Alma; or, The Progress of the Mind. In Three Cantos. - Canto II.

But shall we take the Muse abroad,
To drop her idly on the road,
And leave our subject in the middle,
As Butler did his Bear and Fiddle?
Yet he, consummate master, knew
When to recede and where pursue:
His noble negligence teach
What others' toils despair to reach.
He, perfect dancer, climbs the rope,
And balances your fear and hope.
If, after some distinguished leap,
He drops his pole, and seems to slip,
Straight gathering all his active strength,
He rises higher half his length:
With wonder you approve his sleight,
And owe your pleasure to your fright:
But like poor Andrew I advance,
False mimic of my master's dance;
Around the chord a while I sprawl,
And thence, though low, in earnest fall.

My preface tells you I digress'd;
He's half absolved who has confess'd.

I like, quoth Dick, your simile,
And in return take two from me.
As masters in the
clare-obscure

With various light your eyes allure,
A flaming yellow here they spread,
Draw off in blue, or change in red;
Yet from these colours oddly mix'd
Your sight upon the whole is fix'd:
Or as, again, your courtly dames
(Whose clothes returning birthday claims)
By arts improve the stuffs they vary,
And things are best as most contrary;
The gown with stiff embroidery shining,
Looks charming with a slighter lining;
Look out, if Indian figure stain,
The in-side must be rich and plain:
So you, great authors, have thought fit
To make digression temper wit:
You calm them with a milder air:
To break their points you turn their force,
And furbelow the plain discourse.

Richard, quoth Matt, these words of thine
Speak something sly and something fine;
But I shall e'en resume my theme,
However thou may'st praise or blame.

As people marry now and settle,
Fierce Love abates his usual mettle;
Worldly desires and household cares
Disturb the godhead's soft affairs:
So now, as health or temper changes,
In larger compass Alma ranges,
This day below, the next above,
As light or solid whimsies move.
So merchant has his house in Town,
And country seat near Bansted Down;
From one he dates his foreign letters,
Sends out his goods and duns his debtors:
In th' other, at his hours of leisure,
He smokes his pipe, and takes his pleasure.

And now your matrimonial Cupid,
Lash'd on by Time, grows tired and stupid:
For story and experience tell us
That man grows cold and woman jealous.
Both would their solid ends secure;
He sighs for freedom she for power:
His wishes tend abroad to roam,
And hers to domineer at home.
Thus passion flags by slow degrees,
And ruffled more delighted legs,
The busy mind does seldom go
To those once charming seats below;
For well-bred feints and future wars,
(When he last autumn lay a-dying)
Was but to gain him to appoint her
By codicil a larger jointure:
The woman finds it all a trick
That he could swoon when she was sick,
And knows that in that grief he reckon'd
One black-eyed Susan for his second.

Thus having strove some tedious years
With feign'd desires and real fears,
And tired with answers and replies
Of John affirms, and Martha lies,
Leaving this endless altercation,
The mind affects a higher station.

Poltis, that generous king of Thrace,
I think was in this very case.
All Asia now was by the ears,
And gods beat up for volunteers
To Greece and Troy, while Poltis sate
In quiet, governing his state.
And whence, said the pacific king,
Does all this noise and discord spring?
Why, Paris took Atrides' wife -
With ease I could compose this strife:
The injured hero should not lose,
Nor the young lover want, a spouse.
But Helen changed her first condition
Without her husband's just permission.
What from the dame can Paris hope?
She may as well from him elope.
Again, How can her old good man
With honour take her back again?
From hence I logically gather
The woman cannot live with either.
Now I have two right honest wives,
For whose possession no man strives:
One to Atrides I will send,
And t'other to my Trojan friend.
Each prince shall thus with honour have
What both so warmly seem to crave;
The wrath of gods and men shall cease,
And Poltis live and die in peace.

Dick, if this story pleaseth thee,
Pray thank Dan Pope, who told it me.

Howe'er swift Alma's flight may vary,
(Take this by way of corollary)
Some limbs she finds the very same
In place, and dignity, and name:
These dwell at such convenient dista
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Matthew Prior

Matthew Prior was an English poet and diplomat. more…

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"Alma; or, The Progress of the Mind. In Three Cantos. - Canto II." Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 17 Sep. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/27319/alma;-or,-the-progress-of-the-mind.-in-three-cantos.---canto-ii.>.

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