To The Honourable Charles Montague, Esq.

A poem by Matthew Prior

Howe'er, 'tis well that, while mankind
Through fate's perverse meander errs,
He can imagined pleasures find
To combat against real cares.

Fancies and notions he pursues,
Which ne'er had being but in thought;
Each, like the Grecian artist, wooes,
The image he himself has wrought.

Against experience he believes;
He argues against demonstration:
Pleased when his reason he deceives,
And sets his judgement by his passion.

The hoary fool, who many days
Has struggled with continued sorrow,
Renew's his hope, and blindly lays
The desperate bet upon to-morrow.

To-morrow comes: 'tis noon, 'tis night:
This day like all the former flies;
Yet on he runs to seek delight
To-morrow, till to-night he dies.

Our hopes like towering falcons aim
At objects in an airy height:
The little pleasure of the game
Is from afar to view the flight.

Our anxious pains we all the day
In search of what we like employ;
Scorning at night the worthless prey,
We find the labour gave the joy.

At distance through an artful glass
To the mind's eye things well appear;
They lose their forms, and make a mass
Confused and black, if brought too near.

If we see right we see our woes:
Then what avails it to have eyes?
From ignorance our comfort flows:
The only wretched are the wise.

We weary'd should lie down in death:
This cheat of life would take no more
If you thought fame but empty breath,
I Phillis but a perjured whore.

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