Anne Kingsmill Finch |
In such a night, when every louder wind
Is to its distant cavern safe confined;
And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,
And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings;
Or from some tree, famed for the owl's delight,
She, hollowing clear, directs the wand'rer right:
In such a night, when passing clouds give place,
Or thinly veil the heav'ns' mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bears itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,
Whence springs the woodbind, and the bramble-rose,
And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;
Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,
Yet checkers still with red the dusky brakes
When scattered glow-worms, but in twilight fine,
Shew trivial beauties watch their hour to shine;
Whilst Salisb'ry stands the test of every light,
In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:
When odors, which declined repelling day,
Through temp'rate air uninterrupted stray;
When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear;
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:
When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through th' adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine rechew the cud;
When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;
Their shortlived jubilee the creatures keep,
Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;
When a sedate content the spirit feels,
And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;
But silent musings urge the mind to seek
Something, too high for syllables to speak;
Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,
Finding the elements of rage disarmed,
O'er all below a solemn quiet grown,
Joys in th' inferior world, and thinks it like her own:
In such a night let me abroad remain,
Till morning breaks, and all's confused again;
Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,
Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.
Annie Finch |
HLF, August 8, 1918—August 22, 1997
“Bequeath us to no earthly shore until
Is answered in the vortex of our grave
The seal’s wide spindrift gaze towards paradise.
—Hart Crane, “Voyages”
“If a lion could talk, we couldn’t understand it”
Under the ocean that stretches out wordlessly
past the long edge of the last human shore,
there are deep windows the waves haven't opened,
where night is reflected through decades of glass.
There is the nursery, there is the nanny,
there are my father’s unreachable eyes
turned towards the window.
Is the child uneasy?
His is the death that is circling the stars.
In the deep room where candles burn soundlessly
and peace pours at last through the cells of our bodies,
three of us are watching, one of us is staring
with the wide gaze of a wild, wave-fed seal.
Incense and sage speak in smoke loud as waves,
and crickets sing sand towards the edge of the hourglass.
We wait outside time, while night collects courage
The vigil is wordless.
watch the longest, move the farthest, besieged by your breath,
pulling into your body.
You stare towards your death,
head arched on the pillow, your left fingers curled.
Your mouth sucking gently, unmoved by these hours
and their vigil of salt spray, you show us how far
you are going, and how long the long minutes are,
while spiralling night watches over the room
and takes you, until you watch us in turn.
Lions speak their own language.
You are still breathing.
Here is release.
Here is your pillow,
cool like a handkerchief pressed in a pocket.
Here is your white tousled long growing hair.
Here is a kiss on your temple to hold you
safe through your solitude’s long steady war;
here, you can go.
We will stay with you,
keeping the silence we all came here for.
Night, take his left hand, turning the pages.
Spin with the windows and doors that he mended.
Spin with his answers, patient, impatient.
Spin with his dry independence, his arms
warmed by the needs of his family, his hands
flying under the wide, carved gold ring, and the pages
flying so his thought could fly.
His breath slows,
lending its edges out to the night.
Here is his open mouth.
Silence is here
like one more new question that he will not answer.
A leaf is his temple.
The dark is the prayer.
He has given his body; his hand lies above
the sheets in a symbol of wholeness, a curve
of thumb and forefinger, ringed with wide gold,
and the instant that empties his breath is a flame
faced with a sudden cathedral's new stone.
Anne Kingsmill Finch |
POOR River, now thou'rt almost dry,
What Nymph, or Swain, will near thee lie?
Since brought, alas! to sad Decay,
What Flocks, or Herds, will near thee stay?
The Swans, that sought thee in thy Pride,
Now on new Streams forgetful ride:
And Fish, that in thy Bosom lay,
Chuse in more prosp'rous Floods to play.
All leave thee, now thy Ebb appears,
To waste thy sad Remains in Tears;
Nor will thy mournful Murmurs heed.
Fly, wretched Stream, with all thy speed,
Amongst those solid Rocks thy Griefs bestow;
For Friends, like those alas! thou ne'er did'st know.
And thou, poor Sun! that sat'st on high;
But late, the Splendour of the Sky;
What Flow'r, tho' by thy Influence born,
Now Clouds prevail, will tow'rds thee turn?
Now Darkness sits upon thy Brow,
What Persian Votary will bow?
What River will her Smiles reflect,
Now that no Beams thou can'st direct?
By watry Vapours overcast,
Who thinks upon thy Glories past?
If present Light, nor Heat we get,
Unheeded thou may'st rise, and set.
Not all the past can one Adorer keep,
Fall, wretched Sun, to the more faithful Deep.
