Biography of Matthew Prior
Matthew Prior, poet and diplomat, was born near Wimborne Minster, Dorset. His family moved to London while he was still a child. He was educated at Westminister School, but was taken out when his father died and apprenticed to his uncle, a tavern-keeper. In 1680 he went to Cambridge on a scholarship from the Earl of Dorset and while there he co-wrote with Charles Montague, The Hind and the Panther Transversed to the Story of the Country and City Mouse (1687), a burlesque on Dryden's Hind and the Panther which cuts it down to size by making it absurd.
Prior held various diplomatic posts, and in 1700 entered parliament with the Tories. He was Ambassador at Paris when he was recalled at the death of Queen Anne in 1715, and imprisoned for two years. During his time in prison he composed Alma or the Progress of the Mind (1715), a sceptical and humorous poem for which he is best known today. A folio edition of his work was published in 1719 and secured him a profit of 4000 guineas. He died in 1921 in Down Hall which he had purchased two years previously. At its best his work stands alongside Swift, and was admired by Samuel Johnson and William Cowper. He is buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.
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Matthew Prior Poems
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 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.
Interr'd beneath this marble stone, Lie saunt'ring Jack and idle Joan. While rolling threescore years and one Did round this globe their courses run;
Gualterus Danistonus, Ad Amicos. - And I...
Dum studeo fungi fallentis munere vitae, Adfectoque viam sedibus Elysiis Arctoa florens sophia, Samiisque superbus
The merchant, to secure his treasure, Conveys it in a borrowed name: Euphelia serves to grace my measure; But Cloe is my real flame.
A Better Answer
Dear Cloe, how blubber'd is that pretty Face? Thy cheek all on fire, and thy hair all uncurl'd: Pr'ythee quit this caprice; and (as old Falstaf says) Let us e'en talk a little like folks of this world.
A Letter To Lady Margaret Cavendish Holl...
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.
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:
A Song. If Wine And Music Have The Power
If wine and music have the power To ease the sickness of the soul, Let Phoebis every string explore, And Bacchus fill the sprightly bowl:
The English Padlock
Miss Danae, when Fair and Young (As Horace has divinely sung) Could not be kept from Jove's Embrace By Doors of Steel, and Walls of Brass.
A Song. In Vain You Tell Your Parting Lo...
In vain you tell your parting lover You wish fair winds may waft him over Alas! what winds can happy prove That bear me far from what I love?
A Lover's Anger
As Cloe came into the Room t'other Day, I peevish began; Where so long cou'd You stay? In your Life-time You never regarded your Hour:
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,
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.
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--