Before Michael Field: Katharine Bradley as "Arran Leigh".
However, the excitement did not last. It would be the aging Robert Browning (a confidant of Bradley and Cooper) who inadvertently revealed the dual, female authorship behind the public facade of Michael Field. Following this, all serious critical assessment of Bradley and Cooper's work evaporated, as Bradley lamented to Browning that "you are robbing us of real criticism, such as man gives man." (5) Initially, while explaining the functions of the Michael Field pseudonym to Browning, Edith Cooper stated, "the happy union of two in work and aspiration is sheltered and expressed by 'Michael Field" Please regard him as the author." To this Bradley added that revealing their dual authorship "would indeed be utter ruin to us; but the report of lady authorship will dwarf and enfeeble our work at every turn"' (6) Clearly, the male pseudonym worked on a number of levels: in one sense it was a mask, a means of evading prejudicial criticism based on gender; at the same time, "Michael Field" was not a mouthpiece but a separate entity in his own right. The act of writing and publishing verse drama and lyric poetry under the name Michael Field was a conceptual experiment, a work of performance art.
This idea is borne out when we consider that Bradley and Cooper kept the name long after their enterprise was uncovered. When Michael Field debuted as a lyric poet with Long Ago in 1889, there were few who did not recognize the truth. However, there was one other secret which remained hidden away. Long Ago might have been Michael Field's first collection of lyrics, but it was not Bradley and Cooper's. Michael Field's re-workings of Sappho's fragments is highly polished and uniquely unified in style. Yet such an accomplishment was the product of almost fifteen years' apprenticeship in crafting and publishing lyric poetry. Before Michael Field, Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper had published under different names. In 1875 Bradley brought out The New Minnesinger as Arran Leigh, and in 1881 the two women together, as collaborators for the first time, had published Bellerophon as Arran and Isla Leigh. (7)
This formative stage in the lives and careers of Bradley and Cooper, the production of the Arran and Isla Leigh juvenilia, has so far elicited little commentary. There have been glancing references to the existence of this work in most critical overviews of Michael Field, but no sustained analysis of the poetry and its significance to the later poetic oeuvre of Michael Field. Two of the most eminent of Michael Field's recent critics and editors, Marion Thain and Ana Parejo Vadillo, avoid analysis of this work. In their recent Broadview edition of selected writings, they provide a two-page gloss of the Arran and Isla Leigh books, and explain their reasons for exclusion thus: "It is [the] desire to map that self-defined oeuvre, as well as space constraints, that has dictated that Bradley and Cooper's early work, published under other pseudonyms prior to the Michael Field signature, is not included here." (8) In Thain's 2007 book on Michael Field, she likewise states: "Although this early work merits investigation, it is not within my remit." (9) However, I believe that the early Arran and Isla Leigh books are essential to understanding the later structure and content of Michael Field's poetic writings: they exhibit all of the major thematic and aesthetic concerns of Michael Field's verse in embryonic form.
What I aim to do here is to initiate a critical discussion of this formative stage of Michael Field's work by looking specifically at Katharine Bradley's debut as Arran Leigh in The New Minnesinger. Bradley is perhaps the most significant half of the Michael Field poetic enterprise: she began writing and publishing before Cooper, kept the production of lyrics going in the 1890s when Cooper focused more on the dramas, and edited and published the final Michael Field volumes after Cooper's death in 1913. (10) She began and ended her writing career as a solo poet (Mystic Trees was her own work). I wish to look at The New Minnesinger in detail, highlighting its own accomplishments and originalities, as well as its significance for the later Michael Field. Bradley's own unique qualities need to be assessed, and a vital passage of the Michael Field history restored.
Katharine Harris Bradley was born in Birmingham on 27 October 1846 to Charles and Emma Bradley. She had an elder sister, Emma, born in 1835. Charles Bradley (1810-48) was a prosperous cigar manufacturer and tobacco and snuff merchant. The family lived comfortably and respectably in the suburbs, and yet, below the surface idyll of the Victorian domestic ideal, the family was anything but ordinary. Katharine's father was a radical dissenter and follower, like his father before him, of the self-styled prophet John "Zion" Ward (1781-1837). When Charles and Emma Harris married on 4 May 1834 they did so without the presence of the Anglican clergy, effectively marrying themselves. And yet, despite the pain and outrage this caused the family at the time, there is evidence to suggest that Charles Bradley was not so extreme in his views as other followers of Ward: "I hate all the old stuff, visitations and all such non-sense with a perfect hatred." (11) This tendency to question religious beliefs, shaping them to fit an individual need, would be the most valuable quality he bequeathed to his youngest daughter, and to which her poetry, from the earliest to the last, is testament.
Following the death of her father on 17 February 1848, the young Katharine Bradley was taught at home by her mother and a range of private tutors. Indeed, the education which she received far exceeded that of most of her female (and male) contemporaries. On 2 February 1859 Emma Bradley married James Cooper. After the death of her mother on 30 May 1868, Katharine Bradley was independent. Just months later, she attended the College de France in Paris for the summer and stayed as a guest with the Gerente family. When back in England, she continued the care and education of her niece Edith Cooper (born 12 January 1862). In 1874, Bradley left the family home again to attend Newnham College, Cambridge, as one of the first women admitted to a specially designed set of courses and lectures, though she was excluded from taking a formal degree.
While at Cambridge, Bradley threw herself into every available activity, from lectures to dances (all female), even joining John Ruskin's utopian "Guild of St. George." Throughout the long years of her extended, eclectic education, Bradley had been a prolific poet. After leaving Cambridge, she published The New Minnesinger under the name of Arran Leigh, a pseudonym that aligned the author with the eponymous feminist heroine of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1857). Holly A. Laird has noted that although the name of Arran Leigh recalls Barrett Browning's heroine, it is also "simply Kath-aran Brad-ley's own name with the initial syllables lopped off." (12) The ambiguous name gives the young author the safety of an apparently masculine pseudonym, while at the same time aligning her with an archetype of the independent female poetess and retaining her own identity. As we will see, the name allows Bradley a degree of freedom in crafting and presenting her lyrics, allowing her a dualized masculine and feminine agency.