Nor do thou, lofty Structure! boast,
Since undermin'd by Time and Frost:
Since thou canst no Reception give,
In untrod Meadows thou may'st live.
None from his ready Road will turn,
With thee thy wretched Change to mourn.
Not the soft Nights, or chearful Days
Thou hast bestow'd, can give thee Praise.
No lusty Tree that near thee grows,
(Tho' it beneath thy Shelter rose)
Will to thy Age a Staff become.
Fall, wretched Building! to thy Tomb.
Thou, and thy painted Roofs, in Ruin mixt,
Fall to the Earth, for That alone is fixt.
The same, poor Man, the same must be
Thy Fate, now Fortune frowns on thee.
Her Favour ev'ry one pursues,
And losing Her, thou all must lose.
No Love, sown in thy prosp'rous Days,
Can Fruit in this cold Season raise:
No Benefit, by thee conferr'd,
Can in this time of Storms be heard.
All from thy troubl'd Waters run;
Thy stooping Fabrick all Men shun.
All do thy clouded Looks decline,
As if thou ne'er did'st on them shine.
O wretched Man! to other World's repair;
For Faith and Gratitude are only there.
Anne Kingsmill Finch |
NOW spent the alter'd King, in am'rous Cares,
The Hours of sacred Hymns and solemn Pray'rs:
In vain the Alter waits his slow returns,
Where unattended Incense faintly burns:
In vain the whisp'ring Priests their Fears express,
And of the Change a thousand Causes guess.
Heedless of all their Censures He retires,
And in his Palace feeds his secret Fires;
Impatient, till from Rabbah Tydings tell,
That near those Walls the poor Uriah fell,
Led to the Onset by a Chosen Few,
Who at the treacherous Signal, soon withdrew;
Nor to his Rescue e'er return'd again,
Till by fierce Ammon's Sword they saw the Victim slain.
'Tis pass'd, 'tis done! the holy Marriage-Knot,
Too strong to be unty'd, at last is cut.
And now to Bathsheba the King declares,
That with his Heart, the Kingdom too is hers;
That Israel's Throne, and longing Monarch's Arms
Are to be fill'd but with her widow'd Charms.
Nor must the Days of formal Tears exceed,
To cross the Living, and abuse the Dead.
This she denies; and signs of Grief are worn;
But mourns no more than may her Face adorn,
Give to those Eyes, which Love and Empire fir'd,
A melting Softness more to be desir'd;
Till the fixt Time, tho' hard to be endur'd,
Was pass'd, and a sad Consort's Name procur'd:
When, with the Pomp that suits a Prince's Thought,
By Passion sway'd, and glorious Woman taught,
A Queen she's made, than Michal seated higher,
Whilst light unusual Airs prophane the hallow'd Lyre.
Where art thou Nathan? where's that Spirit now,
Giv'n to brave Vice, tho' on a Prince's Brow?
In what low Cave, or on what Desert Coast,
Now Virtue wants it, is thy Presence lost?
But lo! he comes, the Rev'rend Bard appears,
Defil'd with Dust his awful silver Hairs,
And his rough Garment, wet with falling Tears.
The King this mark'd, and conscious wou'd have fled,
The healing Balm which for his Wounds was shed:
Till the more wary Priest the Serpents Art,
Join'd to the Dove-like Temper of his Heart,
And thus retards the Prince just ready now to part.
Hear me, the Cause betwixt two Neighbors hear,
Thou, who for Justice dost the Sceptre bear:
Help the Opprest, nor let me weep alone
For him, that calls for Succour from the Throne.
Good Princes for Protection are Ador'd,
And Greater by the Shield, than by the Sword.
This clears the Doubt, and now no more he fears
The Cause his Own, and therefore stays and hears:
When thus the Prophet: –
–In a flow'ry Plain
A King-like Man does in full Plenty reign;
Casts round his Eyes, in vain, to reach the Bound,
Which Jordan's Flood sets to his fertile Ground:
Countless his Flocks, whilst Lebanon contains
A Herd as large, kept by his numerous Swains,
That fill with morning Bellowings the cool Air,
And to the Cedar's shade at scorching Noon repair.
Near to this Wood a lowly Cottage stands,
Built by the humble Owner's painful Hands;
Fenc'd by a Stubble-roof, from Rain and Heat,
Secur'd without, within all Plain and Neat.
A Field of small Extent surrounds the Place,
In which One single Ewe did sport and graze:
This his whole Stock, till in full time there came,
To bless his utmost Hopes, a snowy Lamb;
Which, lest the Season yet too Cold might prove,
And Northern Blasts annoy it from the Grove,
Or tow'ring Fowl on the weak Prey might sieze,
(For with his Store his Fears must too increase)
He brings it Home, and lays it by his Side,
At once his Wealth, his Pleasure and his Pride;
Still bars the Door, by Labour call'd away,
And, when returning at the Close of Day,
With One small Mess himself, and that sustains,
And half his Dish it shares, and half his slender Gains.
