For My Own Monument

A poem by Matthew Prior

As doctors give physic by way of prevention,
Matt., alive and in health, of his tombstone take care;
For delays are unsafe, and his pious intention
May haply be never fulfill'd by his heir.

Then take Matt's word for it, the sculptor is paid;
That the figure is fine, pray believe your own eye;
Yet credit but lightly what more may be said,
For we flatter ourselves, and teach marble to lie.

Yet counting as far as to fifty years,
His virtues and vices were as other men's are;
High hopes he conceived, and he smother'd great fears,
In a life party-colour'd, half pleasure, half care.

Nor to bus'ness a drudge, nor to faction a slave,
He strove to make interest and freedom agree;
In public employments industrious and grave,
And alone with his friends, lord, how merry was he.

Now in equipage stately, now humbly on foot,
Both fortunes he tried, but to neither would trust;
And whirled in the round as the wheel turn'd about,
He found riches had wings, and knew man was but dust.

This verse, little polish'd, though mighty sincere,
Sets neither his titles nor merit to view;
It says that his relics collected lie here,
And no mortal yet knows if this may be true.

Fierce robbers there are that infest the high-way,
So Matt may be kill'd, and his bones never found;
False witness at court, and fierce tempests at sea,
So Matt may yet chance to be hang'd or be drown'd.

If his bones lie in earth, roll in sea, fly in air,
To Fate we must yield, and the thing is the same;
And if passing thou givest him a smile or a tear,
He cares not, yet pr'ythee be kind to his fame.

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