The Birtwhistles of Craven and Galloway
POEMS AND TRANSLATIONS 1809
The Rights of Women p75-87
Vindication of the Rights to Woman
Most histories by men were wrote,
And therefore my be partial thought,
As said the lion when he view’d,
A picture of himself subdued,
“Had this been drawn by us, good sir,
The lion had been conqueror;”
So women would have equal glory,
Had they recorded ancient story.
But let it then remain,
Our right and dignity are plain;
Woman was taken from man’s side,
To be his equal and his bride.
While he was made of common earth,
She from his rib deriv’d her birth;
(Tho’ some affect from thence to trace
Our sex a crooked, stubborn race)
From ancient evidence
Yet if we argue from the part,
She should be nearest to his heart.
Their dignity and int’rest one,
Not slave-like to be trod upon;
Satan, the origin of ill,
He first assail’d our mother Eve,
Knowing could he that fort achieve.
Adam would follow without strife,
As being govern’d by his wife;
Thus older than the rights of kings,
Men follow’d women’s leading-strings.
And thus we have prescription full,
To found our early right to rule;
Nor let yon bearded Rabbi tell us,
Heav’n of is character was jealous,
And sent down luckless woman later,
Lest man should tax it with ill-nature;*
(*See the Talmund)
From ancient history
Did not the Jew, whose prowess damps one,
The strongest man- I mean brave Sampson,
Tho’ unsubdued by gold or arms,
Yield to Dalilah’s wit and charms;
David a chosen monarch deem’d,
By Heav’n itself the most esteem’d,
From your to age desceetly shew’d,
He thought our sex the choicest good;
And Solomon, his son, we find,
Pronounc’d the wisest of mankind,
Rejected fame as worthless stuff,
Thought he had never wives enough;
Till growing gouty, cross and old,
He sought for bliss in courts and gold.
The gravely told us with a sigh,
That all was grief and vanity!
I could count over, if you please, sirs,
Your Alexanders, Pompeys, Caesars,
Who with submission most discreet,
Laid their proud laurels at our feet;
Opinion of ancient Philosophers
He valued empires less than love.
Tho’ Homer in a mood uncivil,
Pronouc’d our sex “the greatest evil,”
Some reason for his spleen we find…
The bard was old, and poor, and blind.
Euripides desired to know
What business we had here below?
Nay swore… and some have thought him right,
That gods created us thro’ spite:
But both Europides and Homer,
Recanted humbly the misnomer;
And own’d, in many and oft- told story,
That “virtuous wives are crowns of glory!
What says the fam’d Milesian sage *?
“Let women rule the middle age;”
Because experience tells us plain,
The middle age is wisdom’s reign.
Great Solon publish’d this decree…
“Let lords and ladies equal be;”
From Ancient Philosophers
Bias, the wisest of the sev’n,
Thought women smooth’d the way to heav’n;
And Zeno kindly deign’d to prove,
‘A wise man’s duty is to love.’
Our foes pretend the bean- despiser,*
Than all philosophers was wiser,
Because he bids us on a foe
A wife, the surest scourge, bestow:
By which is certain proof is carried,
That grave Pythagoras was married.
The oracle of
A wife the best of virtues taught;
For patience, as he often found,
Is balsam to the deepest wound.
Pert Plato, tho’ he bless’d his fate,
He was not born to share our state;
Forsook philosophy’s dry mazes,
To buy a smile from Agathais.
Diogenes, whose surly highness
Took lodgings in an empty wine press,
Once from a neighbour’s fig-tree pendent,
Spied Eve’s unfortunate descent:
And wish’ his cynic taste to suit,
All fig-trees bore such comely fruit;
By which ‘tis plainly understood,
He thought the fruit was wond’rous good.
But if our comment is not right,
This doctor had a doubtful sight;
For honest men he miss’d his way to,
Without a lanthorn’s aid by day too.
Then he… the Stagyrite sublime,
Who fixed the bounds of space and time,
Cynics! your satires to retort all,
Wish’d that his wife might be immortal;
But not because, as you had hinted,
Nor place nor time her prattle stinted.*
(*Aristotle idolized his learned wife Aspasia)
Cato, the all dismaying censor,
To chide a wife would never venture;
And many a striking proof could bring,
“That woman is a sacred thing;”
And deem’d a quiet spouse as great
As any minister of state.*