Sunday, November 16, 2008

Best, Certain'st Thing On Earth

Anne Killigrew lived in a very wealthy family, and was a familiar face among the friends and associates of the Stuart court. Her father and uncles held high appointments and she herself became an attendant of the Duchess of York.

In both of these settings, both at home and in society, she was surrounded by literary figures. Her father and his brothers published poetry, plays, sermons, etc. She grew up in a home full of literary work and play, and her poetry is filled with both biblical and mythological imagery.

But there were other literary influences in her life outside of her home, notably Anne Finch. The two Annes lived together in the home of the Duchess of York. Anne Finch was a much more accomplished poet, and also seems to have been much more rebelious. This rebellion, a feminist dissatisfaction with the male dominated court life, rubbed off somewhat on the young Killigrew.

These elements, the religious, the classical education, the seriously literary, and the feminist rebellion are all to be found in Anne Killigrew's poetry.

She died in 1685, at only 25 years old. Shortly after her death her father had the thirty-three poems that she had left published. Thus, though she died so young, she managed to have the last word as she taunted death even from her grave.


Tell me thou safest End of all our Woe,
Why wreched Mortals do avoid thee so:
Thou gentle drier o’th’ afflicted’s Tears,
Thou noble ender of the Coward’s Fears;
Thou sweet Repose to Lover’s sad dispaire,
Thou Calm t’Ambition’s rough Tempestuous Care.
If in regard of Bliss thou wert a Curse,
And then the Joys of Paradise art worse;
Yet after Man from his first Station fell,
And God from Eden Adam did expel,
Thou wert no more an Evil, but Relief;
The Balm and Cure to ev’ry Humane Grief:
Through thee (what Man had forfeited before)
He now enjoys, and ne’r can loose it more.
No subtile Serpents in the Grave betray,
Worms on the Body there, not Soul do prey;
No Vice there Tempts, no Terrors there afright,
No Coz’ning Sin affords a false delight:
No vain Contentions do that Peace annoy,
No fierce Alarms break the lasting Joy.

Ah since from thee so many Blessings flow,
Such real Good as Life can never know;
Come when thou wilt, in thy afrighting’st Dress,
Thy Shape shall never make thy Welcome less.
Thou mayst to Joy, but ne’er to Fear give Birth,
Thou Best, as well as Certain’st thing on Earth.
Fly thee? May Travellers then fly their Rest,
And hungry Infants fly the profer’d Brest.
No, those that faint and tremble at thy Name,
Fly from their Good on a mistaken Fame.
Thus Childish fear did Israel of old
From plenty and the Promis’d Land with-hold;
They fancy’d Giants, and refus’d to go,
When Canaan did with Milk and Honey flow.


gautami tripathy said...

I am going to check Anne Killigrew. More I read her poetry here, more I wanted to know.

Glad I got to your blog. Liked all those sonnets too.


Devika said...

Hi Doug,

this poetess strikes a chord with me..very now, you would be knowing a good deal of me...

i like every line of it equally..sort of lump in my throat...

i never heard of her..may be search the libraries, next time i go...

thank you Doug..i get introduced to so many poets here...and diverse poetry...this is going to be study material for me :-)

thanks once again,

Janice Thomson said...

One would get from this Killigrew was terribly dis-satisfied with life. Certainly in the stress of the days after Charles I was beheaded life must have been very tempestuous which no doubt also influenced her writing.
It is interesting that Dryden's ode to her should be a subject of such contention. Had she lived longer I think she would have produced some truly amazing work.