The Poetical Works of John Dryden, Vol II
Part 4 out of 7
BY NATHAN LEE, 1678.
You've seen a pair of faithful lovers die:
And much you care; for most of you will cry,
'Twas a just judgment on their constancy.
For, heaven be thank'd, we live in such an age,
When no man dies for love, but on the stage:
And even those martyrs are but rare in plays;
A cursed sign how much true faith decays.
Love is no more a violent desire;
'Tis a mere metaphor, a painted fire.
In all our sex, the name examined well, 10
Tis pride to gain, and vanity to tell.
In woman, 'tis of subtle interest made:
Curse on the punk that made it first a trade!
She first did wit's prerogative remove,
And made a fool presume to prate of love.
Let honour and preferment go for gold;
But glorious beauty is not to be sold:
Or, if it be, 'tis at a rate so high,
That nothing but adoring it should buy.
Yet the rich cullies may their boasting spare; 20
They purchase but sophisticated ware.
'Tis prodigality that buys deceit,
Where both the giver and the taker cheat.
Men but refine on the old half-crown way;
And women fight, like Swissers, for their pay.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "OEDIPUS."
When Athens all the Grecian state did guide,
And Greece gave laws to all the world beside;
Then Sophocles with Socrates did sit,
Supreme in wisdom one, and one in wit:
And wit from wisdom differ'd not in those,
But as 'twas sung in verse, or said in prose.
Then, Oedipus, on crowded theatres,
Drew all admiring eyes and listening ears:
The pleased spectator shouted every line,
The noblest, manliest, and the best design! 10
And every critic of each learned age,
By this just model has reform'd the stage.
Now, should it fail (as Heaven avert our fear),
Damn it in silence, lest the world should hear.
For were it known this poem did not please,
You might set up for perfect savages:
Your neighbours would not look on you as men,
But think the nation all turn'd Picts again.
Faith, as you manage matters, 'tis not fit
You should suspect yourselves of too much wit: 20
Drive not the jest too far, but spare this piece;
And, for this once, be not more wise than Greece.
See twice: do not pellmell to damning fall,
Like true-born Britons, who ne'er think at all:
Pray be advised; and though at Mons you won,
On pointed cannon do not always run.
With some respect to ancient wit proceed;
You take the four first councils for your creed.
But, when you lay tradition wholly by,
And on the private spirit alone rely, 30
You turn fanatics in your poetry.
If, notwithstanding all that we can say,
You needs will have your penn'orths of the play,
And come resolved to damn, because you pay,
Record it, in memorial of the fact,
The first play buried since the woollen act.
* * * * *
EPILOGUE TO "OEDIPUS."
What Sophocles could undertake alone,
Our poets found a work for more than one;
And therefore two lay tugging at the piece,
With all their force, to draw the ponderous mass from Greece;
A weight that bent e'en Seneca's strong Muse,
And which Corneille's shoulders did refuse:
So hard it is the Athenian harp to string!
So much two consuls yield to one just king!
Terror and pity this whole poem sway;
The mightiest machines that can mount a play. 10
How heavy will those vulgar souls be found,
Whom two such engines cannot move from ground!
When Greece and Rome have smiled upon this birth,
You can but damn for one poor spot of earth:
And when your children find your judgment such,
They'll scorn their sires, and wish themselves born Dutch;
Each haughty poet will infer, with ease,
How much his wit must underwrite to please.
As some strong churl would, brandishing, advance
The monumental sword that conquer'd France; 20
So you, by judging this, your judgment teach,
Thus far you like, that is, thus far you reach.
Since, then, the vote of full two thousand years
Has crown'd this plot, and all the dead are theirs,
Think it a debt you pay, not alms you give,
And, in your own defence, let this play live.
Think them not vain, when Sophocles is shown,
To praise his worth they humbly doubt their own.
Yet as weak states each other's power assure,
Weak poets by conjunction are secure. 30
Their treat is what your palates relish most,
Charm! song! and show! a murder and a ghost!
We know not what you can desire or hope
To please you more, but burning of a Pope.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "TROILUS AND CRESSIDA."
