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92Y's Read By

Feb 21, 2021

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

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0