This essay was written between between 1993 and 1994. My aim was to discuss Anne Finch's poetry and methods from a fresh point of view: that of her interpretation and practice of translation theory as it emerged in the later 17th century. My argument is that some of the techniques for which Finch is most admired were first developed by her through the practice of translation. I show that we can observe some of her characteristic stances towards life and poetry in her translation-adaptations.
I have updated the text to indicate scholarship since 1994 and to indicate that the Wellesley manuscript is now available in two editions. I have appended an updated select bibliography of translation studies whose emphasis is key later 17th and 18th century texts and attitudes towards translation.
Whilst Babel's scattered streames unite again
Beneath the conduct of th'industrious Pen, "A Poem,
["Occasion'd by the sight of the 4th Epistle Lib. Epist 1 of Horace
Immitated and Inscrib'd to Richard Thornhill, Esq. by Mr Rowe,
who had before sent heither, another Translation from Horace",
Anne Finch to Nicholas Rowe, soon after July 1701]
In the last decade feminist scholars have begun to alter a long-standing conventional view of the poetry of Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1660-1720). First clearly articulated in the 1820's in letters between William Wordsworth and Alexander Dyce, and then influentially proselytized in the 1890's by Edmund Gosse, and codified in 1903 in the incomplete but still standard edition of Finch's poetry by Myra Reynolds, the argument ran that Anne Finch (she was then referrred to as the Countess of Winchilsea) wrote interesting but decidedly minor and melancholy poetry which was best understood through perspectives drawn from early eighteenth- century romantic attitudes, poetry whose significance lay in the poet's gift for depicting evanescent natural phenomena. And while this view was qualified in 1946 when Reuben Brower convincingly demonstrated some close textual affinities between Finch's verse and the verse of early and mid-seventeenth century English poets, the result was the emergence of a feminine 'Marvell who was not very different from the female Gray or Thomson we had had.
The feminist scholars -- most notably Katherine Rogers, Carol Barash, and Barbara McGovern -- are now arguing that Finch's poetry is best understood in terms of the literary criteria of the English Restoration or that of the Jacobite politics of the 1790s and early 1810s. Their emphasis is, of course, on those poems whose drift is feminist, but they have not re-distorted the poetry. They have taken into account Finch's inability to reject absolutely, or to rebel publicly against, the social mores of her day. Crucially, they have added to the important essays of Edward Dowden in 1910 and Helen Sard Hughes in 1928 by returning to, again discussing, quoting at length from, and printing whole, more of the 57 poems by Finch now edited as a reprint of a manuscript volume now at Wellesley College. They have published accurate and detailed information about when and what poems Finch published. They have compiled updated bibliographies and reprinted eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century collections of biographies of, and poems by, women; they have made new kinds of selections from Finch's poems, and discussed her poetry in terms of the poetry and critical ideas of exactly contemporary men and women; and they have tried to assess the effect/of seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century satires on "female wits" on women writers, including the satirical blending of the mid-17th century poet and (hopeful) philosopher, Margaret Lucas Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-73); the early 18th century dramatist Susana (Freeman? Carroll?) Centlivre (1670?-1723), and Anne Finch herself, into the character of Phoebe Clinket in the play Three Hours After Marriage, by John Arbuthnot, John Gay, and Alexander Pope, the last two of whom at least were conscious rivals of Finch. All this forms a more accurate picture of Anne Finch and her place in her society and in literary and social history.
I propose further to qualify and also to broaden our emerging picture of Anne Finch. I propose to discuss her translation of with Italian through the French and French itself as indicative of what is to be learned by studying her as a translator and imitator -- for that is what she was, and centrally. Out of the 159 non-dramatic poems printed by Reynolds, and the 57 poems at Wellesley College, no less than 87 are poems written with other specific literary texts in mind; that is, well over one-third of Finch's extant poems are (in her words) "translations," "paraphrases," "imitations," "done into English with liberty," "in the manner of," occasioned by," "answers to," or, simply, "from" other people's texts. These include a large group of occasionally brilliant fables; highly original intralingual imitations and re-creations into English of French, Italian, Latin, and even Greek texts; and historically significant devotional poetry. For these poems Reynolds provides almost no annotation, nor do McGovern and Hinnant. Anne Finch should be viewed as an important and effective practitioner of the art of translation and imitation. Her work in this kind is worth studying in its own right. She is one of the many poets of her generation who chose to express themselves by contemplating "not . . . the spring of nature but . . . the pool of art" (Poggioli 139).
To study Finch's poetry in this light is to reveal her education as a poet and her perspective on natural men and women in society -- she remains aware of society hovering, so to speak, in the background or implicit in the behavior of men, women, and animals, even in her landscape and more obviously proto-romantic poetry. In her oeuvre we see her clarify her perspective into that of a passionate and caustic Jacobite who frankly loathes the immoral life of the city and the court. She began with a personal need for, and moral conviction that, the natural, happiest, and most fruitful state of mind for people is one of quiet tranquillity when restlessness is laid aside. Through her interaction with other people's texts, she explored court politics and the paranoia, dangers, and kinds of knowledge and delusion the mind may experience when momentarily cut off from society. Her texts deepened as she learned to be candid, as she thickened her yearning words through literary allusion and remembered ironies from her wide reading.
It is also to examine the process of translating as one in which one poet attempts to carry
into her "receiving" language the wealth she has been deeply and personally engaged by and
garnered in reading a particular "source" poem or group of poems. For Finch (I quote Ben Belitt
on Robert Lowell) translation gave her a "surrogate identity" through which she gave utterance to
her most passionate concerns. Finch's generation understood that self-expression is a primary
motive in translation. Anne wrote that the translated verse and verse-essay on translations by
Wentworth Dillon, the Earl of Roscommon's "An Essay on Translated Verse" (1684), was
important to her (see Reynolds, p 43: Piso [Roscommon], who from the Latin, Virgil frees . . .").
