Emilia Lanyer's The Description Of Cooke-Ham

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Emilia Lanyer’s poem “The Description of Cooke-ham” is titled as if it is a pastoral ode praising the estate Cooke-ham. However, upon reading the poem, one quickly realizes that the true subject is actually Lanyer’s patroness, with whom Emilia stayed at Cooke-ham for some time. While the poem does describe, in detail, the beautiful natural scenery at Cooke-ham, it does so always in reference to this woman. Lanyer never names the subject by name, instead referring to her primarily in second person, though it is assumed that the subject is in fact her patroness, Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland. The poem feels very personal, as if the reader is reading a private letter between two dear friends, perhaps due to the fact that Lanyer uses…show more content…
She blames bad fortune for keeping the two apart. It is here that the poem begins to take on a seemingly romantic tone. Lanyer speaks of her feelings of love and her “true heart” (122), as well as a longing to be in Heaven with Clifford so the two may carry out their eternal love for one another. In lines 165-166, Lanyer describes a scene in which Clifford, while preparing to leave Cooke-ham, kissed Lanyer. It is unclear whether this kiss should be interpreted as friendly or romantic. Some literary historians, such as Michael Morgan Holmes, have theorized about suggestions of female homoeroticism in “The Description of Cooke-ham” and other works by Lanyer and claim art was the only outlet at the time for women who felt homosexual attraction to express there desires (Holmes 168). However, Lisa Schnell has hypothesized that intimate recounts of encounters, such as those in this poem, are largely exaggerated, and possibly even made up (Schnell 81). Regardless of whether the scene was romantic or platonic, or whether it ever actually took place, it conveys the message of Lanyer’s sense of grief at losing her
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