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Selected Poems (Mary Robinson)

Published onFeb 21, 2024
Selected Poems (Mary Robinson)

Selected Poems by Mary Robinson

The Birth-day


Here bounds the gaudy, gilded chair,

Bedecked with fringe and tassels gay;

The melancholy mourner there

Pursues her sad and painful way.

Here, guarded by a motley train,

The pampered Countess glares along;

There, wrung by poverty and pain,

Pale Misery mingles with the throng.

Here, as the blazoned chariot rolls,

And prancing horses scare the crowd,

Great names, adorning little souls,

Announce the empty, vain and proud.

Here four tall lackeys slow precede

A painted dame in rich array;

There, the sad, shivering child of need

Steals barefoot o’er the flinty way.

‘Room, room! stand back!’ they loudly cry,

The wretched poor are driven around;

On every side they scattered fly,

And shrink before the threatening sound.

Here, amidst jewels, feathers, flowers,

The senseless Duchess sits demure,

Heedless of all the anxious hours

The sons of modest worth endure.

All silvered and embroidered o’er,

She neither knows nor pities pain;

The beggar freezing at her door

She overlooks with nice disdain.

The wretch whom poverty subdues

Scarce dares to raise his tearful eye;

Or if by chance the throng he views,

His loudest murmur is a sigh!

The poor wan mother, at whose breast

The pining infant craves relief,

In one thin tattered garment dressed,

Creeps forth to pour the plaint of grief.

But ah! how little heeded here

The faltering tongue reveals its woe;

For high-born fools, with frown austere,

Condemn the pangs they never know.

‘Take physic, Pomp!’ let Reason say:

‘What can avail thy trappings rare?

The tomb shall close thy glittering day,

The beggar prove thy equal there!’

“The Camp”

Tents, marquees, and baggage-waggons;
Suttling-houses, beer in flagons;
Drums and trumpets, singing, firing;
Girls seducing, beaux admiring;
Country lasses gay and smiling,
City lads their hearts beguiling;
Dusty roads, and horses frisky,
Many an Eton Boy in whisky;
Tax'd carts full of farmers' daughters;
Brutes condemn'd, and man who slaughters!
Public-houses, booths, and castles,
Belles of fashion, serving vassals;
Lordly gen'rals fiercely staring,
Weary soldiers, sighing, swearing!
Petit-maitres always dressing,
In the glass themselves caressing;
Perfum'd, painted, patch'd, and blooming
Ladies -- manly airs assuming!
Dowagers of fifty, simp'ring,
Misses for their lovers whimp'ring;
Husbands drilled to household tameness;
Dames heart sick of wedded sameness.
Princes setting girls a-madding,
Wives for ever fond of gadding;
Princesses with lovely faces,
Beauteous children of the Graces!
Britain's pride and virtue's treasure,
Fair and gracious beyond measure!
Aid-de-camps and youthful pages,
Prudes and vestals of all ages!
Old coquets and matrons surly,
Sounds of distant hurly-burly!
Mingled voices, uncouth singing,
Carts full laden, forage bringing;
Sociables and horses weary,
Houses warm, and dresses airy;
Loads of fatten'd poultry; pleasure
Serv'd (to nobles) without measure;
Doxies, who the waggons follow;
Beer, for thirsty hinds to swallow;
Washerwomen, fruit-girls cheerful,
Ancient ladies -- chaste and fearful!!
Tradesmen, leaving shops, and seeming
More of war than profit dreaming;
Martial sounds and braying asses,
Noise, that ev'ry noise surpasses!
All confusion, din, and riot,
Nothing clean -- and nothing quiet.

“Female Fashions for 1799”

A FORM, as any taper, fine ;

A head like half-pint bason ;

Where golden cords, and bands entwine,

As rich as fleece of JASON.

A pair of shoulders strong and wide,

Like country clown enlisting ;

Bare arms long dangling by the side,

And shoes of ragged listing !

Cravats like towels, thick and broad,

Long tippets made of bear-skin,

Muffs that a RUSSIAN might applaud,

And rouge to spoil a fair skin.

