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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The poet as woman : shapes of experience, a study of poetic motivation and craft in twentieth century… Rosenthal, Helene 1974

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i THE POET AS WOMAN: SHAPES OF EXPERIENCE A STUDY OF POETIC MOTIVATION AND CRAFT IN TWENTIETH CENTURY WOMEN POETS INCORPORATING A SELECT ANTHOLOGY by HELENE ROSENTHAL B . A . , U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a , 1969 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n t h e D e p a r t m e n t o f E n g I i sh We a c c e p t t h i s t h e s i s as c o n f o r m i n g t o t h e r e q u i r e d s t a n d a r d THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA S e p t e m b e r , 1974 In p resen t ing t h i s t hes i s in p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f the requirements f o r an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the L i b r a r y sha l l make i t f r e e l y ava i l ab le f o r reference and study. I f u r t h e r agree t h a t permission for ex tens ive copying o f t h i s thes is f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the Head o f my Department or by h is r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s understood that copying or p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l gain sha l l not be al lowed w i thout my w r i t t e n permiss ion . Department of &NG-LI SH The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada Date tfcro&E-R 9 , 1974 i i A b s t r a c t The v i r t u a l absence o f women's v i e w p o i n t from t h e f i e l d o f p o e t r y and i t s c r i t i c i s m can be a t t r i b u t e d t o t h e s u b o r d i n a t e p o s i t i o n of women i n w e s t e r n c u l t u r e t h r o u g h o u t h i s t o r y . A e s t h e t i c s t a n d a r d s , though s e e m i n g l y c o mprehensive i n t h e i r a u t h o r i t y , n e v e r t h e l e s s r e f l e c t t h i s a bsence, b e i n g l a r g e l y t h e p r o d u c t o f a male p e r c e p t i o n o f r e a l i t y . Women p o e t s have been d i s c o u r a g e d and d i s c r i m i n a t e d a g a i n s t i n p u b l i c a t i o n , a s i t u a t i o n s t i l l not overcome d e s p i t e c u r r e n t p o p u l a r i t y , a r e s u l t o f t h e i r a c h i e v e -ments i n t h i s c e n t u r y . The p o e t r y o f women has been seen by most men as u n i m p o r t a n t o r s u b s i d i a r y t o t h e i r s . A c o n t r i b u t o r y f a c t o r i s t h a t women have t e n d e d t o f o c u s on i n t e n s e l y o b s e r v e d p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e , whereas male p o e t s have been a b l e t o i d e n t i f y w i t h t h e governance of men i n d e a l i n g w i t h b r o a d e r i s s u e s . Thus, i n a d d i t i o n t o be i n g h e l d back, women have had t o s t r u g g l e a g a i n s t a l a c k o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g and r e s p e c t f o r t h e i r work. In o r d e r t o b r i n g a b out a d e s i r e d s i t u a t i o n i n which women can p a r t i c i p a t e w i t h equal freedom and a u t h o r i t y a l o n g w i t h men i n m a t t e r s p e r t a i n i n g t o p o e t r y , what i s needed i s , f i r s t , a r e c o g n i t i o n t h a t t h e problem e x i s t s , and second,, an a p p r e c i a t i o n o f women's l i t e r a r y importance p a s t and p r e s e n t i n c o n t r i b u t i n g t o a e s t h e t i c human e x p e r i e n c e . T h i s t h e s i s i s an a t t e m p t t o f o s t e r such r e c o g n i t i o n by showing a) t h a t t h e r e has a l w a y s e x i s t e d , a l b e i t f r e q u e n t l y submerged, a d i s t i n c t l y f e m i n i n e t r a d i t i o n i n p o e t r y , and b) t h a t contemporary w r i t i n g b e a r s o u t t h a t t r a d i t i o n w h i l e c a r r y i n g i t f u r t h e r i n r e s p o n s e t o t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y e x p e r i e n c e . As d e s c r i b e d and documented h e r e , t h i s t r a d i t i o n has a s e p a r a t e e x i s t e n c e , a v i a b i l i t y and i t s own v a l i d i t y . P a r t of t h e problem i i i i n e x t e n d i n g t h e a e s t h e t i c t o i n c l u d e t h e woman's v i e w p o i n t i s t h a t dominant t r e n d s i n o u r c e n t u r y ' s p o e t r y r e f l e c t t h e u n p a r a l l e l e d t e c h n o l o g i c a l advances i n t h e c u l t u r e f a v o r i n g f o r m a l i s t i c c o n c e r n s and i n n o v a t i o n s a t t h e expense o f women's c h a r a c t e r i s t i c c o n c e r n f o r m e a n i n g f u l c o n t e n t . The H i s t o r i c a l I n t r o d u c t i o n b e g i n s w i t h women's songs i n B i b l i c a l t i m e s , t r a c i n g a t r a d i t i o n as i t r e a c h e s i t s f i r s t peak o f i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c e x p r e s s i o n i n Sappho, i s seen i n t h e me d i e v a l c o m p o s i t i o n of c o u r t l y l a y s , i s m a n i f e s t e d s p o r a d i c a l l y both p r i o r t o and towa r d s t h e end o f t h e R e n a i s s a n c e i n Europe, and b e g i n s g a t h e r i n g momentum i n t h e s e v e n t e e n t h c e n t u r y . The v e r i t a b l e e x p l o s i o n o f p o e t i c energy we a r e now w i t n e s s i n g i s t h e r e s u l t o f i n c r e a s e d a c t i v i t y w i t h i n t h e l a s t hundred o r so y e a r s , d u r i n g which women have produced an h i s t o r i c a l l y u n p recedented amount of p o e t r y of h i g h c a l i b r e i n E n g l i s h , s u f f i c i e n t t o p e r m i t c o m p a r a t i v e a n a l y s i s and e v a l u a t i o n . The C r i t i c a l Commentary, t h e major f o c u s f o r t h e t h e s i s , i s an e x a m i n a t i o n o f t h e q u a l i t y and range o f t h i s body o f work as e x e m p l i f i e d i n t h e appended A n t h o l o g y . C o n s i s t i n g o f 133 poems, i t p r e s e n t s s e l e c t e d t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y work by A m e r i c a n , C a n a d i a n , E n g l i s h and A u s t r a l i a n p o e t s . The poems d e a l w i t h b e i n g a woman, o r an a r t i s t , o r b o t h , g i v i n g v o i c e t o a u t h e n t i c f e m i n i n e e x p e r i e n c e . Because t h e p o e t s s e e m i n g l y emphasize c o n t e n t , i n i t s f i t t e s t e x p r e s s i o n , t h e d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e poems, l i k e t h e i r o r g a n i z a t i o n i n t h e A n t h o l o g y , i s p r e d i c a t e d on c o n t e n t - c a t e g o r i e s d e r i v e d from a s t u d y o f themes and s u b j e c t m a t t e r s . The c o n c l u s i o n emerging from t h i s t r a c i n g o f a woman's t r a d i t i o n i n p o e t r y and from t h e c l o s e e x a m i n a t i o n o f i t s p r e s e n t f l o w e r i n g i s t h a t i V the vo ice and pe rspec t i ve of ha l f of humanity is being res to red in i t s more e q u i t a b l e a n c ie n t p r o p o r t i o n t o our c u l t u r e , w i t h a t t e n d a n t i m p l i c a t i o n s in the realms of p u b l i s h i n g , e d i t i n g , c r i t i c i s m , standards and t e a c h i n g . F ind ings here in demand t h a t standards of c r i t i c i s m should in a l l j u s t i c e encompass the woman's v i e w p o i n t , i n c o r p o r a t i n g and g i v i n g weight t o t h i s t r a d i t i o n , enab l ing women t o be recognized as f u l l equals in a l l aspects of poe t i c endeavor. V CONTENTS Preface 1 H i s t o r i c a l I n t r o d u c t i o n 16 C r i t i c a l Commentary on the Poems in the Anthology 73 Foreword 74 Chapter One 83 Chapter Two 109 Chapter Three 134 Chapter Four 151 Chapter F ive 173 Chapter Six 197 Chapter Seven 235 Notes 263 L i s t o f Works Consulted 272 Appendix: Antho loqy: Shapes of Experience Selected Poems of Twent ie th Century Women Poets 282 Sect ion One Sect ion Two Sect ion Three Sect ion Four Sect ion Five Sect ion Six Sect ion Seven Index t o Poems in the Anthology 445 283 309 321 335 356 378 413 1 Preface The g r e a t number of women poets s u c c e s s f u l l y w r i t i n g and p u b l i s h i n g poe t ry today i s a phenomenon w i t h o u t precedence in h i s t o r y . As more women j o i n t h e i r ranks we can expect t h a t , before t oo long , a t leas t as many women as men w i l l be p u b l i s h i n g , b r i n g i n g about the p o s s i b i l i t y in poet ry of a h i t h e r t o una t ta ined e q u a l i t y between the sexes. The soc ia l and l i t e r a r y f a c -t o r s involved in t h i s development have f a r - r e a c h i n g i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r the a r t . From the l i t e r a r y p o i n t of v iew, the more t h a t women engage in w r i t i n g , the more they de f i ne poet ry in t h e i r own te rms; the more women's poet ry j o s t l e s w i t h men's and develops i t s own c r i t e r i a , t he more i t cha l lenges an a e s t h e t i c t h a t i s - h i s t o r i c a I l y the product o f men e x e r c i s i n g a near -e x c l u s i v e dominance in the f i e l d of poet ry and i t s c r i t i c i s m . Once one g ran ts t h a t t h i s a e s t h e t i c — i . e . , the body of c r i t i c a l p r i n c i p l e s and op in ions about t a s t e and the b e a u t i f u l in a r t as r e l a t e d t o p o e t r y — h a s developed so o n e - s i d e d l y , and t h a t c o n d i t i o n s now e x i s t f o r c o r r e c t i n g t h a t imbalance, a number of ques t ions a r i s e . What is meant by r e v i s i n g the aes the t i c? Can i t be done? How is women's poet ry p r e s e n t l y i n f l u e n c i n g the a e s t h e t i c ? I f t a k i n g the woman's v iewpo in t i n t o account means t h a t the a e s t h e t i c has been d e f i c i e n t , in what way is i t s t i l l so , and what changes are we t o look f o r ? F i n a l l y , what is promised by such an ac t ion? These are quest ions I hope t o answer as I go a l o n g . But t o i n d i c a t e d i r e c t i o n , I would say, t a k i n g the l a s t ques t ion f i r s t , t h a t what is promised i s a changed ou t l ook towards poet ry in wh ich , f o r the f i r s t t i m e , we acknowledge and begin r e s t o r i n g t o our Western c u l t u r e the vo ice and v iewpo in t in poet ry of a ha l f 2 of humanity which has never y e t had equal r e p r e s e n t a t i o n t h e r e . The f a c t t h a t i t could n o t , g iven the handicaps which women were forced t o labor under in h i s t o r y , means t h a t even the l i t t l e of t h e i r poet ry t h a t made i t s e l f man i fes t and surv ived must be brought i n t o a new l i g h t of r e c o g n i t i o n . Once s t a r t e d on such a course , i t is p o s s i b l e , as I have found, t o d i sce rn in women's poe t ry c e r t a i n c o n s i s t e n t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s which d i s t i n g u i s h i t from the poet ry of men. I f the a e s t h e t i c is t o b e n e f i t , these c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , which amount t o a t r a d i t i o n , need t o be apprec ia ted and g iven t h e i r due. The s o c i a l s ide of t h i s is i m p l i c i t in the no t ion of e q u a l i t y . What I mean by e q u a l i t y in poet ry between the sexes i s publ ished poet ry by women equal t o t h a t of men in q u a n t i t y , q u a l i t y , a u t h o r i t y and i n f l u e n c e . That e q u a l i t y , d e s p i t e i t s c u r r e n t p o p u l a r i t y , t he poet ry of women does not ye t e n j o y , nor is female past achievement g iven any th ing l i k e the r e c o g n i t i o n accorded male 'poets of the p a s t . The work of women in poe t ry has been t r e a t e d w i t h condescension a t b e s t , w i t h the r e s u l t t h a t p r e j u d i c e and neg lec t have kept us from knowing and a p p r e c i a t i n g the f u l l c o n t r i b u t i o n o f women t o our p o e t i c h e r i t a g e . Thus, i t is not s imply a quest ion of the a e s t h e t i c , but of j u s t i c e , making any l i t e r a r y d iscuss ion of women in poet ry a d iscuss ion a l so of the under l y ing soc ia l f a c t o r s which p reven t , a l low o r (as in c u r r e n t , and c e r t a i n anc ien t t imes) encourage women's p a r t i c i p a t i o n . E q u a l i t y w i l l not be brought about u n t i l a l l the obs tac les in i t s way are i d e n t i f i e d and overcome. Th is t h e s i s i s an a t t e m p t , t h e r e f o r e , t o d e f i n e the problem, record success t o date in c o n f r o n t i n g i t , and o f f e r suggest ions f o r i t s s o l u t i o n . The spr ingboard f o r my argument is the poet ry i t s e l f , and i t s a p p r e c i a t i o n . To t h i s end I have compiled the appended Antho logy. In p leading f o r a 3 rev ised and enlarged a e s t h e t i c , I a l so hope t o share my enthusiasm f o r , and p leasure i n , the exce l lence of a large body of poet ry w i t h those readers who are as ye t unacquainted w i t h i t s range and achievement. In s t r u c t u r e , the t h e s i s c o n s i s t s of th ree main p a r t s : an H i s t o r i c a l I n t r o d u c t i o n , a C r i t i c a l Commentary, and an Antho logy. The H i s t o r i c a l I n t r o d u c t i o n at tempts t o t r a c e a woman's t r a d i t i o n in poet ry as revealed by a study o f women poets in the Western wor ld up t o and i n c l u d i n g the emergence of Eng l ish as a language. Th is d i s c u s s i o n , which takes us up t o the t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y , n e c e s s a r i l y e n t a i l s some re ference t o govern ing s t y l e s and p e r i o d s . The C r i t i c a l Commentary bases i t s d iscuss ion on the poems in the Anthology which c o n s i s t s of the se lec ted work of t w e n t i e t h century poets w r i t i n g in E n g l i s h . The seven chapters of the C r i t i c a l Commentary are prefaced by a Foreword and are each addressed t o a c o r r e s -ponding s e c t i o n of the Antho logy . The chapters and the sec t ions share headings in common. Under each of the s e c t i o n headings I have grouped a l l those poems which have seemed t o me, in t he choos ing , t o f a l l most e a s i l y w i t h i n t h a t p a r t i c u l a r c a t e g o r y , w i t h some na tu ra l o v e r l a p p i n g . These c a t e g o r i e s , descr ibed by the themat ic headings o f both chapters and s e c t i o n s , I de r i ved from a study of t he poems themselves: t he re was no at tempt t o f i t them i n t o some p r e - e x i s t i n g scheme. Arrangement of the Anthology in t h i s way permi ts a comparat ive study of t rea tment and fo rm, w i t h the main emphasis on c o n t e n t . Th is i s not t o deny a c e r t a i n i n t e r e s t in seeing how several poets approach a common theme. The Anthology assumes t h a t women's poet ry needs t o be approached on the bas is of con ten t leading the fo rm, a premise discussed more f u l l y l a t e r . Al though the c a t e g o r i c a l headings emphasize the area of exper ience shared 4 by the poems, I wish i t understood t h a t I be l i eve i t i s not the exper ience i t s e l f but the shaping by the poet of t h a t exper ience as i t is perceived and i t s express ion d i s c i p l i n e d w i t h i n the fo rm, t h a t g i ves a poem i t s meaning. In the present c o n t e x t , a n a l y s i s by con ten t -ca tegory is s imply t he most convenient way t o do j u s t i c e t o the m a t e r i a l . The Anthology i s i n t r i n s i c t o the t h e s i s both as a source book and as the concre te evidence upon which the t h e s i s r e s t s . The p r i n c i p l e of s e l e c t i o n governing the Anthology i s i t s most impor tant aspec t , s ince i t g i ves the t h e s i s i t s f o c u s . The Anthology c o n s i s t s on ly of poems in which the speaker t a l k s about being e i t h e r a woman, or a r t i s t , o r b o t h . I have i s o l a t e d c e r t a i n works from the r e s t of a p o e t ' s ou tpu t and from the mainstream g e n e r a l l y (as any a n t h b l o g i z e r pe r fo rce must d o ) , on ly in o rder t o a s c e r t a i n how the au thor e x p l i c i t l y de f ines h e r s e l f as woman and poet o r uses h e r s e l f t o g e n e r a l i z e from the p a r t i c u l a r . Th is c o n c e n t r a t i o n l e t s us see her as she sees h e r s e l f , concerned w i t h the problems, a f f i r m a t i o n s and a s p i r a t i o n s inherent in l i v i n g both r o l e s and both r e a l i t i e s . What is heard is the vo ice of a u t h e n t i c femin ine exper ience , p r o v i d i n g i n s i g h t i n t o h a l f o f humani ty, and i l l u s t r a t i n g the improved s t a t u s and success of women poets in t h i s c e n t u r y . The most immediate e f f e c t of t h i s success has been t o encourage even more women t o w r i t e , a c c e l e r a t i n g the process whereby women have made a g r e a t advance in overcoming a legacy of oppress ion . Such an advance cannot help but have a humanist ic e f f e c t ; however, the body of women's poet ry o f f e r s much more along the same l i n e s : i t p r o j e c t s a v i s i o n of l i f e t h a t i s humane. I t s most c o n s i s t e n t f e a t u r e is a concern f o r l i f e in i t s most c a r i n g aspec ts . Th is concern, c h a r a c t e r i z i n g the c o l l e c t i v e v i s i o n of women's poet ry in 5 a l l i t s v a r i e t y , was never more needed in the a e s t h e t i c dimension of human exper ience, o r indeed, in everyday l i f e , than now. While women do not have the so le p r e r o g a t i v e of humanist ic u t te rance in p o e t r y , in t h e i r own work they are pass iona te l y committed t o such p r i n c i p l e s . Th is is a consequence not of b io logy or n a t u r e , but of women's p o s i t i o n in h i s t o r y . The value they p lace on love and f r i e n d s h i p in poet ry has i t s r o o t s in the hard s o i l of t h e i r long oppression and in t h e i r exc lus ion from p u b l j c a f f a i r s . H i s t o r y has g iven t h e i r poet ry both i t s l i m i t a t i o n s (of scope) and i t s s t r e n g t h s . The i r p a r t i c u l a r v i s i o n is needed t o c o u n t e r a c t , in :,! male contemporary poe t ry and i t s c r i t i c a l commentary, an o v e r l y f o r m a l i s t i c emphasis on language and techn ique : a concern w i t h s t y l i s t i c s a t t he expense of c o n t e n t . An a p p r e c i a t i o n of t he va lues present in t he woman's t r a d i t i o n can r e s t o r e a moral concern f o r the q u a l i t y o f l i f e t o an a e s t h e t i c t h a t has a l l bu t f o r g o t t e n i t in t a k i n g the con ten t of a poem f o r granted wh i le concen t ra t i ng on i t s formal q u a l i t i e s . The m