Sunday, 14 February 2010

17th Century female poet: A poem about love (as its Valentine's Day)

The Souls desireby Julia Palmer, June 6, 1673

A burning beacon, of pure love
Still strongly, flaming up to thee
I’de be, until thou doe remove
Mee up where love. Shall perfect be

This Grace of love is mine eye
The thing, I greatly doe desire
For itt the richest pearls, should lye
Under my feet, as durt, and mire

I will desire no greater pleasure
Then in these flames, of love to ly
I will seek for, noe richer treasure
Then. Wings of love, wheron to fly

If thou’lt not fill me to the brim
Whils here, oh hasten my remove,
Unto that place where I shall swim
In seas, of pure, unmixed, love

(Extract from: Millman, Jill Seal and Gillian Wright (eds), Early modern women’s manuscript poetry, (Manchester University Press: Manchester, 2005), p. 180. )

This is a poem about love but it is religious rather than romantic, the 'burning beacon' refers to Palmer herself while the place where love 'shall perfect be' refers to heaven. Little is known about the author herself but it is thought that she was non-conformist in religious belief and probably Presbyterian. This is reflected by the preoccupation throughout her poetry with having a spiritual marriage with Jesus in heaven, which was a popular non-conformist theme. Therefore death is a recurrent theme throughout her work.

Copyright © 2010 Elaine Hunter

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