a song included by Ben Jonson in his satiric stage comedy Cynthia's Revels. The play focused on the sin of self-love, incorporating as its major vehicle the myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. Jonson based the character of Criticus on himself, while Cynthia represented Queen Elizabeth I, who received Criticus after his valiant struggle to escape knaves and courtly scoundrels to reach her. Elizabeth often appeared in literature as Cynthia, also known as Diana, the virgin goddess of the moon. The god of the evening star, Hesperus, serenades Cynthia with the lyrics. With a rhyme scheme of ababcc the poem is structured as tetrameter; it serves as a modified heroic sestet.
Jonson addresses Cynthia / Queen Elizabeth as "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair," placing those words in the mouth of Hesperus. The second line incorporates traditional imagery for males in the reference to the sun, which
"is laid to sleep," while Cynthia is "seated in thy silver chair." The inference is that the queen holds power even over males. The god of the evening star references himself, singing, "Hesperus entreats thy light, / Goddess excellently bright." In a role reversal the male voice requests help from the female. The second stanza demands that Earth not allow its "envious shade" to "interpose," as "Cynthia's shining orb was made / Heaven to clear, when day did close." In other words the moon should clear, or pass across, heaven, without the Earth blocking its path. "Goddess excellently bright" concludes all three stanzas. The third stanza contains imagery of the huntress with details fitting a queen, "Lay thy bow of pearl apart, / And thy crystal-shining quiver," requesting that the queen "Give unto the flying hart / Space to breathe, how short soever." The hart, or deer, requires a respite, which the gracious queen will probably grant by turning day into night. Jonson employs antithesis as Hesperus says, "Thou that mak'st a day of night, / Goddess excellently bright."
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