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ELIZABETH'S WAR WITH THE CHRISTMAS BEAR: 1601, by                 Poet's Biography

"Elizabeth's War with the Christmas Bear: 1601" is a poem by Norman Dubie. It was first published in 1981 in his collection "The Volcano." The poem takes place during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and features a fictionalized account of a Christmas celebration in the royal court.


The poem begins with a description of the Christmas festivities taking place at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. There is a bear who has been brought in for the entertainment of the guests, but the bear is not behaving as expected. Instead of being docile, it is attacking the guests and causing chaos. The queen is determined to maintain order and control, even in the face of this unexpected disruption.

As the poem progresses, the queen becomes more and more involved in the conflict with the bear. She initially sends in her guards to deal with the situation, but when they are unable to subdue the bear, she takes matters into her own hands. Elizabeth draws her sword and engages in battle with the bear, ultimately defeating it and restoring order to the court.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: The poem is written in free verse and consists of seven stanzas.
  • Imagery: The poem uses vivid imagery to bring to life the chaos of the Christmas celebration and the battle between Elizabeth and the bear.
  • Symbolism: The bear can be seen as a symbol of the forces of chaos and disorder that threaten the stability of the kingdom, while Elizabeth's victory over the bear represents her ability to maintain control and order.
  • Allusion: The poem makes reference to Queen Elizabeth I and the historical context of her reign, as well as the traditions of Christmas celebrations in Renaissance England.


"Elizabeth's War with the Christmas Bear: 1601" is a compelling poem that uses vivid imagery and powerful symbolism to explore themes of power, control, and order. By depicting Queen Elizabeth I as a skilled warrior who is able to defeat even the most unpredictable and dangerous threats, the poem celebrates her strength and leadership during a tumultuous time in English history.

Poem Snippet:

The queen with her blade

cut the bear from nape to waist

to the scattered applause of her guests.

The dying bear sang like a madman

and would not die.

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