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MATTHEW PRIOR, a distinguished poet, was born It will not be worth while here to take notice of all in 1664. in London according to one account, his changes in the political world, except 10 mention according to another at Winborne, in Dorsetshire. the disgraces which followed the famous congress His father dying when he was young, an uncle, of Utrecht, in which he was deeply engaged. For who was a vintner, or tavern-keeper, at Charing the completion of that business he was left in Cross, took him under his care, and sent him to France, with the appointments and authority of an Westminster-school, of which Dr. Busby was ambassador, though without the title, the proud then master. Before he had passed through the Duke of Shrewsbury having refused to be joined in school, his uncle took him home, for the purpose commission with a man so' meanly born. Prior, of bringing him into his own business; but the however, publicly assumed the character till he Earl of Dorset, a great patron of letters, having was superseded by the earl of Stair, on the accesfound him one day reading Horace, and being sion of George I. The Whigs being now in power, pleased with his conversation, determined to give he was welcomed, on his return, by a warrant from him an university education. He was accordingly the House of Commons, under which he was comadmitted of St. John's College, Cambridge, in mitted to the custody of a messenger. He was ex1682, proceeded bachelor of arts in 1686, and was amined before the Privy Council respecting his soon after elected to a fellowship. After having share in the peace of Utrecht, was treated with proved his poetic talents by some college exercises, rigor, and Walpole moved impeachment he was introduced at court by the Earl of Dorset, against him, on a charge of high treason, for holdand was so effectually recommended, that, in 1690, ing clandestine conferences with the French pleni he was appointed secretary to the English pleni- potentiary. His name was excepted from an act of potentiaries who attended the congress at the grace passed in 1717: at length, however, he was Hague. Being now enlisted in the service of the discharged, without being brought to trial, to end court, his productions were, for some years, chiefly his days in retirement. directed to courtly topics, of which one of the most We are now to consider Prior among the poetical considerable was an Ode presented to King William characters of the time. In his writings is found in 1695, on the death of Queen Mary. In 1697, that incongruous mixture of light and rather inhe was nominated secretary to the commissioners decent topics with grave and even religious ones, for the treaty of Ryswick; and, on his return, was which was not uncommon at that period. In the made secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. faculty of telling a story with ease and vivacity, he He went to France in the following year, as secre- yields only to Swift, compared to whom his humor tary, first to the earl of Portland, and then to the is occasionally strained and quaint. His songs Earl of Jersey; and being now regarded as one and amatory pieces are generally elegant and clasconversant in public affairs, he was summoned by sical. The most popular of his serious composiKing William to Loo, where he had a confidential tions are “ Henry and Emma," or the Nut-brown audience. In the beginning of 1701, he sat in Par- Maid, modernized from an antique original; and liament for East Grinstead.
Solomon," the idea of which is taken from the Prior had hitherto been promoted and acted with book of Ecclesiastes. These are harmonious in the Whigs: but the Tories now having become the their versification, splendid and correct in their prevalent party, he turned about, and ever after ad- diction, and copious in poetical imagery ; but they hered to them. He even voted for the impeach- exert no powerful effect on the feelings or the ment of those lords who advised that partition fancy, and are enseebled by prolixity. His “Alma," treaty in which he had been officially employed. a piece of philosophical pleasantry, was written to Like most converts, he embraced his new friends console himself when under confinement, and diswith much zeal, and from that time almost all his plays a considerable share of reading. As to his social connexions were confined within the limits elaborate effusions of loyally and patriotism, they of his party.
seem to have sunk into total neglect. The successes in the beginning of Queen Anne's The life of Prior was cut short by a lingering reign were celebrated by the poets on both sides ; illness, which closed his days at Wimpole, the seat and Prior sung the victories of Blenheim and of Lord Oxford, in September, 1721, in the 58th Ramilies : he afterwards, however, joined in the year of his age. attack of the great general who had been his theme.
One child he had, a daughter chaste and fair, HENRY AND EMMA.
His age's comfort, and his fortune's heir.
