Isabella Whitney, author of ‘A Sweet Nosegay’ is well known for being one of the first woman to have published secular poetry. To be secular means that one does not believe in supernatural beings, one does not engage in religious behavior and one does not identify with religion. Secular poetry in Whitney’s time was rare especially for women. During the period in which Whitney’s poem was published was known as the Renaissance Period. A period of the arts one would say. Isabella was infatuated with flowers. So, obsessed that she ended up naming her second publication “A Sweet Nosegay”. I believe the usage of this title was just a tactical move to gain the hearts of women readers. So, what was so sweet? Let’s take a closer look.
A title is usually used to set the reader up for what’s to come. It can be used to confuse the reader, draw the reader in or be an indication of how the author feels. When reading the title, I looked up the meaning of “nosegay”. Nosegay isn’t a typical word used in the American English dictionary. The term derives from the fifteenth century, in England. It is a combination of the words nose and gay, with gay in the latter meaning ornament. Typically, nosegay was thought to be an arrangement of flowers that appealed to the nose.
Because of the title I decided to see how often she used the terms “sweet and flower”.
In the above illustration it demonstrates how often the term flower was used about 40 times. When comparing it from the beginning of the piece to the end of it, you can see that it was used more towards the beginning of the piece and none towards the end.
The term sweet was used a total of four times. As you can see its highest peak was also more toward the beginning as oppose to the end.
When comparing the usage of the two words it appears the two words appeared together very little to none. In number 40 she wrote “The smelling Flowers of an Arbor Sweet”. Arbor Sweet is the name of a flower that is sweet but is does not indicate just how sweet Whitney thought it to be. In number one she wrote “The 1 Flower…such friends are as have been absent long more joyful be at meeting…”. She was referring to her friends as flowers here but the indication of her group of friends being sweet when finally getting together was lacking. I then fast forwarded. I wanted to know why it was used more at the beginning than at the end.
I believe that it was used to lure a specific type of audience in. Once captured she felt the need to no longer use the terms because we were already here.
Being a woman author in those times was very difficult. Can you imagine gaining the hearts of men?
Once she got us hooked she changed direction. She utilized the sense of smell with women to initially draw us in and then went on to discussing how she was not in a great financial position. So, to answer my own question. It just wasn’t so sweet after all.