The matchless Orinda – Katherine Phillips.
Her birthday is actually 1st January 1631 but she deserved a really class party so I’ve waited til now. She was also known as the English Sappho. (So were lots of women poets, it didn’t mean what we think it would mean now, just that she was a poet, although in this case a pretty good case can be made for your actual sapphist. )
The daughter of London merchant she was educated at boarding school and was married at 17 to a Welsh MP, and lived in Cardigan. She set up a Writers group, and wrote letters and poems to her friends, in particular Anne Owen whom she addressed as Lucasia.
1658 letter to friend:
I gasp for you with an impatience that is not to be imagined by any soul wound up to a less concern in friendship than your is, and therefore I cannot hope to make others sensible of my vast desires to enjoy you.
Orinda to Lucasia
..thou my Lucasia are far more to me,
than he to all the underworld can be;
from thee I’ve heat and light
Thy absence makes my night.
But ah! my friend, it now grows very long
the sadness weighty, and the darkness strong:
My tears (its dew) dwell on my cheeks,
And still my heart thy dawning seeks,
And to thee mournfully it cries,
that if too long I wait
Ev’n thou mayst come too late
And not restore my life, but close my eyes.
To Mrs MA at parting
Our changed and mingles souls are grown
to such acquaintance now
that if each would resume their own
Alas! we know not how
We have each other so engrost
That each is in the union lost.
To my excellent Lucasia, on our friendship
I did not live until this time
Crown’d my felicity
When I could say without a crime,
I am not thine, but thee.
This Carcass breath’d and walk’t, and slept
So that the world believ’d
There was a soul the motion kept
But they were all deciev’d.
For as a watch by art is wound
to motion, such was mine;
But never had Orinda found
A soul till she found thine;
Which now inspires, cures and supplies,
And guides my darkened breast:
For thou art all that I can prize
My joy, my life, my rest.
No Bridegroom’s nor crown-conqueror’s mirth
to mine compared can be:
they have but pieces of the earth
I’ve all the world in thee.
Then let our flames still light and shine,
and no false fear controul
As innocent as our design,
Immortal as our soul.
Parting with Lucasia: A song.
Well, we will do that rigid thing
Which makes spectators think we part;
Though absence hath for none a sting
But those who keep each others heart.
And when our sense is dispossest
Our labouring souls will heave and pant
And gasp for one another’s breast
Since their conveyances they want.
Nay, we have felt the tedious smart
of absent friendship, and do know
That when we die we can but part;
And who knows what we shall do now?
Yet I must go: we will submit,
and so our own disposers be;
For while we nobly suffer it,
We triumph o’er Necessity.
By this we shall be truly great
If having other things o’er come
to make our victory complete
we can be conquerors at home.
Nay then to meet we may conclude
And all obstructions overthrow
Since we our passion have subdu’d
which is the strongest thing I know.
So the matchless Orinda definitely gets an invitation to the party, and she can bring her excellent friends. I wonder if she’s a cakes and ale type, or would prefer a sherry and some sugared almonds?