They call'd her Emma; for the beauteous dame, A POEM,
Who gave the virgin birth, had borne the name:
The name th' indulgent father doubly lov'd :
He call'd her ost, in sport, his Nut-brown Maid,
The friends and tenants took the fondling word, Thou, to whose eyes I bend, at whose command (As still they please, who imitate their lord): (Though low my voice, though artless be my Usage confirm d what fancy had begun ; hand),
The mutual terms around the land were known I take the sprightly reed, and sing, and play,
And Emma and the Nut-brown Maid were one. Careless of what the censuring world may say:
As with her stature, still her charms increas'a Bright Cloe, object of my constant vow,
Through all the isle her beauty was confess'd. Wilt thou a while unbend thy serious brow? Oh! what perfections must that virgin share, Wilt thou with pleasure hear thy lover's strains, Who fairest is esteem'd, where all are fair! And with one heavenly smile o'erpay his pains ? From distant shires repair the noble youth, No longer shall the Nut-brown Maid be old ; And find report, for once, had lessen'd truth. Though since her youth ihree hundred years have By wonder first, and then by passion mov'd, roll'd:
They came ; they saw; they marvell’d; and they At thy desire, she shall again be rais'd ;
lov'd. And her reviving charms in lasting verse be By public praises, and by secret sighs, prais'd.
Each own'd the general power of Emma's eyes. No longer man of woman shall complain, In tilts and tournaments the valiant strove, That he may love, and not be lov'd again : By glorious deeds, to purchase Emma's love. That we in vain the fickle sex pursue,
In gentle verse the witty told their Name, Who change the constant lover for the new. And grac'd their choicest songs with Emma' Whatever has been writ, whatever said, Of female passion feign'd, or faith decay'd, In vain they combated, in vain they writ: Henceforth shall in my verse refuted stand, Useless their strength, and impotent their wit. Be said to winds, or writ upon the sand.
Great Venus only must direct the dart, And, while my notes to future times proclaim Which else will never reach the fair-one's heart, Unconquer'd love, and ever-during flame, Spite of th' attempts of force, and soft effects of O fairest of the sex! be thou my Muse : Deign on my work thy influence to diffuse. Great Venus must prefer the happy one : Let me partake the blessings I rehearse,
In Henry's cause her favor must be shown; And grant me, love, the just reward of verse! And Emma, of mankind, must love but him alone. As beauty's potent queen, with every grace,
While these in public to the castle came, That once was Emma's, has adorn'd thy face; And by their grandeur justified their fame; And, as her son has to my bosom dealt
More secret ways the careful Henry takes; That constant fame, which faithful Henry felt: His squires, his arms, and equipage forsakes : O let the story with thy life agree :
In borrow'd name, and false attire array'd, Let men once more the bright example see ; Oft he finds means to see the beauteous maid. What Emma was to him, be thou to me.
When Emma hunts, in huntsman's habil drest, Nor send me hy thy frown from her I love, Henry on foot pursues the bounding beast. Distant and sad, a banish'd man to rove.
In his right-hand his beechen pole he bears; But, oh! with pity, long-entreated, crown And graceful at his side his horn he wears. My pains and hopes; and, when thou say'st that one Still to the glade, where she has bent her way, Of all mankind thou lov'st, oh! think on me alone. With knowing skill he drives the future prey •
Bids her decline the hill, and shun the brake; Wuery beauteous Isis and her husband Tame, And shows the path her steed may safest take; With mingled waves, for ever flow the same, Directs her spear to fix the glorious wound; In times of yore an ancient baron liv'd ;
Pleas'd in his toils to have her triumph crown'd; Great gifts bestow'd, and great respect receiv'd. And blows her praises in no common sound.
When dreadful Edward, with successful care, A falconer Henry is, when Emma hawks: Led his free Britons to the Gallic war;
With her of larsels and of lures he talks. This lord had headed his appointed bands, Upon his wrist the towering merlin stands, In firm allegiance to his king's commands; Practis'd to rise, and stoop, at her commands. And (all due honors faithfully discharg'd)
And when superior now the bird has flowr., Had brought back his paternal coat, enlarg'd And headlong brought the tumbling quarry down With a new mark, the witness of his toil,
With hurnble reverence he accosts the fair, And no inglorious part of foreign spoil.
