Friday, May 22, 2015

A Song - Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea

Love, thou art best of Human Joys,
   Our chiefest Happiness below;
All other Pleasures are but Toys,
Musick without Thee is but Noise,
   And Beauty but an empty show.

Heav'n, who knew best what Man wou'd move,
   And raise his Thoughts above the Brute;
Said, Let him Be, and Let him Love;
That must alone his Soul improve,
   Howe'er Philosophers dispute.

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, lived and wrote in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  Her work is still read widely today and lived a fascinating life.  Her verse was influential in its own time and beyond, inspiring in particular William Wordsworth.  She balanced the prevailing Augustan formalities and structures with emotional content, as she herself thought that Love and Verse were inseparable, one useless without the other, much as this particular poem explains.

Love is what separates us from lesser beasts, from the "Brute" according to Finch.  When creating man, "Heav'n" said, rather beautifully, "Let him Be, and Let him Love."  It's clear in Finch's poem the purpose of our being; to love, to let our thoughts be moved towards Love.  Love is the "best of Human Joys" and without it, music is just noise, pleasures are toys, and beauty is hollow.  It's the fuel that runs our world, and given its divine origin in this poem, I think it's clear that it has a divine context as well.  Loving brings us closer to Heaven, for Finch, and I think that's a beautiful image.  No matter what philosophers and thinkers say about Love, Finch has made up her mind that it improves the human soul.

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