By Linda Pastan b. 1932 Linda Pastan

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow

—Queen Elizabeth I

Her sex sent her mother
to the tower,
made her father profligate
with arrogant desires,
but she was made of flint
and backbone.
Think of a young girl
in a blue velvet bodice,
a white collar and lace,
the very prototype
of virginal.
Think of a woman, her court
enlivened by suitors and lovers
in doublets, in brocaded cloaks,
despite suspicions of their motives
staining the sheets,
the way cups of spicy,
flowery mead were sipped
despite the possibility
of poison.
Even the crown of the sun
must go down each night.
Could she have stood at the prow
of a ship in that great Armada she ordered,
instead of at a window, waiting
for urgent results?
Could she have guessed that the words
of a man she inspired, carved
into the marble of ages,
had a muscular beauty
more than equal
to her own worldly triumphs?
Daughter, Queen, Ruler
of roiling seas, of meandering
rivers and meadows,
of armies of soldiers, their swords
and armor glittering
like planets to her sun.
Namesake to an age.
And Poet?
When she turned
to the empty parchment
(or once to a windowpane,
a diamond for quill)
must have gone quiet.
Even a queen is naked
before the naked page, awaiting
not the generous spoils owed to a victor
but the gifts freely given
of a besotted muse.

Linda Pastan, “Elizabethan” from Shakespeare’s Sisters: Women Writers Bridge Five Centuries, published by the Folger Shakespeare Library. Copyright © 2012 by Linda Pastan. Reprinted by permission of Jean V. Naggar Agency, Inc..

Source: Shakespeare’s Sisters: Women Writers Bridge Five Centuries (Folger Shakespeare Library, 2012)

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Poet Linda Pastan b. 1932

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Linda  Pastan


Poet Linda Pastan was raised in New York City but has lived for most of her life in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. In her senior year at Radcliffe College, Pastan won the Mademoiselle poetry prize (Sylvia Plath was the runner-up). Immediately following graduation, however, she decided to give up writing poetry in order to concentrate on raising her family. After ten years at home, her husband urged her to return . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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