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Shaykh Daoud’s Blog

The Rights Of Woman

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Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, wrote a poem which he published in 1792 – the Year of The Terror in France.

It’s not really one of his better works, whether for scansion or metre, but it was certainly daring for its day. It appears to be something of a parody of the sloganising and pamphletting that was going on in Britain as well as Europe, concerning the “Rights of Man” (in Thomas Paine’s memorable phrase).

However, it might well be listed as perhaps the first blow for a recognition of women’s rights in the modern European world.

The year he published it, it should be noted was 19 years earlier than the publication date of the first novel (Sense and Sensibility) of that icon of true feminism, Jane Austen, in 1811.

As a gesture towards International Woman’s Day on 8 March (yesterday), I offer Rabbie Burns’s poem.

The Rights Of Woman
An Occasional Address. Spoken by Miss Fontenelle on her benefit night, November 26, 1792.

While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things,
The fate of Empires and the fall of Kings;
While quacks of State must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention.

First, in the Sexes’ intermix’d connection,
One sacred Right of Woman is, protection. –
The tender flower that lifts its head, elate,
Helpless, must fall before the blasts of Fate,
Sunk on the earth, defac’d its lovely form,
Unless your shelter ward th’ impending storm.

Our second Right-but needless here is caution,
To keep that right inviolate’s the fashion;
Each man of sense has it so full before him,
He’d die before he’d wrong it-’tis decorum. –
There was, indeed, in far less polish’d days,
A time, when rough rude man had naughty ways,
Would swagger, swear, get drunk, kick up a riot,
Nay even thus invade a Lady’s quiet.

Now, thank our stars! those Gothic times are fled;
Now, well-bred men-and you are all well-bred-
Most justly think (and we are much the gainers)
Such conduct neither spirit, wit, nor manners.

For Right the third, our last, our best, our dearest,
That right to fluttering female hearts the nearest;
Which even the Rights of Kings, in low prostration,
Most humbly own-’tis dear, dear admiration!
In that blest sphere alone we live and move;
There taste that life of life-immortal love.
Smiles, glances, sighs, tears, fits, flirtations, airs;
‘Gainst such an host what flinty savage dares,
When awful Beauty joins with all her charms-
Who is so rash as rise in rebel arms?

But truce with kings, and truce with constitutions,
With bloody armaments and revolutions;
Let Majesty your first attention summon,
Ah! ça ira! The Majesty Of Woman!

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Written by Daoud Rosser-Owen

March 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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