The LORD and the BRAMBLE.
No MS; 1713 Misc, 116-8.
Rpt of 1713: 1903 Reynolds, 185-6; rpts of 1903 Reynolds: 1928 Murray, 95-6; 1930 Fausset, 84-5.
Finch has in mind a familiar Aesopic pattern in which a passerby and nasty thorn bush insult one another. In the 18th century I've come across it more than once as a satire on modern lords with showy topiary in their gardens (this links in Pope's Horatian epistles). The type may be read at its simplest in Rhys, "The Boy and the Nettle," p. 79; 1657 Hoole, Aesop's Fables, English and Latin,", "Of the Fir-Tree and the Bramble," Bk 1, No 104; and L'Estrange, "A Fir and a Bramble," Bk 1, No 237, 214-5. Finch may have taken the association of the bramble with poverty from L'Estrange. There is also the emblem in Virgil where Aeneas comes across a complaining stunted bush/bramble, but its story is a pathetic one of a man who has been turned into this bramble. This is picked up by Dante. I don't think Finch has a sense of this in her fable, but it is perhaps part of this odd "tradition" of bitterness.
The moral seems tacked on, and the poem confused. Perhaps it represents a revision which ended up with an inconsistent piece. In the poem the bramble is suddenly identified with "an angry Wit" who cannot be "curbed"; she tells her readers they must not think to "chastise, or rail" against him, for he will prevail every time. She is here against satirists, but I don't think we should identify this with any particular person necessarily. It's too early for the darker Pope. The "railing wit" was a fixture of the period. The poem fails because of this disjunction between sympathy for bramble in narrative (where it is depicted as poor weak voice versus rich arrogant lord) and her harsh condemnation of bramble in her moral close (as the "angry wit"). For a possible connection with Pope, see Annotated Chronlogy No. 239, "The Mastiff and the Curs".
This is of Finch's very free Aesopics. Poems were called Aesopics in the period and by the term was meant a new amalgam within the understood classical tradition of fables. The type, especially when dressed up by with contemporary furnishings or visibilia and references, flourished in the 1710's, e.g., Aesop. In Select Fables, viz. At Tunbridge, at Bath, at Epsom, at Whitehall, at Amsterdam, with a Dialogue between a Bow-Steeple Dragon, and the Exchange Grasshopper. London, 1698.
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003