When to the great Man's table now there comes
A Lord as great, follow'd by hungry Grooms:
For these must be provided sundry Meats,
The best for Some, for Others coarser Cates.
One Servant, diligent above the rest
To help his Master to contrive the Feast,
Extols the Lamb was nourished with such Care,
So fed, so lodg'd, it must be Princely Fare;
And having this, my Lord his own may spare.
In haste he sends, led by no Law, but Will,
Not to entreat, or purchase, but to Kill.
The Messenger's arriv'd: the harmless Spoil,
Unus'd to fly, runs Bleating to the Toil:
Whilst for the Innocent the Owner fear'd,
And, sure wou'd move, cou'd Poverty be heard.
Oh spare (he cries) the Product of my Cares,
My Stock's Encrease, the Blessing on my Pray'rs;
My growing Hope, and Treasure of my Life!
More was he speaking, when the murd'ring Knife
Shew'd him, his Suit, tho' just, must be deny'd,
And the white Fleece in its own Scarlet dy'd;
Whilst the poor helpless Wretch stands weeping by,
And lifts his Hands for Justice to the Sky.
Which he shall find, th' incensed King replies,
When for the proud Offence th' Oppressor dies.
O Nathan! by the Holy Name I swear,
Our Land such Wrongs unpunished shall not bear
If, with the Fault, th' Offender thou declare.
To whom the Prophet, closing with the Time,
Thou art the Man replies, and thine th' ill-natur'd Crime.
Nor think, against thy Place, or State, I err;
A Pow'r above thee does this Charge prefer;
Urg'd by whose Spirit, hither am I brought
T' expostulate his Goodness and thy Fault;
To lead thee back to those forgotten Years,
In Labour spent, and lowly Rustick Cares,
When in the Wilderness thy Flocks but few,
Thou didst the Shepherd's simple Art pursue
Thro' crusting Frosts, and penetrating Dew:
Till wondring Jesse saw six Brothers past,
And Thou Elected, Thou the Least and Last;
A Sceptre to thy Rural Hand convey'd,
And in thy Bosom Royal Beauties laid;
A lovely Princess made thy Prize that Day,
When on the shaken Ground the Giant lay
Stupid in Death, beyond the Reach of Cries
That bore thy shouted Fame to list'ning Skies,
And drove the flying Foe as fast away,
As Winds, of old, Locusts to Egypt's Sea.
Thy Heart with Love, thy Temples with Renown,
Th' All-giving Hand of Heav'n did largely crown,
Whilst yet thy Cheek was spread with youthful Down.
What more cou'd craving Man of God implore?
Or what for favour'd Man cou'd God do more?
Yet cou'd not These, nor Israel's Throne, suffice
Intemp'rate Wishes, drawn thro' wand'ring Eyes.
One Beauty (not thy own) and seen by chance,
Melts down the Work of Grace with an alluring Glance;
Chafes the Spirit, fed by sacred Art,
And blots the Title AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART;
Black Murder breeds to level at his Head,
Who boasts so fair a Part'ner of his Bed,
Nor longer must possess those envy'd Charms,
The single Treasure of his House, and Arms:
Giving, by this thy Fall, cause to Blaspheme
To all the Heathen the Almighty Name.
For which the Sword shall still thy Race pursue,
And, in revolted Israel's scornful View,
Thy captiv'd Wives shall be in Triumph led
Unto a bold Usurper's shameful Bed;
Who from thy Bowels sprung shall seize thy Throne,
And scourge thee by a Sin beyond thy own.
Thou hast thy Fault in secret Darkness done;
But this the World shall see before the Noonday's Sun.
Enough! the King, enough! the Saint replies,
And pours his swift Repentance from his Eyes;
Falls on the Ground, and tears the Nuptial Vest,
By which his Crime's Completion was exprest:
Then with a Sigh blasting to Carnal Love,
Drawn deep as Hell, and piercing Heaven, above
Let Me (he cries) let Me attend his Rod,
For I have sinn'd, for I have lost my God.
Hold! (says the Prophet ) of that Speech beware,
God ne'er was lost, unless by Man's Despair.
The Wound that is thus willingly reveal'd,
Th' Almighty is as willing should be heal'd.
Thus wash'd in Tears, thy Soul as fair does show
As the first Fleece, which on the Lamb does grow,
Or on the Mountain's top the lately fallen Snow.
