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MATTHEW PRIOR

1664-1721

432                                       The Question to Lisetta

WHAT nymph should I admire or trust,
But Chloe beauteous, Chloe just?
What nymph should I desire to see,
But her who leaves the plain for me?
To whom should I compose the lay,
But her who listens when I play?
To whom in song repeat my cares,
But her who in my sorrow shares?
For whom should I the garland make,
But her who joys the gift to take,
And boasts she wears it for my sake?
In love am I not fully blest?
Lisetta, prithee tell the rest.

LISETTAS REPLY

Sure Chloe just, and Chloe fair,
Deserves to be your only care;
But, when you and she to-day
Far into the wood did stray,
And I happend to pass by,
Which way did you cast your eye?
But, when your cares to her you sing,
You dare not tell her whence they spring;
Does it not more afflict your heart,
That in those cares she bears a part?
When you the flowers for Chloe twine,
Why do you to her garland join
The meanest bud that falls from mine?
Simplest of swains! the world may see
Whom Chloe loves, and who loves me.

433                                         To a Child of Quality

Five Years Old, 1704. The Author then Forty

LORDS, knights, and squires, the numerous band
   That wear the fair Miss Marys fetters,
Were summoned by her high command
   To show their passions by their letters.
My pen amongst the rest I took,
   Lest those bright eyes, that cannot read,
Should dart their kindling fire, and look
   The power they have to be obeyd.
Nor quality, nor reputation,
   Forbid me yet my flame to tell;
Dear Five-years-old befriends my passion,
   And I may write till she can spell.
For, while she makes her silkworms beds
   With all the tender things I swear;
Whilst all the house my passion reads,
   In papers round her babys hair;
She may receive and own my flame,
   For, though the strictest prudes should know it,
Shell pass for a most virtuous dame,
   And I for an unhappy poet.
Then too, alas! when she shall tear
   The rhymes some younger rival sends,
Shell give me leave to write, I fear,
   And we shall still continue friends.
For, as our different ages move,
   Tis so ordaind (would Fate but mend it!),
That I shall be past making love
   When she begins to comprehend it.

434                                                 Song

THE merchnt, to secure his treasure,
   Conveys it in a borrowd name:
Euphelia serves to grace my measure;
   But Chloe is my real flame.
My softest verse, my darling lyre,
   Upon Euphelias toilet lay;
When Chloe noted her desire
   That I should sing, that I should play.
My lyre I tune, my voice I raise;
   But with my numbers mix my sighs:
And while I sing Euphelias praise,
   I fix my soul on Chloes eyes.
Fair Chloe blushd: Euphelia frownd:
   I sung, and gazed: I playd, and trembled:
And Venus to the Loves around
   Remarkd, how ill we all dissembled.

435                                            On My Birthday, July 21

I, MY dear, was born to-day
So all my jolly comrades say:
They bring me music, wreaths, and mirth,
And ask to celebrate my birth:
Little, alas! my comrades know
That I was born to pain and woe;
To thy denial, to thy scorn,
Better I had neer been born:
I wish to die, even whilst I say
I, my dear, was born to-day.
I, my dear, was born to-day:
Shall I salute the rising ray,
Well-spring of all my joy and woe?
Clotilda, thou alone dost know.
Shall the wreath surround my hair?
Or shall the music please my ear?
Shall I my comrades mirth receive,
And bless my birth, and wish to live?
Then let me see great Venus chase
Imperious anger from thy face;
Then let me hear thee smiling say
Thou, my dear, wert born to-day.

436                                 The Lady who offers her Looking-
                                                       Glass to Venus

   VENUS, take my votive glass:
   Since I am not what I was,
What from this day I shall be,
Venus, let me never see.

437                                                A Letter

to Lady Margaret Cavendish Holles-Harley, when a Child

MY noble, lovely, little Peggy,
Let this my First Epistle beg ye,
At dawn of morn, and close of even,
To lift your heart and hands to Heaven.
In double duty say your prayer:
Our Father first, then Notre Pàre.
And, dearest child, along the day,
In every thing you do and say,
Obey and please my lord and lady,
So God shall love and angels aid ye.
If to these precepts you attend,
No second letter need I send,
And so I rest your constant friend.

438                                            Jinny the Just

RELEASD from the noise of the butcher and baker
Who, my old friends be thanked, did seldom forsake her,
And from the soft duns of my landlord the Quaker,

From chiding the footmen and watching the lasses,
From Nell that burnd milk, and Tom that broke glasses
(Sad mischiefs thro which a good housekeeper passes!)

From some real care but more fancied vexation,
From a life parti-colourd half reason half passion,
Here lies after all the best wench in the nation.

From the Rhine to the Po, from the Thames to the Rhone,
Joanna or Janneton, Jinny or Joan,
Twas all one to her by what name she was known.

For the idiom of words very little she heeded,
Provided the matter she drove at succeeded,
She took and gave languages just as she needed.

So for kitchen and market, for bargain and sale,
She paid English or Dutch or French down on the nail,
But in telling a story she sometimes did fail;

Then begging excuse as she happend to stammer,
With respect to her betters but none to her grammar,
Her blush helped her out and her jargon became her.

