A Celebration of Women Writers

"To The Nightingale" 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. p. 200-202.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


Exert thy Voice, sweet Harbinger of Spring!
     This Moment is thy Time to sing,
     This Moment I attend to Praise,
And set my Numbers to thy Layes.
     Free as thine shall be my Song;
     As thy Musick, short, or long.

[Page 201]

Poets, wild as thee, were born,
     Pleasing best when unconfin'd,
     When to Please is least design'd,
Soothing but their Cares to rest;
     Cares do still their Thoughts molest,
     And still th' unhappy Poet's Breast,
Like thine, when best he sings, is plac'd against a Thorn.
She begins, Let all be still!
     Muse, thy Promise now fulfill!
Sweet, oh! sweet, still sweeter yet
Can thy Words such Accents fit,
Canst thou Syllables refine,
Melt a Sense that shall retain
Still some Spirit of the Brain,
Till with Sounds like these it join.
     'Twill not be! then change thy Note;
     Let division shake thy Throat. {1}
Hark! Division now she tries;
Yet as far the Muse outflies.

[Page 202]

     Cease then, prithee, cease thy Tune;
     Trifler, wilt thou sing till June?
Till thy Bus'ness all lies waste,
And the Time of Building's past!
     Thus we Poets that have Speech,
Unlike what thy Forests teach,
     If a fluent Vein be shown
     That's transcendant to our own,
Criticize, reform, or preach,
Or censure what we cannot reach.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


  1. Division is variation on a melody, fluttering a voice in trills and runs.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom