[NOTE: Often when we hear “mentoring,” we only think of the one-on-one kind. However, it struck me recently that I had been mentored by many women who never knew my name. I heard them speak or read their books and through their words, they mentored me. This series which will be posted occasionally includes some of the lessons we can learn when we receive Words from the Wise.]
Though born a woman, womanly things I have left behind:
Yarn, the shuttle, threads of the loom, and baskets.
It is the flowery meadow of the Muses I admire,
And the cheerful choral dances of double-crested Parnassus.
Perhaps other women are pleased with other things,
But these are my glory, and these are my joy.
These lines from a poem by Olympia Morata (1526 – 1555) are, under various translations, her best known work and have been quoted by some as an early feminist proclamation. I have included them in my historical semi-fiction, Weight of a Flame, because they represent one phase of her life, but I don’t consider them a feminist statement, for various reasons.
First of all, we can’t impose on the past categories that did not exist or had different connotations than they have today. Secondly, Olympia did not write these words in protest against inequality between the sexes. She was at that time a teenage girl trying to please her father and teachers, who encouraged her to cultivate her outstanding academic talents, exchanging, as one of them wrote, “the pen for the distaff, books for house linens, and writing exercises for needle-work.”
Probably Olympia didn’t mind leaving these women’s pastimes behind. She may have been proud of her unique abilities, but when her world was suddenly turned upside down, she lamented that she had neglected what was really important – the knowledge of God. As God allowed her to continue to use her talents, she saw them in a different light: “When I considered the matter over and over again as diligently as possible, I could find no other reason for me to work at these studies other than ‘it lay at the feet of God.’”
As we consider the many different situations Olympia encountered in her life, we can say that, when the occasion called, she ran her household well. When her health forced her to hire outside help, she took care to find a dependable person. When her younger brother was entrusted in her care, she acquired a book on godly child-rearing.
Her literary accomplishments remained outstanding and received great recognition, but she learned to keep them in the right perspective, holding God’s glory and the benefit of His church foremost in her mind. Her last poem expresses well what her focus had become.
I long to be fade away, so great is my confidence in Christ,
and to be with Him in whom my life thrives.
|Weight of a Flame, The Passion of Olympia Morata|
Simonetta Carr, a mother of eight, is the author of the ongoing series of
Christian Biographies for Young Readers published by RHB and of the young adult historical fiction Weight of a Flame, published by P&R. You may read more about her and her books on her blog: simonettacarr.com.