Roscommon argued that to make good poetry the translaitor must "first" to "your self
No Masque, no Tricks, no Favour, no Reserve;
Dissect your Mind, examine ev'ry Nerve . . .
Examine how your Humour is inclin'd,
And which the Ruling Passion of your Mind;
Then seek a Poet who your way do's bend,
And chuse an Author as you chuse a Friend;
United by this Sympathetick Bond,
You grow Familiar, Intimate, and Fond;
Your.thoughts, your Words, your Stiles, your Souls agree,
No longer his Interpreter, but He.
I have not room in this brief paper to go over all her translation work. Her very earliest work from the French shows her revealing her inner concerns and is performed with the same metaphrase finally releasing itself into paraphrase and then imitation that we find in her work with Tasso. Since there are but five pieces of work by her from Tasso and one from Petrarch, I propose to make these epitomize the trajectory and concentrate on these; I will be content to be more suggestive in the case of her work with French and to conclude by suggesting why close study of her translations and imitations is profitable.
The first question we ask of any translator is, Why did she turn to the poets she did? When we look here, we discover Anne consistently turns to tragic satire and pastoral, and later to very ironic beast fables with a pastoral background; we also discover her repeatedly returning to poems whose texture and mood is dream-like. In the case of the first translations which she acknowledged (not those she did), Torquato Tasso's "favola boschereccia" [sylvan tale], Aminta (written by him in the winter of 1572-73, performed at the Ferraro Este court as a pastoral drama some six months later), Anne Finch found and developed a characteristically dream-like and detached satiric voice. When she translated Jean de La Fontaine's re-creations of (mostly) Greek, Latin, and Indian fables, some via Italian, some via French versions, as "fables ornées" or "fables egayées" [adorned or witty fables] , in his Fables choisies mises en vers (the first six books published by him in 1668, the next five in 1678, the last in 1694), she developed the same voice more wittily and with more direct political allusiveness. Tasso also drew her by his melody; La Fontaine, by the moral patterning and justification of fable; she stayed with them for their anatomies of solitude, dream, pastoral, and court politics, for the freedom she felt in their dismissal of ambition and honor, and of her society's anti-feminist and cynical mores, conventions, and rewards.
Two major problems confront anyone who wants to study Finch's practices as a poet- translator. She doesn't always name her source poems; this I have overcome by overcome by much reading of later 17th-, and early 18th century French, Italian and English poetry. She also labels her work inconsistently and does not theorize. One must therefore flesh out her labels with further terminology and reasoned definitions from contemporary English and French poet-translators who theorized and whose practices Finch praised. For example, in the striking phrase of Reynolds, Finch "called Cowley Master" (cvii), and in my opinion Finch uses "verbal" as Abraham Cowley uses it in his description of some Latin translations of Pindar's Greek (in his 1656 "Preface', to Pindarique Odes): "verbals versions" are absolutely literal translations which relinquish good or clear grammatical construction in the receiving language in order to get down in the receiving language the closest words or phrases for what is written in the source language.
Again, although she nowhere uses the term, "metaphrase" is useful in a study of Finch's translations because she appears to have begun by metaphrasing (a way of translating allied to that of verbal translating). As defined by John Dryden (in his 1681 "Preface" to Ovid's Epistles, Translated by Several Hands) to metaphrase is to turn "an author word by word, and line by line, from one language into another." The difference is that in metaphrase good or clear grammar in the receiving language is not sacrificed, and in Finch's early work she is also always seeking to write rhymed couplets. She procured a verbal version of the Amintaand an enormous book in French of metaphrases of, and commentary on, all of Francesco Petrarca's Italian lyrics. Much of this translation work from Italian and her somewhat wooden, brief, and perhaps earliest translations from French were metaphrases. Her Tasso metaphrases fail where she finds herself unable to translate line by line and rhyme unless she omits Tasso's exquisite detail, and pads with general scenic phrases (cf., e.g., Reynolds 114, lines 20-30 with Fubini, I, ii, 400-21).
Although Finch uses the terms "paraphrase" and "imitation" interchangeably, and Dryden discriminates carefully between the two terms, in some of her translations from La Fontaine and her imitation of Antoinette du Ligier- de-le-Garde Deshouliers; in an imitation of John Milton, "Fanscomb Barn", in two of her imitations from Sir Roger L'Estrange's 1692 Fables of Aesop, and in her one possible imitation from John Ogilby's 1668 Fables of Aesop, her later practice is accurately described by Dryden when he defines paraphrase as "translations with latitude, where the authoris kept in view by the translator, so as never to be lost, but his words not so strictly followed as his sense, and that too is admitted to be amplified, but not altered" (Watson 1:268). Dryden's definition of imitation describes her practice in the majority of her poems from La Fontaine and her one from Michel de Montaigne's Essais; most of her intralingual imitations and her several imitations of Greek poetry by way of Madame Dacier, with the significant difference that Dryden is uncomfortable with, and occasionally condemns, imitation and overly "loose" paraphrase. Dryden writes "of imitation . . . the translator (if now he has not lost that name) assumes the liberty not only to vary from the words and sense, but to forsake them both as he sees occasion; and taking only some general hints from the original to run divisions in the ground-work, as he pleases" (Watson 1:268). Dryden and other seventeenth-century writers do not treat imitations as original work and, therefore as essentially different from paraphrases (as we generally do), but as two kinds of translation which can be distinguished through setting up an imagined continuum of closer or farther distance from the source poem upon which the new poem is re-created. This explains why Finch does not cite many of La Fontaine's poems as the sources of her fables.
