THE Woman's Labour:


1 Immortal Bard! thou Fav'rite of the Nine!
2 Enrich'd by Peers, advanc'd by Caroline!
3 Deign to look down on one that's poor and low,
4 Remembring you yourself was lately so;
5 Accept these Lines: Alas! what can you have
6 From her, who ever was, and's still a Slave?
7 No Learning ever was bestow'd on me;
8 My Life was always spent in Drudgery:
9 And not alone; alas! with Grief I find,
10 It is the Portion of poor Woman-kind.
11 Oft have I thought as on my Bed I lay,
12 Eas'd from the tiresome Labours of the Day,
13 Our first Extraction from a Mass refin'd,
14 Could never be for slavery design'd;
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15 Till Time and Custom by Degrees destroy'd
16 That happy State our Sex at first enjoy'd.
17 When Men had us'd their utmost Care and Toil,
18 Their Recompence was but a Female Smile;
19 When they by Arts or Arms were render'd Great,
20 They laid their Trophies at a Woman's Feet;
21 They, in those Days, unto our Sex did bring
22 Their Hearts, their All, a Free-will Offering;
23 And as from us their Being they derive,
24 They back again should all due Homage give.
25 JOVE once descending from the Clouds, did drop
26 In showers of Gold on lovely Danae's Lap;
27 The sweet-tongu'd Poets, in those generous Days,
28 Unto our Shrine still offer'd up their Lays:
29 But now, alas! that Golden Age is past,
30 We are the Objects of your Scorn at last.
31 And you, great Duck, upon whose happy Brow
32 The Muses seem to fix their Garland now,
33 In your late Poem boldly did declare
34 Alcides' Labours cant with yours compare;
35 And of your annual Task have much to say,
36 Of Threshing, Reaping, Mowing Corn and Hay;
37 Boasting your daily Toil, and nightly Dream,
38 But cant conclude your never-dying Theme,
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39 And let our hapless Sex in Silence lie
40 Forgotten, and in dark Oblivion die;
41 But on our abject State you throw your Scorn,
42 And Women wrong, your Verses to adorn.
43 You of Hay-making speak a Word or two,
44 As if our Sex but little Work could do:
45 This makes the honest Farmer smiling say,
46 He'll seek for Women still to make his Hay;
47 For if his Back be turn'd the Work they mind
48 As well as Men, as far as he can find.
49 For my own Part, I many a Summer's Day
50 Have spent in throwing, turning, making Hay;
51 But ne'er could see, what you have lately found,
52 Our Wages paid for sitting on the Ground.
53 'Tis true, that when our Morning's Work is done,
54 And all our Grass expos'd unto the Sun,
55 While that his scorching Beams do on it shine,
56 As well as you we have a Time to dine:
57 I hope, that since we freely toil and sweat
58 To earn our Bread, you'll give us Time to eat;
59 That over, soon we must get up again,
60 And nimbly turn our Hay upon the plain:
61 Nay, rake and row it in, the Case is clear;
62 Or how should Cocks in equal Rows appear?
63 But if you'd have what you have wrote believ'd,
64 I find, that you to hear us talk are griev'd:
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65 In this, I hope, you do not speak your Mind,
