Shall I be one, of those obsequious Fools,
That square there lives, by Customs scanty Rules;
Condemn’d for ever, to the puny Curse,
Of Precepts taught, at Boarding-school, or Nurse,
That all the business of my Life must be,
Foolish, dull Trifling, Formality.
Confin’d to a strict Magick complaisance,
And round a Circle, of nice visits Dance,
Nor for my Life beyond the Chalk advance:
The Devil Censure, stands to guard the same,
One step awry, he tears my ventrous Fame.
So when my Friends, in a facetious Vein,
With Mirth and Wit, a while can entertain;
Tho’ ne’er so pleasant, yet I must not stay,
If a commanding Clock, bids me away:
But with a sudden start, as in a Fright,
I must be gone indeed, ’tis after Eight.
Sure these restraints, with such regret we bear,
That dreaded Censure, can’t be more severe,
Which has no Terror, if we did not fear;
But let the Bug-bear, timerous Infants fright,
I’ll not be scar’d, from Innocent delight:
Whatever is not vicious, I dare do,
I’ll never to the Idol Custom bow,
Unless it suits with my own Humour too.
Some boast their Fetters, of Formality,
Fancy they ornamental Bracelets be,
I’m sure their Gyves, and Manacles to me.
To their dull fulsome Rules, I’d not be ty’d,
For all the Flattery that exalts their Pride:
My Sex forbids, I should my Silence break,
I lose my Jest, cause Women must not speak.
Mysteries must not be, with my search Prophan’d,
My Closet not with Books, but Sweat-meats cram’d
A little China, to advance the show,
My Prayer Book, and seven Champions, or so.
My pen if ever us’d imploy’d must be,
In lofty Themes of useful Houswifery,
Transcribing old Receipts of Cookery:
And what is necessary ‘mongst the rest,
Good Cures for Agues, and a cancer’d Breast,
But I can’t here, write my Probatum est.
My daring Pen, will bolder Sallies make,
And like myself, an uncheck’d freedom take;
Not chain’d to the nice Order of my Sex,
And with restraints my wishing Soul perplex:
I’ll blush at Sin, and not what some call Shame,
Secure my Virtue, slight precarious Fame.
This Courage speaks me, Brave, ’tis surely worse,
To keep those Rules, which privately we Curse:
And I’ll appeal, to all the formal Saints,
With what reluctance they indure restraints.
By: Sarah Fyge Egerton (?1670-1723)