Anne Finch, “The Cautious Lovers”


“The Cautious Lovers”


Silvia, let’s from the Croud retire;
For, What to you and me
(Who but each other do desire)
Is all that here we see?

Apart we’ll live, tho’ not alone;                                                            5
For, who alone can call
Those, who in Desarts live with One,
If in that One they’ve All?

The World a vast Meander is,
Where Hearts confus’dly stray;                                                   10
Where Few do hit, whilst Thousands miss
The happy mutual Way:

Where Hands are by stern Parents ty’d
Who oft, in Cupid’s Scorn,
Do for the widow’d State provide,                                                       15
Before that Love is born:

Where some too soon themselves misplace;
Then in Another find
The only Temper, Wit, or Face,
That cou’d affect their Mind.                                                         20

Others (but oh! avert that Fate!)
A well-chose Object change:
Fly, Silvia, fly, ere ‘tis too late;
Fall’n Nature’s prone to range.

And, tho’ in heat of Love we swear                                                      25
More than perform we can;
No Goddess You, but Woman are,
And I no more than Man.

Th’ impatient Silvia heard thus long;
Then with a Smile reply’d:                                                               30
Those Bands cou’d ne’er be very strong,
Which Accidents divide.

Who e’er was mov’d yet to go down,
By such o’er-cautious Fear;
Or for one Lover left the Town,                                                              35
Who might have Numbers here?

Your Heart, ‘tis true, is worth them all,
And still preferr’d the first;
But since confess’d so apt to fall,
‘Tis good to fear the worst.                                                              40

In ancient History we meet
A flying Nymph betray’d
Who, had she kept in fruitful Crete,
New Conquest might have made.

And sure, as on the Beach she stood,                                                    45
To view the parting Sails;
She curs’d her self, more than the Flood,
Or the conspiring Gales.

False Theseus, since thy Vows are broke,
May following Nymphs beware:                                                      50
Methinks I hear how thus she spoke,
And will not trust too far.

In Love, in Play, in Trade, in War
They best themselves acquit,
Who, tho’ their Int’rests shipwreckt are,                                                     55
Keep unreprov’d their Wit.


9 Meander “A winding course, like a labyrinth” (OED).

42 Nymph Poetical for woman in this context; an allusion to Ariadne, daughter of Minos and princess of Crete (Britannica).

43 Crete The largest island in Greece. Inhabited by the Minoans, a Bronze Age civilization, ruled by King Minos (Britannica).

45 Beach Refers to the shores of Naxos, the island where Ariadne was abandoned by her lover Theseus (Ancient History Encyclopedia).

48 Gales “A wind of considerable strength” (OED).

49 Theseus Athenian hero noteworthy for slaying the minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth with the help of Ariadne, who provided a yarn ball as aid for navigating the labyrinth (Ancient History Encyclopedia).

56 unreprov’d “Uncensured” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London 1714), pp. 118-122. [Google Books]

 Edited by Roland Shepherd

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