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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

To a Child of Quality

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,

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;

Dear five-year-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

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.

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,

’Tis so ordained, (would Fate but mend it!)

That I shall be past making love

When she begins to comprehend it.