Scales of Values

Margaret Cavendish, A World in an Eare-Ring

[Click on image to enlarge] Margaret Cavendish, duchess of Newcastle (1623–1673), spent her life challenging the rules of science, society, and gender relations. Famously eccentric in dress and opinions, she wrote original works of poetry, fiction, drama, memoirs, letters, and scientific and philosophical speculations. "I endeavour," she wrote, "to be as singular as I can; for it argues but a mean nature to imitate others." One of her best known works, The Blazing World (1668), a utopian fantasy, is based on the proposition that there are an infinite number of worlds (some of them ruled by women). The poem below, from Poems and Fancies (1653), is part of a series on the many worlds to be found in this world.










An Eare-ring round may well a Zodiacke bee,
Wherein a Sun goeth round, and we not see.
And Planets seven about that Sun may move,
And Hee stand still, as some wise men would prove.
And fixed Stars, like twinkling Diamonds, plac'd
About this Eare-ring, which a World is vast.
That same which doth the Eare-ring hold, the hole,
Is that, which we do call the Pole.
There nipping Frosts may be, and Winter cold,
Yet never on the Ladies Eare take hold.
And Lightings, Thunder, and great Winds may blow
Within this Eare-ring, yet the Eare not know.
There Seas may ebb, and flow, where Fishes swim,
And Islands be, where Spices grow therin.
There Christall Rocks hang dangling at each Eare,
And Golden Mines as Jewels may they weare.
There Earth-quakes be, which Mountaines vast downe fling,
And yet nere stir the Ladies Eare, nor Ring.
There Meadowes bee, and Pastures fresh, and greene,
And Cattell feed, and yet be never seene:
And Gardens fresh, and Birds which sweetly sing,
Although we heare them not in an Eare-ring.
There Night, and Day, and Heat, and Cold, and so
May Life, and Death, and Young, and Old, still grow.
Thus Youth may spring, and severall Ages dye,
Great Plagues may be, and no Infections nigh.
There Cityes bee, and stately Houses built,
Their inside gaye, and finely may be gilt.
There Churches bee, and Priests to teach therein,
And Steeple too, yet heare the Bells not ring.
From thence may pious Teares to Heaven run,
And yet the Eare not know which way they're gone.
There Markets bee, and things both bought, and sold,
Know not the price, nor how the Markets hold.
There Governours do rule, and Kings do Reigne,
And Battels fought, where many may be slaine.
And all within the Compasse of this Ring,
And yet not tidings to the Wearer bring.
Within the Ring wise Counsellors may sit,
And yet the Eare not one wise word may get.
There may be dancing all Night at a Ball,
And yet the Eare be not disturb'd at all.
There Rivals Duels fight, where some are slaine;
There Lovers mourne, yet heare them not complaine.
And Death may dig a Lovers Grave, thus were
A Lover dead, in a faire Ladies Eare.
But when the Ring is broke, the World is done,
Then Lovers they into Elysium run.

© 2010 W.W. Norton and Company :  Site Feedback  :  Help  :  Credits  :  Home  :  Top of page