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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Matthew Prior

267. 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,

Lest those bright eyes, that cannot read,

Should dart their kindling fires, and look

The power they have to be obey’d.

Nor quality, nor reputation,

Forbid me yet my flame to tell;

Dear Five-years-old befriends my passion,

And I may write till she can spell.

For, while she makes her silkworm 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 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,

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

That I shall be past making love

When she begins to comprehend it.