Finch parts company with Dryden when, as is sometimes overlooked, he goes on to insist
that the translator "has no right" to add, to "retrench," or to substitute; that "imitation and verbal
version [by which Dryden here means metaphrase] are the two extremes which ought to be
avoided"; that "imitation [is] the greatest wrong which can be done to the memory and reputation
of the dead"; and when, in his later (1685) "Preface" to another book of translations,
Sylvae: or the Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies, he berates himself for the
"boldness" of his "expositions" (Watson 1:271-72; 2:18-19; see also Steiner, English
Translation Theory 29-31). Finch's attitude is closer to that articulated by the French
seventeenth-century school of translators whose practices and attitudes may be indicated
by the name they came to be known by -- "less belles infidèles" (Steiner, English
Translation Theory 13-18; Hermans 112). In England the new French practices were
outlined in John Denham's 1648 poem "To Richard Fanshawe upon his Translation of Pastor
Fido" (Giambattista Guarini's Il pastor fido, another Ferraro-Este pastoral play,
A new and nobler way thou dost pursue . . .
Foording his current, where thou find'st it low
Let'st in thine own to make it rise and flow;
Wisely restoring whatsoever grace
It lost by change of Times, or Tongues, or Place . . .
That Masters hand [the translator's] which to the life can trace
The airs, the lines, and features of a face,
May with a free and bolder stroke express
A varyed posture, or a flattering Dress;
Denham concludes that the master translator will let us know "his own design was best." Denham's point is that (I quote this time from his preface in the same year to his translation from the fourth book of Virgil's Aeneid, The Destruction of Troy, and his source text, George Chapman's 1616 preface to Chapman's translation of Homer's Iliad), the translator can only "open" "Poesie" to someone who doesn't or can't understand or read it by writing "Poesie of his own (Steiner, English Translation Theory, 19-20, 63-6; Spingarn 1:78) -- and this Anne Finch does. Anne called Denham "a real Poet" who could turn any hill into a "Parnassus" (Reynolds 8-9).
An "emulative" mood (Hermans 113) is a major factor in all Finch's translations and in her
successes. In a poem to her close friend, "To the Honorable the Lady [Frances
Thynne] Worsley [Utresia/Ephelia] at Long-leate", "If from some lonely and obscure
recesse" (Reynolds 52-55), Finch said that emulation was the basis of all her poetry. Ardelia
(Finch's chosen poetic name, much in evidence in this poem) says that could she throw off her
sadness and cares, her friend's letters would make her write poetry in response ot them: "the
Witt . . . on her paper [should] inspire" Ardelia
And raise my Art equal to my desire
Then should my Hand snatch from the Muses store
Transporting Figures n'ere expos'd before
Something to Please so mouing and so new
As not our Denham or our Cowley knew.
She equates Denham and Cowley: in Denham she found precedents for landscape and translation poetry; in "her Master," Cowley, she found the urge to compete singled out as the basis of good translation poetry. In his preface to his Pindaric odes, Cowley argues that a good translator must not simply aim to create a close copy of an original in another language [because] "I never saw a Copy better then the Original, which indeed cannot be otherwise, for men resolving in no case to shoot beyond the Mark, it is a thousand to one if they shoot not short of it." "Upon this ground," as a good translator -- and Cowley finds the term inadequate for what he does -- Cowley has "taken, left out, and added what I please."
In her paraphrases and imitations Finch takes, leaves out, and adds what she pleases; like
Cowley, she does not regard her texts as secondary. I take as an example of her freedom in one
of her later translations from La Fontaine, the fable with which she began her 1713 miscellany,
the Elephant. A Prefatory Fable" (Reynolds 3-4). It's highly typical of her translation art.
Her source is La Fontaine's "L'Éléphant et le singe de Jupiter" (Couton 349-50). La Fontaine's
satire on the unjustified arrogance behind court etiquette begins before the battle of the elephant
and the rhinoceros; all is awed expectation when the elephant hears someone has seen the
appropoate arrival of Jupiter's "Ambassadeur." The first deflation and hint of what is to come is
the appearance of a monkey named "Gille," albeit he had "paru dans l'air" "Portant un Caducée"
[appeared in air carrying a caduceus]. Suspense builds as the elephant ceremoniously awaits
the requisite elaborate courtesies: he expects Gille "présenter sa créance" [to present his
credentials], to bring "la legations" and so on, "Mais pas un mot" [Yet there is not even a word of
greeting]. The monkey appears unaware of, and indifferent to, the existence of the elephant, to
say nothing of his status and the important ombat. La Fontaine's critique of court pride extends
to a radical mockery in the closing dialogue at the fable's end of the idea that there is a special
divine providence controlling each occurrence in the world:
L'Éléphant, honteux et surprise
Lui dit: Et parmi nous que venez-vous donc faire?
--Partager un brin d'herbe entre quelques Fourmis:
Nous avons soin du tout.
[The elephant, ashamed and astonished,
Said to him: And for what then have you come among us?
--To split a blade of grass among a few ants:
There is nothing beneath us, nothing too small]
Finch turns La Fontaine's fable into a fable about her awareness of her insignificance as a female poet -- about the indifference of the world to poetry and its scorn of female wits. She initiates themes and moods that pervade her book. She begins after the battle and with Jupiter's messenger. La Fontaine's hidden grandeur (implicit in the caduceus) becomes overt in the numinous presence of Mercury himself; but, like La Fontaine, Finch deflates her figure. Her second line is a parenthesis on Mercury's well-known less than admirable character: "As Merc'ry travelled thro' a Wood/(Whose Errands are more Fleet than Good) . . . " His undignified "haste" reminds this reader of Alice's white rabbit, and he almost trips over the elephant, now an "unweildy Brute" laying in "the Way."
It is not court etiquette as such, but reputation that is the issue. The elephant "rises up," anxious to clear his "Fame." Some lies "that I foul Ply had us'd" are tarnishing his deed, otherwise "throughly Bright and Bold." To his astonishment, the elephant learns that nothing appears to have been "Recorded" in "th'impartial Skies" ("all my Care," says the elephant, piously disclaiming any interest in worldly fame). Jupiter's messenger is again unaware of, and indifferent to, the elephant. He cannot be bothered to judge. Finch then adds 24 lines of her own by way of preface to her book, lines against long prefacex in which she denies any concern over her reputation or the fate of her poetry. As men read for themselves, so she writes for herself alone, "Betray'd by Solitude to try/Amusements, which the Prosp'rous fly." Her point is the world cannot be bothered to judge poetry, especially from "a female Hand;': despite all "our Labours/The Printers may, indeed, be starv'd."
