Jinny the Just


Releas'd from the noise of the butcher and baker
Who, my old friends be thanked, did seldom forsake her,
And from the soft duns of my landlord the Quaker,

From chiding the footmen and watching the lasses,
From Neil that burn'd milk, and Tom that broke glasses
(Sad mischiefs thro' which a good housekeeper passes!)

From some real care but more fancied vexation,
From a life parti-colour'd half reason half passion,
Here lies after all the best wench in the nation.

From the Rhine to the Po, from the Thames to the Rhone,
Joanna or Janneton, Jinny or Joan,
'Twas all one to her by which name she was known.

For the idiom of words very little she heeded,
Provided the matter she drove at succeeded,
She took and gave languages just as she needed.

So for kitchen and market, for bargain and sale,
She paid English or Dutch or French down on the nail,
But in telling a story she sometimes did fail;

Then begging excuse as she happen'd to stammer,
With respect to her betters but none to her grammar,
Her blush helped her out and her jargon became her.

Her habit and mien she endeavour'd to frame
To the different gout of the place where she came;
Her outside still chang'd, but her inside the same:

At the Hague in her slippers and hair as the mode is,
At Paris all falbalow'd fine as a goddess,
And at censuring London in smock sleeves and bodice.

She order'd affairs that few people could tell
In what part about her that mixture did dwell
Of Frow, or Mistress, or Mademoiselle.

For her surname and race let the heralds e'en answer;
Her own proper worth was enough to advance her,
And he who liked her little valued her grandsire.

But from what house so ever her lineage may come
I wish my own Jinny but out of her tomb,
Tho' all her relations were there in her room.

Of such terrible beauty she never could boast
As with absolute sway o'er all hearts rules the roast
When J----- bawls out to the chair for a toast;

But of good household features her person was made,
Nor by faction cried up nor of censure afraid,
And her beauty was rather for use than parade.

Her blood so well mix't and flesh so well pasted
That, tho' her youth faded, her comeliness lasted;
The blue was wore off, but the plum was well tasted.

Less smooth than her skin and less white than her breast
Was this polished stone beneath which she lies pressed;
Stop, reader, and sigh while thou think'st on the rest.

With a just trim of virtue her soul was endued,
Not affectedly pious nor secretly lewd
She cut even between the coquette and the prude.

Her will with her duty so equally stood
That, seldom oppos'd, she was commonly good,
And did pretty well, doing just what she would.

Declining all power, she found means to persuade,
Was then most regarded when most she obey'd,
The mistress in truth when she seem'd but the maid.

Such care of her own proper actions she took
That on other folk's lives she had no time to look,
So censure and praise were struck out of her book.

Her thought still confin'd to its own little sphere,
She minded not who did excel or did err
But just as the matter related to her.

Then too when her private tribunal was rear'd
Her mercy so mix'd with her judgment appear'd
That her foes were condemned and her friends always clear'd.

Her religion so well with her learning did suit
That in practice sincere, and in controverse mute,
She show'd she knew better to live than dispute.

Some parts of the Bible by heart she recited,
And much in historical chapters delighted,
But in points about Faith she was something short sighted;

So notions and modes she refer'd to the schools,
And in matters of conscience adhere'd to two rules,
To advise with no bigots, and jest with no fools.

And scrupling but little, enough she believ'd,
By charity ample small sins she retriev'd,
And when she had new clothes she always receiv'd.

Thus still whilst her morning unseen fled away
In ord'ring the linen and making the tea
That she scarce could have time for the psalms of the day;

And while after dinner the night came so soon
That half she propos'd very seldom was done;
With twenty God bless me's, how this day is gone! -

While she read and accounted and paid and abated,
Ate and drank, play's and work'd, laughed and cried, lov'd and hated,
As answered the end of her being created:

In the midst of her age came a cruel disease
Which neither her juleps not receipts could appease;
So down dropp'd her clay may her Soul be at peace!

Retire from this sepulchre all the profane,
You that love for debauch, or that marry for gain,
Retire lest ye trouble the Manes of J.....

But thou that know'st love above int'rest or lust,
Strew the myrtle and rose on this once belov'd dust,
And shed one pious tear upon Jinny the Just.

Tread soft on her grave, and do right to her honour,
Let neither rude hand nor ill tongue light upon her,
Do all the small favours that now can be done her.

And when what thou lik'd shall return to her clay,
For so I'm persuaded she must do one day
Whatever fantastic J[ohn] Asgill may say

When as I have done now, thou shalt set up a stone
For something however distinguished or known,
May some pious friend the misfortune bemoan,
And make thy concern by reflexion his own.

Matthew Prior, 1664-1721

Return to Garden