The labyrinth as style in 'Pamphilia to Amphilanthus.'
Moore, Mary. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 v.38. no 1. p109-126. 01.01.1998.

An image of poetic skill and of the circuitous rhetoric of self-delusion in Petrarch's Rime sparse, a monument to craftsmanship that befuddled Daedalus, its architect, in book 8 of Ovid's Metamorphoses, the labyrinth symbolized both conscious craft and perplexity during the Renaissance. Lady Mary Wroth's 1621 sonnet sequence, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, alludes to these contexts with the opening of the corona that crowns the sequence: "In this strang labourinth how shall I turne?"(1) The temporal and spatial vagaries of "this" and the punning "labour" of Wroth's spelling evoke the poem itself as intricate space and Pamphilia's thought as labyrinthine source of mimetic writing.(2) Like the mazes of classical literature, architecture, and art familiar to Renaissance readers of Pliny, Ovid, and Virgil, Wroth's artifact represents perplexity even as it perplexes. Wroth achieves this effect through syntax and poetic forms that mime two physical traits of labyrinths: enclosure and complexity. The labyrinth and the sonnet are coupled fittingly to these ends. Like mazes in classical literature, the sonnet is identified through metapoetic tropes in English as enclosed space and highly crafted form - as John Donne's "We'll build in sonnets pretty rooms," and "well-wrought urn" testify.(3) Wroth magnifies the confines of the sonnet through contracted syntax that elides articles and pronouns and creates ambiguous referents, suggesting the troublesome fit of meaning to poetic form. Such tricky syntax mimics labyrinthine complexity; difficult to follow and cleverly wrought, it demands pause and standstill. The corona formally embodies enclosure through reiterative opening and closing lines, creating a closed poetic crown, dramatically engaging the reader in the female sense of self that Wroth depicts.

Wroth's labyrinth echoes and alludes to those of her predecessors,(4) but she also voices new meanings through the figure's influence on style and its relevance to gender. In poems by women - whether the "author" is the fictive poet, Pamphilia, or Wroth herself - the tension between form and syntax at least suggests the difficulty of fitting female erotic experience into forms created to suit the shapes of male erotic desire. Wroth's persistent attention to gender issues in the Urania and her evocation in the prose romance's first poem of Echo - a female poet and a figure for the elision of female voice - further support my contention that she depicts female self-representation as problematic.(5)

The labyrinth's enclosure, furthermore, reinforces another trait of Wroth's work - what Jeffrey Masten calls "a movement which is relentlessly private."(6) The lack of blazon and visual description of the beloved help create this effect, as other readers of Wroth have noted;(7) Wroth may even have isolated her speaker intentionally through these exclusions.(8) While Masten rightly notes this fictional privacy, he interprets this movement as countering Petrarchism's creation of subjectivity through mirroring in the beloved and through public display. He suggests therefore that Wroth denies female subjectivity. This reading, however, overlooks the mode's simultaneously public and private nature, on the one hand exaggerating the role of public display, and on the other hand ignoring the ingenious paths women poets found around injunctions against public speech. Pamphilia's fictional privacy, in a variety of ways explored in this article, blurs her transgressive expression of erotic desire. Far from denying female subjectivity, Wroth depicts a female sense of self through the labyrinth - presenting a self that is isolated, enclosed, difficult, and complex.(9)

While scholars have noted Wroth's labyrinth, none has considered how the labyrinth's Renaissance meanings - which differ considerably from its modern ones - made it an image of self-fashioning especially suited to a Protestant woman writing Petrarchan poetry during the period, nor has anyone reflected at length on the image's influence as style.(10) Wroth's labyrinth derives from three sources familiar to English Renaissance readers - classical descriptions, Petrarchan poetry, and Protestant theology. A woman poet whose family heritage included classical reading, artistic accomplishment, Petrarchism, and Protestantism, but whose life and choice of genres transgressed Renaissance norms for female behavior, Wroth implicitly appealed to the labyrinth's other contexts for meaning and authority.(11)

Exposition of these contexts will help reconstruct the labyrinth's meanings during the Renaissance. Important for this argument, Penelope Reed Doob's recent study shows that the labyrinth represented confusion and error, but that its complexity also affirmed its creator's skill at representing the difficult and complex, a meaning Wroth's corona of poems enhances. Doob attributes the labyrinth's several meanings to its three-dimensional form, which makes possible two visual positions: inside and outside. Seen from inside, the labyrinth confuses the wanderer,(12) as it does Pamphilia in Wroth's work. Seen from outside, the perspective the reader takes, the labyrinth reveals its complexity and artistry.(13) Labyrinthine images thus amaze and please. Doob traces these effects to narrative labyrinths of Pliny, Ovid, and Virgil, all authorities for the English Renaissance.(14) For example, Virgil's conceit about Anchises's funeral games in the Aeneid compares the "elaborate course" of mounted children to the Cretan labyrinth, "'a bewildering [double] work of craft with a thousand ways.'"(15) Evoking the labyrinth as image of difficult but achieved artistry, Wroth claims the poetic "'craft'" of representing "'a thousand ways.'"