66 For none but Turks, that ever I could find,
67 Have Mutes to serve them, or did e'er deny
68 Their Slaves, at Work, to chat it merrily.
69 Since you have Liberty to speak your Mind,
70 And are to talk, as well as we, inclin'd,
71 Why should you thus repine, because that we,
72 Like you, enjoy that pleasing Liberty?
73 What! would you Lord it quite, and take away
74 The only Privilege our Sex enjoy?
75 When Ev'ning does approach, we homeward hie,
76 And our domestick Toils incessant ply:
77 Against your coming Home prepare to get
78 Our Work all done, Our House in order set;
79 Bacon and Dumpling in the Pot we boil,
80 Our Beds we make, our Swine we feed the while;
81 Then wait at Door to see you coming Home,
82 And set the Table out against you come:
83 Early next Morning we on you attend,
84 Our Children dress and feed, their Cloaths we mend
85 And in the Field our daily Task renew,
86 Soon as the rising Sun has dry'd the Dew.
87 When Harvest comes, into the Field we go,
88 And help to reap the Wheat as well as you;
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89 Or else we go the Ears of Corn to glean;
90 No Labour scorning, be it e'er so mean;
91 But in the Work we freely bear a Part,
92 And what we can, perform with all our Heart.
93 To get a Living we so willing are,
94 Our tender Babes unto the Field we bear,
95 And wrap them in our Cloaths to keep them warm,
96 While round about we gather up the Corn;
97 And often unto them our Course do bend,
98 To keep them save, that nothing them offend:
99 Our Children that are able bear a share,
100 In gleaning Corn, such is our frugal Care.
101 When Night comes on, unto our Home we go,
102 Our Corn we carry, and our Infant too;
103 Weary indeed! but 'tis not worth our while
104 Once to complain, or rest at ev'ry Stile;
105 We must make haste, for when we home are come,
106 We find again our Work but just begun:
107 So many Things for our Attendance call,
108 Had we ten Hands, we could employ them all.
109 Our Children put to Bed, with greatest Care
110 We all Things for your coming home prepare:
111 You sup, and go to Bed without Delay,
112 And rest yourselves till the ensuing Day;
113 While we, alas! but little Sleep can have,
114 Because our froward Children cry and rave;
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115 Yet, without fail, soon as Day-light doth spring,
116 We in the Field again our work begin,
117 And there, with all our Strength, our Toil renew,
118 Till Titan's golden Rays have dry'd the Dew;
119 Then home we go unto our Children dear,
120 Dress, feed, and bring them to the Field with Care.
121 Were this your Case, you justly might complain
122 That Day nor Night you are secure from Pain;
123 Those mighty Troubles which perplex your Mind,
124 (Thistles before, and Females come behind)
125 Would vanish soon, and quickly disappear,
126 Were you, like us, encumber'd thus with Care.
127 What you would have of us we do not know:
128 We oft take up the Corn that you do mow;
129 We cut the Peas, and always ready are
130 In every Work to take our proper Share;
131 And from the Time that Harvest doth begin,
132 Until the Corn be cut and carry'd in,
133 Our Toil and Labour's daily so extreme,
134 That we have hardly ever Time to Dream.
135 The Harvest ended, Respite none we find;
136 The hardest of our Toil is still behind:
137 Hard Labour we most chearfully pursue,
138 And out, abroad, a Chairing often go:
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139 Of which I now will briefly tell in part,
140 What fully to describe is past my Art;
141 So many Hardships daily we go through,
142 I boldly say, the like you never knew.
143 When bright Orion glitters in the Skies
144 In Winter Nights, then early we must rise;
145 The Weather ne'er so bad, Wind, Rain, or Snow,
146 Our Work appointed, we must rise and go;
147 While you on easy Beds may lie and sleep,
148 Till Light does thro' your Chamber Windows peep
149 When to the House we come where we should go,
150 How to get in, alas! we do not know:
151 The Maid quite tir'd with Work the day before,
152 O'ercome with Sleep; we standing at the Door
153 Oppress'd with Cold, and often call in vain,
154 E'er to our Work we can admittance gain:
155 But when from Wind and Weather we get in,
156 Briskly with Courage we our Work begin;
157 Heaps of fine Linnen we before us view,
158 Whereon to lay our Strength and Patience too;
159 Cambricks and Muslins which our Ladies wear,
160 Laces and Edgings, costly, fine, and rare,
161 Which must be wash'd with utmost Skill and Care;
162 With Holland Shirts, Ruffles and Fringes too,
163 Fashions, which our Fore-fathers never knew.
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164 For several Hours here we work and slave,
