A.E. Stallings on her selection:
Matthew Prior (1664 – 1721) rose from humble beginnings--he was the nephew of a tavern owner--to be one of the most important poets of his day, and to serve as a diplomat in the Hague and Paris. He is known now for his satirical poems and vers de société. "Jinny the Just" is an elegy for a real person: Jane Ansley, a widow from Flanders, who served as Prior's housekeeper, and was also his mistress. (Prior never married.) Poem-as-portrait is a relatively rare genre. (Not many other good examples spring to my mind--Brooks' "Rites for Cousin Vit" is one.) I like that this isn't about an idealized young woman, but a capable middle-aged woman who rules her domestic sphere, and whom we really get to know. I love the deep affection and gentle humor in the poem, which somehow makes it all the more affecting.
Matthew Prior at the Poetry Foundation
Intro and outro from "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0
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