Feminine Gospels Motherhood


The Long Queen

Theme: Motherhood

This poem talks about references to Elizabeth 1st, how defied the patriachy and her rule as Queen. Duffy may idolise her as an idependment determined woman who was worthy of being in the 'Gospels' collection.

Stanza 1

This stanza lists all possible suitors the long queen turned down. Unlike other women in the Tudor era she defies expectations of marrying and producing an heir to the Tudor throne.

" second son of the earl, the foreign prince, the heir to the duke, the lord, the barnoet, the count, then taken Time for a husband. Long live the Queen". This listing suggests she explored her sexuality with these men and may have been promiscous therefore non - conforming to her societal expectations. 

Stanza 2&3

All suggest spritual womanhood and community of women through the listing of types of women or discrimatory terms "witches and hags" however both long queen and duffy celebrate them. 

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The Long Queen

Stanza 4

Paints the long queen as a loving and nuturing understanding the struggles women grow through and under the long queens "eye" she nutures and supports these women which is unconventional in that possible time era. Can paint her like a feminist.

Stanza 5

Speaks of the struggle all girls go through at a young age (menstrual cycle). Which is so normalised in society it is "insignificant" to society whereas other women and the long queen understand this struggle and pain. As women are expected to be silent when dealing with periods "no cause for complaint" to which she " counts their sorrow". This is stated after speaking of "law change" which suggests menopause which inevitably can cause depression in women as in the eyes of a Tudor or modern day society they are no longer useful as no longer able to reproduce.

Elements of the moon, sisterhood through the "linked to the moon". Suggests women are connected through this phase of life no matter the circumstances they are in or different way of life.

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The Long Queen

Stana 6

Links to another role women face: "Childbirth" "all who were taught to swear that the pain was worth it". This depicts the struggles of childbirth and raising a child as it so expected of women again they are expected to stay silent on the issue and just perform as expected with no complaints however the offspring "honour the queen" which suggests she supports and understands the silent struggle women face in childbirth and all its elements.

The last stanza

Depicts a sense of tribe through " the drums of women" which again suggests community and sisterhood among all women as they all face the same struggle with the Long Queen being the "eyes" and like a leader to these women who they can confide in.

The Long Queen has elements of pain through "blood, red, bled, pain and bones". These struggles depict the way of life for a woman. However, this poem can romanticize the idea of womens roles only to be feminine such as childbirth etc. But the Long Queen defies this through the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and her sexual freedom. 

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The Long Queen


Depicts a sense of woman hood and struggle all women face whilst expecting to be silent whereas the Long Queen defies this and offers the women a community through her spiritual understanding.

The life of a woman is presented in four roles: childhood, blood, tears childbirth. (Societal Conventions)

A societal judgement of women who have no children are expected to be miserable is reflected through "the cold weight of the crown" as it is believed all a females joy comes from is offspring.

Lastly, the queen is presented as queen of all women through her materal and nature.

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The Light Gatherer

Theme: Motherhood

The Light Gatherer 

Suggests happiness comes from having children, Duffy may be speaking from her own experience here (autobiographical) which is seen in her other poems such as Laughter at Staffordshire Girls High.

This poem symbolises all that is pure in having children and creates a fairytale image of motherhood through the themes of nature and essentially the title which suggests her daughter symbolises life or women symbolise life through bringing children into the world.

Key Features:Cosmic references and natural imagery and the joy of having children.

The last stanza of this poem turns the tone dark and suggests women are kept in the dark about childbirth/coventional roles associated with having children "jewelled cave" in which opens out at the end of the "tunnel of years". This suggests society silences the issue of childbirth and women but would rather romanticise and glamourise it "jewelled" through media and expectations etc rather than speak of the other side to having children which suggests hardships and struggles women face.

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The Light Gatherer

Stanza Summaries and meanings

1: "enough light to begin": light from her childs palms symbolise life: Biblical/Jesus

2: "light gathered in you", "clear raindrops in your eyes": Suggests elements of nature and life (water and her daughter harnessing life to grow).

3. "Your kissed feet": suggests Duffy idolises her daughter and references her to Jesus again and kissing a babies feet suggests love and nuturing nature.

4: "glittered like a river": when her daughter begins to speak she is still harnessing light and with the intelligence at which fish automatically knows to swim "clever with fish", intelligence comes natural to her daughter.

