Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
To a Child of Quality, Five Years Old
By Matthew Prior (1664–1721)
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 among the rest I took,        5
  Lest those bright eyes that cannot read
Should dart their kindling fires, and look
  The power they have to be obeyed.
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 silk-worms 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 lines 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 ordained, (would Fate but mend it!)
That I shall be past making love,
  When she begins to comprehend it.

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