Yet to the World that Justice may appear
Acting her Part impartial, and severe,
The Offspring of thy Sin shall soon resign
That Life, for which thou must not once repine;
But with submissive Grief his Fate deplore,
And bless the Hand, that does inflict no more.
Shall I then pay but Part, and owe the Whole?
My Body's Fruit, for my offending Soul?
Shall I no more endure (the King demands)
And 'scape thus lightly his offended Hands?
Oh! let him All resume, my Crown, my Fame;
Reduce me to the Nothing, whence I came;
Call back his Favours, faster than he gave;
And, if but Pardon'd, strip me to my Grave:
Since (tho' he seems to Lose ) He surely Wins,
Who gives but earthly Comforts for his Sins.
Anne Kingsmill Finch |
Through ev'ry Age some Tyrant Passion reigns:
Now Love prevails, and now Ambition gains
Reason's lost Throne, and sov'reign Rule maintains.
Tho' beyond Love's, Ambition's Empire goes;
For who feels Love, Ambition also knows,
And proudly still aspires to be possest
Of Her, he thinks superior to the rest.
As cou'd be prov'd, but that our plainer Task
Do's no such Toil, or Definitions ask;
But to be so rehears'd, as first 'twas told,
When such old Stories pleas'd in Days of old.
A King, observing how a Shepherd's Skill
Improv'd his Flocks, and did the Pastures fill,
That equal Care th' assaulted did defend,
And the secur'd and grazing Part attend,
Approves the Conduct, and from Sheep and Curs
Transfers the Sway, and changed his Wool to Furrs.
Lord-Keeper now, as rightly he divides
His just Decrees, and speedily decides;
When his sole Neighbor, whilst he watch'd the Fold,
A Hermit poor, in Contemplation old,
Hastes to his Ear, with safe, but lost Advice,
Tells him such Heights are levell'd in a trice,
Preferments treach'rous, and her Paths of Ice:
And that already sure 't had turn'd his Brain,
Who thought a Prince's Favour to retain.
Nor seem'd unlike, in this mistaken Rank,
The sightless Wretch, who froze upon a Bank
A Serpent found, which for a Staff he took,
And us'd as such (his own but lately broke)
Thanking the Fates, who thus his Loss supply'd,
Nor marking one, that with amazement cry'd,
Throw quickly from thy Hand that sleeping Ill;
A Serpent 'tis, that when awak'd will kill.
A Serpent this! th' uncaution'd Fool replies:
A Staff it feels, nor shall my want of Eyes
Make me believe, I have no Senses left,
And thro' thy Malice be of this bereft;
Which Fortune to my Hand has kindly sent
To guide my Steps, and stumbling to prevent.
No Staff, the Man proceeds; but to thy harm
A Snake 'twill prove: The Viper, now grown warm
Confirm'd it soon, and fasten'd on his Arm.
Thus wilt thou find, Shepherd believe it true,
Some Ill, that shall this seeming Good ensue;
Thousand Distastes, t' allay thy envy'd Gains,
Unthought of, on the parcimonious Plains.
So prov'd the Event, and Whisp'rers now defame
The candid Judge, and his Proceedings blame.
By Wrongs, they say, a Palace he erects,
The Good oppresses, and the Bad protects.
To view this Seat the King himself prepares,
Where no Magnificence or Pomp appears,
But Moderation, free from each Extream,
Whilst Moderation is the Builder's Theme.
Asham'd yet still the Sycophants persist,
That Wealth he had conceal'd within a Chest,
Which but attended some convenient Day,
To face the Sun, and brighter Beams display.
The Chest unbarr'd, no radiant Gems they find,
No secret Sums to foreign Banks design'd,
But humble Marks of an obscure Recess,
Emblems of Care, and Instruments of Peace;
The Hook, the Scrip, and for unblam'd Delight
The merry Bagpipe, which, ere fall of Night,
Cou'd sympathizing Birds to tuneful Notes invite.
Welcome ye Monuments of former Joys!
Welcome! to bless again your Master's Eyes,
And draw from Courts, th' instructed Shepherd cries.
No more dear Relicks! we no more will part,
You shall my Hands employ, who now revive my Heart.
No Emulations, nor corrupted Times
Shall falsely blacken, or seduce to Crimes
Him, whom your honest Industry can please,
Who on the barren Down can sing from inward Ease.
How's this! the Monarch something mov'd rejoins.
With such low Thoughts, and Freedom from Designs,
What made thee leave a Life so fondly priz'd,
To be in Crouds, or envy'd, or despis'd?
Forgive me, Sir, and Humane Frailty see,
The Swain replies, in my past State and Me;
All peaceful that, to which I vow return.
But who alas! (tho' mine at length I mourn)
Was e'er without the Curse of some Ambition born.