1800
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Poet's Garret.

Morning Post and Gazetteer (6 September 1800).

Mary Robinson


A verse character in blank verse, signed "M. R." The accouterments of the poet's garret are familiar from Hogarth, and earlier poems in the series of poems on impoverished characters derived from Philips's The Splendid Shilling. But there is little of burlesque about the poem: the contents of the poet's desk sound suspiciously like those of Robinson's own: "Sonnet, song, and ode, | Satire, and epigram, and smart charade; | Neat paragraph, or legendary tale, | Of short and simple metre, each by turns | Will there delight the reader." In the last year of her life, threatened with debtor's prison, Mary Robinson contributed dozens of poems to the Morning Post under the signatures of "Laura Maria, " "Sappho," "M. R.," and "Mary Robinson."

Monthly Magazine: "Her health was declining; pecuniary embarrassments pressed closely upon her; and her heart was swollen with injuries. Amidst all this, her conduct was marked chiefly with fortitude and cheerfulness. It was only the few who saw her in the closest retirement that perceived the symptoms of a broken spirit. Yet her debts (which were partly the cause) were comparatively small, £1200 would have paid them; and Mrs. Robinson had recently adopted plans of economy, which would have enabled her, in a year or two, to have satisfied every pecuniary claim on her.... In the course of this last summer, Mrs. Robinson had retired almost from the world, to a beautiful cottage belonging to her daughter on Englefield Green, near Windsor Forest. Here the encroachments of disease, mental and bodily, gradually overpowered every effort of human skill; and after lingering for near three months, notwithstanding the unexampled attentions of Drs. Pope and Chandler (gentlemen not more distinguished for their professional skill, than their universal benevolence of heart), she expired on the 26th day of December, 1800" 11 (February 1801) 40.



Come, sportive Fancy! come with me, and trace
The Poet's attic home! the lofty seat
Of th' heav'n-tutor'd Nine! the airy throne
Of bold Imagination, rapture fraught,
Above the herds of mortals. All around
A solemn stillness seems to guard the scene,
Nursing the brood of thought; — a thriving brood,
In the rich mazes of the cultur'd brain.
Upon thy altar, a old worm-eat board,—
The pannel of a broken door, or lid
Of a strong coffer, plac'd on three-legg'd stool,
Stand quires of paper, white and beautiful!
Paper, by destiny ordain'd to be
Scrawl'd e'er and blotted; dash'd, and scratch'd, and torn,
Or mark'd with lines severe, or scatter'd wide
In rage impetuous! Sonnet, song, and ode,
Satire, and epigram, and smart charade;
Neat paragraph, or legendary tale,
Of short and simple metre, each by turns
Will there delight the reader.

On the bed
Lies an old rusty suit of "solemn black"—
Brush'd thread-bare; and with brown, unglossy hue,
Grown somewhat antient. On the floor is seen
A pair of silken hose, whose footing bad
Shews they are travellers, but who still bear
Marks, somewhat holy. At the scanty fire
A chop turns round, by packthread strongly held;
And on the blacken'd bar a vessel shines
Of batter'd pewter, just half fill'd, and warm,
With Whitbread's bev'rage pure. The kitten purs,
Anticipating dinner; while the wind
Whistles thro' broken panes, and drifted snow
Carpets the parapet with spotless garb
Of vestal coldness. Now the sullen hour
(The fifth hour after noon) with dusty hand
Closes the lids of day. The farthing light
Gleams through the cobweb'd chamber, and the bard
Concludes his pen's hard labour. Now he eats
With appetite voracious! nothing sad
That he with costly plate, and napkin fine,
Not china rich, nor fork of silver, greets
His eye, or palate. On his lyric board
A sheet of paper serves for table-cloth;
An heap of salt is serv'd, Oh! — heav'nly treat,
On Ode Pindaric! While his tuneful puss
Scratches his slipper for her fragment sweet,
And sings her love-song soft, yet mournfully.
Mocking the pillar Doric, or the roof
Of architecture Gothic, all around
The well-known ballads flit, of Grubstreet fame!
The casement, broke, gives breath celestial
To the long dying-speech; or gently fans
The love-enflaming sonnet. All around
Small scraps of paper lie, torn vestiges
Of an unquiet fancy. Here a page
Of flights poetic; — there a dedication;—
A list of Dramatis Personae, bold,
Of heroes yet unborn, and lofty dames
Of perishable compound, light as fair,
But sentenc'd to oblivion!

On a shelf—
(Yclept a mantle-piece), a phial stands,
Half-fill'd with potent spirits! — spirits strong,
Which sometimes haunt the poet's restless brain,
And fill his mind with fancies whimsical.
Poor Poet! happy art thou, thus remov'd
From pride and folly! — for in thy domain
Thou canst command thy subjects; — fill thy lines—
Wield the all-conqu'ring weapon heav'n bestows
In the grey goose's wing! which, tow'ring high,
Bears thy rich fancy to IMMORTAL FAME!

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