The Man of Ross

Alexander Pope


(From Moral Essays)


BUT all our praises why should lords engross?

Rise, honest Muse! and sing the Man of Ross:

Pleased Vaga echoes through her winding bounds,

And rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds.

Who hung with woods yon mountain’s sultry brow?

From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?

Not to the skies in useless columns tost,

Or in proud falls magnificently lost,

But clear and artless, pouring through the plain

Health to the sick and solace to the swain.

Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?

Whose seats the weary traveller repose?

Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise?

“The Man of Ross,” each lisping babe replies.

Behold the market-place with poor o’erspread!

The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread:

He feeds yon almshouse, neat, but void of state,

Where age and want sit smiling at the gate:

Him portioned maids, apprenticed orphans blest,

The young who labor, and the old who rest.

Is any sick? The Man of Ross relieves,

Prescribes, attends, the medicine makes and gives.

Is there a variance? Enter but his door,

Balked are the courts, and contest is no more:

Despairing quacks with curses fled the place,

And vile attorneys, now a useless race.

Thrice happy man! enabled to pursue

What all so wish but want the power to do!

O, say what sums that generous hand supply?

What mines to swell that boundless charity?

Of debts and taxes, wife and children clear,

This man possessed,—five hundred pounds a year.

Blush, grandeur, blush! proud courts, withdraw your blaze;

Ye little stars! hide your diminished rays.

And what? no monument, inscription, stone,

His race, his form, his name almost unknown?

Who builds a church to God, and not to fame,

Will never mark the marble with his name.


Vaga is the Latin name for the River Wye.

The Man of Ross was John Kyrle (1637-1724), a lawyer who was famous for his philanthropy in the town. Among his works were introducig running water to the town, funding poor kids to go to school, and repairing the local parish church of St Mary.

He lived by the market in a building now known as the Man of Ross House.

Poetry Atlas has another poem - by Coleridge - about the Man of Ross.

Main Location:

Ross-on-Wye HR9, UK

Other locations:

John Kyrle, The Man of Ross

The great poet, Alexander Pope