Begin, our Nation's Pleasure and Reproach!


On Nicolini's leaving the stage

Primary Text:

No MS; 1714 Steele, 44-5.

Begin, our Nation's Pleasure and Reproach!
Britain no more with idle Trills debauch;
Back to thy own unmanly Venice sail.
Where Luxury and loose Desires prevail;
There thy Emasculating Voice employ,
And raise the Triumphs of the Wanton Boy.

Long, ah! too long the soft Enchantment reign'd,
Seduc'd the Wise, and ev'n the Brave enchain'd;
Hence with thy Curst deluding Song! away!
Shall British Freedom thus become thy Prey?
Freedom, which we so dearly us'd to Prize,
We scorn'd to yield it--But to British Eyes.

Assist, ye Gales; with expeditious Care,
Waft this prepost'rous Idol of the Fair;
Consent, ye Fair, and let the Trifler go,
Nor bribe with Wishes adverse Winds to blow:
Nonsense grew pleasing by his Syren Arts,
And stole from Shakespear's self our easie Hearts.


Possible attribution to Finch as sixth in above-referred series of ten poems opening with "To Mr Jervas," ending on "Upon a Company of bad Dancers to good Musick" (see 1694 "GROWN Old with Rhyme ...," No 57) The strong winds which will cleanse Britain is a common image in Finch's poems. She sees operas as "Nonsence" which have replaced Shakespeare; she inveighs against Niccolini's "Curst deluding Song," that is, the castrato's sexual ambiguity (e.g., "unmanly Venice," "There thy Emasculating Voice employ"). Finch also regards the preference for an Italian art form as unworthy "free [upright] Britons". Anne disdains opera whenever she mentions it (e.g, "The Criticks and the Writer of Fables": "Happy the Men, whom we divert with Ease,/Whom Opera's and Panegyricks Please"). While Anne's attitudes are typical of the public stance of English writers of the period, and perhaps understandable from a woman so involved with music herself, this poem nonetheless definitely does not one of Anne's better moments.


After June 14, 1712 when Nicolo Gimaldi's departure announced (Spectator No. 405); Steele's book published December 1713; Nicolini was the Pavarotti of his day. He had an enormous success in London and Dublin between the years 1708 and 1711; he returned to Italy from 1712 through 1713, then returned to London in 1714 until 1731 when he returned to Italy where he died. Although Anne is right to associate him with Venice (he sang there frequently), his home was Naples.

Around this time we find Anne writing much pointed satiric verse -- as in her verses to Pope, "Disarm'd with so genteel an air." She was very much involved in the public world of London from 1709 through 1714.

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Page Last Updated 8 January 2003