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Anne as co-author and editor
Roger Kuin
and
William Oram

This chapter consists of two brief essays by the editors. The first, by Roger Kuin, considers Anne as collaborator. The second, by William Oram, considers her as stylist and editor.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer
Anne Lake Prescott

In later Elizabethan England, a complex of words and images gathered around the idea of ruin, often associated with the pride of ancient and modern Rome. The complex includes allusions to blood, falling and decaying walls, Time’s speedy consumption or gradual erosion, urban pride, civil war, and rebellion punished by God or by Time’s destructiveness and – sometimes – the persistence of poetry despite all this. Mary Sidney was one of the poets for whom ‘ruinish’ had a special appeal, with its focus on God’s city and hopes of a re-edified and renewed Jerusalem. Her translations of the psalms (unlike her brother’s) are likely to use variants of ‘ruin’ where her English sources employ destruction or ‘waste’. Her ruins aesthetic is what one might call Protestant urban typology, contrasting the decayed city of man with the restored city of God. She recurs to the idea that time may destroy physical stones but not language, and not the human ‘stones’ that make up God’s temple. Against ruin is set edification, the edification of the person, the re-edification of Jerusalem’s walls, and the restoration of the Temple. This language of ruin allows for a model of discourse at once private and public, concerned with individual experience and with history.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer
Selected Essays of Anne Lake Prescott

For fifty years Anne Lake Prescott has been a central force in the study of Anglo-French literary relations in the early modern period. This selection of her essays connects issues of nation, language, religion, and gender. The twelve collected here examine early modern culture by describing and often by contrasting its texts. The essays borrow eclectically from different interpretative practices – archival research, historical placement, psychoanalysis, biblical commentary, translation, and the study of gender. Throughout they illuminate by clarifying what she calls the ‘cultural forcefield surrounding and sustaining’ the poems. The readings cross boundaries. They consider the Reformation as it affects ideas of poetic vocation and the sense of time, and show how the biblical David became a model for Renaissance poets and also for slandered courtiers. Several essays deal with Edmund Spenser’s epic and his sonnet sequence, and many bring texts from other fields to illuminate Donne, Ronsard, the Sidneys and other early modern writers. Three little-known French poems with lesbian speakers illuminate Donne’s ‘Sappho to Philaenis’, while the language of ruin in Mary Sidney’s psalm translations suggests paradoxically her sense of religious renewal. These essays – penetrating, generous, and witty – use close reading to consider large cultural issues. An introduction by Ayesha Ramachandran, Susan Felch, and Susannah Monta places Anne’s work in the context of early modern studies and the book ends with short appreciations of Anne as collaborator and editor by Roger Kuin and William Oram and a bibliography of Prescott’s work.

The Renaissance David as a slandered courtier
Anne Lake Prescott

The post-Reformation concern with the psalms looked outward to history and politics as well as inward to soul and its utterances. Compared with patristic and medieval exegetes, commentators such as Bucer, Calvin, and Beza read the psalms and 1 and 2 Samuel in terms of David’s life as they found it recounted there. David became, for these commentators, a victim of slander at Saul’s court. Those who misuse language in the psalms are often specified by these Protestant commentators as sycophantic, back-biting courtiers, and Saul himself becomes a tyrant who misuses his royal power. This emphasis is particularly marked in ‘unofficial’ works like the Geneva Bible. David thus becomes in the sixteenth century a model for the persecuted and exiled Protestant poet. In thinking of the psalms, it is important to remember how often their sixteenth-century audience came to see them referring to courts, plots, ‘policy’, and political tyranny.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer
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Mourning and gender in Marguerite de Navarre’s Les Prisons
Anne Lake Prescott

This essay asks why Marguerite de Navarre, having suffered the deaths of her mother, her husband, and her mother-in-law, should choose, in her religious, allegorical poem Les Prisons, a male persona to mourn their deaths and considers a series of contexts for her decision. Most obviously, the male voice gives her an authority to generalize about the prisons of this world. But there are other factors as well, literary, religious, psychological, and philosophical. The essay examines the ambivalences that accompanied Marguerite’s love for her relatives and argues that in portraying their deaths, she remakes them into figures more evangelical than they were – more like herself. Her brother Francis I also wrote poetry that experimented with gender, adopting on occasion the voice of a female ‘other’, and the vocabulary and concepts available to Marguerite gave her room to play with gendered voices: a woman poet might speak as a spiritus, a masculine noun, just as a man’s immortal part is female, an anima.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer
Henry IV and Spenser’s Burbon
Anne Lake Prescott

