Prithee Friend that Hedge behold


To a fellow Scribbler. By Lady Winchillsea.

Primary Text:

MS Additional 4457, 58r-v*.
Prithee Friend that Hedge behold
When all we rhiming Fools grow old
Who in vain Florish Life have spent
Amidst it stands a rivall'd Tree,
Now representing sixty three
And like it you and I shall be.
The bare vine round about it clings
With mischievous, intangling Strings
The night Shade with a dismal Flow'r
Culrs o'er it, like a Lady's Tower
Or Honesty with feather'd Down
Like grizled Hair deforms its Crown
Luxuriant plants that o'er it spread
Not medicinal for Heart or Head
Whch serve but to amuse the Sight
Are like the nothings that we write
Yet still 'tis thought that Tree's well plac'd
With beauteous Eglantine imbrac'd
But see how false Appearance proves
If he that Honeysuckle Loves
Which climbs by him to reach the Thorns
The rival Thorn his Age derides
And gnaws like jealousy his Sides.
Then let us cease, my Friend, to sing
When ever youth is on the Wing
Unless we solidly indite
Some good Infusing while we write
Lest with our Follies hung around
We like that Tree & Hedge be found
Grotesque & trivial, shun'd by all
And soon forgotten when we fall.

Secondary Eds:

1741 Birch, X, 180; rpt of 1741: 1903 Reynolds, 105-6; rpt of 1903 Reynolds: 1930 Fausset, 54-5; 1987 Thompson, 72-3.


Very good. A caustic poem; scornful disillusioned description of the life of a poet and his (or her) usefulness; since it was Birch who took this text from papers which included a poem to Lady Hertford (see annotated Chronology No. 241, "Of sleepless nights, and days with cares o'ercast" and this manuscript includes a poem to Lady Hertford, Annotated Chronology No. 230, Joy from a zealous pen Ardelia sends, the poet to whom this poem is addressed may be someone whom Lady Hertford patronized. It's impersonal and moral enough to be placed in the 1713 Miscellany. So I date it afterwards. If, as Cameron suggests, it was to Mrs Rowe, the terminus ad quem would be Thomas Rowe's death (May 13, 1715), at which point Mrs Rowe withdrew to her home at Frome and wrote anything but frivolously. There is a poem copied out into MS Additional 4457 "On the Anniversary of Her Husband's Death" and attributed to Elizabeth Rowe ("Unhappy Day! with what a dreadful Light").
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