And with the honor'd feather decks her hair. From the loud camp retir'd, and noisy court, Yet still, as from the sportive field she goes, In honorable ease and rural sport,
His downcast eye reveals his inward woes ;
And by his look and sorrow is exprest,
A shepherd now along the plain he roves;
And, with his jolly pipe, delights the groves.
The neighboring swains around the stranger throng, Here oft the nymph his breathing vows had heard ;
Here oft her silence had her heart declar'd.
Had half express'd, and half conceal’d, his fame, With dutiful respect and studious fear;
Upon this tree : and, as the tender mark Lest any careless sound offend her ear.
Grew with the year, and widend with the bark, A frantic gipsy now, the house he haunts, Venus had heard the virgin's soft address, And in wild phrases speaks dissembled wants. That, as the wound, the passion might increase. With the fond maids in palmistry he deals : As potent Nature shed her kindly showers, They tell the secret first, which he reveals ; And deck'd the various mead with opening flowers, Says who shall wed, and who shall be beguild; Upon this tree the nymph's obliging care What groom shall get, and squire maintain the child. Had left a frequent wreath for Henry's hair; But, when bright Emma would her fortune know, Which, as with gay delight the lover found, A solter look unbends his opening brow;
Pleas'd with his conquest, with her present crown'd, With trembling awe he gazes on her eye, Glorious through all the plains he oft had gone, And in soft accents forms the kind reply; And to each swain the mystic honor shown; That she shall prove as fortunate as fair; The gift still prais'd, the giver still unknown.. And Hymen's choicest gifts are all resery'd for her. His secret note the troubled Henry writes :
Now oft had Henry chang'd his sly disguise, To the lone tree the lovely maid invites. Unmark'd by all but beauteous Emma's eyes : Imperfect words and dubious terms express, Oft had found means alone to see the dame, That unforeseen mischance disturb'd his peace; And at her feet to breathe his amorous flame; That he must something to her ear commend, And oft, the pangs of absence to remove,
On which her conduct and his life depend. By letters, solt interpreters of love:
Soon as the fair-one had the note receiv'd, Till Time and Industry (the mighty two
The remnant of the day alone she griev'd : That bring our wishes nearer to our view) For different this from every former note, Made him perceive, that the inclining fair Which Venus dictaled, and Henry wrote ; Receiv'd his vows with no reluctant ear;
Which told her all his future hopes were laid That Venus had confirm'd her equal reign, On the dear bosom of his Nut-brown Maid ; And dealt to Emma's heart a share of Henry's pain. Which always bless'd her eyes, and own'd her While Cupid smil'd, by kind occasion bless'd,
power; And, with the secret kept, the love increas'd; And bid her oft adieu, yet added more. The amorous youth frequents the silent groves; Now night advanc'd. The house in sleep were And much he meditates, for much he loves.
laid; He loves, 'tis true; and is belov'd again:
The nurse experienc'd, and the prying maid, Great are his joys; but will they long remain ? And, last, that sprite, which does incessant haunt Emma with smiles receives his present flame; The lover's steps, the ancient maiden-aunt. But, smiling, will she ever be the same?
To her dear Henry, Emma wings her way, Beautiful looks are rul’d by fickle minds;
With quicken'd pace repairing forc'd delay; And summer seas are turn'd by sudden winds. For Love, fantastic power, that is afraid Another love may gain her easy youth :
To stir abroad till Watchfulness be laid, Time changes thought, and fattery conquers truth. Undaunted then o'er cliffs and valleys strays, O impolent estate of human life!
And leads his votaries safe through pathless ways. Where Hope and Fear maintain eternal strife ; Not Argus, with his hundred eyes, shall find Where fleeting joy does lasting doubt inspire ; Where Cupid goes; though he, poor guide! is blind And most we question, what we most desire !
The maiden first arriving, sent her eye Amongst thy various gifts, great Heaven, bestow To ask, if yet its chief delight were nigh: Our cup of love unmix'd ; forbear to throw With fear and with desire, with joy and pain, Bitter ingredients in; nor pall the draught She sees, and runs to meet him on the plain. With nauseous grief: for our ill-judging thought But, oh! his steps proclaim no lover's haste : Hardly enjoys the pleasurable tasle ;
On the low ground his fix'd regards are cast; Or deems it not sincere; or fears it cannot last. His artful bosom heaves dissembled sighs ;
With wishes rais'd, with jealousies opprest, And tears suborn'd fall copious from his eyes. (Alternate tyrants of the human breast)
With ease, alas! we credit what we love : By one great trial he resolves to prove
His painted grief does real sorrow move
Broke silence first: the tale alternate ran.