Related to complexity, Petrarch's labyrinths provided Wroth a model for symbolizing difficult self-knowledge and for creating labyrinthine style. Poem 211 of the Rime sparse describes Petrarch's speaker entering the labyrinth as he first sees Laura. The image concludes a poem whose syntactic twists represent the urgings of false, internal guides:

Voglia mi sprona, Amor mi guida et scorge,
Piacer mi tira, Usanza mi trasporta;
Speranza mi lusinga et riconforta
et la man destra al corgia stanco porge,. . .

Mille trecento ventisette, a punto su l'ora prima,
il di sesto d'aprile, nel laberinto intrai, ne veggio ond'esca.

Desire spurs me, Love guides and escorts me,
Pleasure draws me, Habit carries me away;
Hope entices and encourages me
and reaches out his right hand to my weary heart, . . .

One thousand three hundred twenty-seven,
exactly at the first hour of the sixth day of April,
I entered the labyrinth, nor do I see where I may get out of it.(16)
Designating guides as emotions and desires makes "Petrarch" both labyrinth and wanderer: he is the labyrinth. Likewise, poem 224 describes the speaker's life as "a long wandering in a blind labyrinth," the "cieco laberinto" suggesting that the labyrinth is sensate,(17) albeit blind. In fact, the labyrinth is blindness. Giuseppe Mazzotta, as Doob reminds us, sees Petrarch's labyrinth as symbolizing the whole sequence's artistry. Reiterative wanderings, oxymorons, and antitheses "mimic stylistically the ambiguous choices within the maze."(18) Wroth's labyrinth and her themes of blindness and lost self-knowledge recall Petrarch and manifest Pamphilia's complex subjectivity as a maze of self.

From sermons and emblems, Wroth also might have known the labyrinth as symbolizing Protestant inwardness and emphasizing both the necessity and difficulty of self-analysis. Huston Diehl's study of emblems and pamphlets describes, for example, Frances Quarles's emblem of a wanderer guided by "a winged figure, identified as Divine Love, who directs man's way."(19) This figure strongly echoes Wroth's "thred of love" in her corona's labyrinth. Diehl has identified Quarles's probable sources in French emblem books published in English in 1591 and 1614, meaning that Wroth's and Quarles's threads may have come from a common spool. The thread, representing precepts of faith, guides Christians through what Diehl calls "the subjectivity of self and the endless maze of consciousness."(20) In Diehl's view, Protestant emphasis on humanity's fallen senses makes the labyrinth a spiritual knot whose serpentine coils complicate the possibility of self-knowledge.(21) Wroth probably also drew on more general Protestant attitudes to inwardness; both Catholic and Protestant sources argued the necessity of self-knowledge in contrast to curious study of nature, often symbolized by knowledge of the stars.(22) Her uncle, furthermore, associated the labyrinth with the poet's ethical role as guide.(23) Wroth's claim in the corona poem 81 that love helps us see "hidenest thoughts" suggests that Pamphilia's journey in the labyrinth at least in part transcends the difficulty of achieving self-knowledge (line 12).
Several patterns relevant to Wroth's labyrinth emerge from these cultural resonances. The labyrinth's classical, Petrarchan, and Protestant sources associate it with difficult knowing, which the labyrinth embodied structurally and which became textural in Petrarch's syntax. Furthermore, Petrarch and the Protestant emblems attribute this difficulty to human epistemological frailties. This skepticism and the labyrinth's architecture, which disables vision, make Petrarch's association of the labyrinth with blindness natural and metaphorically suggestive. Similarly, the labyrinth's enclosure evokes the motif of entrapment, manifested in Ovid and in Petrarch and implied in the Protestant soul entrapped in a desirous body. Finally, Petrarch's syntactic halting and reversal models labyrinthine style. The artistry that classical writers attributed to the builders of labyrinths enriches these ideas. Thus, both Petrarch's and Wroth's labyrinths represent, paradoxically, human frailty and artistic power, perplexity and the power to represent perplexity.

Drawing on these cultural sources, Wroth uses labyrinthine themes and style as devices from her sequence's beginning. Sonnet 1 opens the sequence with conventional images that call on the tradition of European Petrarchism but which also allude to loss of self-knowledge, blindness, self-enclosure, and difficulty - all themes related to Petrarch's labyrinth. The poem's syntax, in particular, represents the labyrinth:

When nights black mantle could most darknes prove,
And sleepe deaths Image did my senceses hiere
From knowledg of my self, then thoughts did move
Swifter then those most swiftnes need require:

In sleepe, a Chariot drawne by wing'd desire I sawe:
Wher sate bright Venus Queene of love,
And att her feete her sonne, still adding fire
To burning hearts which she did hold above,

Butt one hart flaming more then all the rest
The goddess held, and putt itt to my brest,
Deare sonne, now shutt sayd she: thus must wee winn:

