Matthew Prior poems

Matthew Prior(1664 - 1721 / Dorset / England)
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Gualterus Danistonus, Ad Amicos. - And Imitation

- by Matthew Prior 408

Dum studeo fungi fallentis munere vitae,
Adfectoque viam sedibus Elysiis
Arctoa florens sophia, Samiisque superbus
Discipulis, animas morte carere cano.
Has ego corporibus profugas ad sidera mitto;
Sideraque ingressis otia blanda dico;
Qualia conveniunt divis, queis fata volebant
Vitai faciles molliter ire vias:
Vinaque coelicolis media inter gaudia libo;
Et me quid majus suspicor esse viro,
Sed fuerint nulli forsan, quos spondeo, coeli;
Nullaque sint Ditis numina, nulla Jovis:
Fabula sit torris agitur, quae vita relictis
Quique superstes homo; qui nihil, esto Deus.
Attamen esse hilares, et inanes mittere curas
Proderit, ac vitae commoditate frui,
Et festos agitasse dies, aevique fugacis
Tempora perpetuis detinuisse jocis.
His me parentem praeceptis occupet orcus,
Et mors; seu divum, seu nihil esse velit;
Nam sophia ars illa est, quae fallere suaviter hoyas
Admonet, atque orci non timuisse minas.


Studious the busy moments to deceive,
That fleet between the cradle and the grave,
I credit what the Grecian dictates say,
And Samian sounds o'er Scotia's hills convey.
When mortal man resigns his transient breath
The body only I give o'er to death;
The parts dissolved and broken frame I mourn:
What came from earth I see to earth return.
The immaterial part, th' ethereal soul,
Nor can change vanquish, nor can death control.
Glad I release it from its partner's cares,
And bid good angels waft it to the stars:
Then in the flowing bowl I drown those sighs,
Which, spite of wisdom, from our weakness rise.
The draught to the dead's memory I commend,
And offer to thee now, immortal friend:
But if opposed to what my thoughts approve,
Nor Pluto's rage there be, nor power of Jove,
On its dark side if thou the prospect take,
Grant all forgot beyond black Lethe's lake;
In total death suppose the mortal lie,
No new hereafter, nor a future sky;
Yet bear thy lot content, yet cease to grieve;
Why ere death comes dost thou forbear to live?
The little time thou hast 'twixt instant now
And Fate's approach is all the gods allow;
And of this little hast thou ought to spare
To sad reflection and corroding care?
The moments past, if thou art wise, retrieve
With pleasant memory of the bliss they gave.
The present hours in present mirth employ,
And bribe the future with the hopes of joy;
The future (few or more, howe'er they be)
Where destined erst, nor can by Fate's decree
Be now cut off betwixt the grave and thee.

A Simile

- by Matthew Prior 111

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.

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