The benefits of being able to slip her own feminine identity as an author were soon made dramatically plain to Bradley after she sent a complimentary copy of her book to John Ruskin, with whom she maintained an extensive correspondence at this time. In January 1876 he replied: "You would not laugh at my not having read your book if you knew ... how much too serious my life is to be spent in reading poetry ... But I did accidentally open the Minnesinger and liked a bit or two of it--and I don't think I threw it into the waste-paper basket"' (13) Ruskin's appreciation is comically grudging here, but for the young Bradley the meaning was very plain. As a women writer, particularly as a poet, she was not to be taken seriously by the male literary establishment. Ruskin's indifferent dismissal was a warning; it would later be amplified by the increasingly hostile and blase responses to Michael Field's works once the dual female authorship became unveiled. (14)
But if this letter was a warning, it was also a reaction against the contents of Bradley's poetry collection which, for all its formal conventionality, was quite provokingly forthright in its open expression of intellectual and feminist themes. It had been Ruskin who had written in "Of Queen's Gardens" (1865) that a woman's "intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision." (15) For all of the "sweet ordering" and "arrangement" evident in The New Minnesinger, there is a persistent affirmation of the female ability to invent, create, and forge a distinct lexicon for the expression of desire, be it romantic, maternal, spiritual, or intellectual.
The text itself is extensive, consisting of 173 pages which contain seventy-three separate poems, divided into three distinct sections. The first section of thirty-three poems is untitled and deals with variations on the themes of romantic and maternal love. The second section of seventeen poems is entitled "Translations," while the third section of twenty-three pieces is entitled "Devotional Poems." We may expect to see similar contents in any such collection of poetry by women in the mid nineteenth century (although the translations would be a rarity) but once we look more closely at the contents we can detect a poetic consciousness which does not strictly conform to the expected conventions. The book is, to all intents and purposes, an exploration and voicing of different forms of desire. So, in the case of this most prominent theme, love, the collection as a whole exhibits an interesting duality of allegiances projected from the lyric "I" to the objects of devotion. While, from a biographical perspective, many of the poems are ostensibly written about and to Edith Cooper, there are instances where the apostrophized addressee is clearly intended to be male. Not only is Bradley using her poetry (even at this formative stage) to express her ambiguous romantic and erotic desires for her niece, she appears, concurrently, to enact the same romantic rituals for a dead man. Furthermore, she uses a male guise, "Arran Leigh," to voice these desires in the public sphere. A book of apparently anodyne female verse is rendered thematically problematic by the ambiguous gender of the writer.
The problematic, unstable nature of romantic desire in these poems is illustrated by the opening sonnet, "To E. C.":
My deep need of thy love, its mast'ring power, I scarce can fathom, thou wilt never know; My lighter passions into rhythm may glow; This is for ever voiceless. Could the flower Open its petall'd thought, and praise the dower Of sunlight, or the fresh gift of the dew, The bounteous air that daily round it blew, Blessing unweariedly in sun and shower, Methinks would miss its praises: so I drink My life of thee; and put to poet's use Whatever crosses it of strange or fair. Thou hast fore-fashioned all I do and think; And to my seeming it were words' abuse To boast a wealth of which I am the heir. (16)
This is certainly an arresting and deftly controlled poem for Bradley to launch her debut collection with, and, indeed, her long career as a lyric poet. In the first two lines the speaker declares a "deep need" of the addressee's love, claiming that its power and true extent can never be fathomed or quantified in terms of language, therefore remaining "forever voiceless." It is possible for the "lighter passions," the surface customs and emotions of affection to be put into poetry, but the much deeper undercurrents of passion are literally unspeakable. This theme remains central to Michael Field's later work, re-surfacing in the sonnet "Penetration" from the 1908 collection Wild Honey from Various Thyme: "my tongue besiegeth thee, / As a bat's voice, set in too fine a key, / Too tender in its circumstance to come / To ears beset by havoc and harsh hum / Of the arraigning world." (17) So for the speaker of "To E. C." to attempt vocal expression of this love is "words' abuse"; the flower in the second half of the opening octet most effectively praises the elements which sustain and nourish it through blossoming. The speaker compares their state to that of the flower, drawing parallels between their desired and desiring bodies: the flower draws life from the sunlight, the dew and the air which surround it, much in the same way that the speaker drinks life from the addressee. The opening of the flower's "petall'd thought" in the center of the poem is echoed by the organic flowering of form, thought, and emotion which all come together and unite as the speaker moves from ideas of inexpressiveness to end on a note of romantic and poetic abundance: 'And to my seeming it were words' abuse / To boast a wealth of which I am the heir."
However, beneath its beguiling surface, this apparently conventional lyric is anything but artless in the desire which it voices and celebrates. The title suggests that the poem is addressed directly to Edith Cooper, although the abbreviation hides the gender and the age of the addressee from readers who would not have known of her existence. The use of the name Arran Leigh would also have hidden the fact that this was ostensibly a love poem from an older woman to a considerably younger one: at the time of publication Cooper was just thirteen years old. Virginia Blain has noted that "the innocence of such an expression of love to a young niece was no doubt a presumption to be counted on at that stage." (18) The poem may have been seen by friends and family as an effusive, yet nonetheless straightforward, outpouring of feminine feeling from an aunt to her niece. (19) Yet I find it no less presumptuous to assume that the poem is addressed to Edith when "E. C." were also the initials of Bradley's sister Emma Cooper. This further blurs and enriches the lines of desire where maternal, sisterly, and romantic loves are all deeply intertwined. An intricate web of feeling runs right through the Michael Field poetic canon. What "To E. C." achieves is a subversive opening of linguistic and imaginative space where deep-hidden, shadowy passions--the very roots of desire and poetic creativity--can be glimpsed and naturalized, rendered as essential as air.