I have spent this long on Finch's small playful gem because, like La Fontaine's first fable in his first book, "La cigale et fourmi", Finch's first fable is an introduction to her book. She understands the strength of fable: to play upon our memories of traditional stories -- in this case (from Pliny the Elder on) the fabulous attribution to the elephant of superb intelligence and memory and a drive for glory, and (from Homer) the sublimity of Olympus; but, unlike Fontaine's other English translators, Finch typically chooses her material from La Fontaine's later, more complicated, somewhat un-Aesopic collection. "Mercury and the Elephant. A Prefatory Fable" also discloses Finch's ability to make her source poem undergo sea-change while retaining its most meaningful features. Her poem is recognizably a combination of La Fontaine and recognizably Ardelia, with La Fontaine's many-faceted sly ironies now made specific to English society and directed at Ardelia herself.
In all her paraphrases and imitations Finch's aim will be to create analogous experiences in her English "idiolect" (Stein, After Babel, 1-17) for her Englsh readers (and often directed specifically at women) for the experience she has had when reading her chosen text -- analogous experiences which express her vocation as a poet and resulting sense of herself as a misfit, and, particularly before she became the Countess, as not really belonging anywhere, to which sense I partly attribute her ocasionally venomous criticism of frivolous society women and her pervasive sadness (see, e.g., Reynolds 62, lines 26-36). In the above poem she has not let slip the quiet splendor of La Fontaine in French, which includes an unemphatic reference to "ceux du Firmament" [those of the firmament], a sense of beauty caught in Ardelia's more pragmatic English -- in her comical Mercury, in the crystalline adjectives playing on the old chivalric pictures of honor ("Bright and Bold"), and in her reference to the "impartial Skies."
The last general point to be made about Finch's translations is that even in her metaphrases she adapts the poetry of others into poetry which expresses herself while remaining in intimate contact with, "extremement attachée" to the French, English, and Italian before her. I have here quoted a phrase from Anne Lefevre Dacier's "Preface" to her translations of Anacreon and Sappho (first published 1681) because her book provided Finch with the source of Finch's Sappho imitation, and Dacier's attitude towards Greek is that of Finch towards the languages of Finch's source poems. For both the original motive to translate was a love of the "source' language itself.
That Finch loved French is obvious from her command, continual reading, and many translations from French. Her love of the consciously created idiolects of Edmund Spenser, the metaphysical and cavalier poets, and Milton, of English translations, is suggested repeatedly in her many echoes and quotations of specific lines, in her imitations of long passages from English poets in significant and unpexpected places of her own, and in her quotations from, and praises of, translations (Reynolds 43, lines 161-62; 98, lines 3- 9; see also Brower, "Lady Winchilsea and 17th C. Poetic Tradition"). Reynolds speaks of "the eager delight apparent in the extracts from Tasso" (xcv), and Finch tells us she loved the sound of Italian in her 1718 elegy commemorating Mary Beatrice d'Este (or of Modena, her birthplace), "On the Death of the Queen", in which 34 years after Finch ceased performing the functions of an English maid of honor to Mary ("Urania" in this and other of Finch's poems; see Reynolds "The Losse", 17-18,line 9), Finch lingers over the sounds of Mary's Italian:
The Roman accent, which such grace affords,
To Tuscan language, harmonised her words;
All eyes, all listening sense, upon her hung,
When from her lovely mouth th'enchantment sprung
Finch presents Mary's spoken Italian in terms of a prevalent ideal for written Italian then and until recently; that is, Urania is said to have spoken the language of Tuscany as modified by the language of Rome. Given Mary d'Este's thorough education and the geographical position of Modena, she may well have spoken this way; but the assertion is interesting because it reveals that Finch knows that there is an ideal standard (which Urania met) and there are other (unacceptable) Italian dialects. As a court lady, Finch had really listened to the Italian spoken in Mary d'Este's inner circle; as a poet, she had translated Tasso and Petrarca, from the latter of whom one was said to learn the ideal Italian tongue.
In turning to discuss the particulars of Finch's progress and techniques and but a few of her overlooked poems in the kind called translation, I begin with her paraphrases from Tasso and Petrarca, for in these "juvenilia" we see her gradually learn to use and to develop a characteristic style in order to makes verses which are analogous to, and reinforce the weight and spirit of the Italian, which she is also studious to translate exactly. In the most successful of these, her third piece from Tasso, "Thirsis persuades Amintor not to dispair", she "turns one piece of gold into another piece of gold" (Poggioli 143). She reads Milton back into Tasso to make for English readers poetry which will have the high seriousness of Tasso, and she runs the compound through her own sensibility as modified by Tasso so as in the case of "Mercury and the Elephant," to produce a poem recognizably her source author's and recognizably her own (cf. Brower, "Seven Agamemnons" 180-83)..
Since the brevity of the sonnet form allows one to look at small details, even though Finch meanders and fumbles in her non-sonnet paraphrase of Petrarcals sonnet "Quando 'l sol bagno in mar l'aurato carro" [When the sun steeps in the sea his golden cart] as "When Phoebus, at the declining of the day/His golden chariot plunges in the Sea" (Reynolds 119-20), and uses as intermediary Philippe de Maldghem's "Quand Phoebus en la mer baignant a sa retraite", we begin with this early work in order to see in detail Finch's accuracy and sensitivity to the language of her source texts. For example, her verb "chide" (line 13) is the best translation I have found of Petrarca's "garro." Petrarca is not chattering, as Maldeghem has it ("cacquette"), nor quarrelling, chatting, nor conversing with himself. Finch has found the English word which conveys Petrarcals gentle remonstrance of himself, his sense that he is being a foolish child in his ceaseless scolding of an indifferent world and blind fortune.
