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AN EPISTLE TO FLEETWOOD SHEPHARD, Esq

Burleigh, May 14, 1689.

SIR,
1 As once a Twelvemonth to the Priest,
2 Holy at Rome, here Antichrist,
3 The Spanish King presents a Jennet,
4 To show his Love: That's all that's in it:
5 For if his Holiness would thump
6 His reverend Bum 'gainst Horse's Rump;
7 He might b' equipt from his own Stable
8 With one more White, and eke more Able.
9 Or as with Gondola's and Men, His
10 Good Excellence the Duke of Venice
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11 (I wish, for Rhime, 't had been the King)
12 Sails out, and gives the Gulph a Ring;
13 Which Trick of State, He wisely maintains,
14 Keeps Kindness up 'twixt old Acquaintance:
15 For else, in honest Truth, the Sea
16 Has much less need of Gold than He.
17 Or, not to rove, and pump one's Fancy
18 For Popish Similies beyond Sea;
19 As Folks from Mud-wall'd Tenement
20 Bring Landlords Pepper-corn for Rent;
21 Present a Turkey, or a Hen
22 To Those might better spare Them Ten:
23 Ev'n so with all Submission, I
24 (For first Men instance, then apply)
25 Send You each Year a homely Letter,
26 Who may return Me much a better.
27 Then take it, Sir, as it was writ,
28 To pay Respect, and not show Wit:
29 Nor look askew at what it saith:
30 There's no Petition in it 'Faith.
31 Here some would scratch their Heads, and try
32 What They should write, and How, and Why:
33 But I conceive, such Folks are quite in
34 Mistakes, in Theory of Writing.
35 If once for Principle 'tis laid,
36 That Thought is Trouble to the Head;
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37 I argue thus: The World agrees,
38 That He writes well, who writes with Ease:
39 Then He, by Sequel Logical,
40 Writes best, who never thinks at all.
41 Verse comes from Heav'n, like inward Light;
42 Meer human Pains can ne'er come by't:
43 The God, not We, the Poem makes:
44 We only tell Folks what He speaks.
45 Hence, when Anatomists discourse,
46 How like Brutes Organs are to Our's;
47 They grant, if higher Powers think fit,
48 A Bear might soon be made a Wit;
49 And that, for any thing in Nature,
50 Pigs might squeak Love-Odes, Dogs bark Satyr.
51 Memnon, tho' Stone, was counted vocal;
52 But 'twas the God, mean while, that spoke all.
53 Rome oft has heard a Cross haranguing,
54 With prompting Priest behind the Hanging:
55 The Wooden Head resolv'd the Question;
56 While You and Pettis help'd the Jest on.
57 Your crabbed Rogues, that read Lucretius,
58 Are against Gods, You know; and teach us,
59 The God makes not the Poet; but
60 The Thesis, vice-versâ put,
61 Should Hebrew-wise be understood;
62 And means, The Poet makes the God.
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63 Ægyptian Gard'ners thus are said to
64 Have set the Leeks they after pray'd to;
65 And Romish Bakers praise the Deity
66 They chipp'd, while yet in it's Paniety.
67 That when You Poets swear and cry,
68 The God inspires! I rave! I die!
69 If inward Wind does truly swell Ye,
70 'T must be the Cholick in your Belly:
71 That Writing is but just like Dice;
72 And lucky Mains make People Wise:
73 That jumbled Words, if Fortune throw 'em,
74 Shall, well as Dryden, form a Poem;
75 Or make a Speech, correct and witty,
76 As You know who at the Committee.
77 So Atoms dancing round the Center,
78 They urge, made all Things at a Venture.
79 But granting Matters should be spoke
80 By Method, rather than by Luck;
81 This may confine their younger Styles,
82 Whom Dryden pedagogues at Will's:
83 But never could be meant to tye
84 Authentic Wits, like You and I:
85 For as young Children, who are try'd in
86 Go-Carts, to keep their Steps from sliding;
87 When Members knit, and Legs grow stronger,
88 Make use of such Machine no longer;
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89 But leap pro Libitu, and scout
90 On Horse call'd Hobby, or without:
91 So when at School we first declaim,
92 Old Busbey walks us in a Theme,
93 Whose Props support our Infant Vein,
94 And help the Rickets in the Brain:
95 But when our Souls their Force dilate,
96 And Thoughts grow up to Wit's Estate;
97 In Verse or Prose, We write or chat,
98 Not Six-Pence Matter upon what.
99 'Tis not how well an Author says;
100 But 'tis how much, that gathers Praise.
