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The Critick and the Writer of Fables

Anne Kingsmill Finch 1661 – 1720 (Westminster)



Weary, at last, of the Pindarick way,
Thro' which advent'rously the Muse wou'd stray;
To Fable I descend with soft Delight,
Pleas'd to Translate, or easily Endite:
Whilst aery Fictions hastily repair
To fill my Page, and rid my Thoughts of Care,
As they to Birds and Beasts new Gifts impart,
And Teach, as Poets shou'd, whilst they Divert.

But here, the Critick bids me check this Vein.
Fable, he crys, tho' grown th' affected Strain,
But dies, as it was born, without Regard or Pain.
Whilst of his Aim the lazy Trifler fails,
Who seeks to purchase Fame by childish Tales.

Then, let my Verse, once more attempt the Skies,
The easily persuaded Poet cries,
Since meaner Works you Men of Taste despise.
The Walls of Troy shall be our loftier Stage,
Our mighty Theme the fierce Achilles Rage.
The Strength of Hector, and Ulysses Arts
Shall boast such Language, to adorn their Parts,
As neither Hobbes, nor Chapman cou'd bestow,
Or did from Congreve, or from Dryden flow.
Amidst her Towers, the dedicated Horse
Shall be receiv'd, big with destructive Force;
Till Men shall say, when Flames have brought her down.
" Troy is no more, and Ilium was a Town.

Is this the way to please the Men of Taste,
The Interrupter cries, this old Bombast?
I'm sick of Troy, and in as great a Fright,
When some dull Pedant wou'd her Wars recite,
As was soft Paris, when compell'd to Fight.

To Shades and Springs shall we awhile repair,
The Muse demands, and in that milder Air
Describe some gentle Swain's unhappy Smart
Whose folded Arms still press upon his Heart,
And deeper drive the too far enter'd Dart?
Whilst Phillis with a careless pleasure reigns
The Joy, the Grief, the Envy of the Plains;
Heightens the Beauty of the verdant Woods,
And softens all the Murmurs of the Floods.

Oh! stun me not with these insipid Dreams,
Th' Eternal Hush, the Lullaby of Streams.
Which still, he cries, their even Measures keep,
Till both the Writers, and the Readers sleep.
But urge thy Pen, if thou wouldst move our Thoughts,
To shew us private, or the publick Faults.
Display the Times, High-Church or Low provoke;
We'll praise the Weapon, as we like the Stroke,
And warmly sympathizing with the Spite
Apply to Thousands, what of One you write.

Then, must that single Stream the Town supply,
The harmless Fable-writer do's reply,
And all the Rest of Helicon be dry ?
And when so many choice Productions swarm,
Must only Satire keep your Fancies warm?

Whilst even there, you praise with such Reserve,
As if you'd in the midst of Plenty starve,
Tho' ne'er so liberally we Authors carve.

Happy the Men, whom we divert with Ease,
Whom Opera's and Panegyricks please.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:24 min read
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Anne Kingsmill Finch

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (née Kingsmill), was an English poet and courtier. Finch's works often express a desire for respect as a female poet, lamenting her difficult position as a woman in the literary establishment and the court, while writing of "political ideology, religious orientation, and aesthetic sensibility". Her works also allude to other female authors of the time, such as Aphra Behn and Katherine Phillips. Through her commentary on the mental and spiritual equality of the genders and the importance of women fulfilling their potential as a moral duty to themselves and to society, she is regarded as one of the integral female poets of the Restoration Era. Finch died in Westminster in 1720 and was buried at her home at Eastwell, Kent.  more…

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