5&6: "moon" "night" fallen "star". This suggets Duffy is speaking of space where theories suggest life was created or where God resides and calls her child a fallen star which has biblical connotations of being an angel or fairytales. Suggests her daughter as she grows and sleeps is the embodiment of life and symbolises its creation. 

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The Light Gatherer

Stanza summaries and meanings 

8&7: "you shine like a snowgirl", "like a jewelled cave", "tunnel of years": Shining like a snow girl suggests the daughter has finally grown up and become a woman possibly a saint as she is depicted as biblical throughout the other stanzas. Whereas jewelled cave has darker connotations of women being left in the dark by society in relation to childbirth as it would rather ignore the hardships inwhich this poem does effectively by painting motherhood through the rose tinted glasses of a woman who is infatuated by her love for her daughter. As she is blinded by her love, society plays on this and romanticises the idea of motherhood.A tunnel of years suggests death and finally seeing the light at the end of a tunnel which may have biblical references but also suggests the cycle of life/light will begin again in which her daughter harnessed in the first place she leaves this light in the tunnel for another child to harness and bring light to another mother. Suggests life has evolved but this abrupt ending may symbolise the child leaving home and leaving the mother with no more purpose in the eyes of society therefore it may not mean actual death as already inferred but the death of a womans purpose which essentially Duffy is critiquing through this abrupt ending in contrast to the 'lovely' and free flowing poem which is enchanced through continous use of commas at the end of every stanza. 

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The Cord

Theme: Motherhood


This poem speaks of a journey of a child in order to find the origin of her birth and cord which brought life to her. The Cord is a generic term which all can relate and connect to. Therefore through this poem there is a connection built between all women and children through the third person narrative.

It can be suggested (for Ella) this poem is Duffy describing her own daughters experience through being born into a lesbian relationship essentially the search for the cord may be the search for to know who her father is as she will be curious by nature.

1: Refers to the burying of the cord under a tree in the "heart of the great forest" this suggests the cord is the key to growing new trees and supporting new life as in the womb it supports the life of a baby. Whereas the great forest may be a reference to society as this is where all life thrives or its linking women as a whole which links to the long queen as through using the cord as the root for the tree (tree of life) all life is born from this including women. 

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The Cord

2: Linking to the Light Gatherer (and the diet) and the idea of romanticising birth/nature/motherhood this stanza refers to the popular fairytale 'sleeping beauty' as the young girl ponders the reality of the cord "was it real" and suggests its fragileness through what it "looked like" and creating it on a "spinning wheel". This Narrative story links to fairytales and follows the same inquistitive nature of fairytales. This links to the Map woman as this girl is only thinking of the source of her identity whereas the map woman her past. The spinning wheel suggests her creation was pure and fragile showing Duffy upholds her daughter highly and life.

3: "if the cord was made of rope": looking for a physical thing to her but it has made a universal connection to everybody.

4: This stanza is referring to her daughter possibly finding herself and having experience of a young woman in which is described as "black unreadable books" once she finds herself away from home which depicts the reality young women face in society such as pressure from the media, societal expectations and men. (the diet, the woman who shopped).

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The Cord

5: "not a breath or a word gave her a hint where she should go to hunt for the cord. She went deeper".  This suggests women are not taught how to be a parent or mother when they are pregnant or younger it is just a societal expectation that naturally they should be experts at the nurturing and caring for a child when in reality isnt the truth therefore Duffy may be sharing the lack of knowlege and inexperience she faced being a first time mother with no guidance from anyone. As society prefers to romanticise pregnancy etc. 

6: "into the forest, following a bird": here she is simply going into society and going in blind. "which disappeared, a waving hand; shadows blurred into one huge darkness, but the stars were her mothers eyes and the screech of an owl in the tree above was the sound of a baby's cry". This suggests she is saying goodbye to childhood now and her search for the cord which may suggest as we grow older we loose sense of life and whats important. This is ironic as in a fairytale there is a happening ending whereas this ending seems much more realistic. The baby symbolises the circle of life and the cycle in which its her turn to have a baby now which links to the the woman who shopped as like her she has obessessed over one element her entire life to the point where she becomes it without knowing but this poem is lighter as she becomes the cord and bringer of life which is symbolised through the babies cry. 

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amazing !!!



very good! 10/10 



Love it!

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