The Shadow Casts a Body: Racial Dialogue in Two Neo-Latin Lyrics Attributed to George Herbert"

Abstract:

This essay offers a new reading of a secular poem by George Herbert, a black woman's erotic complaint to a white beloved, entitled "Æthiopissa ambit Cestum Diuersi Coloris Virum," and a hitherto unknown response lyric, "Cesti ad Æthiopissam responsio" attributed to Herbert in a non-autograph commonplace book. Placing the poems within related rhetorical and ethnological contexts through a close analysis of their dialogue, I show that their interlocking structures exemplify humanist argumentation in utramque partem. The poetics of fashioning an argument "in each part," a feature of early modern manuscript culture of poetic response more broadly, indicates an interaction between the performance of rhetorical adroitness and the development of a manipulable ethnology that presages the emergence of racialism.