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Best Famous Matthew Prior Poems

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Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

A Simile

 Dear Thomas, didst thou never pop
Thy head into a tin-man's shop?
There, Thomas, didst thou never see
('Tis but by way of simile)
A squirrel spend his little rage
In jumping round a rolling cage?
The cage, as either side turn'd up,
Striking a ring of bells a-top?--

Mov'd in the orb, pleas'd with the chimes,
The foolish creature thinks he climbs:
But here or there, turn wood or wire,
He never gets two inches higher.
So fares it with those merry blades, That frisk it under Pindus' shades.
In noble songs, and lofty odes, They tread on stars, and talk with gods; Still dancing in an airy round, Still pleas'd with their own verses' sound; Brought back, how fast soe'er they go, Always aspiring, always low.
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

Jinny the Just

 Releas'd 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 burn'd 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-colour'd 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 happen'd 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 endeavor'd to frame To the different gout of the place where she came; Her outside still chang'd, but her inside the same: At the Hague in her slippers and hair as the mode is, At Paris all falbalow'd fine as a goddess, And at censuring London in smock sleeves and bodice.
She order'd 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 herald's e'en answer; Her own proper worth was enough to advance her, And he who liked her, little value 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 o'er 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 mix't 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 oppos'd, 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 obey'd, The mistress in truth when she seem'd but the maid.
Such care of her own proper actions she took That on other folk's lives she had not time to look, So censure and praise were struck out of her book.
Her thought still confin'd 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 rear'd Her mercy so mix'd with her judgment appear'd That her foes were condemn'd and her friends always clear'd.
Her religion so well with her learning did suit That in practice sincere, and in controverse mute, She showed 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 refer'd to the schools, And in matters of conscience adher'd to two rules, To advise with no bigots, and jest with no fools.
And scrupling but little, enough she believ'd, By charity ample small sins she retriev'd, And when she had new clothes she always receiv'd.
Thus still whilst her morning unseen fled away In ord'ring the linen and making the tea That scarce could have time for the psalms of the day; And while after dinner the night came so soon That half she propos'd very seldom was done; With twenty God bless me's, how this day is gone! -- While she read and accounted and paid and abated, Eat and drank, play'd and work'd, laugh'd and cried, lov'd and hated, As answer'd 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 dropp'd her clay -- may 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 know'st love above int'rest or lust, Strew the myrle and rose on this once belov'd 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 lik'd shall return to her clay, For so I'm persuaded she must do one day -- Whatever fantastic John 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.
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

A Better Answer

 Dear Chloe, how blubbered is that pretty face;
Thy cheek all on fire, and thy hair all uncurled!
Prithee quit this caprice, and (as old Falstaff says)
Let us e'en talk a little like folks of this world.
How canst thou presume thou hast leave to destroy The beauties which Venus but lent to thy keeping? Those looks were designed to inspire love and joy: More ord'nary eyes may serve people for weeping.
To be vexed at a trifle or two that I writ, Your judgment at once, and my passion, you wrong: You take that for fact which will scarce be found wit— Od's life! must one swear to the truth of a song? What I speak, my fair Chloe, and what I write, shows The diff'rence there is betwixt nature and art: I court others in verse, but I love thee in prose; And they have my whimsies, but thou hast my heart.
The god of us verse-men (you know, child) the sun, How after his journeys he sets up his rest; If at morning o'er earth 'tis his fancy to run, At night he reclines on his Thetis's breast.
So when I am wearied with wand'ring all day, To thee, my delight, in the evening I come: No matter what beauties I saw in my way, They were but my visits, but thou art my home.
Then finish, dear Chloe, this pastoral war, And let us like Horace and Lydia agree; For thou art a girl as much brighter than her, As he was a poet sublimer than me.
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

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 ne'er 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.
'
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

A True Maid

 No, no; for my virginity,
When I lose that, says Rose, I'll die:
Behind the elms last night, cried Dick,
Rose, were you not extremely sick?
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

To Chloe Jealous

 Dear Chloe, how blubber'd is that pretty face;
Thy cheek all on fire, and thy hair all uncurl'd:
Prythee quit this caprice; and (as old Falstaff says)
Let us e'en talk a little like folks of this world.
How canst thou presume, thou hast leave to destroy The beauties, which Venus but lent to thy keeping? Those looks were design'd to inspire love and joy: More ord'nary eyes may serve people for weeping.
To be vext at a trifle or two that I writ, Your judgment at once, and my passion you wrong: You take that for fact, which will scarce be found wit: Odds life! must one swear to the truth of a song? What I speak, my fair Chloe, and what I write, shows The diff'rence there is betwixt nature and art: I court others in verse; but I love thee in prose: And they have my whimsies, but thou hast my heart.
The god of us verse-men (you know, child) the Sun, How after his journeys he sets up his rest: If at morning o'er earth 'tis his fancy to run; At night he declines on his Thetis's breast.
So when I am wearied with wand'ring all day, To thee my delight in the evening I come: No matter what beauties I saw in my way; They were but my visits, but thou art my home.
Then finish, dear Chloe, this pastoral war; And let us like Horace and Lydia agree: For thou art a girl as much brighter than her, As he was a poet sublimer than me.
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

A Reasonable Affliction

 On his death-bed poor Lubin lies: 
His spouse is in despair: 
With frequent sobs, and mutual cries, 
They both express their care.
A different cause, says Parson Sly, The same effect may give: Poor Lubin fears that he may die; His wife, that he may live.
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

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.
LISETTA'S 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 happen'd 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.
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

To a Lady

 Spare, gen'rous victor, spare the slave,
Who did unequal war pursue;
That more than triumph he might have,
In being overcome by you.
In the dispute whate'er I said, My heart was by my tongue belied; And in my looks you might have read How much I argued on your side.
You, far from danger as from fear, Might have sustain'd an open fight: For seldom your opinions err: Your eyes are always in the right.
Why, fair one, would you not rely On Reason's force with Beauty's join'd? Could I their prevalence deny, I must at once be deaf and blind.
Alas! not hoping to subdue, I only to the fight aspir'd: To keep the beauteous foe in view Was all the glory I desir'd.
But she, howe'er of vict'ry sure.
Contemns the wreath too long delay'd; And, arm'd with more immediate pow'r, Calls cruel silence to her aid.
Deeper to wound, she shuns the fight: She drops her arms, to gain the field: Secures her conquest by her flight; And triumphs, when she seems to yield.
So when the Parthian turn'd his steed, And from the hostile camp withdrew; With cruel skill the backward reed He sent; and as he fled, he slew.
Written by Matthew Prior | Create an image from this poem

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 Pere.
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.
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