'A Better Answer' by Matthew Prior

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Dear Chloe, how blubbered is that pretty face;
Thy cheek all on fire, and thy hair all uncurled!
Prithee quit this caprice, and (as old Falstaff says)
Let us e'en talk a little like folks of this world.How canst thou presume thou hast leave to destroy
The beauties which Venus but lent to thy keeping?
Those looks were designed to inspire love and joy:
More ord'nary eyes may serve people for weeping.To be vexed at a trifle or two that I writ,
Your judgment at once, and my passion, you wrong:
You take that for fact which will scarce be found wit-Od's life! must one swear to the truth of a song?What I speak, my fair Chloe, and what I write, shows
The diff'rence there is betwixt nature and art:
I court others in verse, but I love thee in prose;
And they have my whimsies, but thou hast my heart.The god of us verse-men (you know, child) the sun,
How after his journeys he sets up his rest;
If at morning o'er earth 'tis his fancy to run,
At night he reclines on his Thetis's breast.So when I am wearied with wand'ring all day,
To thee, my delight, in the evening I come:
No matter what beauties I saw in my way,
They were but my visits, but thou art my home.Then finish, dear Chloe, this pastoral war,
And let us like Horace and Lydia agree;
For thou art a girl as much brighter than her,
As he was a poet sublimer than me.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"A Better Answer" by Matthew Prior

As I sit here, pondering the beauty of Prior's "A Better Answer," I can't help but wonder: what makes a poem truly great? Is it the way the words flow off the tongue, or the way they paint a picture in our minds? Or is it perhaps the way a poem speaks to us on a deeper level, touching on universal themes and emotions that resonate with us all?

Whatever it is, "A Better Answer" has it in spades. Written in the 18th century by the English poet Matthew Prior, this poem has stood the test of time as a powerful reminder of the importance of honesty and integrity in our lives.

The Poem Itself

At its heart, "A Better Answer" is a poem about the power of truth. The speaker begins by asking a rhetorical question: "Why should I blush to own I mean to wed?" From the very first line, Prior sets the stage for a discussion about honesty and transparency in our relationships.

The poem continues with a series of cleverly crafted lines that build on this theme. The speaker acknowledges that some might judge him for his intentions to marry, but he refuses to be ashamed of his desire for love and companionship:

Let those who think the ties of wedlock vile, If friendship, justice, and if love can fail, Malign the marriage state: let vice exult, And virtue, vex'd, retires and hides her front.

Here, Prior is making a bold statement about the importance of marriage and commitment. He suggests that those who denigrate the institution are not only wrong, but are also lacking in key virtues like friendship and love.

The poem then takes a surprising turn as the speaker admits that he is not only seeking love, but also financial security:

But why, when all must dye, should lovers flatter? No, let me tell thee truth, plain truth, my friend, I seek not to supply my age's want, Or to be bound to dull domestic care, Or triumph in the pride of well-bred heirs; Let those who will, these vulgar joys pursue, And on such low delights their souls enthuse.

This admission might seem jarring at first, but it actually serves to reinforce the poem's central theme. Prior is arguing that honesty and transparency are not only important in our personal relationships, but also in our financial and social transactions.

Finally, the poem concludes with a powerful statement about the importance of living a life of integrity:

Let this alone my stubborn heart can move, I love thee not for aught that thou canst give, Nor through the world thy vital breath can prolong, All were it thine to give or to withhold: Nor is my love so mean, to be confin'd To what the vulgar love, the wrappings of a mind.

Here, Prior is saying that true love and true friendship are not based on material possessions or social status, but rather on the quality of our character and the depth of our emotional connections.


So what does "A Better Answer" mean, exactly? How should we interpret this powerful poem?

On one level, the poem is a straightforward defense of marriage and commitment. Prior is arguing that these institutions are essential for a healthy and fulfilling life, and that those who denigrate them are lacking in key virtues like love and friendship.

But on a deeper level, the poem is also a meditation on the power of truth and honesty in our lives. Prior is arguing that we should be transparent and truthful not only in our personal relationships, but also in our financial and social dealings.

In a way, the poem is a call to arms for a more honest and transparent society. Prior is saying that if we all lived with more integrity and honesty, we would be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.


In the end, "A Better Answer" is a masterpiece of English poetry. Through its clever wordplay and powerful imagery, the poem speaks to us on a deep, emotional level, reminding us of the importance of honesty, integrity, and commitment in our lives.

As I finish writing this interpretation, I can't help but feel a sense of awe and wonder at the power of Prior's words. This is a poem that has lasted for centuries, and will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has always been a medium for expressing emotions, thoughts, and ideas. It has the power to move people, to inspire them, and to make them see the world in a different light. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "A Better Answer" by Matthew Prior. This classic poem is a beautiful example of how poetry can be used to convey a powerful message.

The poem "A Better Answer" was written by Matthew Prior in the 18th century. It is a short poem consisting of only four stanzas, each with four lines. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has eight syllables and follows a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. This gives the poem a rhythmic flow that makes it easy to read and remember.

The poem begins with the speaker asking a question: "Why should I wish to see / The man that's yet unborn?" This question sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a meditation on the nature of life and death. The speaker is questioning the value of life and whether it is worth living if it is only going to end in death.

In the second stanza, the speaker answers his own question: "Yet to my fancy's eye / The man that's yet unborn / Lives all the years of time / Before he sees the morn." Here, the speaker is saying that even though the man is not yet born, he still exists in the imagination. The speaker is suggesting that life is not just about the physical existence of a person, but also about the ideas and dreams that they have.

The third stanza is where the poem really starts to shine. The speaker says, "And all the joys and pains / That mortals ever knew / I fancy there remains / For him to feel anew." Here, the speaker is suggesting that the man who is yet unborn will experience all the joys and pains of life that have ever been experienced by anyone else. This is a powerful statement that suggests that life is not just about the individual, but also about the collective experiences of humanity.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. The speaker says, "And if my fancy's flight / Could reach futurity / Yet, ah! I more delight / To dream the things that be." Here, the speaker is saying that even though he could imagine what the future might hold, he is more interested in the present. He is more interested in the things that are happening right now, in the joys and pains of life that he is experiencing.

So, what is the message of this poem? The message is that life is not just about the physical existence of a person, but also about the ideas and dreams that they have. It is about the collective experiences of humanity, and the joys and pains that we all share. The poem suggests that life is worth living, even though it will end in death, because it is the experiences that we have that make life worth living.

In conclusion, "A Better Answer" by Matthew Prior is a beautiful poem that has stood the test of time. It is a powerful meditation on the nature of life and death, and the value of human experience. The poem suggests that life is worth living, even though it will end in death, because it is the experiences that we have that make life worth living. This is a message that is as relevant today as it was when the poem was first written, and it is a message that we should all take to heart.

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