A Song

’Tis strange, this heart within my breast,  
            Reason oposing, and her powrs,
Cannot one gentle moment rest,
            Unlesse itt knows what’s done in yours. 

In vain, I ask itt of your eyes,                                        5      
            Which subtly wou’d my fears controul,
For art, has taught them to disguise
            Which nature made, t’explain the Soul. 

In vain, that sound, your voyce affords
            Flatters sometimes, my easy mind,                10     
But of too vast extent are words,
            In them, the Jewel truth to find.

Then lett my fond enquirys, cease,
            And so let all my troubles end,
For sure, that heart shall ne’r know peace,                15    
            Which on another’s, does depend.

About the poem

The psychology of courtship on display in this song prompted Charles H. Hinnant to observe that, like many of Finch’s songs and poems, the work reflects an “obsession with love’s uncertainties” (The Poetry of Anne Finch: An Essay in Interpretation [Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1994], pp. 52-53). Finch’s song resembles those incorporated into plays, which reflect courtship dynamics between lovers as they seek to outwit one another in the constant struggle between love and honor typical of these plots.

The topic of love’s struggle with uncertainties can be seen in many seventeenth-century works of art: an image of the heart’s torments is depicted in George Wither’s A Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne (London, 1635, Book 1, p. 39; image digitized by the Internet Archive in 2010 with funding from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) show image . Alternatively, an example of peaceful, idealized courtship in a pastoral setting appears in Peter Lely’s Amorous Couple in a Landscape (c. 1640) (at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes; digitized image from Wikimedia Commons) show image .

Music for this song survives in the first known printing of the poem: Vinculum Societatis, or the Tie of good Company (London, 1691, Book 3, p. 15). This collection of popular songs with music includes many works, like Finch’s, intended for performance, often in private gatherings. Using only the first eight lines of the poem, the setting provides a score of thorough-bass for harpsichord and other instruments.

The source copy of “Miscellany Poems with Two Plays by Ardelia” show image shows Anne Finch’s revisions of her husband’s transcription in lines 13, 14, and 16.

Dates and Sources

The composition date is unknown, but the latest possible date is 1691, based on the poem’s first known printing in Vinculum Societatis (see above). Other surviving copies of the poem appear in the following sources, supervised by Anne Finch and her husband Heneage Finch: the octavo MS “Poems on Several Subjects Written by Ardelia” (Northamptonshire Record Office, call number FH 283), the folio MS “Miscellany Poems with Two Plays by Ardelia” (Folger Shakespeare Library, call number Nb3), and Finch’s Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions (London, 1713). This poem was the first Heneage Finch copied into the octavo MS “Poems on Several Subjects Written by Ardelia” when he assumed the role of transcriber for that manuscript. The copy-text used here is from “Miscellany Poems with Two Plays by Ardelia.” Our transcription follows these conventions: i/j and u/v are altered to reflect modern use, superscript letters and numbers are lowered, and abbreviations no longer current are expanded.

Collations

Substantive variants, including those that could affect pronunciation, are listed below from the only other sources of the poem known to be supervised by Finch and her husband, Heneage: the octavo MS “Poems on Several Subjects Written by Ardelia” (NR283) and Finch’s 1713 print volume Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions, with the 1714 copy Poems on Several Occasions (HH14), call number HEW 12.11.2 at the Houghton Library, used to collate variants.

13 my] thy NR283
14 let all my] my Soul, thy NR283
16 Which on another’s,] That on another NR283