The treach'rous Fortune of a Royal Crown


The Safety of a low State. Translated out of Seneca's Agamemnon, Chor. Argivarum. By the same Hand [as "Soliloquy"].

Primary Text:

No MS; 1696 Tate, 112-3.
The treach'rous Fortune of a Royal Crowne;
Places what ever's rich and great,
On a steep and slippery Seat.
Whence with an easy Blast all tumble down.
Proud Scepters can't command soft Peace and Rest,
Nor chase uneasy Fears away;
They know no safe and happy Day,
But endless Cares their Greatness still molest.

The Lybian Sea not with such Fury raves,
When heap'd up by rough Winds, the Sand
Does in high tott'ring Mountains stand,
And interrupts the loud impetuous Waves.
Euxinus neighbor to the snowy Pole,--
Where he bright Carman, by the Main
Untoucht, drives round his shining Wain,
Can't with such force is troubled Waters roll.

As when Kings fall, turn'd round by rapid Fate,
Kings, whose desire is to appear,
Awful, to move their Subjects fear,
Which Fear does in themselves the like Create.
The Night, to hide 'em safe does Darkness ant,
Soft sleep, by which a troubled Breast
Is loos'd, and lies dissolv'd in Rest,
Can't charm the restless Cares that Princes haunt .

The Men that born by too kind Fortune rise,
Soon sink and fall down from their height,
Prest by their own unequal weight,
Which, those that envy'd, now as much despise.
Great Fortunes can't their own vast Burden bear;
So the swift Ships expanded Sails
Swoln out with too indulgent Gales,
The Winds, they wish'd before, begin to fear.

So a proud Tow'r thrusts his aspiring Head
Among the flying Clouds, but finds
The uneasy neighborhood of Winds
And Thunder-claps, that are around him bred.
So the rude Storms that shake the bending Wood ,
Design an envious fatal stroke
To the ancient, well spread Oak
The Grove's Defence and Glory while it stood.

High Hills the fairest mark for Thunder stand;
Great Bodies are but seldom found,
Such have most room to take a wound;
And the fat Deer invites the Hunter's hand.
When whistling Fortune does this day advance,
It throws down with a greater fall;
Estates that are but low and small,
Last a long quiet Age, secure from Chance.

He's only happy, that of meaner rank
Does not his humble State resent,
But with his Fortune still content,
With a safe Wind Sails by the neighb'rng bank
Whose wary Boat that dares not trust her Oar
To the rough usage of the wind,
And the wide Ocean seldom kind,
Keeps still in prospect of the safer Shore.


Toutain, Agamemnon, Acte I, Choeur: "Ah! Sort menteur! Que ta promesse," 194-6.


Attributed to Finch as 1) one of the above referred- to 13 anonymous poems, 2) method of imitating classical texts through 17th French translations is found in several other of her poems (above Dacier's Sappho and Anacreon, below Longueville's Bion); 3) the moral is an obsessive one with her (e.g., "The Shepherd and the Calm": "Give me a certain Fate in the obscurest Vale"); and 4) the imagery of winds, rains, mountains (&c) in this poem are those in her Pindaric "On the Hurricane"; Anne read French neoclassical plays as tragic parables on Royal fragility, the way they were in fact originally interpreted.
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