I love this poem, "Woman's Rights" by Thomas Bracken, written in the late 1800s. Among many other poems, he is the author of the famous poem, “Not Understood,” and the great words of the New Zealand National Anthem. Thomas Bracken was born in Ireland, raised in Australia, and then moved to New Zealand where he married and worked as a poet, journalist, and politician. I printed this poem in the very first issue of Above Rubies, September 1977, 40 years ago. Celebrating, I print it for you again.
Some people think that women should
Compete in life’s swift race
With men, and gain each privilege
Position, power, and place
Which he enjoys. I can’t agree
With those progressive lights;
I’ll tell you what appears to me
To be fair woman’s rights.
When passion’s young ecstatic fire
First kindles in our veins,
‘Tis woman’s right to bind our hearts
In Cupid’s rosy chains;
She wields a queenly scepter then
Which we must needs obey,
We’re building castles in the night
And dreaming all the day.
‘Tis woman’s right to be caressed
When love is in the spring
And when affection’s harvest comes
Her right it is to bring
The garnered fruits of happiness
To cheer man’s dreary way,
To smooth his tougher nature
And refine his coarser clay.
‘Tis woman’s right to wean us from
Our selfishness and greed,
A counsellor in trouble and
A faithful friend in need.
‘Tis woman’s right to lead us from
The foot of Mammon’s throne
And take us to a nobler shrine
Where purer joys are known.
‘Tis woman’s sacred right--and this
To her by God is given,
To teach the lisping little ones
The password into Heaven.
No joy man knows on earth can with
A mother’s bliss compare
When listening with the angel choir
She hears her child’s first prayer.
‘Tis woman’s right to lean on man
In sorrow and distress
For he was made to comfort her
And she was made to bless;
Her bulwark against danger, be
She daughter, sister, wife,
Or mother, he should guard her well
Aye, even with his life.
‘Tis woman’s right, ere we prepare
To battle in life’s van,
To shape our future destinies
And mould the mind of man.
And here, where we’re erecting on
Pacific’s breast a state,
The mothers of our rising race
Can make it poor or great.
~ Thomas Bracken