SINCERE, O tell me, hast thou felt a pain, His mind he vows to free from amorous care, Emma, beyond what woman knows to feign? The latent mischief from his heart to tear,
Has thy uncertain bosom ever strove Resume his azure arms, and shine again in war. With the first tumults of a real love? South of the castle, in a verdant glade,
Hast thou now dreaded, and now blest his sway, A spreading beech extends her friendly shade : By turns averse, and joyful to obey !
Thy virgin softness hast thou e'er bewailid, Fair Truth, at last, her radiant beams will raise , As Reason yielded, and as Love prevail'd ? And Malice vanquish'd heightens Virtue's praise. And wept the potent god's resistless dart,
Let then thy favor but indulge my flight; His killing pleasure, his ecstatic smart,
0! let my presence make thy travels light;
Above the rumors of censorious Fame;
Than that this truth should to the world be known And only, as the Sun's revolving ray
That I, of all mankind, have lov'd but thee alone. Brings back each year this melancholy day, Permit one sigh, and set apart one tear, To an abandon'd exile's endless care.
But canst thou wield the sword, and bend the bow? For me, alas! outcast of human race,
With active force repel the sturdy foe? Love's anger only waits, and dire disgrace ;
When the loud tumult speaks the battle nigh,
And winged deaths in whisiling arrows fly;
Wilt thou, though wounded, yet undaunted stay, A shameful death attends my longer stay ;
Perform thy part, and share the dangerous day?
Then, as thy strength decays, thy heart will fail, And I this night must fly from thee and love,
Thy limbs all trembling, and thy cheeks all pale ; Condemn'd in lonely woods, a banish'd man, to rove.
With fruitless sorrow, thou, inglorious maid,
Then to thy friend, by foes o'ercharg'd, deny
A banish'd man, condemn'd in lonely woods to rove.
With fatal certainty Thalestris knew
And, great in arms, and foremost in the war,
Bonduca brandish'd high the British spear. His complement of stores, and total war.
Could thirst of vengeance and desire of fame 0! cease then coldly to suspect my love ;
Excite the female breast with martial fame? And let my deed at least my faith approve.
And shall not love's diviner power inspire Alas! no youth shall my endearments share ;
More hardy virtue, and more generous fire ? Nor day nor night shall interrupt my care;
Near thee, mistrust not, constant I'll abide, No future story shall with truth upbraid
And fall, or vanquish, fighting by thy side. The cold indifference of the Nut-brown Maid ;
Though my inferior strength may not allow Nor to hard banishment shall Henry run,
That I should bear or draw the warrior bow ; While careless Emma sleeps on beds of down.
With ready hand I will the shaft supply, View me resolv'd, where'er thou lead'st, to go,
And joy to see thy victor arrows Ny. Friend to thy pain, and partner of thy woe;
Touch'd in the battle by the hostile reed, For I attest, fair Venus and her son,
Shouldst thou, (but Heaven avert it!) shouldst thou
bleed ; That I, of all mankind, will love but thee alone.
To stop the wounds, my finest lawn I'd tear,
Wash them with tears, and wipe them with my hair;
Blest, when my dangers and my toils have shown Let prudence yet obstruct thy venturous way;
That I, of all mankind, could love but thee alone. And take good heed, what men will think and say ; That beauteous Emma vagrant courses took; Her father's house and civil life forsook ; That, full of youthful blood, and fond of man, But canst thou, tender maid, canst thou sustain She to the wood-land with an exile ran.
A Mictive want, or hunger's pressing pain? Reflect, that lessen'd fame is ne'er regain'd, Those limbs, in lawn and softest silk array'd, And virgin honor, once, is always stain'd :
From sunbeams guarded, and of winds afraid, Timely advis'd, the coming evil shun:
Can they bear angry Jove ? can they resist Better not do the deed, than weep it done. The parching dog-star, and the bleak north-east ? No penance can absolve our guilty fame; When, chill'd by adverse snows and beating rain, Nor tears, that wash out sin, can wash out shame.
We tread with weary steps the longsome plain; Then fly the sad effects of desperate love, When with hard toil we seek our evening food, And leave a banish'd man through lonely woods to Berries and acorns from the neighboring wood;
And find among the cliffs no other house
But the thin covert of some gather'd boughs;
Wilt thou not then reluctant send thine eye
(Though then, alas! that trial be too late) Let every tongue its various censures choose ; To find thy father's hospitable gate, Absolve with coldness, or with spite accuse: And seats, where ease and plenty brooding sate?
Those seats, whence long excluded, thou must/'Tis long since Cynthia and her train were there,
Or guardian gods made innocence their care. That gate, for ever barr'd to thy return:
Vagrants and qutlaws shall offend thy view: Wilt thou not then bewail ill-fated love,
For such must be my friends, a hideous crew,
Train'd to assault, and disciplin'd to kill;
The beadle's lash still flagrant on their back:
By sloth corrupted, by disorder fed, From its decline determin'd to recede;
Made bold by want, and prostitute for bread: Did I but purpose to embark with thee
With such must Emma hunt the tedious day, On the smooth surface of a summer's sea;
Assist their violence, and divide their prey :
Of jest obscene and vulgar ribaldry,
When from the cave thou risest with the day, Must hear the frequent oath, the direful curse,
Now, Emma, now the last reflection make, And, when thou frequent bring'st the smitten deer, What thou wouldst follow, what thou must for. (For seldom, archers say, thy arrows err)
Or yield thy virtue, to attain thy love;
Or leave a banish'd man, condemn'd in woods to The choicest herbs I to thy board will bring, And draw thy water from the freshest spring:
EMMA. And, when at night with weary toil opprest, Soft slumbers thou enjoy'st, and wholesome rest, O grief of heart! that our unhappy fates Watchful I'll guard thee, and with midnight prayer Force thee to suffer what thy honor hates : Weary the gods to keep thee in their care ; Mix thee amongst the bad; or make thee run And joyous ask, at morn's returning ray,
Too near the paths which Virtue bids thee shun.
By her own choice free Virtue is approv'd ;
Nor by the force of outward objects mov'd.
In vain the Syrens sing, the tempests beat: No longer shall thy comely tresses break
Their flattery she rejects, nor fears their threat. In flowing ringlets on thy snowy neck;
For thee alone these little charms I drest : Or sit behind thy head, an ample round,
Condemn'd them, or absolv'd them by thy test. In graceful braids with various ribbon bound : In comely figure rang'd my jewels shone, No longer shall the bodice aptly lac'd,
Or negligently plac'd for thee alone : From thy full bosom to thy slender waist, For thee again they shall be laid aside; That air and harmony of shape express,
The woman, Henry, shall put off her pride Fine by degrees, and beautifully less :
For thee: my clothes, my sex, exchang'd for thee, Nor shall thy lower garments' artful plait, I'll mingle with the people's wretched lee: From thy fair side dependent to thy feet,
O line extreme of human infamy! Arm their chaste beauties with a modest pride, Wanting the scissars, with these hands I'll tear And double every charm they seek to hide. (If that obstructs my flight) this load of hair. Th'ambrosial plenty of thy shining hair, Black soot, or yellow walnut, shall disgrace Cropt off and lost, scarce lower than thy ear This little red and white of Emma's face. Shall stand uncooth: a horseman's coat shall hide These nails with scratches shall deform my breast, Thy taper shape, and comeliness of side: Lest by my look or color be express’d The short trunk-hose shall show thy foot and knee The mark of aught high-born, or ever better dress'd. Licentious, and to common eye-sight free: Yet in this commerce, under this disguise, And, with a bolder stride and looser air,
Let me be grateful still to Henry's eyes ; Mingled with men, a man thou must appear. Lost to the world, let me to him be known :
Nor solitude, nor gentle peace of mind, My fate I can absolve, if he shall own Mistaken maid, shalt thou in forests find : That, leaving all mankind, I love but him alone.