In several poems, seventeenth-century writer Hester Pulter depicts freedom as only possible after death; but in Poem 38, she claims her "fancies" allow her spirit to leave her gendered body until, she writes, "Methinks I play at football with the stars" (ll. 8–12). Depicting the Earth as a sphere, a ball, and even a football is not uncommon for writers of the day, but Pulter's image makes us rethink the significance of what we might call the astronomy poem and its possible relationship with proto-feminist protest poetry. Is her speaker kicking the football that is the Earth alongside the personified stars or planets? For Pulter's speaker to join those celestial women suggests a shaking off of her suffering, maternal body, but also reconfigures her body in space, on a cosmic scale. This article argues that female poets like Pulter, Anne Southwell, and Margaret Cavendish use metaphysical conceits in astronomy poems to give their female speakers temporary power over their environment. Pulter, however, fuses this fantasized control to a violent sport that women were not depicted as playing during this period, offering a proto-feminist statement about her immobility on Earth.


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pp. 169-191
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