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The death of queen Mary (in 1695) produced a subject for all the writers: perhaps no funeral was ever so poetically attended. Dryden, indeed, as a man discountenanced and deprived, was silent; but scarcely any other maker of verses omitted to bring his tribute of tuneful forrow. An emulation of elegy was universal. Maria's praise was not confined to the English language, but fills a great part of the Musa Anglicana.
Prior, who was both a poet and a courtier, was not likely to miss this opportunity of refpect. He wrote a long ode, which was presented to the king, by whom it was not likely to be ever read,
In two years he was secretary to another embassy at the treaty of Ryswick (in 1697); and next year had the same office at the court of France, where he is faid to have been considered with great distin&ion, ,
As he was one day surveying the apartments at Versailles, being shewn the Victories Lewis, painted by Le Brun, and asked
whether the king of England's palace had any such decorations; The monuments of my Master's actions, faid he, are to be seen everywhere but in his own house. The pictures of Le Brun are not only in themselves sufficiently oftentatious, but were explained by inscriptions so arrogant, that Boileau and Racine thought it necessary to make them more fimple.
He was in the following year at Loo with the king; from whom, after a long audience, he carried orders to England, and upon his arrival became under-secretary of state in the earl of Jersey's office; a post which he did not retain long, because Jersey was removed; but he was foon made commissioner of Trade.
This year (1700) produced one of his longest and most splendid compositions, the Carmen Seculare, in which he exhausts all his powers of celebration. I mean not to accuse him of flattery; he probably thought all that he writ, and retained as much verącity as can be properly exacted from a poet professedly encomiaftic. King William fupplicd copious materials for either verse or profe.
His whole life had been action, and no man ever denied him the resplendent qualities of steady resolution and personal courage. He was really in Prior's mind what he represents him in his verfes; he considered him as a hero, and was accustomed to say, that he praised others in compliance with the fashion, but that in celebrating king William he followed his inclination. To Prior gratitude would dictate praise, which reason would not refuse.
Among the advantages to arise from the future years of William's reign, he mentions Societies for useful Arts, and among them Some that with care true eloquence shall teach, And to just idioms fix our doubtful speech; That from our writers distant realms may know The thanks we to our monarch owe, And schools profess our tongue through every
land, That has invok'd his aid, or bless'd his hand.
Țickell, in his Prospect of Peace, has thę same hope of a new academy:
In happy chains our daring language bound,
Whether the fimilitude of those passages which exhibit the same thought on the fame occasion proceeded from accident or imitation, is not easy to determine. Tickell might have been impressed with his expectation by Swift's Proposal for ascertaining the English Language, then lately published,
In the parliament that met in 1701, he was chosen representative of East Grinstead, Perhaps it was about this time that he changed his party; for he voted for the impeachment of those lords who had persuaded the king to the Partition-treaty, a treaty in which he had himself been ministerially employed.
A great part of queen
Anne's reign was a time of war, in which there was little.employment for negotiators, and Prior had therefore leisure to make or to polish verses. When the battle of Blenheim called forth all the verse-men, Prior, among the rest, took care to fhew his delight in the increasing honour of his country by an Epistle to Boileau,
He published foon afterwards a volume of poems, with the encomiaftic character of his
deceased patron the duke of Dorset: it began with the College Exercise, and ended with the Nut-brown Maid,
The battle of Ramillies soon afterwards (in 1706) excited him to another effort of poetry. On this occasion he had fewer or less formidable rivals; and it would be not easy to name any other composition produced by that event which is now remembered.
Every thing has its day. Through the reigns of William and Anne no prosperous event passed undignified by poetry. In the last war, when France was disgraced and overpowered in every quarter of the globe, when Spain coming to her assistance only shared her calamities, and the name of an Englishman was reverenced through Europe, no poet was heard amidst the general acclamation; the fame of our counsellors and he roes was intrusted to the Gazetteer,
The nation in time grew weary of the war, and the queen grew weary of her mi nisters. The war was burdensome, and the ministers were insolent. Harley and his