What is the main theme of "When I Was Fair and Young" by Queen Elizabeth I?

The main theme of "When I was Fair and Young" is loss. The speaker, Queen Elizabeth I, has come to the sad realization that she has lost the opportunity she once had when she was young and pretty to be loved as a woman. Instead, she'll have to make do with the love of her subjects.

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Elizabeth I wasn't called "The Virgin Queen" for nothing. Despite rumors of romantic dalliances with various courtiers throughout her lengthy reign, she remained unmarried, which, at that time, was a very rare phenomenon among women—especially royal women, who were expected to get married and provide heirs.

If one accepts that...

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Elizabeth I wasn't called "The Virgin Queen" for nothing. Despite rumors of romantic dalliances with various courtiers throughout her lengthy reign, she remained unmarried, which, at that time, was a very rare phenomenon among women—especially royal women, who were expected to get married and provide heirs.

If one accepts that Elizabeth wrote the plaintive poem "When I was Fair and Young," it's clear that she deeply regretted having missed the opportunity to love and be loved as a woman. As she looks back on her younger days, the speaker reflects that she was fair—that is to say, beautiful. Note the past tense here. The queen has been forced to face the painful realization that she's no longer beautiful and will therefore no longer be loved as a woman rather than as a queen.

In her younger days, Elizabeth was an eligible young lady. She reflects,

Of many was I sought their mistress for to be.

Again, notice the past tense. The speaker is lamenting over her many losses: the loss of her good looks, the loss of her youth, the loss of handsome young men beating a path to her door. But she scorned all those men, which she now recognizes was a big mistake. It is truly astonishing to see such humility and self-awareness in a monarch, especially one so grand and regal as Elizabeth I.

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The main theme of "When I Was Fair and Young" is regret. The poem is often attributed to Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned for many years as the queen of England but never married or had children.

The poem begins by describing how beautiful the speaker was when they were young, and how they dismissed anyone who tried to approach them by saying, "Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more." This line ends every stanza of the poem.

The speaker then describes how much their rejection hurt those people, causing them to "weep" and "sigh." Despite all the grief the speaker causes, they continue to dismiss those who approach, saying, "Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more."

Then the speaker is struck full of love, personified by a vengeful Cupid. Cupid is the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Cupid causes the speaker to feel regret by "plucking" their "plumes," or taking away the things that the speaker was so proud of. Cupid says to the speaker, "Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more."

The poem ends with the speaker reflecting on how much they have changed since they were young. Now the speaker is so full of love that they cannot sleep, and they regret dismissing all of the people who were in love with them earlier. Specifically, the speaker regrets that they ever said, "Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more."

The repetition of the final line in each stanza highlights the regret the speaker feels. The line is initially said proudly by the speaker, then is claimed by Cupid, and finally is used to show how far the speaker has come from when they were younger.

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"When I Was Fair And Young" is a poem commonly attributed to Elizabeth I, but its authorship is questionable. It seems to reflect the queen's life as an unmarried woman, with its key themes being youth and beauty and the loss thereof because of pride. The speaker describes how "favour graced me" but she "did scorn" all her suitors. Because of her callous treatment of those who pursued her ("How many weeping eyes I made to pine in woe"), "Venus' son" declared his intention to "pluck [her] plumes." After this, the speaker feels regret at having turned away her suitors, because, we can infer, she is no longer young and beautiful and is not pursued by anyone, and is sorry that she did not take up any of the opportunities she was offered.

The theme of regret runs through the poem, with the moral being that beauty and youth do not last and should be treasured while they do.

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The main theme of this poem, which is said to have been written by Queen Elizabeth I of England, is that of beauty and the pride that often accompanies it. The speaker of this poem looks back on her life and remembers when she was "fair and young" and "graced" with beauty. As a result, she was the subject of much attention and many men sought to win her. However, she met their interest with pride and scorn, meeting their entreaties with the same dismissive refrain which ends each stanza:

Go, go, go, seek some otherwhere,
Importune me no more.

The word "Importune" emphasises the pride of the speaker, as it means to bother or pester. It shows the way the speaker viewed her suitors as nothing more than annoyances, dismissing them as being like flies or buzzing insects. She paid no mind to the "weeping hearts" and "sighing eyes" she caused, and it was only when Cupid took away her beauty that she realised her mistake and regretted her words:

And said, you dainty dame, since that you be so coy,
I will so pluck your plumes that you shall say no more
Go, go, go, seek some otherwhere,
Importune me no more.

After this, the speaker realises her mistake, but of course it is too late. The message of the poem clearly states that beauty should not lead to pride, as it is only temporary and will fade inevitably.

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