UBC Theses and Dissertations

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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: A STUDY OF POETIC  MOTIVATION  SHAPES OF EXPERIENCE  AND CRAFT  INCORPORATING  IN TWENTIETH CENTURY WOMEN POETS  A S E L E C T ANTHOLOGY  by  HELENE ROSENTHAL B.A.,  University  A THESIS  of  SUBMITTED  British  IN PARTIAL  THE REQUIREMENTS  1969  F U L F I L M E N T OF  FOR THE DEGREE OF  MASTER OF  in t h e  Columbia,  ARTS  Department of E n g I i sh  We a c c e p t  this  thesis  as  conforming  THE UNIVERSITY  to  OF B R I T I S H  September,  1974  the  required  COLUMBIA  standard  In p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s  in p a r t i a l  f u l f i l m e n t o f the requirements  an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t  freely available  for  I agree  thesis  f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be g r a n t e d by the Head o f my Department It  of this thesis for financial written  Department o f  tfcro&E-R  9 , 1974  Columbia  or  publication  gain s h a l l not be a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my  &NG-LI SH  The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Vancouver 8, Canada  Date  i s understood t h a t copying o r  permission.  that  reference and study.  I f u r t h e r agree t h a t permission f o r e x t e n s i v e copying o f t h i s  by h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s .  for  ii  Abstract  The  virtual  its criticism  a b s e n c e o f women's v i e w p o i n t  c a n 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  western c u l t u r e throughout h i s t o r y . comprehensive  from t h e f i e l d  Aesthetic  in t h e i r authority, nevertheless  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 p o e t r y and  p o s i t i o n o f women i n  standards,  though  reflect this  of r e a l i t y .  absence,  Women p o e t s  been d i s c o u r a g e d a n d d i s c r i m i n a t e d  against  still  n o t overcome d e s p i t e  popularity, a result of t h e i r  ments  in t h i s century.  current  The p o e t r y  with had  broader  Thus,  t o struggle against  In o r d e r with  with  i s needed  there  thesis  is, first,  held  in poetry,  tradition  while  and  carrying  As d e s c r i b e d  separate existence,  whereas male  b a c k , women h a v e for their  a r e c o g n i t i o n t h a t t h e problem  work.  exists,  i m p o r t a n c e p a s t and p r e s e n t  experience.  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  tradition  experience.  experience,  women  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  o f women's l i t e r a r y  has always e x i s t e d , a l b e i t  i sthat  s i t u a t i o n i n w h i c h women c a n p a r t i c i p a t e  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 This  factor  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  second,, an a p p r e c i a t i o n  achieve-  t h e g o v e r n a n c e o f men i n d e a l i n g  f r e e d o m and a u t h o r i t y a l o n g  what  personal  i n a d d i t i o n t o being  t o bring about a d e s i r e d  equal  poetry, and  issues.  have  in publication, a situation  A contributory  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 to identify  being  o f women h a s been s e e n by m o s t men a s  unimportant o r subsidiary t o t h e i r s .  p o e t s h a v e been a b l e  seemingly  frequently  by s h o w i n g  submerged, a d i s t i n c t l y  a) t h a t feminine  b) t h a t c o n t e m p o r a r y w r i t i n g b e a r s o u t t h a t i t further  i n response t o  twentieth-century  and documented h e r e , t h i s t r a d i t i o n  a viability  a n d i t s own v a l i d i t y .  has a  Part of t h e problem  iii  in extending  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  dominant t r e n d s advances  in our century's  poetry  i s that  reflect the unparalleled technological  in the culture favoring formalistic  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 e x p e n s e 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 The times,  Historical  Introduction begins  tracing a tradition  expression  i n Sappho, i s seen  is manifested Renaissance century.  as i t reaches  w i t h women's s o n g s i n B i b l i c a l its first  i n t h e medieval  composition  i n E u r o p e , and b e g i n s  gathering  individualistic  of c o u r t l y  momentum i n t h e  lays,  seventeenth  T h e 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 e n e r g y we a r e now w i t n e s s i n g w i t h i n t h e l a s t hundred o r so y e a r s ,  during  w h i c h women h a v e p r o d u c e d a n h i s t o r i c a l l y  poetry  of high  calibre  u n p r e c e d e n t e d amount o f  i n E n g l i s h , s u f f i c i e n t t o permit  comparative a n a l y s i s  evaluation. The  Critical  examination  Commentary, t h e m a j o r f o c u s  of the quality  t h e appended A n t h o l o g y . twentieth-century The  peak o f  s p o r a d i c a l l y b o t h p r i o r t o a n d t o w a r d s t h e end o f t h e  is t h e r e s u l t of increased a c t i v i t y  and  content.  poems d e a l  content,  derived  a woman, o r a n a r t i s t ,  experience.  in poetry  o r both,  selected  emphasize  t h e d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e poems, i s p r e d i c a t e d on  o f themes and s u b j e c t  poets.  giving voice t o  Because t h e poets seemingly  in the Anthology,  from a study  The  body o f w o r k a s e x e m p l i f i e d i n  C o n s i s t i n g o f 133 poems, i t p r e s e n t s  in i t s f i t t e s t expression,  their organization  i s an  w o r k by A m e r i c a n , C a n a d i a n , E n g l i s h a n d A u s t r a l i a n  with being  authentic feminine  and range o f t h i s  for the thesis,  like  content-categories  matters.  c o n c l u s i o n e m e r g i n g f r o m 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 and from t h e c l o s e e x a m i n a t i o n  of i t s present  flowering  i s that  iV  t h e v o i c e and p e r s p e c t i v e of h a l f of humanity  i s being r e s t o r e d  more e q u i t a b l e a n c i e 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  in  its  implications  in t h e 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 , s t a n d a r d s and t e a c h i n g . F i n d i n g s h e r e i n demand t h a t s t a n d a r d s of c r i t i c i s m s h o u l d in a l l encompass t h e 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 w e i g h t t o  t r a d i t i o n , e n a b l i n g women t o be recognized as f u l l p o e t i c endeavor.  justice  e q u a l s in a l l  this  aspects of  V  CONTENTS  1  Preface Historical Critical  Introduction  16  Commentary on t h e Poems in t h e Anthology  73  Foreword  74  Chapter One  83  Chapter Two  109  Chapter Three  134  Chapter Four  151  Chapter F i v e  173  Chapter Six  197  Chapter Seven  235  Notes  263  L i s t o f Works Consulted  272  Appendix:  Antholoqy: Shapes of Experience Selected Poems o f T w e n t i e t h Century Women Poets  282  S e c t i o n One  283  S e c t i o n Two  309  S e c t i o n Three  321  S e c t i o n Four  335  Section Five  356  Sect ion Six  378  S e c t i o n Seven  413  Index t o Poems in t h e Anthology  445  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 p o e t r y today i s a phenomenon w i t h o u t precedence in h i s t o r y . j o i n t h e i r ranks we can expect t h a t , b e f o r e t o o l o n g , a t 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 t h e p o s s i b i l i t y  h i t h e r t o u n a t t a i n e d e q u a l i t y between t h e sexes. tors  As more women  l e a s t as many women in p o e t r y of a  The s o c i a l and l i t e r a r y  i n v o l v e d in t h i s development have f a r - r e a c h i n g  fac-  implications f o r the  art.  From t h e l i t e r a r y p o i n t of v i e w , t h e more t h a t women engage in w r i t i n g , t h e more they d e f i n e p o e t r y  in t h e i r own t e r m s ; t h e more women's p o e t r y  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 h e more i t c h a l l e n g e s an aesthetic that  i s - h i s t o r i c a I l y t h e p r o d u c t o f men e x e r c i s i n g a n e a r -  e x c l u s i v e dominance in t h e f i e l d of p o e t r y and i t s c r i t i c i s m . t h a t t h i s a e s t h e t i c — i . e . , t h e body of c r i t i c a l about t a s t e and t h e b e a u t i f u l  Once one g r a n t s  p r i n c i p l e s and o p i n i o n s  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 a number of q u e s t i o n s a r i s e . i t be done?  been d e f i c i e n t , look f o r ?  What i s meant by r e v i s i n g t h e a e s t h e t i c ?  How i s women's p o e t r y p r e s e n t l y  t a k i n g t h e woman's v i e w p o i n t  imbalance, Can  influencing the aesthetic?  If  i n t o account means t h a t t h e a e s t h e t i c has  in what way is i t s t i l l  s o , and what changes a r e we t o  F i n a l l y , what i s promised by such an a c t i o n ?  I hope t o answer as I go a l o n g .  These are q u e s t i o n s  But t o i n d i c a t e d i r e c t i o n ,  I would s a y ,  t a k i n g t h e l a s t q u e s t i o n f i r s t , t h a t what i s promised i s a changed o u t l o o k towards p o e t r y  in w h i c h , f o r t h e 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 t h e v o i c e and v i e w p o i n t  in p o e t r y of a h a 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 . that  The f a c t  i t could n o t , g i v e n t h e handicaps which women were f o r c e d t o  in h i s t o r y , means t h a t even t h e  l i t t l e of t h e i r p o e t r y t h a t made  m a n i f e s t and s u r v i v e d must be brought i n t o a new l i g h t of Once s t a r t e d on such a c o u r s e ,  it  labor under itself  recognition.  i s p o s s i b l e , as I have f o u n d , t o d i s c e r n  in women's p o e t r y 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 from t h e p o e t r y of men.  If the aesthetic  i s t o b e n e f i t , these  it  characteristics,  which amount t o a t r a d i t i o n , need t o be a p p r e c i a t e d and g i v e n t h e i r due. The s o c i a l mean by e q u a l i t y  s i d e of t h i s  is i m p l i c i t  in t h e n o t i o n of e q u a l i t y .  What I  in p o e t r y between t h e sexes i s p u b l i s h e d p o e t r y 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 h e p o e t r y of women does n o t y e t e n j o y , nor i s female p a s t achievement g i v e n a n y t h i n g accorded m a l e ' p o e t s of t h e p a s t .  l i k e the  recognition  The work of women in p o e t r y has been  t r e a t e d w i t h condescension a t b e s t , w i t h t h e r e s u l t t h a t p r e j u d i c e and n e g l e c t have kept us from knowing and a p p r e c i a t i n g t h e f u l l women t o our p o e t i c h e r i t a g e .  Thus, i t  contribution  i s n o t s i m p l y a q u e s t i o n of  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 i s c u s s i o n of women in p o e t r y a d i s c u s s i o n a l s o of t h e u n d e r l y i n g s o c i a l  f a c t o r s which p r e v e n t ,  a l l o w o r (as in c u r r e n t , and c e r t a i n a n c i e n t t i m e s ) encourage women's participation.  Equality w i l l  n o t be b r o u g h t about u n t i l  all  the obstacles  in i t s way a r e i d e n t i f i e d and overcome. This thesis  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 t h e p r o b l e m ,  success t o date i n c o n f r o n t i n g  i t , and o f f e r s u g g e s t i o n s f o r  The s p r i n g b o a r d f o r my argument i s t h e p o e t r y  itself,  To t h i s end I have compiled t h e appended A n t h o l o g y .  and i t s  its  record  solution.  appreciation.  In p l e a d i n g f o r a  3  r e v i s e d and e n l a r g e d a e s t h e t i c ,  I a l s o hope t o share my enthusiasm f o r ,  and  p l e a s u r e i n , t h e e x c e l l e n c e of a large body of p o e t r y w i t h t h o s e readers who are as y e t unacquainted w i t h  i t s range and achievement.  In s t r u c t u r e , t h e t h e s i s c o n s i s t s of t h r e e main p a r t s : Introduction, a Critical  Commentary, and an A n t h o l o g y .  I n t r o d u c t i o n a t t e m p t s t o t r a c e a woman's t r a d i t i o n  an H i s t o r i c a l  The H i s t o r i c a l  in p o e t r y as r e v e a l e d  by a study o f women poets in t h e Western world up t o and i n c l u d i n g t h e emergence of E n g l i s h as a language.  T h i s d i s c u s s i o n , which t a k e s us up t o  t h e 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 r e f e r e n c e t o g o v e r n i n g 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 i s c u s s i o n on t h e  poems in t h e A n t h o l o g y which c o n s i s t s of t h e s e l e c t e d work of c e n t u r y poets w r i t i n g  in E n g l i s h .  The seven c h a p t e r s of t h e  twentieth Critical  Commentary a r e p r e f a c e d by a Foreword and a r e each addressed t o a c o r r e s ponding s e c t i o n of t h e A n t h o l o g y . headings in common.  The c h a p t e r s and t h e s e c t i o n s share  Under each o f t h e s e c t i o n headings I have grouped  all  those poems which have seemed t o me, in t h e c h o o s i n g , 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 n a t u r a l o v e r l a p p i n g .  These  c a t e g o r i e s , d e s c r i b e d by t h e t h e m a t i c headings o f both c h a p t e r s and sections,  I d e r i v e d from a study of t h e poems t h e m s e l v e s :  attempt 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 t h e Anthology  in t h i s way p e r m i t s a comparative study  of t r e a t m e n t and f o r m , w i t h t h e main emphasis on c o n t e n t . a certain  t h e r e was no  interest  T h i s i s n o t t o deny  in seeing how several poets approach a common theme.  The Anthology assumes t h a t women's p o e t r y needs t o be approached on t h e b a s i s of c o n t e n t  leading t h e f o r m , a premise discussed more f u l l y  Although the c a t e g o r i c a l  later.  headings emphasize t h e area of e x p e r i e n c e shared  4  by t h e poems, I wish i t understood t h a t itself  I believe  it  is not the experience  b u t t h e shaping by t h e poet of t h a t e x p e r i e n c e as i t  i s p e r c e i v e d and  i t s e x p r e s s i o n d i s c i p l i n e d w i t h i n t h e f o r m , t h a t g i v e s a poem i t s meaning. In t h e p r e s e n t c o n t e x t , a n a l y s i s by c o n t e n t - c a t e g o r y c o n v e n i e n t way t o do j u s t i c e t o t h e m a t e r i a l .  i s s i m p l y t h e most  The Anthology  is  intrinsic  t o t h e t h e s i s both as a source book and as t h e c o n c r e t e evidence upon which the thesis 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 g o v e r n i n g t h e Anthology  i t s most i m p o r t a n t a s p e c t , s i n c e i t g i v e s t h e t h e s i s  its  focus.  The A n t h o l o g y c o n s i s t s o n l y of poems in which t h e speaker t a l k s being e i t h e r a woman, o r a r t i s t ,  or both.  is  about  I have i s o l a t e d c e r t a i n works  from t h e r e s t of a p o e t ' s o u t p u t and from t h e mainstream g e n e r a l l y  (as any  a n t h b l o g i z e r p e r f o r c e must d o ) , o n l y in o r d e r t o a s c e r t a i n how t h e a u t h o r e x p l i c i t l y d e f i n e s 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 t h e p a r t i c u l a r .  