Oh lett my Tears begin for whilst the staine


A Act of Contrition

Primary Text:

MS Wellesley, 133-4.

Secondary Ed:

1988 Ellis d'Alessandro prints Wellesley text, 164-5; McGovern & Hinnant, 125.


The core of this poem is guilt. Finch blames herself for her sufferings, and these sufferings seem to be both physical (her 1715 illness) and mental (recurring bad nights). It is painful to read this poem. Anne Finch was never free from attacks of depression and her illness has perhaps brought on the black mood again; she prays for absolution, for God's aid to act and write morally, hopes God will not punish those around her for her sins, but concludes that if she cannot "withdraw" from "lov'd Vanities," God will forgive her and hers anyway. She calls herself the sinner, the one to be blamed for her illness, and then prays for help to repress herself.
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