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J. M. Synge (1871-1909)

Queens


              1Seven dog-days we let pass
              2Naming Queens in Glenmacnass,
              3All the rare and royal names
              4Wormy sheepskin yet retains,
              5Etain, Helen, Maeve, and Fand,
              6Golden Deirdre's tender hand,
              7Bert, the big-foot, sung by Villon,
              8Cassandra, Ronsard found in Lyon.
              9Queens of Sheba, Meath and Connaught,
            10Coifed with crown, or gaudy bonnet,
            11Queens whose finger once did stir men,
            12Queens were eaten of fleas and vermin,
            13Queens men drew like Monna Lisa,
            14Or slew with drugs in Rome and Pisa,
            15We named Lucrezia Crivelli,
            16And Titian's lady with amber belly,
            17Queens acquainted in learned sin,
            18Jane of Jewry's slender shin:
            19Queens who cut the bogs of Glanna,
            20Judith of Scripture, and Gloriana,
            21Queens who wasted the East by proxy,
            22Or drove the ass-cart, a tinker's doxy,
            23Yet these are rotten -- I ask their pardon --
            24And we've the sun on rock and garden,
            25These are rotten, so you're the Queen
            26Of all the living, or have been.

Notes

1] dog-days: the hottest time of summer, usually reckoned in the Northern hemisphere as between early July and late August.

2] Glenmacnass: mountain valley with waterfall in county Wicklow, just south of Dublin, near Glendalough.

5] Etain, Helen, Maeve, and Fand: Etain was a woman of the Sidhe, the faeries, married to the god Midir of Bri-leith; Helen of Troy was wife of Menelaus, mistress of Paris, the Cause of the Trojan war; Fand was queen of the world of the Sidhe, wedded to Manannán, god of the sea.

6] Deirdre: .

7] Bert, the big-foot, sung by Villon: François Villon (1431-after 1463), French poet in whose Grand Testament appears the character "Bert au grand pié", Bertha, wife of Pepin le Bref, taken from a medieval chanson de geste entitled Henri de Metz.

8] Cassandra, Ronsard found in Lyon: Piere de Ronsard (1524-1585) wrote a sequence of love poems about and to Cassandra Salviata, an heiress of Blois, who nonetheless rejected him.

9] Queens of Sheba, Meath and Connaught: .

10] Coifed: covering the hair.

13] Monna Lisa: Leonardo da Vinci's Giaconda, so named by reason of her interesting smile.

15] Lucrezia Crivelli: one of Ludovico Sforza's mistresses, conceivably painted by Leonardo da Vinci in his La Belle Ferronière.

16] Titian's lady with amber belly: likely a nude by the Venetian painter (1499?-1576), perhaps his Venus del Prado.

18] Jane of Jewry: unidentified.

19] the bogs of Glanna: unidentified.

20] Judith of Scripture, and Gloriana: the apocryphal book of Judith tells how she murders Holofernes to save her Jewish city of Bethnia; Edmund Spenser names Elizabeth I Gloriana in his Faerie Queene.

22] a tinker's doxy: the whore or mistress of a mender of pots and pans.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: J. M. Synge, Poems and translations (Churchtown, Dundrum: Cuala Press, 1909). del S993 A15 1909 Fisher Rare Book Library.
First publication date: 1909
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1999.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/13

Composition date: 1902
Form: couplets


Other poems by J. M. Synge