"To the Ladies"
by Mary, Lady Chudleigh
Located in our poetry anthology on page 22 and online: http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/ladies.html
The lines I looked closely at are:
"Wife and servant are the same,
But only differ in the name:
For when the fatal knot is tied,
Which nothing, nothing can divide,
When she the word Obey has said
And man by supreme law has made...(1-6)"
In this poem there is a lot of tension between the patriarchal society and the role of women. In line one a wife is metaphorically compared to a servant. Therefore the wife has no say in anything because even though she may be a lady, she is in no position of authority, her only task is to 'serve her husband. This is a very 'male' view of the time period that this poem was written in 1703. Line two continues with the only actual difference between a wife and a servant being the title of 'wife.' In line three of the poem, explicitly says 'fatal knot is tied,' which is an obvious reference to being married, however there is a paradox of a wedding, tying the knot, to being fatal. Marriage is normally associated with a positive light, a new beginning, but in this poem the speaker is saying that once your married there is no way out, and marriage is a death of any freedom. Line four the speaker points out the permanence of marriage, obviously now if the marriage is as bad as the speakers, divorce is an option. But for the speaker in the poem the only option is death itself. In line five the poet emphasises the word Obey with a capital O and the word being italicised. Obey is a very strong word the OED describes it as basically taking orders from someone in authority. The woman in this marriage has no say in anything what so ever, her only function is to take orders. Line 6 enforces the fact that men are in complete control over women. This poem is about a women in a bad marriage warning other women of the consequences of saying obey and I do... You will lose complete freedom over your life, everything you do will be because it is what your husband wanted. The rhyme in the first 6 lines is a,a,b,b,c, d.