'Tis now my dearest friend become your turn


An Epistle to Mrs Catherine Fleming at Coleshill in Warwickshire but hastily perform'd & not corrected. London October ye 8th: 1718.

Primary Text:

MS Wellesley, 79-81*.

Some excerpts:

[lines 1-6:]

'Tis now my dearest friend become your turn
To leave the town and mine alass to mourn
Whilst all this mighty pile to us is seen
A Wilderness without refreshing green
Ruin'd and desolate our London shews
Nor longer gives us pleasure or repose
How well we love is but in absence found
Nor sympathetick med'cin heals that wound
A distant view of what we once possest
Heightens th'impatience of the sever'd breast . . .

[lines 48-53:]

Whilst of all ills with which our time is curest
Unpolish't conversation is the worst
When on some trivial theams loud talkers dwell
And fluency of speech call speaking well
Till the stretch't features give the torrent way
And laughing first to laughter would betray . . .

[lines 56-end:]

Nor ever noise for wit on me cou'd pass
When thro' the braying I discern'd the Ass
Strong forcible and clear true wit is found
Prevailing by the weight, not by the wound;
Still ushering with civilized address
New turns of thought which easy words express,
Inciting wit as steel the flint provokes
Till flashes answer to the brightening strokes.
Thus one distinguished wit engages more
Till pensive wits who silent sat before
Confess the quickning flame and utter all their store.
Then round the room enlivened humour flies
Like scattered lightening over th'embellished skies,
Glows through the languid cheek and the informing eyes,
For there of wit e'er spoke the warnings given
As fire proceeds the sound from opening Heaven.
True wit is raillery which never flings
The ridicule but on fantastic things,
The compliment insinuated right
Which sets some talent in its proper light,
And whilst on the possessor it distills
With conscious pleasure, not confusion fills;
A story well applied and short comprised
The incidents or true or well devised,
A readiness with others to combine
In gay discourse which breeding does refine,
Such wit I love for such my friend is thine.

Secondary Ed:

1988 Ellis d'Alessandro prints Wellesley text, 109-11; McGovern & Hinnant, 42-44.


Sense of deep intimacy; Wordsworth-like atttitude towards empty social gatherings; she misses this real friend who is like "flint" which sets off her "flashes" of wit; intelligent penetrating definition of "wit;" an interesting poem. In these late years Finch thought about poetry a good deal; here she develops a definition of true wit.
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