Away with the sugar puff, candy floss frivolity of last week’s Twilight Trilogy, Rhyming Couplets can be hard-hitting, satirical, gritty and savage (oooh really must do a “rhyme” for Lily Savage). Ahem. Yes, and so we sashay towards the slippery pole of politics to which the whipping boy Clegg is firmly lashed. And so we also come to a poem by Anne Finch – or to give her her full title, Anne Finch Countess of Winchilsea (it is perhaps superficially fitting for our Bullingdon Club rulers to choose a titled poet, and one whom was even married to the MP for Hythe). Anne Finch was writing in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. She exchanged compliments in verse with Pope, and Purcell put one of her songs to music. With its style, imagery and the use of conventions such as adopting classical, Latinate personae – Ardelia, Clarinda – as narrators of her work, you would not mistake her poetry for something written today. Yet, there is often a direct honesty, a piercing clear-sightedness, and refusal to be silly in her work – as she discusses facing old age and loss of looks as a woman, or admitting deep love for her husband at a time in Restoration England when it was unfashionable to do so – that makes her voice ring clear in my ears now. Yes, Rhyming Couplets likes Anne Finch and will no doubt be returning to her later, but for now a poem written three hundred years ago but which for Cleggy’s detractors could have been written yesterday.
Sir Plausible Sir Plausible, as 'tis well known, Has no opinions of his own; But closes with each stander by, Now in a truth, now in a lie, Fast as chameleons change their dye; Has still some applicable story To gratify a Whig or Tory, And even a Jacobite in tatters If met alone he smoothly flatters; Greets friend and foe with wishes fervent, And lives and dies your humble servant. ANNE FINCH