The Petition for an Absolute Retreat

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(Inscribed to the Right Honourable Catharine Countess of Thanet, mentioned in the poem under the name of Arminda)

Give me, O indulgent Fate!Give me yet before I dieA sweet, but absolute retreat,'Mongst paths so lost and trees so highThat the world may ne'er invadeThrough such windings and such shadeMy unshaken liberty.

No intruders thither comeWho visit but to be from home!None who their vain moments passOnly studious of their glass;News, that charm to list'ning 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, and who's to wed.Be no tidings thither brought,But silent as a midnight thoughtWhere the world may ne'er invadeBe those windings and that shade!

Courteous Fate! afford me thereA table spread, without my care,With what the neighb'ring fields impart,Whose cleanliness be all its art.When of old the calf was drest(Though to make an angel's feast)In the plain unstudied sauceNor truffle nor morillia was;Nor could the mighty patriarchs' boardOne far-fetch'd ortolan afford.Courteous Fate! then give me thereOnly plain and wholesome fare;Fruits indeed (would heaven bestow)All that did in Eden grow,All but the forbidden TreeWould be coveted by me;Grapes with juice so crowded upAs breaking through the native cup;Figs yet growing candied o'erBy the sun's attracting power;Cherries, with the downy peach,All within my easy reach;Whilst creeping near the humble groundShould the strawberry be foundSpringing wheresoe'er I stray'dThrough those windings and that shade.For my garments: let them beWhat may with the time agree;

Warm when Phœbus does retireAnd is ill-supplied by fire:But when he renews the yearAnd verdant all the fields appear,Beauty every thing resumes,Birds have dropp'd their winter plumes,When the lily full-display'dStands in purer white array'dThan that vest which heretoforeThe luxurious monarch wore,When from Salem's gates he droveTo the soft retreat of love,Lebanon's all burnish'd houseAnd the dear Egyptian spouse.Clothe me, Fate, though not so gay,Clothe me light and fresh as May!In the fountains let me viewAll my habit cheap and newSuch as, when sweet zephyrs fly,With their motions may comply,Gently waving to expressUnaffected carelessness.No perfumes have there a partBorrow'd from the chemist's art,But such as rise from flow'ry bedsOr the falling jasmine sheds!'Twas the odour of the fieldEsau's rural coat did yieldThat inspir'd his father's prayerFor blessings of the earth and air:Of gums or powders had it smelt,The supplanter, then unfelt,Easily had been descriedFor one that did in tents abide,For some beauteous handmaid's joy,And his mother's darling boy.

Let me then no fragrance wearBut what the winds from gardens bear,In such kind surprising galesAs gather'd from Fidentia's valesAll the flowers that in them grew;Which intermixing as they flewIn wreathen garlands dropp'd againOn Lucullus and his men;Who, cheer'd by the victorious sight,Trebled 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 shunWhen they do too fiercely beatLet me find some close retreatWhere they have no passage madeThrough those windings, and that shade.


© Anne Finch - Countess of Winchilsea