Hee her obay'd, and martir'd my poore hart,
I, waking hop'd as dreame itt would depart
Yett since: O mee: a lover I have binn.
                                                (lines 1-14)
While allusions to Petrarch and Dante implicit in the chariot of Venus and the image of the speaker's heart as food serve to validate Pamphilia's (and Wroth's) poetic credentials,(24) Love's appearance during sleep creates isolation, which contrasts with the initial experience of love in most Petrarchan sequences. In Sir Philip Sidney's and Petrarch's second sonnets, for example, love strikes through the beloved's sun-eyes, their light beams becoming arrows. By contrast, encapsulating Pamphilia's experience in the dream vision isolates and encloses the experience of love. Further, love itself, as personified in Venus and Cupid rather than the sight of the beloved, creates Pamphilia newly, as love poet and lover: "Yett since: O mee: a lover I have binn" (line 14).

The dream vision's isolation introduces an element of Wroth's sequence related to the labyrinth - intense enclosure. The absent beloved is of course a central topic of Petrarchism, but the physical beloved, conventionally depicted in ways explored by many scholars, appears as image, imagined or remembered. Wroth's absent beloved occupies a more substantial than usual gap, as noted earlier. He never appears descriptively, as in the blazons of male sonneteers, a kind of poem that clearly can be adapted to the female poet's purposes.(25) Nor does Wroth's beloved become narrative presence, punning name, visual icon. This absence further isolates and encloses Pamphilia in her own complexity.

While her treatment of the beloved distinguishes Wroth's from other Petrarchan sequences, Pamphilia presents herself as typical Petrarchan poet, evoking labyrinthine themes of blindness and desire. Her assertion, for example, that night and sleep "did my senceses hiere / From knowledg of my self" represents the unconsciousness of sleep as loss of self-knowledge (lines 2-3). Further, the absence of light - emphasized through the physicality of the "black mantle," and the repetition in night and "most darknes" (line 1) - creates a sense of epistemological peril. Spondees call attention to these images. In the same way, Petrarch associates blindness with desire in his sonnet 18. The poet assumes what he calls "guisa d'orbo, senza luce," the "guise of blindness, without light,"(26) to flee the blinding sun-eyes of the beloved lady, suggesting that his blindness is a kind of self-protective fiction. Ironically, however, his disguise of blindness cannot protect him from the lady's eyes; further, since he has announced his disguise, he has obviated its effectiveness. Petrarch thus presents his poet as fool tricked by his own poetic enunciation. Likewise, Sidney concludes the first sonnet of Astrophel and Stella, "'Fool,' said my muse to me: 'look in thy heart, and write,'" a self-command that creates Astrophel as "fool" and his muse as author.(27) Pamphilia experiences a similar fragmentation: "thought" flew away, wholly separated from the dreamer; the senses were "hiered" away; and "knowledg" was separated from its subject, the self. As simultaneous subject and object of her own blindness, Pamphilia lays claim to the labyrinth of Petrarchan blindness.

The poem's contracted syntax creates a labyrinthine texture that supports these meanings. Sonnet 1 manifests Pamphilia's trouble knowing herself and the author's trouble containing her experience in literary form. Wroth's intricate syntax is obvious. Absent articles and personal pronouns, for example, create gaps in meaning: "thoughts" in line 3 must mean "my thoughts," but it also may mean all thought; likewise, the phrase "Swifter than those [who] most swiftness need require" lacks the conjunctive pronoun "who" and inverts word order, complicating understanding. An intricate phrase like "When night's black mantle did most darknes prove" suggests several meanings: when night could test degrees of darkness, or when this night proved the darkest of nights, or when night proved the darkest of all things. These effects delay comprehension and elicit rereading, but they also communicate the strain of containing thoughts within the sonnet's form: adding the elided words would stretch lines beyond ten beats. The sonnet's formal restrictions thus highlight constraint itself, difficulty in knowing, writing, and fitting the female textual body in a well-wrought urn designed to hold only male ashes. Labyrinthine syntax represents the poet's difficulty - and her craft.

The corona of sonnets, poems 77-90, names the labyrinth explicitly; here, spiritualized diction evokes the symbol's theological meanings, while gendered imagery of reproduction suggests female poetic production. The line "In this strang labourinth how shall I turne?" opens and closes the corona, whose interlocking paths, like the repetitions, pauses, "turnes," and "returnes" of the first poem, stylistically mimic the labyrinth:

