Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Alexander Pope  »  Impromptu to Lady Winchilsea

Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

Poems: 1708–12

Impromptu to Lady Winchilsea

  • Occasioned by Four Satirical Verses on Women Wits, in the Rape of the Lock
  • ‘The four verses,’ says Ward, ‘are apparently Canto IV. vv. 59–62. The Countess of Winchilsea, a poetess whom Rowe hailed as inspired by ‘more than Delphic ardour,’ replied by some pretty lines, where she declares that “disarmed with so genteel an air,” she gives over the contest.’

  • IN vain you boast poetic names of yore,

    And cite those Sapphos we admire no more:

    Fate doom’d the fall of every female wit;

    But doom’d it then, when first Ardelia writ.

    Of all examples by the world confess’d,

    I knew Ardelia could not quote the best;

    Who, like her mistress on Britannia’s throne,

    Fights and subdues in quarrels not her own.

    To write their praise you but in vain essay:

    Ev’n while you write, you take that praise away.

    Light to the stars the sun does thus restore,

    But shines himself till they are seen no more.