Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Rights of Women

I think that right now, everyone seems to have love on their minds because of the topics of our lectures over the last little while. I'm quite glad that the professor didn't start off teaching us about poetry by discussing love poetry, because I think that many people have the misconception that love poetry is the only true form of poetry. What I have enjoyed about this class is that is that we have been taught that there are endless forms of poetry! Indeed, one of the strangest topics I have found for poetry has been women's rights. In my minds, this didn't seem like a topic that really fit with the notion of poetics, but when I read one particular poem by Anna Laetitia Barbauld, it reinforced to me that poetry is everywhere! Here is the poem that I found so interesting:

The Rights of Women
Anna Laetitia Barbauld

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

Go forth arrayed in pnoply divine;
Than angel pureness which admits no stain;
Go, bid proud Man his boasted rule resign,
And kiss the golden scepter of they reign.

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

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

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

Awe the licentious, and restrain the rude;
Soften the slullen, clear the cloudy brow:
Be, more than princes' gifts, thy faors sued;--
She hazards all, who will the least allow.

But hope no, courted idol of mankind,
On this proud eminence secure to stay;
Subduing and subdued, thou soon shalt find
Thy coldness soften, and thy pride give way.

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

The reason that I find this poem so particular interesting, aside from the obvious originality of the topic, is the fact that up until the last two stanzas of this poem, the author is encouraging women to assert themselves within society and to become powerful in their own self, "Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right!" (line 1). There seems to be a distinct positive spin on women seeking equal rights, throughout the majority of this poem, until the end where the author is saying that it is all well and good to have these feelings, but as women, we have no place to act on them because we have a set role within society, and it does not involve idolizing the role of men. As it says in Genesis 2: 18, "The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" What I believe this is saying is that is was never the intention of God (referred to as Nature in this poem) for women to be completely equal to men--we are their 'helpers'. That is not to say that women should be completely submissive to men in every way, but what I think that this poem, and subsequently the scripture found in Genesis is trying to say is that women should find security in their position in life because men and women were not created to do the same things, and subsequently do not maintain the same rights within society.


Blogger Navita said...

Some people that would read your blog, would totally disagree, and even argue with you...but not me! i think that the poem you posted and the explination for it afterward are very good. The lines from the bible also help to show poeple that women are not exactly made to be like men, or equal to them, but they are meant to help and guide them. I am all for the equality stuff, but it's true we were not made to do the same things as men. Men are valued for different things such as certain physical strengths, courages etc, but women are valued for the same things, in a different light. We make babies...imagine a pregnant bout we don't. We give life, but at the same time we need men, or just their semen in some wierd cases to make life, all in all, on behalf of men and women everywhere... we can't live with them, we can't live without them!

January 16, 2005 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger Donna_f said...

The poem you found is really interesting and quite a different topic. I thought it was a good touch to add in the part about Genesis, but quoting the bible is tough because you never know if the version we are reading today has interpolations (information added later) or whether it is from the first manuscript. So the message could have been changed by anyone.

January 20, 2005 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger crazygurltrin said...

Your right, poetry is everywhere and great poem to illustrate that. I believe that any emotion and any belief can be expressed through poetry and all of a sudden its power is heightened. Its not often one hears of poetry other than love in everyday life, its nice to be able to read what others have shared through such a powerful medium of art.

March 22, 2005 at 7:58 PM  

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