Aemilia Lanyer

(1569-1645 / England)

To The Queenes Most Excellent Majestie


Renowned Empresse, and great Britaines Queene,

Most gratious Mother of succeeding Kings;
Vouchsafe to view that which is seldome seene,
A Womans writing of divinest things:
Reade it faire Queene, though it defective be,
Your Excellence can grace both It and Mee.

For you haue rifled Nature of her store,

And all the Goddesses haue dispossest
Of those rich gifts which they enioy'd before,
But now great Queene, in you they all doe rest.
If now they striued for the golden Ball,
Paris would giue it you before them all.

From Iuno you have State and Dignities,

From warlike Pallas, Wisdome, Fortitude;
And from faire Venus all her Excellencies,
With their best parts your Highnesse is indu'd:
How much are we to honor those that springs
From such rare beauty, in the blood of Kings?

The Muses doe attend upon your Throne,

With all the Artists at your becke and call;
The Syluane Gods, and Satyres euery one,
Before your faire triumphant Chariot fall:
And shining Cynthia with her nymphs attend
To honour you, whose Honour hath no end.

From your bright spheare of greatnes where you sit,

Reflecting light to all those glorious stars
That wait upon your Throane; To virtue yet
Vouchsafe that splendor which my meannesse bars:
Be like faire Phoebe, who doth loue to grace
The darkest night with her most beauteous face.

Apollo's beames doe comfort euery creature,

And shines upon the meanest things that be;
Since in Estate and Virtue none is greater,
I humbly wish that yours may light on me:
That so these rude unpollisht lines of mine,
Graced by you may seeme the more diuine.

Looke in this Mirrour of a worthy Mind,

Where some of your faire Virtues will appeare;
Though all it is impossible to find,
Unlesse my Glasse were chrystall, or more cleare:
Which is dym steele, yet full of spotlesse truth,
And for one looke from your faire eyes it su'th.

Here may your sacred Maiestie behold

That mightie Monarch both of heau'n and earth,
He that all Nations of the world controld,
Yet tooke our flesh in base and meanest berth:
Whose daies were spent in pouerty and sorrow,
And yet all Kings their wealth of him do borrow.

For he is Crowne and Crowner of all Kings,

The hopefull hauen of the meaner sort,
Its he that all our ioy full tidings brings
Of happie raigne within his royall Court:
Its he that in extremity can giue
Comfort to them that haue no time to liue.

And since my wealth within his Region stands,

And that his Crosse my chiefest comfort is,
Yea in his kingdome onely rests my lands,
Of honour there I hope I shall not misse:
Though I on earth doe liue unfortunate,
Yet there I may attaine a better state.

In the meane time, accept most gratious Queene

This holy worke, Virtue presents to you,
In poore apparell, shaming to be seene,
Or once t'appeare in your iudiciall view:
But that faire Virtue, though in meane attire,
All Princes of the world doe most desire.

And sith all royall virtues are in you,

The Naturall, the Morall, and Diuine,
I hope how plaine soeuer, beeing true,
You will accept euen of the meanest line
Faire Virtue yeelds; by whose rare gifts you are
So highly grac'd, t'exceed the fairest faire.

Behold, great Queene, faire Eues Apologie,

Which I haue writ in honour of your sexe,
And doe referre unto your Maiestie,
To iudge if it agree not with the Text:
And if it doe, why are poore Women blam'd,
Or by more faultie Men so much defam'd?

And this great Lady I haue here attired,

In all her richest ornaments of Honour,
That you faire Queene, of all the world admired,
May take the more delight to looke upon her:
For she must entertaine you to this Feast,
To which your Highnesse is the welcom'st guest.

For here I haue prepar'd my Paschal Lambe,

The figure of the liuing Sacrifice;
Who dying, all th'Infernall powres orecame,
That we with him t'Eternitie might rise:
This pretious Passeouer feed upon, O Queene,
Let your faire Virtues in my Glasse be seene.

And she that is the patterne of all Beautie,

The very modell of your Maiestie,
Whose rarest parts enforceth Loue and Duty,
The perfect patterne of all Pietie:
· let my Booke by her faire eies be blest,
· n whose pure thoughts all Innocency rests.

Then shall I thinke my Glasse a glorious Skie,

When two such glittring Suns at once appeare;
The one repleat with Sou'raigne Maiestie,
Both shining brighter than the clearest cleare:
And both reflecting comfort to my spirits,
To find their grace so much aboue my merit;

Whose untun'd voyce the dolefull notes doth sing

Of sad Affliction in an humble straine;
Much like unto a Bird that wants a wing,
And cannot flie, but warbles forth her paine:
Or he that barred from the Suns bright light,
Wanting daies comfort, doth comend the night.

So I that liue clos'd up in Sorrowes Cell,

Since great Elizaes favour blest my youth;
And in the confines of all cares doe dwell,
Whose grieued eyes no pleasure euer view'th:
But in Christs suffrings, such sweet taste they haue,
As makes me praise pale Sorrow and the Graue.

And this great Ladie whom I loue and honour,

And from my very tender yeeres haue knowne,
This holy habite still to take upon her,
Still to remaine the same, and still her owne:
And what our fortunes doe enforce us to,
She of Deuotion and meere Zeale doth do.

Which makes me thinke our heauy burden light,

When such a one as she will help to beare it:
Treading the paths that make our way go right,
What garment is so faire but she may weare it;
Especially for her that entertaines
A Glorious Queene, in whome all woorth remains.

Whose powre may raise my sad deiected Muse,

From this lowe Mansion of a troubled mind;
Whose princely fauour may such grace infuse,
That I may spread Her Virtues in like kind:
But in this triall of my slender skill,
I wanted knowledge to performe my will.

For euen as they that doe behold the Starres,

Not with the eie of Learning, but of Sight,
To find their motions, want of knowledge barres
Although they see them in their brightest light:
So, though I see the glory of her State,
Its she that must instruct and eleuate.
My weake distempred braine and feeble spirits,
Which all unlearned haue aduentur'd, this
To writ of Christ, and of his sacred merits,
Desiring that this Booke Her hands may kisse:
And though I be unworthy of that grace,
Yet let her blessed thoghts this book imbrace.

And pardon me (faire Queene) though I presume,

To doe that which so many better can;
Not that I Learning to my selfe assume,
Or that I would compare with any man:
But as they are Scholers, and by Art do write,
So Nature yeelds my Soule a sad delight.

And since all Arts at first from Nature came,

That Goodly Creature, Mother of Perfection,
Whom Ioues almight hand at first did frame,
Taking both her and hers in his protection:
Why should not She now grace my barren Muse,
And in a Woman all defects excuse.

So peerelesse Princesse humbly I desire,

That your great wisedome would vouchsafe t'omit
All faults; and pardon if my spirits retire,
Leauing to ayme at what they cannot hit:
To write your worth, which no pen can expresse,
Were but t'ecclipse your Fame, and make it lesse.

Submitted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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