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pression of that gratitude which is a lively sense of favours to come. He explains frankly in the Heads of a Treatise upon Learning before mentioned, why he less often allowed himself the pleasures of burlesque, as in the Ballad on Namur. “From the prospect of some little fortune to be made, and friendship to be cultivated with the great men, I did not launch much into satire; which, however agreeable for the present to the writers or encouragers of it, does in time do neither of them good; considering the uncertainty of fortune and the various changes of the Ministry, and that every man as he resents, may punish in his turn of greatness, and that in England a man is less safe as to politics than he is in a bark upon the coast, in regard to the change of the wind and the danger of shipwreck.” Prior's Alma shows that he was a greater master than Swift or Pope of the Hudibrastic or octosyllabic verse, of which he makes use in his much-praised Tales. The latter are the first English poems of their kind," and are skilfully composed with due regard to clearness, adornment, and brevity, and none to decency. There is a passage in an anonymous and in these days altogether unquoteable tale called the Tit-Bit, which was published in 1738, and shows what some of Prior's contemporaries liked best in his poems and the reasons of their choice.
* “This same invention seems of late years to have been forgotten as a Poetical Excellence,” wrote Keats in 1817.
“A waggish jest, if cleanly told,
The passage may serve as some sort of apology for Prior's licences. The Ballad of Downhall, An English Padlock, A Conversation, and the Epistles to Fleetwood Shepherd, are equally, chatty and more refined; but they are not generally classed with the Tales, since they have no definite story running through them. The Horatian verses in Robbes' Geography, and those in Mézéray's History have acquired an accidental value from Sir Walter Scott's attachment to them, as related in Ilockhart's Life, chap. lxxx.; while those poems which some industrious persons have discovered to be imitations need not be considered inferior on that account. In those days it was inexpedient for a writer to acknowledge the sources of his inspiration, and Prior kept silence like the rest. At the end of an edition of Poems on Several Occusions, printed for T. Johnson in 1720, will be found three French songs by one Bonnesons, from which Love Disarmed, Cupid and Ganymede, and Cupid Mistaken, are said to be derived; while a contributor to the “Gentleman's Magazine” traces Cupid Mistaken, Venus Mistaken, and Chloe Weeping, to the Latin of one Angerianus, and suggests that Prior was laughing at his readers in calling the Greek adage—
(expanded into a poem, vol. i. p. 127) a Dutch Proverb. He was capable of turning other men's work to his own uses and had a right to do so; though he once made a pitiful error in his own special branch of art by trying to improve the Spenserian stanza.
His best work will be found in his gay and picturesque trifles, the vers de Société, in the composition of which his mantle has fallen on his editor, Mr. Dobson. Prior was admirable in an epigram, an enigma, or a song. With respect to these, Cowper's lines on Pope might be applied to him,
“As harmony itself exact,
He possessed also the “musical finesse,” the “nice ear,” and the “delicate touch " which Mrs. Unwin's friend attributed to that pungent satirist. For Prior, life had no deeper meaning, and as we turn over his shorter poems, their light-heartedness, their finish, and their laisser faire philosophy manifest to us that here indeed,—
SUI temporis Historiam meditante Paulatim obrepens Febris Operi simul et vitæ filum abrupit. Sep. 18. An. Dom. 1721. ætat. 57. H. S. E. Vir eximius Serenissimis Regi Gulielmo, Reginæque Mariæ In congressione fœderatorum Hagæ Anno 1690 celebrata Deinde Magnæ Britanniæ Legatis ' Tum iis Qui Anno 1697 Pacem Ryswicki confecerunt Tum iis Qui apud Gallos Annis proximis Legationem obierunt Eodem etiam Anno 1697 in Hibernia Secretarius Necnon in utroque honorabili confessu Eorum Qui Anno 1700 ordinandis commercii negotiis Quique Anno 1711 dirigendis Portorii rebus Praesidehant I. I. e