Woman of the day: Sarah Fyge Egerton

Yesterday, I posted some links to online sources for early modern women. I’ve decided to post examples from those resources for the rest of the week.

First up, from Emory Women Writers’ Resource Project, extracts from Sarah Fyge Egerton, ‘Female Advocate or, an Answer to a Late Satyr Against the Pride, Lust and Inconstancy, &c. of Woman’ (1686). (Apparently she was 14 years old when she wrote the poem.)

To the Reader.

That which makes many Books come abroad into the World without Prefaces, is, the only Reason that incites me to one, VIZ. the Smalness of them; being willing to let my reader know why this is so: For as one great commendation of our Sex, is, to know much, and speak little, so my Virgin Modesty hath put a Period to the intended Length of the ensuing Lines, lest censuring Criticks should measure my tongue by my Pen, and condemn me for a Talkative, by the length of my Poem. Tho’ O confess the illustrious Subject requires (nay commands) an enlargement from any other Pen than mione (or those under the same Circumastances) but I think it is good Frugality for young Beginners to send forth a small Venture at first, and see how that passes the merciless Ocean of Criticks, and what Returns it makes, and so accordingly adventure the next time. …

Blasphemous Wretch, thou who canst think or say
Some Curst or Banisht Fiend usurp’t the way
When Eve was form’d; for then’s deny’d by you
Gods Omniscience and Omnipresence too:
Without which Attributes he could not be,
The greatest and supremest Deity:
Nor can Heaven sleep, tho’ it may mourn to fee
Degenerate Man utter Blasphemy.
When from dark Chaos Heav’n the World did make,
Made all things glorious it did undertake;
Then it in Eden’s Garden freely plac’d
All things pleasant to the Sight or taste,
Fill’d it with Beasts & Birds, Trees hung with Fruit,
That might with man’s Celestial Nature suit:
The world being made thus spacious and compleat,
Then Man was form’d, who seemed nobly great.
When Heaven survey’d the Works that it had done,
Saw Male and female, but found Man alone,
A barren Sex and insignificant;
So Heaven made Woman to supply the want,
And to make perfect what before was scant:
Then surely she a Noble Creature is,
Whom Heaven thus made to consummate all Bliss.
Though Man had been first, yet methinks She
In Nature should hvae the supremacy;
For Man was form’d out of dull senceless Earth;
But Woman she had a far nobler Birth:
For when the dust was purify’d by Heaven,
Made into Man, and Life unto it given,
Then the Almighty and All-wise God said,
That Woman of that Species should be made:
Which was no sooner said, but it was done,
‘Cause ’twas not fit for Man to be alone.
Thus have I prov’d Womans Creation good,
And not inferior, when right understood: …

In Constancy they men excell as far
A heavens bright lamp doth a dull twinckling star.
Tho’ man is alwaies altering of his mind,
Inconstancy is only in womankind.
‘Tis something strange, no hold, it isn’t because
The men have had the power of making Laws;
For where is there that man that ever dy’d,
Or ere expired with his loving Bride.
But numerous trains of chast wives expire
With their dear Husbands, tho in flames of fire:
We’d do the same if custom did require.
But this is done by indian women, who
Do make their Constancy immortal too,
As is their Fame: We find India yields
More glorious Phoenix than the Arabian fields.
The German women Constancy did shew
When Wensberg was besieged, beg’d they might go
Out of the City, with no bigger Packs
Than each of them could carry on their Backs.
The wond’ring world expected they’d have gone
Laded with treasures from their native home,
But crossing expectation each did take
Her Husband as her burden on her back.
So saved him from intended death, and she
At once gave him both life and liberty. …

Sarah Fyge Egerton (short biography) and more poems at RPO
The woman controversy in early modern England
Transgressing boundaries: women’s writing in the Renaissance and Reformation
Women and literature in Britain 1500-1700 (book review)
Rachel Speght (wikipedia)
Bibliography of early modern women writers

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