Advise to Young Ladies
Advise to Young Ladies
A.D. Hope, Collected Poems: 1930-1970 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1972): 207-208. PR 6015.O55 A17 1972 Robarts Library
1A.U.C. 334: about this date
2For a sexual misdemeanour, which she denied,
3The vestal virgin Postumia was tried.
4Livy records it among affairs of state.
5They let her off: it seems she was perfectly pure;
6The charge arose because some thought her talk
7Too witty for a young girl, her eyes, her walk
8Took lively, her clothes too smart to be demure.
9The Pontifex Maximus, summing up the case,
10Warned her in future to abstain from jokes,
11To wear less modish and more pious frocks.
12She left the court reprieved, but in disgrace.
13What then? With her the annalist is less
14Concerned than what the men achieved that year:
15Plots, quarrels, crimes, with oratory to spare!
16I see Postumia with her dowdy dress,
17Stiff mouth and listless step; I see her strive
18To give dull amswers. She had to knuckle down.
19A vestal virgin who scandalized that town
20Had fair trail, then they buried her alive.
21Alive, bricked up in suffocating dark,
22A ration of bread, a pitcher if she was dry,
23Preserved the body they did not wish to die
24Until her mind was quenched to the last spark.
25How many the black maw has swallowed in its time!
26Spirited girls who would not know their place;
27Talented girls who found that the disgrace
28Of being a woman made genius a crime;
29How many others, who would not kiss the rod
30Domestic bullying broke or public shame?
31Pagan or Christian, it was much the same:
32Husbands, St Paul declared, rank next to God.
33Livy and Paul, it may be, never knew
34That Rome was doomed; each spoke of her with pride.
35Tacitus, writing after both had died,
36Showed that whole fabric rotten through and through.
37Historians spend their lives and lavish ink
38Explaining how great commonwealths collapse
39From great defects of policy--perhaps
40The cause is sometimes simpler than they think.
41It may not seem so grave an act to break
42Postumia's as Galileo's, to gag
43Hypatia as crush Socrates, or drag
44Joan as Giordano Bruno to the stake.
45Can we be sure? Have more states perished, then,
46For having shackled the enquiring mind,
47Than those who, in their folly not less blind,
48Trusted the servile womb to breed free men?
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