Fanscomb Barn. In Imitation of MILTON.
No MS; 1713 Misc, 58-65*.
[Page 58] In Fanscomb Barn (who knows not Fanscomb Barn?)
Seated between the sides of rising Hills,
Whose airy Tops o'erlook the Gallick Seas,
[Page 59] Whilst, gentle Stower, thy Waters near them flow,
To beautify the Seats that crown thy Banks.
–In this Retreat
Through Ages pass'd consign'd for Harbour meet,
And Place of sweet Repose to Wand'rers poor,
The weary Strolepedon felt that Ease,
Which many a dangerous Borough had deny'd
To him, and his Budgeta lov'd Compeer;
Nor Food was wanting to the happy Pair,
Who with meek Aspect, and precarious Tone,
Well suited to their Hunger and Degree,
Had mov'd the Hearts of hospitable Dames,
To furnish such Repast as Nature crav'd.
Whilst more to please the swarthy Bowl appears,
Replete with Liquor, globulous to fight,
And threat'ning Inundation o'er the Brim;
Yet, ere it to the longing Lips was rais'd
Of him who held it at its due Desert,
And more than all entreated Bounty priz'd,
Into the strong Profundity he throws
[Page 60] The floating Healths of Females, blith and young,
Who there had rendezvouz'd in past Delight,
And to stol'n Plenty added clamorous Mirth,
With Song and Dance, and every jovial Prank
Befitting buxom Crew, untied by Forms:
Whilst kind Budgeta nam'd such sturdy Youths,
As next into her tender Thoughts revolv'd,
And now were straggling East, and West, and South,
Hoof-beating, and at large, as Chance directs,
Still shifting Paths, lest Men (tho' stil'd of Peace)
Should urge their calmer Thoughts to Iron War,
Or force them to promote coercive Laws,
Beating that Hemp which oft entraps their Lives;
Or into Cordage pleated, and amass'd,
Deprives unruly Flesh of tempting Skin.
Thus kind Remembrance brought the Absent near
And hasten'd the Return of either's Pledge:
Brown were the Toasts, but not unsav'ry found
To Fancies clear'd by Exercise and Air,
Which the spirituous Nectar still improves,
[Page 61] And gliding now thro' every cherish'd Vein,
New Warmth diffus'd, new Cogitations bred,
With Self-conceit of Person, and of Parts.
When Strolepedon (late distorted Wight,
Limb-wanting to the View, and all mis-shap'd)
Permits a pinion'd Arm to fill the Sleeve,
Erst pendant, void, and waving with the Wind,
The Timber-Leg obsequiously withdraws,
And gives to that of Bone Precedence due.
Thus undisguis'd that Form again he wears,
Which Damsel fond had drawn from houshold Toils,
And strict Behests of Parents, old and scorn'd;
Whilst farther yet his Intellects confess
The bouzy Spell dilated and inhans'd,
Ripe for Description, and sett Turns of Speech,
Which to Conjugal Spouse were thus addrest.
My Wife (acknowledg'd such thro' maunding Tribes,
As long as mutual Love, the only Law,
[Page 62] Of Hedge or Barn, can bind our easy Faiths)
Be thou observant of thy Husband's Voice,
Sole Auditor of Flights and Figures bold;
Know, that the Valley which we hence descry
Richly adorn'd, is Fanscomb-Bottom call'd:
But whether from these Walls it takes the Name,
Or they from that, let Antiquaries tell,
And Men, well-read in Stories obsolete,
Whilst such Denomination either claims,
As speaks Affinity contiguous–
Thence let thy scatter'd Sight, and oft-griev'd Smell
Engulf the Sweets, and Colours free dispos'd
To Flowers promiscuous, and redundant Plants.
And (if the drouzy Vapour will admit,
Which from the Bowl soon triumphs o'er thy Lidds,
And Thee the weaker Vessel still denotes)
With Looks erect observe the verdant Slope
Of graceful Hills, fertile in Bush and Brake,
Whose Height attain'd, th' expatiated Downs
[Page 63] Shall wider Scenes display of rural Glee;
Where banner'd Lords, and fair escutcheon'd Knights,
With gentle Squires, and the Staff-griping Clown,
Pursue the trembling Prey impetuous;
Which yet escaping, when the Night returns,
And downy Beds enfold their careless Limbs,
More wakeful Trundle (Knapsack-bearing Cur)
Follows the Scent untrac'd by nobler Hounds,
And brings to us the Fruit of all their Toil.
Thus sung the Bard, whom potent Liquor rais'd,
Nor so contented, wish'd sublimer Aid.
Ye Wits! (he cry'd) ye Poets! (Loiterers vain,
Who like to us, in Idleness and Want
Consume fantastick Hours) hither repair,
And tell to list'ning Mendicants the Cause
Of Wonders, here observ'd but not discuss'd:
[Page 64] Where, the White Sparrow never soil'd her Plumes,
Nor the dull Russet cloaths the Snowy Mouse.
To Helicon you might the Spring compare,
That flows near Pickersdane renowned Stream,
Which, for Disport and Play, the Youths frequent,
Who, train'd in Learned School of ancient Wye,
First at this Fount suck in the Muses Lore,
When mixt with Product of the Indian Cane,
They drink delicious Draughts, and part inspir'd,
Fit for the Banks of Isis, or of Cham,
(For Cham, and Isis to the Bard were known,
A Servitor, when young in College-Hall,
Tho' vagrant Liberty he early chose,
Who yet, when Drunk, retain'd Poetick Phrase.)
Nor shou'd (quoth he) that Well, o'erhung with shade,
Amidst those neighb'ring Trees of dateless growth,
Be left unfathom'd by your nicer Skill
[Page 65] Who thence cou'd extricate a thousand Charms,
Or to oblivious Lethe might convert
The stagnant Waters of the sleepy Pool.
But most unhappy was that Morphean Sound
For lull'd Budgeta, who had long desir'd
Dismission fair from Tales, not throughly scann'd,
Thinking her Love a Sympathy confest,
When the Word Sleepy parted from his Lips,
Sunk affable and easy to that Rest,
Which Straw affords to Minds, unvex'd with Cares.
Rpt of 1713: 1903 Reynolds, 210-3; rpts of 1903 Reynolds: 1928 Murray, 62-6; 1930 Fausset, 94-6; 1979 Rogers AF, 136-9.
John Milton as burlesqued first by John Philips' The Splendid Shilling (first printed in 1701 Gilden, pp. 212-218). See also the magisterial book, Raymond Havens, The Influence of Milton on English Poetry. 1922; rpt. New York: Russell, 1961.
1719, Harris, History of Kent.
This is one of my favorite poems by Finch. The modern reader has to enter the world of Miltonic parody and read autobiographically as well as see how Finch saw herself as an outcast and sympathized with the rural poor and half-envied them. This is a witty sympathy for outcasts and poets, a self-mocking beautifully-realized dream of Kent from Finch's own Helicon; this is a fine poem which looks forward to Gray and Burns. Wye,the barn, the children, all remained in Finch's mind as her "disrespected" haven. Here perhaps Wordsworth's dictum holds true but not in the way he intended it. It's not that Miltonic parodies are inferior; it's that no one was doing them after the mid-18th century. The idiom and ironic perspective towards its idealizations are gone. Finch also frequently imitates or has the structure of a Miltonic verse far more than is realized.
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003