Running parallel to the poems which address an identifiably female love object in The New Minnesinger (which are by turns playfully erotic and in eluctably connected to nature and the impetus to write poetry) is a separate, more elegiac strand which apostrophizes a dead lover. These occur at intervals throughout the text, but are mainly found in a short sequence near the opening of the collection beginning with the sonnet entitled "Youth Time," which is followed by seven "songs." These love poems are markedly different in tone from "To E. C.," and deal with a masculine muse. In the autumn/ winter of 1868-69 Bradley, aged twenty-two, had lodged at the house of the Gerente family in Paris while she studied at the College de France. She was a guest of the half-English daughter of the house whose brother, Alfred, a forty-seven-year-old widower, was living with his parents and siblings. Bradley began to cultivate the idea of a romantic friendship between them. There is no evidence that her feelings were either known of or reciprocated; Bradley can be seen as desperately seeking a kind of emotional drama and romantic affection which she had never experienced before, something which would give her poetic sensibility a focus and much-needed foundation in reality. This subject matter arrived dramatically when on 11 November 1869 Alfred Gerente suddenly and inexplicably died in his sleep. Bradley gave vent to her feelings in her diary: "Oh how beautiful that noble head looked in the calm of death. Not one touch of baseness or littleness; calm strong manhood in perfect repose. There were none of the ghostly English accessories. The [?] head looked almost grateful, as it lay on the pillow, the look of untroubled sleep almost made me tremble." Only hours after the death, and even in prose, Bradley's writing about the event takes on a rhythmic, wistful lyricism. This passage, replete with strong assonantal inflections upon the echoing o and e sounds, and the chiming rhyme of "grateful" and "tremble" (underlining the paradoxical feeling of satisfaction and disquietude) displays Bradley's need to transmute this event, to see it in entirely poetic terms. Now that the male object of desire, with his attractive yet unsettlingly unfamiliar masculinity, is distanced through death all passion and grief for him can be idealized, exaggerated, even rhapsodized upon. This would escalate over the coming months; she would come to see him as "so wholly god-like. I think in Shakespeare he was the most like the Duke Orsino: and I am Viola." (20)
This comparison of herself with Viola in Twelfth Night is a significant one for Bradley. Viola, we remember, is also Cesario; she is able to slip between male and female identities for her own material and emotional ends: "Conceal me what I am ... for I can sing, / And speak to him in many sorts of music." (21) Viola, as her male alter ego, is able to woo a man and a woman: Olivia and Orsino. Orsino can be seen to be attracted by the true femininity beneath the disguise and Olivia by the maleness of that artificial surface. Conversely, in both instances, there are also strong undercurrents of homosexual passion: Olivia may be said to be seduced by the submerged femininity of Cesario, while Orsino is clearly excited by the androgynous qualities of the adolescent and the combined gendered states "he" embodies: "Diana's lip / Is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe / Is as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound, / And all is semblative a woman's part" (1.4.31-34). This is precisely the same ambiguous, shifting situation when Bradley voices her poetry through the guise of Arran Leigh. She is both man and woman--Viola/Cesario, Katharine Bradley/Arran Leigh--which allows gender to perform desire "in many sorts of music" and blurs traditional boundaries.
In this sense, we can see Bradley/Arran Leigh in the Minnesinger tradition as a troubadour figure, doing the roles of lover and of beloved in different voices. The voice which arises from the seven short "Songs" on the death of the male beloved is commonplace enough among the pages of English elegiac poetry: "They lov'd thee dear, they mourn'd thee dead; / Time flies and they forget: / To me no pitying word was said; / I had no right one tear to shed, / And I remember yet!" (1-5). The most important factor here is not the originality of the lines, but how Bradley can at this formative stage transmute personal emotion into crafted lyrical utterance. By the end of this short sequence, though, there is a sharp shift in tone towards a more passionate plea to encounter, both visually and physically, the spirit of the departed lover:
Spirit, thou wand'rest, But tell me where? My thoughts are waiting, My love is there! Or, if thou fearest The veil to break, Some subtler path to My spirit take. Let me but feel thee About my heart; Let us not linger A life apart. ("Youth Time," 33-40, 49-52)
These lines, where the speaker longs to see the departed loved one, to "feel" the lost presence, "Lest Faith, heart-broken, / Become Despair!' (55-56), are a textual ghosting of similar sentiments which can be found in poem "XCIII" from Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam A. H. H. While perhaps not as arresting as Tennyson's poem, Bradley's nevertheless captures his mood of anguished mourning. In Memoriam, published twenty-five years earlier, had set the tone for high-Victorian expression of grief: effusive, heavily emotional, yet tempered with stoicism and a sense of emerging self-discovery through suffering. In this linguistic culture of mourning (suffused with the language of desire), issues of loss, suffering, sexuality, and thwarted passion endlessly collide as they circle and probe the physical void left by the death of the love object. Within this tradition it was possible for Tennyson to write intimately about Arthur Hallam (to invoke him to "Descend, and touch, and enter" his own body), to call him "Dearest" Even Tennyson, though, was compelled to defend this suggestively romantic/sexual lexicon: "If anybody thinks I ever called him 'dearest' in his life they are much mistaken, for I never even called him 'dear.'" (22) In like manner, Bradley published her poems as a man addressing another man, with the male pronoun left in: Viola, as Cesario, openly courts her Orsino. Bradley, writing in the tradition of opulent Victorian elegy, was also (perhaps not consciously) stepping into a more covert tradition of Victorian male homoeroticism. (23)
Overall, Alfred Gerente offered a fleeting taste of that most prized and hard-won commodity for a young woman writer in the Victorian period: life experience, and specifically experience of romantic love. In death he became a universal template for her youthful emotional and poetic desires: a potential love which had been snatched away before it could become real or threatening, allowing for the luxury of endless tantalizing conjecture over what could have been. Although youthful desire and grief had been heightened by novelty and imagination, there was an intensity to Bradley's feelings which was central to her development as a poet. At a formative age, Alfred Gerente gave Bradley the basis for a poetic voice which, if not entirely original, was at least on the way to becoming her own.
And yet, as far as romantic desire is concerned in The New Minnesinger, this is just half of the story. The love poems which have the greatest power and originality are those which speak of a love as a vibrant, creative force that remains very much alive. As we have seen, these poems, treating of a young female lover, arguably could be about the young Edith Cooper (or perhaps any other young woman whom Bradley had met on her extensive travels.) They reopen the capacity to love, connecting with the lover/muse figure through the unifying, erotic capacity of nature. (They also provide the countering Viola/Olivia aspect to the poems which address Alfred Gerente: here, Bradley can address and celebrate young women under a masculine, ostensibly heterosexual cover as Arran Leigh.) In "The Evening Primrose," a solitary speaker wanders into a garden at the end of a hot day; sitting by the fresh June flowers, now closed, the speaker notices the presence of the evening primrose, opening its petals to the stars and the night air: "She parteth her golden petals, / For the joy of the first lone star" (25-26). While sitting with the primrose, the speaker draws parallels between this solitary flower, offering itself to the night, and his/her female muse:
Oh, like to the evening primrose Is this quiet muse of mine! She keeps close-shut from the sunlight, But lo, with the day's decline, She opens her paly blossoms To the solemn evening skies; And glad, as 'neath lover's glances, 'Neath the deep'ning heaven lies. (29-36)
The simile is straightforward: both flower and muse are weary of the crowd and need silence and solitude to realize their desires. And yet the sexual undertones (the opening of blossoms for the night sky) are unavoidable and barely submerged beneath the poems surface. This is a love which allows the speaker to connect desire with infinite poetic creativity and boundless erotic possibility. The love object here is fully alive, regenerative, and safely outside in the cool air, away from the restrictive, arid atmosphere of the drawing room and Victorian heteronormativity. (24) The poem tentatively offers the refutation of domesticated love in favor of something more liberating, creative, and boundless.