This concentration  l e t s us see her as she sees  concerned w i t h t h e 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 i s heard is t h e v o i c e of  feminine experience, providing  i n t o h a l f o f h u m a n i t y , and  insight  t h e improved s t a t u s and success of women poets in t h i s  herself,  authentic  illustrating  century.  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 t h e process whereby women have made a g r e a t advance in overcoming a legacy of o p p r e s s i o n . help but have a h u m a n i s t i c e f f e c t ; much more along t h e same l i n e s : I t s most c o n s i s t e n t f e a t u r e  Such an advance cannot  however, t h e body of women's p o e t r y  i t p r o j e c t s a v i s i o n of  i s a concern f o r  life  life that  offers  i s humane.  in i t s most c a r i n g a s p e c t s .  T h i s c o n c e r n , c h a r a c t e r i z i n g t h e c o l l e c t i v e v i s i o n of women's p o e t r y  in  5  all  i t s v a r i e t y , was never more needed in t h e a e s t h e t i c dimension of human  experience, or  indeed, in everyday  l i f e , than now.  have t h e s o l e p r e r o g a t i v e of h u m a n i s t i c u t t e r a n c e  While women do n o t in p o e t r y ,  work t h e y a r e p a s s i o n a t e l y committed t o such p r i n c i p l e s .  in t h e i r own  This is a  consequence n o t of b i o l o g y o r n a t u r e , but of women's p o s i t i o n The v a l u e t h e y p l a c e on love and f r i e n d s h i p t h e hard s o i l of t h e i r affairs.  male contemporary p o e t r y and i t s c r i t i c a l emphasis on language and t e c h n i q u e :  limitations  (of  scope)  i s needed t o c o u n t e r a c t ,  commentary, an o v e r l y  formalistic  An a p p r e c i a t i o n of t h e v a l u e s p r e s e n t in t h e woman's  but f o r g o t t e n  it  The m i l i e u of p o e t r y  l i f e t o an  in t a k i n g t h e c o n t e n t of a poem  f o r g r a n t e d w h i l e c o n c e n t r a t i n g on i t s formal  qualities.  i s f a r f r o m t o t a l l y a c c e p t i n g t h a t women a r e  a t home in i t , even t o d a y , though t h e c u r r e n t scene does admit of support.  liberal  T h i s eases t h e 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  conceals a g r e a t deal t h a t  is s t i l l  prejudicial  to their  interests.  t h e p a s t , r e c o g n i t i o n o f women poets d i d n o t come as a n a t u r a l of  l i t e r a r y m e r i t a l o n e , but in most c a s e s , as an o f t e n b e l a t e d  o f t h e i r courage and perseverance i n c h a l l e n g i n g an environment to their aspirations.  in :,!  a concern w i t h s t y l i s t i c s a t t h e  t r a d i t i o n can r e s t o r e a moral concern f o r t h e q u a l i t y o f a e s t h e t i c t h a t has a l l  in  long o p p r e s s i o n and in t h e i r e x c l u s i o n from p u b l j c  Their p a r t i c u l a r vision  expense o f c o n t e n t .  history.  in p o e t r y has i t s r o o t s  H i s t o r y has g i v e n t h e i r p o e t r y both i t s  and i t s s t r e n g t h s .  in  Though such hardship  hardships of a r e l a t e d nature a r e . poems p u b l i s h e d than f o r men.  It  it In  consequence result hostile  i s no longer imposed, o t h e r  is s t i l l  harder f o r women t o g e t  P r e j u d i c e a g a i n s t women t a k e s many f o r m s .  6  In t h e w o r l d hard  of poetry,  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 oppression  t o p i n p o i n t because  usually of a derogatory to  poetry's  lication  to  flict and  i soften  being  problem  This  unconsciously  inadequate  from being  women a r e s t i l l  a poet w i t h a c r e a t i v e m i s s i o n ,  times  The f a c t  that  faced  with t h e con-  r o l e s o f w i f e and m o t h e r ,  a s t h e poems d e a l i n g w i t h  The c u l t u r a l  environment, with  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 essentially  focus.  reviews  i n s u c h c a s e s makes i t h a r d e r  a woman w i t h t h e s o c i a l  in Section S i x t e s t i f y .  works  representation  in critical  sole or partial  manifested  Besides,  hidden b i a s  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-  inthegrossly  women a s t h e i r  w i t h and o v e r c o m e .  arising  in underlying a t t i t u d e 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  e v a l u a t i o n s having  deal  i n two ways:  w h i c h come t o t h e f o r e  prejudice  itself  and c o n d e s c e n d i n g n a t u r e .  disadvantage  o f women p o e t s and  i t expresses  t h e same k i n d s o f r e s p o n s e s a s i t d i d  _:  this  i t s social  o e l i c i t f r o m women  i n t h e past.  However  a n d s y s t e m s h a v e c h a n g e d , w h a t h a s n o t c h a n g e d 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 o f them: subordinated The  women i n c i v i l i z a t i o n  are s t i l l  a class of  beings  t o t h e i n t e r e s t s a n d a u t h o r i t y o f men.  b i g g e s t change  freedom t o pursue  i n women's s t a t u s  individual  T h i s freedom has l i b e r a t e d  i s i n t h e area  of increased  i n t e r e s t s comparable t o those  e n j o y e d b y men.  a n e n o r m o u s amount o f c r e a t i v e e n e r g y .  from t h e p a r t o f i t which has gone t h a t women's p r o d u c t i v i t y i n t h i s  into the w r i t i n g of poetry, sphere w i l l  men's, t h u s e n d i n g men's a g e l o n g d o m i n a n c e 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  soon e q u a l ,  Judging  i t appears  perhaps  exceed,  i n poetry.  in literary  history.  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 where, among t h e i n f l u e n t i a l in what i s happening?  opinion.  But  c r i t i c s , does one see t h e s l i g h t e s t  There is not even awareness.  interest  Essentially,  the  problem i s a s e t o f m i n d , i n c u r i o u s and u n i m a g i n a t i v e , w h i c h , when n o t i c e s women's p o e t r y a t a l l , t r e a t s e x i s t s no r e c o g n i t i o n t h a t t h e  i t as a species of m e n ' s .  l a r g e and f a s t - g r o w i n g body of  it  There  poetry  w r i t t e n by women needs t o be approached on t h e b a s i s o f standards conforming in g e n e r a l t o what women f i n d  important.  There i s n o t even a r e c o g n i t i o n ,  in s c h o l a r l y t e r m s , t h a t such a problem e x i s t s , o r t h a t t h i s body of work has i t s own i n n e r dynamic, which we may c a l l t h e women's v i e w p o i n t , developed o u t of a response t o h i s t o r i c a l  conditions.  All this  is only  j u s t being recognized in t h e women's l i b e r a t i o n movement and i t s p r e s s . W i t h o u t a more general awareness of t h i s p r o b l e m , e s p e c i a l l y among t h e critical  f r a t e r n i t y , women's c o n t r i b u t i o n c o n t i n u e s t o be regarded as  an a u x i l i a r y t o m e n ' s , which i t no longer  i s , and n o t enough i s  learned  t o f a c i l i t a t e t h e e n l a r g e d a e s t h e t i c which must i n e v i t a b l y f l o w from an u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e issues I:.  involved.  In d a y - t o - d a y a f f a i r s , t h e s i t u a t i o n  women, when i t  is t h i s :  p o e t r y w r i t t e n by  i s deemed " g o o d " enough t o be p u b l i s h e d along w i t h  poetry  w r i t t e n by men, i s g e n e r a l l y e v a l u a t e d a l o n g t h e same l i n e s , and judged accordingly.  That i s t o s a y , t h a t what i s considered worthy of p r i n t  is  what conforms t o s t a n d a r d s evolved from a n e a r l y e x c l u s i v e l y male corpus by male c r i t i c s and p u b l i s h e r s over a span of c e n t u r i e s t h a t t a k e s us i n t o o u r own w i t h h a r d l y a change.  The same b i a s i s e v i d e n t  in s t u d i e s  and reviews of women poets and i s not n e c e s s a 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 , themselves.  like minorities, to  i n t e r n a l i z e t h e dominant c u l t u r a l  view of  8 In c o u n t e r i n g 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 t h e l i g h t of past and p r e s e n t achievement.  its  considerable  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 h e male a e s t h e t i c which i t helped shape and m o d i f y .  I speak n o t  o n l y of w r i t t e n p o e t r y 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 h e t r i u m p h a n t hymns of B i b l i c a l  a n t i q u i t y , has always been p r e s e n t  p o p u l a r songs of t h e people and been t a u g h t by mothers t o t h e i r can be heard in t h e c h a n t s , r i t u a l Indians,  in t h e children,  songs and l u l l a b i e s of North American  in Black women's gospel and b l u e s songs, and in many o t h e r  m a n i f e s t a t i o n s of t h e l y r i c  impulse.  Until  about a c e n t u r y ago, t h e  occasions f o r a more formal t y p e of p o e t r y known t o have been w r i t t e n by women have been so r a r e in / h i s t o r y as t o stand o u t as e x c e p t i o n a l .  In  t h e p r e s e n t c e n t u r y , f o r t h e f i r s t t i m e in p o e t r y , women emerge as a s t r o n g and i n f l u e n t i a l group whose p o e t r y 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 t h e male c o r p u s .  is o v e r t l y proclaiming more i n t e r e s t e d  its  Women's p o e t r y  independence from a dominant a e s t h e t i c which  is  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 c a p a c i t y f o r g i v i n g s h a p e . t o human e x p e r i e n c e .  We can now see  t h a t t h e p o e t r y 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  its  own h u m a n i s t i c a e s t h e t i c , a process w h i c h , due t o t h e overwhelming p r e p o n 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 , critics,  has b a r e l y been n o t i c e d ,  if at a I I.  l i t e r a r y h i s t o r i a n s and Thus, in approaching t h e work  of women by i t s own l i g h t , one soon p e r c e i v e s i t s development in t h e t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y as p a r t of a v i t a l beginnings t h a t  continuum.  To go back t o t h e  i n f o r m our p r e s e n t knowledge i s t o f o l l o w t h e 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 t h r o u g h o u t t h e ages  leading  up t o and i n c l u d i n g our own.  preclude  a t h o r o u g h and d e f i n i t i v e  While t h e  l i m i t s o f t h e p r e s e n t study  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 t h e  s u b j e c t , even such a j o u r n e y t h r o u g h r e a d i l y a v a i l a b l e m a t e 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  Introduction yields certain  insights.  For me, these have led t o t h e c o n c l u s i o n t h a t a r e v i s i o n of in regard t o what determines e x c e l l e n c e  in p o e t r y  standards  i s due, o r even overdue.  The reasons are t h a t p r e v a i l i n g s t a n d a r d s a) r e f l e c t t h e a t t i t u d e s and concerns of past eras in which men dominated t h e f i e l d s of p o e t r y and p o e t r y c r i t i c i s m , and b) r e f l e c t t h e c u l t u r a l  v a l u e s of t h e p r e s e n t e r a in which  t e c h n o l o g y and i n n o v a t i v e form are o v e r v a l u e d a t t h e expense of wherein women poets t a k e t h e i r b e a r i n g .  A new c r i t i c a I  content  approach would  recognize t h a t both these u n d e r l y i n g 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 t h e e f f e c t of o b s c u r i n g t h e a c t u a l  n a t u r e and e x t e n t of  c o n t r i b u t i o n made by women poets t o p o e t r y and t o The idea t h a t t h e f e m i n i n e s e n s i b i l i t y processes)  has s l o w l y been e v o l v i n g  b e f o r e now, have been premature.  It  the  i t s ongoing a e s t h e t i c .  (as c u l t i v a t e d by  historic  i t s own i n t r i n s i c a e s t h e t i c w o u l d , i s not l i k e l y t o have o c c u r r e d t o men,  from a male o u t l o o k , o r have been f o r m u l a t e d by women who, u n t i l  now have  had n e i t h e r t h e c o n f i d e n c e nor t h e necessary d i s t a n c e from themselves t o do so. until  Oppressed people do not begin t o t h i n k of themselves as such some l i b e r a t i n g c i r c u m s t a n c e o r 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  is.  Then energy i s r e l e a s e d f o r change, as  t h e p r e s e n t women's movement.  On t h e o t h e r hand, t h e r e i s t h a t  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 t h e sex f a c t o r d i s c u s s i o n of t h e a r t s .  in  in our  i s r e l e v a n t t o any  Women a r t i s t s who have won a p l a c e in t h e male  10  w o r l d of t h e a r t s are o f t e n foremost  in e x p r e s s i n g such an a t t i t u d e ,  s i n c e t h e y can say t h a t women's work need o n l y be good enough, i . e . , recognized by men as d e s e r v i n g space a l o n g s i d e t h e i r work, t o earn rewards.  This simply  be its  i s not t r u e f o r more than a token handful of women,  and does not t a k e i n t o account t h e p e r v a s i v e p r e j u d i c e a g a i n s t women in t h e a r t s as e l s e w h e r e .  Nor does i t c o n s i d e r t h e numbers o f women t o o  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 t h e v a s t number t o o oppressed by t h e demands of c h i l d - r a i s i n g and w i f e l y s e r v i c e t o time t o t h i n k o f ,  l e t alone concentrate on, developing t h e i r  find  talents.  Where women have r e f u s e d 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 r e a r i n g and have transcended joy  limiting  circumstances,  in w r i t i n g has o f t e n been t h e s o l e r e w a r d , 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 i v e n a p l a c e in t h e pantheon,  i t has been because t h e p r o d u c t 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 c o u l d be s a f e l y a s s i m i l a t e d  into  their  canon. Whereas t h e 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 v o i c e t h a t o v e r t l y p r o c l a i m s t h e i r sex a n d , in f a c t , seem t o p r e f e r doing s o , in t h e past women o f t e n found i t more f r e e i n g t o a v o i d r e f e r e n c e t o t h e i r sex.  They f i t t e d themselves t o a male  when t h e r e seemed no o t h e r way t o w r i t e .  tradition  The s e c u l a r among these poets  do not so much t r a n s c e n d sex in t h e i r work as they  ignore i t ; a b l e t o  for-  g e t t h e i r bodies and t h e demands made upon t h e i r sex, they p r o j e c t thems e l v e s i n t o t h e w o r l d as minds and c r a f t s m e n .  This is the  traditional  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 being a b l e f r e e l y t o do s o .  in  11  Male advantage image.  