In this early work we also find that she relies on repetition to convey her text's density of pain and darkness, on personfication and antitheses to articulate less tangible meaning -- in this case case to convey something of Petrarca's allegorical punning on Laura's name. Maldeghem further darkens and slows down Petrarca's second and fourth lines, "et l'aere nostra et la mente imbruna . . . un'angosciosa et dura notte innarro" [and my mind and the air turn dark . . . I begin an anguished hard night]" as "nostre air & mes sens obscurit . . . Pleine d'angoisse & mal pour arres je conquest [our air and my senses darkened . . . Filled with anguish and pain I seek surcease]. These Finch repeats at the end of her poem (lines 2-5, 17-18):
Leauing my Soul, and this forsaken air
With darknesse cover'd, and with black dispair,
I by the rising streaks of Cynthia's light,
My greifs bewail, and dread th'approaching night . . .
My soul, till morning, thus her anguish shews,
When soft Aurora cheerful light renews.
Finch has joined the imagery and words of Petrarca's first quatrain to a punning picture of his twelfth line, "Vien poi l'aurora et l'aur fosca inalball [Then dawn arrives and whitens the misty air], under the influence of Maldeghem's sombre metaphrase (line 12): "Puis apres l'aube vient l'air tenebreux blanchir" [At last the dawn comes and lights the shadowy air], and Maldeghem's melancholy biographical exegesis:
Il escrit icy, que sa miserable vie est la nuit, & comment toute la nuit il alloit vacillant avec soy- mesmes en soupirs, lamentations & larmes. Et que l'aube vient qui esclaircit l'air, et ceste dit il, ne me rend cler, mais le Soleil, qui ard le coeur, & luy donner plaisir, qui seul luy peut oster le dueil.
[He writes here that the night controls his miserable existence, & how throughout the night he fluctuates between sighs, complaints, and tears. And that the dawn which makes the air luminous does not lighten his darkness, but his Sun, which inflames and pleases his heart, can alone remove this mourning, my translation].
Finch's "soft Aurora" picks up Petrarca's puns: "l'aurato" (Laura as golden light), "l'aura fosca" (a joke, misty Laura), and, literally, "l'aurora" (Laura as Aurora), and extends it into her concluding sentimental antithetical couplet where she makes explicit what Petrarca need not and what Maldeghem omits -- the identification of the speaker's lady with the gold and white lights of the sun and dawn: "But still, behind the Cloud, my Sun remains,/'Tis she must give me light, and ease my pains." An appropriate use of anaphora, personifications which embody an inner landscape, and what came to be known as the Popian couplet are important features of Ardelia's finest poetry (e.g., Reynolds 268, lines 1-10) which she learned while translating from French and Italian.
Finch's personal experience of solitude, the "long Night," and "broken Slumbers" as sometimes therapeutic and sometimes a harrowing persecution may have led her to Maldeghem's Petrarca . Her first success in translation, her third paraphrase of Tasso through the French, is a direct result of her growing ability to derive her imagery from both her emotion-laden memories of details from her early ambivalent response to court life and from the nuances of the images and tones of her source text. In his studies of Tasso, Francesco Flora cites Tasso's "endless" repetitions of what we may sum up as gothic words, word-groups, and conceits to demonstrate that Tasso's poetry is characteristically tonally heavy, plangent, and nocturnal. Flora shows that "in tutti i paesaggi tasseschi" [in all Tasso landscapes] we find in his language "una specie perenne incantesimo" [a species of perpetual magic/incantation] and a fusion of many elements to render the poetry "allucinante" [hallucinatory]. This magic becomes overt in the famous erotic and pastoral episodes of Tasso's epic La gerusalemme liberata (begun 1559; first published without Tasso's sanction 1581), which, probably via Edward Fairfax's 1600 Spenserian translation, Jeusalem Delivered, Finch knew well. The central portion of Finch's third piece from Tasso emphasizes the echoing fantasias of his lines: it makes more colorful and glittering, sensual and oneiric his anathema of court life since it is structured intensely into highly condensed, antithetical couplets. Tasso's
Quivi habitan le Maghe, che incantando
Fan traveder, e traudir ciascuno,
Ciò che diamante sembra, & oro fino.
E vetro, e rame: equella arche d'argento,
Che stimeresti piene di thesoro
Sporte son piene di vesciche bugge;
Quivi le mura son fatte con arte
Che parlano, e rispondono à i parlatni,
Nè già rispondon la parola mozza,
Com'Echo suole ne le nostre selva;
Ma la repican tutta intiera intiera,
Con Giunta anco di quel, ch'altri nondisse.
(cf. Fubini, I, ii, 586-99)
[There dwell magicians whose incantations
blur what one might see, dim what one might hear.
So that what seems to be diamond and fine gold
is glass and copper; and those tombs of silver
that you would think were replete with treasure
are hampers filled with deceitful bladders.
There the walls are built with such art,
that they speak and respond to those who speak;
nor do they ansmr with mutilated words,
as Echo usually does in our forests
but replicate everything fluently,
with surplus, with what one did not say
is made into a silver-toned and colored nightmare
. . . there shalt thou meet
Of soft Enchantresses th'Enchantments sweet,
Who subtlly will thy solid Sense bereave,
And a false Gloss to ev'ry Object give.
Brass to thy Sight as polishld Gold shall seem,
And Glass thou as the Diamond shalt esteem.
Huge Heaps of Silver to thee shall appear,
Which if approached, will prove but shining Air.
