The Physics of Melting in Early Modern Love Poetry

Andrea Brady


Melting is a familiar trope in early modern erotic poetry, where it can signify the desire to transform the beloved from icy chastity through the warmth of the lover’s passion. However, this Petrarchan convention can be defamiliarised by thinking about the experiences of freezing and melting in this period. Examining melting in the discourses of early modern meteorology, medicine, proverb, scientific experiments, and preservative technologies, as well as weather of the Little Ice Age and the exploration of frozen hinterlands, this essay shows that our understanding of seeming constants – whether they be the physical properties of water or the passions of love – can be modulated through attention to the specific histories of cognition and of embodiment. 


Renaissance; lyric; natural philosophy; melting; embodiment

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