Monday, May 8, 2023

Anne Southwell

Anne Southwell (c.1573–1636) was born in Devon, within the prominent British classes. Her father, Sir Thomas Harris, served as an MP. Her husband Thomas Southwell was nephew to the Jesuit poet Robert Southwell, though he and Anne were distinctly Protestant. She became known as Lady Anne Southwell when her husband was knighted by King James I.

For reasons that are unclear, Anne did not gain position in the new queen’s court. She and her husband moved to Poulnalong Castle in Ireland around 1603. Thomas died in 1626, and although Anne remarried (to Captain Henry Sibthorpe) she maintained her title.

Anne Southwell wrote both religious and secular poetry; her incomplete sequence of meditative poems on the Ten Commandments are one of her valuable contributions. Her body was buried at Acton Parish Church, where a memorial plaque honouring her is on display.

The following version of one of her poems has had its spelling and punctuation modernized by Horace Jeffery Hodges (with the exception of my keeping the original title), and is from his blog Gypsy Scholar.

All maried men desire to have good wifes

All married men desire to have good wives,
but few give good example by their lives.
They are our head; they would have us their heels.
This makes the good wife kick, the good man reels.
When God brought Eve to Adam for a bride,
the text says she was taken from out man's side,
a symbol of that side, whose sacred blood
flowed for his spouse, the church's saving good.
This is a mystery, perhaps too deep,
for blockish Adam that was fallen asleep.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.