Sarah Egerton

 

 

 

The Emulation

 

Say, tyrant Custom, why must we obey

The impositions of thy haughty sway?

From the first dawn of life unto the grave,

Poor womankind's in every state a slave,

The nurse, the mistress, parent and the swain,

For love she must, there's none escape that pain.

Then comes the last, the fatal slavery:

The husband with insulting tyranny

Can have ill manners justified by law,

For men all join to keep the wife in awe.

Moses, who first our freedom did rebuke,

Was married when he writ the Pentateuch.

They're wise to keep us slaves, for well they know,

If we were loose, we should soon make them so.

We yield like vanquished kings whom fetters bind,

When chance of war is to usurpers kind;

Submit in form; but they'd our thoughts control,

And lay restraints on the impassive soul.

They fear we should excel their sluggish parts,

Should we attempt the sciences and arts;

Pretend they were designed for them alone,

So keep us fools to raise their own renown.

Thus priests of old, their grandeur to maintain,

Cried vulgar eyes would sacred laws profane;

So kept the mysteries behind a screen:

Their homage and the name were lost had they been seen.

But in this blessèd age such freedom's given,

That every man explains the will of heaven;

And shall we women now sit tamely by,

Make no excursions in philosophy,

Or grace our thoughts in tuneful poetry?

We will our rights in learning's world maintain;

Wit's empire now shall know a female reign.

Come, all ye fair, the great attempt improve,

Divinely imitate the realms above:

There's ten celestial females govern wit,

And but two gods that dare pretend to it.

And shall these finite males reverse their rules?

No, we'll be wits, and then men must be fools.

        

                                                                       (1703)