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English Women's Poetry, 1649–1714Politics, Community, and Linguistic Authority$

Carol Barash

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186861

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186861.001.0001

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(p.308) Appendix G Finch's Elegy on James II

(p.308) Appendix G Finch's Elegy on James II

Source:
English Women's Poetry, 1649–1714
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

Two versions of this poem are listed in David Foxon, English Verse, 1701–1750, as items 0194 and 0195. The two versions are fundamentally the same and appear to have been two separate but virtually simultaneous editions. These editions, and the additional and variant lines in the manuscript version (Folger Shakespeare Library MS N.b.3) are described in Barash, ‘The Political Origins of Anne Finch's Poetry’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 54: 4 (1991).

I have used the NYPL edition as my copy text because its version of l. 137 (‘But draw the Vail, nor seek to Paint the Grief’) makes more sense than the BL version (‘But draw the Rate …’) and is consistent with the manuscript. Where I have emended the copy text, I have done so within square brackets, based on either BL or manuscript variants and the following principles: correcting errors in spelling which render words incomprehensible (e.g. ‘compo'd’ to ‘compo[s]'d’ at l. 116); restoring punctuation which is missing or illegible in NYPL; capitalizing the first letter of 1. 104, turning question mark right-side-up at end of l. 10, and changing italics to regular capitals as first letters of ‘Hearts’ and ‘Men’ at 1. 12 and ‘Grave’ at 1. 180; and, based on manuscript, changing ‘Closs’ to ‘Clos[‘d]’ at 1. 167. The footnotes are Finch's; I have moved Finch's note ‘e’ from the left-hand margin to the bottom of the page for consistency, and replaced it with the longer version in BL.

An

ELEGY

on the

DEATH

of

k. JAMES.

By a Lady. [Anne Finch]

