A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Petition for an Absolute Retreat" by Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661 - 1720)
From Winchilsea, Anne (Kingsmill) Finch, Countess of. Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions, London: printed for J[ohn] B[arber] and sold by Benj. Tooke at the Middle-Temple-Gate, William Taylor in Pater-Noster-Row, and James Round, in Exchange-Alley, Cornhil, 1713. pp. 33-49.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

The Petition for an Absolute Retreat.

Inscribed to the Right Honble


mention'd in the Poem under the Name


GIVE me O indulgent Fate!
Give me yet, before I Dye,
A sweet, but absolute Retreat,
'Mongst Paths so lost, and Trees so high,

[Page 34]

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 listning 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, or 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:

[Page 35]

   Courteous Fate! afford me there
A Table spread without my Care,
With what the neighb'ring Fields impart,
Whose Cleanliness be all it's Art,
When, of old, the Calf was drest,
(Tho' to make an Angel's Feast)
In the plain, unstudied Sauce
Nor Treufle, nor Morillia was;
Nor cou'd the mighty Patriarch's Board
One far-fetch'd Ortolane afford.
Courteous Fate, then give me there
Only plain, and wholesome Fare.
Fruits indeed (wou'd Heaven bestow)
All, that did in Eden grow,
All, but the Forbidden Tree,
Wou'd be coveted by me;
Grapes, with Juice so crouded up,
As breaking thro' the native Cup;

[Page 36]

Figs (yet growing) candy'd o'er,
By the Sun's attracting Pow'r;
Cherries, with the downy Peach,
All within my easie Reach;
Whilst creeping near the humble Ground,
Shou'd the Strawberry be found
Springing wheresoe'er I stray'd,
Thro' those Windings and that Shade.

  For my Garments; let them be
What may with the Time agree;
Warm, when Phoebus does retire, {1}
And is ill-supply'd by Fire:
But when he renews the Year,
And verdant all the Fields appear;
Beauty every thing resumes,
Birds have dropt their Winter-Plumes;
When the Lilly full display'd,
Stands in purer White array'd,

[Page 37]

Than that Vest, which heretofore
The Luxurious {2} 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.
Cloath me, Fate, tho' not so Gay;
Cloath me light, and fresh as May:
In the Fountains let me view
All my Habit cheap and new;
Such as, when sweet Zephyrs fly, {3}
With their Motions may comply;
Gently waving, to express
Unaffected Carelessness:

[Page 38]

No Perfumes have there a Part,
Borrow'd from the Chymists Art:
But such as rise from flow'ry Beds,
Or the falling Jasmin Sheds!
'Twas the Odour of the Field,
Esau's rural Coat did yield, {4}
That inspir'd his Father's Pray'r,
For Blessings of the Earth and Air:
Of Gums, or Pouders had it smelt;
The Supplanter, then unfelt,
Easily had been descry'd
For One that did in Tents abide;
For some beauteous Handmaids Joy,
And his Mother's darling Boy.
Let me then no Fragrance wear,
But what the Winds from Gardens bear,
In such kind, surprizing Gales,
As gather'd from {5} Fidentia's Vales,
All the Flowers that in them grew;
Which intermixing, as they flew,

[Page 39]

In wreathen Garlands dropt agen,
On Lucullus, and his Men; {6}
Who, chear'd by the victorious Sight,
Trebl'd 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,
Thro' those Windings, and that Shade.

  Give me there (since Heaven has shown
It was not Good to be alone)
A Partner suited to my Mind,
Solitary, pleas'd and kind;
Who, partially, may something see
Preferr'd to all the World in me;

[Page 40]

Slighting, by my humble Side,
Fame and Splendor, Wealth and Pride.
When but Two the Earth possest,
'Twas their happiest Days, and best;
They by Bus'ness, nor by Wars,
They by no Domestick Cares,
From each other e'er were drawn,
But in some Grove, or flow'ry Lawn,
Spent the swiftly flying Time,
Spent their own, and Nature's Prime,
In Love; that only Passion given
To perfect Man, whilst Friends with Heaven.
Rage, and Jealousie, and Hate,
Transports of his fallen State,
(When by Satan's Wiles betray'd)
Fly those Windings, and that Shade!

