"Lines on Hearing It Declared That No Women were so Handsome as the English. " by Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)
BEAUTY, the attribute of Heaven !
In various forms to mortals given,
With magic skill enslaves mankind,
As sportive fancy sways the mind.
Search the wide world, go where you will,
VARIETY pursues you still;
Capricious Nature knows no bound,
Her unexhausted gifts are found
In ev'ry clime, in ev'ry face,
Each has its own peculiar grace.
To GALLIA's frolic scenes repair,
There reigns the tyny DEBONAIRE;
The mincing step–the slender waist,
The lip with bright vermilion grac'd:
The short pert nose–the pearly teeth,
With the small dimpled chin beneath,–
The social converse, gay and free,
The smart BON-MOT–and REPARTEE.
ITALIA boasts the melting fair,
The pointed step–the haughty air,
Th' empassion'd tone, the languid eye,
The song of thrilling harmony;
Insidious LOVE conceal'd in smiles
That charms–and as it charms beguiles.
View GRECIAN MAIDS, whose finish'd forms
The wond'ring sculptor's fancy warms !
There let thy ravish'd eye behold
The softest gems of Nature's mould;
Each charm, that REYNOLDS learnt to trace,
From SHERIDAN's * bewitching face.
Imperious TURKEY's pride is seen
In Beauty's rich luxuriant mien;
The dark and sparkling orbs that glow
Beneath a polish'd front of snow:
The auburn curl that zephyr blows
About the cheek of brightest rose:
The shorten'd zone, the swelling breast,
With costly gems profusely drest;
Reclin'd in softly-waving bow'rs,
On painted beds of fragrant flow'rs;
Where od'rous canopies dispense
ARABIA's spices to the sense;
Where listless indolence and ease,
Proclaim the sov'reign wish, to please.
'Tis thus, capricious FANCY shows
How far her frolic empire goes !
On ASIA's sands, on ALPINE snow,
We trace her steps where'er we go;
The BRITISH Maid with timid grace;
The tawny INDIAN 's varnish'd face;
The jetty AFRICAN; the fair
Nurs'd by EUROPA's softer air;
With various charms delight the mind,
For FANCY governs ALL MANKIND.
* Mrs. Sheridan's portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in the chapter of St. Cecilia.
[Notes were included in the original text by Mrs. Robinson, at the bottom of each individual page. They are given here at the end of each poem. ]