The very Walls by Magick Art are wrought,
And Repetition to all Speakers taught:
Not such, as from our Ecchoes we obtain,
Which only our last Words return again;
But Speech for Speech entirely there they give,
And often add, beyond what they receive
(Finch's translation, Reynolds p. 116, lines 39-52)
Borges has remarked that Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey epitomizes the Baroque style. Finch out-baroqued the baroque in her Tasso in order to make her English poetry Italian. We may describe her verse in her Aminta fragments simply by citing Borges' definition of the baroque as "that style which deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) all its possibilities and which borders on its own parody . . . " She brings out Tasso's implicit hyperbole and his intense inflation of commonplace metaphors, a procedure found in baroque European poetry of the sixteenth and seveteenth centuries. Tasso's
tu potresti indi restarneis compressed and further wrought into
converso in selce, in fera, in acqua, o in foco:
acque di pianto, e foco di sospiri
(cf Fubini, I, ii, 606-8)
[There you would remain
a willow, a beast, as water or fire:
water from your tears, fire from your sighs
. . . . Thyself may'st be
Transform'd into a Flame, a Stream, a Tree;
A Tear, congealed by Art, thou may'st remain,
'Till by a burning Sigh dissolved again
(Reynolds, p 117, lines 61-54)
Her "genius for the intangible" (Murray, p. 150) adds elusive imagery for which Tasso lays minimal ground-work: she subtilizes "le cortine" [curtains] into the lovely "The lawn is charm'd that faintly bars the light"; "gli arnesi di camera e di sala/han tutti lingua e voce, e gridan sempre" [the room and hall furnishings all have tongues which forever scold/moan] are there "to abuse wondering Eyes,/Strange antick Shapes before them shall arise;/Fantastick Fiends" (cf. Fubini I, ii, 596-600). Finch turns Tasso's languid "voci canore e dolci/e di cigni e di ninfe e di sirene,/di sirene celesti . . . suoni soavi e chiari" [melodious sweet voices/from swans, from nymphs, from sirens,/celestial sirens . . . [soft and clear sounds] into a hectic, erotic swoon that lingers over death: "Musick! beyond th'enticing Syrene's Note;/Music! beyond the Swan's expiring throat" (cf. Fubini I, ii, 612-17 with Reynolds 117, lines 69-76).
Yet Finch's energetic brilliance in her third paraphrase is results from a vitriolic hatred of treachery and "detraction," which she sees as central to city and court life (see, e.g., Reynolds 38-46). Taken as a whole, her "Thirsis persuades Amintor not to dispair" is an oratorical denunciation of the court: it is diatribe filled with curiously alluring invective. In the above-quoted long nightmare passage, Finch is elaborating on Thirsis' description of the court as "il magazzino de le cianciell [the house of rumor/slander] (Fubini I, ii, 582ff.) A seething sense of horror underlies Finch's "Witchcrafts" (Reynolds 116, lines 36ff.), a claustrophobia, feeling of being utterly helpless in the face of (again) persecution: without a hint from Tasso she has added to "Fantastick Fiends" who "will about thee flock,/And all they see, with Imitation mock" (Reynolds 116, lines 59-60).
We cannot know if by the time of her paraphrases from Tasso, Finch was conscious of her attitude towards court life as neurasthenic. We know only that she analyzed her depressive state of her "The Spleen, a Pindarick Ode". But she had found a way to control her expression of her phobias beyond the linguistic allegoresis and repetitive versification of her Petrarca and metaphrases of Tasso, a way that also became an important feature of her best poetry. The way is persistent allusion both to archetypal and specific poems and poets and to the archetypal genre of pastoral. Here Milton became a central figure for her; she also typically alludes to the dramatic poetry of Shakespeare, Thomas Otway, and the collaborative drama of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher (Reynolds cii-ciii; Murray 151; Longknife 80-101). Her third piece from Tasso is studded with allusions to Paradise Lost. She echoes small details and via her austere tone, archaic vocabulary, inversions, and uses of apposition achieves an unobtrusive serious imitation of Milton's style. For example, she makes Thirsis' and Amintor's fraudulent advisor ("la fraude nel seno, ed il rasoio/tien sotto il manto" [fraud in his breast, a dagger clutched under his cloak], Fubini I, ii, 556-57; Reynolds 115, lines 12) into a type of Milton's Satan. Tasso's Mopsus becomes an "artful" friend who "Drops flattering Words, soft as the falling Dew"; Thirsis tells Amintor:
--When hither first I came,
And in these Shades the false Impostor met,
Like Thee I priz'd, and thought his Judgment great;
On all his study'd Speeches still rely'd,
Nor fear'd to err . . .
(Reynolds 115, lines 10, 20-5)
The autobiographical sources of Finch's idealized landscape imagery becomes apparent when we discuss her uses of pastoral whose "core" may for Tasso and Ardelia be defined by W. W. Gregg as "the yearning of the tired soul to escape, if it wee but in imagination and for a moment, to a life of simplicity and innocence from the bitter luxury of the court and the menial bread of prince. Finch identified with Tasso as a poet even then famous for having been driven -- or declared -- mad while trying to "make it" in various Italian courts (Brand 205-10; Praz, "Tasso in England" 309n.). But she characteristically seems to lose or to forget herself through sticking close to Tasso's conventional pastoral stance and imagery; all the while, through her pastoral mask, she intuits or looks back upon the shipwreck of the court of James II and Mary d'Este. Tasso's Thirsis closes with a seemingly inconsistent paean to the beauty a court can foster, with his return to the country, restored ability to write poetry, and then due to Mopsus' evil magic, present hoarseness and apparent silence (Fubini I, ii, 625-52). Finch metaphrases most of this ending: she keeps Phoebus Apollo and the court muses (Fubini I, ii, 633;Reynolds 117, line 95); Tasso's as yet undisturbed or innocent morning light: "vergine Aurora/sparger d'argento e d'or rugiade a raggi" [virgin Aurora/strewing the dew and light with silver and gold], is simply conveyed in Finch's "Sprinkl'd with gold young Aurora, deck'd with pearly dew;/Bright rays dispensing" (Fubini I, ii, 629-30; Reynolds 117, lines 90-2). She preserves a highly-praised shepherd-teacher, "Elpino" (a surrogate for Tasso's champion, Giambattista Nicolucci, Fubini I, ii, 273n., 630-31; Reynolds 118, lines 95-6); "la mia sampogna" becomes (literally) a "Reed" (Fubini I, ii, 641; Reynolds 119, line 102).