Her habit and mien she endeavord to frame
To the different gout of the place where she came;
Her outside still changd, but her inside the same:

At the Hague in her slippers and hair as the mode is,
At Paris all falbalowd fine as a goddess,
And at censuring London in smock sleeves and bodice.

She orderd affairs that few people could tell
In what part about her that mixture did dwell
Of Frow, or Mistress, or Mademoiselle.

For her surname and race let the heralds een answer;
Her own proper worth was enough to advance her,
And he who liked her, little valued her grandsire.

But from what house so ever her lineage may come
I wish my own Jinny but out of her tomb,
Tho all her relations were there in her room.

Of such terrible beauty she never could boast
As with absolute sway oer all hearts rules the roast
When J bawls out to the chair for a toast;

But of good household features her person was made,
Nor by faction cried up nor of censure afraid,
And her beauty was rather for use than parade.

Her blood so well mixt and flesh so well pasted
That, tho her youth faded, her comeliness lasted;
The blue was wore off, but the plum was well tasted.

Less smooth than her skin and less white than her breast
Was this polished stone beneath which she lies pressed:
Stop, reader, and sigh while thou thinkst on the rest.

With a just trim of virtue her soul was endued,
Not affectedly pious nor secretly lewd
She cut even between the coquette and the prude.

Her will with her duty so equally stood
That, seldom opposd, she was commonly good,
And did pretty well, doing just what she would.

Declining all power she found means to persuade,
Was then most regarded when most she obeyd,
The mistress in truth when she seemd but the maid.

Such care of her own proper actions she took
That on other folks lives she had no time to look,
So censure and praise were struck out of her book.

Her thought still confind to its own little sphere,
She minded not who did excel or did err
But just as the matter related to her.

Then too when her private tribunal was reard
Her mercy so mixd with her judgment appeard
That her foes were condemnd and her friends always cleard.

Her religion so well with her learning did suit
That in practice sincere, and in controverse mute,
She showd she knew better to live than dispute.

Some parts of the Bible by heart she recited,
And much in historical chapters delighted,
But in points about Faith she was something short sighted;

So notions and modes she referd to the schools,
And in matters of conscience adherd to two rules,
To advise with no bigots, and jest with no fools.

And scrupling but little, enough she believd,
By charity ample small sins she retrievd,
And when she had new clothes she always receivd.

Thus still whilst her morning unseen fled away
In ordring the linen and making the tea
That she scarce could have time for the psalms of the day;

And while after dinner the night came so soon
That half she proposd very seldom was done;
With twenty God bless mes, how this day is gone!

While she read and accounted and paid and abated,
Eat and drank, playd and workd, laughd and cried, lovd and hated,
As answerd the end of her being created:

In the midst of her age came a cruel disease
Which neither her juleps nor receipts could appease;
So down droppd her claymay her Soul be at peace!

Retire from this sepulchre all the profane,
You that love for debauch, or that marry for gain,
Retire lest ye trouble the Manes of J.

But thou that knowst love above intrest or lust,
Strew the myrtle and rose on this once belovd dust,
And shed one pious tear upon Jinny the Just.

Tread soft on her grave, and do right to her honor,
Let neither rude hand nor ill tongue light upon her,
Do all the small favors that now can be done her.

And when what thou likd shall return to her clay,
For so Im persuaded she must do one day
Whatever fantastic J[ohn] Asgill may say

When as I have done now, thou shalt set up a stone
For something however distinguished or known,
May some pious friend the misfortune bemoan,
And make thy concern by reflexion his own.

439                                             For my own Monument

AS doctors give physic by way of prevention,
   Mat, alive and in health, of his tombstone took care;
For delays are unsafe, and his pious intention
   May haply be never fulfilld by his heir.
Then take Mats word for it, the sculptor is paid;
   That the figure is fine, pray believe your own eye;
Yet credit but lightly what more may be said,
   For we flatter ourselves, and teach marble to lie.
Yet counting as far as to fifty his years,
   His virtues and vices as other mens were;
High hopes he conceived, and he smotherd great fears,
   In a life parti-colourd, half pleasure, half care.
Nor to business a drudge, nor to faction a slave,
   He strove to make intrest and freedom agree;
In public employments industrious and grave,
   And, alone with his friends, Lord! how merry was he!
Now in equipage stately, now humbly on foot,
   Both fortunes he tried, but to neither would trust;
And whirld in the round as the wheel turnd about,
   He found riches had wings, and knew man was but dust.
This verse, little polishd, tho mighty sincere,
   Sets neither his titles nor merit to view;
It says that his relics collected lie here,
   And no mortal yet knows too if this may be true.
Fierce robbers there are that infest the highway,
   So Mat may be killd, and his bones never found;
False witness at court, and fierce tempests at sea,
   So Mat may yet chance to be hangd or be drownd.

If his bones lie in earth, roll in sea, fly in air,
   To Fate we must yield, and the thing is the same;
And if passing thou givst him a smile or a tear,
   He cares notyet, prithee, be kind to his fame.

 

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