‘Rosalind’s Madrigal’ by Thomas Lodge is a five stanza poem told from the perspective of the main character of an Elizabethan play. The name, Rosalind, refers to the play, “Rosalind,” in which a woman is struck by the pains of love, while the word “madrigal” is a reference to a form of a song from the Renaissance.
The poem follows a rhyming pattern of ababccccd. The repetition of the ‘c’ rhyme is not as strong in the first stanza as it is in the second, third, and fourth. The poet is making use of both half (or slant) and full rhymes.
The poem begins with the speaker stating that she has within her a bee that feasts on the love she feels. It and the love are really one in the same and it never leaves her side. It is there while she is sleeping and awake.
The speaker considers for a time whether or not to rid herself of love, but by the end of the poem, she’s come to the conclusion that she must accept how she feels. The anguish is a necessary part of being in love.
Analysis of Rosalind’s Madrigal
Love in my bosom like a bee
Doth suck his sweet;
Now with his wings he plays with me,
Now with his feet.
Within mine eyes he makes his nest,
His bed amidst my tender breast;
My kisses are his daily feast,
And yet he robs me of my rest.
Ah, wanton, will ye?
The speaker begins this piece by comparing the love that she feels in her “bosom” to that of the movements of a bee. There is a very interesting juxtaposition in these first stanzas between the overlooked life of a bee, and the way the speaker is relating those same actions to the immense feelings of love she is experiencing. The poet has chosen this small insect to represent something very large.
In the first lines, the speaker describes the bee as residing within her chest. This is the area from which all of her emotions stem and is, therefore, the proper place for all of the actions of the bees to emanate. The bee is “suck[ing] his sweet.” It is taking advantage of the love the speaker feels and collecting it as it would nectar.
The speaker also describes how the bee is flying around inside her chest. The movement of the bee’s wings and feet are being related to the nervous and excited beating of the speaker’s heart. It is being used as a metaphor to emphasize how out of control the speaker feels when she is in love. It is as if there is another force inside of her commanding her feelings.
In the second half of the first stanza, the bee is making a “nest” within the speaker’s eyes and his bed within her heart. He is filling the entirety of the narrator’s body. The stanza concludes with the speaker stating how all of these actions the bee is taking is keeping her from being able to get any rest. She is unable to sleep or properly think because she is in love.
The end line exclamation of this stanza denounces how the bee is behaving, and perhaps defines how the speaker wants to behave. He is acting “wanton[ly],” meaning promiscuously or playfully.
And if I sleep, then percheth he
With pretty flight,
And makes his pillow of my knee
The livelong night.
Strike I my lute, he tunes the string;
He music plays if so I sing;
He lends me every lovely thing;
Yet cruel he my heart doth sting.
Whist, wanton, still ye!
In the second stanza, the speaker continues the bee metaphor to describe how if she does get to sleep, then the bee immediately comes to disturb her again. It perches, or ”percheth” on her knees all throughout the night, reminding her of all the feeling which consume her while she is awake.
In the following lines, she moves on to another element of her life which is consumed by love and personified as the bee. Whenever the speaker “Strikes [her] lute,” or plays music, it is the bee and the emotions she represents which come through. The bee is the one who “tunes the string.” He is the one who plays the music “if so I sing.”
Love is directing all aspects of this speaker’s life, a fact which is further shown when she states that the bee, or love, “lends” the narrator “ever lovely thing.” She is being controlled in the most positive of ways. The only negative being that her heart hurts from the love she feels.
The end line exclamation of this section works in the same way as the one which proceeded it. The speaker is still dealing with her emotions and the way the bee/love, makes her feel.
Else I with roses every day
Will whip you hence,
And bind you, when you long to play,
For your offense.
I’ll shut mine eyes to keep you in,
I’ll make you fast it for your sin,
I’ll count your power not worth a pin.
Alas! what hereby shall I win
If he gainsay me?
In the second half of the poem, the speaker considers what her best course of action is now. Should she attempt to rid herself of the bee and the love it represents? Or should she make peace with the way she feels?
She experiments with the idea that she could “whip” the bee with “roses every day.” This is a violent act tempered by beauty. Even in her annoyance over her emotions, she cannot be completely cruel. She also considers binding the bee where it longs to “play.” She could shut her eyes and “keep” the bee in. If this happens, the bee will be deprived of its food source. It will be on a “fast” for its “sin.”
The speaker wants to feel as if she has some control over the situation when she does not. In the final lines, she questions her reasoning. She wonders what she would even gain from ignoring the bee.
What if I beat the wanton boy
With many a rod?
He will repay me with annoy,
Because a god.
Then sit thou safely on my knee,
And let thy bower my bosom be;
Lurk in mine eyes, I like of thee.
O Cupid, so thou pity me,
Spare not, but play thee!
In the first half of the fifth stanza, the speaker continues to contemplate what it would mean to forsake the bee and love. The poet makes use of another metaphor in these lines to describe what the speaker thinks would happen if she did give up, or get rid of, the love she feels.
If she “beat the wanton boy,” meaning, if she punished the bee for the way it has made her feel, what good will come of it? It will only make the boy “repay [her] with annoy, / Because a god.” The boy will only feel betrayed, angry, and needful of revenge. The torrents of emotion the bee is representing will increase in response to the speaker’s beating.
In the last lines of the poem, the speaker brings up the alternative, knowing that she could never forsake her love. She tells the bee he is welcome to make his “bower,” or home, on “[her] bosom,” as well as “lurk” in her eyes. She realizes she is happy to have the bee remain close to her. In the final lines, she states that she wants “Cupid” to pity her, but not spare her. She wants the suffering which goes along with love.