Mary Darby Robinson

Mary Darby Robinson Poems

WHEN from the craggy mountain's pathless steep,
Whose flinty brow hangs o'er the raging sea,
My wand'ring eye beholds the foamy deep,
I mark the restless surge­and think of THEE.

O FLY thee from the shades of night,
Where the loud tempests yelling rise;
Where horrror wings her sullen flight
Beneath the bleak and lurid skies.

Pavement slipp'ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing ;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.


"What is this world?­thy school, O misery!
"Our only lesson is to learn to suffer."


A form, as any taper, fine ;
A head like half-pint bason ;
Where golden cords, and bands entwine,
As rich as fleece of JASON.


Ah! wherefore by the Church-yard side,
Poor little LORN ONE, dost thou stray?

[Written under a tree in the woods of St. Amand, in Flanders.]

SWEET BALMY HOUR! ­dear to the pensive mind,

WHERE o'er my head, the deaf'ning Tempest blew,
And Night's cold lamp cast forth a feeble ray;
Where o'er the woodlands, vivid light'nings flew,
Cleft the strong oak, and scorch'd the blossom'd spray;


Where freezing wastes of dazzl'ing Snow
O'er LEMAN'S Lake rose, tow'ring;

[The following little Poems are written after the Model of the Old English Ballads, and are inscribed to those who admire the simplicity of that kind of versification.]

NEAR GLARIS, on a mountain's side,

"WHEN will my troubled soul have rest?"
The beauteous LEWIN cried;
As thro' the murky shade of night
With frantic step she hied.

[Inscribed to Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire.]

CLOSE in a woodbine's tangled shade,

BEAUTY, the attribute of Heaven!
In various forms to mortals given,
With magic skill enslaves mankind,
As sportive fancy sways the mind.

THOU meekest emblem of the infant year,
Why droops so cold and wan thy fragrant head ?
Ah ! why retiring to thy frozen bed,
Steals from thy silky leaves the trembling tear ?

Upon a lonely desart Beach
Where the white foam was scatter'd,
A little shed uprear'd its head
Though lofty Barks were shatter'd.

UPON a garden's perfum'd bed
With various gaudy colours spread,
Beneath the shelter of a ROSE
A BUTTERFLY had sought repose;

Crops like hedgehogs, high-crown'd hats,
Whispers like Jew MOSES ;
Padded collars, thick cravats,
And cheeks as red as roses.

SWIFT o'er the bounding deep the VESSEL glides,
Its streamers flutt'ring in the summer gales,
The lofty mast the breezy air derides,
As gaily o'er the glitt'ring surf she sails.

[As a Tribute of Esteem and Admiration this Poem is inscribed to ROBERT MERRY, Esq. A. M. Member of the Royal Academy at Florence, and Author of the Laurel of Liberty, and the Della Crusca Poems.]

O THOU, to whom superior worth's allied,

"Fate snatch'd him early to the pitying sky."


