The language of arboreal metamorphosis in Lady Mary Wroth’s pastoral song “The Spring Now Come att Last” from Pamphilia to Amphilanthus (1621) may invoke the myth of Apollo and Daphne. However, the Ovidian narrative so central to Petrarchan poetics celebrates the male poet by erasing the female voice. This essay instead explores parallels between Wroth’s poem and the metamorphosis of the Heliades, who turn into poplars while mourning their brother Phaeton in book 2 of the Metamorphoses. Their transformation is predicated on an act of female speech, however precarious and evanescent. This alternative Ovidian scenario offers a model of lyric that capitalizes on the brief resonance that the female voice acquires at the point of vanishing. By deploying it in her song, Wroth not only rewrites Petrarch through Ovid in order to articulate a gendered lyric voice but shows herself a poet attuned to the crucial developments in English lyric of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in particular the complex relationship between the Petrarchan and the Ovidian legacies.

You do not currently have access to this content.