Must be a week for poetry! From T.S.Eliot to Aemilia Lanyer in the space of just a few days! I wrote this poem for an assignment, and got an ‘outstanding’ for it. We were tasked with choosing one of the seventeenth-century poets we had studied this semester, and writing a response in the style of the work itself that addresses an issue raised in that poem. I chose Aemilia Lanyer’s ‘A Description of Cook-ham‘.
Aemilia is so adept at the old iambic pentameter, that some say she may have been the actual writer of some of Shakespeare’s works. Certainly women were victims of patriarchy at the time, and writing was considered manly work. Aemilia went right on ahead and published her own book of poems in 1611, something unheard of for a woman in those days. Maybe that’s why I like her so much! =-D
THE ‘SENSELESS’ TREE
My response to A Description of Cook-ham by Aemilia Lanyer
Fair lady, hark to my wisdom; this I
Have observed, rooted here ‘twixt earth and sky.
You think to disguise mankind’s foul actions
With your ode to his garden’s attractions,
While yon great pile of bricks you hold so dear
Is but a monument to greed and fear.
Into the arms of nature didst you flee
To find sanctuary with her and me.
You learned joy in the beauty and power
Of bird and beast, and in tree and flower.
You kept us silent, yet gave us human hearts,
But we do not weep for her when she departs.
You, who are naught but a villainous thief,
What could you possibly know of our grief?
The Bard’s paramour, his muse, and his pen,
Your frail female flesh betrays you again.
Hand in hand, a kiss so sweet and so chaste,
Looks hidden in books, an arm round a waist
Caged in whalebone, yearning to be free,
Burning with desire for what can never be.
Take it, if that is who you truly are.
Mayhap it is too soon, a step too far.
So go then, leave this place, do as you ought,
Surrender to man, dutiful consort.
Put aside the books that you so adore;
Knowledge is power, meant for you no more.
Know your proper place, for this is your worth:
To serve, be silent, obey and give birth.
And think you fondly of that ‘senseless’ tree
And know that, of we two, I am more free.
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