Mary Robinson

(late 18th century)

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.

The text is from The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse.

Mary Robinson, writer of poems and semi-autobiographical novels. She also was an actress, and "slipped into the demi-monde" when Prince George fell in love with her when he was 17 and she was 21 (I think). She agreed to become his lover in exchange for a bond which he was supposed to pay on his 21st birthday, but never did (the rat!)--the affair broke up well before he turned 21.

If you're interested, Lonsdale's anthology of 18C Women Poets contains a brief biographical sketch and some more poems.

-- Louise Slater

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