i l i e u of poe t ry i s f a r f rom t o t a l l y accept ing t h a t women are a t home in i t , even today , though the c u r r e n t scene does admit of l i b e r a l suppor t . Th is eases the s i t u a t i o n f o r women c o n s i d e r a b l y , though i t conceals a g r e a t deal t h a t i s s t i l l p r e j u d i c i a l t o t h e i r i n t e r e s t s . In t he p a s t , r e c o g n i t i o n o f women poets d id not come as a n a t u r a l consequence of l i t e r a r y m e r i t a lone , but in most cases, as an o f t e n be la ted r e s u l t o f t h e i r courage and perseverance in c h a l l e n g i n g an environment h o s t i l e t o t h e i r a s p i r a t i o n s . Though such hardship is no longer imposed, o t h e r hardships o f a r e l a t e d nature a r e . I t i s s t i l l harder f o r women t o ge t poems publ ished than f o r men. P re jud ice aga ins t women takes many fo rms. 6 In t h e w o r l d of p o e t r y , p r e j u d i c e p e r s i s t s as a s u b t l e s o r t of o p p r e s s i o n hard t o p i n p o i n t because i t e x p r e s s e s i t s e l f i n u n d e r l y i n g a t t i t u d e s , u s u a l l y o f a d e r o g a t o r y and c o n d e s c e n d i n g n a t u r e . T h i s hidden b i a s works t o p o e t r y ' s d i s a d v a n t a g e i n two ways: i n d i s c r i m i n a t o r y p r a c t i c e s i n pub-l i c a t i o n which come t o t h e f o r e i n t h e g r o s s l y i n a d e q u a t e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of women p o e t s i n a n t h o l o g i e s , and i n v i e w s e x p r e s s e d i n c r i t i c a l r e v i e w s and e v a l u a t i o n s h a v i n g women as t h e i r s o l e o r p a r t i a l f o c u s . The f a c t t h a t p r e j u d i c e i s o f t e n u n c o n s c i o u s l y m a n i f e s t e d i n such c a s e s makes i t h a r d e r t o d e a l w i t h and overcome. B e s i d e s , women a r e s t i l l f a c e d w i t h t h e c o n -f l i c t a r i s i n g from b e i n g a woman w i t h t h e s o c i a l r o l e s of w i f e and mother, and b e i n g a poet w i t h a c r e a t i v e m i s s i o n , as t h e poems d e a l i n g w i t h t h i s p r oblem i n S e c t i o n S i x t e s t i f y . The c u l t u r a l e n v i r o n m e n t , w i t h i t s s o c i a l i n s t i t u t i o n s o f m a r r i a g e and t h e f a m i l y , c o n t i n u e s _ :o e l i c i t from women e s s e n t i a l l y t h e same k i n d s o f r e s p o n s e s as i t d i d i n t h e p a s t . However t i m e s and systems have changed, what has n o t changed f o r women i s s o c i e t y ' s e x p e c t a t i o n of them: women i n c i v i l i z a t i o n a r e s t i l l a c l a s s o f b e i n g s s u b o r d i n a t e d t o t h e i n t e r e s t s and a u t h o r i t y o f men. The b i g g e s t change i n women's s t a t u s i s i n t h e a r e a o f i n c r e a s e d freedom t o pursue i n d i v i d u a l i n t e r e s t s comparable t o t h o s e e n j o y e d by men. T h i s freedom has l i b e r a t e d an enormous amount of c r e a t i v e energy. J u d g i n g from t h e p a r t of i t which has gone i n t o t h e w r i t i n g o f p o e t r y , i t a p p ears t h a t women's p r o d u c t i v i t y i n t h i s s p h ere w i l l soon e q u a l , perhaps e x c e e d , men's, t h u s e n d i n g men's ag e l o n g dominance i n p o e t r y . We a r e a p p r o a c h i n g a t u r n i n g p o i n t i n l i t e r a r y h i s t o r y . I t i s absurd 7 t o t h i n k t h a t t h i s can happen w i t h o u t a f f e c t i n g c r i t i c a l o p i n i o n . But where, among the i n f l u e n t i a l c r i t i c s , does one see the s l i g h t e s t i n t e r e s t in what is happening? There is not even awareness. E s s e n t i a l l y , t he problem is a se t o f m ind , i ncu r ious and un imag ina t i ve , wh ich , when i t no t i ces women's poet ry a t a l l , t r e a t s i t as a species of men's. There e x i s t s no r e c o g n i t i o n t h a t the large and f a s t - g r o w i n g body of poet ry w r i t t e n by women needs t o be approached on the bas is o f standards conforming in general t o what women f i n d impor tan t . There is not even a r e c o g n i t i o n , in s c h o l a r l y te rms, t h a t such a problem e x i s t s , or t h a t t h i s body of work has i t s own inner dynamic, which we may c a l l the women's v i e w p o i n t , developed ou t of a response t o h i s t o r i c a l c o n d i t i o n s . A l l t h i s i s on ly j u s t being recognized in t he women's l i b e r a t i o n movement and i t s p ress . Wi thout a more general awareness of t h i s problem, e s p e c i a l l y among the c r i t i c a l f r a t e r n i t y , women's c o n t r i b u t i o n cont inues t o be regarded as an a u x i l i a r y t o men's , which i t no longer i s , and not enough i s learned t o f a c i l i t a t e t he enlarged a e s t h e t i c which must i n e v i t a b l y f l ow from an understanding of the issues i n v o l v e d . I:. In day- to-day a f f a i r s , the s i t u a t i o n is t h i s : poet ry w r i t t e n by women, when i t is deemed "good" enough t o be publ ished along w i t h poet ry w r i t t e n by men, i s g e n e r a l l y eva luated along the same l i n e s , and judged a c c o r d i n g l y . That is t o say, t h a t what is considered worthy of p r i n t i s what conforms t o standards evolved from a near ly e x c l u s i v e l y male corpus by male c r i t i c s and pub l i she rs over a span of c e n t u r i e s t h a t takes us i n t o our own w i t h ha rd ly a change. The same b ias i s ev iden t in s t u d i e s and reviews of women poets and is not necessa r i l y r e s t r i c t e d t o men, f o r women t e n d , l i k e m i n o r i t i e s , t o i n t e r n a l i z e the dominant c u l t u r a l view of themselves. 8 In coun te r ing p r a c t i c e s bound t o a male t r a d i t i o n , t h i s t h e s i s hopes t o c o n t r i b u t e t o a new c r i t i c a l approach. The work of women poets needs t o be apprehended in i t s own l i g h t , which is the l i g h t of i t s cons iderab le past and present achievement. So f a r , t h a t c o n t r i b u t i o n has been a s s i m i l a t e d w i t h i n t he male a e s t h e t i c which i t helped shape and mod i fy . I speak not on ly of w r i t t e n poet ry but of an o r a l t r a d i t i o n t h a t goes back t o t he t r iumphant hymns of B i b l i c a l a n t i q u i t y , has always been present in the popular songs of the people and been taugh t by mothers t o t h e i r c h i l d r e n , can be heard in the chan ts , r i t u a l songs and l u l l a b i e s of North American Ind ians , in Black women's gospel and blues songs, and in many o t h e r m a n i f e s t a t i o n s of the l y r i c impulse. U n t i l about a cen tu ry ago, the occasions f o r a more formal type of poet ry known t o have been w r i t t e n by women have been so ra re in / h i s t o r y as t o stand out as e x c e p t i o n a l . In the present c e n t u r y , f o r the f i r s t t ime in p o e t r y , women emerge as a s t rong and i n f l u e n t i a l group whose poetry r e s i s t s being a s s i m i l a t e d as f o r m e r l y t h a t of i n d i v i d u a l women was in the male corpus . Women's poet ry i s o v e r t l y p roc la im ing i t s independence from a dominant a e s t h e t i c which i s more i n t e r e s t e d in l i n g u i s t i c form and a n a l y s i s than in e x p l o r i n g a poem's capac i t y f o r g i v i n g shape. to human exper ience. We can now see t h a t the poet ry of women has a l l ; . a long been q u i e t l y engaged in c r e a t i n g i t s own humanis t ic a e s t h e t i c , a process wh ich , due t o t he overwhelming prepon-derance of male p o e t r y , e d i t o r s , p u b l i s h e r s , l i t e r a r y h i s t o r i a n s and c r i t i c s , has bare ly been n o t i c e d , i f a t a I I . Thus, in approaching the work of women by i t s own l i g h t , one soon perce ives i t s development in the t w e n t i e t h cen tu ry as p a r t of a v i t a l cont inuum. To go back t o the beginnings t h a t in form our present knowledge i s t o f o l l o w the d i s c o n t i n u o u s , 9 u s u a l l y t o r t u o u s , path pioneered by women poets th roughout the ages leading up t o and inc lud ing our own. While the l i m i t s o f the present study prec lude a thorough and d e f i n i t i v e i n v e s t i g a t i o n t h a t would do j u s t i c e t o the s u b j e c t , even such a journey through r e a d i l y a v a i l a b l e ma te r i a l as c o n s t i -t u t e s my H i s t o r i c a l I n t r o d u c t i o n y i e l d s c e r t a i n i n s i g h t s . For me, these have led t o the conc lus ion t h a t a r e v i s i o n of standards in regard t o what determines exce l lence in poet ry i s due, o r even overdue. The reasons are t h a t p r e v a i l i n g standards a) r e f l e c t the a t t i t u d e s and concerns of past eras in which men dominated the f i e l d s of poet ry and poetry c r i t i c i s m , and b) r e f l e c t the c u l t u r a l values of the present era in which technology and innova t i ve form are overvalued a t the expense of con ten t wherein women poets take t h e i r b e a r i n g . A new c r i t i c a I approach would recognize t h a t both these under l y ing c r i t e r i a a f f e c t i n g t a s t e and judgment' have had the e f f e c t of obscur ing the ac tua l nature and e x t e n t of the c o n t r i b u t i o n made by women poets t o poet ry and t o i t s ongoing a e s t h e t i c . The idea t h a t the femin ine s e n s i b i l i t y (as c u l t i v a t e d by h i s t o r i c processes) has s low ly been evo lv ing i t s own i n t r i n s i c a e s t h e t i c would , before now, have been premature. I t i s not l i k e l y t o have occurred t o men, from a male o u t l o o k , o r have been fo rmula ted by women who, u n t i l now have had n e i t h e r the conf idence nor the necessary d is tance from themselves t o do so. Oppressed people do not begin t o t h i n k of themselves as such u n t i l some l i b e r a t i n g c i rcumstance or a c t i o n f r e e s them t o see t h e i r c o n d i t i o n as i t r e a l l y i s . Then energy is re leased f o r change, as in the present women's movement. On the o the r hand, t h e r e i s t h a t in our t h i n k i n g which i m p a t i e n t l y denies t h a t the sex f a c t o r is r e l e v a n t t o any d iscuss ion of the a r t s . Women a r t i s t s who have won a place in the male 10 wor ld of the a r t s are o f t e n foremost in expressing such an a t t i t u d e , s ince they can say t h a t women's work need on ly be good enough, i . e . , be recognized by men as deserv ing space a longs ide t h e i r work, t o earn i t s rewards. Th is s imply is not t r u e f o r more than a token handful of women, and does not take i n t o account the pervas ive p r e j u d i c e aga ins t women in t he a r t s as elsewhere. Nor does i t cons ider the numbers o f women too discouraged o r d i s i n c l i n e d t o f i g h t f o r r e c o g n i t i o n , o r the vas t number too oppressed by the demands of c h i l d - r a i s i n g and w i f e l y se rv i ce t o f i n d t ime t o t h i n k o f , l e t a lone concent ra te o n , developing t h e i r t a l e n t s . Where women have refused t o i n t e r n a l i z e g u i l t f o r doing work o t h e r than housekeeping o r c h i l d rea r ing and have transcended l i m i t i n g c i rcumstances , j o y in w r i t i n g has o f t e n been the so le reward, no o t h e r being g r a n t e d . Where good w r i t i n g has been acknowledged and e v e n t u a l l y g iven a p lace in the pantheon, i t has been because the product of an i s o l a t e d female a s s e r t i o n posed no g r e a t t h r e a t t o men and could be s a f e l y a s s i m i l a t e d i n t o t h e i r canon. Whereas the m a j o r i t y of women poets today have no problem in w r i t i n g in a seIf^-conscious vo ice t h a t o v e r t l y proc la ims t h e i r sex and, in f a c t , seem t o p r e f e r doing so, in the past women o f t e n found i t more f r e e i n g t o avoid re ference t o t h e i r sex. They f i t t e d themselves t o a male t r a d i t i o n when the re seemed no o the r way t o w r i t e . The secu la r among these poets do not so much t ranscend sex in t h e i r work as they ignore i t ; ab le t o f o r -ge t t h e i r bodies and the demands made upon t h e i r sex, they p r o j e c t them-selves i n t o the wor ld as minds and c ra f t smen. Th is is the t r a d i t i o n a l p r a c t i c e of men who w r i t e " o b j e c t i v e l y " from t h e i r g r e a t e r advantage in being ab le f r e e l y t o do so. 11 Male advantage l i e s a lso in the language, which is formed in t h e i r image. The un ive rsa l person who stands f o r the mass is "man";, women and c h i l d r e n are subsumed in "mank ind. " The norm in the a r t s i s a l so male: "mastery" and "c ra f t sman" d e f i n i n g e x c e l l e n c e , w h i l e the pronouns r e f e r r i n g t o the neu t ra l t e rms , " a r t i s t " o r " p o e t , " are "he" and " h i s . " Man takes t h i s s t a t u s f o r g r a n t e d , but f o r woman, the o b l i t e r a t i o n o f h e r s e l f in an i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h "man" and "mankind" has a c e r t a i n poignance. Man asse r t s h i s maleness in such usage, woman loses her femaleness. S t i l l , t he l i n g u i s t i c exerc ise of a freedom from sexual r o l e l i m i t a t i o n s — a l w a y s eas ie r f o r men than f o r women—has had a spec ia l f a s c i n a t i o n f o r the l a t t e r , s i n c e , in ac tua l f a c t , r o l e detachment was . i v i r t u a l l y impossib le f o r women t o achieve before the advent of t h i s c e n t u r y . The d i f f i c u I t i e s of ga in ing an audience t h a t was not h o s t i l e t o them has led many a woman w r i t e r i n t o an i m p l i c i t den ia l of her i d e n t i t y . Other women have taken what seems a neu t ra l p o s i t i o n by s imply addressing themselves t o t o p i c s such as nature or s o c i e t y o r ph i losophy , t o p i c s which look out on the wor ld and do not r e q u i r e s e I f - i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . Here a few examples may be in o r d e r . Among those a b j u r i n g the femin ine vo ice I t h i n k f i r s t of a l l of such e a r l y t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y poets as Marianne Moore and Ed i th S i t w e l l , both e legant and p o l i s h e d , both p u t t i n g emphasis on the form and the i n t e l l e c t u a l p lay of w i t ; 1 t h i n k of E l i za b e th Bishop, whose poetry d i s p l a y s an endless c u r i o s i t y in observ ing and d e t a i l i n g aspects of the na tu ra l and man-made wor lds ; I t h i n k of any number of the younger Black American poets l i k e N ikk i Giovanni whose poet ry main ly expresses a r e v o l u t i o n a r y anger aga ins t the wh i te s o c i e t y ; I t h i n k of an h i s t o r i c a l l y impor tant poet l i k e H.D. concen t ra t i ng her powers o f c l a s s i c a l c o n t r o l on a passionate n o s t a l g i a f o r 12 the pagan w o r l d ; and I t h i n k of the Canadian poet Margaret Av ison : i n tense l y r e l i g i o u s , possessing a compassionate eye f o r the minu t iae of l i f e which she ce leb ra tes in the s p i r i t of C h r i s t i a n a f f i r m a t i o n . Since a c o n s i d e r a t i o n of t h e i r work f a l l s o u t s i d e the major emphasis o f t h i s t h e s i s , these poets are e i t h e r not represented here o r are represented by poems of i n t e r e s t in t h a t they are a t l eas t m a r g i n a l l y concerned w i t h female i d e n t i t y . While the p o e t ' s c r e a t i v e involvement w i t h the wor ld a l lows t h a t person t e m p o r a r i l y t o dispense w i t h the f a c t o f her (o r h i s ) sex as an i r r e l e v a n t , o r merely not i n t e r e s t i n g enough, p o i n t o f depar tu re in poems, the m a j o r i t y of women seem not t o have chosen the o p t i o n ; a t leas t not e x c l u s i v e l y . Perhaps they could n o t . At p resen t , i t seems they no longer wish t o : t he c o n d i t i o n of t h e i r being women has come t o b e . f e l t as too r i c h l y immediate a source of s u b j e c t m a t t e r , the ma insp r ing , in f a c t , o f i n s p i r a t i o n . ^As women come t o see t h e i r d e s t i n y in a new l i g h t , in which they opt f o r and dec la re o the r aims in l i f e than those the past has l a i d on them, t h e i r femin ine exper ience takes on new dimensions r e f l e c t e d more • a c c u r a t e l y and v i v i d l y in t h e i r w r i t i n g than in any pure ly soc ia l man i fes -t a t i o n . Those women poets who are p u b l i s h i n g now r e p r e s e n t , in my o p i n i o n , a cu lminat ion—^an a r t i c u l a t i o n perhaps-'-of what women have been s t r u g g l i n g t o achieve in t h e i r i d e n t i f i c a t i o n as a r t i s t s ; t h a t i s , as independent ly mot ivated beings r i s e n above the secondary, dependent female r o l e c i v i I i zed s o c i e t y has cas t them i n . Th is a s p i r a t i o n towards what should be a b i r t h r i g h t i s c a l l e d femin ism. I t i s , o f course , not new. Feminism is an i n e v i t a b l e response t o i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d i n e q u a l i t y between the sexes. I t is a p o s i t i v e term f o r women, desp i te the p e j o r a t i v e .uses men have put i t t o ; but feminism takes i t s d e f i n i t i o n from the idea of mascu l in ism, which i s not a term w i t h any cu r rency . F e m i n i s t , by t he same 13 t o k e n , i s a l s o a loaded word s e t t i n g the advocate of women's r i g h t s apar t as belonging t o a p e c u I i a r category of t roublesome, even r i d i c u l o u s , women. These conno ta t ions are h o s t i l e . Women's poe t ry is working t o r e s t o r e t he proper sense of these terms t o mean the advocacy of j u s t i c e and f u l l human d i g n i t y f o r women. Given the o p p o r t u n i t y f o r f u l l express ion which an advance guard has won f o r them, women—in poe t ry as in o the r s p h e r e s — a r e i n e v i t a b l y t a k i n g t h a t o p p o r t u n i t y t o i t s l o g i c a l c o n c l u s i o n . Poe t r y , f o r women and men a l i k e , has always been a means of s e I f - d i s c o v e r y , ol p u t t i n g the wor ld in o r d e r . Meanwhile, we have the problem before us o f how ideas o f wor th in poe t ry are t o be brought in l i n e w i t h contemporary r e a l i t y . Poetry has been t r a n s m i t t e d as a male t r a d i t i o n . Poets s ince the dawn of l i t e r a c y have l a r g e l y been men, c a r r y i n g forward t h e i r own t r a d i t i o n in a f i e l d