Matthew Prior

1664 - 1721 / Dorset / England

An Epistle To Fleetwood Shephard, Esq.

When crowding folks, with strange ill faces,
Were making legs, and begging places,
And some with patents, some with merit,
Tired out my good Lord Dorset's spirit:
Sneaking I stood amongst the crew,
Desiring much to speak with you.
I waited while the clock struck thrice,
And footman brought out fifty lies;
Till, patience vex'd, and legs grown weary,
I thought it was in vain to tarry!
But did opine it might be better,
By penny-post to send a letter;
Now, if you miss of this epistle,
I'm baulk'd again, and may go whistle.
My business, Sir, you'll quickly guess,
Is to desire some little place;
And fair pretensions I have for't,
Much need, and very small desert.
Whene'er I writ to you, I wanted;
I always begg'd, you always granted.
Now, as you took me up when little,
Gave me my learning and my vittle;
Ask'd for me, from my lord, things fitting,
Kind as I'd been your own begetting;
Confirm what formerly you've given,
Nor leave me now at six and seven,
As Sunderland has left Mun Stephen.
No family, that takes a whelp
When first he laps, and scarce can yelp,
Neglects or turns him out of gate
When he's grown up to dog's estate:
No parish, if they once adopt
The spurious brats by strollers dropp'd,
Leave them, when grown up lusty fellows,
To, the wide world, that is, the gallows:
No thank them for their love, that's worse,
Than if they'd throttled them at nurse.
My uncle, rest his soul! when living,
Might have contrived me ways of thriving;
Taught me with cyder to replenish
My vats, or ebbing tide of Rhenish.
So when for hock I drew prickt white-wine,
Swear't had the flavour, and was right wine.
Or sent me with ten pounds to Furni-
val's Inn, to some good rogue attorney;
Where now, by forging deeds, and cheating,
I'd found some handsome ways of getting.
All this you made me quit, to follow
That sneaking whey-faced god Apollo;
Sent me among a fiddling crew
Of folks, I'd never seen nor knew,
Calliope, and God knows who,
To add no more invectives to i,
You spoil'd the youth, to make a poet.
In common justice, Sir, there's no man
That makes the whore, but keeps the woman.
Amongst all honest Christian people,
Whoe'er breaks limbs, maintains the cripple.
The sum of all I have to say,
Is, that you'll put me in some way;
And your petitioner shall pray--
There's one thing more I had almost slipt,
But that may do as well in postscript:
My friend Charles Montague's preferr'd;
Nor would I have it long observed,
That one mouse eats, while t'other starved.
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