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Written for my Son, and spoken by him at his first putting on Breeches.

1 What is it our Mamma's bewitches,
2 To plague us little Boys with Breeches?
3 To Tyrant Custom we must yield,
4 Whilst vanquish'd Reason flies the Field.
5 Our Legs must suffer by Ligation,
6 To keep the Blood from Circulation;
7 And then our Feet, tho' young and tender,
8 We to the Shoemaker surrender;
9 Who often makes our Shoes so strait,
10 Our growing Feet they cramp and fret;
11 Whilst, with Contrivance most profound,
12 Across our Insteps we are bound;
13 Which is the Cause, I make no Doubt,
14 Why Thousands suffer in the Gout.
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15 Our wiser Ancestors wore Brogues,
16 Before the Surgeons brib'd these Rogues,
17 With narrow Toes, and Heels like Pegs,
18 To help to make us break our Legs.
19 Then, ere we know to use our Fists;
20 Our Mothers closely bind our Wrists;
21 And never think our Cloaths are neat,
22 Till they're so tight we cannot eat.
23 And, to increase our other Pains,
24 The Hat-band helps to cramp our Brains.
25 The Cravat finishes the Work,
26 Like Bow-string sent from the Grand Turk.
27 Thus Dress, that should prolong our Date,
28 Is made to hasten on our Fate.
29 Fair Privilege of nobler Natures,
30 To be more plagu'd than other Creatures!
31 The wild Inhabitants of Air
32 Are cloath'd by Heav'n with wondrous Care:
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33 Their beauteous, well-compacted Feathers
34 Are Coats of Mail against all Weathers;
35 Enamell'd, to delight the Eye;
36 Gay, as the Bow that decks the Sky.
37 The Beasts are cloath'd with beauteous Skins:
38 The Fishes arm'd with Scales and Fins;
39 Whose Lustre lends the Sailer Light,
40 When all the Stars are hid in Night.
41 O were our Dress contriv'd like these,
42 For Use, for Ornament, and Ease!
43 Man only seems to Sorrow born,
44 Naked, defenceless, and forlorn.
45 Yet we have Reason, to supply
46 What Nature did to Man deny:
47 Weak Viceroy! Who thy Pow'r will own,
48 When Custom has usurp'd thy Throne?
49 In vain did I appeal to thee,
50 Ere I would wear his Livery;
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51 Who, in Defiance to thy Rules,
52 Delights to make us act like Fools.
53 O'er human Race the Tyrant reigns,
54 And binds them in eternal Chains.
55 We yield to his despotic Sway,
56 The only Monarch All obey.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): Written for my Son, and spoken by him at his first putting on Breeches.
Author: Mary Barber
Themes: parents; children
References: DMI 1829

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Source edition

Barber, Mary, ca. 1690-1757. Poems on Several Occasions [poems only]. London: Printed for C. Rivington, at the Bible and Crown in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1734, pp. 13-16. xlviii,283,[7]p.; 8⁰. (ESTC T42622; DMI 519; Foxon p. 45) (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [Harding C 3644].)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Mary Barber