Long petticoats to hide the feet,

Silk hose with clocks of scarlet ;

A load of perfume, sick'ning sweet,


A bush of hair, the brow to shade,

Sometimes the eyes to cover ;

A necklace that might be display'd


A bowl of straw to deck the head,

Like porringer unmeaning ;

A bunch of POPPIES flaming red,

With motly ribands streaming.

Bare ears on either side the head,

Like wood-wild savage SATYR ;

Tinted with deep vermilion red,

To shame the blush of nature.

Red elbows, gauzy gloves, that add

An icy cov'ring merely ;

A wadded coat, the shape to pad,

Like Dutch-women — or nearly.

Such is CAPRICE ! but, lovely kind !

Oh ! let each mental feature

Proclaim the labour of the mind,

And leave your charms to NATURE.

“The Haunted Beach”


Upon a lonely desert beach

Where the white foam was scattered,

A little shed upreared its head,

Though lofty barks were shattered.

The sea-weeds gathering near the door

A sombre path displayed;

And, all around, the deafening roar

Re-echoed on the chalky shore,

By the green billows made.


Above a jutting cliff was seen

Where sea-birds hovered, craving;

And all around the crags were bound

With weeds–for ever waving.

And here and there, a cavern wide

lts shadowy jaws displayed;

And near the sands, at ebb of tide,

A shivered mast was seen to ride

Where the green billows strayed.


And often, while the moaning wind

Stole o'er the summer ocean,

The moonlight scene was all serene,

The waters scarce in motion;

Then, while the smoothly slanting sand

The tall cliff wrapped in shade,

The fisherman beheld a band

Of spectres gliding hand in hand–

Where the green billows played.


And pale their faces were as snow,

And sullenly they wandered;

And to the skies with hollow eyes

They looked as though they pondered.

And sometimes, from their hammock shroud,

They dismal howlings made,

And while the blast blew strong and loud

The clear moon marked the ghastly crowd,

Where the green billows played!


And then above the haunted hut

The curlews screaming hovered;

And the low door, with furious roar,

The frothy breakers covered.

For in the fisherman's lone shed

A murdered man was laid,

With ten wide gashes in his head,

And deep was made his sandy bed

Where the green billows played.


A shipwrecked mariner was he,

Doomed from his home to sever,

Who swore to be through wind and sea

Firm and undaunted ever!

And when the wave resistless rolled,

About his arm he made

A packet rich of Spanish gold,

And, like a British sailor bold,

Plunged where the billows played!


The spectre band, his messmates brave,

Sunk in the yawning ocean,

While to the mast he lashed him fast,

And braved the storm's commotion.

The winter moon upon the sand

A silvery carpet made,

And marked the sailor reach the land,

And marked his murderer wash his hand

Where the green billows played.


And since that hour the fisherman

Has toiled and toiled in vain;

For all the night the moony light

Gleams on the spectered main!

And when the skies are veiled in gloom,

The murderer's liquid way

Bounds o'er the deeply yawning tomb,

And flashing fires the sands illume,

Where the green billows play!


Full thirty years his task has been,

Day after day more weary;

For Heaven designed his guilty mind

Should dwell on prospects dreary.

Bound by a strong and mystic chain,

He has not power to stray;

But destined misery to sustain,

He wastes, in solitude and pain,

A loathsome life away.

“January, 1795”

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,

Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;

Titled gluttons dainties carving,

Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;

Courtiers cringing and voracious;

Misers scarce the wretched heeding;

Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;

Theatres, and meeting-houses;

Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;

Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;

Commerce drooping, credit failing;

Placemen mocking subjects loyal;

Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;

Many a subtle rogue a winner;

Fugitives for shelter seeking;

Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;

All the laws of truth perverted;

Arrogance o’er merit soaring;

Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;

Fools the works of genius scorning;

Ancient dames for girls mistaken,

Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;

More in talking than in fighting;

Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;

Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;

Lawyers, doctors, politicians:

Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,

Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.

Gallant souls with empty purses;

Gen’rals only fit for nurses;

School-boys, smit with martial spirit,

Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,

Knaves who shew unblushing faces;

Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;

Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

London’s Summer Morning


Who has not waked to list the busy sounds

Of summer’s morning, in the sultry smoke

Of noisy London? On the pavement hot

The sooty chimney-boy, with dingy face

And tattered covering, shrilly bawls his trade,

Rousing the sleepy housemaid. At the door

The milk-pail rattles, and the tinkling bell

Proclaims the dustman’s office; while the street

Is lost in clouds impervious. Now begins

The din of hackney-coaches, waggons, carts;

While tinmen’s shops, and noisy trunk-makers,

Knife-grinders, coopers, squeaking cork-cutters,

Fruit-barrows, and the hunger-giving cries

Of vegetable-vendors, fill the air.

