Women Seen Through Poems
Published 06 Jul 2017
The poem entitled Lock of Berenice describes the behavior and attitude of ancient women as compared to the women emerging nowadays in the 20th century. Lock of Berenice examines the gender dynamics of the female characters in this poem. Their attitudes were given an emphasis that their extreme love for the opposite sex or their spouse may lead them into their own vulnerability and failure. In so doing, the poet would like to impart a message for women to be extra careful in their affairs so as not to regret their actions in the end. Moreover, the author of the poem discusses the danger for the impulsive kind of love among women. He implied that when women make use of their hearts and bodies more than their minds, it is more likely that they will get hurt and feel frustrated in the end so they should balance the three and live a happier life with less expectations and stronger ego with the sense of independence. It was also stressed that women should realize that true love is more than the need of bodily pleasure. It extends to the absence of the body, and it is more on loyalty, faith, hope, and trust beyond distance.
This paper focuses on analyzing the poem Lock of Berenice by Catallus, Lombardo, and Rayor. It seeks to examine the gender dynamics of the female characters in this poem and how these women are described to depict the attitudes and behavior of most women in reality during the ancient times and even at present. Readers are therefore expected to learn the characteristics of women in the past to understand why women display certain kinds of behavior today.
Gender Dynamics in the Poem
Lock of Berenice is a poem describing the behavior and attitude of ancient women. During the ancient times, women were known to be so submissive, dependent, and extremely faithful to their husbands up to the extent that they are willing to make sacrifices just to be with their loved ones and keep them around. Be it a queen or a peasant, women are known to stand by their loved one’s side no matter what it costs them (their life, virginity, even their selves). Women stand with conviction and struggle to maintain their pledge with their husbands in marriage upon believing their exchange of vows that nothing could put them apart, the vow otherwise known as “Till death to us part.” Relatively, with respect to the poem’s gender dynamics, the following was extracted from the poem: “This Conon has also observed in the velvet night sky, / yours truly, a lock of hair from Berenice’s head,/ glowing serenely, which she dedicated to All Goddesses,/ stretching out her slender arms in supplication,/ what time the king, her newlywed husband, sated and proud,/ sallied froth to annex Syria to his realm,/ displaying, I might add, on his royal person the marks,/ of the previous nigh’s struggle for virgin spoils.”
This stanza describes what Conon the astronomer observed from the constellation that represents and resembles the lock of hair that former Berenice offered in place of the assured safety of her husband’s travel going home.
Thus, this instance showed the dynamics and characteristics of women being strong with conviction, of being a fighter, and being sacrificial at best and aggressive or impulsive at worst for those whom they love. In addition, it was showed in the poem that Berenice was willing to go up to the extent of sacrificing and offering herself to the gods in place of her husband’s safe trip.
Importance in Understanding Ancient Women
In this poem, the attitudes of women were given an emphasis that their extreme love for the opposite sex or their spouse may lead them into their own vulnerability and failure. In so doing, the poet would like to impart a message for the women to be extra careful in their affairs so as not to regret their actions in the end: “So this is my plea: You virgins blessed by the bridal torch, / before offering your bodies to your ardent husbands, / before you even pull off your dress to bare your nipples, / offer me some ointment from your onyx jar- / but only if you’re devoted to what a chaste bed allows.”
Lock of Berenice is a poem which describes the attitudes and behavior of women in the ancient times and even at present. As women were depicted in the poem, when in love, they are shown to have the tendency for aggression and impulsiveness at worst. Women at their best on the other hand, could sacrifice everything just to fight for their love and be with their loved ones for the rest of their lives. Moreover, the author of the poem discusses the danger for the impulsive kind of love among women. The author implied that when women makes use of their hearts and bodies more than their minds, it is more likely that they will get hurt and feel frustrated in the end. Further, it was also stressed that women should realize that true love is more than the need of bodily pleasure. Therefore, true love in this poem means extending to the shallow meaning and significance of intimacy in relationships and implies the readiness to face the absence of the body mechanisms. In Lock of Berenice, the author relayed the message by putting together some of the women characters who showed that real love is more on loyalty, faith, hope, and trust beyond distance rather than concentrating on personal satisfaction and impulses.
- Fantham, E., Foley, H.P., Kampen, N. B., Poeroy, S. B., & Shapiro, H. A. (1988). Lock of
- Berenice. Women in the Classical World (pp. 1-93). New York: Oxford University Press.