Countess Winchilsea Anne Finch

Here you will find the Long Poem The Petition for an Absolute Retreat (excerpt) of poet Countess Winchilsea Anne Finch

The Petition for an Absolute Retreat (excerpt)

(Inscribed to the Right Honourable Catharine Countess of Thanet,
mentioned in the poem under the name of Arminda)
 Give me, O indulgent Fate!
 Give me yet before I die
 A sweet, but absolute retreat,
 'Mongst paths so lost and trees so high
 That the world may ne'er invade
 Through such windings and such shade
 My unshaken liberty.

 No intruders thither come
 Who visit but to be from home!
 None who their vain moments pass
 Only studious of their glass;
 News, that charm to list'ning ears,
 That false alarm to hopes and fears,
 That common theme for every fop,
 From the statesman to the shop,
 In those coverts ne'er be spread,
 Of who's deceas'd, and who's to wed.
 Be no tidings thither brought,
 But silent as a midnight thought
 Where the world may ne'er invade
 Be those windings and that shade!

 Courteous Fate! afford me there
 A table spread, without my care,
 With what the neighb'ring fields impart,
 Whose cleanliness be all its art.
 When of old the calf was drest
 (Though to make an angel's feast)
 In the plain unstudied sauce
 Nor truffle nor morillia was;
 Nor could the mighty patriarchs'board
 One far-fetch'd ortolan afford.
 Courteous Fate! then give me there
 Only plain and wholesome fare;
 Fruits indeed (would heaven bestow)
 All that did in Eden grow,
 All but the forbidden Tree
 Would be coveted by me;
 Grapes with juice so crowded up
 As breaking through the native cup;
 Figs yet growing candied o'er
 By the sun's attracting power;
 Cherries, with the downy peach,
 All within my easy reach;
 Whilst creeping near the humble ground
 Should the strawberry be found
 Springing wheresoe'er I stray'd
 Through those windings and that shade.
 For my garments: let them be
 What may with the time agree;

 Warm when Ph{oe}bus does retire
 And is ill-supplied by fire:
 But when he renews the year
 And verdant all the fields appear,
 Beauty every thing resumes,
 Birds have dropp'd their winter plumes,
 When the lily full-display'd
 Stands in purer white array'd
 Than that vest which heretofore
 The luxurious monarch wore,
 When from Salem's gates he drove
 To the soft retreat of love,
 Lebanon's all burnish'd house
 And the dear Egyptian spouse.
 Clothe me, Fate, though not so gay,
 Clothe me light and fresh as May!
 In the fountains let me view
 All my habit cheap and new
 Such as, when sweet zephyrs fly,
 With their motions may comply,
 Gently waving to express
 Unaffected carelessness.
 No perfumes have there a part
 Borrow'd from the chemist's art,
 But such as rise from flow'ry beds
 Or the falling jasmine sheds!
 'Twas the odour of the field
 Esau's rural coat did yield
 That inspir'd his father's prayer
 For blessings of the earth and air:
 Of gums or powders had it smelt,
 The supplanter, then unfelt,
 Easily had been descried
 For one that did in tents abide,
 For some beauteous handmaid's joy,
 And his mother's darling boy.

 Let me then no fragrance wear
 But what the winds from gardens bear,
 In such kind surprising gales
 As gather'd from Fidentia's vales
 All the flowers that in them grew;
 Which intermixing as they flew
 In wreathen garlands dropp'd again
 On Lucullus and his men;
 Who, cheer'd by the victorious sight,
 Trebled numbers put to flight.
 Let me, when I must be fine,
 In such natural colours shine;
 Wove and painted by the sun;
 Whose resplendent rays to shun
 When they do too fiercely beat
 Let me find some close retreat
 Where they have no passage made
 Through those windings, and that shade.....