f o r so long held e x c l u s i v e l y by them t h a t a l l i t s a t t i t u d e s , va lues and judgments took on ' (and s t i l l are viewed as possessing) the stamp o f u n i v e r s a l i t y . In ac tua l e f f e c t , the f i e l d o f a e s t h e t i c s in poe t ry de r i ves from the comments of male poets and c r i t i c s shar ing t h e i r i n t e r e s t . In saying t h i s I do not underest imate the c o n t r i b u t i o n s made by women who have occupied a p lace of c e n t r a l importance in the o ra l t r a d i t i o n which is the g r e a t roo t o f w r i t t e n p o e t r y , and by women whose w r i t t e n p o e t r y , though scan t , has o f t e n by i t s innovat iveness been p rophe t i c of f u t u r e developments. Here I would l i k e t o o f f e r an exp lana t ion of how I a r r i v e d a t my c o n c l u s i o n s . As a poet myself w i t h a paramount i n t e r e s t in p o e t r y , I was drawn t o i n v e s t i g a t e how o the r women d e f i n e themselves in t h e i r work as poets . Reading t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y women poets in E n g l i s h , I soon noted c e r t a i n recur rences : a pre ference f o r c e r t a i n themes and emphases, in which I began t o hear correspondences w i t h women poets of the pas t . As I 14 s t a r t e d re - read ing those I knew, d i s c o v e r i n g o the rs as I went a long of whom I had been unaware, o r knew of on ly s l i g h t l y because of the neg lec t and o b s c u r i t y in which they have l a i n , these correspondences were v e r i f i e d . Women throughout h i s t o r y , I f ound , had a common approach t o poet ry which they shared because of t h e i r l i f e - e x p e r i e n c e as women. Though d i f f e r i n g g r e a t l y from one another in c u l t u r a l background and as i n d i v i d u a l s , they g i ve evidence of a t r a d i t i o n t h a t has mainta ined i t s e l f th roughout c e n t u r i e s - l o n g breaks in i t s c o n t i n u i t y . The woman's t r a d i t i o n does not take i t s i n s p i r a t i o n from forms and s t y l e s p r a c t i s e d by e a r l i e r women p r i m a r i l y , bu t f rom the m a t e r i a l , l i t e r a r y and n o n - I i t e r a r y , of the contemporary l i f e t o which i t responds. L ike men's p o e t r y , women's is an express ion i n t e g r a l t o the human need f o r making b e a u t i f u l , ordered s t r u c t u r e s out of the raw m a t e r i a l of l i f e . What d i s t i n g u i s h e s the female from the male t r a d i t i o n is t h a t i t is q u a l i -f i e d by being the product of femin ine response t o a male-dominated w o r l d . The h i s t o r y of d i f f e r e n c e in the ways men and women have experienced t h e i r l i v e s — t h e one dominant, t he o t h e r s u b o r d i n a t e — h a s in the p o e t i c sphere presented women w i t h a spec ia l need t o t e l l i t t h e i r way, from the way i t f e e l s t o them. P a r t l y t h a t impetus i s g iven in the b i o l o g i c a l f u n c t i o n i n g t h a t prov ides women w i t h a profound fund of exper ience un ique ly t h e i r own; whether women become mothers o r n o t , they must o f necess i t y l i v e w i t h the p h y s i o l o g i c a l f a c t s of the female body, which e n t a i l s the p o t e n t i a l f o r motherhood. P o e t i c a l l y , they can i d e n t i f y w i t h the p o t e n t i a l f o r c r e a t i n g l i f e e a r t h l i k e out of t h e i r own bod ies . Perhaps f o r t h i s reason t h e r e sounds th roughout the poet ry of women an unmis takable , c o n t i n u i n g a s s e r t i o n of the value of love , e s p e c i a l l y in i t s more t e n d e r , ca r i ng aspects . Today women have the freedom t o t a l k f r a n k l y 15 of t h e i r bod ies , t h e i r menstrual c y c l e s , pregnancy and the g rea t mystery of g i v i n g b i r t h , the phys ica l and s p i r i t u a l impact of which on ly they can exper ience d i r e c t l y . They a l so t a l k w i t h a u t h o r i t y of nurs ing and r a i s i n g c h i l d r e n and of c r e a t i n g home environments t h a t n u r t u r e and support the people l i v i n g in them. Or, converse ly , they oppose the t r a d i t i o n a l spheres f o r women's a c t i v i t y as s e t t i n g s t h a t are no longer v i a b l e f o r human love , g rowth , and development. Women are a t present in a rena issance: t h e i r pe rcep t ions of themselves and of t h e i r p lace and f u n c t i o n s in s o c i e t y are undergo'ing r e - e v a I u a t i o n in a l l spheres i nc lud ing the a r t s . The r e s u l t in poet ry i s an u n i n h i b i t e d a r t i c u l a t i o n of t h e i r exper ience as women and as poets . The volume and v i t a l i t y of t h i s poet ry fo rces a long-overdue reappra isa l of an a e s t h e t i c wh ich , as the a r t i c u l a t e d product of men, has addressed i t s e l f main ly t o the work o f men. Such a reappra isa l must inc lude a r e c o n s i d e r a t i o n of the past w i t h spec ia l a t t e n t i o n paid t o r e - i n s t a t i n g the work of women in i t s t r u e human importance, r e s u l t i n g in a more j u s t r e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f human c a p a b i I i t y and achievement. The c u r r e n t energy o f women's poe t ry f u r n i s h e s both the occasion and t h e o p p o r t u n i t y f o r t h i s advance. The renaissance among women, f u r t h e r m o r e , i s b r i n g i n g about a r e c o n s i d e r a t i o n of women's p lace in h i s t o r y , which r e v e a l s , t o those of us concerned w i t h l i t e r a t u r e , t h a t now t h a t we know what we are looking f o r , women's poet ry has been present through the ages. I t is t o t h i s rev iewing of the women's t r a d i t i o n t h a t I now t u r n . 16 HISTORICA L INTRODUCTI ON :1:7 Though I b e g i n , p r e d i c t a b l y , w i t h Sappho, as t h e f i r s t l y r i c a l poet o f consequence i n t h e r e c o r d e d h i s t o r y o f t h e w e s t e r n w o r l d , i t i s more l i k e l y t h a t she r e p r e s e n t s t h e c u l m i n a t i o n i n e x c e l l e n c e o f a long l i n e o f composers b e f o r e h e r . The O l d Testament g i v e s us reason t o b e l i e v e a s t r o n g l y r i c t r a d i t i o n f l o u r i s h e d among women c e n t u r i e s b e f o r e i t c u l m i n a t e d in t h e c e l e b r a t e d Greek p o e t . The Songs o f Deborah, M i r i a m , and p o s s i b l y t h e p r a y e r o f Hannah, p o i n t t o such a t r a d i t i o n , which may a l s o be t h e b a s i s o f t h e women's songs i n t h e Song o f Solomon. A u t h o r s h i p , o f c o u r s e , c a n n o t be p r o v e n , but t h e Song o f Deborah, a s c r i b e d t o t h e t w e l f t h c e n t u r y , B.C., and g e n e r a l l y h e l d t o be t h e e a r l i e s t o f a l l t h e songs, " i s u n d o u b t e d l y , " a c c o r d i n g t o J . H. G a r d i n e r , " t h e song o f t r i u m p h which was composed and u t t e r e d by Deborah h e r s e l f t o c e l e b r a t e t h e g r e a t v i c t o r y o f her p e o p l e . " ^ Of t h e Song of M i r i a m , a n o t h e r w r i t e r c l a i m s : " i t i s t h e g e n e r a l o p i n i o n o f s c h o l a r s " t h a t t h e o r i g i n a l s h o r t e r v e r s i o n was " t h e 2 song which Moses o r M i r i a m o r both o f them t o g e t h e r composed . . . " Such o p i n i o n s s u p p o r t t h e idea t h a t women such as Deborah and M i r i a m who h e l d p o s i t i o n s of p r e s t i g e and a u t h o r i t y i n p r e - l i t e r a t e t r i b a l s o c i e t i e s a c t u a l l y composed t h e poems t h e y a r e c r e d i t e d w i t h s i n g i n g . U n f o r t u n a t e l y we know n o t h i n g of t h e s e a n c i e n t s i n g e r s a p a r t from what t h e p a t r i a r c h a l r e d a c t o r s of t h e o r i g i n a l documents saw f i t t o i n c l u d e , but i t seems l o g i c a l t h a t , f a r from b e i n g i s o l a t e d c a s e s , t h e songs o f women i n t h e B i b l e a t t e s t t o an o l d and v e n e r a b l e custom among them. In t h e m a t r i a r c h a l w o r l d of t h e Aegean, such a t r a d i t i o n must a l s o have been c a r r i e d f o r w a r d i n o r d e r t o a r r i v e a t i t s h i g h l e v e l o f s o p h i s t i c a t i o n i n Sappho. By t h e s i x t h c e n t u r y i n Le s b o s , m u s i c , p o e t r y and t h e dance have d e v e l o p e d t o a h i g h a r t . Where once a poet w i t h 18 Sappho's power of u t te rance might have been a p rophe t i c bard among her people, the s t a t u s Sappho of Lesbos enjoys i s t h a t of the i s l a n d ' s most c u l t u r e d ornament; she is en t rus ted w i t h prepar ing young women f o r t h e i r r o l e s as s i m i l a r l y c u l t u r e d matrons in a s o c i e t y which g ives f i r s t p lace t o the a r t s among women's accomplishments. Sappho was not the on ly female poet in M i t y l e n e , nor d id the t r a d i t i o n end w i t h her . Er inna of T e l o s , a poet much admired in a n t i q u i t y , is u s u a l l y c i t e d as Sappho's pup i l along w i t h the poet Damophyla of Pamphil ia."^ In the c e n t u r i e s t h a t f o l l o w , these are succeeded by o t h e r s of whom we know l i t t l e ' : they i nc lude : Corinna of Tanagra o r Thebes, an e l d e r contemporary of Pindar whose themes centered on legends of her n a t i v e B o e o t i a , and who l i k e Sappho was honored by the suggest ion t h a t she be added t o the n ine l y r i c a l 4 poe ts ; P r a x i l l a o f S icyon , who, accord ing t o Eusebius was wel l -known in m i d - f i f t h century B.C. f o r her hymns, d r i nk ing -songs and di thyramb Ach i I I es , and whose songs ce lebra ted Dionysus; Anyte o f Tegea a t the end of the f o u r t h century who wrote epigrams as w e l l . a s poems on animals and the c o u n t r y s i d e ; 6 and many o the rs known by r e p u t a t i o n on ly o r represented in the Greek an tho logy : e . g . , Cl i t a g o r a , "whose songs are mentioned in a fragment of the comic poet C r a t i n u s , " ^ and Noss is , who wrote e r o t i c verse as wel l as d e d i c a t i o n s . As the e a r l i e s t and most u n p a r a l l e l e d of . these poe ts , Sappho has a symbol ic importance f u r t h e r thrown i n t o r e l i e f by t he dear th of poets t h a t f o l l o w s a f t e r : in t h e remaining c e n t u r i e s of pagan a n t i q u i t y , a t o t a l absence of women poe ts ; f o r many c e n t u r i e s a f t e r w a r d s , t h e i r v i r t u a l disappearance from the scene. Her c o n t r i b u t i o n takes on an importance, seen in t h i s p e r s p e c t i v e , t h a t I want t o cons ider a t some leng th ; but f i r s t , a b r i e f synopsis of the ground t o be covered. 19 A f t e r the f o u r t h century B.C. , a s i l e n c e near ly as of death descends on the female poets of a n t i q u i t y and beyond. Woman's vo ice w i t h one except ion is not heard from again u n t i l approx imate ly the t e n t h century A . D . , a lapse of some fou r teen hundred years . I f t h e r e were any female poets who managed t o ga in audience in t h i s t i m e , records of them have been e i t h e r l o s t o r des t royed . The except ion is the poet S u I p i c i a , an a r i s t o c r a t i c Roman of the f i r s t century B.C. "Only s i x b r i e f and very personal poems have come down t o u s — a l l concerned w i t h the d i f f i c u l t i e s of her love f o r the young man C e r i n t h u s , " her t r a n s l a t o r L.R. Lind t e l l s us in h i s anthology of L a t i n p o e t r y , adding t h a t , "Except f o r a few fragments by o t h e r l a d i e s , these s i x poems make up the e x t a n t body of c l a s s i c a l L a t i n poet ry by 8 women." A thousand years has t o pass before we hear again from a woman who w r i t e s . Thus, in advancing a " h i s t o r y " of women poe ts , one becomes aware of a sad k ind of paradox: in h i s t o r y , women have no h i s t o r y . At l e a s t , not up u n t i l t he l a s t few yea rs , s ince when i t has begun t o be apparent t h a t a h i s t o r y can be r e c o n s t r u c t e d . In c o n t r a s t t o women's p o e t r y , men's has a r i c h l y abundant.and unbroken t r a d i t i o n t h a t goes back t o Homer; a t r a d i t i o n moreover, t h a t has been r i c h l y examined and d e s c r i b e d . R e l a t i v e t o men, t h e n , in the p r a c t i c e of poet ry women are s t i l l c lose t o t h e i r beg inn ings . The e a r l i e s t name of a female poet t o appear in Chr istendom, i s t h a t o f H r o t s v i t h a of Gandesheim, a w r i t e r of L a t i n verse hagiography in the m i d - t e n t h c e n t u r y . She is f o l l o w e d , in the t w e l f t h c e n t u r y , by another nun, the remarkable S t . H i ldegard o f Bingen. A C h r i s t i a n myst ic of e x t r a o r d i n a r y t a l e n t s , H i ldegard wrote l y r i c a l and dramat ic p o e t r y , medical and s c i e n t i f i c t r e a t i s e s , corresponded w i t h e c c l e s i a s t s , popes and emperors, and was 20 famous f o r her v i s i o n a r y w r i t i n g s . She wrote words and music f o r a l y r i c a l c y c l e o f songs which have been sa id t o c o n t a i n "some of t he most unusua l , 9 s u b t l e , and e x c i t i n g poet ry o f t he t w e l f t h c e n t u r y . " Her Ordo V i r t u t u m is our e a r l i e s t s u r v i v i n g m o r a l i t y p lay by more than a c e n t u r y . Discuss ing her achievement in h i s study of . Poe t i c I n d i v i d u a l i t y in the Middle Ages, Peter Dronke, an author t o whom I am much indebted, f i n d s her p lay " n o t on ly the f i r s t of i t s k i n d , but perhaps unique in the means i t u s e s — b o t h i n tense ly l y r i c a l and f i l l e d w i t h dramat ic u n p r e d i c t a b i l i t y , w i t h suspense."^ ' He notes w i t h s u r p r i s e t h a t t he re is noth ing in e a r l i e r l i t e r a t u r e t o account f o r i t s q u a l i t i e s . She is "one of the most b r i l l i a n t and o r i g i n a l minds o f 11 the e n t i r e Middle Ages, " he c l a i m s , c r i t i c a l o f the f a c t t h a t scho la rs have f a i l e d t o g i v e her her due. Dronke's r e s p o n s i b i l i t y t o h i s m a t e r i a l in b r i n g i n g a t t e n t i o n t o a g r e a t w r i t e r admirably remedies such n e g l e c t . A lso p e r t i n e n t t o t h i s t h e s i s is h i s statement t h a t she "was as convinced as any of the love-poets of the u n i t y of human and d i v i n e love, and recorded t h i s c o n v i c t i o n w i t h f reshness and sp lendour , in a way t h a t is u n p a r a l l e l e d in t h e o l o g i c a l w r i t i n g before or s i n c e . " In e x a l t i n g love , H i ldegard not on ly a n t i c i p a t e s the Renaissance poets who pro fess a r e l i g i o n of love , but man i fes ts a bond w i t h her secu la r s i s t e r s , in whose poet ry th roughout the ages love p l a y s . a leading r o l e . From t h i s t ime on , the names of secu la r female poets begin t o appear s p o r a d i c a l l y ; a qu ick summary g i ves us : Marie de France and the Comtesse de Die in t he same century as H i l d e g a r d , the " P e r f e c t Lady of F lo rence" in the t h i r t e e n t h c e n t u r y , C h r i s t i n e de Pisan in the l a te f o u r t e e n t h and e a r l y f i f t e e n t h . In t he m i d - f i f t e e n t h , t h e r e are t he anonymous authors o f The Flower and the Leaf , and The Assembly o f Lad ies , be l ieved t o be women. 21 Mary H e r b e r t , C o u n t e s s o f Pembroke, a p p e a r s a t t h e end o f t h e s i x t e e n t h i n c o n j u n c t i o n w i t h a R e n a i s s a n c e s t i r r i n g o f women w r i t e r s i n c o n t i n e n t a l Europe. The s e v e n t e e n t h b r i n g s a q u i c k e n i n g i n t h e emergence o f s e v e r a l p o e t s w r i t i n g i n E n g l i s h d u r i n g a p p r o x i m a t e l y t h e same p e r i o d , though t h e e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y does not see t h i s p r o m i s e c a r r i e d much f u r t h e r . I w i l l speak more f u l l y o f t h e s e l a t e r . I t i s not u n t i l w e l l i n t o t h e n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y t h a t i l l u s t r i o u s names b e g i n t o c l u s t e r . A l a r g e number of women have become engaged i n t h e c r a f t by t h i s t i m e ( o f whom o n l y a few a r e remembered), but t h e y a r e s t i l l a p i t i f u l l y s m a l l a g g r e g a t e compared w i t h t h e numbers of men p u b l i s h i n g p o e t r y . I s h a l l expand on a l l o f t h i s i n due c o u r s e , a f t e r resuming my d i s c u s s i o n o f Sappho. The m a t t e r of Sappho i s t o o f a m i l i a r t o r e q u i r e more t h a n t h e s e l e c t i v e p e r s p e c t i v e a f f o r d e d by t h i s commentary. C o n s i d e r i n g how long she lay unknown, c u t t o r i b b o n s , as i t were, and t h a t her c o r p u s c o n s i s t s of not much more t h a n f r a g m e n t s r e s c u e d from a n t i q u i t y , h e r f e m i n i n e form can be s a i d t o have e x e r c i s e d a n e a r - m a g i c a l i n f l u e n c e o v e r t h e ages: she i s a t t h e same t i m e a r c h e t y p a l and a l i v e , as modern as any con t e m p o r a r y . In r e c a l l i n g t h e s a l i e n t f e a t u r e s of her impact upon t h e w o r l d , what c a p t u r e s t h e i m a g i n a t i o n most, as B a r n s t o n e so s t r i k i n g l y o b s e r v e s , i s t h a t " I n Sappho we hear f o r t h e f i r s t t i m e i n t h e Western w o r l d t h e d i r e c t words of an i n d i v i d u a l woman"; a poet u n l i k e Homer, moreover, who "emerges 1 2 t h r o u g h her p o e t r y as a c o m p l e t e l y r e a l i z e d p e r s o n a l i t y . " She was, i n a d d i t i o n , a b r i l l i a n t i n n o v a t o r a c c o r d i n g t o her e d i t o r s and t r a n s l a t o r s . The h i s t o r i a n Werner J a e g e r b e l i e v e s : "The Greek s p i r i t needed Sappho t o e x p l o r e t h e l a s t r e c e s s e s o f t h e new w o r l d of p e r s o n a l e m o t i o n . " He goes on t o e x p l a i n : 22 From her poems i t i s c l e a r t h a t Eros was a passion which shook i t s v i c t i m ' s whole being, and held the senses no le s s than the s o u l . . . . i t s amazing power t o g r i p and transform the whole p e r s o n a l i t y , and the vast sweep of the emotion which i t set f r e e . . . . No masculine love poetry^among the Greeks even approached the s p i r i t u a l depth of Sappho's l y r i c s . In most Greek poetry w r i t t e n by men woman i s the mother, m i s t r e s s and wife. Sappho presents a d i f f e r e n t