Only three late Middle English lyrics are explicitly attributed to women in the surviving manuscripts: a poem in praise of Venus by 'Queen Elizabeth', almost certainly Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV; a hymn to the Virgin attributed to 'a holy ankaresse of Maunsffeld'; and another hymn in praise of the Virgin by Eleanor Percy. Stylistically, each of these lyrics is highly accomplished and self-consciously literary, differing little from the elevated verse produced by professional male poets during this period. The form of Woodville's hymn to Venus is a complex elaboration of the sestina (a complicated continental verse form of six-line stanzas and an envoy); the anchoress's poem is an excellent imitation of Lydgate's fashionable aureate style; and Percy's prayer is a sophisticated macaronic poem, a poem that mixes two languages, each Middle English stanza ending with a Latin line which rhymes with that of the previous stanza. It may be that the ability of these women to produce lyrics so similar to those by the period's celebrated male poets led to their being credited with authorship. But if these women did gain some measure of recognition because of their ability to write like men, it is nonetheless interesting that, in all three cases, the subject matter is the praise of a powerful female figure.
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