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‘Emma’s Attitudes’

“She is better than anything in Nature. In her particular way she is finer

than anything that is to be found in antique art.”

Sir William Hamilton


Nursemaid, barmaid, perched on the Flintshire front stoop,

Dancing at the Temple of Health and Hymen;
atop Sir Harry’s table, deliciously displayed

John Graham, Willett Payne, Sir Harry, Charlie –
all swine who visited Aeaea before Odysseus docked

Soon-to-be Lady, landing in Naples, a gift
between men. Inspired, she writes her own sequel

St Cecilia
Married to her collector, the old knight holds the light:
she performs – picture to picture – perfectly framed

A danger, still, to be a woman too close to power –
her friend, the Queen of Naples, whose sister is Queen of France

Impatient, she awaits her very English Argonaut,
be-Nelsoned in blue with gold anchors everywhere

Strutting through Europe, fresh from the Nile,
both Caesar and Antony in tow, tria juncta in uno

Strewn in may-flowers, nursing a daughter,
nestled in the brief, late-blooming, spring

A deathbed: she and her lover, holding fast
to a fading husband

The Spinstress
Content at Paradise Merton, Horatia present;
in Horatio’s absence, 50 letters from the Victory

The legislature, enacting annuity for their hero’s heirs,
make no provision for collateral relations

Careless in grief and anger, an easy mark,
wretched in King’s Bench Prison

Repenting, some, as all debtors must,
extolling her daughter improve her time

Anna Amo is a sometime-poet, sometime-lawyer from Bath. She enjoys taking poetry courses and writing to prompts.

“This poem was written as part of the Retrospectives: Four Billion Years of Inspiration course. The assignment was to write a poem in response to a factual detail or piece of anecdotal evidence from the past. A friend happened to mention on Twitter a detail about Emma Hamilton’s ménage à trois with Nelson and her husband and I spent the rest of the weekend researching Emma’s life before writing this. I particularly loved the idea of marrying up her famous ‘attitudes’ with events in her life, to present pieces of her life-story in a way that reflected her own performances.”


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