Hester Pulter's poetry engages deeply in the mode of complaint, the amplified, open-ended expression of woe that marks the Ovidian-inflected poetry of Spenser, Drayton, Shakespeare, and others. Pulter's Civil War political lyrics are taking a central place in critical literature on women writers of female-voiced complaint, but her poetry draws attention to another lacuna in discussions of the mode: the exploration of religious versions of early modern complaint. This article reads Pulter's devotional lyrics in relation to their poetic models and precedents, especially the Sidney Psalms and the devotional lyrics of George Herbert. It seeks simultaneously to explore Pulter's devotional lyrics as complaints, and to trace the affective function of complaint in the mid-seventeenth century devotional lyric, in which complaint so often gives way—or is actively turned—to praise. Pulter's devotional complaints, it argues, correlate closely to those of George Herbert, whose influences are verbal, formal, and affective. Extending Herbert's sense of "Complaining" in his lyric of that name, and his imagery of winged ascent and heavenly song, Pulter's devotional lyrics move repeatedly through an affective fall and flight, and from the virtuosic amplification of woe to the anticipation of "heavenly lays" without end.


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pp. 99-119
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