There are definitely two loves which emerge within the poems of The New Minnesinger, "of comfort and despair." But unlike Shakespeare (whose "better angel is a man right fair, / The worser spirit a woman coloured ill"), (25) Arran Leigh's two loves are for a man (safely dead) and the other for a female muse figure who vibrantly unites the speaker with nature, sensuality, and the poetic impulse. This structure remains a feature of the most accomplished poetry in the later Michael Field collections. Male and female subjects serve equally as objects of desire, but love between women and men often seems destructive and divisive as well as pleasurable, while passion for and between women is less complicated, more restorative. The poems of Long Ago dramatize this structure to greatest effect ("Maids, not to you my mind doth change; / Men I defy, allure, estrange"), along with the ekphrastic pieces in Sight and Song. (26)
There is a definite bias towards the feminine in the lyrics of Arran Leigh, not just as a focal point of desire but as a spiritual and emotional state of grace. Indeed, there are overtly feminist poems which render the male pseudonym even more problematic when considered in relation to what they propose. The most overtly feminist work, which opens the collection and gives it its name, is "The New Minnesinger" In this poem, the speaker makes it his/her task to explore not merely the wider social implications of the woman question, but specifically the relation of the woman poet to her craft, the subtle and serious links between creativity and gender:
O Woman, all too long by thee Love's praises have been heard; But thou to swell the minstrelsy Hast brought no wealth'ning word. Thou who its sweetest sweet canst tell Heart-trained to the tongue, Hast listened to its music well But never led the song! Yes, Woman, she whose life doth lie In virgin haunts of poesy,-- How have men woven into creeds The unrecorded life she leads! What she hath been to them, oh, well The whole sweet legend they can tell; But what she to herself may be They see not, or but dream they see. ("The New Minnesinger," 1-8, 29-36)
This poem, running 270 lines, is the most direct feminist statement in the collection. It exhibits what Isobel Armstrong has identified as "an overt sexual politics" in verse that "addresses the institutions and customs which burden women." (27) The poem is structured into a short twenty-eight-line introduction (rhymed into quatrains) and the remainder which consists of ten lengthy verse paragraphs in rhyming couplets. It opens with the epigraph "Think of womanhood; and thou to be a woman," which, as Marion Thain and Ana Vadillo have shown, comes from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, specifically the poem "Think of the Soul." (28) Whitman's lines form the intellectual rubric of Bradley's poem. Thain and Vadillo have rightly noted that "if the volume invoked Barrett Browning by name, Bradley's poetry evoked the democratic poetics of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855)." (29) This is quite a startling reference for Bradley to make (Whitman was by no means widely read or respected in England in the 1870s), and illustrates the avant-garde elements of her thinking and craft which sat quite comfortably alongside her more seemingly conventional influences.
However, there are other voices ringing in Bradley's ears. In the introduction, the speaker poses the question as to why women, who receive so much love in life and art, never have taken the role of actively professing love and exploring their experience of it through the medium of poetry. The question of the female poet's adequacy to sing of love, even to wield the pen, was a perennial one long before Bradley asked it. Anne Bradstreet stated that "I am obnoxious to each carping tongue / Who says my hand a needle better fits, / A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong, / For such despite they cast on female wits." (30) This self-reflexive feminist poetics, where the female poet questions her right for a lyric voice in a predominantly male tradition, links Bradley with Bradstreet and others across history, and arises from frustration with people who believe that women, "to swell the minstrelsy / Hast brought no wealth'ning word."
Given the Victorian tradition of women as producers and voracious consumers of poetry, particularly in the hectic publishing market of popular journals and annuals of light verse, we might wonder why in Bradley's era women remained silent on matters so important to their own lives. Part of the answer becomes clear in the lines from the first verse paragraph of Bradley's poem: it is men who have created the way in which the supposed inner life of women gets expressed in literature. When writing of their own experiences of love or femininity, the woman poet has to cut through the heavy brocade woven around them by male poets who "see not, or but dream they see" what the woman is to herself. The man may be able to represent what the woman is to him, but this should not indicate privileged insight or authority to speak for the female other. The result is often a partial, jaded, or faulty version of the truth of womanhood. What Bradley's speaker calls for is the advent of a "New Minnesinger" (literally singer of love) to voice the experiences of women firsthand, to record not just the monumental aspects of life, but the mundane, ephemeral moments that occur away from the gaze of men and which they could never express or be made to understand: "Ah, would she but to us rehearse / Her first girl-life in April verse-- / A fairer spring-tide would be ours / Than e'er across the woodland flowers" ("The New Minnesinger" 67-70).
As already mentioned, Bradley's pseudonym alludes to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1857). So, too, do the themes of her poem: Barrett Browning's epic poem-novel in blank verse seeks to provide the feminine voice which Bradley is still calling for in 1875. In book 2, where the young Aurora chooses her vocation as a writer over her cousin Romney's proposal of marriage, the male voice forces itself into the narrative flow, embodying the patriarchal critical refrain which haunted the woman writer as she sat before the blank page:
"Therefore, this same world Uncomprehended by you, must remain Uninfluenced by you.--Women as you are, Mere women, personal and passionate, You give us doating [sic] mothers, and perfect wives, Sublime Madonnas, and enduring saints! We get no Christ from you,--and verily We shall not get a poet, in my mind." (31)
For Bradley, the true worth of a woman's potential as a poet lies not in what she can express in either the same way or better than a man, but what she can put in words that he cannot. Women may provide models for madonnas or saints, but only they can give the authentic voice of motherhood:
O Woman, can she e'er complain Of straiten'd lot in song's domain, Having as dower of highest good The whole wide realm of motherhood? Having on human souls a claim That through all ages is the same: No newer love can thrust aside, No sad soul-wand'ring e'er divide. From the first promise and the pain Her children ever hers remain; Most hers, when children's children show How far the sacred fire can glow, And lips, new-bath'd in mother's bliss, Return the primal mother's kiss. ("The New Minnesinger," 197-210
The message is simple: women writers express their originality innately, instinctually. Victorian feminists frequently held that "it was women's special qualities as women which were to be emphasized, sometimes to the point of asserting the moral superiority of women over men." (32) This is what Arran Leigh's speaker does in "The New Minnesinger": she finds a new language to sing of the "sacred," "primal" bond between mother and child which would place the woman writer outside of patriarchal critical jurisdiction, utilizing a lexicon for a poetical space of their own: "How high soe'er her thought may reach / Still it must flow through woman's speech / In woman's fashion" ("The New Minnesinger," 249-51). These sentiments, although shared with Bradley's contemporaries and predecessors, are here given a forceful simplicity and sharp feminist slant which fly directly in the face of the real and imagined restrictions of the controlling masculine voice. Motherhood will go on to be one of the major themes of Michael Field, where it is explored from all angles in all of its manifest forms through the bodies of Sappho, Venus, and the Virgin Mary. Motherhood is seen as a natural state of spiritual grace, a "primal" nurturing, intellectual, even romantic state between mother figure and her child object, as later epitomized by the relationship between Bradley and Cooper. "I speak as a mother; mothers of some sort we must all become." (33)
At times, "The New Minnesinger" wanders into cloudy obscurity, but at the moments when Bradley is at her most polemic she is able to achieve a clarity of style and diction which is arresting and pointedly radical. However, the irony is that the work is presented to the public as that of a man. This impression is strengthened by the use of the third-person voice to speak of the woman writer: a feminine "I" uttering these sentiments would have been far more pungent and would have garnered an even more hostile critical response from the reviewers, not to mention Ruskin. Therefore, whatever is achieved by the poem--as a clarion call to women writers to form their own "woman's speech"--could be tempered somewhat by the sense that this is perhaps written and spoken by a man. Bradley's refusal to appear as a female author is a protection against the masculine view of women poets which she identifies and confronts right at the beginning of her poem.