l i e s a l s o in t h e language, which i s formed in  The u n i v e r s a l  their  person who stands f o r t h e mass i s "man";, women and  c h i l d r e n a r e subsumed in " m a n k i n d . "  The norm in t h e a r t s  is also male:  " m a s t e r y " and " c r a f t s m a n " d e f i n i n g e x c e l l e n c e , w h i l e t h e pronouns r e f e r r i n g t o t h e n e u t r a l t e r m s , " a r t i s t " o r " p o e t , " are " h e " and " h i s . " Man t a k e s 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, t h e o b l i t e r a t i o n herself  of  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 a s s e r t s h i s maleness in such usage, woman loses her  femaleness.  Still,  t h e l i n g u i s t i c e x e r c i s e of a freedom from sexual  role  l i m i t a t i o n s — a l w a y s e a s i e r f o r men than f o r women—has had a s p e c i a l fascination f o r the l a t t e r ,  since,  in a c t u a l  fact,  r o l e detachment was . i  virtually  i m p o s s i b l e f o r women t o achieve b e f o r e t h e advent of  this  century.  The d i f f i c u I t i e s of g a i n i n g an audience t h a t was not  hostile  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 d e n i a l of her  Other women have taken what seems a n e u t r a l  p o s i t i o n by s i m p l y  identity.  addressing  themselves t o t o p i c s such as n a t u r e o r s o c i e t y o r p h i l o s o p h y , t o p i c s which look o u t on t h e world and do n o t 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 t h e f e m i n i n e v o i c e  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 E d i t h S i t w e l l , e l e g a n t and p o l i s h e d , both p u t t i n g emphasis on t h e form and t h e p l a y of w i t ; curiosity worlds;  both  intellectual  1 t h i n k of E l i z a b e t h B i s h o p , whose p o e t r y d i s p l a y s an endless  in o b s e r v i n g and d e t a i l i n g aspects of t h e n a t u r a l and man-made  I t h i n k of any number of t h e younger Black American poets  like  N i k k i Giovanni whose p o e t r y m a i n l y expresses a r e v o l u t i o n a r y anger a g a i n s t the white society;  I t h i n k of an h i s t o r i c a l l y  c o n c e n t r a t i n g her powers o f c l a s s i c a l  i m p o r t a n t poet l i k e H.D.  c o n t r o l on a p a s s i o n a t e n o s t a l g i a  for  12 t h e pagan w o r l d ; and I t h i n k of t h e Canadian poet Margaret A v i s o n : r e l i g i o u s , possessing a compassionate eye f o r t h e m i n u t i a e of celebrates  in t h e 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 .  intensely  l i f e which she  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 t h e major emphasis o f t h i s t h e s i s , t h e s e poets a r e e i t h e r n o t r e p r e s e n t e d here o r a r e r e p r e s e n t e d by poems of t h a t they are a t  l e a s t m a r g i n a l l y concerned w i t h female  While t h e p o e t ' s c r e a t i v e  interest  in  identity.  involvement w i t h t h e w o r l d a l l o w s  that  person t e m p o r a r i l y t o dispense w i t h t h e 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 n o t i n t e r e s t i n g enough, p o i n t o f d e p a r t u r e in poems, t h e m a j o r i t y of women seem n o t t o have chosen t h e o p t i o n ; a t exclusively. wish t o : richly  Perhaps t h e y c o u l d n o t .  At p r e s e n t ,  l e a s t not  i t seems they no longer  t h e 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 t o o  immediate a source of s u b j e c t m a t t e r , t h e m a i n s p r i n g , i n f a c t ,  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  i n a new l i g h t ,  of  in which  t h e y o p t f o r and d e c l a r e o t h e r aims in l i f e than those t h e past has  laid  on them, t h e i r f e m i n i n e e x p e r i e n c e t a k e s 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 tation.  in t h e i r w r i t i n g than in any p u r e l y s o c i a l  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 ,  manifes-  in my o p i n i o n ,  a c u l m i n a t i o n — ^ a n 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  independently  m o t i v a t e d beings r i s e n above t h e secondary, dependent female  role  c i v i I i z e d s o c i e t y has c a s t them i n .  T h i s a s p i r a t i o n towards what should be  a birthright  i s , o f c o u r s e , n o t new.  is c a l l e d feminism.  It  Feminism i s 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 between t h e sexes.  It  inequality  i s a p o s i t i v e term f o r women, d e s p i t e t h e  pejorative  .uses men have put i t t o ; but feminism t a k e s i t s d e f i n i t i o n from t h e idea o f m a s c u l i n i s m , which i s not a term w i t h any c u r r e n c y .  F e m i n i s t , by t h e same  13 token,  i s a l s o a loaded word s e t t i n g t h e advocate of women's r i g h t s  apart  as b e l o n g i n g t o a p e c u I i a r c a t e g o r y of t r o u b l e s o m e , even r i d i c u l o u s , women.  These c o n n o t a t i o n s a r e h o s t i l e .  Women's p o e t r y  is working t o  r e s t o r e t h e p r o p e r sense of t h e s e terms t o mean t h e advocacy of j u s t i c e and full  human d i g n i t y f o r women.  Given t h e o p p o r t u n i t y f o r f u l l  expression  which an advance guard has won f o r them, women—in p o e t r y as i n o t h e r spheres—are  inevitably taking that opportunity to i t s  logical  conclusion.  P o e 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 t h e w o r l d in o r d e r . Meanwhile, we have t h e problem b e f o r e us o f how ideas o f w o r t h p o e t r y a r e t o be b r o u g h t in l i n e w i t h contemporary r e a l i t y . been t r a n s m i t t e d as a male t r a d i t i o n .  P o e t r y has  Poets s i n c e t h e dawn o f  have l a r g e l y been men, c a r r y i n g f o r w a r d t h e i r own t r a d i t i o n 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 judgments  took on'(and s t i l l  universality.  literacy  in a f i e l d  i t s a t t i t u d e s , v a l u e s and  a r e viewed as possessing) t h e stamp o f  In a c t u a l e f f e c t , t h e f i e l d o f a e s t h e t i c s  from t h e comments of male poets and c r i t i c s s h a r i n g t h e i r saying t h i s  in  in p o e t r y  derives  interest.  In  I do not u n d e r e s t i m a t e t h e c o n t r i b u t i o n s made by women who have  occupied a p l a c e of c e n t r a l  importance in t h e o r a l t r a d i t i o n which  is  t h e g r e a t r o o 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 , s c a n t , has o f t e n by i t s Here I would conclusions. was drawn t o as p o e t s .  though  i n n o v a t i v e n e s s been p r o p h e t i c of f u t u r e developments.  l i k e t o o f f e r an e x p l a n a t i o n of how I a r r i v e d a t my  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  i n v e s t i g a t e how o t h e r women d e f i n e themselves in t h e i r work  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 ,  certain recurrences:  I soon noted  a p r e f e r e n c e f o r c e r t a i n themes and emphases,  which I began t o hear correspondences w i t h women poets of t h e p a s t .  in As I  14 s t a r t e d r e - r e a d i n g those  I knew, d i s c o v e r i n g o t h e r s as I went a l o n g of  whom I had been unaware, o r knew o f o n l y s l i g h t l y because of t h e n e g l e c t and o b s c u r i t y  in which t h e y have l a i n , t h e s e correspondences were v e r i f i e d .  Women t h r o u g h o u t h i s t o r y ,  I f o u n d , had a common approach t o p o e t r y which  t h e y shared because of t h e i r  l i f e - e x p e r i e n c e as women.  g r e a t l y from one a n o t h e r in c u l t u r a l  background and as i n d i v i d u a l s ,  g i v e evidence of a t r a d i t i o n t h a t has m a i n t a i n e d c e n t u r i e s - l o n g breaks in i t s  Though d i f f e r i n g  itself  they  throughout  continuity.  The woman's t r a d i t i o n does not t a k e 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 , b u t from t h e m a t e r i a l , and n o n - I i t e r a r y , of t h e contemporary  l i f e t o which i t responds.  men's p o e t r y , women's is an e x p r e s s i o n i n t e g r a l  literary  Like  t o t h e 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 o u t of t h e raw m a t e r i a l of What d i s t i n g u i s h e s t h e female from t h e male t r a d i t i o n  is t h a t  it  life. is q u a l i -  f i e d by being t h e p r o d u c t of f e m i n i n e 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 their  in t h e ways men and women have experienced  l i v e s — t h e one dominant, t h e o t h e r s u b o r d i n a t e — h a s  sphere presented women w i t h a s p e c i a l way i t f e e l s t o them.  Partly that  need t o t e l l  in t h e p o e t i c  i t t h e i r way, from t h e  impetus i s g i v e n in t h e  f u n c t i o n i n g t h a t p r o v i d e s women w i t h a profound fund of  biological  experience  u n i q u e l y t h e i r own; whether women become mothers o r n o t , t h e y must o f necessity  live with the physiological  e n t a i l s the potential the p o t e n t i a l  f o r motherhood.  for creating  f a c t s of t h e female body, which P o e t i c a l l y , t h e y can i d e n t i f y  with  l i f e e a r t h l i k e o u t of t h e i r own b o d i e s .  Perhaps f o r t h i s reason t h e r e sounds t h r o u g h o u t t h e p o e t r y of women an u n m i s t a k a b l e , c o n t i n u i n g a s s e r t i o n of t h e v a l u e of more t e n d e r , c a r i n g a s p e c t s .  love, especially  Today women have t h e freedom t o t a l k  in  its  frankly  15 of t h e i r b o d i e s , t h e i r menstrual c y c l e s , pregnancy and t h e g r e a t mystery of g i v i n g b i r t h , t h e p h y s i c a l and s p i r i t u a l experience d i r e c t l y .  impact of which o n l y t h e y can  They a l s o t a l k w i t h a u t h o r i t y of n u r s i n g and  raising  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 s u p p o r t t h e people l i v i n g  in them.  Or, c o n v e r s e l y , t h e y oppose t h e 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 l o v e , g r o w t h , and development. Women a r e a t p r e s e n t in a r e n a i s s a n c e :  t h e i r p e r c e p t i o n s of  themselves  and of t h e i r p l a c e 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  all  The r e s u l t  spheres i n c l u d i n g t h e a r t s .  in p o e t r y 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 e x p e r i e n c e as women and as p o e t s .  The volume and  v i t a l i t y of t h i s p o e t r y f o r c e s a long-overdue r e a p p r a i s a l  of an a e s t h e t i c  w h i c h , as t h e a r t i c u l a t e d p r o d u c t of men, has addressed i t s e l f m a i n l y t h e work o f men.  in  to  Such a r e a p p r a i s a l must i n c l u d e a r e c o n s i d e r a t i o n of  t h e past w i t h s p e c i a l a t t e n t i o n paid t o r e - i n s t a t i n g t h e work of women in i t s t r u e human i m p o r t a n c e , r e s u l t i n g human c a p a b i I i t y and achievement.  in a more j u s t r e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f  The c u r r e n t energy o f women's p o e t r y  f u r n i s h e s both t h e o c c a s i o n and t h e o p p o r t u n i t y f o r t h i s advance. renaissance among women, f u r t h e r m o r e ,  The  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 l a c e in h i s t o r y , which r e v e a l s , t o t h o s e o f 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 l o o k i n g f o r , p o e t r y has been p r e s e n t t h r o u g h t h e ages. women's t r a d i t i o n t h a t  I now t u r n .  It  women's  i s t o t h i s r e v i e w i n g of  the  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, a s t h e f i r s t  of consequence  i n t h e recorded  h i s t o r y of t h e western  lyrical  world,  poet  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 composers b e f o r e strong  her.  lyric tradition  The O l d Testament g i v e s us reason flourished  in t h e c e l e b r a t e d G r e e k p o e t .  c a n n o t be p r o v e n , B.C.,  to believe a  among women c e n t u r i e s b e f o r e  i t culminated  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 b a s i s o f t h e women's s o n g s  line of  a t r a d i t i o n , w h i c h may a l s o be t h e  i n t h e Song o f S o l o m o n .  Authorship, of course,  b u t t h e Song o f D e b o r a h , a s c r i b e d t o t h e t w e l f t h  century,  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 s o n g s , " i s  undoubtedly,"  a c c o r d i n g t o J . H. G a r d i n e r ,  composed and u t t e r e d by D e b o r a h h e r s e l f her people."^  Of t h e Song o f M i r i a m ,  " t h e song o f t r i u m p h  w h i c h was  t o celebrate the great victory of  another  writer claims:  general opinion of scholars" that the original  " i t i s the  s h o r t e r v e r s i o n was " t h e 2  song w h i c h Moses o r M i r i a m opinions support  o r both  o f them t o g e t h e r c o m p o s e d  t h e i d e a t h a t women s u c h  as  D e b o r a h and M i r i a m  p o s i t i o n s o f 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 actually  redactors of the o r i g i n a l logical  t h e matriarchal world  sophistication and  forward  i n Sappho.  Unfortunately  d o c u m e n t s saw f i t t o i n c l u d e , b u t i t seems  t h a t , f a r from being  h a v e been c a r r i e d  who h e l d  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  isolated  B i b l e a t t e s t t o an o l d a n d v e n e r a b l e In  Such  societies  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 .  we know n o t h i n g o f t h e s e  ..."  c a s e s , t h e s o n g s o f women i n t h e c u s t o m among t h e m .  o f t h e Aegean, such  a t r a d i t i o n must a l s o  i n order t o a r r i v e a t i t s high By t h e s i x t h  t h e dance have d e v e l o p e d  century  t o a high a r t .  i n Lesbos,  level of music,  poetry  Where o n c e a p o e t w i t h  18  Sappho's power of u t t e r a n c e m i g h t have been a p r o p h e t i c bard among her p e o p l e , t h e s t a t u s Sappho of Lesbos e n j o y s i s t h a t of t h e i s l a n d ' s most c u l t u r e d ornament; she is e n t r u s t e d w i t h p r e p a r i n g young women f o r  their  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 i v e s f i r s t  place  t o t h e a r t s among women's accomplishments.  Sappho was not t h e o n l y  female poet in M i t y l e n e , nor d i d t h e t r a d i t i o n end w i t h h e r . T e l o s , a poet much admired in a n t i q u i t y ,  Erinna of  is u s u a l l y c i t e d as Sappho's  p u p i l along w i t h t h e poet Damophyla of Pamphilia."