  Thus from Crouds, and Noise remov'd,
Let each Moment be improv'd;

[Page 41]

Every Object still produce,
Thoughts of Pleasure, and of Use:
When some River slides away,
To encrease the boundless Sea;
Think we then, how Time do's haste,
To grow Eternity at last,
By the Willows, on the Banks,
Gather'd into social Ranks,
Playing with the gentle Winds,
Strait the Boughs, and smooth the Rinds,
Moist each Fibre, and each Top,
Wearing a luxurious Crop,
Let the time of Youth be shown,
The time alas! too soon outgrown;
Whilst a lonely stubborn Oak,
Which no Breezes can provoke,
No less Gusts persuade to move,
Than those, which in a Whirlwind drove,
Spoil'd the old Fraternal Feast,
And left alive but one poor Guest;

[Page 42]

Rivell'd the distorted Trunk,
Sapless Limbs all bent, and shrunk,
Sadly does the Time presage,
Of our too near approaching Age.
When a helpless Vine is found,
Unsupported on the Ground,
Careless all the Branches spread,
Subject to each haughty Tread,
Bearing neither Leaves, nor Fruit,
Living only in the Root;
Back reflecting let me say,
So the sad Ardelia lay; {7}
Blasted by a Storm of Fate, {8}
Felt, thro' all the British State;
Fall'n, neglected, lost, forgot,
Dark Oblivion all her Lot;
Faded till Arminda's Love, {9}
(Guided by the Pow'rs above)
Warm'd anew her drooping Heart,
And Life diffus'd thro' every Part;

[Page 43]

Mixing Words, in wise Discourse,
Of such Weight and wond'rous Force,
As could all her Sorrows charm,
And transitory Ills disarm;
Chearing the delightful Day,
When dispos'd to be more Gay,
With Wit, from an unmeasured Store,
To Woman ne'er allow'd before.
What Nature, or refining Art,
All that Fortune cou'd impart,
Heaven did to Arminda send;
Then gave her for Ardelia's Friend:
To her Cares the Cordial drop,
Which else had overflow'd the Cup.
So, when once the Son of Jess,
Every Anguish did oppress,
Hunted by all kinds of Ills,
Like a Partridge on the Hills;
Trains were laid to catch his Life,
Baited with a Royal Wife,

[Page 44]

From his House, and Country torn,
Made a Heathen Prince's Scorn;
Fate, to answer all these Harms,
Threw a Friend into his Arms. {10}
Friendship still has been design'd,
The Support of Human-kind;
The safe Delight, the useful Bliss,
The next World's Happiness, and this.
Give then, O indulgent Fate!
Give a Friend in that Retreat
(Tho' withdrawn from all the rest)
Still a Clue, to reach my Breast.
Let a Friend be still convey'd
Thro' those Windings, and that Shade!

  Where, may I remain secure,
Waste, in humble Joys and pure,
A Life, that can no Envy yield;
Want of Affluence my Shield.

[Page 45]

Thus, had {11} Crassus been content,
When from Marius Rage he went, {12}
With the Seat that Fortune gave,
The commodious ample Cave,
Form'd, in a divided Rock,
By some mighty Earthquake's Shock,
Into Rooms of every Size,
Fair, as Art cou'd e'er devise,
Leaving, in the marble Roof,
('Gainst all Storms and Tempests proof)
Only Passage for the Light,
To refresh the chearful Sight,
Whilst Three Sharers in his Fate,
On th' Escape with Joy dilate,
Beds of Moss their Bodies bore,
Canopy'd with Ivy o'er;
Rising Springs, that round them play'd,
O'er the native Pavement stray'd;

[Page 46]

When the Hour arriv'd to Dine,
Various Meats, and sprightly Wine,
On some neighb'ring Cliff they spy'd;
Every Day a-new supply'd
By a Friend's entrusted Care;
Had He still continu'd there,
Made that lonely wond'rous Cave
Both his Palace, and his Grave;
Peace and Rest he might have found,
(Peace and Rest are under Ground)
Nor have been in that Retreat,
Fam'd for a Proverbial Fate;
In pursuit of Wealth been caught,
And punish'd with a golden Draught.
Nor had {13} He, who Crowds cou'd blind,
Whisp'ring with a snowy Hind,
Made 'em think that from above,
(Like the great Imposter's Dove)
Tydings to his Ears she brought,
Rules by which he march'd and fought,

