This poem in praise of Anne Finch's poetry by Elizabeth Tollet is taken from Tollet's Poems on Several Occasion, with Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII, an Epistle (1755), the Second Edition, pp. 49-50.
In Memory of the Countess of Winchelsea.
Sad Cypress and the Muses Tree
Shall shade Ardelia's sacred urn.
These with her Fame and Fate agree,
And ever live, and ever mourn.
While e'very Muse with vocal Breath.
In Moving Strains recites her Praise:
And there assumes the Cypress Wreath,
And on Her Tomb resigns the Bays.
What Pow'r shall aid the Virgin Choir
To Make her Worth and Virtue known?
Who shall the Sculptor's Art Inspire
To write them on the lasting Stone?
The honour'd streams of ancient Blood
And Titles, are by Fortune giv'n
But to be virtuous, wise and good
Derives a kindred Claim from Heav'n.
Virtue, and Wit in Courts admir'd
The shining Pattern shall diffuse:
Nor, tho' to private Life retir'd,
Are lost, but flourish with her Muse.
Of those the Sisters Nine Shall sing,
Yet with their Voice their Verse shall pass:
And Time shall sure Destruction bring
To wounded Stone, or molten Brass.
Tho' titles grace the stately Tomb
Vain monument of mortal Pride!
The Ruins of the mould'ring Dome
Its undistinguish'd Heap shall hide.
Wit, which outlast the firmest Stone,
Shall, Phoenix-like, its life prolong;
No Verse can speak her but her own,
The Spleen must be her fun'ral Song.
A Short Sketch: Elizabeth Tollet (1694-1754) was the daughter of George Tollet, Commissioner of the Navy during the reigns of William II and Queen Anne. She lived in his home in the tower of London; her father who was friendly with Sir Isaac Newton, and Newton is said to have encouraged her father to give her an excellent education. Her miscellany includes a long series of psalms translated into classical Latin (pp. 169-222). Although Lonsdale says (accurately) that there is little evidence, she was ever part of a literary cricle, it is possible that she knew Anne Finch and this would provide one explanation for the presence in MS Harleian 7316 of a lively ballad attributed to her amidst a series of poems otherwise by Anne -- though it would not explain its reappearance with a slightly different set of poems by Anne in MS Portland Vol 20 where it is not attributed to her. See Texts, "To all you Sparkling Whiggs at Court" . There is a short life in A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers, 1660-1800, ed. Janet Todd (London: Methuen, 1987), p. 304; seven of her poems, together with another short biographical sketch, appear in Roger Lonsdale, Eighteenth-Century Women Poets (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 96-102. Unhappily not much is known about Tollet beyond the kind of facts from registry offices, off-hand remarks by the few people who knew or remembered her, and few scattered critical comments in the 18th and 19th century. She never married. She did, however, publish her poems more than once, and also wrote a poem in praise of the poetry of William Congreve and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu ("Occasion'd by reading a Poem written by Lady Wortley Montagu, p. 56). And her poetry is of high quality, excellent; her poem to her brother at St John's College where she imagines how peaceful, well-employed and fruitful are his studies is touching.
Her poems are typically rhymed couplets with tight elegant versification. Here is a brief one:
Ask me no more, my truth to prove,
What I would suffer for my love.
With thee I would in exile go
To regions of ternal snow,
O'er floods by solid ice confined
Through forest bare with northern wind:
While all around my eyes I cast,
Where all is wild and all is waste.
If there the timorous stag you chase,
Or rouse to right a fiercer race,
Undaunted I thy arms would bear,
And give thy hand the hunter's spear.
When the low sun withdraws his light,
And menaces an half-year's night,
The conscious moon and stars above,
Shall guide me with my wandering love,
Beneath the mountain's hollow brow,
Or in its rocky cells below,
Thy rural feast I would provide,
Nor envy palaces their pride.
The softest moss should dress thy bed,
Withs savage spoils about thee spread;
While faithful love the watch should keep,
To banish danger from thy sleep.
If Elizabeth Tollet was not part of the Finch social circle, she had seen Finch's poems in manuscript and her poem in praise of the poetry of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu ought then to be seen as the second of two poems in which Tollet celebrates her finest predecessors or near- contemporaries. I reprint this poem (and the one by Mrs Randolph to Finch in this section) as evidence for the argument many twentieth- century scholars have made that women poets saw themselves as a part of a separate tradition of poetry. Thus Katherine Philips, Aphra Behn, Anne Killigrew, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Francis Thynne Seymour, Countess of Hertford, Elizabeth Tollet, and this anonymous woman all saw themselves as belonging to a separate feminine culture, one analogous to that of the later 17th and early 18th century French women poets whom for Anne included Anne Lefèvre Dacier, Antoinette du Ligier-de-la-Garde. George Eliot's review- essay on the birth of a feminine literature and culture in France and the reasons for this (including a freer sexuality), "Woman in France: Madame de Sablé" ought to be read as part of the context within which to understand Anne Finch (see George Eliot: Selected Critical Writings, ed. Rosemary Ashton (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 37-68. See The Circuit of Appollo, "Appollo, as lately a Circuit he made", see Annotated Chronology No. 120.