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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Woman’s Trifling Needs

By Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814)

[Born in Barnstable, Mass., 1728. Died at Plymouth, Mass., 1814. Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous. 1790.]


Of all she needs Lamira offers here;

Nor does she fear a rigid Cato’s frown

When she lays by the rich embroidered gown,

And modestly compounds for just enough—

Perhaps, some dozens of more flighty stuff;

With lawns and lustrings, blond, and Mechlin laces,

Fringes and jewels, fans and tweezer-cases;

Gay cloaks, and hats of every shape and size,

Scarfs, cardinals, and ribbons of all dyes;

With ruffles stamped, and aprons of tambour,

Tippets and handkerchiefs, at least three score;

With finest muslins that fair India boasts,

And the choice herbage from Chinesan coasts;

(But while the fragrant hyson leaf regales,

Who’ll wear the homespun produce of the vales?

For if ’twould save the nation from the curse

Of standing troops; or—name a plague still worse—

Few can this choice, delicious draught give up,

Though all Medea’s poisons fill the cup.)

Add feathers, furs, rich satins, and ducapes,

And head-dresses in pyramidial shapes;

Sideboards of plate and porcelain profuse,

With fifty dittos that the ladies use;

If my poor treach’rous memory has missed,

Ingenious T——l shall complete the list.

So weak Lamira, and her wants so few,

Who can refuse?—they’re but the sex’s due.

In youth, indeed, an antiquated page

Taught us the threatenings of an Hebrew sage

’Gainst wimples, mantles, curls, and crisping-pins;

But rank not these among our modern sins;

For when our manners are well understood,

What in the scale is stomacher or hood?

’Tis true, we love the courtly mien and air,

The pride of dress and all the debonair;

Yet Clara quits the more dressed negligee,

And substitutes the careless Polanee;

Until some fair one from Britannia’s court,

Some jaunty dress or newer taste import;

This sweet temptation could not be withstood,

Though for the purchase paid her father’s blood.


Can the stern patriot Clara’s suit deny?

’Tis Beauty asks, and Reason must comply.