09 November - Lucy Hutchinson (1620-(?)1675) May 16, 2008 19:10:47 GMT 2
Post by moira on May 16, 2008 19:10:47 GMT 2
Lucy Hutchinson (1620-(?)1675)
Another 17th century woman writer active in, writing about or in response the English civil war period. Like Anne Murray Halkett, the autobiographer I've delivered two papers on as well as made etext edion of her autobiography on my site,[/blockquote]
combined with a bibliography for all 17th century women non-fiction writers, Lucy Apsley Hutchinson was genuinely a genius (highly intelligent) with real literary gifts. I've never forgotten Hutchinson's page in her biography of her husband and history of the civil war, The Lifeof Colonel Hutchinson, where she says she is going to tell you the cause of the civil war, and then in two huge words we get SHIP MONEY and BISHOPS. She's right.
Only in the very last few years has Lucy Hutchinson's 15 canto (long) epic poem, perhaps an anticipation of Milton's Paradise Lost or written interactively with his, Order and Disorder been published; we've only been getting her elegies published one by one here and there. Her own memoir of herself is a tiny piece which ends abruptly (and may be the beginning of a destroyed document or just be something she stopped writing as she remembered how unkind her mother
had been to her because she was intelligent and independent); her Life of the Colonel was a compensatory piece, written to vindicate him while he died in prison and is really about him and the war and that's why it survived at all, to be published for the first time in 1806 by a grand-nephew who was not involved. He was in danger of a humiliating painful torturous death because he was one of those who signed the death warrant for Charles I's execution; she moved her brother (powerfully close to Charles II) to work hard to save her husband and pressured him incessantly to sign a recantation; he never got over that and although did have two years in peace, studying in retirement, was intensely depressed and when put in prison (where he died) was almost relieved.
Myself I tend not to like very long poems when they are mythic (no matter by whom) -- though I've now dipped into Hutchinson's Order and Disorder to discover that Hutchinson's Eve is a projection of herself as she thinks about what is happening in England in the 1670s and grieves for her Adam (John Hutchinsons, a man of real integrity, he withdrew from Cromwell's government too and if they hadn't been so very wealthy and well-connected, Lucy's relatives being fervent
royalists, they would have ended up bankrupt like so many). So here for today is first a bitter elegy (she writes with as much ferocity as penetration about politics and social arrangements and causes for the war) on sunshine:
Elegy 3: Another on the sunshine
This morning through my window shot his rays,
Where with his hateful and unwelcome beams
He gilt the surface of affliction's streams.
In anger at their bold intrusion, I
Did yet into a darker covert fly;
But they, like impudent suitors brisk and rude,
Me even to my thickest shade pursued;
Whom when I saw that I could nowhere shun,
I thus began to chide th'immodest sun:
'How, gaudy masker, darest thou look on me
Whose sable coverings thy reproaches be?
Thou to our murderers thy taper bear'st;
Th'oppressive race of men thou warm'st and cheer'st;
The blood which thou hast seen pollutes thy light
And renders it more hateful than the night
All good men loathe. You're grown a common bawd,
The brave that lead'st impieties abroad;
Who smiling dost on lust and rapine shine,
Nor shrinkst thy head in at disgorged wine
Which sinners durst not let thee see before;
Now thy conniving looks they dread no more,
Because thou mak'st their pleasant gardens grow
And cherishest the fruitful seeds they sow
In fields which unto them descended not,
By violence, bribery and oppression got.
Thou sawst the league of God himself dissolved,
Which a whole nation in one curse involved;
Thou sawst a thankless people slaughtering those
Whose noble blood redeemed them from their foes;
Thy stained beams into the prison came
But lost their boasts, outshined with virtue's flame;
Thou saw'st the innocent to exile led;
And for all this veild'st not thy radiant head,
But com'st as a gay courtier to deride
Ruins we would in silent shadows hide.
'Since, then, thou wilt thrust into this dark room,
By thine own light read thy most certain doom:
Darkness shall shortly quench thy impure light
And thou shalt set in everlasting night.
Those whom thou flattered'st shall see thee expire
And have no light but their own funeral fire.