  • If the Possession of Imperial Sway,
  • Thou hadst by Death, unhappy Prince, resign'd,
  • And to a mournful Successor made way,
  • Whil'st all was Uncontested, all Combin'd:
  • How had the Streets? How had the Palace rung,
  • In Praise of thy acknowledg'd Worth?
  • What had our Numerous Writers then brought forth?
  • What Melancholly Dirges had they sung?
  • What Weeping Elegies prepar'd;
  • If not from Loyal Grief, yet to obtain Reward? 10
  • Thus is that Gift (which Heaven did, sure bestow
  • To Elevate the Hearts of Men,
  • (p.309) And lead them to those Blissfull Seats again,
  • Whence all Harmonious Sounds, and Lofty Numbers flow)
  • Now, Mammon, turn'd thy Slave, to dig thy Mines below.
  • II.
  • But Royal James, tho' none shall pay this Verse,
  • Bred in a Land not Honour'd with thy Herse;
  • But Royal James, who never shall Return
  • To Chear those Hearts, which did thy Sorrows Mourn,
  • Who never shall the Woes, the Wants repair, 20
  • Which for thy sake, have been thy Followers share,
  • Tho' with thy latest Breath such Prospects fled;
  • And all who saw thee die, now wish themselves as dead.
  • Yet shall a free disinterested Muse,
  • In chosen Lines, perform that Task,
  • Which does an abler Writer ask;
  • But abler Writers will the Work refuse:
  • And where, Alas!’ twill but the Feather cost,
  • The Noblest Subjects for the Pen, are lost.
  • III.
  • Else how would the Poetick Crew, 30
  • Those publick Heraulds of Immortal Fame,
  • Unto the present Times renew
  • All which the past, did with such Wonder view,
  • And down to future Ages would proclaim
  • What future Ages scarce would take for True:
  • When they describe thee on the Stage of War,
  • Earlier than Cesar far,1
  • And made thee, e'rc thy Tenth accomplish'd Year,
  • Undaunted in the Lists appear,
  • And Martial Lightnings see, and Martial Thunder hear:
  • Which Caesar never prov'd, nor the Tenth Legion knew.2 40
  • Next had they shewn thee in the Gallick Host,
  • Performing such Stupend'ous Things,
  • As influenc'd the Fates of Kings;
  • Whilst the best General which the World could boast,3
  • (p.310) Tho' ready to resign his Breath,
  • Assur'd his Troops they should not feel his Death,
  • If that Illustrious York would fill th'important Post.
  • Thus would they, thy exalted Valour raise,
  • By Turrenne Form'd, and Stampt with Turrenne's Praise, 50
  • o'er Seas and Lands (as Seas and Land have seen
  • Thee greatly Brave) that Fame had sounded been,
  • Which to the Skies was born, in Opdam's fiery Blaze:4
  • High o'er the Invading Fleet, the Vessel rose,
  • By thy prevailing Batt'ries driven,
  • Which, like a streaming Meteor, dreadful shows,
  • Now threatning from the illuminated Air,
  • To all beneath it, Ruin and Despair,
  • As Heathen Wits are said to have inkindled Heaven,
  • Till down at Length, the Plague portended came, 60
  • And wrought such various Deaths, that some must want a Name.
  • Oh Mighty Prince! for here thy darkned Lot,
  • Must be in this Reverse of Sight forgot:
  • All must be Glorious, whilst thy Youth we trace,
  • Whilst sheltering Waves shall Brittish Shores imbrace,
  • Or whilst our Records shall have place;
  • Where thy Rewards and Attributes are such,
  • As shew no Gratitude was thought too much,
  • For keeping England then Superior to the Dutch:
  • Whilst these shall last, no Envy shall deface, 70
  • Of that Triumphant Day, th'Advantage and the Grace.
  • IV.
  • Yet even in Youth, War ne'er was thy Delight,
  • Nor led by thee, but in the Nation's Right;
  • Which well asserted, and the Soldier paid,
  • The Honour rescu’d, and the gainful Trade;
  • The solid Business wisely done,
  • And each who shar'd the Generous Cause
  • Possess'd too of the Share that he had won,
  • The warrantable spoils, the Favour and Applause:
  • Again Commissions ceas'd, and Arms a-part were laid. 80
  • So Good Dictators Fought for ancient Rome,
  • And brought not single Fame, but Peace and Plenty Home:
  • (p.311) Nor bred new Strifes to keep that ample Sway,
  • But to the Plough return'd, could chearfully obey.
  • So had our Charles, whilst reigning, Cause to own
  • (The Power recall'd, which his great Seal had shown[)]
  • The readiest Subject stood the next his Throne.
  • O you who under James in Fight were try'd,
  • Who strove Suc[c]essfull by that Prince's Side
  • Who've seen him brave the Cannons angry Breath; 90
  • For Britain's Interest and Renown,
  • As if he'd Courted, rather than her Crown,
  • (Which was his Right of Birth) to merit it by Death.
  • O you who in his frequent Dangers stood,
  • And Fought to Fence them at the Expense of Blood,
  • Now let your Tears a heavier Tribute pay,
  • Give the Becoming Sorrow Way:
  • Nor bring bad Parallels upon the Times,
  • By seeking, thro' mistaken Fears,
  • To Curb your Sighs, or to Conceal your Tears; 100
  • ’Twas but in Nero's Days, that Sighs and Tears were Crimes.
  • V.
  • Weep then ye Realms, who once his Sway confest,
  • Who had he been of your Belief possest,
  • Amongst the Kings that have laid down
  • (As all must do) at Death's cold Feet, the Crown,
  • Him had you sure Inroll'd, and justly, with the Best:
  • Then Alfred's Piety had Form'd his Praise,5
  • His Thoughtful Nights compar'd, and his Assiduous Days:
  • Then had that Providential Care,
  • Which kept the Treasury full yet not the Subject bare, 110
  • Unto our Frugal Henry6 been preferr'd,
  • Applauses of that Temprance had we heard;
  • By whose Example had excluded been
  • What even Eliza's Days brought in,7
  • The wasting foul Excess, miscall'd, Good-natur'd Sin.
  • VI.
  • Weep ye Attendants, who compo[s]'d his Train,
  • And no Observance spent in vain,
  • Nor ever, with uneasy Fears,
  • Contracted needful Debts, and doubled your Arrears.
  • All whom his Justice, or his Bounty fed, 120
  • (p.312) Now Grateful Weep, and mix the silent Dew
  • (Which none will e'er suspect untrue)
  • With your imbittered Draughts, and since diminish'd Bread.
  • You who Subordinate in Publick Cares
  • For his Inspection, Model'd the Affairs,
  • Remember still, how easy your Access,
  • No Pleasures kept him from your Sight,
  • No late Debauch, no Revel of the Night,
  • No distant slothful Seat e'er serv'd as a Recess.
  • Open to all: But when the Seaman came, 130
  • Known by his Face, and Greeted by his Name,
  • Peculiar Smiles and Praises did impart
  • To All, his Prowess and Desert;
  • All had his willing Hand, the Sailor had his Heart;
  • Who born an Islander, by Nature knew
  • Her Wooden Walls her Strength, her Guard the Naval Crew.
  • VII.
  • But draw the Vail, nor seek to Paint the Grief,
  • Which knows no Bounds, nor Meditates Relief;
  • Maria Weeps, with unexhausted Tears;
  • No Look that Beauteous Face, but Sorrow, wears: 140
  • And in those Eyes, where Majesty was seen
  • To warn Admirers, and declare the Queen,
  • Now only reigns incurable Distress,
  • Which, Royal James, thy Faithful Consort shows,
  • Who, by her different Grief, does too Confess,
  • That now, Alas! she the Distinction knows
  • ’Twixt Weeping for thy Loss, or with thee for thy Woes;
  • No more the Diadem attracts her Sight,
  • Held but by Reflection bright:
  • Thoughts of Returning-Glory move no more, 150
  • Nor can she e'er receive what she possess'd before:
  • A Grave is all, she with her James can share,
  • And were it not for what he left, her Care,
  • How soon would she descend, and be his Consort, there.
  • Pleas'd better in that Fourth and Last Remove,8
  • Securely by thy unmolested Side,
  • From Life it self an Exile to abide,
  • Than in th'experienc'd former Three,
  • Which yet she well sustain'd, accompany'd by thee:
  • Strong are the Bonds of Death, but stronger those of Love[.] 160
  • (p.313) VII[I].
  • O Britain! take this Wish before we cease:
  • May Happier Kings procure thee Lasting Peace;
  • And having Rul'd the[e] to thy own Desire,
  • On thy Maternal Bosom late expire,
  • Clos['d] in that Earth where they had Reigned before,
  • Till States and Monarchies shall be no more:
  • Since in the Day of unappealing Doom,
  • Or King or Kingdom must declare,
  • What the sad Chance or weighty Causes were,
  • That forc'd them to arise from out a Foreign Tomb[.] I70
  • O Britain! may thy Days to come be Fair,
  • And all that shall intend thy Good,
  • Be reverendly Heard, and rightly Understood.
  • May no Intestine Broils thy Intrails tear,
  • No Field in the[e] be Fought, or Nam'd a-new in Blood:
  • May all who Shield thee, due Applauses have,
  • Whilst for my self, like Solitary Men,
  • Devoted only to the Pen,
  • I but a Safe Retreat amidst thee crave
  • Below the Ambitious World, and just above my Grave. 180

