Over a cheerful cup 'tis thought


A Tale.

Primary Text:

MS Wellesley, 118-22.

Secondary Ed:

1988 Ellis d'Alessandro prints Wellesley, 149-54*; McGovern & Hinnant, 103-110.


1980 Hampsten prints Wellesley text, 7-14


An anti-feminist tale, well-told, at the end of which Finch apologizes: "All Wives forgive me who am one/ThatI this tale have told". She says the truth that is it the woman who is usually bullied, for they have no real power: "In trifles only Men submit/Which hardly we obtain." Women had therefore better "all contention quit/The wreaths [are] not worth the pain." The lucky woman marries a "Generous man with soften'd heart/And Wisdom for his guide." The woman who has married "Some manly brute/Whose power is all his pride" can only endure "Silently suffering to the Grave."

Finch may be responding to some mens' remarks over cups she very recently had to listen to, which she at first simply goes along with. The sudden switch in perspective suggests she was writing against the grain. I'd like to argue the poem is ironic but can find no evidence of this beyond the explicit close abjuring it. The popular broadsheet ballad form of 4 and 3 feet with alternating rhymes is very effective.


This poem occurs late in the MS Wellesley so I have dated it as written in the last two years of Anne Finch's life.
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