On Monsieur’s Departure

I grieve, yet dare not show my discontent;
I love, and yet am forced to seem to hate;
I dote, but dare not what I ever meant,
I seem stark mute, yet inwardly doe prate;
I am, and am not—freeze, and yet I burn;
Since from myself my other self I turn.

My care is like a shadow in the sun—
Follows me flying—flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lives by me—does what I have done;
This 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 suppressed.

Some gentler passion steal into my mind,
(For I am soft and made of melting snow),
Or be more cruel, Love, or be more kind,
Or let me float or sink, be high or low;
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die, and forget what love e’er meant.

Queen Elizabeth I, 1581

There is a very catchy tune based upon excerpts from this poem, performed by The Medieval Baebes, written by Michael Phipps and part of the soundtrack to The Virgin Queen.

10 Replies to “On Monsieur’s Departure”

  1. Ian, I don’t know that it’s on any of their albums. I think it only shows up on the soundtrack. It was a four-part BBC miniseries, 90 mins each, that ran on PBS. I think it came out in 2005. It’s interesting. They monkied with history, and tarted things up a bit (much as The Medieval Baebes do to medieval writings!) to keep interest. The costuming was pretty spectacular.

    Steve, that was a great time for English literature. We would all do well to give it more attention!

    Aaron, I confess to being impressed by her, but still find her family generally monstrous. She was, after all, her father’s daughter, “King Elizabeth”!

  2. I never though of Elizabeth I as a metaphysical – nor even perhaps have I thought much of her except that great things happened in her reign – but this is human indeed and real. Thanks for the post.

  3. The poem is said to have been written by Elizabeth upon the departure of the Duke of Anjou, her last suitor. Elizabeth was twenty years his senior, but undoubtedly fond of him. The presentation of the relationship in the televised The Virgin Queen is ridiculous, scurrilous in fact. But the poem itself is quite striking, perceptive, and moving, regardless of the author.

    The adaptation of the poem by Phipps, used as lyrics in a couple places in the soundtrack is:

    My care is like my shadow laid bare beneath the sun.
    It follows me at all times and flies when I pursue it.
    I freeze and yet am always burned
    since from myself again I turn.
    I love and yet am forced to hate.
    I seem stark mute; inside I prate.

    My care is like my shadow laid bare beneath the sun.
    It follows me at all times and flies when I pursue it.
    I love and yet am forced to hate.
    I seem stark mute; inside I prate.
    Some gentler love doth ease itself
    Into my heart and mind.
    For I am soft and made of snow
    Love, be more cruel or so be kind.

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