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From The Ladies Defence

Melissa: I've still rever'd your Order [she is responding to a Parson] as Divine;
And when I see unblemish'd Virtue shine,
When solid Learning, and substantial Sense,
Are joyn'd with unaffected Eloquence;
When Lives and Doctrices of a Piece are made,
And holy Truths with humble Zeal convey'd;
When free from Passion, Bigottry, and Pride,
Not sway'd by Int'rest, nor to Parties ty'd,
Contemning Riches, and abhorring strife,
And shunning all the noisy Pomps of Life,
You live the aweful Wonders of your time,
Without the least Suspicion of a Crime:
I shall with Joy the highest Deference pay,
and heedfully attend to all you say.
From such, Reproofs shall always welcome prove,
As being th' Effects of Piety and Love.
But those from me can challenge no Respect,
Who on us all without just Cause reflect:
Who without Mercy all the Sex decry,
And into open Defamations fly:
Who think us Creatures for Derision made,
And the Creator with his Works upbraid:
What he call'd good, they proudly think not so,
And with their Malice, their Prophaneness show.
'Tis hard we shou'd be by the Men despis'd,
Yet kept from knowing what wou'd make us priz'd:
Debarr'd from Knowledge, banish'd from the Schools,
And with the utmost Industry bred Fools.
Laugh'd out of Reason, jested out of Sense,
And nothing left but Native Innocence:
Then told we are incapable of Wit,
And only for the meanest Drudgeries fit:
Made Slaves to serve their Luxury and Pride,
And with innumerable Hardships try'd,
'Till Pitying Heav'n release us from our Pain,
Kind Heav'n to whom alone we dare complain.
Th' ill-natur'd World will no Compassion show;
Such as are wretched, it wou'd still have so:
It gratifies its Envy and its Spight;
The most in others Miseries take Delight.
While we are present they some Pity spare,
And feast us on a thin Repast of Air:
Look Grave and Sigh, when we our Wrongs relate,
An in a Compliment accuse our Fate:
Blame those to whom we our Misfortunes owe,
And all the Signs of real Friendship show.
But when we're absent, we their Sport are made,
They fan the Flame, and our Oppressors aid;
Joyn with the Stronger, the Victorious Side,
And all our Suff'ring, all our griefs deride.
Those gen'rous few, whom kinder Thoughts inspire,
And who the Happiness of all desire;
Who wish we were from barb'rous Usage free,
Exempt from Toils, and shameful Slavery,
Yet let us, unreprov'd, mis. spend our Hours,
And to mean Purposes employ our nobler Pow'rs.
They think, if we our Thoughts can but express,
And know but how to Work, to Dance and Dress,
It is enough, as much as we shou'd mind,
As if we were for nothing else design'd,
But made, like Puppets, to divert Mankind.
O that my Sex wou'd all such Toys despise;
And only study to be Good, and Wise;
Inspect themselves, and every Blemish find,
Search all the close Recesses of the Mind,
And leave no vice, no ruling Passion there,
Nothing to raise a Blush, or cause a Fear:
Their Memories with solid Notions fill,
And let their Reason dictate to their Will,
Instead of Novels, Histories peruse,
And for their Guides the wiser Ancients chuse,
Thro' all the Labyrinths of Learning go,
And grow more humble, as they more do know.
By doing this, they will Respect procure,
Silence the Men, and lasting Fame secure;
And to themselves the best Companions prove,
And neither fear their Malice, nor desire their Love.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Lady Mary Chudleigh

Mary Chudleigh was an English poet. Part of an intellectual circle that included Mary Astell, Elizabeth Thomas, Judith Drake, Elizabeth Elstob, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and John Norris, in her later years, she published a book of poetry and two books of essays, all dealing with feminist themes; two of her books went through four editions during the last ten years of her life. Her poetry about human relationships and reactions has been anthologized ever since, and her feminist essays are still being reprinted. more…

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