Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
To the Nightingale
By Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661–1720)
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 lays;
Free as thine shall be my song,        5
As thy music, short or long;
Poets, wild as thou, 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 the 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 those it join?
’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,
Censuring what we cannot reach.        35

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