Rachel Speght
from "The Dreame"


My griefe, quoth I, is called Ignorance,
Which makes me differ little from a brute:
For animals are led by natures lore,  (45)
Their seeming science is but customes fruit;
When they are hurt they have a sense of pain;
But want the sense to cure themselves again.

And ever since this griefe did me opresse,
Instinct of nature is my chiefest guide;  (50)
I feele disease, yet know not what I ayle,
I finde a sore, but can no salve provide;
I hungry am, yet cannot seeke for foode;
Because I know not what is bad or good.

And sometimes when I seeke the golden meane,  (55)
My weaknesse makes me faile of mine intent,
That suddenly I fall into extremes,
Nor can I see a mischiefe to prevent;
But feele the paine when I the perill finde,
Because my maladie doth make me blinde.  (60)

What is without the compasse of my braine,
My Sicknesse makes me say it cannot bee;
What I conceive not, cannot come to passe;
Because for it I can no reason see.
I measure all mens feet by mine own shooe,  (65)
And count all well, which I appoint or doe.

The pestilent effects of my disease
Exceed report, their number is so great;
The evils, which through it I doe incur,
Are more then I am able to repeat.  (70)
Wherefore, good Thought, I sue to thee againe,
To tell me how my cure I may obtaine.

Quoth she, I wish I could prescribe your helpe;
Your state I pitie much, and doe bewaile;
But for my part, though I am much imploy'd,  (75)
Yet in my judgement I doe often faile.
And therefore I’le commend unto your triall
Experience, of whom take no deniall.

For she can best direct you, what is meet
To worke your cure, and satisfie your minde;   (80)
I thank’t her for her love, and took my leave,
Demanding where I might Experience finde.
She told me if I did abroad enquire,
’Twas likely Age could answer my desire.

I sought, I found, she ask’t me what I would; (85)
Quoth I, your best direction I implore:
For I am troubled with an irkesome griefe,
Which when I nam’d, quoth she declare no more:
For I can tell as much, as you can say,
And for your cure I’le helpe you what I may. (90)

The onely medicine for your maladie,
By which, and nothing else your helpe is wrought,
Is Knowledge, of the which there is two sorts,
The one is good, the other bad and nought;
The former sort by labour is attain’d,  (95)
The latter may without much toyle be gaine’d.

But ’tis the good, which must effect your cure,
I pray’d her then, that she would further show,
Where I might hav it, that I will, quoth shee,
In Eruditions garden it doth grow:   (100)
And in compassion of your woefull case,
Industrie shall conduct you to the place.

Disswasion hearing her assigne my helpe,
(And seeing that consent I did detect)
Did many remoraes to me propose,   (105)
As dulnesse, and my memories defect;
The difficultie of attaining lore,
My time, and sex, with many others more.

Which when I heard, my minde was much perplext,
And as a horse new come into the field,  (110)
Who with a Harquebuz at first doth start
So did this shot make me recoyle and yeeld.
But of my feare when some did notice take,
In my behalfe, they this reply did make,

First quoth Desire, Disswassion, hold thy peace,  (115)
These oppositions come not from above:
Quoth Truth, they cannot spring from reasons roote,
And therefore now thou shalt no victor prove.
No, quoth Industrie, be assured this,
Her friends shall make thee of thy purpose misse.  (120)

For with my sickle I will cut away
All obstacles, that in her way can grow,
And by the issue of her owne attempt,
I’le make thee labor omnia vincit know.
Quoth Truth, and sith her sex thou do’st object,  (125)
Thy folly I by reason will detect.

Both man and woman of three parts consist,
Which Paul doth bodie, soule, and spirit call:
And from the soule three faculties arise,    I Thess. 5.23
The mind, the will, the power; then wherefore shall  (130)
A woman have her intellect in vaine,
Or not endeavour Knowledge to attaine.

The talent, God doth give, must be imploy’d,   Luke 19.23
His owne with vantage he must have againe:
All parts and faculties were made for use;   I Sam. 2.3  (135)
The God of Knowledge nothing gave in vaine.
’Twas Maries choyce our Savior did approve,   Luke 10.42
Because that she the better part did love.


If though didst know the pleasure of the place,
Where Knowledge growes, and where thou mayst it gaine;  (170)
Or rather knew the vertue of the plant,
Thou would’st not grudge at any cost , or paine,
Thou canst bestow, to purchase for thy cure
This plant, by which of helpe thou shalt be sure.

Let not Disswasion alter thy intent;  (175)
’Tis sinne to nippe good motions in the head;
Take courage, and be constant in thy course,
Though irksome be the path, which thou must tread.
Sick folkes drinke bitter medicines to be well,
And to injoy the nut men cracke the shell.  (180)

When Truth had ended what shee meant to say,
Desire did move me to obey her will,
Whereto consenting I did soone proceede,
Her counsell, and my purpose to fulfille;
And by the helpe of Industrie my friend;  (185)
I quickly did attaine my journeyes end.

Where being come, Instructions pleasant ayre
Refresht my senses, which were almost dead,
And fragrant flowers of sage and fruitfull plants,
Did send sweete savours up into my head;  (190)
And taste of science appetite did move,
To augment Theorie of things above.

There did the harmonie of those sweet birds,
(Which higher soare with Contemplations wings,
Then barely with a superficiall view,  (195)
Denote the value of created things.)
Yeeld such delight as made me to implore,
That I might reape this pleasure more and more.

And as I walked wandring with Desire,
To gather that, for which I tither came;  (200)
(Which by the helpe of Industrie I found)
I met my old acquaintance, Truth by name;
Whom I requested briefly to declare,
The verture of that plant I found so rare.


Great Alexander made so great account,
Of Knowledge, that he oftentimes would say,
That he to Aristotle was more bound  (225)
For Knowledge, upon which Death could not pray,
Then to his Father Phillip for his life,
Which was uncertaine, irkesome, full of strife.

This true report put edge unto Desire
Who did incite me to increase my store,  (230)
And told me ’twas a lawfull avarice,
To covet Knowledge daily more and more.
This counsell I did willingly obey,
Till some occurence called me away.

And made me rest content with what I had,  (235)
Which was but little, as effect doth show;
And quenched hope for gaining any more,
For I my time must other-wayes bestow.
I therefore to that place return’d againe,
From whence I came, and where I must remaine.  (240)


Mortalities Memorandum, with a Dreame Prefixed (1621)
Greer, Germaine et. al. (eds.). Kissing the Rod. An Anthology of
Seventeenth-Century Women’s Verse
. New York, 1988.

Back to 17th Century Women Poets.