There shall they in a dreadful wild amaze
At once see all their glorious idols blaze.
Thy sister, the pale empress of the night,
Shall nevermore reflect thy borrowed light.
Into black blood shall her dark body turn
While your polluted spheres about you burn,
And the elemental heaven like melting lead
Drops down upon the impious rebels' head.
Then shall our king his shining host diaplay,
At whose approach our mists shall fly away,
And we, illuminated by his sight,
No more shall need thy ever-quenched light.
I know that Lucy is not one to see the other side's point of view at all. She would not have sympathized with how the other side would have felt on sunny days during the Interregnum.
One of the more fascinating things about this woman's poetry is she translated all of Lucretius. It's an atheist's poem. She later said she was allured by its fantasy and fancy and never discussed its theology, but I think from the above poem we might say she wondered about how god-filled the natural world really was (is there a Providence in the room?)
No one knows how she died or even what year. Recently Germaine Greer wrote an essay about Behn in which she suggested perhaps Behn was a suicide at the end; I see this impulse in the closing lines of Hutchinson.
And here is a retirement poem. At least 30 years before the 18th century we see Huthchinson writing in this genre Paula
Backscheider in her book on 18th century women poets identified as quintessentially appropriate for women, and together with friendship poems, a genre they loved to write and took much happiness and sustenance from .
All sorts of men through various labours press
To the same end, contented quietness;
Great princes vex their labouring thoughts to be
Possessed of an unbounded sovereignty;
The hardy soldier doth all toils sustain
That he may conquer first, and after reign;
The industrious merchant ploughs the angry seas
That he may bring home wealth, and live at ease;
Which none of them attain; for sweet repose
But seldom to the splendid palace goes:
A troop of restless passions wander there,
And private lives are only free from care.
Sleep to the cottage bringeth happy nights,
But to the court, hung round with flaring lights
Which th' office of the vanished day supply,
His image only comes to close the eye,
But gives the troubled mind no ease of care;
While country slumbers undisturbed are,
Where, if the active fancy dreams present,
They bring no horrors to the innocent.
Ambition doth incessantly aspire,
And each advance leads on to new desire;
Nor yet can riches av'rice satisfy,
For want and wealth together multiply;
Nor can voluptuous men more fullness find,
For enjoyed pleasures leave their stings behind.
He's only rich who knows no want; he reigns
Whose will no severe tyranny constrains;
And he alone possesseth true delight
Whose spotless soul no guilty fears affright.
This freedom in the country life is found,
Where innocence and safe delights abound:
Here man's a prince; his subjects ne'er repine
When on his back their wealthy fleeces shine;
If for his appetite the fattest die,
Those who survive will raise no mutiny;
His table is with home-got dainties crowned,
With friends, not flatterers, encompassed round;
No spies nor traitors on his trencher wait,
Nor is his mirth confined to rules of state;
An armed guard he neither hath nor needs,
Nor fears a poisoned morsel when he feeds.
Bright constellations hang above his head,
Beneath his feet are flowery carpets spread;
The merry birds delight him with their songs,
And healthful air his happy life prolongs.
At harvest merrily his flocks he shears,
And in cold weather their warm fleeces wears;
Unto his ease he fashions all his clothes;
His cup with uninfected liquor flows.
The vulgar breath doth not his thoughts elate,
Nor can he be o'erwhelmed by their hate;
Yet, if ambitiously he seeks for fame,
One village feast shall gain a greater name
Than his who wears the imperial diadem,
Whom the rude multitude do still condemn.
Sweet peace and joy his blest companions are:
Fear, sorrow, envy, lust, revenge, and care,
And all that troop which breeds the world's offence,
With pomp and majesty, are banished thence.
What court, then, can such liberty afford?
Or where is man so uncontrolled a lord?
I like the realism of the above. Lucy Hutchinson is not imagining some China shepherdess form of nature, and what she longs for are not objects but genuine decent emotions to be shared by others and feel in nature. So she anticipates Wordsworth too.[/blockquote][/font]
If anyone wants more details, here's a life from Wikipedia: