(Poem #209) 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.
A lovely poem, its cascading couplets perfectly evoking the kaleidoscopic chaos of an army camp. It doesn't need a whole lot said about it, so I won't. Note: from The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse. Biographical Note: 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