image, unique in t h i s as in other respects. To quote Jaeger again, "In Sappho's poetry woman i s seldom incarnated as mother or l o v e r — o n l y when a f r i e n d enters or leaves her band of maidens." Further: The Greek poet was a teacher, and the two f u n c t i o n s were never more c l o s e l y i d e n t i f i e d than in.Sappho's t h i a s o s of g i r l s consecrated t o music . . . To the mascuIine heroism of t r a d i t i o n , Sappho's songs, q u i v e r i n g with the rapture of complete and harmonious f r i e n d s h i p , added the ardour and n o b i l i t y of the feminine s o u l . They d e p i c t an ideal t h i r d world between childhood and m a r r i a g ^ — a n age in which women were educated t o the highest n o b i l i t y of s p i r i t . A l a s , women may s i g h , f o r the r e l a t i v e l y golden age of t h e i r sex. But we have not t o overlook, in Jaeger's romantic turn of speech, t h a t m a r r i a g e — then as so often even now—was the threshold t h a t terminated the adolescent h o l i d a y , p u t t i n g an end t o the reaching and soaring of the feminine s p i r i t which had now t o confine i t s e l f w i t h i n domestic matters. Though married and the mother of a daughter, Sappho was able t o overcome the common l o t , doubtless because of the gr e a t reverence her poetry and re p u t a t i o n as a teacher i n s p i r e d . Jacquetta Hawkes points out, in Dawn of the Gods, t h a t Sappho's c i v i I i z a t i o n was s t i I I c l o s e t o the much e a r l i e r one of Minoan Cre t e , where, along with men, women worshipped t h e i r own Goddess (together with the young god), and shared in her power both p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y and s o c i a l l y . T his c e r t a i n l y a p p l i e s t o Sappho, whom Hawkes describes as a "leader of a r e l i g i o u s group devoted t o the worship of Aphrodite and 1 5 the Muses." What we have of the poetry, in which Aphrodite i s mentioned 23 o f t e n e r than any o the r d e i t y o r person, does, indeed, emphasize the p a r t r e l i g i o n played in everyday l i f e . H e l l e n i c Greece came t o revere Sappho h e r s e l f as s e m i - d i v i n e . That judgment of her i m m o r t a l i t y has been v i n d i c a t e d in the h i s t o r i c a l p rocess, Sappho's s t a t u r e having mainta ined i t s e l f aga ins t the h o s t i l i t y o f the Church, g r ievous d e s t r u c t i o n o f her p o e t r y , and ignorance of her ex is tence dur ing the c e n t u r i e s her memory was expunged from the records by narrow r e l i g i o u s fo rces in h i s t o r y . The medieval per iod might have seen her e c l i p s e , had not some of the remains of her work come t o l i g h t w i t h the r e v i v a l of learn ing in the Renaissance. With t h i s , and o t h e r a rchaeo log ica l f i n d s , Sappho's eminence was g r a d u a l l y r e s t o r e d . Her r e s u r r e c t i o n corresponds t o a per iod in which European women s low ly began t o r a i s e t h e i r heads and regain something o f t h e i r anc ien t p r e r o g a t i v e . For , in beginning t o reassume the r o l e of the poet and t e a c h e r — a n anc ien t p ro fess ion (perhaps poet ry i s the o l d e s t ? ) — women very s low ly began t o recover p r e s t i g e in a f i e l d t h a t men had usurped e n t i r e l y as t h e i r own. The s p i r i t of Sappho i s on ly j u s t now reaching i t s z e n i t h in t he present renaissance of women poe ts . Sappho ce leb ra ted the love of f r i e n d s p r i m a r i l y , though much of t h i s is framed in a passion t h a t a f t e r c l a s s i c a l t imes came t o be thought of as s i n f u l . When the poet ry of love reappears in the much l a t e r per iod of an advanced C h r i s t i a n c u l t u r e in the popular n a r r a t i v e form of- the romance, o r l ay , i t i s on the bas is o f a p ro found ly a l t e r e d concept ion of love. But the i n t e r e s t i n g t h i n g i s t h a t , along w i t h the new l i t e r a r y forms g i v i n g shape t o t h i s a l t e r e d concep t ion , e x i s t s a probably much o l d e r form of l o v e - p o e t r y , much of i t composed and sung by women. These songs s t r e s s the f r i e n d l y nature of love between men and women, an emphasis found f a r more 24 o f t e n in women's poet ry than in men's, and r e c a l l i n g Sappho, in t h a t f r i e n d s h i p a l so f u r n i s h e s the mot ive f o r love in her poems, a l b e i t love between women. In h i s study o f the r i s e of the European l o v e - l y r i c , Peter Dronke c a l l s a t t e n t i o n t o the researches of the German p h i l o l o g i s t Theodor F r i n g s , on t h i s popular t r a d i t i o n of women's songs. F r i n g s , he says, has concerned h imsel f c h i e f l y w i t h what a Caro l ingen c a p i t u l a r y o f 789 c a l l e d w in i l eodas - - ! i t e r a l l y , i t seems, ! f r i end -k lays , ' songs f o r a lover (an ordinance f o r b i d d i n g nuns t o compose such d i s g r a c e f u l songs)—and : what were c a l l e d can t igas de amigo in medieval Spain and P o r t u g a l : love-songs in which the woman speaks, o r in which she is the dominant f i g u r e , and tends t o be the a c t i v e lover r a t h e r than the passive loved one. Professor F r ings has po in ted out instances of such poems of women's love in t he most d i ve rse cu j j t u res : in anc ien t Egypt , in China, in Greece, Scand inav ia , S e r b i a , Russ ia . A f t e r c i t i n g one o f Sappho's poems as Ma p e r f e c t instance of t he pures t w i n i l e o d , " Dronke comments on F r i n g s ' i n s i g h t s in showing how the moods and ' cha ins o f . exper ience ' ( E r l e b n i s k e t t e n ) o f t he woman in love reverbera te in aubade, p a s t o u r e l l e , and chanson de t o i l e , and in numerous dance-soi^gs o f medieval Europe, i n c l u d i n g some by t roubadours and Minnesinger . Dronke h imsel f notes ( i n the study r e f e r r e d t o e a r l i e r ) t h a t the e a r l i e s t s u r v i v i n g love-poe t ry in a Romance-vernacu la r—ca l led khar. jas, and composed in the Spanish d i a l e c t of Moslem S p a i n — a r e p l a i n t s of g i r l s lamenting a man's absence or h i s abandoning of them. In t h i s respect khar.jas are s i m i l a r t o t he e i g h t h century Anglo-Saxon love- laments Eadwacer and W i f e ' s Lament in The Exeter Book. The Spanish songs date from the n i n t h cen tu ry onwards, and occur as the f i n a l verses o f Arab ic and Hebrew poems w r i t t e n in c l a s s i c a l language. They are u s u a l l y s h o r t can t igas de amigo of the f o l l o w i n g t y p e ; t he t r a n s l a t i o n i s Dronke 's : Ah t e l l me, l i t t l e s i s t e r s , how t o ho Id my pa i n! I ' l l not l i v e w i t h o u t my b e l o v e g — I sha l I f l y t o f i n d him aga in . 25 Very e x c i t i n g i s a mid-e leventh century manuscr ipt known as The  Munchen Clm 17142, "a c h a o t i c , s t range c o l l e c t i o n of Middle Ages f ragments" which Dronke has t r a n s l a t e d and which con ta ins " f i f t y l o v e - l e t t e r s and 19 l o v e r ' s messages in verse . . . some composed by men but more by women." The s e t t i n g ind ica ted by these poems is "a convent in which both the s i s t e r s and the young g i r l s en pension can assoc ia te w i t h the o u t s i d e w o r l d , " but whose c l o s e s t l i n k s are w i t h a scho la r o r magis ter who teaches them the l i b e r a l a r t s and w i t h whom they correspond in verse w i t h o u t i n t e r f e r e n c e o r censorsh ip . Dronke p ra i ses these verses f o r t h e i r v a r i e t y of tone and t h e i r conversa t iona l immediacy; of t h e i r w r i t e r s he says: " T h e i r l i t t l e verse communiques are a l i v e because they formed so i n t ima te a p a r t of t h e i r d a i l y l i v e s . " Other manuscr ip ts con ta in ing women's songs are the Cambridge in the e leventh century and the Carmina Burana in the e a r l y t h i r t e e n t h . Such poet ry of the people cont inued in France and Germany up t i l l t he e a r l y f o u r t e e n t h c e n t u r y . Dronke c la ims t h a t a t leas t two of the Regensburg.verses ( f rom The Munchen Clm mss.) "show us beyond a doubt t h a t a number o f c u l t i v a t e d , w i t t y and tender young women in an e leven th cen tu ry convent in South Germany imposed on the c l e r c s who f requented t h e i r s o c i e t y the va lues o f amour c o u r t o i s . " Meeting on more equal terms w i t h men than had presumably been poss ib le in the e a r l i e r c e n t u r i e s of i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d Christendom, they were able t o recapture something of t he a u t h o r i t y exerc ised by Sappho, though of course in a d i f f e r e n t framework, and w i t h a p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y more complex concept ion of love wrought by feuda l ism and the in f l uence of C h r i s t i a n teach ings on human passions and behav io r . To the c l a s s i c a l passion descr ibed so r e a l i s t i c a l l y by Sappho is now added the new q u a l i t y of romance. I t is a q u a l i t y compounded of the legends 26 of such i l l - f a t e d lovers as T r i s t a n and I s e u l t , and of the i n s p i r a t i o n of O v i d ' s A r t o f Love. I t e x i s t s in a tens ion created by marr iages arranged in the i n t e r e s t s of p roper ty which leave no room f o r tenderness and human concern in the r e l a t i o n s h i p . The romance of c h i v a l r y a l s o e x i s t s in a tens ion created by the o p p o s i t i o n o f : the' ;Churchvto ;any. sexual passion even w i t h i n mar r iage , and by the c rue l p e n a l t i e s imposed f o r a d u l t e r y , the consequences always being more harsh f o r women than f o r men, as in e a r l y Roman t i m e s . I n s p i r a t i o n f o r the l i t e r a t u r e of c o u r t l y love develops ou t of the t y p i c a l s i t u a t i o n o f a t t r a c t i o n between two young people where one is committed t o a love less marr iage of convenience. In t h i s sense, as an opponent of fo rced a f f e c t i o n and submissive obedience, c o u r t l y love in i t s e a r l y stages (as the s u b j e c t - m a t t e r of the l a y s , p a r t i c u l a r l y those of Marie de France) is the would-be int imacy of q u i c k l y made f r i e n d s who yearn t o consummate t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p as l ove rs . Th is p o s s i b i l i t y being t h w a r t e d , t h e r e is o f t e n a t r a g i c element in the lays . But s ince the e r o t i c impulse f l a r e s under the pressure of a dangerously charged s i t u a t i o n , the passion generated comes t o be seen w i t h ' t i m e as an o v e r - r i d i n g f o r c e of g o d - l i k e power. Hence the r e l i g i o n of Love, which blends pagan and C h r i s t i a n values and i s an inseparable component of c o u r t l y love. In i t s f i r s t exp ress ion , t h e n , before i t becomes a se t o f c o d i f i e d conven t ions , the m o t i v a t i o n f o r c o u r t l y love is e s s e n t i a l l y r a d i c a l : the re lease of a na tu ra l i n c l i n a t i o n t o make room f o r sexual love between young men and women in a s t r a t i f i e d s o c i e t y which does not a l low f o r i t . The need f o r a more f l e x i b l e approach t o the sexes gathers momentum in the t r a i n of many changes t a k i n g place in m i d - t w e l f t h c e n t u r y , and, as in anc ien t t i m e s , 27 a poet'--again a woman—>-leads t h e way i n g i v i n g d i r e c t and moving e x p r e s s i o n t o t h e p e r s o n a l d e s i r e f o r l o v e . I n f l u e n c e d by t h e p o p u l a r t r a d i t i o n of romances and l e g e n d s , t h e mode now i s n a r r a t i v e and, t o t h a t e x t e n t , more d i s t a n c e d and o b j e c t i v e t h a n t h e songs of Sappho o r t h e l a t e r o f t e n n a i v e " f r i e n d - 1 a y s . " " M a r i e de F r a n c e , " P r o f e s s o r C h a r l e s W. Dunn t e l l u s , " i s t h e f i r s t 21 w r i t e r known t o have composed l a y s of c o u r t l y l o v e . " She i s t h u s t h e f i r s t o f a group of p o e t s whose work—rembodying t h e new c o n v e n t i o n s — l a i d t h e f o u n d a t i o n f o r t h e t r e a t i s e of Andreas C a p p e l a n u s on The A r t of C o u r t l y Love, a s y s t e m a t i z a t i o n of c u r r e n t a t t i t u d e s and mores- among t h e n o b i l i t y which e n j o y e d g r e a t p o p u l a r i t y and a u t h o r i t y o v e r o t h e r such t r e a t i s e s of t h e t i m e . M a r i e de F r a n c e i s v a r i o u s l y b e l i e v e d t o have belonged t o an a r i s t o c r a t i c F r e n c h f a m i l y t h a t had s e t t l e d i n England as a r e s u l t o f t h e 22 Conquest, and t o have been King Henry I I's s i s t e r . The d a t e s o f c o m p o s i t i o n of her l a y s a r e g i v e n as c. 1175-1190. Though she c l a i m s B r e t o n o r i g i n s f o r her p l o t s , t h e s h a p i n g of t h e m a t e r i a l o f t h e form i s h e r own. P r o f e s s o r Dunn sees her as supreme i n her f i e l d : no m a t t e r where she d i s c o v e r e d her m a t e r i a l s o r g e n r e , she i s u n r i v a l l e d f o r t h e s k i l l w i t h which she d e v e l o p s a s i m p l e o r even t r i f l i n g p l o t i n t o a s u b t l e s t u d y o f t h e f r u s t r a t i o n s , p e r p l e x i t i e s and r a p t u r e s of c o u r t l y l o v e . O t h e r s who f o l l o w e d her example may have e l a b o r a t e d u p o ^ h e r t e c h n i q u e , b u t she remains t h e Jane A u s t e n of t h e c o u r t l y l a y . To convey something of t h e f l a v o r o f her s t y l e , here i s a v e r y s m a l l e x c e r p t from near t h e b e g i n n i n g of her l a y , "The N i g h t i n g a l e " : There was near S a i n t M a l o , a town Of some importance and renown. Two barons who c o u l d w e l l a f f o r d Houses t o s u i t a l o r d Gave t h e c i t y i t s good name By t h e i r b e n e v o l e n c e and fame. Only one of them had m a r r i e d . H i s w i f e was b e a u t i f u l indeed 28 And c o u r t e o u s as she was f a i r , A lady who was w e l l aware Of a l l t h a t custom and rank r e q u i r e d . The younger baron was much a d m i r e d , B e i n g , among h i s p e e r s f o r e m o s t In v a l o r , and a g r a c i o u s h o s t . Re never r e f u s e d a tournament, ^ And what he owned he g l a d l y s p e n t . The r e a d e r may perhaps see i n t h i s , as I do, a s t y l e and c o n v e n t i o n i n h e r i t e d by C h a u c e r , who b r o u g h t both t o p e r f e c t i o n two c e n t u r i e s l a t e r . In i t s p e r e g r i n a t i o n s , t h e c o u r t l y l a y e n j o y e d a g r e a t vogue, employ i n g n e a r l y f o u r hundred t r o u b a d o r s among whom, s u r p r i s i n g l y , were s e v e r a l women. Nina Epton i n Love and t h e Fren c h mentions " s e v e n t e e n " 25 f e m a l e p o e t s , c i t i n g t h e "Comtesse de D i e — a well-known t r o b a r i t z o r f e m i n i n e t r o u b a d o r who s t r e s s e d t h e s i n c e r i t y of her poems about her 26 l o v e r . " James J . W i l h e l m , who has t r a n s l a t e d one of them i n h i s M e d i e v a l Song: An A n t h o l o g y o f Hymns and L y r i c s , a t t r i b u t e s f o u r o r f i v e rema i n i ng poems t o h e r . In e v a l u a t i n g t h e impact o f t h e l a y on l i t e r a t u r e , what i s i m p o r t a n t i s t h a t i t s emergence had r e v o l u t i o n a r y i m p l i c a t i o n s . A l o n g w i t h t h e romances-of t h e t r o u b a d o u r s , t h e l a y i n f l u e n c e d , t h e t a s t e f o r p o e t r y i n a new d i r e c t i o n . "The c o u r t l y p o e t s , " says Dunn, " r a i s e d l o v e t o t h e same 27 i m p o r t a n t l e v e l as r e I i g i o n and w a r f a r e w i t h i n t h e realm of p o e t r y . " From h e r e , t h e p o e t r y of love came t o occupy an as c e n d a n t p l a c e o v e r both e c c l e s i a s t i c a l v e r s e c e l e b r a t i n g s a i n t s and m a r t y r s , and h e r o i c v e r s e c e l e b r a t i n g war and w a r r i o r s . The underground t r a d i t i o n had s u r f a c e d . T h a t t h e p e r s o n a l l y r i c f l o u r i s h e s t o d a y i n t h e s h o r t poem i s a measure of i t s deep r o o t s i n f o l k w a y s , w h i l e t h e r o m a n t i c n a r r a t i v e , as a form, was s t i l l a c h i e v i n g new h e i g h t s i n England as r e c e n t l y as t h e n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y . The r e l e v a n c e t h e c o u r t l y l a y has f o r t h e women's t r a d i t i o n i n 29 p o e t r y , apar t from i t s s i g n i f i c a n t o r i g i n in a woman poe t , is i t s concern w i t h love: imag ina t i ve l y i d e a l i z e d , ye t personal love, one of the major themes t h a t . h a s c o n s i s t e n t l y occupied women l y r i c i s t s th roughout h i s t o r y . The t roubadours be ing , of course , most ly men—wanderers hoping f o r c o u r t f a v o r — t h e i r songs of love and beauty tended towards ex t ravagant p ra ise and i d e a l i z a t i o n of a p a r t i c u l a r lady. The i n t e r e s t s of pecuniary advantage could not help but g i ve i n s i n c e r i t y and a r t i f i c i a l i t y a p lace in c o u r t l y express ion which i t d id not have in Marie de France, o r , f o r t h a t m a t t e r , in any o the r female poet who has ever addressed h e r s e l f t o love . However, out of the vogue of the lay came f r e s h developments in poet ry in which women, as so o f t e n in l i t e r a r y h i s t o r y , again made a s i g n i f i c a n t c o n t r i b u t i o n , t h i s t ime not as poe ts , but main ly as pat ronesses. Eleanor of A q u i t a i n e ' s r o l e in launching the l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n which grew out of such poet ry and the customs i t r e f l e c t e d i s wel l e s t a b l i s h e d . As powerful pat rons of the a r t s and l e t t e r s she and her daughter , the Countess Marie de Champagne, were v i r t u a l l y the founders of the new system. Between them they suppor ted , in f luenced and encouraged the w r i t e r s in t h e i r m i d s t , themselves i n i t i a t i n g "Cour ts o f Love" model led on feudal c o u r t s , and having t h e i r o r i g i n in t he south o f France, f i r s t home of the t roubadours . In these c o u r t s , p rob lemat ic amatory mat te rs were discussed and ad jud ica ted accord ing t o e t h i c a l precedents a l ready ind ica ted in the romances and lays . " A l l the f a c t o r s f o r the c r e a t i o n of a new l i t e r a t u r e