On a Gentleman saying "All Women were Vermin," 1783

Nine Ladies who lived on a certain Old Mountain

Whose verdure is fed by a beautiful Fountain

Had long been admir’d, carest and implor’d,

Nay by some of their Votaries almost ador’d;

Their smiles could the bosom with extasy swell

As Milton their favored admirer will tell,

And a thousand vain prayers to them were address’d

For few with these smiles so enchanting were bless’d.

But how changeful is fate! At length this fair train

Are doom’d in their turn to solicit in vain,

And now are all waiting with humble submission

On a Swain who is deaf to their warmest petition.

What others implor’d (how strange is the whim!)

They with fond prodigality lavish on Him;

The effulgence of Genius this favorite graced,

The lightning of Wit, and the polish of Taste,

Nay, one of the group his esteem to acquire,

In the days of his Infancy lent him her Lyre,

But untouch’d has it hung since that Season was o’er

And Urania herself finds it vain to implore.

Did there ever exist so relentless a Swain?

But the cause of this coldness he deigns to explain,

And the fate of these Ladies at once to determine,

He owns, he considers, “All Women as Vermin.”

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/3; also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, p. 128.