For National Poetry Month: Mary Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus

Since it’s National Poetry Month, I’m sharing my favorite poetry with you. I hope you’ll share with me too!

This week features one of my favorite early modern (i.e. Shakespeare’s time period) writers. I long ago committed this sonnet to memory because I find it exactly expresses that feeling of falling in love and not being ready for it.

These 14 lines tell the story of the speaker, Pamphilia, and how one night she dreams that Venus, the goddess of love, comes to her. Though Pamphilia begs Venus’s son Cupid not to shoot his arrow of love into her heart, he does anyway and Pamphilia wakes up to find that she is irrevocably in love.

When night’s black mantle could most darkness prove,
And sleep, death’s image, did my senses hire
From knowledge of myself, then thoughts did move
Swifter than those, most swiftness need require.

In sleep, a chariot drawn by winged desire
I saw, where sat bright Venus, Queen of Love,
And at her feet her son, still adding fire
To burning hearts, which she did hold above;

But one heart flaming more than all the rest
The goddess held, and put it to my breast.
‘Dear son, now shoot,’ said she, ‘Thus must we win.’

He her obeyed, and martyred my poor heart.
I, waking, hoped as dreams it would depart;
Yet since, O me, a lover I have been.


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