In this strang labourinth how shall I turne?
Wayes are on all sids while the way I miss:
If to the right hand, ther, in love I burne;
Lett mee goe forward, therin danger is;
If to the left, suspition hinders bliss,
Lett mee turne back, shame cries I ought returne
Nor fainte though crosses with my fortunes kiss;
Stand still is harder, although sure to mourne;
Thus lett me take the right, or left hand way;
Goe forward, or stand still, or back retire;
I must thes doubts indure without allay
Or help, butt traveile find for my best hire;
Yett that which most my troubled sence doth move
Is to leave all, and take the thread of love.
                                                (P77, lines 1-14)
The phrase "this strang labourinth" may refer to the poem itself (line 1) - the most immediate "this" - or the word may refer to the poet, her life, her erotic experience, even to all of these. Brief clauses and repetitive diction ("Wayes are . . . the way" [line 2]; "If to the right hand, ther . . . / . . . / If to the left" [lines 3-5]; and "Lett mee goe forward . . . / . . . / Lett mee turne back" [lines 4-6]) enact labyrinthine turns and returns, dead ends, and restarts; this reflects the sameness of paths when no path is "the way." Eliding pronoun referents - as in the phrases "Nor fainte though" and "butt traveile find for my best hire" (lines 7, 12) - elicits the "standstill" named in line 8, demanding pause and consideration even as it reinforces the poem's volta. The omitted word in the phrase, "shame cries I ought [to] returne" (line 6), like other omissions, enhances an impression of contracted energy, of forced containment. Further, the phrase "Stand still is harder, although sure to mourne" implies that standstill itself mourns (line 8), apparently confusing the poetic subject and her feelings with the action of negotiating the labyrinth. This fusion of place, action, and speaker, however, exactly represents the labyrinth as subjectivity, as the speaker's own self, a self whose enclosure constrains as well as contains.

Like the difficult syntax, the corona form plays off the labyrinth's classical associations with artistic intricacy while imitating its enclosure.(28) The corona links individual poems together: the first poem's last line becomes the second poem's first line, and so on, concluding with the final poem's last line repeating the first poem's first line. These echoing lines bring the corona poems into a complete circle. Between poems, reiterated opening and closing lines parallel other reversals and imitate echoing voices in enclosed spaces, suggesting an aural image of the labyrinth.

The corona poems continue the stylistic representation of the labyrinth, while their imagery and diction also evoke the Protestant spiritual ideals studied by Diehl. Wroth's spiritual ideology counteracts the prevailing view of women writers as promiscuous by displaying a woman writing an ideal of chaste conduct. If, as Heather Dubrow suggests, spiritualizing erotic desire creates a Petrarchan counterdiscourse, the labyrinth poems enact this counterdiscourse more seriously than other segments of Wroth's sequence. Poem 78, for example, echoes the parallel in the corona's first sonnet between syntax and the labyrinth's structure, but it also depicts a suprarational, spiritual love that transcends logical categories and structures, including those of gender:

Is to leave all, and take the thread of love
Which line straite leads unto the soules content
Wher choyse delights with pleasures wings doe move,
And idle phant'sie never roome had lent,

When chaste thoughts guide us then owr minds ar bent
To take that good which ills from us remove,
Light of true love, brings fruite which none repent
Butt constant lovers seek, and wish to prove;

Love is the shining starr of blessings light;
The fervent fire of zeale, the roote of peace,
The lasting lampe fed with the oyle of right;
Image of fayth and wombe for joyes increase.

Love is true vertu, and his ends delight;
His flames ar joyes, his bands true lovers might.
                                                (lines 1-14)
While the first stanza suggests a sensory feast, diction proves this to be a mental meal in which "choyse delights" and "pleasures wings" (line 3), connoting sensory joys, are internalized through the terms "phant'sie" and "soules content" (lines 4, 2). Lest the questionable "fantasy" suggest mere idle pleasure, the second stanza realizes spiritual and moral values through "chaste thoughts" (line 5). It further allies the now redeemed delight of love to constancy through its reference to "constant lovers" (line 8), alluding to Pamphilia's key virtue in the sonnets and prose romance.

Most important for this argument, Wroth's diction invests this ideal of chaste, constant love with the theological symbolism of the inner light, "[l]ight of true love . . . / . . . / . . . the shining starr of blessings light" (lines 7-9), which other language in the sonnet also evokes: "The fervent fire of zeale . . . / The lasting lampe fed with the oyle of right" (lines 10-11). The Puritan revival associates "zeale" with Protestant reform and prophecy,(29) while the lamp images the inner light, the subjectivity and moral fervor of the Protestant relationship with God, a beacon inside the labyrinth of self. The paradox of light within an internal labyrinthine darkness underscores the spiritual qualifies implied here, suggesting powers that transcend physical light and human perception. The stars add Neoplatonic nuances to the Protestant diction, reinforcing transcendence through their beauty, distance, and inscrutability as well as their associations with ideal forms.

Syntax mirrors the way divine love and inner light transcend categories of logic and grammar, representing both the labyrinth's difficulty and a form of transcendence: for example, the phrase, "[l]ight of true love" (line 7), modifies the preceding and subsequent phrases, "that good" and "fruite" (lines 6, 7). This doubling of referents signals the way "[l]ight of true love" combines and includes opposites, refusing to conform to logical, grammatical categories.