were the re in a f a v o r i n g atmosphere," says h i s t o r i a n Amy K e l l y in r e f e r r i n g t o a per iod in E leanor ' s l i f e when, as Duchess of Normandy p r i o r t o her marr iage t o Henry I I of England, she e n t e r t a i n e d the t roubadour 28 Bernard de Ventadour a t her c o u r t in Angers. L a t e r , Countess Mar ie , 30 coming from her own c o u r t t o her mother ' s a t P o i t i e r s , where she took up res idence , commissioned and worked w i t h Andreas Cappelanus t o produce the a l ready mentioned t e x t , De Ar te Honeste Amandi. Al though the model f o r i t was Ov id ' s w o r l d l y Ars Amator ia , the medieval guide was apparen t l y undertaken in f u l t moral se r iousness , and nowhere i s t h i s more ev iden t than in t he woman's p o i n t of view Andreas' c o u r t l y A r t in i t s main focus p r o j e c t s . In the words of K e l l y , whose d i s t i n g u i s h e d biography of Eleanor and her t imes lends many i n s i g h t s , whereas in the work of Ov id , man is the master , employing h i s a r t s t o seduce women f o r h i s p leasure , in Andr§ 's work^^oman is the m i s t r e s s , man her pup i l in homage, her. vassa I in s e r v i c e . Mar ie , we are t o l d , drew on her own past exper ience in the south of France, on the A r t h u r i a n code of manners and on the poet ry of the t r o u b a d o r s , in i n s t r u c t i n g the c l e r i c , whose somewhat r e l u c t a n t hand i s seen in h i s m o r a l i z i n g concessions t o church d o c t r i n e . She thus made these f a m i l i a r m a t e r i a l s the v e h i c l e f o r her woman's d o c t r i n e of c i v i l i t y , and in so d o i n g , she t ransformed the gross and cyn ica l pagan d o c t r i n e s of Ovid into^something more i d e a l , the woman's canon, the c h i v a l r i c code of manners. Th is c r i t i c i s m of Ovid I take t o r e f e r t o h i s e x p l i c i t i n s t r u c t i o n s , in Book One of the A r t of Love, How t o Seduce a V i r g i n , where he d e p i c t s g i r l s as game t o be hunted, " o r poss ib l y on ly t o have fun w i t h , / Someone t o take f o r a n i g h t " ( 1 1 , 9 0 , 9 1 ) ; approves the rape of t he Sabine women; and r a t i o n a l i z e s h i s " A r t " by d e p i c t i n g women as c r i m i n a l l y l u s t f u l , greedy f o r g i f t s and cash, and not t o be t r u s t e d : " i t is r i g h t t o deceive the d e c e i v e r s , / R ight t h a t the woman should g r i e v e . . . " ( ' 11 .657 ,658) . Trading on women's des i re t o be t r e a t e d as equa ls , c y n i c a l l y he adv ises : 31 Don ' t always show in your t a l k t h a t you know you are going t o get h e r — What you are eager t o be, t e l l her , is ONLY A FRIEND. I have seen t h i s work, on the most u n w i l l i n g of women— ONLY A" FRIEND, who was found more than p r o f i c i e n t in bed! (11.721-724) In c o n t r a s t t o Ov id , the "woman's d o c t r i n e of s e r v i l i t y , " as K e l l y r e f e r s t o i t , addressed i t s e l f t o marr ied women, m a i n l y , not v i r g i n s ; i t requ i red cour tesy above a l l , and a l o y a l t y t h a t came from the h e a r t : the lover was en jo ined t o be a real " f r i e n d " who placed the r e p u t a t i o n and w e l l -being of h is amie above h i s own. Secrecy was f o r t h i s reason e s s e n t i a l . That v i r g i n s were not t o be seduced by decept ion is shown in the lay e n t i t l e d " E l i d u c , " by Marie de France, in which a young pr incess f a l l s i n t o a dea th ly swoon on d i scove r ing t h a t the f o r e i g n kn igh t she has exchanged love vows w i t h is a marr ied man. The t a l e is f u r t h e r i n t e r e s t i n g f o r the i n s i g h t i t g ives us i n t o the humanist ic s ide of c o u r t o i s i e . The man's w i f e not on ly b r i ngs her r i v a l back t o l i f e ( w i t h the s i g n i f i c a n t a id o f supernatura l powers) when she learns of the s i t u a t i o n , but in o rder t h a t the lovers may marry , r e t i r e s t o a convent , where e v e n t u a l l y the former 32 pr incess i s "welcomed as a s i s t e r . " In t h i s r e s o l u t i o n of amor w i t h c a r i t a s can be seen a p r o t e c t i v e a t t i t u d e , a s i s t e r l y f e e l i n g among women, t h a t is as f o r e i g n t o the w r i t i n g of Ovid as i t is t o the w r i t i n g of most male poe ts . One cannot d iscuss the love^-l i t e r a t u r e of t h i s per iod w i t h o u t a t some p o i n t r e f e r r i n g t o the behavior which i t both grew out o f , and in the d i a l e c t i c a l way of such t h i n g s , a f f e c t e d . " L i f e and l e t t e r s are i n e x t r i c a b l y i n t e r m i x e d , " as C.S. Lewis has been moved t o e x p l a i n in defense of non-l i t e r a r y a s i d e s . ^ I would c la im indulgence, t h e n , f o r r e f e r r i n g again t o the soc ia l c o n d i t i o n s which suddenly a l lowed a few advantageously placed 32 c o u r t women t o e x e r t an enormous in f l uence extending beyond l e t t e r s . K e l l y makes the p o i n t t h a t , however l i m i t e d the expression of female a u t h o r i t y in P o i t i e r s , i t s most immediate e f f e c t was t o s u c c e s s f u l l y cha l lenge i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d male a u t h o r i t y . Though t h i s new female power was soon l o s t in t he r e t u r n o f men from wars and crusades t o t h e i r seats of dominance, the ideal of amour c o u r t o i s which grew up in P o i t i e r s had, as has been wel l s a i d , more than a l i t t l e t o do w i t h f r e e i n g women from the m i l l s t o n e which the Church in the f i r s t m i l l en ium hung about her neck as the author o f man's f a l l and the f a c i l e inst rument of the d e v i l in the w o r l d . The c o u r t of P o i t i e r s gave i t s high sanct ion t o idea ls which spread so r a p i d l y throughout Europe t h a t the " d o c t r i n e of the i n f e r i o r i t y of women has never had the same standing s i n c e . " The code of Andre [Andreas Cappelanus] g i ves gl impses of a woman's no t ion of s o c i e t y d i f f e r e n t in essen t ia I R e s p e c t s from the p r e v a i l i n g feudal scheme, which was c e r t a i n l y man-made. K e l l y ' s no t i ng o f the d i f f e r e n c e between female percep t ions o f a "man-made" s o c i e t y and male percep t ions of t h a t soc ie t y is most germane. Doubt less the "woman's no t ion of her s o c i e t y " has always d i f f e r e d in some e s s e n t i a l s from the p r e v a i l i n g n o t i o n , a f a c t which the l i t e r a t u r e of women best r e v e a l s , and-which o t h e r evidence such as the p r a c t i c e s of m i d w i f e r y , herbal medicine and w i t c h c r a f t c o n f i r m . U n f o r t u n a t e l y the l i t e r a t u r e o f women is a l l t oo scarce. In the case of E leanor , not h e r s e l f a w r i t e r , i t i s i n d i s p u t a b l e t h a t she and her a u t h o r i t a t i v e daughter in p a r t i c u l a r , were a t leas t very much involved in the shaping of the new p o e t r y , as an i n t e g r a l p a r t of the shaping of the new manners. Marie de Champagne, in a d d i t i o n t o the hand she had in d i r e c t i n g Andreas' t r e a t i s e , was a l s o respons ib le f o r c o l l a b o r a t i n g w i t h Chre t ien de Troyes , a poet considered by C.S. Lewis t o be the best of the p e r i o d . De Troyes h i m s e l f , in h i s Lance lo t , c r e d i t s Marie w i t h both the s t o r y and the t rea tment of the poem. 33 C o u r t l y love, as women helped t o promote and de f i ne i t , though i t remained a p r a c t i c e of the e l i t e , i s a f i r s t t e n t a t i v e step taken in the d i r e c t i o n o f female emanc ipat ion . In i t s r e b e l l i o n aga ins t love less mar r iage , the code chal lenged i n s t i t u t i o n a l a u t h o r i t y f o r the f i r s t t i m e , not on ly on behal f o f women, but most i m p o r t a n t l y , on behal f o f the concerns o f everyday l i f e t o wh ich , and f o r wh ich , women speak. In i t s i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r the f u t u r e , the connect ion between poet ry and women's l i b e r a t i o n a t t h i s e a r l y stage i s not t o be over looked . The leadership exerc ised by c u l t i v a t e d women in medieval s o c i e t y seems almost i n e v i t a b l e when we remember t h a t the feudal system, working hand in g love w i t h the Church, used women t o b o l s t e r i t s power, d ispos ing of them as c h a t t e l s in arranged mar r iages . G i r l s coming i n t o marr iageable age had, from our modern v i e w p o i n t , noth ing t o lose in any imagined form of p r o t e s t but the chains b ind ing them in s e r v i t u d e t o husbands o f t e n t w i c e o r more t h e i r " a g e , who c o u l d , moreover, e a s i l y d i vo rce them, (and o f t e n d id ) when the ga in or advancement t h a t had been the o r i g i n a l mot ive f o r t h e marr iage was secured. Women had no r i g h t s a t a l l ; never was the sex more in an i n f e r i o r p o s i t i o n than in such mar r iages . No wonder, t h e n , t h a t lad ies who by b i r t h had the soc ia l advantage of some educat ion and l e i s u r e formed the m a j o r i t y audience f o r a poet ry in wh ich , f o r the f i r s t t i m e , they were reve red ; a poet ry which reversed the customary r e l a t i o n s h i p between the sexes, d e c l a r i n g women s u p e r i o r ; a poe t ry in which a man pledged v o l u n t a r i l y what a w i f e was fo rced t o p ledge: a l i f e of submissive se rv i ce and u n f a l t e r i n g l o y a l t y , in the name of love. K e l l y ' s c o n t r i b u t i o n t o an understanding of t he nature and s i g n i f i c a n c e of femin ine involvement in t h i s per iod deserves a f i n a l 34 q u o t a t i o n here. S p e a k i n g f u r t h e r o f t h o s e a r i s t o c r a t i c l a d i e s who t u r n e d c o u r t l y l o v e i n t o a system, she s a y s : Of c o u r s e , t h e y r a t i o n a l i z e a c o n d u c t t h a t has o u t b u r s t t h e r i g i d f e u d a l scheme f o r women; but d i s i l l u s i o n speaks a l s o i n t h o s e n o b l e l a d i e s , who, though t h e y d i v i n e some u n a t t a i n a b l e i d e a l v a l u e i n l i f e , know t h a t a c t u a l l y t h e y remain f e u d a l p r o p e r t y , mere p a r t and p a r c e l o f t h e i r f i e f s . I t i s p l a i n t h a t each and e v e r y one of t h e i r judgements i n t h e queen's c o u r t i s an a r r a n t f e u d a l h e r e s y . Taken t o g e t h e r t h e y undermine a I I t h e p r i m a r y s a n c t i o n s and a r e s u b v e r s i v e of t h e s o c i a l o r d e r . The immediate l e g a c y o f t w e l f t h c e n t u r y c o u r t l y l o v e , was, t h e r e f o r e , n o t a s o c i a l one, but l i t e r a r y : women's p o s i t i o n d i d not change f o r t h e b e t t e r and Church d o c t r i n e h e l d f i r m , c o n t i n u i n g t o p l a c e c r i p p l i n g r e s t r i c t i o n s on how men" arad women, b u t e s p e c i a l l y women, m i g h t Jove.. Such p r e s c r i p t i o n s can o n l y be s a i d t o have s e r v e d male i n t e r e s t s of power, p r o p e r t y and s u c c e s s i o n . Men remained-'dominant, e s p e c i a l l y t h o s e who a l r e a d y were; f o r t h e c o n f l i c t i n male i n t e r e s t s which d e v e l o p e d w i t h t h e temporary p r i v i l e g e which j o i n e d women and o t h e r , male, i n f e r i o r s i n a common cause was ended f o r a t i m e w i t h t h e r e t u r n of t h e l o r d s t o t h e i r domains. But t h e l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n of c o u r t l y l o v e — i t s c r e a t i v e o f f s h o o t , as i t were, l i v e d on, r e s p o n s i v e t o new i n f l u e n c e s i n which women l o s t t h e i r r e l a t i v e l y b r i e f s a y. That an i n f l u e n t i a l l i t e r a t u r e was p o w e r f u l l y d i c t a t e d by women as i t s s p o n s o r s and c r i t i c a l a u d i e n c e f o r a t i m e i s one of t h o s e i n t e r e s t i n g a c c i d e n t s of h i s t o r y t h a t , i n r e t r o s p e c t , can be seen as f o r e s h a d o w i n g a v e r y d i s t a n t e v e n t u a l i t y . M e anwhile, t h e r e were h i s t o r i c a l c o u n t e r f o r c e s t o any such ascendancy of women which were o p e r a t i n g t o r e d i r e c t t h e p o e t r y of c o u r t l y l o v e back i n t o t h e main-stream of t h e male v i e w p o i n t and t r a d i t i o n . To d i s c e r n t h e a t f i r s t s l e n d e r , but d i s t i n c t i v e , form of a woman's t r a d i t i o n i n p o e t r y as i t t e n t a t i v e l y emerges i n h i s t o r y , i s c l e a r l y t o 35 have t o t r a c e those beginnings from w i t h i n the con tex t of an overpower ingIy male presence in p o e t r y . Though the femin ine vo ice ga ins ' i n c r e a s i n g l y in the succeeding c e n t u r i e s both in s t r e n g t h and a f f i r m a t i o n , progress is uncer ta in and slow f o r a very long t i m e . The lay , f o r i ns tance , which in i t s w r i t t e n form begins w i t h Marie de France, undergoes changes in which men t u r n i t i n t o something e l s e : the a l l e g o r y of love. Th is reaches i t s epitome in The Romance of the Rose, completed by the second of i t s authors almost a century a f t e r Marie de France 's l a s t compos i t i on . In " t h i s new s c h o l a s t i c approach, " according t o Dunn, i n d i v i d u a l s are converted i n t o u n i v e r s a l s , and passions are d issec ted i n t o separate a b s t r a c t i o n s . The perplexed l o v e r , as i t were, no longer ^ consu l t s h is h e a r t ; r a t h e r , the hear t is anatomized by the p s y c h i a t r i s t . But by t h i s t ime a l s o , the V i r g i n Mary has superceded the lady upon her p e d e s t a l , f o r the Church, as from i t s beg inn ing , had found a way t o absorb the t h r e a t t o i t s e l f , j u s t as the lady had found a way t o t u r n feudal p r a c t i c e t o her advantage. Th is is the s i t u a t i o n in which the a l l e g o r y of love, embodying, as C.S. Lewis has s a i d , " t h e f u l l y - d e v e l o p e d sent iment of c o u r t l y love,"""^ a r r i v e s in England, making- i t s f i r s t appearance t h e r e w i t h Chaucer, in the f o u r t e e n t h c e n t u r y . In Chaucer 's t rea tment of i t we can see what t i m e , temperament and sex have wrought upon the r e l i g i o n of love. For by the t ime i t has reached England, Chaucer has no problem as a C h r i s t i a n in seeing h imsel f as Love's f a i t h f u l servant and most d i s i n t e r e s t e d advocate: the h e r e t i c a I - and r e v o l u t i o n a r y aspect of the r e l i g i o n of l o v e — i t s i ns i s tence on adu I tery*--has a l l but d isappeared. There has a l so occurred*--wi th the notab le except ion of T ro i lus and Cressida — a s h i f t from the p a r t i c u l a r t o the a b s t r a c t as Dunn has s a i d , and an i d e a l i z a t i o n of q u a l i t i e s r a t h e r than of the lady h e r s e l f . The poet ry of 36 a b s t r a c t i o n s , l i k e the poet ry of the l a t e r E l izabethan c o u r t i e r s which focuses on a one-d imens iona l , d i s d a i n f u l lady, moves away from the personal and d i r e c t , r e a l - l i f e statements c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of women w r i t e r s (as in l e t t e r - w r i t i n g , d i a r i e s , t r e a t i s e s on behavior and, e s p e c i a l l y , poe t ry ) t o modes of u t t e rance encouraging concen t ra t i on on the fo rm. The femin ine f i g u r e has been depr ived of i t s basic humanity in most of these p o e t i c developments by men. A not n e g l i g i b l e cause is the growing in f luence of t h a t element of Platonism most prominent in the Symposiurn. The concept of a t t a i n i n g s p i r i t u a l or d i v i n e beauty through a commitment t o love which is a t f i r s t on l y ab le t o apprehend i t through a response t o sensual beauty becomes fused w i t h C h r i s t i a n idea ls in a way, in p o e t r y , t h a t grows t o supercede the more down- to -ear th aspects of the secu la r poet ry of love found in the women's t r a d i t i o n . I t is not acc iden ta l t h a t Chaucer, who humanized the a l l e g o r y of love , was ext remely sympathet ic t o women, u n l i k e so many of h i s w r i t i n g predecessors and contemporar ies . For Chaucer shares w i t h women t h a t sense of dramat ic immediacy , ' tha t e s s e n t i a l focus on human l i f e , which g i v e s h i s genius i t s most endearing q u a l i t y . But Chaucer (along w i t h Langland, perhaps) is an except ion t o h i s t imes . In England a t rend toward a b s t r a c t i o n t h a t had begun w i t h the o r i g i n a l Romance of the Rose became more pronounced, a c t u a l l y robbing women of the l i m i t e d advantage they had, f o r a shor t w h i l e , ga ined . Apar t from a shadowy femin ine presence f e l t in f i f t e e n t h century a l l e g o r y , which I w i l l have more t o say about in a moment, t he re are no female poets a r i s i n g w i t h the Renaissance* a t l e a s t , not in England, where, thanks l a rge l y t o Chaucer, Eng l ish as a l i t e r a r y language has come i n t o i t s own. We hear o f a female poet in t h i r t e e n t h century I t a l y known as 37 The P e r f e c t Lady of F l o r e n c e who i s , however, such a r a r i t y f o r h e r t i m e s t h a t h e r e x i s t e n c e as a woman i s d i s p u t e d . Her t r a n s l a t o r , James J . W i l h e l m , s a y s she i s o f t e n c o n s i d e r e d a c o n s t r u c t of t h e male p o e t s 38 of her day, a s u p p o s i t i o n I f i n d g r a t u i t o u s i n v i e w of t h e poem I r e p r o d u c e h e r e , which i s so much more a p e r s o n a l s t a t e m e n t t h a n a c o n v e n t i o n a l one, t h a t I quote i t as an example of t h e f e m i n i n e t r a d i t i o n , . "In s ounding a t o n e we f i n d i n t h e work of much l a t e r women p o e t s who c o m p l a i n of male o p p r e s s i o n , t h e poem has t h e r i n g of a u t h e n t i c f e m i n i n e e x p e r i e n c e . I t p r o j e c t s a y e a r n i n g f o r escape from an o p p r e s s i v e l i f e t h a t s t r o n g l y a n t i c i p a t e s E m i l y and Anne B r o n t e , C h r i s t i n a R o s s e t t i , and o t h e r s , l i k e "L.E.L." i n t h e n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y who a r e l e s s known. The e a r l y d a t i n g of t h i s s o n net makes i t t h e f i r s t we have from a woman's hand: I want t o go away from