‘A poet I am neither born, nor bred’, Margaret Cavendish

After yesterday’s sober poem, I thought it was time to go back to one of “my women” from my PhD and probably my favourite subject: Margaret Cavendish. Cavendish was an extraordinary woman who defined conventions. She was fascinated in science and possibilities and was the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society. Cavendish was the subject of much speculation and gossip due to her flamboyant style and desire to flaunt expectations. She often cross-dressed and was mentioned in Pepys’ diary; going to see her walk down the street was a source of entertainment. Although her writing is somewhat chaotic and sometimes not well expressed, Cavendish was relatively unapologetic about her desire to write and express herself, as men could do. Not being able to benefit from the same educational opportunities as men or the acceptance of male writing, she used her privileged position and wealth to publish her works. One could argue that this was self-indulgent, however I think we benefit from her desire to get her work recognised. She refused to be silenced and I love her untamed and defiance. Her work is an important contribution to seventeenth-century writing. She was an early feminist in many ways. I’ve included two poems here as they are both short and well, who says I only need to include one 🙂

‘A poet I am neither born, nor bred’

A Poet I am neither born, nor bred,
But to a witty poet married:
Whose brain is fresh, and pleasant, as the spring,
Where fancies grow, and where the Muses sing.
There oft I lean my head, and list’ning hark,
To hear his words, and all his fancies mark;
And from that garden flowers of fancies take,
Whereof a posy up in verse I make.
Thus I, that have no garden of mine own,
There gather flowers that are newly blown

Poems and Fancies, 1653.

An Excuse for so much writ upon my Verses

Condemn me not for making such a coil
About my book, alas it is my child.
Just like a bird, when her young are in nest,
Goes in, and out, and hops, and takes no rest;
But when their young are fledged, their heads out peep,
Lord what a chirping does the old one keep.
So I, for fear my strengthless child should fall
Against a door, or stool, aloud I call,
Bid have a care of such a dangerous place:
Thus write I much, to hinger all disgrace.

Poems and Fancies, 1653.

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