This poem in praise of Anne Finch's poetry by Mrs Randolph is the second to appear in the MS Folger. Anne Finch wrote a poem to Mrs Randolph, An Epistle From Ardelia to Mrs Randolph in answer to her Poem upon Her Verses, "Madam, till pow'rfully convinc'd by you", MS Folger, pp. 48-49. See Annotated Chronology No. 122
As when the Macedonian Conqu'rour dy'd
His Captains did the vanquish'd World divide
No single Monark cou'd that Empire boast
Which with his life that founded it was lost.
So when the Prince of all the tunefull Race
Whose Praise no Time nor Envy shall deface
Retir'd to those untroubl'd Realms above
The blissfull Seats of Poetry and Love
His Raptures no Elisha cou'd inherit
Not doubl'd, but divided was his Spirit
Now one, and now another feeble Muse
With distant steps his lofty Track pursues
Some in Heroick some Pindarick dress
Various their shapes as different their successe
But yet to none the Critics wou'd submit
The universal Monarchy of Wit
To none, 'till You appear'd, but now they yeild
To you with one consent the spacious field
So sweet a greatnesse through your Stile does shine
At once it charms and forces to resign
Majesty is with softness reconcil'd
Your fancies lofty, and your numbers mild
This, on whatever Theam you chuse to write
We see with admiration and delight.
But most Divinely do your Shepheards sing
The Incarnation of our Heavenly King
Scarce cou'd that daz'ling Scene by them be drawn
On whom its rising Glories first did dawn
Those favorites of Heav'n, those happy Swains
Who saw the vision first on Bethle'em plains
Scarce cou'd itt be by them more lively dresst
In brighter Colours then by you exprest
Nor must they from our Sex Objections raise
Then to dispute your Title to the Bays
A noble Precedent from her you draw
Who cancell'd great Appollo's Solique Law
The fam'd Orinda, who had fate contriv'd
That She our mighty Master had surviv'd
Had a Poetique Monarchy driv'd
In a direct Succession down to You
With now by Conquest you begin anew
In whom their several Perfections meet
As Cowley Strong and as Orinda Sweet.
Forgive me (Madam) and employ once more
That Condescension which you did before
When ev'n on me, who no desert cou'd show
You such a Treasure freely did bestow
That Goodnesse this Presumption will excuse
The last attempt of an expiring Muse
Which liv'd a while affectedly obscure
Knowing how ill She cou'd the light endure
But snatch'd from her retirement by surprise
And once expos'd to your Illustrious Eyes
Suddenly struck with too much splendour dyes
Only recovers some few moments breath.
To thank her Fate for such a glorious death.
So did those Lamps of old, which long might burn
Securely in a Subterranean Urn
But once depriv'd of that beloved Shade
And to the least approach of air betray'd
Tremble a while with weak departing light
Some few faint flashes give, and then extinguish quite.
Mrs Randolph was an aspiring woman poet who lived south-east of Eastwell; the above poem demonstrates that Mrs Randolph had seen a number of Anne Finch's poems: she alludes to, imitates, and semi-quotes lines from Finch's pastorals, lyrics, and points the reader directly to "A Pastoral between Damon and Menalcus," (which a marginal note in the preface tells the reader appears on p. 92 of the Folger). Thus she had seen numbers of Ann's poems in a small manuscript miscellany; this suggests that numbers of manuscripts of different sizes of Finch's poems were in circulation by around 1702. Rowe's poem in praise of Finch's pindaric on the Spleen (which appears in Chalmer's English Poets, the anonymous cruel "Upon a F--t", Swift's poem, "Apollo Outwitted", Pope's ambivalent praise and parodies, Shippen's praise for Anne's s two Pindarics and "An Epistle from Alexander to Ephestion) -- all show how well known Anne had become.
The poem also testifies to the argument many twentieth-century scholars have made that women poets saw themselves as a part of a separate tradition of poetry. Thus Katherine Philips, Aphra Behn, Anne Killigrew, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Francis Thynne Seymour, Countess of Hertford, Elizabeth Tollet, and this anonymous woman all saw themselves as belonging to a separate feminine culture, one analogous to that of the later 17th and early 18th century French women poets whom for Anne included Anne Lefèvre Dacier, Antoinette du Ligier-de-la-Garde. George Eliot's review-essay on the birth of a feminine literature and culture in France and the reasons for this (including a freer sexuality), "Woman in France: Madame de Sablé" ought to be read as part of the context within which to understand Anne Finch (see George Eliot: Selected Critical Writings, ed. Rosemary Ashton (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 37-68. Mrs Randolph could be one of the women who are alluded to through pseudonyms in The Circuit of Appollo, "Appollo, as lately a Circuit he made", see Annotated Chronology No. 120.
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003