v a n i t y And l e a v e t h e w o r l d and s e r v e my God. Because I see on e v e r y s i d e of me Madness and unchecked e v i l and g r e a t f r a u d : Sense and c o u r t e s y a r e s t i l l e x p i r i n g And f i n e v a l u e and goodness of e v e r y k i n d ; And so I want no husband, want no s i r e ; L e a v i n g t h e w o r l d i s a l l t h a t ' s on my mind. When I r e c a l l how man w i t h i l l ' s a d o r n e d , I s u d d e n l y am d i s d a i n f u l of a l l t h e r a c e And towards my God a l l of my body's t u r n e d . My f a t h e r makes me s t a n d w i t h p e n s i v e f a c e . He t u r n s me away from s e r v i c e t o my C h r i s t . ^ What man w i l l come t o c l a i m my dowry's p r i c e ? In E n g l i s h p o e t r y , o u t s i d e of E l i z a b e t h I whose p o e t i c e x e r c i s e s a r e t h e l e a s t of her enormous s y m b o l i c impact on p o e t r y , t h e r e i s no body of i n f l u e n t i a l s h a p e r s t o r e s t o r e a woman's v i e w p o i n t t o p o e t r y . I n s t e a d , t h e v e r y c o n c e p t of t h e l y r i c has l a p s e d t o a'new low: t h a t o f an a r t i f i c i a l and s o u l l e s s i d e a l t o which men appeal i n ' v a i n f o r s e x u a l f a v o r s : p r e d i c t a b l y , s i n c e t h e y have s e t i t up t h a t way. 38 B e f o r e t h i s development, however, something i n t e r e s t i n g ' h a p p e n s t o t h e a l l e g o r i c a l form. In t h e f i f t e e n t h c e n t u r y , two unknown femaIe a u t h o r s l e a v e t h e i r i m p r i n t upon t h e form i n s u c h s way as t o s u g g e s t t h a t whatever anonymity women found i t p r u d e n t , o r were f o r c e d , t o r e t u r n t o i n t h i s newly ma Ie- a s c e n d a n f e r a , t h e l i t t l e t h e y had had of l i t e r a r y s e l f - e x p r e s s i o n had g e n e r a t e d a t a s t e f o r more. H e n c e f o r t h women would not s u f f e r t h e m s e l v e s t o be c o m p l e t e l y s i l e n c e d . The f i r s t of t h e s e m y s t e r i o u s women i s t h e a u t h o r o f The F l o w e r and t h e L e a f , " t h a t f u s i o n o f t h e c o u r t l y and t h e 4 0 homi l e t i c a l l e g o r y , " which C S . Lewis c i t e s f o r i t s o r i g i n a l i t y and h i s t o r i c a l i m p o r t a n c e . The second i s t h e " r e m a r k a b l e woman" who wro t e t h e Assembly o f L a d i e s , a work which a g a i n Lewis c i t e s as r e p r e s e n t i n g "a w h o l l y d i f f e r e n t , and, i n some ways, a n o t l e s s i n t e r e s t i n g m o d i f i c a t i o n of t h e t r a d i t i o n " ; though he goes on t o s a y , g r a t u i t o u s l y : "Taken as 4 1 a I l e g o r y , i t i s as s i l l y a poem as a man c o u I d f i nd i n a y e a r ' s r e a d i ng." So much f o r d i s d a i n f u l male s u p e r i o r i t y ! He m i t i g a t e s h i s c o n d e s c e n s i o n by a d d i n g t h a t t h e a u t h o r i s moved, by a pure Iy n a t u r a I i s t i c i m p u l s e , t o p r e s e n t t h e d e t a i l o f ever y d a y l i f e ; and i f her poem were not hampered by b e i n g s t i l l a t t a c h e d — as w i t h an u m b i l i c a l c o r d — t o t h e a l l e g o r i c a l f o r m , i t would be an a d m i r a b l e p i c t u r e of manners. Indeed, i f o n l y t h e f i r s t f o u r s t a n z a s s u r v i v e d , we mi g h t now be la m e n t i n g t h e l o s t Jane A u s t e n o f t h e f i f t e e n t h c e n t u r y . " An ambiguous compliment; but i n c r i t i c i z i n g t h e poem f o r i t s d e f e c t s , he a I so t e I Is us t h e d i a l o g u e i s a d m i r a b l e and perhaps b e t t e r t h a n C h a u c e r ' s e a r l i e s t a t t e m p t s . Nor does t h i s r e a l i s m f a i l when t h e lady b e g i n s t o t e l l h er dream. We soon f o r g e t t h a t i t i s a dream, o r an a l l e g o r y . . . . t h e d e t a i l of t h e poem shows power a k i n t o g e n i u s . That such an a u t h o r , comparable i n g e n i u s t o t h e e a r l y C h a u c e r , was c o n s t r a i n e d t o work anonymously s u g g e s t s t h e l o s s t o l i t e r a t u r e o f many 39 another s i m i l a r l y i n t i m i d a t e d w r i t e r . The odds aga ins t a woman being f r e e t o p a r t i c i p a t e in the l i t e r a r y wor ld of men in order t o develop and sharpen her own expression and i t s i n t r i n s i c form are high in h i s t o r y . The a l l e g o r y of love cont inued t o enjoy a p o p u l a r i t y wel l i n t o the E l izabethan p e r i o d , The Faer ie Queene being the l a s t and most complex of i t s monuments. But by t h e n , the f e e l i n g s e x a l t i n g an ideal of romant ic love have become o s s i f i e d w i t h i n a se t of conven t ions , as poets compete f o r v a r i e t y and p e r f e c t i o n in the fo rm, o f t e n t a k i n g t h e i r mat ter second-hand from I t a l i a n and French sources f o r t h e i r E n g l i s h i n g s . The E l i z a -bethan l y r i c is a chamber a r t f o rm , as someone has descr ibed i t , w i t h i t s own conven t ions , one of which is v a r i a t i o n s on a theme. The content is now as abs t rac ted from ac tua l persons and exper iences of love as i t can g e t . I n v i t a t i o n s t o love or.compI a i n t s aga ins t a lady f u r n i s h , in a l l but the best poe ts , an excuse f o r the exerc ise of w i t and manner, an indulgence, not of men subserv ien t t o the women t h e i r poet ry addresses i t s e l f t o , but in most respects of p r i v i l e g e and p o s i t i o n , t h e i r ac tua l s u p e r i o r s . 42 Two themes dominate the E l izabethan love l y r i c . In the "Gather -ye-rosebuds-whi Ie-ye-may" theme borrowed from C a t u l l u s , young women are exhorted t o y i e l d t o sexual love , w i t h the impl ied t h r e a t t h a t o l d age w i l l soon render them u n a t t r a c t i v e and undes i rab le (an a t t i t u d e wh ich , by becoming conven t iona l i zed in p o e t r y , has been i n f l u e n t i a l t o the e x t e n t t h a t i t has become an unstated convent ion in l i f e ) . In. the o the r theme, women are a t tacked f o r t h e i r d i s d a i n f u l n e s s , inconstancy and c r u e l t y in r e f u s i n g t o s a t i s f y the lover on h i s te rms. Th is d e n i g r a t i o n of women is u s u a l l y a i r i l y dismissed in d iscuss ions of E l izabethan love 40 poet ry where i t is taken f o r granted t h a t rea l f e e l i n g is not the issue in t h i s genre. And indeed, several c e n t u r i e s of s e l f - c o n s c i o u s s t y l i n g and the impact o f Eng l i sh temperament and c u l t u r e on the c o n t i n e n t a l h e r i t a g e have d ivorced the l y r i c from both i t s pagan roo ts in r i t u a l observance and i t s medieval f o l k roo ts in popular exp ress ion . Among the several m o d a l i t i e s o f t he l y r i c , love poe t ry remains dominant, but c h i v a l r y as the animat ing aspect of the lay and romance is now an end in i t s e l f ; poets are no longer defenders of women as the Love^-advocate Chaucer was, and c o u l d — g i v e n the s o c i a l and l i t e r a r y c l i m a t e — s t i I I be in h i s t i m e . The image of woman has, in f a c t , s u f f e r e d a new setback. And so have women: in the c r e a t i v e exp los ion of the Eng l ish Renaissance, women are so a p p a l l i n g l y absent t h a t one wonders t o f i n d even one or two women ou ts ide of queens mentioned in h i s t o r y . The den ia l of women's r i g h t s t o a c r e a t i v e l i f e s t i l l l i n g e r s in contemptuous male a t t i t u d e s ; e . g . , Douglas Bush s l i g h t i n g l y r e f e r s t o C h r i s t i n e de P isan , a French w r i t e r , as " t h a t 43 doughty femin ine invader of Grub S t ree t . ' • She wrote p o e t r y , books s e t t i n g f o r t h p r e s c r i p t i o n s f o r ideal conduct in manners and mora ls , and a book in defence o f women a f t e r reading Matheolus. Born in 1364, she is the e a r l i e s t of a succession of c o n t i n e n t a l women who a l so pub l ished a v a r i e t y of Renaissance l i t e r a t u r e . Widowed a t t w e n t y - f i v e , de Pisan r supported h e r s e l f by her w r i t i n g , b r i n g i n g t o mind the Eng l i sh w r i t e r , Aphra Behn, who l i ved two c e n t u r i e s l a t e r . L ike her , t o o , de Pisan was a f e m i n i s t , poss ib l y the e a r l i e s t . As f o r Engl ish Renaissance poe ts , 44 we have the poem of a c e r t a i n Anne Askewe, burned in t he Tower a t the age of t w e n t y - s i x f o r a b j u r i n g Ca tho l i c i sm in favo r of P r o t e s t a n t i s m ; , , w r i t t e n j u s t before her death in 1546, t h i s poem is a l l t h a t apparen t l y 4 1 remains of her . At the end of the century and beginning of the n e x t , the scene is en l ivened by Mary Herbe r t , Countess of Pembroke, s i s t e r of S i r P h i l i p Sidney and co-author w i t h him of many works i nc lud ing a m e t r i c a l ve rs ion of the Psalms. A very learned woman, she a l so wrote prose . and t r a n s l a t i o n s . Of t h a t g r e a t surge of c r e a t i v i t y t h a t was the Renaissance, on ly these lone female vo ices in Eng l ish p o e t r y ! C o n t i -nental women wrote as t r a n s l a t o r s , as a u t h o r i t i e s on morals and manners, and as poets : t h e i r poe t ry is in the c o u r t l y love t r a d i t i o n . A f t e r de P isan , the poets i nc lude : Laura T e r r a c i n a , Cather ine and Madeleine Des Roches, 4 5 Marie de Romieu and Louise de Labe ( ' " t h e Sappho of her t i m e ' " ) in t h e s i x t e e n t h , and C h a r l o t t e de Brachar t a t the o u t s e t o f the seventeenth . By t h i s t ime Eng l ish women have become emboldened enough t o be making a genre of t r a c t s and pamphlets in defense of women, as the p u b l i c a t i o n s of Jane Anger in the s i x t e e n t h , and Esther Sowernam, Rachel Specht and 4 6 Constant ia Mundi in the seventeenth century t e s t i f y . Apar t from these s p i r i t e d and f o r w a r d - l o o k i n g women, the p i c t u r e is b leak . While t he lady has re ta ined the pedestal ra ised f o r her in the l i t e r a t u r e of c o u r t l y love, she is no longer ev iden t (as in t w e l f t h century France and the Eng l ish c o u r t ) as a person w i t h her own ideas, f e e l i n g s and standards of c u l t u r a l express ion in the a r t s . The setback has been remarked upon by the p s y c h o l o g i s t Er ich Neumann in The Great Mother, an a n a l y s i s of m y t h o l o g i c a l , a rchaeo log ica l and a e s t h e t i c evidence of the femin ine a rche type . I quote him in p a r t , where he discusses Renaissance p a i n t i n g : The change of the t imes is ev iden t in the Renaissance p i c t u r e of Venus. With the development of the p a t r i a r c h a t e the Great Goddess has become the Goddess of Love, an^_,the Power of the femin ine has been reduced t o the power of s e x u a l i t y . 42 Whatever respect and admi ra t ion is owed t o woman from anc ien t t i m e s , has been by now s a f e l y enthroned in the V i r g i n Mother, a defused C h r i s t i a n v a r i a n t of the gener i c Great Mother archetype symbol iz ing e a r t h ' s power as g i v e r and t a k e r of l i f e . The V i r g i n , a passive v e s t i g e of t h i s dynamic concept , has been depr ived of a l l rea l power save t h a t of i n t e r c e s s i o n w i t h her humanly born Son. In consequence, women are prey t o a l l k inds of v i l i f i c a t i o n p red ica ted on t h e i r sex a lone . Such d i s t o r t i o n s of human s e x u a l i t y , and of women's r o l e , have c h a r a c t e r i z e d the m a j o r i t y of poet ry w r i t t e n by men in which women are imaged; among the few obvious and honorable except ions are Shakespeare, of course , and t o a c e r t a i n e x t e n t , Donne. The basic enmity towards women t h a t u n d e r l i e s the E l izabethan love l y r i c . — t h e c o n t i n u a t i o n of a t r e n d h i g h l i g h t e d by Jean de Meuns' m i s o g y n i s t i c amb igu i t i es in the second p a r t of the Roman de la Rose—remains t o f i n d expression in the C a v a l i e r , and t o a lesser ex ten t metaphys ica l , poet ry of the seventeenth cen tu ry . E l i zabe th died a t i t s dawning, and Spenser 's i d e a l i z a t i o n of the V i r g i n Queen as Goddess and emblem of n a t i o n a l power is the l a s t medieval c o u r t l y g e s t u r e , made in deference t o the exe rc i se of reaI femin ine power (as opposed t o mere a r i s t o c r a t i c e l e v a t i o n , o r the p r i m i t i v e no t ion of woman's genera t i ve power) . C h r i s t i a n c u l t u r e cont inued t o imply t h a t the sexual love of women was dangerous and a n t i t h e t i c a l t o the love of God, though the Renaissance had brought c l a s s i c a l en l ightenment t o the f o r e as expressed in secu lar A r i s t o t e I i a n i s m , the n e o - P I a t o n i s t s and C h r i s t i a n humanists. The Res to ra t ion was t o b r ing about i t s own r e a c t i v e changes t o narrow d o c t r i n e s . But l i t e r a t u r e has i t s own laws, in common w i t h the o the r a r t s , and, in f o l l o w i n g these , as Bush has po in ted ou t in h i s Mythology and the Renaissance Trad i t i o n in EnqI ish P o e t r y , 43 "Humanism ceased t o be humanist ic when i t made s t y l e a supreme object 1, ' ;""" ' an o b s e r v a t i o n , i n c i d e n t a l l y , t h a t f i t l y descr ibes the f o r m a l i s t i c preoccu-pa t ion of t w e n t i e t h century leaders in poet ics. , a t whom we wi I I be looking f u r t h e r on. The c l a s s i c a l h e r i t a g e a f f e c t e d Renaissance poetry in England in s t i m u l a t i n g p roduc t ion of a vas t body of my tho log ica l ba l lads and drama, wh i l e the medieval enthusiasm f o r Ovid reached new peaks in the p roduc t ion of sensuous sonnets and l y r i c s , and a lso new d e c l i n e s : as in S u c k l i n g ' s a n t i - c o u r t l y r e a c t i o n of an a p p e t i t i v e , and r a k i s h l y w i t t y a r t . I t on ly awai ted S w i f t i a n exec ra t i on o f women of fash ion ( i n sexual 49 terms t h a t convey a spec ia l l oa th ing ) t o show how e a s i l y m o r a l i s t s and aesthetes a l i k e submerge t h e i r d i f f e r e n c e s in the p a t r i a r c h a l stream which makes of women i t s f a v o r i t e scapegoat. When women take up again the l y r i c t r a d i t i o n in resumption of an anc ien t i n i t i a t i v e , they n a t u r a l l y take t h e i r forms from the men d i r e c t l y preceding them; t h a t i s , from a male t r a d i t i o n . Though some of Sappho's work had begun t o be known through i t s recovery in the Renaissance, i t took a w h i l e f o r her example t o mean something t o women. Aphra Behn (1640-1689) d a r i n g l y addresses a poem t o a female lover and, in another poem, 50 makes an ob l i que re ference t o Sappho; but t h i s is a l ready in the con tex t of Res to ra t ion comedy. Behn occurs as something of an apocalypse in h i s t o r y . F i r s t l y , a lone female, she stands out as a lus ty re fo rma t i ve s p i r i t in a l i b e r t i n e age, her c r i t i c i s m of mores and manners making a p o i n t of the need f o r change in marr iage customs, and her works openly c e l e b r a t i n g enjoyment of the senses. She was o f t e n termed a Sappho by j e a l o u s contemporar ies who thought so t o cas t a s l u r on her . Secondly, her breaking through the 44 e x c l u s i v e l y male s t rongho ld t h a t the l i t e r a r y and dramat ic scene in England had been up u n t i l t h a t t ime leads t o a gradual involvement o f more and more women in w r i t i n g . U n f o r t u n a t e l y , she has s u f f e r e d g r e a t neg lec t a t the hands of p u b l i s h e r s and p r o f e s s o r s , i n fo rmat ion about her having been made a v a i l a b l e on ly in f a i r l y recent years . Her e x t r a o r d i n a r y p e r s o n a l i t y and achievement have been v i v i d l y brought t o l i f e in a biography by George Woodcock, publ ished in 1948, and more r e c e n t l y , in a c r i t i c a l a n a l y s i s of her work by F reder i ck M. L i n k , in 1968. Woodcock r e f e r s t o "Mrs. Benn" as " t h e f i r s t g rea t woman in Engl ish l i t e r a t u r e . " Her combined works, he says, "equal or surpass a l I but the best of her contemporar i e s . " " ^ In a d d i t i o n t o poems, Behn produced a s e r i e s of p lays and novels f o r which she is perhaps b e t t e r remembered, and a number of t r a n s l a t i o n s . In t h i s v e r s a t i l i t y she resembles the c o n t i n e n t a l women a l ready ment ioned. But Behn was more than j u s t a woman in t he l i t e r a r y vanguard (though t h i s is q u i t e enough in i t s e l f ) : as Woodcock a s s e r t s , she was unprecedented in b r i n g i n g about a number o f h i g h l y s i g n i f i c a n t changes: F i r s t , she represents a r e v o l u t i o n a r y i n f l uence on the s o c i a l l i f e and l i t e r a t u r e of her age, and in her work can be t raced the beginnings of a number o f changes in w r i t i n g and thought t h a t have had a rea l i n f l uence on the l i t e r a r y and soc ia l development of subsequent c e n t u r i e s . She was the f i r s t woman t o earn her l i v i n g by w r i t i n g , and in her s t r u g g l e s t o overcome male pre jud ice^and j e a l o u s y , became a p ioneer in the f i g h t f o r women's emanc ipat ion . Her f o r c e f u l and w i t t y s t y l e is seen in the f o l l o w i n g q u o t a t i o n from the ep i logue t o her play S i r P a t i e n t Fancy (her b e s t , according t o Woodcock), in which she a t t a c k s the a n t i - f e m i n i s t s who are always har rass ing her : 45 I here and the re o 'e rheard a Coxcomb c r y , Ah, Rot i t — ' t i s a Woman's Comedy, One, who because she l a t e l y chanced t o please us , With her damn'd S t u f f , w i l l never cease t o teaze us. What has poor Woman done, t h a t she must be Debar'd from Sense, and sacred Poetry? Why in t h i s Age has Heaven a l l o w ' d you more, And Women less of Wit than here to fo re? We once were fam'd in s t o r y and could w r i t e Equal t o Men; cou 'd govern , n a y — c o u ' d f i g h t . We s t i l l have passive Va lour , and can show, Wou'd Custom . g i ve us leave, the a c t i v e t o o , Since we no Provocat ions want from you. For who but we cou 'd your d u l l Fopperies bear, Your saucy Love, and your b r i s k Nonsense hear; Indure your worse than womanly A f f e c t a t i o n , Which renders you the Nuisance of the Nat ion And i f y o u ' r e drawn t o t h ' L i f e , pray felloe t h e n , Why Women should not