Mary Davys: Irish Woman Poet

Mary Davys (1674-1732) Married Peter Davys, who ran the free school at Dublin’s St. Patrick’s cathedral and was a member of Swift’s circle. Widowed at the age of 24, she moved to England where she became a moderately successful professional writer of plays, fiction and verse. Her novels have a key role in the development of the genre in English. The Modern Poet was published in 1725 as part of the second volume of her Works.


from The Modern Poet

Behind moth eaten curtain, ‘stead of press,
Hung up the tattered relics of his dress:
A threadbare coat, at elbows quite worn out,
Buttonless waistcoat with an old surtout;
Breeches with pockets gone, for the abuse
Of master’s wit had made them of no use;
A hat some ten times dressed, much on the rust,
Was laid in box to keep it from the dust;
On wooden peg hung piss-burned periwig,
A little out of curl but very big;
In days of yore it had a noble master,
And given to set up the poetaster,
For pride has oftentimes appeared in tatters,
And strives to make us imitate our betters:
It gave him airs to strut about the town,
Flattering my lord, and railing at the Gown,
With brazen-hilted Bilbo to attack
All those who dare call names behind his back;
Though certain ‘tis, a poet’s only weapon
Should be his pen, when people are mistaken.
But some, alas! have to their sorrow found
His passion, not his reason, kept its ground:
He thought it hard he should a scene run through
Of beggary and be insulted too.


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