Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
To the Nightingale
By Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661–1720)
 
EXERT 1 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 lays.
    Free as thine shall be my song;        5
    As thy music, short or long.
Poets wild as thee were born,
    Pleasing best when unconfined,
    When to please is least designed,
    Soothing but their cares to rest:        10
    Cares do still their thoughts molest,
    And still th’ unhappy poet’s breast,
Like thine, when best he sings, is placed against a thorn.
    She begins, let all be still!
    Muse, thy promise now fulfil!        15
    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,        20
    Till with sounds like these it joins?
    ’Twill not be! then change thy note;
    Let division shake thy throat:
    Hark! division now she tries,
    Yet as far the Muse outflies.        25
    Cease then, prithee, cease thy tune!
    Trifler, wilt thou sing till June?
    Till thy business all lies waste,
    And the time of building’s past?
    Thus we poets that have speech,        30
    Unlike what thy forests teach,
    If a fluent vein be shown
    That’s transcendent to our own,
    Criticise, reform, or preach,
    Or centure what we cannot reach.        35
 
Note 1. The text of this poem, and other selections included in this anthology, are from The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchilsea, edited by Myra Reynolds, Chicago, 1903. [back]
 
 
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