w r i t e as we l l as Men. Behn's success stung the c r i t i c s who charged her w i t h p l a g i a r i s m and indecency, f o r here was a woman who dared t o compete w i t h men as t h e i r equa l . As in the pas t , women's oppression in 1670 was such t h a t the l o t o f t he average woman was an i n t e l l e c t u a l barrenness, a complete i s o l a t i o n from contemporary s c h o l a r s h i p . . . . But she fought so we l l t h a t she e s t a b l i s h e d once and f o r a l l the r i g h t f o r women t o make a voca t ion o f l i t e r a t u r e . . . . By 1690, w i t h Aphra Behn's p ioneer work and the in f luence which women l i k e Sarah C h u r c h i l l and Mrs. Masham began t o w ie ld in g c - l i t i c a l l i f e , the i n t e l l e c t u a l sub juga t ion of women was c l e a r l y ended. A l a s , i t should have been, but was i t ? The ev idence, in women's p o e t r y , a t l e a s t , suggests t h a t women f e e l subjugated i n t e l l e c t u a l l y , s e x u a l l y , and - o t h e r w i s e , up t o t h i s very day. S t i l l , Woodcock summarizes what, up t o the t ime of h i s w r i t i n g , were su re l y the most e x c i t i n g two decades in women's l i t e r a r y h i s t o r y , superceded on l y by our own most recen t decades which surpass in breadth and promise anyth ing t h a t has gone b e f o r e . Three o t h e r women of note wrote poet ry in roughly Behn's p e r i o d ; of t hese , Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1624-1674)—a b r i l l i a n t 46 w r i t e r by many accoun ts—was , a f t e r Behn, one of the f i r s t Eng l ish women t o pub l i sh her work, though she enjoyed none of the l a t t e r ' s p o p u l a r i t y . Kathar ine P h i l i p s , ( 1 6 3 1 - 1 6 6 4 ) , known as " t h e matchless O r i n d a , " was, on the o the r hand, much admired. Marry ing a t the age of s i x t e e n , her home became the cen t re of a fash ionab le c o t e r i e of d i s t i n g u i s h e d contemporar ies , Behn among them. According t o Bush, P h i l i p s "cont inued the P l a t o n i c c u l t 55 of the e a r l i e r age in her poems t o her women f r i e n d s , " a p r a c t i c e in con fo rm i ty w i t h her warm advocacy of f r i e n d s h i p between women. Besides w r i t i n g poems, p lays and t r a n s l a t i o n s , she was one of the two most ce lebra ted l e t t e r w r i t e r s of a century which saw t h a t genre ra i sed t o an a r t . Among these contemporar ies , Anne F inch , Countess o f Winchelsea ( 1 6 6 1 - 1 7 2 0 ) , comes c l o s e s t t o shar ing Behn's f e m i n i s t i c o u t l o o k . Repeatedly in her poems she expresses resentment aga ins t a govern ing a e s t h e t i c which ac ts on the presumptuous view t h a t "man" as a term f o r human k ind means men, p r i n c i p a l l y . She a lso w r i t e s poems in p r a i s e of women's genius and courage. She publ ished her f i r s t book anonymously, probably in response t o the scorn f o r women poets she had o p p o r t u n i t y t o exper ience dur ing her youth a t c o u r t . "Did I , my l i nes intend f o r p u b l i c k v i e w , / How many censures, wou'd t h e i r f a u l t s pe rsue , " she g l o o m i l y r e f l e c t s in a poem where she observes t h a t some men have made r e p u t a t i o n s as w i t s s o l e l y on the basis of such f a u l t f i n d i n g w h i l e the r e s t s imply d ismiss femin ine w r i t i n g as "woman's work . " "A las ! a woman t h a t a t tempts the p e n , / Such an i n t r u d e r on the r i g h t s of men , " " ^ she says w i t h a k ind of weary resentment. Towards the end of the century she r e t i r e d w i t h her husband t o the c o u n t r y , where she wrote The P e t i t i o n f o r  an Absolute R e t r e a t , a poem be long ing , says E.M.W. T i l l y a r d , " t o the 47 a u t h e n t i c seventeenth century poet ry of r e t i r e m e n t , " and which he p ra ises in terms s i g n i f i c a n t f o r the women's t r a d i t i o n . "One would t h i n k , " he says, r e f e r r i n g t o so f i r m l y es tab l i shed a t r a d i t i o n as the " r e t i r e m e n t m y t h , " t h a t i t was ready t o go s t a l e . Yet t h a t myth, f a r from f o r c i n g Anne Finch t o the f r i g i d and the i n e r t , gave her^ the means of express ing a s i n g u l a r l y f r e s h set of personal f e e l i n g s . Finch l i v e d i n t o the e igh teen th c e n t u r y , p u b l i s h i n g in 1713 a volume e n t i t l e d M isce l lany Poems, which conta ined nature poems pra ised f o r t h e i r f reshness and l y r i c i s m , a foreward looking poet ry which " i n cadence 58 and s p i r i t resembles the n ine teen th c e n t u r y . " Poets such as P h i l i p s and Finch are r e f e r r e d t o by Woodcock as t a l e n t e d amateurs who never rose t o Behn's s t a t u s on account of t h e i r weal th and p o s i t i o n which served t o i n s u l a t e them from the a r t i s t ' s soc ia l and economic necess i ty of s t r u g g l e ; f o r example, he cons iders t h a t Behn's b r i l l i a n t accomplishment owes as much t o her necess i t y t o earn a l i v i n g as t o her innate g i f t s and c h a r a c t e r . I pe rsona l l y f i n d t h i s hypothesis c o n v i n c i n g . The p ro fess iona l d r i v e which sharpened and developed Behn's s k i l l s , ensur ing a c o n s i s t e n t l y high p r o d u c t i v i t y , a l so meant she competed w i t h men on terms they had t o accep t . Behn enjoyed an e q u a l i t y she b o l d l y imposed, which makes her something of a wonder. She enabled the host of p ro fess iona l women who came a f t e r her t o f o l l o w up the advantage she had gained f o r them, though t h i s was n e i t h e r e a s i l y nor q u i c k l y accompl ished. The important t h i n g , as Woodcock says, is t h a t the female w r i t e r had come t o s t a y . Behn won her own p l a c e , and thereby a p lace f o r a l l women, not on ly through courage and competence, 59 but through innova t i ve techniques and dar ing ideas t h a t came t o a f f e c t 48 the f u t u r e course of w r i t i n g . Though her i n f l uence has been main ly f e l t in the spheres of the novel and drama, we have t o a l low t h a t the poet ry owes a t leas t i t s s p i r i t t o Behn's consciousness of her woman's r o l e in shaping a l i t e r a t u r e represen t ing woman's v i e w p o i n t , wh i l e in c r a f t , i t i s e a s i l y the equal of her male contemporar ies. The seventeenth century is remarkable not on ly f o r the p ioneer ing work of Behn, but f o r t h a t of her e l d e r contemporary Anne B r a d s t r e e t , who l e f t England in 1630 t o take up l i f e in the New w o r l d , where she became i t s f i r s t poet of consequence. Her f i r s t work was p u b l i s h e d , w i t h o u t her consent , in London, by her b r o t h e r - i n - l a w , under a long t i t l e beginn ing The Tenth Muse La te ly Sprung up in America. (He apparent ly was not averse t o s e t t i n g up h is kinswoman as Sappho's equal in t h i s echo of P l a t o ' s compl iment . ) But i t was not t i l l l a t e r . — f r o m 1650 o n — t h a t B rads t ree t began t o come i n t o her own as a mature poet w r i t i n g more than merely capable convent iona l ve rse . Th is was when her work began t o take on l i f e as she turned t o domestic s u b j e c t s , w r i t i n g out of her own exper ience much as d id Behn, but w i t h the huge d i f f e r e n c e of being conf ined w i t h i n a c o n v e n t i o n a l , C h r i s t i a n woman's wor ld of the home. In a Foreword t o the Pu r i t an p o e t ' s c o l l e c t e d works, the poet Adrienne Rich has t h i s t o say: Anne Brads t ree t was the f i r s t n o n - d i d a c t i c American poe t , the f i r s t t o g i ve an embodiment t o American n a t u r e , the f i r s t in whom personal i n t e n t i o n appears t o precede Pu r i t an dogma as an impulse t o ve rse . . . . The web of her s e n s i t i v i t y . . . in i t s t e x t u r e is e s s e n t i a l l y both Pu r i t an and femin ine . . . her vo ice is d i r e c t and t o u c h i n g . . . . Her i n d i v i d u a l i s m l i e s in her choice of ma te r ia l r a t h e r than in her s t y l e . . . . To have w r i t t e n poems, the f i r s t good poems in America, wh i l e rea r ing e i g h t c h i l d r e n , l y ing f r e q u e n t l y s i c k , keeping house a t the edge of w i l d e r n e s s , was t o have managed a p o e t ' s range and extens ion w i t h i n con f ines as severe as any American poet has c o n f r o n t e d . I f the s e v e r i t y of these con f ines l e f t i t s mark on the poet ry of Anne B r a d s t r e e t , i t a l so forced i n t o c o n c e n t r a t i o n and permanence a g i f t e d energy t h a t m igh t , in angjher c o n t e x t , have spent i t s e l f in o t h e r , less endur ing d i r e c t i o n s . 49 Brads t ree t ce lebra ted the p a t r i a r c h a l o rder of her l i f e as she knew i t and, w i t h i n her B i b l i c a l frame of r e f e r e n c e , g e n e r a l l y de fers t o male s u p e r i o r i t y , Never the less , l i k e Behn and F inch , she speaks b i t t e r l y o f having her p o e t i c g i f t den ied , as in these l i nes from "The Pro logue : " I am obnoxious t o each carp ing tongue Who says my hand a needle b e t t e r f i t s , A p o e t ' s pen a l l scorn I should thus wrong, For such desp i te they cas t on female w i t s : I f what I do prove w e l l , i t won ' t advance, ^ T h e y ' l l say i t ' s s t o l ' n , o r e l se i t was by chance. She a lso takes g r e a t p r i de in the proven s u p e r i o r i t y of a woman who had been one of England's g r e a t e s t and most ce leb ra ted r u l e r s ; here is p a r t of a poem " I n Honour of t h a t High and Mighty Pr incess Queen E l i zabe th of Happy Memory:" Now, say, have women worth? o r have they none? Or had they some, but w i t h our Queen i s ' t gone? Nay mascu l ines , you have thus taxed us long, But she, though dead, w i l l v i n d i c a t e our wrong. Let such as say our sex is vo id of reason, ^ Know ' t i s a s lander now but once was t r e a s o n . Such f e e l i n g s of j u s t resentment and p r i d e have analogues in a l l the seventeenth century women poets mentioned so f a r , and indeed, in many of those t o come. They are f e e l i n g s t h a t form the basis of a growing femin ism. The f e a t u r e most shared in common by the poets discussed thus f a r is the energy t h a t t h e i r poe t ry de r i ves from i t s emphasis on personal exper ience. Women t i l l now wrote b e s t , i t would appear (meaning those who surv ived the c o u r s e ) , w h e n — l i k e Sappho, g i v i n g form t o her most i n t i m a t e f e e l i n g s and pass ions, l i k e Behn, s a t i r i z i n g i n j u s t i c e and speaking f r a n k l y as a woman on mat te rs o f sex, and l i k e B r a d s t r e e t , reaching f o r beauty wh i l e s t r u g g l i n g merely t o s tay a l i v e in a harsh , new e n v i r o n m e n t — they wrote of the d a i l y l i f e , in i t s personal and concrete r e l a t i o n s w i t h 50 people and w i t h t h i n g s . T h e i r s is a human I y«-f ocused a r t . In t h e i r de te rm ina t ion t o r i s e above oppress ive c o n d i t i o n s , such women poets s t r i k e a un ive rsa l chord : one t h a t is not l i m i t e d t o women but sounds f o r a l l human c r e a t u r e s . '. In i t s f o l l o w - u p t o a century of such promise, the e igh teen th century does not g i v e much cause f o r r e j o i c i n g . Mary Wort Iy Montagu is the c e n t u r y ' s most f r e q u e n t l y noted female w r i t e r and she cont inues the f e m i n i s t t r a d i t i o n along w i t h the e p i s t o l a r y one. A l b e r t C. Baugh in h i s A L i t e r a r y H i s t o r y of England c i t e s her as Pope's " g r e a t r i v a l f o r e p i s t o l a r y fame in h i s ha I f - c e n t u r y . I n p o e t r y , she u t t e r s l i nes t h a t are amazingly ak in t o those of the t h i r t e e n t h century F l o r e n t i n e lady whose poem I quoted e a r l i e r ; here i s Lady Montagu in an e x t r a c t from her poem, " I n Answer t o a Lady who Advised Re t i remen t : " In crowded c o u r t s I' f i n d myself a lone , And pay my worship t o a nob ler t h r o n e . Long s ince the value of t h i s wor ld I know, P i t y the madness, and despise the show. Well as I can my ted ious p a r t I bear , ^ And wa i t f o r my d ismiss ion w i t h o u t f e a r . Her poem, "A Caveat t o t he F a i r Sex" i s , in i t s t u r n , a d i a t r i b e aga ins t marr iage t h a t c l o s e l y foreshadows the e a r l y t w e n t i e t h cen tu ry poems o f Anna Wickham on t h i s theme. The f o l l o w i n g . e x c e r p t from the beginn ing o f "A Caveat" is o f f e r e d f o r compar ison:* Wife and servant are the same, But on ly d i f f e r in the name; For when the f a t a l know is t y ' d , Which n o t h i n g , noth ing can d i v i d e ; When she the word obey has s a i d , And man by law supreme is made, Then a l l t h a t ' s k ind is l a i d a s i d e , ^ And noth ing l e f t but s t a t e and p r i d e . *See "The Wi fe " and " D i v o r c e " by Anna Wickham in Sect ion F ive o f t he Antho logy . 51 Among o the r poets of the e igh teen th century are Jane El I i o t , Anna L a e t i t i a Barbauld and Anna Seward; Mrs. Joanna Ba i l l i e takes us i n t o the n ine teen th century and is best known as a p l a y w r i g h t . These and o t h e r poe ts , f o r the most p a r t , l i v e on in obscure a n t h o l o g i e s . Barbauld wrote a poem e n t i t l e d "The Rights of Women," in which she not on ly c a l l s on women t o r i s e and a s s e r t t h e i r r i g h t s , but goes so f a r as t o adv i se : Try a l l t h a t w i t and a r t suggest t o bend Of t h y imper ia l foe the stubborn knee; Make t reacherous Man thy s u b j e c t , not thy frj_.gnd; Thou mayst command, but never canst be f r e e . Th is r o l e - r e v e r s a l takes us back t o Eleanor of Aqu i ta ine and her t i m e s , but Barbauld is concerned w i t h j u s t i c e , not w i t h cou r tesy . J u s t i c e , she f e a r s , can never mean freedom f o r women, s ince love so f tens and subdues them. Women must res ign themselves t o t h e i r b i o l o g i c a l d e s t i n y , l e a r n i n g , " I n Na tu re ' s s c h o o l , by her s o f t maxime t a u g h t , / That separate r i g h t s are l o s t in mutual l o v e . " ^ The humbling and h u m i l i a t i n g power o f love is a theme we f i n d repeated many t imes in t w e n t i e t h century women poets . With the precedents f o r women t o w r i t e f i r m l y es tab l i shed by now, we begin t o hear from many more women whose major emphasis in w r i t i n g is p o e t r y . The n ine teenth century produces several g r e a t names as wel l as many lesser ones. I t is c lose enough t o our own t ime t o be, in the long h i s t o r i c a l v iew, bare ly separate from i t ; in terms of a t t i t u d e , however, the n ine teen th century seems wor lds apa r t f rom o u r s . The V i c t o r i a n age is unsympathet icaI Iy regarded, in one popular v iew, as a per iod outgrown and surpassed (an a t t i t u d e of s u p e r i o r i t y which may a f f o r d some f u t u r e h i s t o r i a n no l i t t l e i r o n y , cons ider ing the ho r ro rs brought about by t w e n t i e t h century " e n l i g h t e n m e n t " ) . Th is general p r e j u d i c e may account , in p a r t , f o r the d e c l i n e in a p p r e c i a t i o n of a poet of the 52 s t a t u r e of E l i zabe th B a r r e t t Browning. Though she has been g r e a t l y , and i t is v a l i d t o say u n j u s t l y , overshadowed by her famous husband who o u t l i v e d her by many years of p r o d u c t i v i t y , B a r r e t t Browning was, in her own age, more revered than he, a f a c t t h a t is o f t e n put down t o the o v e r l y sent imenta l t a s t e o f the t i m e s . Her poe t i c peers placed her foremost among t h e i r number, apparen t ly a p p r e c i a t i n g her d i f f e r e n c e from themselves, f o r she was immediate and contemporary in her concerns, as we l l as being considered exemplary in her c r a f t . The i r approval ' of a poet who responded t o the immediate present is worth n o t i n g , s ince most of the g r e a t V i c t o r i a n s n o s t a l g i c a l l y looked towards the past (and can be thought of as escap is t in t h a t sense) . Today she is ranked leas t among those V i c t o r i a n s , even below the two o the r g r e a t women poets of the c e n t u r y , C h r i s t i n a Rosse t t i and Emily D ick inson . Of the f i r s t rank, on ly Emily Bronte has a lesser place ( t o g e t h e r w i t h her s i s t e r Anne, who wrote very l i t t l e ) and t h a t probably owes as much t o her ou ts tand ing c o n t r i b u t i o n in the sphere of the n o v e l , where she i s accorded f u l l honors, as t o the r a t h e r l i m i t e d range of her sad, s t i l l music. Of B a r r e t t Browning's cons iderab ly large corpus , on ly her sonnets g l o r i f y i n g her love f o r Robert are w ide ly c i r c u -la ted today ; the r e s t of the poems are most ly consigned t o o b l i v i o n . Undoubtedly f i n e , the sonnets are hard I y adequate t o do t h i s poet j u s t i c e . Much more e x c i t i n g , in my o p i n i o n , is ' her verse-novel Aurora Le igh , unique in i t s fo rm. Though i t s f a u l t s are i n v a r i a b l y c i t e d , where c r i t i c s have even deigned t o comment on the work, i t s v i r t u e s remain 68 l a r g e l y ignored. A recent book- length study of the p o e t ' s work—whose s ta ted purpose i s t o c a l l a t t e n t i o n t o an undeservedly neglected w r i t e r 5 3 ( t h e o n l y such s t u d y I have been a b l e t o f i n d ) — c o n d e s c e n d s t o j u d g e i t , i n P l a t o ' s p h r a s e : a " n o b l e e r r o r . " A u r o r a L e i g h d e s e r v e s s p e c i a l a t t e n t i o n here because o f i t s theme, which i s c e n t r a l t o t h i s t h e s i s . W r i t t e n i n n i n e books o f f l o w i n g and o f t e n b e a u t i f u l b l a n k v e r s e , t h e work i s p r i m a r i l y a p o r t r a i t o f t h e a r t i s t as a young woman; i n i t a r e documented t h e s t r u g g l e and m i l i e u o f a woman of t h e t i m e s who i s d r i v e n by t h e i n n e r n e c e s s i t y o f her c a l l i n g t o r e p u d i a t e t h e t r a d i t i o n a l woman's l i f e of s u b m i s s i v e s e r v i c e i n t h e name of d u t y , love and m a r r i a g e , i n o r d e r t o pursue an independent c a r e e r as a w r i t e r and t h i n k e r . In t h e c o u r s e of her n a r r a t i o n , t h e h e r o i n e comes t o r e a l i z e t h a t a r t w i t h o u t l o v e i s as b a r r e n as l i f e w i t h o u t a r t — t h e l a t t e r t h e c h o i c e o f f e r e d by t h e would-be lover-and-husband who i s f i r e d w i t h t h e i d e a l s of C h r i s t i a n S o c i a I i s m - - a n d she comes t o an a r t i s t i c impasse. The p a i r a r e f i n a l l y u n i t e d as t h e l o v e r , a n o b l y -i n t e n t i o n e d p h i l a n t h r o p i s t , broken and humbled by t h e f a i l u r e o f h i s a p p l i e d i d e a l s , a r r i v e s , a t s e l f - k n o w l e d g e as i l l u m i n a t i n g as t h e h e r o i n e ' s , and as in need of b e i n g b a l a n c e d by i t s o p p o s i t e . "The book," w r i t e s E l a i n e S h o w a I t e r , "shocked c r i t i c s w i t h i t s h e r o i n e ' s need t o d e f i n e her own l i f e , and t o do her own work, r a t h e r t h a n a c c e p t a man's v i s i o n 69 of h e r , however a f f e c t i o n a t e . " The book c h a l l e n g e d o t h e r d e e p l y h e l d p r e j u d i c e s i n r e g a r d t o women as w e l l , but t h e p u b l i c was e n t h u s i a s t i c n e v e r t h e l e s s and i t s a u t h o r c o n t i n u e d t o w r i t e d e s p i t e s u s t a i n e d i l l n e s s , f o u r m i s c a r r i a g e s and t h e b i r t h o f a.son. A u r o r a L e i g h i s a c h r o n i c l e which abounds i n a s t u t e o b s e r v a t i o n s o f l i f e and a r t ; p a r t i c u l a r l y i n c i s i v e a r e her d e l i g h t f u l v i g n e t t e s o f contemporary c h a r a c t e r s , d r a m a t i c a l l y r e a l i z e d w i t h an economy and w i t comparable 54 t o Chaucer 's ; f o r example, t h i s d e s c r i p t i o n from the F i f t h Book,of Lord Howe's w i f e a t a pa r t y at tended by the hero ine : His w i f e is g rac ious w i t h her g lossy b r a i d s , And even v o i c e , and gorgeous e y e b a l l s , calm As her o the r j e w e l s . I f she 's somewhat c o l d , Who wonders, when her blood has stood so long In the ducal r e s e r v o i r she' c a l l s her l i n e ( I I . 