Page:Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea 1903.djvu/117

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INTRODUCTION cxiii ���the octavo or the folio manuscript, was probably written after 1701. The novelty of Philips's poetical experiment in applying the splendid diction and elaborate sentence struc- ture of Milton to the description of the trivial or vulgar events of ordinary life caught Lady Winchilsea's fancy, and she made use of the Miltonic blank verse to portray the tramps that congregated in Fanscomb Barn. Her poem is almost as successful a parody of Milton's style as is The Splendid Shilling, and the amusing contrast between the style and the subject-matter is as well sustained. But the chief importance of Lady Winchilsea's poem is in the subject- matter itself. Stropeledon and Bugeta with their "hoof- beating" compeers of the beggars' fraternity would find no worthy comrades till they could visit the ale-house of Ramsay's Maggie Johnstone, and they would not feel quite at home till they could consort with their kith and kin, the jolly beggars of Burns. Lady Winchilsea is as free as Ramsay or Burns from any display of moral censorship toward her tramps. They lie and steal and drink and brag with a self-complacency equal to that of the highwaymen and trulls of Gay's Beggar's Opera. Stropeledon counts mendicancy a profession with inevitable privations and hard- ships, but with well-earned hours of luxurious repose. He and his Bugeta grow confidential and boozy over their cups, recount their lawless deeds, and finally fall down in a drunken stupor, without a word of condemnation from their lady chronicler. A subsidiary little picture of the children drinking sugared water at Pickersdane Well is also sympa- thetically drawn, and approaches in effectiveness the descrip- tion of the children at their sports by Shenstone in The School-Mistress. We can hardly say with Dr. Harris, pre- bendary of Rochester and rector of Winchilsea, that both Pickersdane Well and Fanscomb Barn have been "dignified" by the pen of a "notable Kentish Poetess;" but we can say ��� �