Episode 56

Queen Elizabeth, On Monsieur's Departure


January 31st, 2023

18 mins 46 secs

Season 5

Your Hosts

About this Episode

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was one of the longest-reigning monarchs in all of British history, but she was also a gifted poet. In this episode, we discuss "On Monsieur's Departure," a poem that is inspired by Petrarchan conventions and gives insight into the public and private selves of a powerful queen.

(For the text of the poem, scroll to the bottom.)

In this episode, we attempt to describe the magnificence of some of Queen Elizabeth's portraiture. To learn more, visit the National Portrait Gallery of London:

To learn more about Petrarch and his poems that were such an enormous influence on English poets of the sixteenth century, please read this book, which provides Petrarch's original poems in Italian and Robert Durling's stunning translations into English.

To learn more about what it meant to "fashion a self" in the Renaissance, see Stephen Greenblatt's foundational work on this idea .

On Monsieur’s Departure

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.