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January, 1795
Mary Robinson

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.
This poem is in the public domain.




Mary Robinson (1757 – 1800) was an English feminist, writer, and actress. The product of an unhappy childhood and unhappier marriage, Mary did have the good fortune of attracting a patron who made it possible to publish her first collection of poetry. She also attracted the attention of the Prince of Wales (who eventually became King George IV), but that ended badly as well. Despite achieving significant success in both her acting and writing careers (she earned the nickname “The English Sappho”), Mary’s life was fraught with loneliness, sadness, and poor health, and she died a pauper.

Post New Comment:
I agree: could have been written today. Thanks Jayne, for finding and introducing us to this poem
Posted 01/05/2013 04:27 PM
I certainly agree with Peninsulapoet about YDP. I fear not only the poem but the biography of this obviously prescient poet reflect the French: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Posted 01/05/2013 09:37 AM
Apparently the human condition is a constant thing. I really appreciate these poems that i would never run across if not for the marvelous YDP.
Posted 01/05/2013 09:27 AM
I find this to be an astute study of humanity--past and present. Amazing how the more things change, the more things stay the same!
Posted 01/05/2013 09:25 AM
Some things, apparently, never change! This laundry list of people, predicaments, and politics from 1795 could have been written today. I don't know whether to be amused by that--or depressed.
Posted 01/05/2013 08:37 AM

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