582-586) or t h i s of S i r B la i se Delorme ' : ( t h i r t y - f i v e and med iaeva l ) " whose brow is h i g h , And n o t i c e a b l y narrow: a s t rong w ind , You fancy , might unroof him suddenly, And blow t h a t g r e a t top a t t i c o f f h i s head So p i l e d w i t h feudal r e l i c s . You admire His nose in p r o f i l e , though you miss h i s c h i n ; But though you miss h i s c h i n , you seldom miss His ebon cross worn innermos t l y , (carved For penance by a s a i n t l y S t y r i a n monk Whose f l e s h was too much w i t h h im, ) . . . ( I I . 669-678) F i n a l l y , a sardonic c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n of the hero, Romney Le igh , put i n t o the mouth of an a r rogan t young German s tuden t ; the lady r e f e r r e d t o in paren thes is is the v i l l a i n e s s of the s t o r y whose lack of sc rup les in t r y i n g t o win Romney have earned her the h e r o i n e ' s contempt: Choose a w i f e Because of her s o f t skin? Not he, not he! He'd r a i l a t Venus' s e l f f o r c reak ing shoes, Unless she walked h i s way of r igh teousness ; And i f he takes a Venus M e r e t r i x (No imputat ion on the lady t h e r e ) Be su re , t h a t , by some s l e i g h t of C h r i s t i a n a r t , He has metamorphosed and converted her To the Blessed V i r g i n . . . ( I I . 761-769) B a r r e t t Browning exce ls in o t h e r d e s c r i p t i v e w r i t i n g as w e l l . The book 's main f a u l t i s a n a r r a t i v e p l o t t h a t f a l l s i n t o the melodramatic indulgences of the age; t he re is a s t rong Dickensian f l a v o r in her d e p i c t i o n of femin ine t y p e s : a young work ingc lass g i r l who r e t a i n s her innate n o b i l i t y throughout a degrading and b r u t a l set of occurrences 55 caused by the r u l i n g c l a s s ' s oppression of the poor, and a scheming, e v i l woman of t h a t c l a s s . The p o e t ' s soc ia l i n d i g n a t i o n is here undermined by a s e n s i b i l i t y which t o us seems exaggerated and s e n t i m e n t a l . We cannot b e l i e v e in such charac te rs or accept her view of the working poor as most ly h o r r i b l e and r e p u l s i v e v i c t i m s , hopeless ly reduced t o cr ime and s e l f -d e s t r u c t i o n . The f a c t t h a t E l i za b e th B a r r e t t was house-sequestered f o r so long must p a r t i a l l y exonerate her f o r such f a u l t s . The poem is u n r i v a l l e d , however, in the c r i t i c a l s e l f - e x a m i n a t i o n of i t s c e n t r a l c h a r a c t e r , Auro ra , who is a p o r t r a i t of t he au tho r . The Second Book d r a m a t i c a l l y presents the basis of the c o n f l i c t between Aurora and Romney. In the excerp ts I am about t o quote , she has j u s t r e j e c t e d h is proposal of mar r iage . Romney is h u r t and bewi ldered by her re fusa l t o see the compliment in h i s o f f e r : was he so wrong, he asks her , in t a k i n g "The woman t o be nob ler than the man,',' and h e r s e l f the nob l e s t o f . women in understanding the nature of love? Was he so wrong " I n saying b l u n t l y , ven tu r ing t r u t h on l o v e , / 'Come, human c r e a t u r e , love and work w i t h m e , ' " instead of c o u r t i n g her w i t h romant ic phrases and f l o u r i s h e s ? Breaking in "With q u i e t i n d i g n a t i o n , " Aurora argues: You misconceive the ques t ion I i k e a man, Who sees a woman as the complement Of h i s sex mere ly . You f o r g e t t oo much That every c r e a t u r e , female as the male, Stands s i n g l e in respons ib le ac t and t h o u g h t , As a l so in b i r t h and death . Whoever says To a loyal woman, 'Love and work w i t h me, ' W i l l ge t f a i r answers, i f the work and love, Being good themselves, are good f o r h e r — t h e best She was born f o r . Women of a s o f t e r mood, Surpr ised by men when scarce ly awake t o l i f e , W i l l sometimes on ly hear the f i r s t word, love , And catch up w i t h i t any k ind of work, I n d i f f e r e n t , so t h a t dear love go w i t h i t : 56 I do not blame such womerl, though, f o r love , They p ick much oakum; e a r t h ' s f a n a t i c s make Too f r e q u e n t l y heaven's s a i n t s . But me, your work Is not the best f o r , — n o r your love the b e s t , Nor ab le t o commend the k ind of work For l ove ' s sake mere ly . ( I I . 433-452) In the Eighth Book, the p o e t ' s case f o r a r t is presented by Romney who, now owning Aurora t o have been r i g h t a l l a l o n g , quotes words she spoke t o him in a former argument: 'You w i l l not compass your poor ends Of b a r l e y - f e e d i n g and mate r ia l ease Wi thout the p o e t ' s i n d i v i d u a l i s m To work your u n i v e r s a l . I t takes a soul To move a body: i t takes a high-sou led man To move the masses even t o a c leaner s t y ; I t takes the ideal t o blow an inch ins ide The dust of the a c t u a l ; and your Four ie rs f a i l e d , Because not poets enough t o understand That l i f e develops from w i t h i n . ' ( I I . 427-436) Au ro ra ' s author presents t h i s d i a l e c t i c as a r e a l i s t i c issue t h a t doubt less informs her own passionate commitment t o soc ia l j u s t i c e as an a r t i s t . Between the poles of t h a t c o n f l i c t , she g ives us a p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y accurate d e s c r i p t i o n of the agoniz ing burden of s e l f - d o u b t , lone I iness 'and increas ing i s o l a t i o n t h a t can overcome the woman who e l e c t s t o f o l l o w a personal d i r e c t i v e in o p p o s i t i o n t o the p rescr ibed soc ia l one, e s p e c i a l l y when t h a t choice invo lves denying her own r i s i n g s e x u a l i t y and the c a l l o f love and companionship. For a woman in the n ine teen th cen tu ry t o w r i t e o f such a dilemma was t o take up an issue t h a t women had scarce ly dared t o perce ive as one. From t h i s t ime on, the c o n f l i c t between being a woman and a w r i t e r i s one t h a t i n c r e a s i n g l y occupies women poets . A t y p i c a l c r i t i c a l a t t i t u d e towards B a r r e t t Browning is seen in E.K. Brown's e d i t o r i a l comment in V i c t o r i a n Poe t ry : comparing her in t h i s anthology t o her husband ( u n f a i r l y , s u r e l y ) , he f i n d s her s t y l e " t h i n and monotonous"; he a l so reg re ts the "dominat ion of her temper [ w h i c h ] has in the end done her poet ry 57 a d i s s e r v i c e . " The f a u l t seems t o l i e , once a g a i n , in t h a t she was too much "a woman of her spec ia l t i m e . " " ^ Other e d i t o r s decry the e f f e c t s of her moral earnestness upon the fo rm: "she f e l t t h a t form in l i t e r a t u r e was less important than subs tance, " a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e comment informs u s , ^ t r e a t i n g as a f a u l t what has been the mainstay and v i n d i c a t i o n of femin ine genius in p o e t r y . L ike Behn two c e n t u r i e s e a r l i e r , B a r r e t t Browning was s t i r r e d t o i n d i g n a t i o n aga ins t any form of i n j u s t i c e , but even t h i s is not a l lowed her , being ascr ibed t o C a r l y l e ' s i n f l uence on her though t . Her courageous espousal of many unpopular causes (as exemp l i f i ed in such poems as Casa Gu i d i  Windows, Poems before Congress, and A_ Curse f o r a Nat ion) c e r t a i n l y demon-s t r a t e s how she f e l t . Her soc ia l consc ience, i n c i d e n t a l l y , was not shared by her husband who was " i n d i f f e r e n t " t o such mat ters accord ing t o c r i t i c s . The power t h i s d e d i c a t i o n gave her poe t ry i s ev iden t in "The Cry of the C h i l d r e n , " a poem c i t e d as having a r o l e in he lp ing t o pass long-needed l e g i s l a t i o n aga ins t the employment of young c h i l d r e n f o r long hours in the mines and f a c t o r i e s . "The Cry of the C h i l d r e n " has been c a l l e d "one of the 72 most a f f e c t i n g humani tar ian poems in the language." T h i s , by the same e d i t o r who f i n d s her s t y l e " t h i n and monotonous." As f o r anyone's spec ia l i n f luence in determin ing the passionate moral substance of her p o e t r y , eve ry th ing in t h i s r e s o l u t e and g i f t e d woman's biography shows t h a t her moral c o n v i c t i o n is her own; her mentors , whether they were P l a t o , Wordsworth or C a r l y l e , were chosen because they f i t t e d the needs of her own deeply f e l t f a i t h and s t rong sense of i n t e g r i t y . In love, she chose a man whose commitment t o a r t was equal t o her own, and whose whole-hearted admi ra t ion f o r her a r t i s t r y and person bespeaks a sympathet ic shar ing of her i n t e r e s t s . . Her 58 f a t h e r , w h i l e e x e r t i n g a t y r a n n i c a l dominance over her phys ica l f reedom, never the less had supported and encouraged her i n t e l l e c t u a l g rowth , so t h a t , long before she marr ied a t the age of f o r t y , she had c u l t i v a t e d an independent mind. Her poe t i c e f f o r t s as a c h i l d of nine a l ready g i ve evidence of a s tagger ing e r u d i t i o n . Thus her emotional s u s c e p t i b i l i t y t o ideas of freedom and j u s t i c e as a V i c t o r i a n was backed, not by i t s romant ic h e r i t a g e a lone , but by the broad learn ing of an acute i n t e l l e c t . Indeed, i t has had t o be acknowledged t h a t "she possessed t e c h n i c a l s k i l l and o r i g i n a l i t y " along w i t h o the r p o e t i c accomplishments which e n t i t l e her t o a p lace among " t h e foremost women poets of E n g l a n d . " ^ Though t h i s kind of compliment comes uncomfor tably c lose t o the "she 's -good- fo r -a -woman" k i n d , i t a t leas t puts her in a b e t t e r perspec t i ve than what most c r i t i c a l eva lua t i ons have a l l owed . I t need hard ly be belabored here t h a t the c r u c i b l e s wherein a female p o e t ' s l i f e and a r t were forged were, up u n t i l the t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y , ha rd l y conducive t o t h e i r success. Yet t h i s is a f a c t a l l t o o e a s i l y dropped in a e s t h e t i c e v a l u a t i o n s . I t took the combinat ion of deep c o n v i c t i o n and an undefeatable courage f o r women l i k e Behn and, t o a lesser e x t e n t , B a r r e t t Browning t o asser t themselves aga ins t the l i m i t a t i o n s of t h e i r s o c i e t i e s . The f o c u s , in Aurora Le igh , upon the c o n f l i c t s between the woman and the a r t i s t would in e a r l i e r t imes have appeared u n - C h r i s t i a n , s e l f - i n d u l g e n t , lack ing in decorum and f o o l i s h l y f u t i l e bes ides. Most women had t o overcome t h e i r sexual yearn ings f o r the f u l f i l l m e n t of love , in o rder t o w r i t e — a s Aurora Le igh , m i r r o r i n g her author, almost d i d , and as d id in real l i f e such w r i t e r s as the Bronte s i s t e r s , C h r i s t i n a Rosset t i and Emily D ick inson . That Rosse t t i stayed s i n g l e under the s t rong impress of r e l i g i o n , t h a t Dick inson y i e l d e d t o the s t rong demand of her genius f o r an i n t e n s i v e 59 s o l i t u d e in which t o un fo ld i t s e l f — - t h e s e are i n d i v i d u a l c i rcumstances which r a t i o n a l i z e the general c i rcumstance t h a t women were s tunted by too l i t t l e room in which t o grow and expand. The t h r e a t of having t o f o r g o love , the economic s e c u r i t y of mar r iage , and p o s s i b l y , c h i l d r e n , was enough t o s u c c e s s f u l l y subdue most women who might have had c r e a t i v e i n c l i n a t i o n s o r promptings towards a p ro fess iona l career in w r i t i n g . The choice was c r u e l . No woman's poet ry of the past has remained untouched by such c o n s i d e r a t i o n s ; femin ine genius bears the charac te r of the femin ine exper ience i t was molded i n . The poets mentioned so f a r d i f f e r as g r e a t l y from one another in form of express ion as in c i rcumstance: they have on l y t h e i r femaleness in common, a n d . a l l t h a t denotes. But the deno ta t ion is g e n e r i c : a common exper ience of c o n s t r i c t e d p o t e n t i a l , of being answerable t o a man's w o r l d , and of an endurance st rengthened in a d v e r s i t y . Of t h i s combinat ion each makes her own d i s t i n c t i v e shape; each f i n d s her own c h a r a c t e r i s t i c adjustment t o the g r e a t quest ions and chal lenges of l i f e . Sharing a woman's p o s i t i o n in the c u l t u r e , they speak from w i t h i n t h e i r own sens ib le spheres. They cannot , as men do, speak from a p l a t f o r m in t he p o l i s , i . e . , from a s e c u r i t y and con-f idence of being a t home in the a f f a i r s of the populace. They have no use f o r i n t e l l e c t u a l a b s t r a c t i o n s o the r than those which de r i ve from the s t r u g g l e t o express the i n e f f a b l e , the mys t ic yearn ings which so o f t e n appear in intense and s o l i t a r y na tu res . And women, as we have seen were pe r fo rce s o l i t a r y in s t r i v i n g t o de f i ne themselves. C h r i s t i n a Rosset t i had more con tac ts w i t h the m i d - V i c t o r i a n wor ld than most women, becoming assoc ia ted through her b ro the rs w i t h the Pre-Raphael i tes who p r i n t e d her f i r s t poems in t h e i r magazine. A l l the same she led a t y p i c a l l y secluded l i f e , in the company of a mother she was deeply a t tached t o 60 and whose C h r i s t i a n p i e t y she s h a r e d . The music of her p o e t r y , and she i s a s i n g e r above a l l , i s imbued w i t h a r e s t r a i n e d , sad m y s t i c i s m and l o n g i n g f o r escape i n d e a t h t h a t r e c a l l s t h e p o e t r y o f E m i l y B r o n t e , who a l s o l i v e d , a p a r t from a d r e a r y p e r i o d as a g o v e r n e s s , i n c l o s e f a m i l y s e c l u s i o n . R o s s e t t i wrote a sonnet sequence on love which begs comparison w i t h B a r r e t t B r owning's. U n l i k e h e r s , R o s s e t t i ' s s h o r t e r sequence i s permeated w i t h t h e d y i n g f a l l o f r e n u n c i a t i o n and l o s s . She c o u l d w r i t e l i v e l y and u n i n h i b i t e d l y i m a g i n a t i v e poems as w e l l , as t h e b e a u t i f u l l y r i c "A B i r t h d a y , " and t h e s p e I I - c a s t i n g , e r o t i c a l l y c h arged " G o b l i n M a r k e t " p r o v e . The l a t t e r i s s t r i k i n g as an o r i g i n a l n a r r a t i v e b l e n d o f f a i r y - t a l e , moral a l l e g o r y and sensuous t e x t u r e , b u t u n l i k e The F a e r i e Queene, which t h i s may seem t o d e s c r i b e , R o s s e t t i ' s f a s t - p a c e d t a l e of two s i s t e r s i s a l m o s t n a i v e i n i t s s i m p l i c i t y . N e v e r t h e l e s s , her p r e v a i l i n g t o n e l a c k s e n e r g y , t h e s p i r i t u a l d e n i a l of t h e body t h a t s e t s t h e t o n e r e s u l t i n g i n a p o e t r y t h a t i s o f t e n p a l e and l a n g u i s h i n g . Her r e l i g i o u s p o e t r y i s c o n v i n c i n g enough i n i t s a r d o r , but t h e t h o u g h t , I f i n d , i s t o o o f t e n c o n v e n t i o n a l . Where t h e sensuous s i d e of her n a t u r e s u d d e n l y b r e a k s t h r o u g h r e s t r a i n t s , her form, l i k e t h a t o f t h e s a i n t i n B e r n i n i ' s E c s t a c y o f S t . T h e r e s a i s i l l u m i n a t e d from w i t h i n ; o t h e r w i s e , t h e l o n g i n g f o r r e s t i n death c o n t i n u a l l y e x p r e s s e d t h r o u g h o u t her p o e t r y s u g g e s t s a l a c k o f v i g o r which s t r i k e s me as d e c a d e n t , so t h a t I c a n n o t a g r e e w i t h much p r e s e n t c r i t i c a l o p i n i o n which g i v e s her f i r s t p l a c e o v e r o t h e r women p o e t s . Her i n f l u e n c e on t h e p o e t i c development of her t i m e s i s i n keeping w i t h t h e t r a d i t i o n of her s i s t e r p o e t s , her p o p u l a r i t y h a v i n g f o c u s e d a t t e n t i o n on t h e work of t h e P r e - R a p h a e l i t e p o e t s i n whose i n n o v a t i v e n e s s she s h a r e s . As a femal e C h r i s t i a n m y s t i c who w r o t e p o e t r y she i s a f a i r l y r a r e f i g u r e , i n v i t i n g c o m p a rison w i t h H i l d e g a r d o f B i n g e n . 61 Emily Dick inson was born in 1830, the same year as Rosse t t i whose preoccupat ion w i t h death she may be said t o share , and w i t h whose l i f e of wi thdrawal her own may be compared. There the resemblance ends. D i c k i n s o n