Nelly Weeton

This song was written during a college summer session in Williamsburg, VA, in the summer of 1986. It was a channeling of outrage inspired by "The Discouragement of a Young Writer", an excerpt from Ellen (Nelly) Weeton's Memoirs of a Governess (written and published between 1809 and 1811), published in a compilation work entitled Strong-Willed Women and Other Lost Voices from the Nineteenth Century. This is also the first song I ever wrote backwards, starting with the last verse and chorus and working in reverse, because I kept forgetting details of Weeton's story and having to go back to the College Bookstore and read the excerpt over again. Here's to the passion in our souls that cannot be lost, however long it may be locked inside us. Despair Not, Nor Surrender!!

Words and Music 1986 by Karen I. Olsen.


Nelly Weeton is my name, I write in eighteen-nine;
And writing is the call to which I chose to set my mind.
At eleven, I produced a play, so charming and so grand,
But my mother and my brother soon set out to stop my hand.

"Writing is not eating, and you'll have to earn your bread;
And service of the hearth and home best uses woman's head."
They told me this a thousand times, examples they did show,
But I vowed resistance till the end, and onward I would go...

"Oh, never lose ye hope, never lose hold of your call;
Despair not, nor surrender! You shall rise above them all."

My pen was taken from me, my role in life to learn;
And I'd catch my brother spying for to catch me in his turn.
I was soon reduced to scratching on my wall with knife or pin,
And it seemed my years would fade before my living could begin.

And everywhere it was the same for women of my time:
Self-denial barred their feet from steps on which to climb.
God placed gifts as rich in them as ever in a male;
But for the glory of "God's chosen", they allowed their lights to fail...

Still I never did lose hope, never lost hold of my call:
"Despair not, nor surrender!" I would rise above them all.

For a life of mere acceptance demands too high a cost;
And the passion that I nourished in my soul was never lost.
Time and age brought freedom, and I'm writing once again;
And the spirit locked so long inside comes streaming through my pen.

I've had to be as I am seen--a life without a mind.
We're fancy pets or beasts of burden, never humankind.
Men live as gods among themselves, demanding awe and praise;
But my adulation's for my daughters, facing brighter days...

And we never will lose hope, never lose hold of our call:
Despair not, nor surrender! We shall rise above them all.

So never lose ye hope, never lose hold of your call:
Despair not, nor surrender! You shall rise above them all!


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