The New Minnesinger, as we see, contains many curiosities, one of the chief ones being the small section of seventeen poems: "Translations" These are from a range of writers (mainly German) including Goethe, Schiller, Heine, and Uhland. So, as well as Whitman and Victorian women's poetry, Bradley is drawing her influences for this collection from German Romanticism. These translations perform a number of functions. Firstly, they declare the breadth and independence of Bradley's learning: it is certainly unusual to have any translations in English Victorian women's poetry collections. Secondly, they give Bradley a practical apprenticeship as a fledgling poet: she can learn new verse forms by rote and use the proxy of another person's voice to covertly explore human desire from different perspectives. The opening poem of this section is a case in point and is taken "From the Ballads of Gothe":
A violet in a meadow grew Adorn'd in its own simple blue;-- A modest flower that dwelt unknown, And bloom'd for one and one alone. So lightly by the lov'd one flew Away, away, The pleading scent so sweet it blew, Beloved, stay: Ah, had I now the winsome eye To lure this lovely lady nigh, That she might lay me on her breast For just a little space to rest! O there a moment might I lie, And then away! To breathe my love before I die Is all I pray. ("From the Ballads of Gothe," 1-16)
Bradley derives from Goethe's original a very playful little lyric about the pleasures of unrequited, erotic love. Under the cover of Goethe, Bradley is able through the proxy of his voice (as well as the further protecting cover of Arran Leigh) to dramatize a passion for another woman. Furthermore, Goethe allows her to experiment with stanza form, giving her alternatives to simple quatrains; in this instance lending a rich, rhythmic musicality which is by turns blithe, joyful, and plaintive. Variations on the style and content of this poem can be found in the courtly lyrics of book 3 of Underneath the Bough (1893) by Michael Field, where this small translation from Goethe would be perfectly at home. The plaintive note in this poem is sounded in the third and final stanza: "Alas that gentle feet should tread / Upon a violet's lowly head! / And must I die? O still 'tis sweet / To perish at the lov'd one's feet!" ("From the Ballads of Gothe," 17-20). Again, Bradley sounds a note which will recur in the poetry of Michael Field. These four lines recall Sappho's fragment--"As on the hills the shepherds trample the hyacinth under foot and the purple flower [is pressed] to earth" (34)--which Bradley and Cooper, with heavy echoes of the Goethe translation, turn into "V" from Long Ago: "My beauty droops and fades away, / lust as a trampled blossom's may. / Why must thou tread me into earth-- / So dim in death, so bright at birth?" (17-20). These seemingly innocuous translations actually say a great deal about Bradley's willingness to experiment, as well as about the formal and thematic foundations of the later Michael Field poetry.
Following on from the translations, the almost sixty pages of devotional poems that end the collection constitute over a third of the entire volume. On the surface, the poems of The New Minnesinger follow the conventions of mid-nineteenth-century women's poetry, which Margaret Reynolds describes as being "pious, flowery, sentimental and sweet." (35) Yet when readers encounter Arran Leigh's religious poems en masse they find work written against the grain of the conventional fashion. To an audience familiar with the pieties of Dora Greenwell, Adelaide Ann Proctor, and Christina Rossetti, Bradley produces a voice full of willingness to believe, while at the same time remaining perplexed by doubt and the constant strain created by the demands for blind faith. (We must remember that the childhood influence of her dissenting parents provided Bradley with a skepticism towards orthodox belief which she would never lose.) Bradley's ability to challenge openly an essentially patriarchal orthodoxy fuels these early devotional lyrics. This final part of the book, far from being aesthetically barren, is a fascinating exploration of the vicissitudes of belief and unbelief.
In "Steadfastness," Bradley employs a strong, hymnlike tone to implore the continued faithfulness of God, despite the spiritual infidelity of the speaker:
Steadfast to me, my God, Steadfast to me; O that life's paths I trod Steadfast to Thee! Changeless thy loving face, Still seeking mine; O that my eyes had grace Ne'er to shun thine! ("Steadfastness" 1-8)
Following the cadences of popular hymns, and containing the common religious sentiments of supplication and subordination to the Almighty, "Steadfastness" is a recognition of the innate infidelity and sinfulness of the speaker's spiritual self, and a request for understanding and pardon. It is perhaps possible to detect more than a note of subversive irony behind the increasingly baroque imagery and rhetoric:
Lo, to thy cross I come, Tears blind the way, And at thine anguish dumb Mutely I pray. Low-bowed, my shamed head Turns now to see Eyes, whose full purpose shed Pardon on me. Lift with thy pierced hands, Lift me e'en now; Draw me with human bands, Thou, only Thou. ("Steadfastness" 25-36)
The speaker is willing to prostrate him- or herself, literally, before Christ in recognition of his sacrifice and the faithfulness of a steadfast God, providing that he physically manifests some proof of his existence to "draw me with human bands." It is not enough to expect a terrestrial being to believe blindly; only the tactile qualities of religion can bolster belief and quell internal doubts. This same stance is evident in Christina Rossetti's "A Better Resurrection" from Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862):
My life is like a broken bowl, A broken bowl that cannot hold One drop of water for my soul Or cordial in the searching cold; Cast in the fire the perished thing, Melt and remould it, till it be A royal cup for Him my King: O Jesus, drink of me. (36)
Here, the speaker wishes to see her life physically "remolded" so that her soul, leaking from its broken terrestrial vessel, can be re-housed in a "royal cup" fit for the lips of Christ. (37) The speaker bids Jesus to "drink of me" so that she can be absorbed into the godhead. This is an inventive (even blasphemous) inversion of the act of communion where Christ is bidden, in teasingly suggestive language, to revivify, inhabit, and imbibe the body and spirit of the speaker: "O Jesus, quicken me"; "O Jesus, rise in me"; "O Jesus, drink of me." (38) Katharine Bradley's devotional poetry shares Rossetti's sense of the tactility of religion, the need for concrete connection and consummation, along with a deeply ingrained biblical knowledge and an ability to explore this learning with a lyricism that belies more unorthodox thematic undercurrents.
