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Short poem

Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743-1825)

The Rights of Women

              1Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right!
              2Woman! too long degraded, scorned, opprest;
              3O born to rule in partial Law's despite,
              4Resume thy native empire o'er the breast!

              5Go forth arrayed in panoply divine;
              6That angel pureness which admits no stain;
              7Go, bid proud Man his boasted rule resign,
              8And kiss the golden sceptre of thy reign.

              9Go, gird thyself with grace; collect thy store
            10Of bright artillery glancing from afar;
            11Soft melting tones thy thundering cannon's roar,
            12Blushes and fears thy magazine of war.

            13Thy rights are empire: urge no meaner claim,--
            14Felt, not defined, and if debated, lost;
            15Like sacred mysteries, which withheld from fame,
            16Shunning discussion, are revered the most.

            17Try all that wit and art suggest to bend
            18Of thy imperial foe the stubborn knee;
            19Make treacherous Man thy subject, not thy friend;
            20Thou mayst command, but never canst be free.

            21Awe the licentious, and restrain the rude;
            22Soften the sullen, clear the cloudy brow:
            23Be, more than princes' gifts, thy favours sued;--
            24She hazards all, who will the least allow.

            25But hope not, courted idol of mankind,
            26On this proud eminence secure to stay;
            27Subduing and subdued, thou soon shalt find
            28Thy coldness soften, and thy pride give way.

            29Then, then, abandon each ambitious thought,
            30Conquest or rule thy heart shall feebly move,
            31In Nature's school, by her soft maxims taught,
            32That separate rights are lost in mutual love.


1] McCarthy and Kraft (p. 289) explain that this poem replies to Mary Wollstonecraft's mocking of Barbauld's poem, "To a Lady, with some painted Flowers", a criticism in Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). Barbauld's poem says that the life-purpose of the lady she addresses is to "please."

5] panoply: ceremonial armour or garb.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Works of Anna Lætitia Barbauld, Volume I (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster-Row, 1825), pp. 185-87. PR 4057 B7 1825 v.1. Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1825
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1997.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/18

Composition date: 1792
Form: Sicillian Quatrains
Rhyme: abab

Other poems by Anna Lætitia Barbauld