Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea


Appollo as lately a Circuit he made,
Throo' the lands of the Muses when Kent he survey'd,
And saw there that Poets were not very common,
But most that pretended to Verse, were the Women
Resolv'd to encourage, the few that he found,
And she that writT best, with a wreath should be crown'd.
A summons sent out, was obey'd but by four,
When Phebus, afflicted, to meet with no more,
And standing, where sadly, he now might descry,
From the banks of the Stoure the desolate Wye,
He lamented for Behn1 o're that place of her birth,
And said amongst Femens was not on the earth
Her superiour in fancy, in language, or witt,
Yett own'd that a little too loosly she writt,
Since the art of the Muse is to stirr up soft thoughts,
Yett to make all hearts beat, without blushes, or faults,
But now to proceed, and their merritts to know,
Before he on any, the Bay's wou'd bestow,
He order'd them each in their several way,
To show him their papers, to sing, or to say,
What 'ere they thought best, their pretention's might prove,
When Alinda,2 began, with a song upon Love.
So easy the Verse, yett compos'd with such art,
That not one expression fell short of the heart;
Apollo himself, did their influence obey,
He catch'd up his Lyre, and a part he wou'd play,
Declaring, no harmony else, cou'd be found,
Fit to wait upon words, of so moving a sound.
The Wreath, he reach'd out, to have plac'd on her head,
If Laura3 not quickly a paper had read,
Wherein She Orinda4 has praised so high,
He own'd itt had reach'd him, while yett in the sky,
That he thought with himself, when itt first struck his ear,
Who e're could write that, ought the Laurel to wear.
Betwixt them he stood, in a musing suspence,
Till Valeria5 withdrew him a little from thence,
And told him, as soon as she'd gott him aside,
Her works, by no other, but him shou'd be try'd;
Which so often he read, and with still new delight,
That Iudgment t'was thought wou'd not passe till twas 'night;
Yet at length, he restor'd them, but told her withall
If she kept itt still close, he'd the Talent recall.
Ardelia, came last as expecting least praise,
Who writt for her pleasure and not for the Bays,
But yett, as occasion, or fancy should sway,
Wou'd sometimes endeavour to passe a dull day,
In composing a song, or a Scene of a Play
Not seeking for Fame, which so little does last,
That e're we can taste itt, the Pleasure is Past.
But Appollo reply'd, tho' so carelesse she seemd,
Yett the Bays, if her share, wou'd be highly esteem'd.

And now, he was going to make an Oration,
Had thrown by one lock, with a delicate fassion,
Upon the left foot, most genteely did stand,
Had drawn back the other, and wav'd his white hand,
When calling to mind, how the Prize alltho' given
By Paris, to her, who was fairest in Heaven,
Had pull'd on the rash, inconsiderate Boy,
The fall of his House, with the ruine of Troy,
Since in Witt, or in Beauty, itt never was heard,
One female cou'd yield t' have another preferr'd,
He changed his dessign, and devided his praise,
And said that they all had a right to the Bay's,
And that t'were injustice, one brow to adorn,
With a wreath, which so fittly by each might be worn.
Then smil'd to himself, and applauded his art,
Who thus nicely has acted so suttle a part,
Four Women to wheedle, but found 'em too many,
For who wou'd please all, can never please any.
In vain then, he thought itt, there longer to stay,
But told them, he now must go drive on the day,
Yett the case to Parnassus, shou'd soon be referr'd,
And there in a councill of Muses, be heard,
Who of their own sex, best the title might try,
Since no man upon earth, nor Himself in the sky,
Wou'd be so imprudent, so dull, or so blind,
To loose three parts in four from amongst woman kind.

[AJ Notes:
  1. Behn, "The Illustrious" Aphra Behn
  2. Alinda, identity uncertain. Also in "Ardelia's Answer to Ephelia."
  3. Laura. Ellen Moody thinks she may be a Mrs. Randolph.
  4. Orinda, pseudonym of Katherine Philips,"The Matchless Orinda."
  5. Valeria, one of the pen names of Mary Astell.]








The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchilsea.
Myra Reynolds, ed.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1903. 92-4.

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