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Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow
—Queen Elizabeth I
Her sex sent her mother
to the tower,
made her father profligate
with arrogant desires,
but she was made of flint
and backbone.
Think of a young girl
in a blue velvet bodice,
a white collar and lace,
the very prototype
of virginal.
Think of a woman, her court
enlivened by suitors and lovers
in doublets, in brocaded cloaks,
despite suspicions of their motives
staining the sheets,
the way cups of spicy,
flowery mead were sipped
despite the possibility
of poison.
Even the crown of the sun
must go down each night.
Could she have stood at the prow
of a ship in that great Armada she ordered,
instead of at a window, waiting
for urgent results?
Could she have guessed that the words
of a man she inspired, carved
into the marble of ages,
had a muscular beauty
more than equal
to her own worldly triumphs?
Daughter, Queen, Ruler
of roiling seas, of meandering
rivers and meadows,
of armies of soldiers, their swords
and armor glittering
like planets to her sun.
Namesake to an age.
And Poet?
When she turned
to the empty parchment
(or once to a windowpane,
a diamond for quill)
must have gone quiet.
Even a queen is naked
before the naked page, awaiting
not the generous spoils owed to a victor
but the gifts freely given
of a besotted muse.

© Linda Pastan