Anne Finch (1661-1720)
In the opening of the poem, Adam, the first father, is shown busy in his toilsome work in the Garden of Eden. It seems that he has already fallen from the grace of the God as he has to face ‘thorns in his path’ and labor hard to survive. He was given an especial task by the God to name everything that comes from the elements of the garden. He used to give name and order of the place under him. Suddenly, he notices ‘a vain fantastic nymph’ in his garden who is not his Eve and he has never seen her before. She might be a real person or the imaginative creation of his toilsome work. Adam was stunned by her beauty and by her ‘various fashions’ and ‘more various faces’. He has to pause to name her because of her complex changing design. Moreover, he cannot be sure of the components she is made up of because she is not from the bone of Adam, and her flesh is not from the flesh of the man like that of Eve.
On the surface, this poem is about the difficulty suffered by Adam. He was used to seeing Eve, the first woman who was shy, obedient, law fearing and submissive. He used to dictate; she used to obey. There was the chain of command and obedience in the Eden Garden but opposed to that Adam sees a new woman in the various faces and various fashions. As he sees her, he is confused on what to name her. He had got this capacity from the god but that ancient capacity was paused due to confusion.
The confusion of Adam indicates the failure of male parameters. Traditionally, males used to look at the females through the fixed lenses. But opposed to those lenses women are bold, courageous, rebellion, creative and so on. The phrases ‘various fashions and various faces’ symbolically stand for the multiple talents that women have. The traditional power of man has been disturbed and paused by the new modern and creative faces of women. In this respect, this poem is a plea (request) to accept the multiple layers of woman’s personality.
Finch gives a twist to the genesis story of creation by introducing a new female character who is unlike Eve. The creation story of Adam and Eve, mainly focuses on the inferior role of Eve. She is designed in such a way that she remains always subordinate to man and she is blamed for the fall of the man. But, Finch’s nymph is not from the bone and flesh of Adam and she is not forced to obey him. She is free and thus she changes her forms and colors and has various fashions. Her presence in the garden compels Adam to confess his limits in naming and putting everything under his control.
The nymph in this poem is drawn from the Greco-Roman mythology. According to the Greek and Roman mythology nymphs are the young female nature deities who animate nature. So they are associated with the natural elements such as mountains, rivers, forest, air and many more. As a part of nature, they love to sing and dance and they are the lovers of freedom. In the poem, the new nymph in the Garden of Eden is the representative of the new avatar of female who are not from the bone and flesh of Adam. Therefore, she is not obliged to obey him. As she is equal to Adam and free from his orders, she is more creative, more versatile, more fashionable and level up than Adam. So, he was confused and perplexed to name her. Literally, he was spellbound and shocked by her various facets and her fluctuating personality. This nymph not only disturbs Adam’s naming process, but also discontinued the thought of the male dominated society that a female cannot show or have multi-talents. The nymph is metaphorically standing for the unbound capabilities of female. She has been a new challenge to the patriarchal society where females are considered as the second sex and inferior being. Her all the capabilities are underestimated.
Anne Finch vigorously wants to have equal identity, respect and place in the society as a female poet and as a free human being. With the introduction of the new character in the ancient story of creation, she wants to remodel the concept of being a woman and the inability of Adam suggests her strong wish to transform the male authority upon the language, literature, art, social aspect, economic aspect and most importantly in her own identity making process.