"A Sigh": "Gentlest Air thou breath of Lovers", MS Folger, p. 254. See Annotated Chronology No. 104; see also commentary from Les Poésies d'Anacreon et de Sapho by Mademoiselle Lefèvre [later Dacier]. The parody, "Upon a Fart" appeared anonymously in 1704 in Poems on Affairs of State, from 1640 to 1704, p. 441:
Gentlest Blast of all Concoction,
Reverse of high ascending Belch,
The only Stink abhor'd by Scotch-men,
Belov'd and practis'd by the Welch.
Softest Note of inward Griping,
Sir Reverence's finest Part:
So fine it needs no pains of wiping,
Except it be a Brewer's F--t.
Swiftest Ease of Cholick Pains,
Vapour from a Secret Stench,
That's rattled by the unbred Swains,
But whisper'd by the Bashful Wench.
Shapeless F--t!, we we'er can shew thee,
But in that noble Female Sport;
In which by burning Blue we know thee,
Th'Amusement of the Maids at Court.
The poem also appears in The third Part of Miscellany Poems(London: Tonson, 1716), p. 190; it has been found in a notebook owned by William Byrd (n.p.), appears in Yale Osborne MS f.b70, p. 193, and is reprinted in two modern anthologies of early American poetry. See Colonial American Poetry, ed. Kenneth Silverman (New York and London: Hafner Publishing, 1968), pp. 273-274 where it appears after "A Sigh", both of which texts are taken from a manuscript in the University of North Carolina Library. John O'Neile and Cameron Nickels have disputed the attribution to William Byrde; see "Upon the Attribution of 'Upon a Fart'", Early American Literature, 14 (1979), pp. 143- 48 where they give a stemma of the early texts of this parody.
It is fascinating to see how quickly Finch's poem caught attention. While I date the poem to 1702-3 because it does not appear in the MS Finch-Hatton and because the first known parody appears in 1704; nonetheless, it should be noted that the author of this parody suggests the original poem was written for the amusement of the maids at court. Thus it could be a very early poem, or could signal the Finch's continual connection with the Stuarts.
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003