IMPROMPTU TO LADY WINCHILSEA.|
Occasioned by Four Satyrical Verses on Women-Wits,
in the Rape of the Lock
In vain you boast Poetic Names of yore,|
And cite those Sapphos we admire no more:
Fate doom'd the Fall of ev'ry Female Wit;
But doom'd it then when first Ardelia writ.
Of all Examples by the World confess'd,
I knew Ardelia could not quote the best;
Who, like her Mistress on Britannia's Throne;
Fights and subdues in Quarrels not her own.
To write their Praise you but in vain essay;
Ev'n while you write, you take that Praise away:
Light to the Stars the Sun does thus restore,
But shines himself till they are seen no more.
Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea had taken offense
at lines in Rape of the Lock, which satirized women writers:
Parent of Vapors, and of female wit,
Who give th' hysteric, or poetic fit;
On various tempers act by various ways,
Make some take physic, others scribble plays.
(Canto IV. 59-62)
She had a mutual friend relay her upset to Pope.
It seems she had cited past famous female writers as
examples of women's capacity to write, including
"The Matchless Orinda," Katherine Philips, from
Pope's reference to "Sapphos" in the above "Impromptu."
Ardelia, of course, is Anne Finch. Here is her response:
Disarm'd with so genteel an air,
The contest I give o'er;
Yet, Alexander, have a care
And shock the sex no more.
We rule the world our life's whole race,
Men but assume that right;
First slaves to ev'ry tempting face,
Then martrys to our spite.
You of one Orpheus sure have read,
Who would like you have writ
Had he in London town been bred,
And polish'd to[o] his wit;
But he poor soul thought all was well,
And great should be his fame,
When he had left his wife in hell,
And birds and beasts could tame.
Yet venturing then with scoffing rhimes
The women to incense,
Resenting Heroines of those times
Soon punished his offence.
And as the Hebrus roll'd his scull,
And harp besmear'd with blood,
They clashing as the waves grew full,
Still harmoniz'd the flood.
But you our follies gently treat,
And spin so fine the thread,
You need not fear his awkward fate,
The lock wo'n't cost the head.
Our admiration you command
For all that's gone before;
What next we look for at your hand
Can only raise it more.
Yet sooth the Ladies I advise
(As me too pride has wrought,)
We're born to wit, but to be wise
By admonitions taught.
This seems to have signified the end of the quarrel.]
The Poetical Works of Alexander Pope. A. W. Ward, ed.
London: Macmillan and Co., 1893. 467.
to Works of Alexander Pope
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