Category Archives: 17th C

May You Have Your Own Annus Mirabilis

When I contemplated what I could post at the top of the New Year, I remembered my January post from last year.  I’m reposting it below because it was all about Dryden’s poem Annus Mirabilis.  I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to herald in the New Year.  One of the more delightful parts of the post was a conversation I had, real time, with an anonymous commenter.  To this day, I don’t know who it was, but clearly it was a child who linked to me off the Irish Dance Magazine site (I might still have a link up on that site–I’ve no idea).  You’ll have to click on this link to read the conversation: The Female Quixote.  If you don’t want to make the effort, continue reading below.  Happy New Year!

Have you read Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis recently? I was thinking about it because, as I re-read the beginning of a slender Brother Lawrence volume (a book I’d received for Christmas), I noticed that the conversations recorded therein had been, well, conversed in the year of our Lord, 1666. What a marvelous year that was, truly. It must have seemed like a doomed year to Christians, with the apocalyptic 666, but thankfully it wasn’t yet the end of the world as we know it!

What occurred in 1666? I always think of this year as special since it was the birth year of Mary Astell, one of my historical soul mates. Thankfully, she didn’t live her early life in London, where the bubonic plague was rampant before being stopped in its tracks by the great fire that destroyed much of the city. In Dryden’s opinion, the fire was miraculous because a new and grand London was (would be) raised from its ashes. There are other events recorded in the poem, such as successful sea battles (successful for the Brits, anyway). Back to the fire, though, 1666 would have brought much good to Sir Christopher Wren, who was the architect responsible for rebuilding much of London after the fire. As for other scientists (Wren was a scientist as well as architect), Newton is said to have been beamed by his apple in 1666, as well. He developed many of his ideas during 1665 and 1666; these years were his creative hour, so to speak.

These are the events that come into my mind w/o making lengthy searches for others. As you can see, aside from Brother Lawrence, all of these marvelous events occurred in England. Would anybody like to add anything to my list? Perhaps there were amazing comets flying over the oceans, heralding God’s destruction of the known universe?

May 2010 be your Annus Mirabilis, yet not in the way it was for England, for heaven’s sake! Plagues and fires and battles at sea are all fantastic, but certainly not any fun to experience first hand. With that, I’ll leave you with some lines from Dryden’s poem.

295 More great than human now, and more august,
Now deified she from her fires does rise:
Her widening streets on new foundations trust,
And opening into larger parts she flies.
296 Before, she like some shepherdess did show,
Who sat to bathe her by a river's side;
Not answering to her fame, but rude and low,
Nor taught the beauteous arts of modern pride.
297 Now, like a maiden queen, she will behold,
From her high turrets, hourly suitors come;
The East with incense, and the West with gold,
Will stand, like suppliants, to receive her doom!
298 The silver Thames, her own domestic flood,
Shall bear her vessels like a sweeping train;
And often wind, as of his mistress proud,
With longing eyes to meet her face again.
(This section is taken from

Copper Rising

 My copper levels have been rising lately, and with it comes ire,  and emotions that change from moment to moment.  A person with such moodiness and splenetic irritability might have once been called mercurial, but I call it the Copper Personality.  Thankfully, my Copper Rising ways have little to do with Roman gods, but with heavy metal in the brain (I’m not sure ‘thankfully’ was the proper adverb).

As you will see in my profile, I love studying the British enlightenment.  Within this epoch, my favorite decades were those in the late 17th C and early 18th C.  I love the contrasts and the oppositions working side by side in the British people: at once rational and emotional, puritanical and dirty, Christian and pagan.  Yes, oddly, that last one is quite true.  Look at my favorite poet, for example: Alexander Pope.  He was a Catholic (another force of opposition, working in a Protestant society), yet his poetry was just as influenced by the Latin and Greek classics as any other learned man of his time.  And, in that, you will find another oddity; Pope was mostly self-taught due to the restrictions on Catholics in his day.  This is part of his mock heroic in The Rape of the Lock:

No common weapons in their hands are found, 
Like Gods they fight, nor dread a mortal wound. 
So when bold Homer makes the Gods engage,                       45 
And heav’nly breasts with human passions rage; 
‘Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms; 
And all Olympus rings with loud alarms: 
Jove’s thunder roars, heav’n trembles all around, 
Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound:               50 
Earth shakes her nodding tow’rs, the ground gives way. 
And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day! (copied from here)

See what I mean?  The battle of the sexes between British youths is likened to a battle between Roman and/or Greek deities.  The Greek god, Hermes, later became the Roman god, Mercury, who, after syncretism in British society, became a popular British god.  Roman influence on British society has literally lasted for century, and is evident in philosophical ideals as well as language.

So, when I sense that my copper is rising, I feel that I am a character out of Pope’s mock heroic, even though my mercurial nature has a scientific basis.  I am allergic to copper; it is my kryptonite.  The copper alloy in jewelry leaves me red and heated; beans and chocolate and avocados burn bright rashes on my skin.  And forget nutritional yeast, that coppery devil!  Before I realized I had trouble with copper, I used to sprinkle it in tomato juice or on top of soup for an energy boost.  After a while, one taste of it made me feel as if somebody had slammed me on the head with a sledge hammer.

By extension, zinc is my friend.  If I take zinc, my rashes disappear and my emotions even out.  And then I think I can get away with eating nuts and seeds and beans and chocolate and other high-copper foods.  And then my copper levels rise, and I’m a miserable wretch.  Although I’ve never consulted a doctor about taking zinc, it has literally been my lifesaver (and of my youngest child, but that is another story).  I’ve tried talking to doctors.  I really have.  They won’t listen.  They prescribe cortisone for the rashes and walk away.  On my last attempt with a doctor, I wouldn’t accept the cortisone and told her I wanted her to actually DO something–oh, you know, like a lab test for copper and zinc levels–and managed to get in a yelling match with her, in which she shouted at me, “There’s not a single test I can do that will tell me why you have those rashes.”

Don’t yell at a Mercurial, Copper Personality, Poet type.  Just don’t.  Trust me.  It’s not worth it.  I left her office that day and have never been back.  Nor will I ever visit a doctor again unless I am on my death bed, and my husband insists.