Archive for February 5th, 2021

Friday, 5 February 2021

Challenge (to M.D.) by Maria Tesselschade Roemers Visscher

Though stripped of armor, still I have the courage and belief
To throw the gauntlet at the thief
Who, with seeming virtue, my arms from me extorted,
Which willingly I would have him accorded
And granted him, and had I the secret to him disclosed
So he would to honor’d glory be exposed.
But how! a captain, how! a Christian—leader—and grandee,
Does he not return borrowed property,
Naively loaned, which he obtained with flattering implorations
Much like Delilah’s provocations?
Know that my powers don’t rely on gentle coaxing of the ears,
But on the sting of slender spears;
I bend those to my ways; and thus do I take my retaliation
Rather than with wheedling speech make supplication;
And so I declare war on him who ruptures halcyon days,
Who acts not according to what he says.
By etching steel that can cut crystal’s edge,
Can break glass goblets, I do take this pledge:
That you’ll give back to me what you from me did plunder,
Ce qui n’est point mon Coeur2.

1. Tesselschade wrote this playful letter to a captain (a certain M.D.) who, in the course of a flirtation, filched from her some intimate possession, perhaps a brooch. She plays with the imagery of the duel: the captain took her “armor,” she can fight back with “steel.” The reference here is to the steel needle used in the art of glass engraving, for which Tesselschade was famour. In this declaration of “war” she demands that the brooch be returned to her and insists that, in any case, it is not an emblem of her heart. Thus she delicately points out—in French—that she is not in love with the gentleman.
2. Which is not my heart.

From: Meijer, Maaike; Eijsker, Erica; Peypers, Ankie; and Prins, Yopie (eds.), Dutch and Flemish Feminist Poems From the Middle Ages to the Present: A Bilingual Anthology, 1998, The Feminist Press at the City University: New York, pp. 57-59.

Date: c1620 (original in Dutch); 1997 (translation in English)

By: Maria Tesselschade Roemers Visscher (1594-1649)

Translated by: Marjolijn de Jager (1936- )