SPOKEN BY MR BETTERTON, REPRESENTING THE GHOST OF SHAKSPEARE.
See, my loved Britons, see your Shakspeare rise,
An awful ghost, confess'd, to human eyes!
Unnamed, methinks, distinguish'd I had been
From other shades, by this eternal green,
About whose wreaths the vulgar poets strive,
And with a touch their wither'd bays revive.
Untaught, unpractised in a barbarous age,
I found not, but created first the stage.
And, if I drain'd no Greek or Latin store,
'Twas that my own abundance gave me more. 10
On foreign trade I needed not rely,
Like fruitful Britain, rich without supply.
In this my rough-drawn play you shall behold
Some master strokes, so manly and so bold,
That he who meant to alter, found 'em such,
He shook, and thought it sacrilege to touch.
Now, where are the successors to my name?
What bring they to fill out a poet's fame?
Weak, short-lived issues of a feeble age;
Scarce living to be christen'd on the stage! 20
For humour, farce--for love they rhyme dispense,
That tolls the knell for their departed sense.
Dulness might thrive in any trade, but this
'Twould recommend to some fat benefice:
Dulness, that in a playhouse meets disgrace,
Might meet with reverence in its proper place.
The fulsome clench, that nauseates the town,
Would from a judge or alderman go down;
Such virtue is there in a robe and gown!
And that insipid stuff, which here you hate, 30
Might somewhere else be call'd a grave debate:
Dulness is decent in the church and state.
But I forget that still 'tis understood,
Bad plays are best decried by showing good.
Sit silent, then, that my pleased soul may see
A judging audience once, and worthy me;
My faithful scene from true records shall tell,
How Trojan valour did the Greek excel;
Your great forefathers shall their fame regain,
And Homer's angry ghost repine in vain. 40
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "CAESAR BORGIA;"
BY NATHAN LEE, 1680.
The unhappy man, who once has trail'd a pen,
Lives not to please himself, but other men;
Is always drudging, wastes his life and blood,
Yet only eats and drinks what you think good.
What praise soe'er the poetry deserve,
Yet every fool can bid the poet starve.
That fumbling lecher to revenge is bent,
Because he thinks himself or whore is meant:
Name but a cuckold, all the city swarms;
From Leadenhall to Ludgate is in arms: 10
Were there no fear of Antichrist, or France,
In the bless'd time poor poets live by chance.
Either you come not here, or, as you grace
Some old acquaintance, drop into the place,
Careless and qualmish, with a yawning face:
You sleep o'er wit, and, by my troth, you may;
Most of your talents lie another way.
You love to hear of some prodigious tale,
The bell that toll'd alone, or Irish whale.
News is your food, and you enough provide, 20
Both for yourselves, and all the world beside;
One theatre there is of vast resort,
Which whilome of Requests was called the Court;
But now the great Exchange of News 'tis hight,
And full of hum and buzz from noon till night.
Up stairs and down you run, as for a race,
And each man wears three nations in his face.
So big you look, though claret you retrench,
That, arm'd with bottled ale, you huff the French.
But all your entertainment still is fed 30
By villains in your own dull island bred.
Would you return to us, we dare engage
To show you better rogues upon the stage.
You know no poison but plain ratsbane here;
Death's more refined, and better bred elsewhere.
They have a civil way in Italy,
By smelling a perfume to make you die:
A trick would make you lay your snuff-box by.
Murder's a trade, so known and practised there,
That 'tis infallible as is the Chair. 40
But mark their feast, you shall behold such pranks;
The Pope says grace, but 'tis the Devil gives thanks.
* * * * *
[Footnote 54: 'Caesar Borgia:' a play produced about the time of the
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "SOPHONISBA,"
ACTED AT OXFORD, 1680.
WRITTEN BY NATHAN LEE.
Thespis, the first professor of our art,
At country wakes sung ballads from a cart.
To prove this true, if Latin be no trespass,
"Dicitur et plaustris vexisse poemata Thespis."
But AEschylus, says Horace in some page,
Was the first mountebank that trod the stage:
Yet Athens never knew your learned sport
Of tossing poets in a tennis-court.