^  In t h e c e n t u r i e s  f o l l o w , t h e s e a r e succeeded by o t h e r s of whom we know l i t t l e ' : include:  that  they  Corinna o f Tanagra o r Thebes, an e l d e r contemporary of  whose themes c e n t e r e d on legends o f her n a t i v e B o e o t i a , and who  Pindar like  Sappho was honored by t h e s u g g e s t i o n t h a t she be added t o t h e n i n e  lyrical  4  poets;  P r a x i l l a o f S i c y o n , who, a c c o r d i n g t o Eusebius was w e l l - k n o w n  in  m i d - f i f t h c e n t u r y B.C. f o r her hymns, d r i n k i n g - s o n g s and d i t h y r a m b Ach i I I e s , and whose songs c e l e b r a t e d D i o n y s u s ;  Anyte o f Tegea a t t h e end of  the  f o u r t h c e n t u r y who wrote epigrams as w e l l . a s poems on animals and t h e countryside;  6  and many o t h e r s known by r e p u t a t i o n o n l y o r r e p r e s e n t e d  t h e Greek a n t h o l o g y :  e . g . , Cl i t a g o r a , "whose songs a r e mentioned in a  fragment of t h e comic poet C r a t i n u s , " ^ and N o s s i s , who w r o t e verse as w e l l as d e d i c a t i o n s .  by t h e d e a r t h of poets t h a t f o l l o w s a f t e r :  of pagan a n t i q u i t y , a t o t a l afterwards, t h e i r v i r t u a l  into  in t h e r e m a i n i n g c e n t u r i e s  absence of women p o e t s ; f o r many c e n t u r i e s  disappearance from t h e scene.  t a k e s on an importance, seen in t h i s p e r s p e c t i v e , t h a t some l e n g t h ; but f i r s t ,  erotic  As t h e e a r l i e s t and most u n p a r a l l e l e d of .  t h e s e p o e t s , Sappho has a symbolic importance f u r t h e r thrown relief  in  a brief  Her c o n t r i b u t i o n I want t o c o n s i d e r  s y n o p s i s of t h e ground t o be c o v e r e d .  at  19  A f t e r t h e f o u r t h c e n t u r y B . C . , a s i l e n c e n e a r l y as of death descends on t h e female poets of a n t i q u i t y and beyond. exception  i s n o t heard from again u n t i l  a lapse of some f o u r t e e n hundred y e a r s .  Woman's v o i c e w i t h one  approximately the tenth century A . D . , I f t h e r e were any female poets  who managed t o g a i n audience in t h i s t i m e , r e c o r d s of them have been e i t h e r lost or destroyed.  The e x c e p t i o n  Roman of t h e f i r s t c e n t u r y B.C. have come down t o u s — a l l  i s t h e poet S u I p i c i a , an a r i s t o c r a t i c "Only s i x b r i e f  and very personal  poems  concerned w i t h t h e d i f f i c u l t i e s of her love f o r  t h e 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 a n t h o l o g y 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 t h e s e s i x poems make up t h e e x t a n t body of c l a s s i c a l  ladies,  L a t i n p o e t r y by  8 women."  A thousand years has t o pass b e f o r e 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 p o e t s , one becomes  aware of a sad k i n d of paradox: l e a s t , not up u n t i l t h e  in h i s t o r y , women have no h i s t o r y .  At  l a s t few y e a r s , s i n c e 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 t h e p r a c t i c e of p o e t r y women are s t i l l to their  close  beginnings.  The e a r l i e s t name of a female poet t o appear in C h r i s t e n d o m , 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 mid-tenth century.  She i s f o l l o w e d ,  in t h e t w e l f t h c e n t u r y , by a n o t h e r nun,  t h e remarkable S t . H i l d e g a r d o f B i n g e n . t a l e n t s , Hildegard wrote  lyrical  in t h e  A C h r i s t i a n m y s t i c of  extraordinary  and d r a m a t i c p o e t r y , medical and  scientific  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 w r o t e words and music f o r a  lyrical  c y c l e o f songs which have been s a i d t o c o n t a i n "some o f t h e most u n u s u a l , 9 s u b t l e , and e x c i t i n g p o e t r y o f t h e t w e l f t h c e n t u r y . "  Her Ordo V i r t u t u m  i s 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 l a y by more than a c e n t u r y . her achievement in h i s study o f . P o e t i c  Individuality  Discussing  in t h e M i d d l e Ages,  Peter Dronke, an a u t h o r t o whom I am much i n d e b t e d , f i n d s her p l a y " n o t o n l y t h e f i r s t of i t s k i n d , but perhaps unique in t h e means i t u s e s — b o t h intensely  lyrical  and f i l l e d w i t h d r a m a t i c u n p r e d i c t a b i l i t y , w i t h  He notes w i t h s u r p r i s e t h a t t h e r e for  its qualities.  is n o t h i n g  in e a r l i e r  suspense."^'  l i t e r a t u r e t o account  She i s "one of t h e most b r i l l i a n t and o r i g i n a l minds o f 11  t h e e n t i r e M i d d l e A g e s , " he c l a i m s , c r i t i c a l f a i l e d t o g i v e her her due.  o f t h e f a c t t h a t s c h o l a r s have  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 a d m i r a b l y remedies such n e g l e c t . pertinent to t h i s thesis of t h e  i s h i s statement t h a t she "was as convinced as any  l o v e - p o e t s of t h e u n i t y of human and d i v i n e  c o n v i c t i o n w i t h f r e s h n e s s and s p l e n d o u r , theological  w r i t i n g before or s i n c e . "  l o v e , and recorded  in a way t h a t  In e x a l t i n g  m a n i f e s t s a bond w i t h her s e c u l a r s i s t e r s , leading  this  is unparalleled  in  l o v e , H i l d e g a r d not o n l y  a n t i c i p a t e s t h e Renaissance poets who p r o f e s s a r e l i g i o n of  ages love p l a y s . a  Also  l o v e , but  in whose p o e t r y t h r o u g h o u t t h e  role.  From t h i s t i m e o n , t h e names o f s e c u l a r female poets begin t o appear sporadically;  a q u i c k summary g i v e s u s :  Marie de France and t h e Comtesse  de Die in t h e same c e n t u r y as H i l d e g a r d , t h e " P e r f e c t Lady of F l o r e n c e " t h e 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 t h e fifteenth.  in  l a t e f o u r t e e n t h and e a r l y  In t h e m i d - f i f t e e n t h , t h e r e are t h e anonymous a u t h o r s o f  The Flower and t h e L e a f , and The Assembly o f L a d i e s , b e l i e v e d t o be women.  21  Mary H e r b e r t ,  C o u n t e s s o f P e m b r o k e , 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  in c o n j u n c t i o n w i t h a Renaissance s t i r r i n g Europe. poets  The s e v e n t e e n t h  writing  eighteenth will  brings a quickening  century  does n o t see t h i s  century  of these  that  remembered), b u t t h e y  names b e g i n  in the craft  are s t i l l  The  after  matter  much f u r t h e r . I  I t i s not u n t i l  well  a pitifully  into the  t o c l u s t e r . A l a r g e number  by t h i s t i m e  w i t h t h e n u m b e r s o f men p u b l i s h i n g p o e t r y . in due c o u r s e ,  t h e same p e r i o d , t h o u g h t h e  promise c a r r i e d  later.  illustrious  o f women h a v e become e n g a g e d are  i n t h e emergence o f s e v e r a l  in English during approximately  s p e a k more f u l l y  nineteenth  o f women w r i t e r s i n c o n t i n e n t a l  small  I shall  ( o f whom o n l y a f e w a g g r e g a t e compared  e x p a n d on a l l o f t h i s  r e s u m i n g my d i s c u s s i o n o f S a p p h o .  o f S a p p h o 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  p e r s p e c t i v e a f f o r d e d by t h i s c o m m e n t a r y .  Considering  the selective  how l o n g s h e  lay  unknown, c u t t o r i b b o n s , a s i t were, and t h a t h e r c o r p u s c o n s i s t s o f n o t much more t h a n said the  from a n t i q u i t y ,  t o have e x e r c i s e d a n e a r - m a g i c a l same t i m e  recalling the  fragments rescued  archetypal  and a l i v e ,  her feminine  i n f l u e n c e over  f o r m c a n be  t h e ages: she i s a t  a s modern a s a n y c o n t e m p o r a r y .  t h e s a l i e n t f e a t u r e s o f h e r i m p a c t upon t h e w o r l d , w h a t  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 ,  S a p p h o we h e a r f o r t h e f i r s t of an i n d i v i d u a l  woman";  time  i n t h e Western world  In captures  i sthat "In  the direct  words  a p o e t u n l i k e Homer, m o r e o v e r , who " e m e r g e s 12  through  her poetry  as a completely  addition, a brilliant The  on  innovator according  h i s t o r i a n Werner J a e g e r  explore the last to explain:  realized  recesses  believes:  personality."  t o h e r e d i t o r s and t r a n s l a t o r s .  "The G r e e k s p i r i t  o f t h e new w o r l d  She was, i n  of personal  needed Sappho t o  emotion."  He g o e s  22  From her poems i t i s c l e a r t h a t Eros was a p a s s i o n which shook i t s v i c t i m ' s whole b e i n g , and h e l d t h e senses no l e s s than t h e s o u l . . . . i t s amazing power t o g r i p and t r a n s f o r m t h e whole p e r s o n a l i t y , and t h e v a s t sweep o f t h e emotion which i t s e t f r e e . . . . No m a s c u l i n e love poetry^among t h e Greeks even approached t h e s p i r i t u a l depth o f Sappho's l y r i c s . In most Greek p o e t r y w r i t t e n by men woman i s t h e mother, m i s t r e s s and w i f e .  Sappho p r e s e n t s a d i f f e r e n t image, unique i n t h i s as i n o t h e r  respects.  To quote J a e g e r a g a i n , " I n Sappho's p o e t r y woman i s seldom  i n c a r n a t e d as mother o r l o v e r — o n l y when a f r i e n d e n t e r s o r leaves her band of maidens."  Further:  The Greek poet was a t e a c h e r , and t h e 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 o f g i r l s c o n s e c r a t e d t o music . . . To t h e mascuIine heroism o f t r a d i t i o n , Sappho's songs, q u i v e r i n g w i t h t h e r a p t u r e of complete and harmonious f r i e n d s h i p , added t h e ardour and n o b i l i t y of t h e f e m i n i n e s o u l . They d e p i c t an i d e a l t h i r d world between c h i l d h o o d and m a r r i a g ^ — a n age i n which women were educated t o t h e h i g h e s t 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 t h e r e l a t i v e l y golden age o f t h e i r sex. have n o t t o o v e r l o o k , i n J a e g e r ' s  romantic t u r n o f speech, t h a t  B u t we marriage—  then as so o f t e n even now—was t h e t h r e s h o l d t h a t t e r m i n a t e d t h e a d o l e s c e n t h o l i d a y , p u t t i n g an end t o t h e r e a c h i n g and s o a r i n g o f t h e f e m i n i n e which had now t o c o n f i n e i t s e l f w i t h i n domestic m a t t e r s . and t h e mother o f a daughter,  spirit  Though m a r r i e d  Sappho was a b l e t o overcome t h e common l o t ,  d o u b t l e s s because o f t h e g r e a t r e v e r e n c e h e r p o e t r y and r e p u t a t i o n a s a teacher inspired.  J a c q u e t t a Hawkes p o i n t s o u t , i n Dawn o f t h e 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 t h e much e a r l i e r one of Minoan C r e t e , where, a l o n g w i t h men, women worshipped t h e i r own Goddess ( t o g e t h e r w i t h t h e young g o d ) , and shared and  socially.  T h i s c e r t a i n l y a p p l i e s t o Sappho, whom Hawkes d e s c r i b e s as  a " l e a d e r o f a r e l i g i o u s group devoted 1  t h e Muses."  i n her power both p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y  t o t h e worship o f A p h r o d i t e and  5 What we have of t h e p o e t r y , i n which A p h r o d i t e  i s mentioned  23  o f t e n e r than any o t h e r d e i t y o r p e r s o n , does, indeed, emphasize t h e p a r t r e l i g i o n played in everyday h e r s e l f as s e m i - d i v i n e . vindicated  life.  H e l l e n i c Greece came t o r e v e r e Sappho  That judgment of her i m m o r t a l i t y has been  in t h e h i s t o r i c a l  p r o c e s s , Sappho's s t a t u r e having m a i n t a i n e d  i t s e l f a g a i n s t t h e h o s t i l i t y o f t h e Church, g r i e v o u s d e s t r u c t i o n o f  her  p o e t r y , and ignorance of her e x i s t e n c e d u r i n g t h e c e n t u r i e s her memory was expunged from t h e r e c o r d s by narrow r e l i g i o u s f o r c e s in h i s t o r y .  The  medieval p e r i o d m i g h t have seen her e c l i p s e , had not some of t h e remains of her work come t o  l i g h t w i t h t h e r e v i v a l of  With t h i s , and o t h e r a r c h a e o l o g i c a l gradually restored.  learning  in t h e Renaissance.  f i n d s , Sappho's eminence was  Her r e s u r r e c t i o n corresponds t o a p e r i o d  in which  European women s l o w l y began t o r a i s e t h e i r heads and r e g a i n something o f t h e i r ancient prerogative.  For,  in b e g i n n i n g t o reassume t h e r o l e of  poet and t e a c h e r — a n a n c i e n t p r o f e s s i o n (perhaps p o e t r y women v e r y s l o w l y began t o r e c o v e r p r e s t i g e e n t i r e l y as t h e i r own. zenith  is the o l d e s t ? ) —  in a f i e l d t h a t men had usurped  The s p i r i t of Sappho i s o n l y j u s t now r e a c h i n g  i s framed in a passion t h a t a f t e r c l a s s i c a l as s i n f u l .  When t h e p o e t r y of  an advanced C h r i s t i a n c u l t u r e lay,  its  in t h e p r e s e n t r e n a i s s a n c e o f women p o e t s .  Sappho c e l e b r a t e d t h e love of f r i e n d s p r i m a r i l y , though much of  or  the  it  t i m e s came t o be t h o u g h t of  love reappears in t h e much l a t e r p e r i o d of in t h e p o p u l a r n a r r a t i v e form of- t h e romance,  i s on t h e b a s i s o f a p r o f o u n d l y a l t e r e d c o n c e p t i o n of  the interesting thing  this  love.  But  i s t h a t , along w i t h t h e 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 c o n c e p t i o n , e x i s t s a p r o b a b l y much o l d e r form of l o v e - p o e t r y , much of f r i e n d l y n a t u r e of  i t composed and sung by women.  These songs s t r e s s t h e  love between men and women, an emphasis found f a r more  24  often  in women's p o e t r y than in m e n ' 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 also furnishes the motive f o r  love in her poems, a l b e i t  love  between women. In h i s study o f t h e r i s e of t h e European l o v e - l y r i c , P e t e r Dronke c a l l s a t t e n t i o n t o t h e researches of t h e German p h i l o l o g i s t Theodor F r i n g s , on t h i s p o p u l a r t r a d i t i o n of women's songs.  F r i n g s , he s a y s ,  has concerned h i m s e l f c h i e f l y w i t h what a C a r o l i n g e n c a p i t u l a r y o f 789 c a l l e d w i n i l e o d a s - - ! i t e r a l l y , i t seems, ! f r i e n d - k l a y s , ' songs f o r a l o v e r (an o r d i n a n c e 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 s o n g s ) — a n d : what were c a l l e d c a n t i g a s de amigo in medieval Spain and P o r t u g a l : love-songs in which t h e woman speaks, o r in which she i s t h e dominant f i g u r e , and tends t o be t h e a c t i v e l o v e r r a t h e r than t h e passive loved one. Professor F r i n g s has p o i n t e d o u t i n s t a n c e s of such poems of women's love in t h e most d i v e r s e c u j j t u r e s : in a n c i e n t E g y p t , in C h i n a , in Greece, S c a n d i n a v i a , Serbia, Russia. 