In the last cantos of Book V of The Faerie Queene Spenser hides the historical events of the 1580s and 1590s on the Continent and in Ireland behind a thin veil of allegory, too thin for the taste of many readers. This essay suggests ways to complicate the relation of the veil to the events behind it, events that Spenser may distort but that remain, loosely, more history than ‘poetry’ in Philip Sidney’s sense of fictions born from a writer’s creative wit. The ‘history’ that Spenser would have known concerning Henri IV of France – Book V’s Sir Burbon – was already so thoroughly mythologized that when he created his lightly disguised version of the great French leader who, said Protestants, had betrayed their cause by converting to Rome, he could simultaneously import associations enabling him further to ironize the relation of political story to political fiction. Irony and ambivalence, not least the memory of what Burbon had been and should have remained, make easy judgments of his behaviour even harder and show once again Spenser’s quasi-Machiavellian understanding of Justice’s imperfections in a fallen world of time. The following study examines the mythology surrounding Henri IV as it was available to the English, its potential relevance for Spenser, and documentary evidence of the English government’s response to Henri’s conversion in 1593 that parallels Artegall’s reluctant rescue of Sir Burbon’s sullen lady, Flourdelis. As an extra, I provide some hitherto unpublished letters from Elizabeth to Henri’s sister, Catherine de Bourbon.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer
Space and desire in Colonna, ‘Rabelais’, and Middleton’s Game at Chess
Anne Lake Prescott

This essay examines chess as a conceit in three different contexts. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili with its beautiful but mysterious woodcut illustrations introduces chess as a dance of pieces, which are directed in their movements by the music. The dance takes place in the palace of Free Will, who guides Polifilo to choose his life’s goal: the goal he chooses is that of love and sensuality rather than reason, and he is eventually united deliciously with his Polia. In the Cinquième Livre, by an unknown author whom Prescott calls ‘Rabelais’, are incorporated the new rules of chess that appeared since Colonna, notably the freedom and speed of movement for bishop and queen. ‘Rabelais’ makes use of the new chess to introduce a touch more satire and some elements of the religious controversy of his age. Finally, in Middleton’s Game at Chess, the sensuous charm of Colonna disappears entirely in a hard allegory of (white) Protestant England’s continuing conflict with (black) Catholic Spain. In each context, questions are treated that concern the identity of the players: who moves the pieces, and do they have their own will? The essay ends with some challenging speculations on the role of space and bodies in Aristotelian, Newtonian, and ‘post-Heisenberg’ physics.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer
Ronsard’s conceits meet Donne’s
Anne Lake Prescott
and
Roger Kuin

This essay, by Anne Lake Prescott and Roger Kuin, looks at the evolution of the concept of ‘conceit’ in the lyric from its sense of a mental construct or conception to its association with wit and intellectual humour, tracing it from the earliest reactions against Petrarchist convention, and following its evolution in the sonnets of Ronsard to its Metaphysical apotheosis in the ‘conceited verses’ of John Donne. Within the work of Ronsard, we show a gradual increase of the energy and eccentricity that Frank Warnke associated with Early Baroque.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer
Sidney and the psalmist
Anne Lake Prescott

Philip Sidney’s Apology for Poetry cites the psalms of David with some inconsistency, setting them aside as divinely inspired but adducing them as evidence for poetry’s legitimacy. One explanation of Sidney’s ambivalence is a tradition of psalm commentary so far ignored by Sidney scholars. This tradition, originating with Athanasius and Basil but quite alive in Sidney’s day, praises David in ways strikingly parallel to the Apology’s arguments for ‘right poets’. The psalms, says this tradition, move the reader better than the recitation of events or the giving of precepts; they inflame the soul by creating patterns for imitation; they appeal to neophytes and sages alike; and they hide medicine with sweetness. Sidney could have found the relevant patristic texts in the prefatory matter published with Matthew Parker’s Psalter (1567); his own psalm translations suggest he knew this work. Intriguingly, Sidney nowhere in the Apology treats biblical prose, notably omitting parables; perhaps because they were the sort of thing that he himself felt able to create.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer
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Ronsard, Tyard, and Donne play Sappho
Anne Lake Prescott

This essay sets Donne’s lesbian epistle ‘Sappho to Philaenis’ against three French poems, to illuminate the cultural forcefield surrounding and sustaining his poem. Two of the poems are by Ronsard (one certainly, one probably) and the other by Pontus de Tyard. These poems remind us that other poets have adopted a passionate, and at times unabashedly homoerotic female voice and cause us to ask how and to what degree the poems escape a male subjectivity: are the voices still ‘masculine’? Of these poems, it is Donne’s epistle that fails to follow the traditions of male assumptions about female sexuality. The self-mirroring symmetry of Sappho’s lines stresses her desire for a love who is like herself. The French poems also show Donne wishing to outdo not only Ovid, but his near contemporaries in France. And it shows how early modern poets could try to imagine a woman capable of love transcending the body.

in David, Donne, and Thirsty Deer