Tears of the Muses: 1649 and the Lost Political Bodies of Royalist War Elegy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

This essay couples a collection of elegies from the end of the British Civil Wars, Lachrymae Musarum: The Tears of the Muses (published in two editions in 1649 and 1650) with earlier elegies to Royalist soldier-heroes, such as Sir Charles Lucas and Lord Arthur Capel. Though the subject of Tears of the Muses, Lord Henry Hastings, died of smallpox and may not even have fought in the wars, many of his largely Royalist elegists recast his peacetime death as a brutal military sacrifice for the King's cause. Doing so allows them to address the intersecting material and ideological costs of the war-the relation between the real bodies sacrificed in civil conflict and the ideal political bodies that should give this sacrifice meaning. War elegies of the period use soldier heroes like Capel (and pseudo-heroes like Hastings) as figures for the breakdown of traditional corporate languages of state and nation in the face of violence done to royal and Royalists alike. Tears of the Muses in particular, however, highlights this breakdown by gendering it, opposing the idealized masculine body of the pseudo-hero Hastings to a widowed or degraded England, "Mother of Sins" (Brome 1650: 33). Despite his unheroic death from illness, then, Hastings becomes a tragic emblem of violent division, as his elegists dramatize the failure of the royal body, and its idealized masculine extensions, to represent the monstrous body of a feminized mother England.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGender Matters
Subtitle of host publicationDiscourses of Violence in Early Modern Literature and the Arts
EditorsMara R Wade
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherBrill | Rodopi
Pages133-154
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)978-94-012-1023-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Publication series

NameInternationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft
Volume169
ISSN (Print)0929-6999

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