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 winileod,"  Dronke comments on F r i n g s '  insights  instance of the purest in showing how  t h e moods and ' c h a i n s o f . e x p e r i e n c e ' ( E r l e b n i s k e t t e n ) o f t h e woman in love r e v e r b e r a t e 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 r o u b a d o u r s and M i n n e s i n g e r . Dronke h i m s e l f notes ( i n t h e study r e f e r r e d t o e a r l i e r ) t h a t t h e surviving  love-poetry  in a R o m a n c e - v e r n a c u l a r — c a l l e d  khar.jas, and composed  in t h e 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 man's absence o r h i s abandoning of them.  earliest  lamenting a  In t h i s r e s p e c t khar.jas are  s i m i l a r t o t h e e i g h t h c e n t u r y Anglo-Saxon l o v e - l a m e n t s Eadwacer and W i f e ' s Lament in The Exeter Book.  The Spanish songs date from t h e  c e n t u r y onwards, and o c c u r as t h e f i n a l written  in c l a s s i c a l  language.  ninth  verses o f A r a b i c and Hebrew poems  They are u s u a l l y s h o r t c a n t i g a s de amigo  of t h e f o l l o w i n g t y p e ; t h e t r a n s l a t i o n  is 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 s h a l I f l y t o f i n d him a g a i n .  25  Very e x c i t i n g  i s a m i d - e l e v e n t h c e n t u r y m a n u s c r i p t known as The  Munchen Clm 17142, " a c h a o t i c , s t r a n g e c o l l e c t i o n of Middle Ages f r a g m e n t s " which Dronke has t r a n s l a t e d and which c o n t a i n s " 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 b u t more by women." The s e t t i n g  i n d i c a t e d by these poems i s "a convent in which both t h e  sisters  and t h e young g i r l s en pension can a s s o c i a t e w i t h t h e o u t s i d e w o r l d , " b u t whose c l o s e s t  l i n k s are w i t h a s c h o l a r o r m a g i s t e r who teaches them  t h e l i b e r a l a r t s and w i t h whom t h e y correspond in v e r s e w i t h o u t or censorship.  interference  Dronke p r a i s e s t h e s e v e r s e s f o r t h e i r v a r i e t y of  and t h e i r c o n v e r s a t i o n a l  immediacy; of t h e i r w r i t e r s he says:  tone  "Their  little  verse communiques are a l i v e because t h e y formed so i n t i m a t e a p a r t of their daily  lives."  Other m a n u s c r i p t s c o n t a i n i n g women's songs are t h e  Cambridge in t h e e l e v e n t h c e n t u r y and t h e Carmina Burana in t h e e a r l y thirteenth. till  Such p o e t r y of t h e people c o n t i n u e d  the early fourteenth century.  in France and Germany up  Dronke c l a i m s t h a t a t  l e a s t two of  the  Regensburg.verses ( f r o m 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 t e n d e r young women in an e l e v e n t h c e n t u r y convent in South Germany imposed on t h e c l e r c s who f r e q u e n t e d t h e i r t h e v a l u e s o f amour c o u r t o i s . " had presumably been p o s s i b l e  society  Meeting on more equal terms w i t h men than  in t h e e a r l i e r c e n t u r i e s of  Christendom, t h e y were a b l e t o r e c a p t u r e something of t h e  institutionalized authority  e x e r c i s e d 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 c o n c e p t i o n of  love wrought by f e u d a l i s m and  t h e i n f l u e n c e of C h r i s t i a n t e a c h i n g s on human passions and b e h a v i o r . To t h e c l a s s i c a l  passion d e s c r i b e d so r e a l i s t i c a l l y  added t h e new q u a l i t y of romance.  It  by Sappho i s now  i s a q u a l i t y compounded of t h e  legends  26  o f such i l l - f a t e d  l o v e r s as T r i s t a n and I s e u l t , and of t h e i n s p i r a t i o n  O v i d ' s A r t o f Love.  It exists  of  in a t e n s i o n c r e a t e d by m a r r i a g e s arranged  in t h e i n t e r e s t s of p r o p e r t y which leave no room f o r t e n d e r n e s s and human concern in t h e 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  t e n s i o n c r e a t e d by t h e o p p o s i t i o n o f :the';Churchvto ;any. sexual passion even w i t h i n m a r r i a g e , and by t h e c r u e 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 typical  l i t e r a t u r e of c o u r t l y  love develops o u t of  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  committed t o a l o v e l e s s m a r r i a g e of convenience.  the is  In t h i s sense, as an  opponent of f o r c e d a f f e c t i o n and submissive o b e d i e n c e , c o u r t l y  love in  its  e a r l y stages (as t h e s u b j e c t - m a t t e r of t h e l a y s , p a r t i c u l a r l y t h o s e of Marie de France)  i s t h e would-be i n t i m a c y 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 o v e r s .  t h e r e i s o f t e n a t r a g i c element in t h e  T h i s p o s s i b i l i t y being t h w a r t e d ,  lays.  But s i n c e t h e e r o t i c  impulse  f l a r e s under t h e p r e s s u r e of a dangerously charged s i t u a t i o n , t h e 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 power.  god-like  Hence t h e r e l i g i o n of Love, which blends pagan and C h r i s t i a n  v a l u e s and i s an i n s e p a r a b l e component of c o u r t l y  love.  In i t s  first  e x p r e s s i o n , t h e n , b e f o r e i t becomes a s e t o f c o d i f i e d c o n v e n t i o n s , t h e motivation for courtly natural  love i s e s s e n t i a l l y r a d i c a l :  i n c l i n a t i o n t o make room f o r sexual  the release of a  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 l o w f o r  it.  The need f o r a  more f l e x i b l e approach t o t h e sexes g a t h e r s momentum in t h e t r a i n of many changes t a k i n g p l a c e in m i d - t w e l f t h c e n t u r y , and, as in a n c i e n t t i m e s ,  27  a p o e t ' - - a g a i n a woman—>-leads t h e way to  the personal d e s i r e f o r love.  r o m a n c e s and distanced  in g i v i n g  Influenced  l e g e n d s , t h e mode now  d i r e c t and m o v i n g e x p r e s s i o n  by t h e p o p u l a r t r a d i t i o n  of  i s n a r r a t i v e a n d , t o t h a t e x t e n t , more  and o b j e c t i v e t h a n t h e s o n g s o f S a p p h o o r t h e  later  often  naive "friend-1 ays." " M a r i e d e 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  us, " i s the  first  21 writer first the  known t o h a v e composed of a group  lays of c o u r t l y  love."  o f p o e t s whose w o r k — r e m b o d y i n g  She  t h e new  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 Cappelanus  i s thus the  conventions—laid  on The A r t o f  L o v e , a s y s t e m a t i z a t i o n o f c u r r e n t a t t i t u d e s and mores- among t h e which enjoyed g r e a t p o p u l a r i t y the  time.  M a r i e de F r a n c e  and  Conquest, of for  her  and  believed  settled  t o h a v e been K i n g H e n r y  l a y s a r e g i v e n a s c.  1175-1190.  in her  of  t o have b e l o n g e d t o an  i n England as a r e s u l t of t h e 22  I I's s i s t e r .  The  dates of composition  Though she c l a i m s B r e t o n  her p l o t s , t h e shaping of the m a t e r i a l  Dunn s e e s h e r a s s u p r e m e  nobility  a u t h o r i t y over o t h e r such t r e a t i s e s  is variously  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  Courtly  of the form  i s h e r own.  origins Professor  field:  no m a t t e r w h e r e s h e d i s c o v e r e d h e r m a t e r i a l s o r g e n r e , s h e 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 o f c o u r t l y love. O t h e r s who f o l l o w e d h e r e x a m p l e may h a v e 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 , but she remains t h e Jane Austen of t h e c o u r t l y l a y . To c o n v e y s o m e t h i n g o f t h e f l a v o r o f h e r s t y l e , h e r e 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  T h e r e was n e a r S a i n t M a l o , a t o w n Of some i m p o r t a n c e and r e n o w n . Two b a r o n s who c o u l d w e l l a f f o r d Houses t o s u i t a lord G a v e t h e c i t y i t s g o o d name By t h e i r b e n e v o l e n c e and fame. O n l y one o f 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 i n d e e d  Nightingale":  28 And c o u r t e o u s a s s h e was f a i r , A l a d y who was w e l l a w a r e Of a l l t h a t c u s t o m a n d r a n k r e q u i r e d . The y o u n g e r b a r o n 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 n e v e r r e f u s e d a t o u r n a m e n t , ^ And The  w h a t he owned he g l a d l y  r e a d e r may p e r h a p s  inherited In  by C h a u c e r ,  see i n t h i s , who b r o u g h t  a s I do, a s t y l e and c o n v e n t i o n  both t o p e r f e c t i o n two c e n t u r i e s  i t s peregrinations, the courtly  employing several  n e a r l y f o u r hundred  women.  Nina  Epton  spent.  later.  l a y enjoyed a g r e a t vogue,  t r o u b a d o r s among whom, s u r p r i s i n g l y , i n L o v e and t h e F r e n c h  mentions  were  "seventeen"  25 female poets, or  citing  t h e " C o m t e s s e de D i e — a  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  well-known  trobaritz  o f h e r poems a b o u t h e r  26 lover."  James J . W i l h e l m , who h a s t r a n s l a t e d  Medieval  Song:  o n e o f them  in h i s  An A n t h o l o g y o f Hymns a n d L y r i c s , a t t r i b u t e s  four or five  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  is that  i t s e m e r g e n c e had r e v o l u t i o n a r y  implications.  i s important  Along with the  romances-of t h e t r o u b a d o u r s , t h e l a y influenced, t h e t a s t e f o r p o e t r y new d i r e c t i o n .  "The  important  a s 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 r e a l m of p o e t r y . "  level  courtly  p o e t s , " s a y s Dunn, " r a i s e d  From h e r e , t h e p o e t r y o f l o v e came t o o c c u p y ecclesiastical celebrating That of  verse celebrating  war and w a r r i o r s .  the personal  lyric  l o v e t o t h e same 27  an a s c e n d a n t  place over  s a i n t s a n d m a r t y r s , and h e r o i c  The u n d e r g r o u n d  f l o u r i s h e s today  tradition  verse  i s a measure  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 , a s a a c h i e v i n g new h e i g h t s i n E n g l a n d  century.  The r e l e v a n c e t h e c o u r t l y  both  had s u r f a c e d .  i n t h e s h o r t poem  was s t i l l  in a  form,  as recently as the nineteenth  l a y h a s 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 , a p a r t from i t s s i g n i f i c a n t o r i g i n with  love:  imaginatively  in a woman p o e t ,  i d e a l i z e d , y e t personal  is i t s  concern  l o v e , one of t h e 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 t h r o u g h o u t  history.  The t r o u b a d o u r s b e i n g , of c o u r s e , m o s t l y men—wanderers hoping f o r favor—their  songs of  love and beauty tended towards e x t r a v a g a n t  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.  court  praise  The i n t e r e s t s of p e c u n i a r y advantage  could not help but g i v e 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 l a c e in c o u r t l y  e x p r e s s i o n which i t d i d not have in Marie de France, o r , f o r t h a t  matter,  in any o t h e r female poet who has ever addressed h e r s e l f t o  However,  o u t of t h e vogue of t h e women, as so o f t e n  lay came f r e s h developments  love.  in p o e t r y  in which  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  contribution,  t h i s t i m e not as p o e t s , b u t m a i n l y as p a t r o n e s s e s . Eleanor of A q u i t a i n e ' s r o l e in launching t h e  literary tradition  grew o u t of such p o e t r y and t h e customs i t r e f l e c t e d  is well  which  established.  As powerful p a t r o n s of t h e a r t s and l e t t e r s she and her d a u g h t e r ,  the  Countess Marie de Champagne, were v i r t u a l l y t h e f o u n d e r s of t h e new system. Between them they s u p p o r t e d ,  i n f l u e n c e d and encouraged t h e 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 " C o u r t s o f Love" modelled on f e u d a l c o u r t s , and having t h e i r o r i g i n the troubadours.  in t h e south o f F r a n c e , f i r s t  home of  In these c o u r t s , p r o b l e m a t i c amatory m a t t e r s were  discussed and a d j u d i c a t e d a c c o r d i n g t o e t h i c a l in t h e romances and l a y s . l i t e r a t u r e were t h e r e  precedents a l r e a d y  indicated  " A l l t h e f a c t o r s f o r t h e c r e a t i o n of a new  in a f a v o r i n g a t m o s p h e r e , " 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 p e r i o d  in E l e a n o r ' s  l i f e when, as Duchess of Normandy  p r i o r t o her m a r r i a g e t o Henry I I of England, she e n t e r t a i n e d t h e t r o u b a d o u r Bernard de Ventadour a t her c o u r t  in Angers.  28  L a t e r , Countess M a r i e ,  30  coming from her own c o u r t t o her m o t h e r ' s a t P o i t i e r s , where she t o o k up r e s i d e n c e , commissioned and worked w i t h Andreas Cappelanus t o produce t h e a l r e a d y mentioned t e x t , De A r t e Honeste Amandi.  Although t h e model f o r  was O v i d ' s w o r l d l y Ars A m a t o r i a , t h e medieval g u i d e was a p p a r e n t l y  it  undertaken  in f u l t moral s e r i o u s n e s s , and nowhere i s t h i s more e v i d e n t than in t h e 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  t h e 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 times  lends many  insights,  whereas in t h e work of O v i d , man is t h e m a s t e r , employing h i s a r t s t o seduce women f o r h i s p l e a s u r e , in A n d r § ' s w o r k ^ ^ o m a n is t h e m i s t r e s s , man her p u p i l in homage, her. vassa I in s e r v i c e . M a r i e , we are t o l d , drew on her own past e x p e r i e n c e in t h e south of  France,  on t h e A r t h u r i a n code of manners and on t h e p o e t r y of t h e t r o u b a d o r s , in i n s t r u c t i n g t h e 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 t h u s made these  familiar  materials t h e 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 r a n s f o r m e d t h e g r o s s and c y n i c a l pagan d o c t r i n e s of Ovid i n t o ^ s o m e t h i n g more i d e a l , t h e woman's canon, t h e c h i v a l r i c code of manners. T h i s c r i t i c i s m of Ovid I t a k e t o r e f e r t o h i s e x p l i c i t  instructions,  in Book One o f t h e 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 h u n t e d , " o r p o s s i b l y o n l y t o have f u n w i t h , / Someone t o take f o r a n i g h t "  ( 1 1 , 9 0 , 9 1 ) ; approves t h e rape of t h e 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 greedy f o r g i f t s and c a s h , and not t o be t r u s t e d :  "it  lustful,  is r i g h t  deceive t h e d e c e i v e r s , / R i g h t t h a t t h e woman should g r i e v e  . .  to ."('11.657,658).  