165 Before we can one Glimpse of Day-light have;
166 We labour hard before the Morning's past,
167 Because we fear the Time runs on too fast.
168 At length bright Sol illuminates the Skies,
169 And summons drowsy Mortals to arise;
170 Then comes our Mistress to us without fail,
171 And in her Hand, perhaps, a Mug of Ale
172 To cheer our Hearts, and also to inform
173 Herself what Work is done that very Morn;
174 Lays her Commands upon us, that we mind
175 Her Linnen well, nor leave the Dirt behind:
176 Nor this alone, but also to take Care
177 We don't her Cambricks nor her Ruffles tear;
178 And these most strictly does of us require,
179 To save her Soap, and sparing be of Fire;
180 Tells us her Charge is great, nay furthermore,
181 Her Cloaths are fewer than the Time before:
182 Now we drive on, resolv'd our Strength to try,
183 And what we can we do most willingly;
184 Untill with Heat and Work, 'tis often known,
185 Not only Sweat, but Blood runs trickling down
186 Our Wrists and Fingers; still our Work demands
187 The constant Action of our lab'ring Hands.
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188 Now Night comes on, from whence you have Relief,
189 But that, alas! does but increase our Grief;
190 With heavy Hearts we often view the Sun,
191 Fearing he'll set before our Work is done;
192 For either in the Morning, or at Night,
193 We peice the Summers Day with Candle-light.
194 Tho' we all Day with Care our Work attend,
195 Such is our Fate, we know not when 'twill end:
196 When Evening's come, you homeward take your Way,
197 We, till our Work is done, are forc'd to stay;
198 And after all our Toil and Labour past,
199 Six-pence or Eight-pence pays us off at last;
200 For all our Pains, no Prospect can we see
201 Attend us, but Old Age and Poverty.
202 The Washing is not all we have to do:
203 We oft change Work for Work as well as you.
204 Our Mistress of her Pewter doth complain,
205 And 'tis our part to make it clean again.
206 This Work, tho very hard and tiresome too,
207 Is not the worst we hapless Females do:
208 When Night comes on, and we quite weary are,
209 We scarce can count what falls unto our Share;
210 Pots, Kettles, Sauce-pans, Skillets, we may see,
211 Skimmers, and Ladles, and such Trumpery,
212 Brought in to make compleat our Slavery.
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213 Tho' early in the Morning 'tis begun,
214 'Tis often very late before we've done;
215 Alas! our Labours never know no End,
216 On Brass and Iron we our Strength must spend;
217 Our tender Hands and Fingers scratch and tear:
218 All this, and more, with Patience we must bear,
219 Colour'd with Dirt and Filth we now appear;
220 Your threshing sooty Peas will not come near.
221 All the Perfections Woman once could boast,
222 Are quite obscur'd, and altogether lost.
223 Once more our Mistress sends to let us know
224 She wants our Help, because the Beer runs low:
225 Then in much haste for Brewing we prepare,
226 The Vessels clean, and scald with greatest Care;
227 Often at Midnight from our Bed we rise
228 At other Times ev'n that will not suffice;
229 Our Work at Ev'ning oft we do begin,
230 And e'er we've done, the Night comes on again.
231 Water we pump, the Copper we must fill,
232 Or tend the Fire; for if we e'er stand still,
233 Like you, when Threshing, we a Watch must keep,
234 Our Wort boils over, if we dare to sleep.
235 But to rehearse all Labour is in vain,
236 Of which we very justly might complain:
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237 For us, you see, but little Rest is found;
238 Our Toil increases as the Year runs round,
239 While you to Sysiphus yourselves compare,
240 With Danaus' daughters we may claim a Share;
241 For while he labours hard against the Hill,
242 Bottomless Tubs of Water they must fill.
243 So the industrious Bees do hourly strive
244 To bring their Loads of Honey to the Hive;
245 Their fordid Owners always reap the Gains,
246 And poorly recompense their Toil and Pains.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): THE Woman's Labour: TO Mr. STEPHEN DUCK.
Author: Mary Collier
Themes: rural life; labour
Genres: heroic couplet

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Source edition

Collier, Mary, c.1690-c.1762. Poems, on Several Occasions, by Mary Collier, Author of the Washerwoman's Labour, with some remarks on Her Life. Winchester: Printed by Mary Ayres; for the Author. MDCCLXII., 1762, pp. []-16. 68p. (ESTC T125590)

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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.