The Petition for an Absolute Retreat

Original Text: 
Miscellany Poems (London: for J. B. and sold by Benjamin Tooke, 1713). B-10 5738 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
(Inscribed to the Right Honourable Catharine Countess of Thanet, mentioned in the poem under the name of Arminda)
2Give me yet before I die
3A sweet, but absolute retreat,
4'Mongst paths so lost and trees so high
5That the world may ne'er invade
6Through such windings and such shade
7My unshaken liberty.
8     No intruders thither come
9Who visit but to be from home!
10None who their vain moments pass
11Only studious of their glass;
12News, that charm to list'ning ears,
13That false alarm to hopes and fears,
14That common theme for every fop,
15From the statesman to the shop,
16In those coverts ne'er be spread,
17Of who's deceas'd, and who's to wed.
18Be no tidings thither brought,
19But silent as a midnight thought
20Where the world may ne'er invade
21Be those windings and that shade!
22     Courteous Fate! afford me there
23A table spread, without my care,
24With what the neighb'ring fields impart,
25Whose cleanliness be all its art.
26When of old the calf was drest
27(Though to make an angel's feast)
28In the plain unstudied sauce
30Nor could the mighty patriarchs' board
32Courteous Fate! then give me there
33Only plain and wholesome fare;
34Fruits indeed (would heaven bestow)
35All that did in Eden grow,
36All but the forbidden Tree
37Would be coveted by me;
38Grapes with juice so crowded up
39As breaking through the native cup;
40Figs yet growing candied o'er
41By the sun's attracting power;
42Cherries, with the downy peach,
43All within my easy reach;
44Whilst creeping near the humble ground
45Should the strawberry be found
46Springing wheresoe'er I stray'd
47Through those windings and that shade.
48For my garments: let them be
49What may with the time agree;
50Warm when Phœbus does retire
51And is ill-supplied by fire:
52But when he renews the year
53And verdant all the fields appear,
54Beauty every thing resumes,
55Birds have dropp'd their winter plumes,
57Stands in purer white array'd
58Than that vest which heretofore
59The luxurious monarch wore,
60When from Salem's gates he drove
61To the soft retreat of love,
62Lebanon's all burnish'd house
64Clothe me, Fate, though not so gay,
65Clothe me light and fresh as May!
66In the fountains let me view
67All my habit cheap and new
68Such as, when sweet zephyrs fly,
69With their motions may comply,
70Gently waving to express
71Unaffected carelessness.
72No perfumes have there a part
73Borrow'd from the chemist's art,
74But such as rise from flow'ry beds
75Or the falling jasmine sheds!
77Esau's rural coat did yield
78That inspir'd his father's prayer
79For blessings of the earth and air:
80Of gums or powders had it smelt,
82Easily had been descried
83For one that did in tents abide,
84For some beauteous handmaid's joy,
85And his mother's darling boy.
86Let me then no fragrance wear
87But what the winds from gardens bear,
88In such kind surprising gales
90All the flowers that in them grew;
91Which intermixing as they flew
92In wreathen garlands dropp'd again
93On Lucullus and his men;
94Who, cheer'd by the victorious sight,
95Trebled numbers put to flight.
96Let me, when I must be fine,
97In such natural colours shine;
98Wove and painted by the sun;
99Whose resplendent rays to shun
100When they do too fiercely beat
101Let me find some close retreat
102Where they have no passage made
103Through those windings, and that shade.


1] Catharine Cavendish, Countess of Thanet, was an intimate friend of Lady Winchilsea. Back to Line
29] truffle nor morillia: fungi used as seasoning. Back to Line
31] ortolan: a species of small bird of the finch family, highly esteemed for its delicate flavour. Back to Line
56] "Josephus says that every Monday Solomon went to the house of Lebanon in an open chariot clothed in a robe most dazzling white, which makes that allusion not improper, and may give us grounds to believe that the lily mentioned by our Saviour (compared to Solomon in his glory) might really be the common white lily, although the commentators seem in doubt what flowers are truly meant by the lilies, as thinking the plain lily not gay enough for the comparison, whereas this garment is noted by Josephus to be wonderfully beautiful though only white; nor can any flower, I believe, have a greater lustre than the common white lily" (author's note). Cf. Matt. 6:28-9. Back to Line
63] The Queen of Sheba. Back to Line
76] Cf. Gen. 27. Back to Line
81] Jacob means in Hebrew a supplanter or usurper. Back to Line
89] "These circumstances are related by Plutarch in the Life of Sulla" (author's note). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
G. G. Falle
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.61-63.