T r a d i n g on women's d e s i r e t o be t r e a t e d as e q u a l s , c y n i c a l l y he a d v i s e s :  31  D o n ' t always show in your t a l k t h a t you know What you are eager t o be, t e l l h e r , i s I have seen t h i s w o r k , on t h e most u n w i l l i n g ONLY A" FRIEND, who was found more than  you are g o i n g t o g e t ONLY A FRIEND. of women— p r o f i c i e n t in bed!  her—  (11.721-724) In c o n t r a s t t o O v i d , t h e "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 m a r r i e d women, m a i n l y , not v i r g i n s ;  it  r e q u i r e d c o u r t e s y above a l l , and a l o y a l t y t h a t came from t h e h e a r t :  the  l o v e r was e n j o i n e d t o be a r e a l " f r i e n d " who placed t h e r e p u t a t i o n and w e l l being of h i s 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 d e c e p t i o n  i s shown in t h e  lay  e n t i t l e d " E l i d u c , " by Marie de France, in which a young p r i n c e s s f a l l s  into  a d e a t h l y swoon on d i s c o v e r i n g t h a t t h e f o r e i g n k n i g h t she has exchanged love vows w i t h insight  i s a m a r r i e d man.  is f u r t h e r  interesting for  i t g i v e s us i n t o t h e h u m a n i s t i c s i d e of c o u r t o i s i e .  w i f e not o n l y b r i n g s her r i v a l supernatural the  The t a l e  back t o  life  the  The man's  (with the s i g n i f i c a n t aid of  powers) when she learns of t h e s i t u a t i o n , but in o r d e r  that  l o v e r s may m a r r y , r e t i r e s t o a c o n v e n t , where e v e n t u a l l y t h e former  32 p r i n c e s s 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, that  is as f o r e i g n t o t h e w r i t i n g of Ovid as i t  is t o t h e w r i t i n g of most  male p o e t s . One cannot d i s c u s s t h e  love^-l i t e r a t u r e  of t h i s p e r i o d w i t h o u t  at  some p o i n t r e f e r r i n g t o t h e b e h a v i o r which i t both grew o u t o f , and in t h e dialectical  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 t e r m i x e d , " as C.S. Lewis has been moved t o e x p l a i n literary asides.^  inextricably  in defense of n o n -  I would c l a i m i n d u l g e n c e , t h e n , f o r r e f e r r i n g again t o  t h e s o c i a l c o n d i t i o n s which suddenly a l l o w e d a few advantageously  placed  32  c o u r t women t o e x e r t an enormous i n f l u e n c e e x t e n d i n g beyond  letters.  K e l l y makes t h e p o i n t t h a t , however l i m i t e d t h e e x p r e s s i o n of authority  in P o i t i e r s ,  female  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  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 .  challenge  Though t h i s new female power was soon  in t h e r e t u r n o f men from wars and crusades t o t h e i r seats of  lost  dominance,  t h e 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 w e l l s a i d , more t h a n a l i t t l e t o do w i t h f r e e i n g women from t h e m i l l s t o n e which t h e Church in t h e f i r s t m i l l e n i u m hung about her neck as t h e a u t h o r o f man's f a l l and t h e f a c i l e i n s t r u m e n t of t h e d e v i l in t h e 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 s a n c t i o n t o i d e a l s which spread so r a p i d l y t h r o u g h o u t Europe t h a t t h e " d o c t r i n e of t h e i n f e r i o r i t y of women has never had t h e same s t a n d i n g s i n c e . " The code o f Andre [Andreas Cappelanus] g i v e s g l i m p s e s of a woman's n o t i o n of s o c i e t y d i f f e r e n t in e s s e n t i a I R e s p e c t s from t h e p r e v a i l i n g f e u d a l scheme, which was c e r t a i n l y man-made. K e l l y ' s n o t i n g o f t h e d i f f e r e n c e between female p e r c e p t i o n s o f a "man-made" s o c i e t y and male p e r c e p t i o n s of t h a t s o c i e t y  i s most germane.  t h e "woman's n o t i o n of her s o c i e t y " has always d i f f e r e d from t h e p r e v a i l i n g n o t i o n , a f a c t  which t h e  in some e s s e n t i a l s  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 t h e p r a c t i c e s of herbal medicine and w i t c h c r a f t c o n f i r m . women i s a l l t o o s c a r c e . it  integral  midwifery,  Unfortunately the l i t e r a t u r e of  In t h e case o f E l e a n o r , not h e r s e l f a w r i t e r ,  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  were a t  Doubtless  in  particular,  l e a s t very much i n v o l v e d in t h e shaping of t h e new p o e t r y , as an p a r t of t h e shaping of t h e new manners.  Marie de Champagne,  in  a d d i t i o n t o t h e 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 r e s p o n s i b l e f o r c o l l a b o r a t i n g w i t h C h r e t i e n de T r o y e s , a poet c o n s i d e r e d by C.S. Lewis t o be t h e best of t h e p e r i o d .  De Troyes h i m s e l f ,  L a n c e l o t , c r e d i t s Marie w i t h both t h e s t o r y and t h e poem.  in h i s  t r e a t m e n t of  the  33  Courtly  l o v e , as women helped t o promote and d e f i n e i t , though  remained a p r a c t i c e of t h e e l i t e , d i r e c t i o n o f female e m a n c i p a t i o n .  it  i s a f i r s t t e n t a t i v e step taken in t h e In i t s r e b e l l i o n a g a i n s t  m a r r i a g e , t h e code c h a l l e n g e d i n s t i t u t i o n a l  loveless  authority f o r the f i r s t  time,  n o t o n l y on b e h a l f o f women, b u t most i m p o r t a n t l y , on b e h a l f o f t h e concerns o f everyday  l i f e t o w h i c h , and f o r w h i c h , women speak.  In i t s  implications  f o r t h e f u t u r e , t h e c o n n e c t i o n between p o e t r y and women's l i b e r a t i o n a t  this  e a r l y stage i s not t o be o v e r l o o k e d . The l e a d e r s h i p e x e r c i s e d by c u l t i v a t e d women in medieval seems a l m o s t i n e v i t a b l e when we remember t h a t t h e f e u d a l hand in g l o v e w i t h t h e Church, used women t o b o l s t e r of them as c h a t t e l s  in arranged m a r r i a g e s .  society  system, working  i t s power,  disposing  G i r l s coming i n t o m a r r i a g e a b l e  age had, from our modern v i e w p o i n t , n o t h i n g t o  lose in any imagined form  of p r o t e s t but t h e c h a i n s b i n d i n g 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 v o r c e them, (and o f t e n d i d ) when t h e g a i n o r advancement t h a t had been t h e o r i g i n a l m o t i v e f o r t h e m a r r i a g e was s e c u r e d .  Women had no r i g h t s a t a l l ;  was t h e sex more in an i n f e r i o r p o s i t i o n than in such m a r r i a g e s . wonder, t h e n , t h a t  l a d i e s who by b i r t h had t h e s o c i a l  never No  advantage of some  e d u c a t i o n and l e i s u r e formed t h e m a j o r i t y audience f o r a p o e t r y  in w h i c h ,  f o r t h e f i r s t t i m e , they were r e v e r e d ; a p o e t r y which reversed t h e customary r e l a t i o n s h i p between t h e sexes, d e c l a r i n g women s u p e r i o r ; a poetry  in which a man pledged v o l u n t a r i l y what a w i f e was f o r c e d t o p l e d g e :  a l i f e of submissive s e r v i c e and u n f a l t e r i n g love.  loyalty,  in t h e name o f  K e l l y ' s c o n t r i b u t i o n t o an u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e n a t u r e and  s i g n i f i c a n c e of f e m i n i n e involvement  in t h i s p e r i o d deserves a f i n a l  34  quotation turned  here.  Speaking f u r t h e r of those  courtly  love  aristocratic ladies  who  i n t o a system, she says:  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 h a s 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; b u t d i s i l l u s i o n s p e a k s a l s o i n t h o s e n o b l e l a d i e s , who, t h o u g h 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 r e m a i n 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 o f 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 heresy. T a k e n 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 o f t h e s o c i a l o r d e r . The  immediate  a social  legacy o f t w e l f t h century  one, but l i t e r a r y :  courtly  women's p o s i t i o n  l o v e , was, t h e r e f o r e , n o t  d i d n o t 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  crippling  r e s t r i c t i o n s o n how men" arad women, b u t e s p e c i a l l y women, m i g h t Such p r e s c r i p t i o n s c a n o n l y power, p r o p e r t y  be s a i d  and s u c c e s s i o n .  t o have s e r v e d  male  Jove..  interests of  Men r e m a i n e d - ' d o m i n a n t , e s p e c i a l l y  who a l r e a d y w e r e ; 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  developed  w i t h t h e t e m p o r a r y p r i v i l e g e w h i c h j o i n e d women and o t h e r , m a l e , i n a common c a u s e was e n d e d f o r a t i m e t h e i r domains.  But the l i t e r a r y  o f f s h o o t , as i t were, women  lost their  powerfully time can  interesting  be s e e n a s f o r e s h a d o w i n g  t h e r e were h i s t o r i c a l were o p e r a t i n g  of c o u r t l y  t o new i n f l u e n c e s i n w h i c h  s a y . T h a t an i n f l u e n t i a l and c r i t i c a l  l i t e r a t u r e was  audience f o r a  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 ,  a very  distant eventuality.  t o r e d i r e c t the poetry of c o u r t l y  discern the at f i r s t i n poetry  love—its creative  Meanwhile,  c o u n t e r f o r c e s t o a n y s u c h a s c e n d a n c y o f women  stream of t h e male v i e w p o i n t  tradition  tradition  d i c t a t e d by women a s i t s s p o n s o r s  i s one of those  To  brief  inferiors  with t h e r e t u r n of t h e lords t o  lived on, responsive  relatively  those  love back  which  into t h e main-  and t r a d i t i o n . slender, but d i s t i n c t i v e ,  as i t t e n t a t i v e l y  emerges  f o r m o f a woman's  in history,  i sclearly to  35  have t o t r a c e those b e g i n n i n g s from w i t h i n t h e c o n t e x t of an o v e r p o w e r i n g I y male presence in p o e t r y .  Though t h e f e m i n i n e v o i c e g a i n s ' i n c r e a s i n g l y  t h e 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 u n c e r t a i n and slow f o r a very  long t i m e .  The l a y , f o r  it  i n t o something e l s e :  is  i n s t a n c e , which  in i t s w r i t t e n form begins w i t h Marie de France, undergoes changes which men t u r n  in  t h e a l l e g o r y of  love.  in  This  reaches i t s epitome in The Romance of t h e Rose, completed by t h e second of i t s a u t h o r s almost a c e n t u r y a f t e r Marie de F r a n c e ' s  last composition.  In  " t h i s new s c h o l a s t i c a p p r o a c h , " a c c o r d i n g t o Dunn, i n d i v i d u a l s are c o n v e r t e d i n t o u n i v e r s a l s , and passions are d i s s e c t e d i n t o separate a b s t r a c t i o n s . The p e r p l e x e d l o v e r , as i t were, no longer ^ c o n s u l t s h i s h e a r t ; r a t h e r , t h e h e a r t i s anatomized by t h e p s y c h i a t r i s t . But by t h i s t i m e a l s o , t h e V i r g i n Mary has superceded t h e  lady upon her  p e d e s t a l , f o r the Church, as from i t s b e g i n n i n g , had found a way t o absorb the t h r e a t t o  itself,  j u s t as t h e  p r a c t i c e t o her advantage. of  lady had found a way t o t u r n  This is the s i t u a t i o n  in which t h e  allegory  l o v e , 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  of c o u r t l y  love,"""^ a r r i v e s  w i t h Chaucer,  love.  sentiment  in England, making- i t s f i r s t appearance t h e r e  in t h e f o u r t e e n t h c e n t u r y .  In Chaucer's t r e a t m e n t of  we can see what t i m e , temperament and sex have wrought upon t h e of  feudal  it  religion  For by t h e t i m e i t has reached England, Chaucer has no problem  as a C h r i s t i a n  in seeing h i m s e l f as Love's f a i t h f u l  d i s i n t e r e s t e d advocate: r e l i g i o n of  love—its  s e r v a n t and most  t h e 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  i n s i s t e n c e on adu Itery*--has a l l  the  but d i s a p p e a r e d .  There has a l s o o c c u r r e d * - - w i t h t h e n o t a b l e e x c e p t i o n of T r o i lus and C r e s s i d a — a s h i f t from t h e p a r t i c u l a r t o t h e 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 t h e  lady h e r s e l f .  The p o e t r y of  36  abstractions,  l i k e t h e p o e t r y of t h e  later Elizabethan c o u r t i e r s  focuses on a o n e - d i m e n s i o n a l , d i s d a i n f u l and d i r e c t ,  which  l a d y , moves away from t h e personal  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  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 b e h a v i o r and, e s p e c i a l l y ,  (as  in  poetry)  t o modes of u t t e r a n c e encouraging c o n c e n t r a t i o n on t h e f o r m . The f e m i n i n e f i g u r e has been d e p r i v e d of of t h e s e p o e t i c developments by men.  i t s b a s i c humanity  in most  A n o t n e g l i g i b l e cause i s t h e growing  i n f l u e n c e of t h a t element of P l a t o n i s m most prominent in t h e Symposiurn. The concept of a t t a i n i n g s p i r i t u a l to  o r d i v i n e beauty t h r o u g h a commitment  love which i s a t f i r s t o n l y a b l e t o apprehend i t t h r o u g h a response t o  sensual beauty becomes fused w i t h C h r i s t i a n  ideals  in a way, in p o e t r y ,  t h a t grows t o supercede t h e more d o w n - t o - e a r t h aspects of t h e p o e t r y of  love found in t h e women's t r a d i t i o n .  Chaucer, who humanized t h e a l l e g o r y of  It  secular  is not accidental  that  l o v e , was e x t r e m e l y s y m p a t h e t i c  women, u n l i k e so many of h i s w r i t i n g predecessors and c o n t e m p o r a r i e s . Chaucer shares w i t h women t h a t sense of d r a m a t i c  For  immediacy,'that essential  on human l i f e , which g i v e s h i s g e n i u s i t s most endearing q u a l i t y . Chaucer (along w i t h Langland, perhaps)  to  But  i s an e x c e p t i o n t o h i s t i m e s .  England a t r e n d toward a b s t r a c t i o n t h a t had begun w i t h t h e o r i g i n a l of t h e Rose became more p r o n o u n c e d , a c t u a l l y r o b b i n g women o f t h e  In Romance  limited  advantage they had, f o r a s h o r t w h i l e , g a i n e d . A p a r t from a shadowy f e m i n i n e presence f e l t a l l e g o r y , which I w i l l  l e a s t , not in England, where,  l a r g e l y t o Chaucer, E n g l i s h as a l i t e r a r y  i t s own.  century  have more t o say about in a moment, t h e r e are no  female poets a r i s i n g w i t h t h e Renaissance* a t thanks  in f i f t e e n t h  language has come  We hear o f a female poet in t h i r t e e n t h c e n t u r y  into  I t a l y known as  focus  37  The  P e r f e c t L a d y o f F l o r e n c e who  i s , however, such  t i m e s t h a t h e r e x i s t e n c e a s a woman i s d i s p u t e d . J.  Wilhelm,  s a y s she  i s often considered  a rarity Her  for  her  translator,  a c o n s t r u c t of the male  James poets  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 o f t h e poem I  reproduce  here,  one,  I quote  that  a tone  we  find  which  i t a s an  poem has  projects a yearning  the  ring  l a t e r women p o e t s  Anne B r o n t e , C h r i s t i n a  in the nineteenth century s o n n e t makes  i t the  I w a n t t o go  than  who  a conventional "In  complain  sounding of  male  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 .  f o r e s c a p e f r o m an o p p r e s s i v e  a n t i c i p a t e s E m i l y and  of t h i s  statement  example of the f e m i n i n e t r a d i t i o n , .  