Literature · Poetry

The Poor Singing Dame by Mary Robinson (Poetry Analysis)

mary robinson poem

The poor little hovel was still and secure

And no robbers e’er enter’d nor goblin nor fairy

For the splendors of pride had no charms to allure”

The dame of the poem lives happily and just sings. The description of her home brings to mind a small, cozy place – like a slightly worn down cottage. Such a place might not be much, wealth-wise, but there’s still something endearing about the place. It can probably inspire a poet or other creative types – like the singing dame of the poem.

People that live in mansions or castles might not understand the appeal of a small and simple place like the dame’s hovel.

Til envy the lord of the castle possess’d

For he hated that poverty should be so cheerful”

Some who have everything still aren’t happy, that’s why this line is so powerful. There are probably some in the upper class that believe those below them should remain in a constant state of misery. But there are some who make the best of their situation, like forming strong familial bonds. Or like the dame they sing; singing is something people often used to do during hard times, slavery for example.

However, with the dame it’s rather unique that she can be so happy alone with just her own singing. That probably enrages the lord of the castle even more. He could be lonely himself and is angered he can’t find a way to enjoy it, even though he has wealth and power.

The lord sends the dame away to prison, where she dies. But he does get punished for it, in a pretty creative way too,

The lord of the, from that fatal moment,

when poor singing Mary was laid in her grave,

Each night was surrounded by screech-owls appalling”

So, he’s being followed around by owls that are screeching non-stop. That’s somewhat comical but it’s also a pretty effective punishment. He definitely won’t forget the singing dame. The lord also dies a sad death,

His bones began wasting, his flesh was decaying

And he hung his proud head and perish’d with shame.”

He’s died a miserable death but the question to ask would be, is it good enough? Although he was punished he did ultimately silence the dame. The owls may constantly remind him of her but there’s nothing that will bring the dame’s voice back to the world.

The dame didn’t completely win in this poem. The lord suffered but the dame may end up being forgotten. The lord, on the other hand, might always be remembered simply because of his status.

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