Finch limits her interpretation to twilight increments -- an added adjective and an added and a changed phrase which darken and generalize Thirsis' individualized pessimism. His "lupo" [wolf] is now an "Ev'ning-Wolf" (Fubini I, ii, 647-48; Reynolds 118, lines 108-9). She repeats the sense of exhaustion in Tasso at this point and anticipates the tremulous vast landscape of Pope's closing verse in Dunciad IV: "The sick'ning stars fade off th'etherial plain" when she adds to Thirsis, memory of his restored confidence and poetic voice: "ma di voce piu altera e plu sonora,/emula de le trombe, empie le selve [but with proud resonant voice,/I vied with trumpets, I filled the forests], two phrases which suggest a diffuse mysterious landscape controlled by malign forces:
And tho' brought back by my too envious Stars,
Yet kept my Voice and Reed those lofty Strains,
And sent loud Musick through the wond'ring Plains
(Fubini I, ii, 642-43; Reynolds 118,
lines 101-3, new phrases italicized)
Finch's experiences when translating Tasso and her finished product -- which she could not bear wholly to destroy and was unwilling to leave unpublished (Reynolds 10; 1713 Miscellany Poems, pp 187-200) -- were far-reaching on her poetic development; the effects and techniques learned remain pervasive in her work. At the same time, one play does not an oeuvre make. As significant and productive of much good poetry was her immersion in French poetry, and, especially, her translation of no less than 41 of La Fontaine's fables into at least 35 poems of her own (it depends how you count her sources and how you define the particular result, e.g., fable or song).
The affinity between Finch and La Fontaine runs deep and I can only be suggestive here. Both felt alienated from the money-making and plum-dropping life at the nexus of seventeenth- century courts, cities, and wars, a nexus which seventeenth-century people could ignore only at their peril; thus both were drawn to pastoral and wrote indirect satires - -emblematic fables name no-one. Of La Fontaine, it has been repeatedly said that he saw in solitude and poetry an opportunity to create "itineraries" "made by the poetic self who is able to reserve in a cruel universe a small, intimate space for his dreams." Finch's fables from La Fontaine also repeatedly (with and through him) argue against the pursuit of worldly goods as vain and profitless, and present established societies as sycophantic and treacherous. She shares his affection for animals and, like many satirists, identify the elemental desires and impulses towards violence of men and women with those of her fable beasts. Finch and La Fontaine reveal the powerlessness of animals when confronted by men and women and their world, and, through animals, the powerlessness of men and (in Finch's case especially) women when confronted by amoral natural and social forces. La Fontaine's fables allowed Ardelia to articulate her sense of the beauty and peace of nature's world within a context of ironic, lucid appraisals of dreamers and poets as self-deluded and at risk.
Finch's technique and attitude towards translation matured yet further through her many hours translating La Fontaine. In her early work we find the same sort of slow trajectory that we find in Tasso. Her very earliest unacknowledged work with French shows her producing lines and displaying attitudes close to those of her later admired original poems, but staying within a restricted metaphrase technique. These poems include her unfortunately as yet little known (because unattributed) close translation of "Sur la mort d'Adonis. Idylle I" (from Les Idylles de Bion et de Moschus. Traduites de Grec en Vers Francois by Hilaire- Bernard de Requeleyne, seigneur de Longepierre's; her "The Safety of a low State", a song taken from a dialogue by Charles Toutain in his Agamemnon; and her first translation from La Fontaine, the somewhat wooden and too careful: "Tho' to Antiquity the Praise we yield. These may be compared to her first three translations from Tasso, the translation from Petrarch and La Fontaine.
The process was gradual as she increasing gained sufficient courage to use her sources freely. La Fontaine's brilliantly varied free verse led her to vary hers in interesting ways. A close reading of Finch's fables from La Fontaine from the point of view of translation shows her learning from his skillful transitions: she learns to move nimbly from highly emblematic verse into inward musings on the part of her protagonists, from dramatic vignettes worthy of Pope to explicit general morals. She becomes especially fascinating when she moves from showing men and women playing the hypocrite in public to showing them playing the hypocrite on an inner stage. Her translation of Antoinette du Ligier-de-la-Garde Deshouliers' ", Lettre de M. de Senecé, Premier Valet-de-Chambre de la Reine" exemplifies this stance from her in a light frame of mind:
URANIA, whom the Town admires,
Whose Wit and Beauty share our Praise;
This fair URANIA who inspires
A thousand Joys a thousand ways,
She, who cou'd with a Glance convey
Favours, that had my Hopes outdone,
Has lent me Money on that Day,
Which our Acquaintance first begun.
Nor with the Happiness I taste,
Let any jealous Doubts contend:
Her Friendship is secure to last,
Beginning where all others end.
And thou, known Cheat! upheld by Law,
Thou Disappointer of the craving Mind,
BASSETTE, who thy Original dost draw
From Venice (by uncertain Seas confin'd);
Author of Murmurs, and of Care,
Of pleasing Hopes, concluding in Despair:
To thee my strange Felicity I owe,
From thy Oppression did this Succour flow.
Less had I gained, had'st thou propitious been,
Who better by my Loss hast taught me how to Win.
Yet tell me, my transported Brain!
(whose Pride this Benefit awakes)
Know'st thou, what on this Chance depends?
And are we not exalted thus in vain,
Whilst we observe the Money which she lends,
But not, alas! the Heart she takes,
The fond Engagements, and the Ties
Her fatal Bounty does impose,
Who makes Reprisals, with her Eyes,
For what her gen'rous Hand bestows?
And tho' I quickly can return
Those useful Pieces, which she gave;
Can I again, or wou'd I have
That which her Charms have from me borne?