Seeking authority for and spiritualizing female poetic desire, the image of the womb in "wombe for joyes increase" fuses Protestant theology and female reproductivity (line 12). Parallelism associates the womb syntactically with "[t]he fervent fire of zeale," and "[t]he lasting lampe fed with the oyle of right," implying balance and equivalence, associating spirituality with female reproductivity and, ultimately, with poetic production. A dark inner space associated through Petrarch and the Protestant emblems with the self, the labyrinth becomes a womb for poetic production. The womb's femininity is complemented by the masculinity of love, which Wroth personifies throughout the labyrinth as male.

At other times, however, the sexes combine and exchange roles in the labyrinth in ways that revalue both sexes: the masculine figure of love can give birth and nurture, as in poem 83, where he gives "birth" to "just desire" (line 2), is "[b]reeding sweet flame" (line 3), and can "foster all delights above" (line 8); the female figure of the poet can produce a poem that envisions an ideal of "just desire," as in poem 83, or "chaste art" (line 8), as in poem 81. "[J]ust desire" and the poetic speech that embodies it contradict accepted physical, artistic, and cultural limitations of femininity. The capabilities of Pamphilia and Love suggest that gender roles may transcend or contradict physical sex in the labyrinth. The labyrinth thus becomes an ideal of female poetic freedom, a place where spiritual knowledge undercuts the equation of female speech with promiscuity.

The corona also links spirituality with knowledge and art, even promising a kind of qualified self-knowledge. Poem 81 makes this especially explicit. There love becomes the tutor of the soul through his "chaste art," seemingly transcending the difficulty of self-knowledge apparent elsewhere in Wroth's work:

And burne, yett burning you will love the smart,
When you shall feele the wieght of true desire,
Soe pleasing, as you would nott wish your part
Of burden showld bee missing from that fire;

Butt faithful and unfained heate aspire
Which sinne abolisheth, and doth impart
Saulves to all feare, with vertues which inspire
Soules with devine love, which showes his chaste art,

And guide hee is to joyings; open eyes
Hee hath to hapines, and best can learne
Us means how to deserve, this hee descries,
Who blind yett doth our hidenest thoughts deserne,

Thus wee may gaine since living in blest love
Hee may our proffit, and owr Tuter prove.
                                                (lines 1-14)
The poem opens with a conventional Petrarchan paradox, but its aim is spiritual transcendence - "true desire" (line 2), "vertues" (line 7), "devine love," and "chaste art" (line 8). Clearly this inspirer of divine love, who works through "chaste art" and whose "heate ... / ... sinne abolisheth," is not the secular Cupid of love emblems (lines 5-6). Instead, Wroth creates a figure whose "open eyes" can descry and discern despite his blindness (line 9). Love now becomes a figure of knowledge that transcends human senses, and thus the limits of human perception apparent elsewhere in the sequence, providing him, like John Milton's poetic speaker in Paradise Lost, with sight of "things invisible to mortal sight."(30) One object of love's sight is ourselves, "our hidenest thoughts" (line 12). In discerning our hidden thoughts, love can teach us ourselves, as if desire itself were a vehicle of self-knowledge. Love, as inspirer of divine love, and knower of our "hidenest thoughts," hence becomes our "Tuter" and "profitt" (line 14), with implied pun on "prophet," a spelling that appears in the 1621 printed text.(31) Love's seeing and discerning, as well as his capacity to inspire love of God, make it natural that the final form of his transcendence is as teacher, purveyor of knowledge. This role suits the personification of love, as he plays a fictive role in righting the speaker's self-ignorance. The way "tutor" and "prophet" suggest both secular and religious knowledge furthers the theology Wroth is creating: love "profits" us by saving our souls through self-knowledge, and hence he prophesies our salvation.

Love produces this revelation through the inspiration of "[s]oules with devine love, which showes his chaste art" (line 8), but love's "chaste art" implicitly supports a claim to chastity despite the public speech of both actual and fictive female poet. Quatrain 2's spiritualized diction effects the transformation of erotic to spiritual love in the phrase "heate aspire" (line 5). "[H]eate," connoting physical desire, is transformed by the word "aspire" into subliming spiritual fire; likewise, fire, the element that burns us with desire, also "inspire[s]" us (line 7), thus bringing about the creation of "chaste art." The transformation through fire turns the volatile stuff of passion to art and spirit; as breath and inspired aether, spirit epitomizes this metamorphosis.

