Poetry For All
Poetry For All
Mar 29, 2021
Episode 20: Hester Pulter, View But This Tulip
Play • 26 min

Wendy Wall joins us to discuss an extraordinary poet whose works went unknown for over three hundred years. Hester Pulter brought together science, religion, poetic traditions and so much more. Her 120 remarkable poems are now available at the award-winning Pulter Project website.

In this episode we discuss her work with emblems, her scientific chemistry experiment with flowers, and her wonderment (both worried and confident, doubtful and awestruck) about the resurrection of the body and its reunification with the soul after death.

For a biography of Hester Pulter, see here:
https://pulterproject.northwestern.edu/about-hester-pulter-and-the-manuscript.html

For her poems, see the Pulter Project here:
https://pulterproject.northwestern.edu/

Here is the text of today's poem:

"View But This Tulip" (Emblem 40)

View but this tulip, rose, or gillyflower,
And by a finite, see an infinite power.
These flowers into their chaos were retired
Till human art them raised and reinspired
With beating, macerating, fermentation,
Calcining, chemically, with segregation;
Then, lest the air these secrets should reveal,
Shut up the ashes under Hermes’s seal;
Then, with a candle or a gentle fire,
You may reanimate at your desire
These gallant plants; but if you cool the glass,
To their first principles they’ll quickly pass:
From sulfur, salt, and mercury they came;
When they dissolve, they turn into the same.
Then, seeing a wretched mortal hath the power
To recreate a Virbius of a flower,
Why should we fear, though sadly we retire
Into our cause? Our God will reinspire
Our dormant dust, and keep alive the same
With an all-quick’ning, everlasting flame.
Then, though I into atoms scattered be,
In indivisibles I’ll trust in Thee.
Then let this comfort me in my sad story:
Dust is but four degrees removed from glory
By Nature’s paths, but God from death and night
Can raise this flesh to endless life and light.
Then, my impatient soul, contented be,
For thou a glorious spring ere long shalt see.
After these gloomy shades of death and sorrow,
Thou shalt enjoy an everlasting morrow.
As wheat in new-plowed furrows rotting lies,
Incapable of quick’ning till it dies,
So into dust this flesh of mine must turn
And lie a while forgotten in my urn.
Yet when the sea, and earth, and Hell shall give
Their treasures up, my body too shall live:
Not like the resurrection at Grand Caire,
Where men revive, then straight of life despair;
But, with my soul, my flesh shall reunite
And ne’er involvéd be with death and night,
But live in endless pleasure, love, and light.
Then hallelujahs will I sing to thee,
My gracious God, to all eternity.
Then at thy dissolution patient be:
If man can raise a flower, God can thee.

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