101 Tonson, who is himself a Wit,
102 Counts Writers Merits by the Sheet.
103 Thus each should down with all he thinks,
104 As Boys eat Bread, to fill up Chinks.
105 Kind Sir, I should be glad to see You;
106 I hope Y' are well; so God be wi' You;
107 Was all I thought at first to write:
108 But Things, since then, are alter'd quite;
109 Fancies flow in, and Muse flies high:
110 So God knows when my Clack will lye:
111 I must, Sir, prattle on, as afore,
112 And beg your Pardon yet this half Hour.
113 So at pure Barn of loud Non-Con,
114 Where with my Granam I have gone,
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115 When Lobb had sifted all his Text,
116 And I well hop'd the Pudding next;
117 Now to apply, has plagu'd me more,
118 Than all his Villain Cant before.
119 For your Religion, first, of Her
120 Your Friends do sav'ry Things aver:
121 They say, She's honest, as your Claret,
122 Not sowr'd with Cant, nor stum'd with Merit:
123 Your Chamber is the sole Retreat
124 Of Chaplains ev'ry Sunday Night:
125 Of Grace, no doubt, a certain Sign,
126 When Lay-Man herds with Man Divine:
127 For if their Fame be justly great,
128 Who would no Popish Nuncio treat;
129 That His is greater, We must grant,
130 Who will treat Nuncio's Protestant.
131 One single Positive weighs more,
132 You know, than Negatives a Score.
133 In Politicks, I hear, You're stanch,
134 Directly bent against the French;
135 Deny to have your free-born Toe
136 Dragoon'd into a Wooden Shoe:
137 Are in no Plots; but fairly drive at
138 The Publick Welfare in your Private:
139 And will, for England's Glory, try
140 Turks, Jews, and Jesuits to defy,
141 And keep your Places 'till You die.
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142 For me, whom wand'ring Fortune threw
143 From what I lov'd, the Town and You;
144 Let me just tell You how my Time is
145 Past in a Country-Life. Imprimis,
146 As soon as Phoebus' Rays inspect us,
147 First, Sir, I read; and then I Breakfast;
148 So on, 'till foresaid God does set,
149 I sometimes Study, sometimes Eat.
150 Thus, of your Heroes and brave Boys,
151 With whom old Homer makes such Noise,
152 The greatest Actions I can find,
153 Are, that They did their Work, and din'd.
154 The Books of which I'm chiefly fond,
155 Are such, as You have whilom con'd;
156 That treat of China's Civil Law,
157 And Subjects Rights in Golconda;
158 Of Highway-Elephants at Ceylan,
159 That rob in Clans, like Men o' th' Highland;
160 Of Apes that storm, or keep a Town,
161 As well almost, as Count Lauzun;
162 Of Unicorns and Alligators,
163 Elks, Mermaids, Mummies, Witches, Satyrs,
164 And twenty other stranger Matters;
165 Which, tho' they're Things I've no Concern in,
166 Make all our Grooms admire my Learning.
167 Criticks I read on other Men,
168 And Hypers upon Them again;
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169 From whose Remarks I give Opinion
170 On twenty Books, yet ne'er look in One.
171 Then all your Wits, that flear and sham,
172 Down from Don Quixote to Tom Tram;
173 From whom I Jests and Punns purloin,
174 And slily put 'em off for Mine:
175 Fond to be thought a Country Wit:
176 The rest, when Fate and You think fit.
177 Sometimes I climb my Mare, and kick her
178 To bottl'd Ale, and neighb'ring Vicar;
179 Sometimes at Stamford take a Quart,
180 'squire Shephard's Health With all my Heart.
181 Thus, without much Delight, or Grief,
182 I fool away an idle Life;
183 'Till Shadwell from the Town retires
184 (Choak'd up with Fame and Sea-coal Fires)
185 To bless the Wood with peaceful Lyric;
186 Then hey for Praise and Panegyric,
187 Justice restor'd, and Nations freed,
188 And Wreaths round William's glorious Head.

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Title (in Source Edition): AN EPISTLE TO FLEETWOOD SHEPHARD, Esq
Author: Matthew Prior
Themes:
Genres: epistle

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Source edition

Poems on Several Occasions [English poems only]. London: Printed for JACOB TONSON at Shakespear's-Head over against Katharine-Street in the Strand, and JOHN BARBER upon Lambeth-Hill. MDCCXVIII., 1718, pp. 11-18. [42],506,[6]p.: ill.; 2°. (ESTC T075639)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.

Other works by Matthew Prior