Now every shop displays its varied trade,

And the fresh-sprinkled pavement cools the feet

Of early walkers. At the private door

The ruddy housemaid twirls the busy mop,

Annoying the smart ’prentice, or neat girl,

Tripping with band-box lightly. Now the sun

Darts burning splendor on the glittering pane,

Save where the canvas awning throws a shade

On the gay merchandise. Now, spruce and trim,

In shops (where beauty smiles with industry)

Sits the smart damsel; while the passenger

Peeps through the window, watching every charm.

Now pastry dainties catch the eye minute

Of humming insects, while the limy snare

Waits to enthrall them. Now the lamp-lighter

Mounts the tall ladder, nimbly venturous,

To trim the half-filled lamps, while at his feet

The pot-boy yells discordant! All along

The sultry pavement, the old-clothes-man cries

In tone monotonous, while sidelong views

The area for his traffic: now the bag

Is slyly opened, and the half-worn suit

(Sometimes the pilfered treasure of the base

Domestic spoiler), for one half its worth,

Sinks in the green abyss. The porter now

Bears his huge load along the burning way;

And the poor poet wakes from busy dreams,

To paint the summer morning.

Ode to Beauty

by Mary Darby Robinson

EXULTING BEAUTY,­phantom of an hour,
Whose magic spells enchain the heart,
Ah ! what avails thy fascinating pow'r,
Thy thrilling smile, thy witching art ?
Thy lip, where balmy nectar glows;
Thy cheek, where round the damask rose
A thousand nameless Graces move,
Thy mildly speaking azure eyes,
Thy golden hair, where cunning Love
In many a mazy ringlet lies?
Soon as thy radiant form is seen,
Thy native blush, thy timid mien,
Thy hour is past ! thy charms are vain!
ILL-NATURE haunts thee with her sallow train,
Mean JEALOUSY deceives thy list'ning ear,
And SLANDER stains thy cheek with many a bitter tear.

In calm retirement form'd to dwell,
NATURE, thy handmaid fair and kind,
For thee, a beauteous garland twin'd;
The vale-nurs'd Lily's downcast bell
Thy modest mien display'd,
The snow-drop, April's meekest child,
With myrtle blossoms undefil'd,
Thy mild and spotless mind pourtray'd;
Dear blushing maid, of cottage birth,
'Twas thine, o'er dewy meads to stray,
While sparkling health, and frolic mirth
Led on thy laughing Day.

Lur'd by the babbling tongue of FAME,
Too soon, insidious FLATT'RY came;
Flush'd VANITY her footsteps led,
To charm thee from thy blest repose,
While Fashion twin'd about thy head
A wreath of wounding woes;
See Dissipation smoothly glide,
Cold Apathy, and puny Pride,
Capricious Fortune, dull, and blind,
O'er splendid Folly throws her veil,
While Envy's meagre tribe assail
Thy gentle form, and spotless mind.

Their spells prevail! no more those eyes
Shoot undulating fires;
On thy wan cheek, the young rose dies,
Thy lip's deep tint expires;
Dark Melancholy chills thy mind;
Thy silent tear reveals thy woe;
TIME strews with thorns thy mazy way,
Where'er thy giddy footsteps stray,
Thy thoughtless heart is doom'd to find
An unrelenting foe.

'Tis thus, the infant Forest flow'r
Bespangled o'er with glitt'ring dew,
At breezy morn's refreshing hour,
Glows with pure tints of varying hue,
Beneath an aged oak's wide spreading shade,
Where no rude winds, or beating storms invade.
Transplanted from its lonely bed,
No more it scatters perfumes round,
No more it rears its gentle head,
Or brightly paints the mossy ground;
For ah! the beauteous bud, too soon,
Scorch'd by the burning eye of day;
Shrinks from the sultry glare of noon,
Droops its enamell'd brow, and blushing, dies away.

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