Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
Matthew Prior. 1664–1721
423. 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 Mary's fetters, 
Were summoned by her high command 
  To show their passions by their letters. 
My pen amongst the rest I took,         5
  Lest those bright eyes, that cannot read, 
Should dart their kindling fire, and look 
  The power they have to be obey'd. 
Nor quality, nor reputation, 
  Forbid me yet my flame to tell;  10
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,  15
  In papers round her baby's hair; 
She may receive and own my flame; 
  For, though the strictest prudes should know it, 
She'll pass for a most virtuous dame, 
  And I for an unhappy poet.  20
Then too, alas! when she shall tear 
  The rhymes some younger rival sends, 
She'll give me leave to write, I fear, 
  And we shall still continue friends. 
For, as our different ages move,  25
  'Tis so ordain'd (would Fate but mend it!), 
That I shall be past making love 
  When she begins to comprehend it. 
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