[Page 47]

After Spain he had o'er-run,
Cities sack'd, and Battles won,
Drove Rome's Consuls from the Field,
Made her darling Pompey yield, {14}
At a fatal, treacherous Feast,
Felt a Dagger in his Breast;
Had he his once-pleasing Thought
Of Solitude to Practice brought;
Had no wild Ambition sway'd;
In those Islands had he stay'd,
Justly call'd the Seats of Rest,
Truly {15} Fortunate, and Blest,
By the ancient Poets giv'n
As their best discover'd Heav'n.
Let me then, indulgent Fate!
Let me still, in my Retreat,
From all roving Thoughts be freed,
Or Aims, that may Contention breed:

[Page 48]

Nor be my Endeavours led
By Goods, that perish with the Dead!
Fitly might the Life of Man
Be indeed esteem'd a Span,
If the present Moment were
Of Delight his only Share;
If no other Joys he knew
Than what round about him grew:
But as those, who Stars wou'd trace
From a subterranean Place,
Through some Engine lift their Eyes
To the outward, glorious Skies;
So th' immortal Spirit may,
When descended to our Clay,
From a rightly govern'd Frame
View the Height, from whence she came;
To her Paradise be caught,
And things unutterable taught.
Given me then, in that Retreat,
Give me, O indulgent Fate!

[Page 49]

For all Pleasures left behind,
Contemplations of the Mind.
Let the Fair, the Gay, the Vain
Courtship and Applause obtain;
Let th' Ambitious rule the Earth;
Let the giddy Fool have Mirth;
Give the Epicure his Dish,
Ev'ry one their sev'ral Wish;
Whilst my Transports I employ
On that more extensive Joy,
When all Heaven shall be survey'd
From those Windings and that Shade.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


Notes originally by Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1713) are preceded by the notation [AF]. Notes by Myra Reynolds (1903) are credited with the notation [MR]. Uncredited notes are the addition of the page maintainer.

  1. Phoebus Apollo, Greek god whose chariot was the sun.
  2. [AF] Josephus says, that every Monday Solomon went to the House of Lebanon in an open Chariot, cloath'd in a Robe most dazling White, which makes that Allusion not improper, and may give us Grounds to believe that the Lilly mention'd by our Saviour (compar'd to Solomon in his Glory) might really be the common white Lilly, altho' the Commentators seem in doubt what Flowers are truly meant by the Lillies, as thinking the plain Lilly not gay enough for the Comparison; whereas this Garment is noted by Josephus to be wonderfully beautiful tho' only White; nor can any Flower, I believe, have a greater Lustre than the common white Lilly.
  3. Zephyrs are gentle breezes from the west, under the control of Zephyros, the Greek god of the west wind.
  4. Esau was the elder son of Isaac and Rebekah, who sold his birthright to his twin brother Jacob.
  5. [AF] These Circumstances are related by Plutarch in the Life of Sylla.
  6. Lucullus (c. 79 - 57 B.C.) Roman general and epicure.
  7. Ardelia was a poetical name of Anne Finch.
  8. The 'Bloodless Revolution' or 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, when James II was dethroned in favour of William III.
  9. Arminda was a poetical name for Catharine (Cavendish) Tufton, the Countess of Thanet. The Finches took shelter with Lord and Lady Thanet for a time soon after the revolution.
  10. David, son of Jesse, was befriended by Jonathon.
  11. Crassus (115?-53 B.C.) Roman politician. [AF] The Description of this Cave, is exactly taken from Plutarch in the Life of Crassus.
  12. Marius (155-86 B.C.) Roman general.
  13. Sertorius (d. 72 B.C.) Roman general and statesman. [AF] Sertorius.
  14. Pompey (106-48 B.C.) Roman general and statesman.
  15. [AF] The Canary Islands, called by the Ancients the Fortunate Islands, and taken by some of the Poets for Elysium.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom