A Celebration of Women Writers

"A Contemplation" by Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661 - 1720)
Manuscript Source: Wellesley College, Margaret Clapp Library, MS. 143-146.
This Edition: Anne Finch and Her Poetry: A Critical Biography by Barbara McGovern. Athens & London: University of Georgia Press, 1992.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

A Contemplation

Indulg'd by ev'ry active thought
    When upwards they wou'd fly
Nor can Ambition be a fault
    If plac'd above the sky

When humbld first we meekly crave
    Remission for the past
We from the fore-tasts which we have
    May guesse our Joys at last

Then let my Contemplation soar
    And Heav'n my Subject be
Though low on Earth in nature poor
    Some prospect we may see

And now that scene before me stands
    And large Possessions there
Where none usurps anothers Lands {1}
    And Theives we do not fear

All Care all Sorrow all Surprise
    Fly from that World of peace
Where tears are wip'd from clouded Eyes
    And Sighs for ever cease

Decay or Sicknesse find no place
    In that untainted Air
But still th'incorruptable Face {2}
    Shall as at first be fair

Agility in pace or flight
    The Blessed shall convey
Where e're the Lamb more fair then light {3}
    Shall lead the radiant way

Whilst Praises in Seraphick Sounds {4}
    The blisful road shall trace
And musick seem to passe the bounds
    Even of unbounded Space

Such balmy Odours shall disperse
    As from the Bridegroom's pores {5}
The holy Canticles rehearse {6}
    Fell on the Bolts and Doors

When to his Spouse the well belov'd
    More white then Jordans Flocks {7}
Spake whilest her hand the Barrs remov'd
    And dew-drops fill'd his locks

The Crosse shall there triumphant rise
    And ev'ry Eye shall scan
That promis'd Ensign in the skies
    Close by the Son of Man

With Christ there Charles's Crown shall meet {8}
    Which Martirdom adorns
And prostrate lye beneath his feet
    My Coronet of Thorns

The Lord to whom my life is joyn'd
    For Conscience here opprest
Shall there full retribution find
    And none his Claimes molest

Hypocrisy and feign'd pretence
    To cover foul Dissigns
Shall blusshing fly as far from thence
    As to the deepest Mines

We there shall know the use of Foes
    Whom here we have forgiven
When we shall thank them for those woes
    Which pav'd our way to Heaven

There all good things that we have mist
    With Int'rest shall return
Whilst those who have each wish possest
    Shall for that fullnesse mourn

There Coventry of Tufton's Line {9}
    For piety renown'd
Shall in transcending virtues Shine
    And Equally be Crown'd

Around her shall the Chains be spread
    Of Captives she has freed
And ev'ry Mouth that she has fed
    Shall testify the deed

Whilst Scools supplied to mend our youth
    Shall on the List be shown
A Daughter and a Mother both
    In Her the Church shall own

The Gospell crosse the seas rehearst
    By her diffusive aid
And fifty-thousand pounds dispers'd
    Shall there be largely paid

My Heart by her supporting Love
    In all its Cares upheld
For that, to see her Crown improve
    With transports shall be fill'd

From Gratitude what graces flow
    What endlesse pleasures spring
From Prayers whilst we remain below
    Above whilst Praise we Sing

And Mammon wert thou well employ'd {10}
    What Mansions might be wonne
Whilst Woolsey's Pallace lyes destroy'd {11}
    And Marlbrough's is not done. {12}

Whilst to this Heav'n my Soul Aspires
    All Suff'rings here are light
He travells pleas'd who but desires
    A Sweet Repose at Night

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

Notes:

  1. Usurps anothers Lands: The Hanover line of William and Mary were considered by the Jacobites to have usurped the Stuart line, in claiming England's throne.
  2. Incorruptable Face: Bodies after the resurrection were believed to be incorruptable.
  3. Lamb: Christ, referred to as the Lamb of God.
  4. Seraphick: The Seraphim were an order of six-winged angels allowed to stand in the presence of God.
  5. Bridegroom: God, in the person of Christ, is the Bridegroom; his Spouse is the Church.
  6. Canticles: Liturgical songs.
  7. Jordan: Physically speaking, the Jordan river was an area where shepherds herded flocks of sheep. It was also significant as a site of Christian baptism, and metaphorically as a crossing from death to heavenly rebirth.
  8. Charles: Charles I, King of England, martyred.
  9. Coventry: Margaret Tufton, wife of George, third baron of Coventry, was known for her work for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
  10. Mammon: Material wealth or possessions.
  11. Woolsey's Pallace: Cardinal Wolsey built Hampton Court Palace, but later offered it to Henry VIII, in an attempt to retain kingly favour. When Christopher Wren remodelled Hampton Court for William and Mary, he tore down portions of the original palace.
  12. Marlbrough's : The Duke of Marlborough, considered a Whig profiteer by many Tories, began building Blenheim in 1705. It was still unfinished 15 years later.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom