A LETTER TO Monsieur Boileau Despreaux;

Occasion'd by the VICTORY at BLENHEIM, 1704.

Cupidum, Pater optime, vires Deficiunt: neque enim Quivis horrentia Pilis Agmina, nec Fractâ pereuntes cuspide Gallos Hor. Sat. 1. L. 2.
1 Since hir'd for Life, thy Servile Muse must sing
2 Successive Conquests, and a glorious King;
3 Must of a Man Immortal vainly boast;
4 And bring him Lawrels, whatsoe'er they cost:
5 What Turn wilt Thou employ, what Colours lay
6 On the Event of that Superior Day,
7 In which one English Subject's prosp'rous Hand
8 (So Jove did will; so Anna did command:)
[Page 184]
9 Broke the proud Column of thy Master's Praise,
10 Which sixty Winters had conspir'd to raise?
11 From the lost Field a hundred Standards brought
12 Must be the Work of Chance, and Fortune's Fault:
13 Bavaria's Stars must be accus'd, which shone,
14 That fatal Day the mighty Work was done,
15 With Rays oblique upon the Gallic Sun.
16 Some Dæmon envying France mis-led the Fight:
17 And Mars mistook, tho' Louis order'd right.
18 When thy

Epistre 4. du Sr. Boileau Dépreaux au Roy. En vain, pour Te Loüer, &c.

young Muse invok'd the tuneful Nine,
19 To say how Louis did not pass the Rhine,
20 What Work had We with Wageninghen, Arnheim,
21 Places that could not be reduc'd to Rhime?
22 And tho' the Poet made his last Efforts,
23 Wurts who could mention in Heroic Wurts?
24 But, tell me, hast thou reason to complain
25 Of the rough Triumphs of the last Campaign?
26 The Danube rescu'd, and the Empire sav'd,
27 Say, is the Majesty of Verse retriev'd?
28 And would it prejudice thy softer vein,
29 To sing the Princes, Louis and Eugene?
30 Is it too hard in happy Verse to place
31 The Vans and Vanders of the Rhine and Maes?
32 Her Warriors Anna sends from Tweed and Thames,
33 That France may fall by more harmonious Names.
34 Can'st thou not Hamilton or Lumly bear?
35 Would Ingoldsby or Palmes offend thy Ear?
[Page 185]
36 And is there not a Sound in Marlbrô's Name,
37 Which Thou and all thy Brethren ought to claim,
38 Sacred to Verse, and sure of endless Fame?
39 Cutts is in Meeter something harsh to read:
40 Place me the Valiant Gouram in his stead:
41 Let the Intention make the Number good:
42 Let generous Sylvius speak for honest Wood.
43 And tho' rough Churchill scarce in Verse will stand,
44 So as to have one Rhime at his Command;
45 With Ease the Bard reciting Blenheim's Plain,
46 May close the Verse, rememb'ring but the Dane.
47 I grant, old Friend, old Foe (for such We are
48 Alternate, as the Chance of Peace and War)
49 That we Poetic Folks, who must restrain
50 Our measur'd Sayings in an equal Chain,
51 Have Troubles utterly unknown to Those,
52 Who let their Fancy loose in rambling Prose.
53 For Instance now, how hard it is for Me
54 To make my Matter and my Verse agree?
55 In one great Day on Hochstet's fatal Plain
56 French and Bavarians twenty thousand slain;
57 Push'd thro' the Danube to the Shoars of Styx
58 Squadrons eighteen, Battalions twenty six;
59 Officers Captive made and private Men,
60 Of these twelve hundred, of those thousands ten;
61 Tents, Ammunition, Colours, Carriages,
62 Cannons, and Kettle-Drums sweet Numbers these.
[Page 186]
63 But is it thus You English Bards compose?
64 With Runick Lays thus tag insipid Prose?
65 And when you should your Heroes Deeds rehearse,
66 Give us a Commissary's List in Verse?
67 Why Faith, Depreaux, there's Sense in what You say:
68 I told You where my Difficulty lay:
69 So vast, so numerous were great Blenheim's Spoils;
70 They scorn the Bounds of Verse, and mock the Muse's Toils.
71 To make the rough Recital aptly chime,
72 Or bring the Sum of Gallia's Loss to Rhime,
73 'Tis mighty hard: What Poet would essay
74 To count the Streamers of my Lord Mayor's Day?
75 To number all the several Dishes drest
76 By honest Lamb, last Coronation Feast?
77 Or make Arithmetic and Epic meet;
78 And Newton's Thoughts in Dryden's Stile repeat?
79 O Poet, had it been Apollo's Will,
80 That I had shar'd a Portion of thy Skill;
81 Had this poor Breast receiv'd the Heav'nly Beam;
82 Or could I hope my Verse might reach my Theam;
83 Yet, Boileau, yet the lab'ring Muse should strive,
84 Beneath the Shades of Marlbrô's Wreaths to live:
85 Should call aspiring Gods to bless her Choice;
86 And to their Fav'rite's Strain exalt her Voice,
87 Arms and a Queen to Sing; Who, Great and Good,
88 From peaceful Thames to Danube's wond'ring Flood
89 Sent forth the Terror of her high Commands,
90 To save the Nations from invading Hands,
[Page 187]
91 To prop fair Liberty's declining Cause,
92 And fix the jarring World with equal Laws.
93 The Queen should sit in Windsor's sacred Grove,
94 Attended by the Gods of War, and Love:
95 Both should with equal Zeal Her Smiles implore,
96 To fix Her Joys, or to extend Her Pow'r.
97 Sudden, the Nymphs and Tritons should appear;
98 And as great Anna's Smiles dispel their Fear,
99 With active Dance should Her Observance claim;
100 With Vocal Shell should sound Her happy Name.
101 Their Master Thames should leave the neighb'ring Shoar,
102 By his strong Anchor known, and Silver Oar;
103 Should lay his Ensigns at his Sov'raign's Feet,
104 And Audience mild with humble Grace intreat.
105 To Her, his dear Defence, He should complain,
106 That whilst He blesses Her indulgent Reign;
107 Whilst furthest Seas are by his Fleets survey'd,
108 And on his happy Banks each India laid;
109 His Breth'ren Maes, and Waal, and Rhine, and Saar
110 Feel the hard Burthen of oppressive War;
111 That Danube scarce retains his rightful Course
112 Against two Rebel Armies neighb'ring Force;
113 And All must weep sad Captives to the Sein,
114 Unless unchain'd and freed by Britain's Queen.
115 The valiant Sov'reign calls Her Gen'ral forth;
116 Neither recites Her Bounty, nor His Worth:
[Page 188]
117 She tells Him, He must Europe's Fate redeem,
118 And by That Labour merit Her Esteem:
119 She bids Him wait Her to the Sacred Hall;
120 Shows Him Prince Edward, and the conquer'd Gaul;
121 Fixing the bloody Cross upon His Breast,
122 Says, He must Dye, or succour the Distress'd:
123 Placing the Saint an Emblem by His Side,
124 She tells Him, Virtue arm'd must conquer lawless Pride.
125 The Hero bows obedient, and retires:
126 The Queen's Commands exalt the Warrior's Fires.
127 His Steps are to the silent Woods inclin'd,
128 The great Design revolving in his Mind:
129 When to his Sight a Heav'nly Form appears:
130 Her Hand a Palm, her Head a Lawrel wears.
131 Me, She begins, the fairest Child of Jove,
132 Below for ever sought, and bless'd above;
133 Me, the bright Source of Wealth, and Power, and Fame;
134 (Nor need I say, Victoria is my Name:)
135 Me the great Father down to Thee has sent:
136 He bids Me wait at Thy distinguish'd Tent,
137 To execute what Anna's Wish would have:
138 Her Subject Thou, I only am Her Slave.
139 Dare then, Thou much belov'd by smiling Fate:
140 For Anna's Sake, and in Her Name, be Great:
141 Go forth, and be to distant Nations known,
142 My future Fav'rite, and My darling Son.
[Page 189]
143 At Schellenberg I'll manifest sustain
144 Thy glorious Cause; and spread my Wings again,
145 Conspicuous o'er Thy Helm, in Blenheim's Plain.
146 The Goddess said, nor would admit Reply;
147 But cut the liquid Air, and gain'd the Sky.
148 His high Commission is thro' Britain known;
149 And thronging Armies to His Standard run.
150 He marches thoughtful; and He speedy sails:
151 (Bless Him, ye Seas! and prosper Him, ye Gales!)
152 Belgia receives Him welcome to her Shores;
153 And William's Death with lessen'd Grief deplores.
154 His Presence only must retrieve That Loss:
155 Marlbrô to Her must be what William was.
156 So when great Atlas, from these low Aboads
157 Recall'd, was gather'd to his Kindred-Gods;
158 Alcides respited by prudent Fate,
159 Sustain'd the Ball, nor droop'd beneath the Weight.
160 Secret and Swift behold the Chief advance;
161 Sees half the Empire join'd, and Friend to France:
162 The British General dooms the Fight: His Sword
163 Dreadful He draws: The Captains wait the Word.
164 Anne and St. George, the charging Hero cries:
165 Shrill Echo from the neighb'ring Wood replies
166 Anne and St. George. At That auspicious Sign
167 The Standards move; the adverse Armies join.
168 Of Eight great Hours, Time measures out the Sands;
169 And Europe's Fate in doubtful Balance stands:
[Page 190]
170 The Ninth, Victoria comes: o'er Marlbrô's Head
171 Confess'd She sits: the Hostile Troops recede:
172 Triumphs the Goddess, from her Promise freed.
173 The Eagle, by the British Lion's Might
174 Unchain'd and Free, directs her upward Flight:
175 Nor did She e'er with stronger Pinions soar
176 From Tyber's Banks, than now from Danube's Shoar.
177 Fir'd with the Thoughts which these Ideas raise,
178 And great Ambition of my Country's Praise;
179 The English Muse should like the Mantuan rise;
180 Scornful of Earth and Clouds, should reach the Skies,
181 With Wonder (tho' with Envy still) pursu'd by human Eyes.
182 But We must change the Style. Just now I said,
183 I ne'er was Master of the tuneful Trade.
184 Or the small Genius which my Youth could boast,
185 In Prose and Business lies extinct and lost:
186 Bless'd, if I may some younger Muse excite;
187 Point out the Game, and animate the Flight:
188 That from Marseilles to Calais France may know,
189 As We have Conqu'rors, We have Poets too;
190 And either Laurel does in Britain grow:
191 That, tho' amongst our selves, with too much Heat,
192 We sometimes wrangle, when We should debate;
193 (A consequential Ill which Freedom draws;
194 A bad Effect, but from a Noble Cause:)
195 We can with universal Zeal advance,
196 To curb the faithless Arrogance of France.
[Page 191]
197 Nor ever shall Britannia's Sons refuse
198 To answer to thy Master, or thy Muse;
199 Nor want just Subject for victorious Strains,
200 While Marlbrô's Arm Eternal Laurel gains;
201 And where old Spencer sung, a new Elisa reigns.


  • TEI/XML [chunk] (XML - 477K / ZIP - 50K) / ECPA schema (RNC - 357K / ZIP - 73K)
  • Plain text [excluding paratexts] (TXT - 9.0K / ZIP - 4.7K)

Facsimile (Source Edition)

(Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [H 6.8 Art.].)



All Images (PDF - 12M)

About this text

Title (in Source Edition): A LETTER TO Monsieur Boileau Despreaux; Occasion'd by the VICTORY at BLENHEIM, 1704.
Author: Matthew Prior
Genres: epistle

Text view / Document view

Source edition

Prior, Matthew, 1664-1721. 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. []-191. [42],506,[6]p.: ill.; 2°. (ESTC T075639) (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [H 6.8 Art.].)

Editorial principles

Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Matthew Prior