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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 fulfill'd by his heir.
Then take Mat's 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 were as other men's are;
High hopes he conceived, and he smother'd great fears,
In a life parti-colour'd, half pleasure, half care.
Nor to business a drudge, nor to faction a slave,
He strove to make int'rest 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 whirl'd in the round as the wheel turn'd about,
He found riches had wings, and knew man was but dust.
This verse, little polish'd, 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 kill'd, and his bones never found;
False witness at court, and fierce tempests at sea,
So Mat may yet chance to be hang'd or be drown'd.
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 giv'st him a smile or a tear,
He cares not--yet, prithee, be kind to his fame.
Top Matthew Prior Poems