Both poets openly address God/Christ frankly and directly, as an equal. In Bradley's case, the speaker of "Spirit-Loneliness" offers up a direct rebuke for the tangible absence of God in the Universe: "with thy child it seems Thou hast forgot / Counsel to take; / When I have cried to Thee, and Thou wilt not / The silence break" (9-12). Bradley shares Rossetti's desire to touch and be touched by Christ, but differs from her, however, in the sheer strength of her frustration (even anger) at God/Christ's "silence." This voice of religious doubt and challenge will resurface again in the works of late Victorian/early modernist women writers, most notably in the poem "Madeline in Church" by Charlotte Mew: "Oh! quiet Christ who never knew / The poisonous fangs that bite us through ... up there, from your still, star-lighted tree / What can You know, what can You really see / Of this dark ditch, the soul of me!' (39) Late in her life, even after her conversion to Catholicism, Bradley will retain the essential dissenting quality of her devotional poetry; she not only addresses God as an equal but defiantly "lays down the law" herself, spelling out her own radical (even essentially pagan) interpretation of Catholic doctrine to Him. For instance, "Trinity" from Whym Chow (1914) explains and excuses the earthly trinity Bradley has shared with Cooper and their now dead Chow dog: "O God, no blasphemy / It is to feel we loved in trinity, / To tell Thee that I loved him as Thy Dove / Is loved, and is Thy own" (40) The enduring streak of pagan allegiance and Christian skepticism which runs throughout Michael Field belongs, effectively, to Katharine Bradley and is traceable right back to the start of her career as a solo poet, as Arran Leigh.
Aside from the challenge repeatedly posed against Christianity, the most interesting aspect of Bradley's Arran Leigh devotional poetry is the increasing diversity and fluidity in forms. Religion and religious skepticism offer Bradley an opportunity to stretch herself not only theologically but also aesthetically in ways that few of her female contemporaries could manage. Dora Greenwell, perhaps one of the most devout writers of her age, saw it as the specific duty of the poet to raise awareness of Christian morality in society through uniting faith and poetry. At the same time, she felt that religion and poetry were two contradictory powers, with the latter sensual, even pagan in its tendencies. (41) Bradley felt no such straining of allegiance when exploring religious belief in verse. For her, tension rested not between belief and poetic form, but within belief itself, and it was poetry that allowed a fitting conduit for these feelings.
The coup de grace as far as religion is concerned is delivered in the final poem in the collection, the immense "Trompetenruf." This piece imagines the chaos which will ensue on Judgment Day, when the trumpet sounds and all the people who have ever existed emerge from their graves. The speaker gleefully imagines the coming together of modern-day man and his far from socially distinguished ancestors: "The brain-budding beasts of the ages of Stone, / Who ate and who drank, and bequeathed useful bone,-- / Ah, how will they neighbour? What wise will God blend / The first sketches of man with his consummate end?" (9-12). The speaker playfully presents the awkward social encounter of Man with his various different stages of development, while at the same time questioning the logic of God, or rather, so-called organized religion, for allowing such a state of disarray. There is also a pointed critique of the notion of soul-sleep, which Angela Leighton (42) has summed up as "the theory that the soul remains in a state of earthbound torpor until the end of the world":
But, confusion apart, it is odd God should keep The dead of His love in long-centuried sleep: How wasteful, how blank all this waiting appears! Doth God keep grim holiday myriad years? Turn'd adrift from life's school house, His scholars remain In the chill of the grave-mould and thick-driving rain! (33-34, 45-48)
This poem forms a direct rebuke to God not only for the illogical disarray of the coming Resurrection, but for the waste of physical and spiritual life in death, the apparent lack of compassion which can allow dearly loved progeny to decay uselessly in the dirt of the earth. In rhyming couplets, Bradley launches her theological skepticism, which has now become frustrated anger, at God. The poems in the devotional section of The New Minnesinger follow an arc of belief, from gentle supplication and questioning doubt, to open challenge, and to a new pagan trust in the spiritual consolations of the natural world: "To me it is enough to know / The birds will wake and sing; / And the simple flowers of long ago / About my pathway spring" ("The Fresh Springtide," 3-6).
When The New Minnesinger was published in 1875 it did elicit a few indifferent reviews, though nothing overtly hostile. An anonymous critic in The Academy wrote: "These simple songs are full of tender feeling and healthy thought. They are not very deep or full, nor have they sufficient inherent vigorousness to enable their author, in any probability, to win a name among English poets; but they are sweet and pure verses which it must have given him great pleasure to write, and of which he has no need to be ashamed." (43) This review notes the presence of the common, acceptable hallmarks of women's poetry ("simple," "tender," "healthy," "sweet," and "pure"), and seems to accept the male authorial identity at face value. The lyrics do not pass muster for a male writer seeking to make his name, although he need not "be ashamed." On balance, this critic is fair, but he also misses the point. The New Minnesinger can, in one light, be seen as a charming, easily dismissible piece of juvenilia by a minor nineteenth-century woman poet at the beginning of her career. And yet, in another light, for all of the quatrains and chiming rhymes (the flowers, sighs, breezes, dews, and lamented deaths), this is a work which unsettles and surprises the reader's expectations. The book echoes Shakespeare, Barrett Browning, Whitman, Heine, Goethe, and Schiller, and takes on multiple identities in which the masculine and the feminine vie for prominence. Ultimately it is a book of spiritual tensions, by turns challenging, skeptical, and satirical.
Following publication, the religious skepticism and new pagan allegiances signaled at the close of The New Minnesinger figured significantly in Bradley's life, too. She wrote to Ruskin that she had "lost ... God and found a Skye Terrier," to which he histrionically replied: "this is deadly.... I have at once to put you out of the St. George's Guild--which primarily refuses atheists--not because they are wicked but because they are fools." (44) If Bradley was not afraid to provoke the ire of the celestial God in her works, she was certainly not bothered about angering a terrestrial one. But this could be dangerous. Although the male pseudonym of Arran Leigh allowed a degree of protection, it also limited perception of the poems' originality to a marked degree, and Bradley remained at the mercy of the male establishment. For the next few years Bradley focused on furthering the education of herself and Edith Cooper at Bristol University, where they studied Classics. Their intellectual collaboration resulted in BellerophOn in 1881.