i n t h e work o f much  oppression, the  "L.E.L."  i s s o much more a p e r s o n a l  first  who we  are  life  that strongly  R o s s e t t i , and  l e s s known.  It  others,  like  early  dating  The  h a v e f r o m a woman's h a n d :  away f r o m 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. B e c a u s e I s e e on e v e r y s i d e o f me M a d n e s s and u n c h e c k e d e v i l and g r e a t f r a u d : S e n s e 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 g o o d n e s s o f e v e r y k i n d ; And s o I w a n t no h u s b a n d , w a n t 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 m i n d . 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 o f a l l t h e r a c e And t o w a r d s my God a l l o f my b o d y ' 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 f r o m 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 d o w r y ' 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 o f 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  l e a s t o f her enormous s y m b o l i c influential  shapers  the very concept and  soulless  on  poetry, there  i s no  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 .  of the  ideal  impact  lyric  has  t o w h i c h men  p r e d i c t a b l y , since they  have s e t  l a p s e d t o a'new low:  appeal i t up  in'vain that  way.  body o f Instead,  t h a t o f an  f o r sexual  the  favors:  artificial  38  Before t h i s development,  however, something  allegorical  form.  leave t h e i r  i m p r i n t upon t h e f o r m  anonymity  In t h e f i f t e e n t h  women f o u n d  c e n t u r y , t w o unknown f e m a I e a u t h o r s  i n such  s way a s t o s u g g e s t t h a t  whatever  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  ma I e - a s c e n d a n f e r a , t h e l i t t l e g e n e r a t e d a t a s t e f o r more. to  interesting'happens t o the  be c o m p l e t e l y s i l e n c e d .  t h e y had had o f l i t e r a r y H e n c e f o r t h women w o u l d  The f i r s t  newly  s e l f - e x p r e s s i o n had  not suffer  themselves  o f 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  40  homi l e t i c a l l e g o r y , " historical  w h i c h 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  importance.  The second  i st h e "remarkable  t h e A s s e m b l y o f L a d i e s , a work w h i c h  again 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 , a n d , i n some w a y s , a n o t l e s s of  the tradition";  though  woman" who w r o t e  interesting  he g o e s o n t o s a y , g r a t u i t o u s l y :  modification  "Taken a s 41  a Ilegory,  i t i sas s i l l y  So much f o r d i s d a i n f u l  a poem a s a man c o u I d  male s u p e r i o r i t y !  f i nd i n a y e a r ' s r e a d i n g . "  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 p u r e 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 e v e r y d a y l i f e ; a n d i f h e r poem w e r e n o t hampered by b e i n g s t i l l a t t a c h e d — a s 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 w o u l d be a n 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 m i g h t now be l a m e n t i n g t h e l o s t J a n e A u s t e n o f t h e f i f t e e n t h century." An  ambiguous compliment;  but in 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 u s 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 attempts. N o r d o e s t h i s r e a l i s m f a i l when t h e l a d y b e g i n s t o t e l l h e r d r e a m . We s o o n f o r g e t t h a t i t i s a d r e a m , o r a n a l l e g o r y . . . .the d e t a i l o f t h e poem shows power a k i n t o g e n i u s . That  s u c h an a u t h o r , c o m p a r a b l e  constrained  i n genius t o t h e e a r l y Chaucer,  was  t o w o r k a n o n y m o u s l y 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 to participate  intimidated w r i t e r .  in t h e  free  l i t e r a r y world of men in o r d e r t o develop and sharpen  her own e x p r e s s i o n and i t s The a l l e g o r y of  The odds a g a i n s t a woman being  i n t r i n s i c form are high in h i s t o r y .  love c o n t i n u e d t o e n j o y a p o p u l a r i t y w e l l  into the  E l i z a b e t h a n p e r i o d , The F a e r i e Queene being t h e l a s t and most complex of i t s monuments.  But by t h e n , t h e f e e l i n g s e x a l t i n g an ideal of  romantic  love have become o s s i f i e d w i t h i n a s e t of c o n v e n t i o n s , 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 t h e f o r m , o f t e n t a k i n g t h e i r m a t t e r 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  it,  lyric  i s a chamber a r t f o r m , as someone has d e s c r i b e d  i t s own c o n v e n t i o n s , one of which i s v a r i a t i o n s on a theme. i s now as a b s t r a c t e d from a c t u a l persons and e x p e r i e n c e s of can g e t . all  Invitations to  with  The c o n t e n t love as  it  love or.compI a i n t s a g a i n s t a lady f u r n i s h ,  in  but t h e best p o e t s , an excuse f o r t h e e x e r c i s e of w i t and manner, an  i n d u l g e n c e , not of men s u b s e r v i e n t t o t h e women t h e i r p o e t r y itself  addresses  t o , but in most r e s p e c t s of p r i v i l e g e and p o s i t i o n , t h e i r  actual  superiors. 42 Two themes dominate t h e E l i z a b e t h a n  love l y r i c .  In t h e  "Gather-  y e - r o s e b u d s - w h i I e - y e - m a y " theme borrowed from C a t u l l u s , young women are e x h o r t e d t o y i e l d t o sexual will  l o v e , w i t h t h e i m p l i e d t h r e a t t h a t o l d age  soon render them u n a t t r a c t i v e and u n d e s i r a b l e (an a t t i t u d e w h i c h ,  by becoming c o n v e n t i o n a l i z e d extent that  in p o e t r y , has been i n f l u e n t i a l  i t has become an u n s t a t e d c o n v e n t i o n  in l i f e ) .  theme, women are a t t a c k e d f o r t h e i r d i s d a i n f u l n e s s , cruelty  In. t h e o t h e r  inconstancy and  in r e f u s i n g t o s a t i s f y t h e l o v e r on h i s t e r m s .  of women i s u s u a l l y a i r i l y  t o the  This  denigration  dismissed in d i s c u s s i o n s of E l i z a b e t h a n  love  40  p o e t r y where i t t h i s genre.  i s taken f o r g r a n t e d t h a t r e a l f e e l i n g  i s not t h e issue  in  And indeed, s e v e r a l 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  t h e impact o f E n g l i s h temperament and c u l t u r e on t h e c o n t i n e n t a l have d i v o r c e d t h e l y r i c from both i t s pagan r o o t s  in r i t u a l  and i t s medieval f o l k r o o t s in p o p u l a r e x p r e s s i o n . m o d a l i t i e s of the l y r i c ,  heritage  observance  Among t h e s e v e r a l  love p o e t r y remains dominant, b u t c h i v a l r y as  t h e a n i m a t i n g aspect of t h e lay and romance i s now an end in  itself;  poets are no longer defenders of women as t h e Love^-advocate Chaucer was, and c o u l d — g i v e n t h e 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 s e t b a c k . women:  And so have  in t h e c r e a t i v e e x p l o s i o n of t h e E n g l i s h 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 o r two women o u t s i d e of queens mentioned in h i s t o r y . a creative  life still  lingers  The d e n i a l of women's r i g h t s  to  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 i s a n , a French w r i t e r , as " t h a t 43 doughty f e m i n i n e invader of Grub S t r e e t . ' • setting forth prescriptions for  She w r o t e p o e t r y ,  ideal conduct in manners and m o r a l s , and  a book in defence o f women a f t e r r e a d i n g M a t h e o l u s . is t h e e a r l i e s t of a succession of c o n t i n e n t a l v a r i e t y of Renaissance  books  literature.  Born in 1364, she  women who a l s o p u b l i s h e d a  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 t h e E n g l i s h Aphra Behn, who l i v e d two c e n t u r i e s f e m i n i s t , possibly the e a r l i e s t .  later.  writer,  L i k e h e r , t o o , de Pisan was a  As f o r E n g l i s h Renaissance p o e t s , 44  we have t h e poem o f a c e r t a i n Anne Askewe,  burned in t h e Tower a t t h e  age of t w e n t y - s i x f o r a b j u r i n g C a t h o l i c i s m in f a v o 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 b e f o r e her death in 1546, t h i s poem is a l l  that  apparently  ,,  41  remains of h e r .  At t h e end of t h e c e n t u r y and b e g i n n i n g of t h e n e x t ,  t h e scene i s e n l i v e n e d by Mary H e r b e r t , Countess of Pembroke, s i s t e r of S i r P h i l i p Sidney and c o - a u t h o r w i t h him of many works i n c l u d i n g a metrical  v e r s i o n of t h e Psalms.  and t r a n s l a t i o n s .  A very  learned woman,  she a l s o wrote prose .  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 t h e  Renaissance, o n l y these  lone female v o i c e s in E n g l i s h p o e t r y !  Conti-  n e n t a l women w r o t e 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 p o e t s :  t h e i r poetry  t h e poets i n c l u d e :  i s in t h e c o u r t l y  love t r a d i t i o n .  A f t e r de P i s a n ,  Laura T e r r a c i n a , C a t h e r i n e and Madeleine Des Roches, 45  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 B r a c h a r t a t t h e o u t s e t o f t h e s e v e n t e e n t h . By t h i s t i m e E n g l i s h 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 t h e p u b l i c a t i o n s of Jane Anger in t h e s i x t e e n t h , and E s t h e r Sowernam, Rachel Specht and 46  C o n s t a n t i a Mundi  in t h e seventeenth c e n t u r y t e s t i f y .  A p a r t from t h e s e  s p i r i t e d and f o r w a r d - l o o k i n g women, t h e p i c t u r e  is b l e a k .  has r e t a i n e d t h e pedestal  l i t e r a t u r e of c o u r t l y  r a i s e d f o r her in t h e  While t h e  lady love,  she i s no longer e v i d e n t (as in t w e l f t h c e n t u r y France and t h e E n g l i s h c o u r t ) as a person w i t h her own i d e a s , f e e l i n g s and s t a n d a r d s of expression  in t h e a r t s .  cultural  The setback has been remarked upon by t h e  p s y c h o l o g i s t E r i c h 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 , archaeological  and a e s t h e t i c evidence of t h e f e m i n i n e a r c h e t y p e .  I quote  him in p a r t , where he discusses Renaissance p a i n t i n g : The change of t h e t i m e s i s e v i d e n t in t h e Renaissance p i c t u r e of Venus. With t h e development of t h e p a t r i a r c h a t e t h e Great Goddess has become t h e Goddess of Love, an^_,the Power of t h e f e m i n i n e has been reduced t o t h e power of s e x u a l i t y .  42  Whatever r e s p e c t and a d m i r a t i o n been by now s a f e l y enthroned  i s owed t o woman from a n c i e n t t i m e s , has  in t h e V i r g i n M o t h e r , a defused  Christian  v a r i a n t of t h e g e n e r i c Great Mother a r c h e t y p e s y m b o l i z i n g e a r t h ' s power as g i v e r and t a k e r of  life.  The V i r g i n , a passive v e s t i g e of t h i s  c o n c e p t , has been d e p r i v e d of a l l her humanly born Son. vilification  r e a l power save t h a t of  intercession  In consequence, women are prey t o a l l  p r e d i c a t e d on t h e i r sex a l o n e .  dynamic with  k i n d s of  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 t h e m a j o r i t y of  poetry  w r i t t e n by men in which women a r e imaged; among t h e few o b v i o u s and honorable e x c e p t i o n s a r e Shakespeare, of c o u r s e , and t o a c e r t a i n Donne.  extent,  The b a s i c enmity towards women t h a t u n d e r l i e s t h e E l i z a b e t h a n  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' ambiguities expression  misogynistic  in t h e second p a r t of t h e Roman de la R o s e — r e m a i n s t o in t h e C a v a l i e r , and t o a l e s s e r e x t e n t m e t a p h y s i c a l ,  of t h e seventeenth c e n t u r y .  E l i z a b e t h died a t  love  find  poetry  i t s dawning, and Spenser's  i d e a l i z a t i o n of t h e V i r g i n Queen as Goddess and emblem o f n a t i o n a l  power  i s t h e l a s t medieval c o u r t l y g e s t u r e , made in d e f e r e n c e t o t h e e x e r c i s e of r e a I f e m i n i n e 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 t h e p r i m i t i v e n o t i o n of woman's g e n e r a t i v e p o w e r ) . t o imply t h a t t h e sexual t o the  Christian culture  love of women was dangerous and a n t i t h e t i c a l  love of God, though t h e Renaissance had brought c l a s s i c a l  t o t h e f o r e as expressed in s e c u l a r A r i s t o t e I i a n i s m , t h e and C h r i s t i a n humanists.  continued  enlightenment  neo-PIatonists  The R e s t o r a t i o n was t o b r i n g 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 t h e o t h e r a r t s , and, in f o l l o w i n g t h e s e , as Bush has p o i n t e d o u t in h i s Mythology and t h e Renaissance Trad i t i o n  in E n q I i s h P o e t r y ,  43  "Humanism ceased t o be h u m a n i s t i c 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 ,  incidentally, that f i t l y  p a t i o n of t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y f u r t h e r on.  The c l a s s i c a l  describes the f o r m a l i s t i c  leaders in p o e t i c s . , a t whom we wi I I be h e r i t a g e a f f e c t e d Renaissance p o e t r y  England in s t i m u l a t i n g p r o d u c t i o n of a v a s t body of m y t h o l o g i c a l  preocculooking  in ballads  and drama, w h i l e t h e medieval enthusiasm f o r Ovid reached new peaks in t h e p r o d u c t i o n of sensuous sonnets and l y r i c s , and a l s o 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 art.  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  witty  I t o n l y a w a i t e d S w i f t i a n e x e c r a t i o n o f women of f a s h i o n ( i n sexual 49  terms t h a t convey a s p e c i a l  loathing)  t o show how e a s i l y m o r a l i s t s and  a e s t h e t e s a l i k e submerge t h e i r d i f f e r e n c e s makes of women i t s f a v o r i t e  stream which  scapegoat.  When women t a k e up again t h e ancient  in t h e p a t r i a r c h a l  lyric tradition  in resumption of an  i n i t i a t i v e , t h e y n a t u r a l l y t a k e t h e i r forms from t h e 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 t h r o u g h i t s recovery in t h e Renaissance, t o o k a w h i l e f o r her example t o mean something t o women.  it  Aphra Behn (1640-  1689) d a r i n g l y addresses a poem t o a female l o v e r a n d , in a n o t h e r poem, 50 makes an o b l i q u e r e f e r e n c e t o Sappho;  but t h i s  is already  in t h e  c o n t e x t of R e s t o r a t i o n comedy. Behn occurs as something of an apocalypse in h i s t o r y . lone f e m a l e , she stands o u t as a l u s t y r e f o r m a t i v e s p i r i t  Firstly, a in a  libertine  age, her c r i t i c i s m of mores and manners making a p o i n t of t h e need f o r change in m a r r i a g e customs, and her works openly c e l e b r a t i n g of t h e senses.  