Bracket and voice: Drummond of Hawthornden’s lunular poetics
Taking the proliferation of brackets in his Petrarchan verse as its starting point, this essay argues for a reevaluation of William Drummond of Hawthornden’s poetic voice. While even his admirers have tended to characterise his sonnets as operating at a single high rhetorical pitch, Drummond’s deployment of lunulae and crotchets serves to complicate the voice that emerges both from individual poems and from the collection as a whole, establishing a ‘lunar’ counterpart to the sequence’s Apollonian magniloquence, a sottovoce that functions as a distinctive correlative of the Petrarchan locus amoenus. Moreover, in setting ear against eye and text against tongue, Drummond’s brackets also pose difficult questions regarding what it might mean to talk of the text’s ‘voice’ at all. Attending to how Drummond’s punctuation establishes a radical incommensurability of melic and opsic, while setting the readings that emerge within the context of recent scholarship on the role of the voice in early modern reading practices, also means reframing Drummond’s relationship to the Baroque. Rather than focusing on the extremes to which he takes the Petrarchan conceit, we start to see Drummond as belonging to the early seventeenth-century transnational Baroque associated by historians such as Peter Burke with a crisis of representation. This recontextualisation might ultimately point (this essay concludes) towards Petrarch’s own proto-Baroque tendencies.