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Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

Poems: 1713–17

To Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

  • While there is no absolute date to be given for this or the following poem, both evidently belong to the period of Pope’s somewhat fanciful attachment for Lady Mary.

  • I
    IN beauty, or wit,

    No mortal as yet

    To question your empire has dar’d;

    But men of discerning

    Have thought that in learning,

    To yield to a lady was hard.

    Impertinent schools,

    With musty dull rules,

    Have reading to females denied:

    So Papists refuse

    The Bible to use,

    Lest flocks should be wise as their guide.

    ’T was a woman at first,

    (Indeed she was curst)

    In Knowledge that tasted delight,

    And sages agree

    The laws should decree

    To the first possessor the right.

    Then bravely, fair Dame,

    Resume the old claim,

    Which to your whole sex does belong;

    And let men receive,

    From a second bright Eve,

    The knowledge of right and of wrong.

    But if the first Eve

    Hard doom did receive,

    When only one apple had she,

    What a punishment new

    Shall be found out for you,

    Who tasting have robb’d the whole tree?