She was o f t e n termed a Sappho by j e a l o u s  who t h o u g h t so t o c a s t a s l u r on h e r .  enjoyment  contemporaries  Secondly, her b r e a k i n g t h r o u g h t h e  44  e x c l u s i v e l y male s t r o n g h o l d t h a t t h e l i t e r a r y and d r a m a t i c scene England had been up u n t i l t h a t t i m e leads t o a gradual more and more women in w r i t i n g .  having been made a v a i l a b l e o n l y  involvement o f  U n f o r t u n a t e l y , she has s u f f e r e d  n e g l e c t a t t h e hands of p u b l i s h e r s and p r o f e s s o r s , in f a i r l y  a critical  great  i n f o r m a t i o n about her  recent years.  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 biography by George Woodcock, p u b l i s h e d  in  Her e x t r a o r d i n a r y life  in a  in 1948, and more r e c e n t l y ,  a n a l y s i s of her work by F r e d e r i c k M. L i n k ,  in 1968.  r e f e r s t o " M r s . Benn" as " t h e f i r s t g r e a t woman in E n g l i s h Her combined w o r k s , he s a y s , "equal o r surpass a l I  in  Woodcock  literature."  but t h e 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 l a y s and novels which she i s perhaps b e t t e r remembered, and a number of In t h i s v e r s a t i l i t y  she resembles t h e c o n t i n e n t a l  translations.  women a l r e a d y m e n t i o n e d .  But Behn was more than j u s t a woman in t h e l i t e r a r y vanguard (though i s q u i t e enough in i t s e l f ) :  for  this  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 r e p r e s e n t s a r e v o l u t i o n a r y i n f l u e n c e on t h e 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 r a c e d t h e b e g i n n i n g s of a number o f changes in w r i t i n g and t h o u g h t t h a t have had a r e a l i n f l u e n c e on t h e l i t e r a r y and s o c i a l development of subsequent c e n t u r i e s . She was t h e 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 i n her s t r u g g l e s t o overcome male p r e j u d ice^and j e a l o u s y , became a p i o n e e r in t h e f i g h t f o r women's e m a n c i p a t i o n . Her f o r c e f u l  and w i t t y  style  i s seen in t h e f o l l o w i n g q u o t a t i o n from t h e  e p i l o g u e t o her p l a y S i r P a t i e n t Fancy (her b e s t , a c c o r d i n g t o Woodcock), in which she a t t a c k s t h e a n t i - f e m i n i s t s who a r e always h a r r a s s i n g  her:  45  I here and t h e r e o ' e r h e a r d 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 u s , With her damn'd S t u f f , w i l l never cease t o teaze u s . 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 h e r e t o f o r e ? We once were fam'd in s t o r y and could w r i t e Equal t o Men; c o u ' d g o v e r n , n a y — c o u ' d f i g h t . We s t i l l have p a s s i v e V a l o u r , and can show, Wou'd Custom . g i v e us l e a v e , t h e a c t i v e t o o , Since we no P r o v o c a t i o n s want from you. For who but we c o u ' d your d u l l Fopperies b e a r , Your saucy Love, and your b r i s k Nonsense h e a r ; Indure your worse than womanly A f f e c t a t i o n , Which renders you t h e Nuisance of t h e N a t i o n 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 w e l l as Men. Behn's success stung t h e 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 equal.  As in t h e p a s t , women's o p p r e s s i o n  in 1670 was such t h a t  t h e l o t o f t h e average woman was an i n t e l l e c t u a l b a r r e n n e s s , 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 f o u g h t so w e 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 t h e r i g h t f o r women t o make a vocation of l i t e r a t u r e . . . . By 1690, w i t h Aphra Behn's p i o n e e r work and t h e i n f l u e n c e which women l i k e Sarah C h u r c h i l l and Mrs. Masham began t o w i e l d in g c - l i t i c a l l i f e , t h e i n t e l l e c t u a l s u b j u g a t i o n of women was c l e a r l y ended. Alas, at  i t should have been, but was i t ?  l e a s t , suggests t h a t women f e e l  - o t h e r w i s e , up t o t h i s very day.  The e v i d e n c e ,  in women's p o e t r y ,  subjugated i n t e l l e c t u a l l y ,  s e x u a l l y , and  S t i l l , Woodcock summarizes what, up t o  t h e t i m e of h i s w r i t i n g , were s u r e l y t h e 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 o n l y by our own most r e c e n t decades which surpass in breadth and promise a n y t h i n g t h a t has gone b e f o r e . Three o t h e r women of note wrote p o e t r y  in r o u g h l y Behn's p e r i o d ; of  t h e s e , Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle ( 1 6 2 4 - 1 6 7 4 ) — a  brilliant  46  w r i t e r by many a c c o u n t s — w a s , a f t e r Behn, one of t h e f i r s t E n g l i s h women t o p u b l i s h her work, though she enjoyed none of t h e Katharine P h i l i p s ,  (1631-1664),  t h e o t h e r hand, much admired.  latter's  known as " t h e matchless O r i n d a , " was, on M a r r y i n g a t t h e age of s i x t e e n , her home  became t h e c e n t r e of a f a s h i o n a b l e c o t e r i e of d i s t i n g u i s h e d Behn among them.  popularity.  contemporaries,  According t o Bush, P h i l i p s " c o n t i n u e d t h e P l a t o n i c  cult  55 of t h e e a r l i e r age in her poems t o her women f r i e n d s , "  a practice  c o n f o r m i t y w i t h her warm advocacy of f r i e n d s h i p between women.  in  Besides  w r i t i n g poems, p l a y s and t r a n s l a t i o n s , she was one of t h e two most celebrated art.  l e t t e r w r i t e r s of a c e n t u r y which saw t h a t genre r a i s e d t o an  Among t h e s e c o n t e m p o r a r i e s , Anne F i n c h , Countess o f  ( 1 6 6 1 - 1 7 2 0 ) , comes c l o s e s t t o s h a r i n g Behn's f e m i n i s t i c Repeatedly  Winchelsea  outlook.  in her poems she expresses resentment a g a i n s t a g o v e r n i n g  a e s t h e t i c which a c t s on t h e presumptuous view t h a t "man" as a t e r m f o r human k i n d means men, p r i n c i p a l l y . women's g e n i u s and courage. probably  She a l s o w r i t e s poems in p r a i s e of  She p u b l i s h e d her f i r s t  book anonymously,  in response t o t h e scorn f o r women poets she had o p p o r t u n i t y  e x p e r i e n c e d u r i n g her youth a t c o u r t .  " D i d I , my l i n e s  intend f o r  to  publick  v i e w , / How many c e n s u r e s , wou'd t h e i r f a u l t s p e r s u e , " she g l o o m i l y reflects  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 t h e b a s i s of such f a u l t f i n d i n g w h i l e t h e r e s t d i s m i s s f e m i n i n e w r i t i n g as "woman's w o r k . "  "Alas!  simply  a woman t h a t  a t t e m p t s t h e p e n , / Such an i n t r u d e r on t h e r i g h t s of m e n , " " ^ she says w i t h a k i n d of weary resentment.  Towards t h e end of t h e c e n t u r y she  r e t i r e d w i t h her husband t o t h e c o u n t r y , where she w r o t e The P e t i t i o n an A b s o l u t e R e t r e a t , a poem b e l o n g i n g , says E.M.W. T i l l y a r d , " t o t h e  for  47  a u t h e n t i c seventeenth c e n t u r y p o e t r y of  r e t i r e m e n t , " and which he  p r a i s e s in terms s i g n i f i c a n t f o r t h e women's t r a d i t i o n .  "One would  t h i n k , " he s a y s , r e f e r r i n g t o so f i r m l y e s t a b l i s h e d a t r a d i t i o n as t h e "retirement myth," that  i t was  ready t o go s t a l e . Yet t h a t m y t h , f a r from f o r c i n g Anne Finch t o t h e f r i g i d and t h e i n e r t , gave h e r ^ t h e means o f e x p r e s s i n g a s i n g u l a r l y f r e s h s e t of personal f e e l i n g s . Finch l i v e d i n t o t h e e i g h t e e n t h 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 i s c e l l a n y Poems, which c o n t a i n e d n a t u r e poems p r a i s e d t h e i r f r e s h n e s s and l y r i c i s m , a f o r e w a r d  for  l o o k i n g p o e t r y which " i n cadence 58  and s p i r i t  resembles t h e n i n e t e e n t h  century."  Poets such as P h i l i p s and Finch a r e 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 w e a l t h and p o s i t i o n which served t o  i n s u l a t e them from t h e  their  artist's  s o c i a l and economic n e c e s s i t y of s t r u g g l e ; f o r example, he c o n s i d e r s t h a t Behn's b r i l l i a n t accomplishment owes as much t o her n e c e s s i t y t o earn a l i v i n g as t o her i n n a t e g i f t s and c h a r a c t e r . hypothesis convincing.  The p r o f e s s i o n a l  I personally find  d r i v e which sharpened and  developed Behn's s k i l l s , e n s u r i n g a c o n s i s t e n t l y  high  productivity,  a l s o meant she competed w i t h men on terms t h e y had t o a c c e p t . enjoyed an e q u a l i t y she b o l d l y wonder.  this  Behn  imposed, which makes her something of a  She enabled t h e host of p r o f e s s i o n a l women who came a f t e r  her  t o f o l l o w up t h e 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 accomplished. says,  The i m p o r t a n t t h i n g , as Woodcock  is t h a t t h e female w r i t e r had come t o s t a y .  and t h e r e b y a p l a c e f o r a l l  Behn won her own p l a c e ,  women, not o n l y t h r o u g h courage and competence,  but t h r o u g h i n n o v a t i v e t e c h n i q u e s and d a r i n g  ideas  59  t h a t came t o  affect  48  t h e f u t u r e course of w r i t i n g .  Though her i n f l u e n c e has been m a i n l y  felt  in t h e spheres of t h e novel and drama, we have t o a l l o w t h a t t h e p o e t r y owes a t  least  i t s s p i r i t t o Behn's consciousness of her woman's r o l e  shaping a l i t e r a t u r e r e p r e s e n t i n g woman's v i e w p o i n t , w h i l e  in  in c r a f t ,  it  i s e a s i l y t h e equal of her male c o n t e m p o r a r i e s . The seventeenth c e n t u r y  is remarkable n o t o n l y f o r t h e p i o n e e r i n g 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 England in 1630 t o t a k e up l i f e first  poet of consequence.  consent,  in t h e New w o r l d , where she became  its  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  in London, by her b r o t h e r - i n - l a w ,  under a long t i t l e  The Tenth Muse L a t e l y Sprung up in A m e r i c a . t o s e t t i n g up h i s kinswoman as Sappho's equal compliment.)  left  But i t was not t i l l  beginning  (He a p p a r e n t l y was not averse in t h i s echo of  l a t e r . — f r o m 1650 o n — t h a t  Plato's  Bradstreet  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 c o n v e n t i o n a l  verse.  T h i s was when her work began t o t a k e on  life  as she t u r n e d t o domestic s u b j e c t s , w r i t i n g o u t of her own e x p e r i e n c e much as d i d Behn, but w i t h t h e huge d i f f e r e n c e of being c o n f i n e d 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 w o r l d of t h e home.  In a Foreword t o t h e  P u r i t a n p o e t ' s c o l l e c t e d w o r k s , t h e poet Adrienne Rich has t h i s t o say: Anne B r a d s t r e e t was t h e f i r s t n o n - d i d a c t i c American p o e t , t h e f i r s t t o g i v e an embodiment t o American n a t u r e , t h e f i r s t in whom personal i n t e n t i o n appears t o precede P u r i t a n dogma as an impulse t o v e r s e . . . . 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 P u r i t a n and f e m i n i n e . . . her v o i c e i s 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 c h o i c e of m a t e r i a 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, t h e f i r s t good poems in A m e r i c a , w h i l e r e a r i n g e i g h t c h i l d r e n , l y i n g f r e q u e n t l y s i c k , keeping house a t t h e 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 e x t e n s i o n w i t h i n c o n f i n e s as severe as any American poet has c o n f r o n t e d . I f t h e s e v e r i t y of these c o n f i n e s l e f t i t s mark on t h e p o e t r y of Anne B r a d s t r e e t , i t a l s o f o r c e d 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 i g h t , in a n g j h e r c o n t e x t , have spent i t s e l f in o t h e r , less enduring d i r e c t i o n s .  49  Bradstreet celebrated the p a t r i a r c h a l w i t h i n her B i b l i c a l Nevertheless,  o r d e r of her  l i f e as she knew i t and,  frame of r e f e r e n c e , g e n e r a l l y d e f e r s t o male s u p e r i o r i t y ,  l i k e Behn and F i n c h , she speaks b i t t e r l y o f having her  p o e t i c g i f t d e n i e d , as in t h e s e l i n e s from "The P r o l o g u e : " I am obnoxious t o each c a r p i n g 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 t h u s wrong, For such d e s p i t e they c a s t on female w i t s : I f what I do prove w e l l , i t w o n ' t advance, ^ T h e y ' l l say i t ' s s t o l ' n , o r e l s e i t was by chance. She a l s o t a k e s g r e a t p r i d e  in t h e proven s u p e r i o r i t y of a woman who had  been one of E n g l a n d ' s g r e a t e s t and most c e l e b r a t e d r u l e r s ; here i s p a r t of a poem " I n Honour of t h a t High and Mighty P r i n c e s s Queen E l i z a b e t h of Happy Memory:" Now, say, have women worth? o r have t h e y none? Or had they some, but w i t h our Queen i s ' t gone? Nay m a s c u l i n e s , you have t h u s taxed us l o n g , 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 i s v o i d of r e a s o n , ^ Know ' t i s a s l a n d e r now b u t 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 c e n t u r y women poets mentioned so f a r , and indeed, in many o f those t o come.  They are f e e l i n g s t h a t form t h e b a s i s of a growing f e m i n i s m .  The f e a t u r e most shared in common by t h e poets discussed t h u s f a r  is  t h e energy t h a t t h e i r p o e t r y d e r i v e s from i t s emphasis on personal experience.  Women t i l l  now w r o t e b e s t ,  i t would appear (meaning those who  s u r v i v e d t h e 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 f e e l i n g s and p a s s i o n s ,  l i k e Behn, s a t i r i z i n g  intimate  i n j u s t i c e and speaking  f r a n k l y as a woman on m a t t e r s o f sex, and l i k e B r a d s t r e e t , r e a c h i n g beauty w h i l e s t r u g g l i n g merely t o s t a y a l i v e they wrote of t h e d a i l y  life,  for  in a h a r s h , new e n v i r o n m e n t —  in i t s personal and c o n c r e t e r e l a t i o n s  with  50  people and w i t h t h i n g s .  Theirs  i s a human I y«-f ocused a r t .  In t h e i r  d e t e r m i n a t i o n t o r i s e above o p p r e s s i v e c o n d i t i o n s , such women poets s t r i k e a u n i v e r s a l c h o r d : one t h a t all '.  i s not  l i m i t e d t o women but sounds f o r  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 c e n t u r y of such p r o m i s e , t h e e i g h t e e n t h  does not g i v e much cause f o r r e j o i c i n g .  century  Mary Wort Iy Montagu i s t h e  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 c o n t i n u e s t h e 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 i t e r a r y H i s t o r y of England  A l b e r t C. Baugh in h i s  c i