A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Birth-day." by Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)

Editorial Credits

The Birth-day

Here bounds the gaudy gilded chair,
   Bedeck'd with fringe, and tassels gay;
The melancholy mourner there
   Pursues her sad and painful way.

Here, guarded by a motley train,
   The pamper'd countess glares along;
There, wrung by poverty and pain,
   Pale Misery mingles with the throng.

Here, as the blazon'd chariot rolls,
   And prancing horses scare the crowd,
Great names, adorning little souls,
   Announce the empty vain and proud.

Here four tall lackeys slow precede
   A painted dame in rich array;
There the sad shivering child of need
   Steals barefoot o'er the flinty way.

"Room, room! stand back!" they loudly cry.
   The wretched poor are driven around
On every side, they scatter'd fly,
   And shrink before the threatening sound.

Here amidst jewels, feathers, flowers,
   The senseless duchess sits demure:
Heedless of all the anguish'd hours
   The sons of modest worth endure.

All silver'd, and embroider'd o er,
   She neither knows nor pities pain;
The beggar freezing at her door
   She overlooks with nice disdain.

The wretch whom poverty subdues
   Scarce dares to raise his tearful eye;
Or if by chance the throng he views;
   His loudest murmur is a sigh!

The poor wan mother, at whose breast
   The pining infant craves relief,
In one thin tatter'd garment drest,
   Creeps forth to pour the plaint of grief.

But ah! how little heeded here
   The faultering tongue reveals its wo;
For high-born fools, with frown austere,
   Contemn the pangs they never know.

"Take physic, Pomp!" let Reason say,
   "What can avail thy trappings rare?
The tomb shall close thy glittering day,
   The beggar prove thy equal there!"

Editorial Credits