Mary Darby Robinson Biography

Born to Mr. and Mrs. John Darby of Bristol, England, Mary Darby Robinson benefited greatly from her father’s membership with the mercantile firm of Miller and Elton. Not only did she enjoy the perks of high society but she was also provided what was considered to be one of the finest educations of the time. She spent her early educational years learning from a minister of a monastery at St. Augustine. Robinson grew to love the arts, dabbling not only in writing and music, but also acting in her later years. Even in her early years she demonstrated a skill in the use of language and flourished in her English classes. Her talent in music earned her a harpsichord and she studied music under Edmund Broadrip. Robinson then attended a famous school, which was run by Hannah More and her sisters in Bristol. During her childhood, her father John abruptly mortgaged all of his property and then sailed away with his mistress, Elenor, leaving Robinson and the rest of her family behind. His escapade to America failed, and he was forced to return home seven years later. Immediately, he formally separated from his wife and then placed Robinson and her brother John in a school at Chelsea. When Robinson failed from Mrs. Lorrington's school at Chelsea failed, Robinson's mother intervened and enrolled her in her own boarding school, which she opened up with the help of her children. By this time Robinson was fourteen and teaching English prose, poetry, and grammar in Little Chelsea in her mother’s school. Robinson finished her schooling at Oxford House, the place she developed her love for theatre where she became involved in theater. On a trip to Greenwich she met her future husband, when she stepped out of the carriage at The Star and Garter Inn at Greenwich. Thomas Robinson Esquire greeted her as she exited the carriage, and soon realized he was a neighbor of hers. Shortly after that, Robinson’s brother, George, caught smallpox and Thomas attended to him daily, which gained the approval of Robinson’s mother. By the time George recovered Robinson had fallen ill as well, and received the same care from Thomas that her brother had. Thomas pressed courtship and attended her everyday until Robinson finally agreed. She and Thomas wed in secret when she was fifteen. After Robinson started showing her pregnancy her mother demanded their marriage be announced, and Thomas confessed to his father, who accepted them. Soon after, they became friends with Lord Lyttleton, an older man who became quite intrested in Robinson. He began to pursue her, and even informed her of her husband’s infidelity with a woman by the name of Harriet Wilmot. Upon questioning, Robinson found this to be true, and became quite distraught. Despite her pain Lyttleton continued to try to seduce Robinson, but she refused. She was later rumored to have had a fifteen-year love affair with Lord Banastre Tarleton. The death of his mother in 1797 catalyzed him to end his 15-year relationship with Mary. Within a year, he met and married a young heiress, Susan Priscilla Bertie. Mary Robinson revenged herself as best she could by writing a savage characterization of Tarleton in The False Friend. The Natural Daughter was an attempt to remind readers of an old scandal concerning Tarleton's young wife: Susan Bertie was an illegitimate child of the Duke of Ancaster. Shortly after the affair she was nearly raped by George Robert Fitzgerald, a murderer who was later hanged by the Kings Officers. Thomas fell into debt and the couple was forced to move in with Thomas’ father, who was now much less welcoming. Robinson soon tired of constant taunting and insults and fled to the Treveca House on November 18, 1774. Here she bore her daughter, whom she christened Maria Elizabeth. Later Thomas was discovered and the couple relocated to Robinson’s grandmother’s home in Mommouth. Thomas was caught here and forced into custody. After his release the family retired at Hafton Garden, where Robinson lived the rest of her life. In her final writings Robinson sought to describe and justify her life. She expressed her disillusionment with marriage in a work of social criticism, entitled A Letter to the Women of England, on the Injustice of Mental Subordination which she wrote in 1799. She first published the work under the name of Anne Frances Randall, and it reflected the thinking of her friends Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Mary argued for the choice of a wife to leave her husband. Robinson also began to write her autobiography. However, her health became increasingly poor, and she died on December 26, 1800, leaving it unfinished. Her daughter Maria Elizabeth edited and published her memoirs (Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson, Written by Herself, With Some Posthumous Pieces) in 1801 and a collected edition of her Poetical Works in 1806.)

The Best Poem Of Mary Darby Robinson


WHEN from the craggy mountain's pathless steep,
Whose flinty brow hangs o'er the raging sea,
My wand'ring eye beholds the foamy deep,
I mark the restless surge­and think of THEE.
The curling waves, the passing breezes move,
Changing and treach'rous as the breath of LOVE;
The "sad similitude" awakes my smart,
And thy dear image twines about my heart.

When at the sober hour of sinking day,
Exhausted Nature steals to soft repose,
When the hush'd linnet slumbers on the spray,
And scarce a ZEPHYR fans the drooping ROSE;
I glance o'er scenes of bliss to friendship dear,
And at the fond remembrance drop a tear;
Nor can the balmy incense soothe my smart,
Still cureless sorrow preys upon my heart.

When the loud gambols of the village throng,
Drown the lorn murmurs of the ring-dove's throat;
I think I hear thy fascinating song,
Join the melodious minstrel's tuneful note­
My list'ning ear soon tells me ­'tis not THEE,
Nor THY lov'd song­nor THY soft minstrelsy;
In vain I turn away to hide my smart,
Thy dulcet numbers vibrate in my heart.

When with the Sylvan train I seek the grove,
Where MAY'S soft breath diffuses incense round,
Where VENUS smiles serene, and sportive LOVE
With thornless ROSES spreads the fairy ground;
The voice of pleasure dies upon mine ear,
My conscious bosom sighs­THOU ART NOT HERE !
Soft tears of fond regret reveal its smart,
And sorrow, restless sorrow, chills my heart.

When at my matin pray'rs I prostrate kneel,
And Court RELIGION's aid to soothe my woe,
The meek-ey'd saint who pities what I feel,
Forbids the sigh to heave, the tear to flow;
For ah ! no vulgar passion fills my mind,
Calm REASON's hand illumes the flame refin'd,
ALL the pure feelings FRIENDSHIP can impart,
Live in the centre of my aching heart.

When at the still and solemn hour of night,
I press my lonely couch to find repose;
Joyless I watch the pale moon's chilling light,
Where thro' the mould'ring tow'r the north-wind blows;
My fev'rish lids no balmy slumbers own,
Still my sad bosom beats for thee alone:
Nor shall its aching fibres cease to smart,
'Till DEATH's cold SPELL is twin'd about my HEART.

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