Dogs of Love and War: Which Women?
Writing about web page http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=13574
In 'Quiver', Deryn Rees–Jones subverts Ovid’s story of Artemis and Actaeon in which Acateon is punished for looking at the goddess bathing. The scene of the chase and the hunting of Actaeon after he has been turned into a stag is one of suspense and tension in Metamorphoses. Ovid builds up tension by describing the dogs, their personalities and histories in intricate detail: ‘Pterelas, the swift runner, was there, and keen scented Agre, Hylaeus who had lately been gored by a wild boar, Nape, offspring of a wolf, Poemenis, the shepherd dog’. (79)
Rees–Jones subverts the description of the hounds by transforming them from a lineage of proud beasts to a lineage of feminist women. Here is the lineage of gynocracy figured as hounds or furies demanding justice for the endangered goddess:
[Ö] the stag ripped apart by the houndsÖ.
Those hounds! Imagined now as what?
An ever–changing line of mothers, daughters, long–lived women?
Antigone and Clytemnestra, Penelope and Joan.
The names might go on, being all things and nothing,
finding within themselves routes to becoming:
lovers of women, lovers of men. Names
trip off the tongue: Millicent, Sylvia,
Christabel, Emily, Angel Virginia, No–nonsense Simone,
Glorious Gloria, Unblushing Germaine;
Fierce Luce, Brave Julia, la belle Hélène.
They burn like a catechism, are worthy of praise.
Here’s hound Catherine, now, with her crown of thorns,
Little Saint Bride with her cow print jacket,
Agnes the Borzoi, the Windhound Poor Clare.
Here’s Sappho, Felicia, Aphra, Christina,
so many Elizabeths they can’t all be named. (33.109, 114 – 130)
The question is who are the women? Here is what I have worked out. If you can add anything, please do.
From Ancient Greek mythology and literature.
Virginia (Woolf, who wrote of ‘the Angel in the House’)
Simone (de Beauvoir).
Joan (of Arc),
Millicent (Fawcett who founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage in 1897)
Sylvia, Christabel and Emeline (Pankhurst)
Anne Catherine Emmerick (a stigmatist at the turn of the eighteenth century who was offered a crown of thorns in a dream),
Saint Birgitta (known as Saint Bride),
Jeanne de Jussie (who wrote The Short Chronicle: A Poor Clare's Account of the Reformation of Geneva in the fifteenth century).
But I'm still not sure about Agnes…? A Borzoi is a kind of Russian hound, I think. Is there a Russian Agnes?
I think that the list teeters on the Elizabeths who cannot be named. The Elizabeths mentioned could be any number of acclaimed women (any ideas?), but I think that one exists at the heart of the list, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I will be writing something on thsi shortly – the influence of the Victorian poetess etc.