Transforming heat to "chaste art," this poem's labyrinthine syntax manifests the spiritual paradoxes it utters. For example, inverting the subject and verb in the phrase "[w]hich sinne abolisheth" (line 6), Wroth creates two related but grammatically opposite meanings: "unfained heate" may abolish sin (line 5), or sin may abolish it, but in either case they abolish each other. "[A]nd dothe impart / Saulves to all feare" is a coordinate predicate with "aspire" and "[w]hich sinne abolisheth" (lines 6-7, 5, 6), but it lacks a parallel; therefore, the subject, "heate," participates in different but simultaneous events - it enacts different things at the same time. Similarly, the subordinate clause "which showes his chaste art" may modify "devine love" (line 8), which it immediately follows, or "vertues" or "[s]aulves," which appear in the preceding line. Eliding articles and leaving out the probable direct object in the phrase "best can learne / Us [the] means how to deserve [happiness]" creates a difficulty that causes pause (lines 10-1). These now familiar ambiguities, enlisted here in the service of spiritual paradox, depict the difficulty of communicating spiritual truths that transcend categories such as those we devise to limit the effect of modifiers. Punctuated in modern usage, many of Wroth's clauses would be nonrestrictive, mutually inclusive.

While these readings show how the corona of poems argues for the concept of "chaste art" authored by a woman, spiritualized through Protestant ideology, and representing the difficulty, value, and spiritual necessity of female self-knowledge, Wroth never asserts that the idealized love she describes in the corona releases her from the labyrinth. If her ideal of chaste art authorizes her writing, it does not transform the experience of love. True to her central symbol and to the corona's circular form, the last line of the corona leads us back into the labyrinth.

While the speaker finds no exit from the labyrinth, its achievement imbues the ending of the sonnet sequence with a tone of calm resignation, of achieved form, perhaps of achieved knowledge:

My muse now hapy, lay thy self to rest,
Sleepe in the quiett of a faithfull love,
Write you noe more, butt lett these phant'sies move
Some other harts, wake nott to new unrest,

Leave the discource of Venus, and her sunn
o young beeginers ...

And thus leave off, what's past showes you can love,
Now lett your constancy your honor prove,
                                                (P103, lines 1-14)
In eschewing the follies of Venus and the poetic role of lover acquired in sonnet 1, Pamphilia passes into silence, but her tone of resignation suggests both lack and fullness; it represents the absence of desire. Wroth's sequence resolves the issues of self-knowledge that it explores, if only through the intervention of a spiritual guide. Pamphilia marks her increased wisdom by recognizing how love's "phant'sies" lead to "new unrest," and by deciding, therefore, to "leave the discource of Venus" (lines 3, 4, 10). While the poem does not climax in spiritual revelation like Petrarch's concluding canzona, it accepts the self and its poetic accomplishment. Even as Pamphilia disavows poetry through silence, the sonnet reasserts the poet's role by addressing an audience of future love poets, suggesting Pamphilia's, and thereby Wroth's, poetic progeny. Alluding to silence, the poem thereby evokes its own silenced but still echoing voice.

The labyrinth and the corona, self-enclosed figure and circular poetic form, help address issues of woman's publication by creating a fictionalized privacy. The object of desire, though the pronouns "we" and "us" occur here, is the ideal of love itself rather than a human beloved - "the soules content" and the "[l]ight of true love," as the corona's second sonnet puts it (lines 2, 7). An idea, a thought, takes part in its thinker's own subjectivity; the poem's enclosure and the labyrinth's privacy admit no real "other." Isolation, however, may also create self-sufficiency. Like constancy, a virtue which, as Naomi Miller notes, assures the continuity of Pamphilia's discourse,(32) isolation assures integrity of self and hence frees Pamphilia from constructions of femininity, the dress of mirrors in which Petrarchism and its visual idealism would dress her.

Wroth's labyrinth of style also sheds light on Petrarchism as a public and private language. Petrarchism is a dialogue of one divided among selves - a reflection of interior parts - and a public display. So, the first word of Petrarch's sonnet 1 in his 366-poem Rime sparse is "Voi," a plural "you," and when Sidney's Astrophil quotes his muse's comment - "'Fool'... 'Look in thy heart, and write'" - he displays simultaneous roles as speaker and spoken, eye and heart, subject and object. Like the dramatic monologue that Catherine Belsey sees as an earmark of the newly developing modern subject, Petrarchism fragments and displays the self in poems meant to be circulated. Isolation enables the female poet to lay claim to a speaking part in the Petrarchan drama of self-knowledge, creating her as subject, not object, of speech, vision, and desire.

Finally, Wroth's labyrinth of style illuminates a fertile contradiction between Renaissance theology and cultural constraints on women. While the culture controlled and inhibited a woman's sense of self by defining her as owned by another and prohibiting her access to "public language" - a primary aspect of subjectivity as Catherine Belsey, Stephen Greenblatt, and others have shown(33) - self-knowledge is urged as a theological necessity. A theology of self-knowledge, further, implies the existence and value of a self. A woman creating a poetic labyrinth in a Petrarchan sonnet sequence speaks from the very center of this contradiction, transforming public self-analysis - and erotic desire - into a spiritually respectable search for self-knowledge. Wroth's labyrinthine style dramatizes this search, engaging her reader in the very process she represents in this difficult but accomplished work of art.