Notes:

(1) He was Born 1633, and was i[n] the Battel at Edgehill, Anno 1642.

(2) The 10th Legion was the most Valiant and Favoured of Julius Caesar's Legions[.]

(3) When very young, he was in the French Service, and a Lieutenant-General under Marischal Turrenne against the Spaniards, where he behaved himself with that Valour and Conduct, that when Turrenne was so Sick, as it was thought he could not live; the King of France sending for his Advice, who should Command the Army, if he should not recover: He answered the King, That if he would have his Affairs prosper, he should make choi[c]e of that Noble, Valourous and Heroick Prince the D[uke] of York.——In that Famous Action, when Turrenne forced the Spanish Trenches altho' Defended by Conde, and relieved Arras, the Duke of York behaved himself with remarkable Bravery, and was wounded. As in the French Translation of Cardinai Mazarine's Life, written Originally in Italian by Count Gualdo.

(4) In the first Dutch War after the Restauration, the Duke of York commanded the Fleet, beat the Dutch, blew up their Admiral Opdam in the Orange-Tree. And in an Engagement afterwards, he behaved himself with that Bravery, that he was forc'd three Times to change his Ship, and take himself to the Long-boat, on which he hois'd the Admirals Flag, and braved the Fury of his Enemies, till he recovered another Ship, which he parted not with whilst she continued capable of Service. For all which Services, the Parliament, with great Commendation of his Valour and conduct, made him a Magnificent Present, as appears upon their Journals.

(5) Alfred one of the Saxon Kings famous for his Piety and Application to Publick Business.

(6) [Henry] VII.

(7) Cambden saith, That the Custom of Excessive Drinking was brought amongst us out of Holland, by those Troops which Queen Elizabeth lent the States.

(8) The First Remove was, when she went into Flanders. The Second, when she went into Scotland with the Duke. And the Third, when she went into France.