Yet let us quit th' obliging Score;
And whilst we borrow'd Gold restore,
Whilst readily we own the Debt,
And Gratitude before her set
In its approved and fairest Light;
Let her effectually be taught
By that instructive, harmless Slight,
That also in her turn she ought
(Repaying ev'ry tender Thought)
Kindness with Kindness to requite.
In her later work with La Fontaine, we find her blending fables, turning to a doggerel style which recalls Swift's, sometimes turning to elegance and then again to crude condemnation. They are not all equal, but all show Ardelia at work learning her technique and displaying attitudes characteristic of her in her original verse. There are five fables from La Fontaine Finch blends harmoniously two of his; her lyric emblem "The Tree" is a condensed translation of the elegiac close of La Fontaine's "L'Homme et la Couleuvre" [Man and the Grass-snake] in which the sutures are invisible to all but an indefatigable source-hunter. Her comic hudibrastic style whose lightness of touch accommodates elegant as well as allegorical verse, sardonic as well as merry closure is particularly effective, especially I think when she turns to write of the court or of poetry.
One of Finch's best poems is "A Tale of the Miser and the Poet" ("Written about the Year 1709").. Her poem combines La Fontaine's "L'Avare qui a perdu son tresor" with the opening and closing lines of "Le Savetier et le Financier" in a style which recalls the general Aesopic tradition at its starkest (e.g., L'Estrange, "A Miser Burying his Gold" and Spenser's Guyon's meeting with Mammon, (Faerie Queene II, vii, 1-51)
A WIT, transported with Inditing,
Unpay'd, unprais'd, yet ever Writing;
Who, for all Fights and Fav'rite Friends,
Had Poems at his Fingers Ends;
For new Events was still providing;
Yet now desirous to be riding,
He pack'd-up ev'ry Ode and Ditty
And in Vacation left the City;
So rapt with Figures, and Allusions,
With secret Passions, sweet Confusions;
With Sentences from Plays well-known,
And thousand Couplets of his own;
That ev'n the chalky Road look'd gay,
And seem'd to him the Milky Way.
But Fortune, who the Ball is tossing,
And Poets ever will be crossing,
Misled the Steed, which ill he guided,
Where several gloomy Paths divided.
The steepest in Descent he follow'd,
Enclos'd by Rocks, which Time had hollow'd;
Till, he believ'd, alive and booted,
He'd reach'd the Shades by Homer quoted.
But all, that he cou'd there discover,
Was, in a Pit with Thorns grown over,
Old Mammon digging, straining, sweating,
As Bags of Gold he thence was getting;
Who, when reprov'd for such Dejections
By him, who liv'd on high Reflections,
Reply'd; Brave Sir, your Time is ended,
And Poetry no more befriended.
I hid this Coin, when Charles was swaying;
When all was Riot, Masking, Playing;
When witty Beggars were in fashion,
And Learning had o'er-run the Nation,
But, since Mankind is so much wiser,
That none is valued like the Miser,
I draw it hence, and now these Sums
In proper Soil grow up to Plumbs;
Which gather'd once, from that rich Minute
We rule the World, and all that's in it.
But, quoth the Poet,can you raise,
As well as Plumb-trees, Groves of Bays?
Where you, which I wou'd chuse much rather,
May Fruits of Reputation gather?
Will Men of Quality, and Spirit,
Regard you for intrinsick Merit?
And seek you out, before your Betters,
For Conversation, Wit, and Letters?
Fool, quoth the Churl, who knew no Breeding;
Have these been Times for such Proceeding?
Instead of Honour'd, and Rewarded,
Are you not Slighted, or Discarded?
What have you met with, but Disgraces?
Your PRIOR cou'd not keep in Places;
And your VAN-BRUG had found no Quarter,
But for his dabbling in the Morter.
ROWE no Advantages cou'd hit on,
Till Verse he left, to write North-Briton.
PHILIPS, who's by the Shilling known,
Ne'er saw a Shilling of his own.
Meets PHILOMELA, in the Town
Her due Proportion of Renown?
What Pref'rence has ARDELIA seen,
T'expel, tho' she cou'd write the Spleen?
Of Coach, or Tables, can you brag,
Or better Cloaths than Poet RAG?
Do wealthy Kindred, when they meet you,
With Kindness, or Distinction, greet you?
Or have your lately flatter'd Heroes
Enrich'd you like the Roman Maroes?
Quoth the Man of broken Slumbers:
Yet we have Patrons for our Numbers;
There are Mecænas's among 'em.
Quoth Mammon,pray Sir, do not wrong 'em;
But in your Censures use a Conscience,
Nor charge Great Men with thriftless Nonsense:
Since they, as your own Poets sing,
Now grant no Worth in any thing
But so much Money as 'twill bring.
Then, never more from your Endeavours
Expect Preferment, or less Favours.
But if you'll 'scape Contempt, or worse,
Be sure, put Money in your Purse;
Money! which only can relieve you
When Fame and Friendship will deceive you.
Sir, (quoth the Poet humbly bowing,
And all that he had said allowing)
Behold me and my airy Fancies
Subdu'd, like Giants in Romances.
I here submit to your Discourses;
Which since Experience too enforces,
I, in that solitary Pit,
Your Gold withdrawn, will hide my Wit:
Till Time, which hastily advances,
And gives to all new Turns and Chances,
Again may bring it into use;
Roscommons may again produce;
New Augustean Days revive,
When Wit shall please, and Poets thrive.
Till when, let those converse in private,
Who taste what others don't arrive at;
Yielding that Mammonists surpass us;
And let the Bank out-swell Parnassus.
The above poem fits the autobiographical and melancholy, the bitter political point of view and conservative ethics of all Finch's feminist verse. We see how central are her translations to her corpus.
To conclude, this study and close reading of a few of Anne Finch's translations as creative poetry in their own right reveals how she slowly became a fluent and proficient poet. We have also uncovered as full, varied and equally engaging a terrain as that which we find in her non-translated, non-adapted or "original" poetry.
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