1 Lady Mary Wroth, poem 77 of "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus": A Sonnet Sequence, in The Poems of Lady Mary Wroth, ed. Josephine Roberts (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1983), pp. 127-8, line 1. Subsequent quotations are from this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text. Roberts has designated each poem in the sequence with a capital P and a number in brackets; this is in addition to occasional numberings and short titles supplied by Wroth. I will refer to all poems according to Roberts's enumeration.

2 Heather Dubrow notes this pun in Echoes of Desire: English Petrarchism and Its Counterdiscourses (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1995), p. 152.

3 John Donne, "The Canonization," in John Donne's Poetry, ed. and sel. A. L. Clements (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966), p. 6.

4 I explore the labyrinth's intertextual meanings later.

5 John Hollander describes myths lost to modern audiences (The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After [Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1981], pp. 7-9). In George Thornley's Elizabethan translation of a third-century romance, Echo, a poet nymph in love with virginity, becomes the object of Pan's affection (pp. 7-8). George Sandys's seventeenth-century work makes Echo daughter of air and language (p. 9), further linking her to poetry.

6 Jeffrey Masten, "'Shall I turne blabb?': Circulation, Gender, and Subjectivity in Mary Wroth's Sonnets," in Reading Mary Wroth: Representing Alternatives in Early Modern England, ed. Naomi J. Miller and Gary Waller (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1991), pp. 67-87, 69.

7 Blazon often accompanies silencing and objectifying the usually female beloved, and is conventional in Renaissance sequences. Prudence may have dictated Wroth's descriptive reticence - if, for example, her illicit relationship with her Pembroke cousin inspired the sequence - but extant descriptions of Petrarchan beloveds defy identification from visual clues alone due to their conventionality. See these female-authored blazons for examples: sonnet 7 in Gaspara Stampa, Rime Gaspara Stampa: Selected Poems, ed. and trans. Laura Anna Stortoni and Mary Prentice Lillie (New York: Ithaca Press, 1994), p. 13; and sonnets 2 and 11 in Louise Labe, "Sonnets," (Euvres Poetiques, precedees des Rymes de Pernette du Guillet ... (Paris: Edition Gallimard, 1983), pp. 110, 118. Both Stampa and Labe describe handsome blond lovers, regendered simulacra of Laura. These examples suggest that Wroth too could have relied on the mode's conventionality to conceal her lover's identity had she so desired. For background on subjectivity and objectification in Petrarchism, see the following sources. Miller's book Changing the Subject: Mary Wroth and Figurations of Gender in Early Modern England (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1996) smartly summarizes Petrarchism's and the lyric's effects on female objectification (pp. 29-40). Dubrow points out misprisions about Petrarchism relevant to women Petrarchists and silence especially. Influential older essays on subjectivity and objectification in Petrarchism include Robert M. Durling, Introduction to Petrarch's Lyric Poems: "The Rime Sparse" and Other Lyrics, trans. and ed. Durling (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1976), pp. 1-33; John Freccero, "The Fig Tree and the Laurel: Petrarch's Poetics," in Petrarch, ed. Harold Bloom, Modern Critical Views (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989), pp. 43-55; Giuseppe Mazzotta, "The Canzoniere and the Language of the Self," in Petrarch, pp. 57-78; and Nancy J. Vickers, "Diana Described: Scattered Woman and Scattered Rhyme," CritI 8, 2 (Winter 1981): 265-79.

8 The exclusion of six poems, including one blazonlike poem, from Wroth's published sonnets supports this reading (Roberts, introduction to Poems, pp. 3-81, 62). The poem Roberts designates as F5, which appears in the Folger manuscript of Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, mentions "Two sparckling eyes ... gainers of my loss / While love-begetting lips theyr gaine did cross" (p. 145, lines 9-10).

9 Miller's work supports my view; as with other female poets in the Petrarchan vein, Wroth can "expose the difficulties of attempting to voice divided selves" and "represent ... female subjectivity in multiple terms" (Changing, p. 18). On Wroth's subjectivity in the poems, also see Dubrow; Masten; Miller, "Rewriting Lyric Fictions: The Role of the Lady in Lady Mary Wroth's Pamphilia to Amphilanthus," in The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print: Counterbalancing the Canon, ed. Anne M. Haselkorn and Betty S. Travitsky (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1990), pp. 295-310; Nona Fienberg, "Mary Wroth and the Invention of Female Poetic Subjectivity," in Reading Mary Wroth, pp. 175-90; and others. Studies about or including Wroth are Dubrow; Miller and Waller; Haselkorn and Travitsky, pp. 276-326 (which includes Miller's "Rewriting Lyric Fictions"); Barbara Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 243-308; Mary Ellen Lamb, Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1990), pp. 142-93; Ann Rosalind Jones, "Feminine Pastoral as Heroic Martyrdom: Gaspara Stampa and Mary Wroth," in The Currency of Eros: Women's Love Lyric in Europe, 1540-1620 (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 118-54; and Louise Schleiner, Tudor and Stuart Women Writers (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 107-49. The source on Wroth's life remains Roberts's introduction to Poems; also see Margaret P. Hannay, Philip's Phoenix: Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990).