BellerophOn is a conventionally structured five-act tragedy with an appended section of lyric poems. It is a hybrid work, poised at the crossroads of genre which in the future will diverge as two separate, parallel outlets of Michael Field's writing. Wendy Bashant has provided the first commentary on this volume, but places her full focus upon the play. She claims that the work grew out of Bradley's association with Ruskin and that it answers his work on myth, The Queen of the Air (1869), where he explores the myth(s) of Athena and the importance of mythology in the modern industrial world. (45) This notion also extends into the lyric poems at the end of the collection. All of them, many forming short sequences, concern themselves with famous myths and mythic figures. What results is a poetics deeply infused with the moral and visual tint of the classical past, something formally and thematically unlike anything Bradley had written alone.
For instance, "Eros and Psuche" is a sequence of eight sections which tells the myth of Psyche and her marriage to Eros. Written as a series of sonnets (some sections being two sonnets connected end-to-end), the poem as a whole is arguably one of the most aesthetically accomplished and sustained in BellerophOn. What the story allows is for Bradley and Cooper to enter into the voice of Psuche at moments of deep passionate intensity:
Sweet, I must see thee, for the dream doth fade, My morning dream of thy lost loveliness, When in mine arms thy living beauty laid, Pricks my keen sense more passionate to guess How glows the jewel sheathing night doth hide.-Are the curls gold my wondering fingers press? Do the smiles break in dimples when I chide Caressingly, and with soft touch entreat? Thou hast enriched me with thy voice to guide My spirit to the gaze, divinely sweet, Where Love's mute lyre makes music.--Pityingly, Dreading a rapture for my soul unmeet, Dost thou the bliss of thy great boon deny? Nay, I must gaze in worship, or I die! (46)
This is Psuche in the throes of her early passion for Eros, before she has stolen the opportunity to look upon him while asleep. The voice is one driven to extremes by the stimulation of the senses of touch and sound. The feel of her lover's body, the sound of his voice, awakens images within her mind which she longs to see literally embodied. Gone are the romantic platitudes of The New Minnesinger, which addressed a spectral male lover, and those platitudes, however deeply charged, addressed to Cooper in the medium of flower imagery. Here there is little attempt at ambiguity as the vocabulary hovers on the borderline of double entendre and the emphasis is towards erotic candor. (47)
The most successful lyrics in Bellerophon have a tactile visual quality which many of Bradley's poems in The New Minnesinger lack. Yet they also display a weighty verbosity that misses the precision of Michael Field's best poetry. What the work of Arran and Isla Leigh achieves is a strong sense of dramatic thrust, not only within the small sequences but within individual pieces themselves. If Bradley can be seen as the stronger lyric poet of the two and Cooper the keener dramatist, then this collection represents the forging together of two very different talents.
Few poems in Bellerophon are worthy of sustained attention, but The New Minnesinger is the true point of origin for the Arran and Isla Leigh collaboration, and where Michael Field studies should start. As a formative work by one half of the Michael Field collaborative team it sets out many of the key themes, tropes, and concerns of the later major poems. In terms of originality and promise, it more than qualifies for what Philip Larkin termed "the indulgence traditionally extended to juvenilia" (48) Bradley called the poems "pulpy lyrics" when she revisited Newnham College in 1891, but had to admit that these early works had allowed her to "return a poet and possessing a Poet. I look forth on the stars, kneel down, and give God thanks." (49)
University of Hull
(1) It is the poems, not the plays, for which Michael Field is now best remembered. The individual collections are Long Ago (1889); Sight and Song (1892); Underneath the Bough (1893); Wild Honey from Various Thyme (1908); Poems of Adoration (1912); Mystic Trees (1913); Dedicated (1914); Whym Chow (1914); and The Wattlefold (1930) (this last a posthumous collection, not designed by Bradley or Cooper).
(2) Stevie Smith, Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith, ed. Jack Barbera and William McBrien (London: Virago Press, 1981), 181.
(3) Robinson cited in Marion Thain, "Michael Field": Poetry, Aestheticism and the Fin de Siecle (Cambridge U. Press, 2007), 5.
(4) Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges, ed. Claude Colleer Abbott (Oxford U. Press, 1935), 215.
(5) Michael Field, Works and Days: From the Journal of Michael Field, ed. T. and D. C. Sturge Moore (London: John Murray, 1933), 7.
(6) Michael Field, Works and Days, 3, 6.
(7) There is evidence to suggest that even after the deaths of Bradley and Cooper, there was little knowledge of their early incarnations as Arran and Isla Leigh. In my private collection of Michael Field first editions, I possess a copy of Bellerophon from 1881 (there were no subsequent reprints), which is inscribed by Bradley and Cooper as Arran and Isla Leigh to E. Thelwall. There is also an inlaid postcard dated 17 September 1920 to R. N. Green-Armytage from the publisher Kegan Paul which states: "We regret to say we have no other names in our books than those of Arran and Isla Leigh as the authors of 'Bellerophon; or reason to suppose that these names are pseudonyms." Green-Armytage has written underneath this in pencil: "This proves that even the publishers were kept in ignorance of identity."
(8) Introduction to Michael Field, The Poet: Published and Manuscript Materials, ed. Marion Thain and Ana Parejo Vadillo (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2009), 49.
(9) Thain, "Michael Field" and the Fin de Siecle, 7.
(10) For more on this see Martha Vicinus, '"Sister Souls: Bernard Berenson and Michael Field (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper," Nineteenth-Century Literature 60 (2005): 326-54.
(11) Jackie E. M. Latham, "The Bradleys of Birmingham: The Unorthodox Family of 'Michael Field'" History Workshop Journal 55 (2003): 190. John Ward was an ardent follower of the visionary Joanna Southcott, who even "proclaimed himself the Shiloh, the redeemer whom Joanna Southcott had expected to bear before her barren death in 1814" (189). He effectively saw himself as Christ reborn and declared that he was given divine instruction through visions and dreams.
(12) Holly A. Laird, "The Coauthored Pseudonym: Two Women Named Michael Field," The Faces of Anonymity: Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publication from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. Robert J. Griffin (New York: Palgrave, 2003), 197.
(13) John Ruskin to Katharine Bradley, Works and Days, 147.
(14) Even Hopkins's response turned from trepidation to sexist dismissal: "Sputters of poetry by Michael Field appear now in every week's Academy, vastly clever, pointed, and flowing, but serving in the end to shew Coventry Patmore was right in his opinion of women's poetry" (Letters of Hopkins to Bridges, 245.) He would state in a letter to Richard Watson Dixon: "masterly execution ... is a kind ofmale gift and especially marks off men from women": see The Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon, ed. Claude Colleer Abbott (Oxford U. Press, 1935), 133.
