Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year, A New Decade, A 215 Year-Old Poem

Greetings, everyone, on the first day of a new decade. Divinipotent Daily ended 2009 with a poem, and it seems fitting to begin 2010 the same way.

Today's poet: Mary Robinson, an Englishwoman who lived from 1758 to 1800 and kicked up quite a stir at a time when women were expected to sit quietly and stick to their needlepoint. According to the Poetry Foundation's biography, Mary Robinson would have felt right at home in 2010.

"Her works include...Poems by Mrs. M. Robinson (1791), Monody to the Memory of the Late Queen of France (1793), Audley Fotescue (1795), and Ellinda: or the Abbey of St. Aubert (1800), among many others. Robinson was also known as the first mistress of the Prince of Wales, who would later become King George IV. In addition to writing poetry, Robinson was an ardent feminist and staunch supporter of the rights of women, convictions she displayed by living separately from her husband and having numerous affairs."

Perhaps we should not be surprised that her poem January, 1795 — with its "Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded; Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded" — is so relevant to our 2010 world. Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.

January, 1795

by 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.

The poem above and many others can be found on the Web site of the Poetry Foundation.

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