10 Dubrow notes that the poems mime the labyrinth through "knotty syntax" and a sense of "psychic entrapment," but she does not explore this idea in detail (pp. 134-5). Miller notes the symbol's relationship to an "emergent female subjectivity" but does not develop the symbol's Renaissance meanings in detail or its relationship to syntax ("Rewriting Lyric Fictions," p. 43). Robin Farabaugh ("Ariadne, Venus, and the Labyrinth: Classical Sources and the Thread of Instruction in Mary Wroth's Works," JEGP 96, 2 [April 1997]: 204-221) also treats the labyrinth, but focuses on Wroth's revisionary allusions to Ariadne, rather than on labyrinthine style.

11 The transgression to which I refer is her affair with her Pembroke cousin, Lord Herbert, to whom she bore two illegitimate children. While most writers on Wroth address her self-authorization, Lamb gives an extensive account of how Wroth's circumstances may have enabled her to write (pp. 148-52). Also see Hannay, "Your vertuous and learned Aunt': The Countess of Pembroke as a Mentor to Mary Wroth," in Reading Mary Wroth, pp. 15-34.

12 Penelope Reed Doob, The Idea of the Labyrinth from Classical Antiquity Through the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 1 and 17-38. Doob notes this doubleness on page 1 and traces it throughout chap. 1.

13 Discussing Doob, Miller also notes this dual perspective; it shows "the woman poet's ability to view the pattern whole" ("Rewriting Lyric Fictions," p. 43). Farabaugh refers to Doob and other sources (pp. 208-9).

14 See Doob on Pliny (p. 20) and on Ovid and Daedalus (pp. 36-7).

15 Doob, pp. 26-27.

16 Petrarch, poem 211 of The Rime Sparse, in Petrarch's Lyric Poems: "The Rime Sparse" and Other Lyrics, pp. 364-5, lines 1-14. Subsequent references are to poems by number only; the Italian and Durling's English translations are on facing pages in each case.

17 Petrarch, poem 224, line 4.

18 Mazzotta, p. 78; quote from Doob, p. 161.

19 Huston Diehl, "Into the Maze of Self: The Protestant Transformation of the Image of the Labyrinth," JMRS 16, 2 (Fall 1986): 281-301, 282.

20 Diehl, p. 289.

21 Diehl's essay notes the associations of the serpent and the labyrinth and their relevance to syntax (p. 293), especially in Paradise Lost.

22 See Howard Schultz, Milton and Forbidden Knowledge (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1955), and Lee A. Jacobus, Sudden Apprehension, Aspects of Knowledge in "Paradise Lost" (The Hague: Mouton, 1976), books on John Milton that describe concepts of knowledge prevalent throughout the Renaissance. Schultz points out that the influential Bernard of Clairvaux believed that "man achieved the highest wisdom, knowledge of himself, by discovering his own impotence, learning humility, and thus knowing God" (p. 9); and that "[i]n contrast to self-knowledge, astronomy became a favorite symbol of idle curiosity, the stars being the objects most obviously remote from man" (p. 5). Jacobus shows that Augustine and Calvin saw self-knowledge as one path to knowledge of God (pp. 22-3).

23 Fulke Greville, A Dedication to Sir Philip Sidney, quoted in William Craft, Labyrinth of Desire: Invention and Culture in the Work of Sir Philip Sidney (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1994), frontispiece. As Craft points out, Greville uses the labyrinth to symbolize the perplexed self.

24 Lewalski (p. 252), Roberts (p. 85 n), and Dubrow (p. 138) cite these echoes. Dubrow also notes that the poem has not received the attention it merits in its "insistently Petrarchan" devices (p. 138). Miller also notes the dream-vision motif and "the female speaker's . . . loss of identity" (Changing, p. 40).

25 See note 5 for examples. 26 Petrarch, poem 18, line 7. Durling's translation of the Italian phrase, "vommene in guiso d'orbo, senza luce," "I go without light like a blind man," does not represent the element of disguise or trickery that the word "guiso" implies.

27 Sir Philip Sidney, sonnet 1 of Astrophel and Stella, in Selected Poems, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), p. 117, line 14.

28 Farabaugh also notes this mimetic effect.

29 See M. Thomas Hester, Kinde Pitty and Brave Scorn: John Donne's "Satyres" (Durham NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1982), pp. 7-11.

30 John Milton, Paradise Lost (book 3, line 55) in John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (New York: Odyssey Press, 1957), p. 259.

31 Roberts, Poems, p. 130 n.

32 Miller, Changing, pp. 60-1.

33 Catherine Belsey, The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama (London: Metheun, 1985); Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980).

Mary Moore explores other elements of Wroth's and other women's love sonnet sequences
in her forthcoming book, Desiring Voices: Women Sonneteers and Petrarchism. Her
book-length poetry collection, The Book of Snow, is due out in early 1998.

COPYRIGHT 1998 William Marsh Rice University