(15) John Ruskin, "Of Queen's Gardens" (1865), Selected Writings, ed. Dinah Birch (Oxford U. Press, 2004), 158.
(16) Arran Leigh, The New Minnesinger (London, 1875), vii. Subsequent citations appear parenthetically.
(17) Michael Field, Wild Honey from Various Thyme (London: Unwin, 1908), lines 2-6.
(18) Virginia Blain, "Michael Field, The Two-Headed Nightingale': Lesbian Text as Palimpsest." Women's History Review 5 (1996): 249.
(19) However, the recently published Bradley-Cooper letters hint at the family tensions which arose from their intimacy: "Edith has a hunted feeling, and I feel the sweetest human intercourse now granted to me, sorely checked, and broken, by unwise barriers" (Bradley to Fanny Brooks in Sharon Bickle, ed., The Fowl and the Pussycat: Love Letters of Michael Field 1876-1909 [Charlottesville: U. of Virginia Press, 2008], xx). Further evidence of familial intervention is hinted at in Cooper's letter to Bradley: "The Parents won't lend you the Pussy--they think ill would befall the lavender fur." And note Bradley's threat: "I shall not come home, till they send you to fetch me. That will bring parents to their senses" (112, 130). Addressing such a nakedly romantic poem to the thirteen-year-old Edith Cooper would not have been a simple "presumption to be counted on," as Blain suggests.
(20) Michael Field, BL. Add. MS. 46776, 1868-69, fol. 23v, fol. 44r.
(21) William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, The Oxford Shakespeare, The Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett, and William Montgomery, 2nd ed. (Oxford U. Press, 2005), 1.2.49, 53-54.
(22) Quoted in Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, ed. Erik Gray (New York: Norton, 2004), 177; and see lines 1-4, 13-16.
(23) Bradley and Cooper often used their male persona to blur sexual and gender boundaries. In Long Ago we view the scenario of a man writing as Sappho to voice openly homosexual themes and express physical desire for the male body (in the form of the young fisherman, Phaon). All potential suspicions are neutralized by the female persona, and the fact that, as a translation, the words and sentiments are essentially those of someone else.
(24) This trope of the inhibiting drawing-room atmosphere and its contrast with the freedoms of Nature is a central one which runs through the Michael Field poetic oeuvre, and was also famously deployed by Katharine Bradley in an early letter to Robert Browning: "We must be free ... to work out in the open air of nature ... we cannot be stifled in drawing-room conventionalities" (Works and Days, 6).
(25) "Sonnet 144," lines 1, 3-4, Oxford Shakespeare.
(26) Michael Field, "XXXIII," lines 1-2, Long Ago (London, 1889); and Sight and Song (London, 1892).
(27) Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics (London: Roufledge, 1993), 319.
(28) Thain and Vadillo, Michael Field, 33. Walt Whitman, "Think of the Soul," The Complete Poems, ed. Francis Murphy (London: Penguin, 1996), lines 20-23.
(29) Thain and Vadillo, Michael Field, 33.
(30) Anne Bradstreet, The Works of Anne Bradstreet, ed. Jeannine Hensley (Harvard U. Press, 1967), lines 27-30.
(31) Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, ed. Margaret Reynolds (1857; New York: Norton, 1996), 45, lines 218-25.
(32) Mary Maynard, "Privilege and Patriarchy: Feminist Thought in the Nineteenth Century" Sexuality and Subordination: Interdisciplinary Studies of Gender in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Susan Mendus and Jane Rendall (London: Routledge, 1989), 235.
(33) Katharine Bradley to Louie Ellis, cited in Mary Sturgeon, Michael Field (London: George G. Harrap, 1921), 75.
(34) H.T. Wharton, Sappho: Memoir, Text, Selected Renderings, and a Literal Translation (London,1885), 121.
(35) Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology, Angela Leighton and Margaret Reynolds, eds. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 305.
(36) Christina Rossetti, The Complete Poems, ed. R. W. Crump (London: Penguin, 2005), lines 17-24.
(37) The simile of the speaker's life being like a broken bowl comes from Ecclesiastes 12 and acts as a metaphor for the process of bodily aging and eventual death: "Or ever the silver cord be loosened, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecc. 12: 6-7). Rossetti, quite cleverly and daringly, has her speaker ask for this process to be reversed, for the broken bowl to be melted and remolded, so that Christ can drink of them directly from the source of their quickened physical existence.
(38) "A Better Resurrection," lines 8, 16, 24. These sentiments undoubtedly echo the overtly secular and sexual language of "Goblin Market": "Eat me, drink me, love me; / Laura, make much of me" (471-72). (39) Charlotte Mew, Collected Poems and Prose, ed. Val Warner (London: Carcanet Press, 1981), lines 39-40, 47-49.
(40) Michael Field, Whym Chow: Flame of Love (London: Eragny Press, 1914), lines 4-7.
(41) See Emma Mason, Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (Tavistock: Northcote, 2006), 55, on how Greenwell's beliefs "cannot be addressed through a simple statement of ecclesiastical affiliation, her faith being multi-layered and open to ideas from many theological systems? Also see the statement quoted on p.49: "I do feel sometimes painfully, a contradiction between the brokenness of Christ and the clear perfection of Art. The glory of the Terrestrial is one, and the glory of the Celestial is another, and these stars differ."
(42) Angela Leighton, Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), 206.
(43) Review of The New Minnesinger, The Academy (3 July 1875): 9.
(44) Michael Field, Works and Days, 155, 157-58.
(45) Wendy Bashant, "Aesthetes and Queens: Michael Field, John Ruskin, and Bellerophon," The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 15 (2006): 75.
(46) Arran and Isla Leigh, Bellerophon (London, 1881), lines 29-42.
(47) The second tercet is particularly tantalizing in its sexual suggestiveness, with reference to Cupid's glowing phallic "jewel" which "sheathing night" hides from view. "Pricks" is also similarly ambiguous and double-edged; Bradley and Cooper would have been familiar with this usage in Shakespeare's twentieth sonnet: "But since she [Nature] pricked thee out for women's pleasure, / Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure" (Oxford Shakespeare, lines 13-14). To be "pricked out" is to be chosen, but there is also the punning suggestion that it means to be endowed with male genitalia. In Arran and Isla Leigh's poem, it is to be stimulated, aroused in the senses, while also having deliberate phallic agency.
(48) Philip Larkin, Jill (London: Faber and Faber, 1998), xvi.
(49) Michael Field, Works and Days, 127.
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|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2010|
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