But 'tis the talent of our English nation,
Still to be plotting some new reformation: 10
And few years hence, if anarchy goes on,
Jack Presbyter shall here erect his throne,
Knock out a tub with preaching once a day,
And every prayer be longer than a play.
Then all your heathen wits shall go to pot,
For disbelieving of a Popish plot:
Your poets shall be used like infidels,
And worst, the author of the Oxford bells:
Nor should we 'scape the sentence, to depart,
Even in our first original, a cart. 20
No zealous brother there would want a stone
To maul us cardinals, and pelt Pope Joan:
Religion, learning, wit, would be suppress'd--
Rags of the whore, and trappings of the beast:
Scot, Suarez, Tom of Aquin, must go down,
As chief supporters of the triple crown;
And Aristotle's for destruction ripe;
Some say he call'd the soul an organ-pipe,
Which by some little help of derivation,
Shall then be proved a pipe of inspiration. 30
* * * * *
[Footnote 55: 'Thespis:' the inventor of tragedy.]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "THE LOYAL GENERAL;"
BY MR TATE, 1680.
If yet there be a few that take delight
In that which reasonable men should write;
To them alone we dedicate this night.
The rest may satisfy their curious itch
With city-gazettes, or some factious speech,
Or whate'er libel, for the public good,
Stirs up the shrove-tide crew to fire and blood.
Remove your benches, you apostate pit,
And take, above, twelve pennyworth of wit;
Go back to your dear dancing on the rope, 10
Or see, what's worse, the Devil and the Pope.
The plays that take on our corrupted stage,
Methinks, resemble the distracted age;
Noise, madness, all unreasonable things,
That strike at sense, as rebels do at kings.
The style of forty-one our poets write,
And you are grown to judge like forty-eight,
Such censures our mistaking audience make,
That 'tis almost grown scandalous to take.
They talk of fevers that infect the brains; 20
But nonsense is the new disease that reigns.
Weak stomachs, with a long disease oppress'd,
Cannot the cordials of strong wit digest.
Therefore thin nourishment of farce ye choose,
Decoctions of a barley-water Muse:
A meal of tragedy would make ye sick,
Unless it were a very tender chick.
Some scenes in sippets would be worth our time;
Those would go down; some love that's poach'd in rhyme:
If these should fail-- 30
We must lie down, and, after all our cost,
Keep holiday, like watermen in frost;
While you turn players on the world's great stage,
And act yourselves the farce of your own age.
* * * * *
[Footnote 56: 'Forty-one, forty-eight:' referring to the Puritan era,
which some were then seeking to revive.]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD,
The famed Italian Muse, whose rhymes advance
Orlando and the Paladins of France,
Records, that, when our wit and sense is flown,
'Tis lodged within the circle of the moon,
In earthen jars, which one, who thither soar'd,
Set to his nose, snuff'd up, and was restored.
Whate'er the story be, the moral's true;
The wit we lost in town, we find in you.
Our poets their fled parts may draw from hence,
And fill their windy heads with sober sense. 10
When London votes with Southwark's disagree,
Here may they find their long-lost loyalty.
Here busy senates, to the old cause inclined,
May snuff the votes their fellows left behind:
Your country neighbours, when their grain grows dear,
May come, and find their last provision here:
Whereas we cannot much lament our loss,
Who neither carried back, nor brought one cross.
We look'd what representatives would bring;
But they help'd us, just as they did the king. 20
Yet we despair not; for we now lay forth
The Sibyl's books to those who know their worth;
And though the first was sacrificed before,
These volumes doubly will the price restore.
Our poet bade us hope this grace to find,
To whom by long prescription you are kind.
He whose undaunted Muse, with loyal rage,
Has never spared the vices of the age,
Here finding nothing that his spleen can raise,
Is forced to turn his satire into praise. 30
* * * * *
[Footnote 57: 'Prologue:' spoken during the sitting of Parliament there.
See Macaulay's History.]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS,
UPON HIS FIRST APPEARANCE AT THE DUKE'S THEATRE, AFTER HIS RETURN FROM
In those cold regions which no summers cheer,
Where brooding darkness covers half the year,
To hollow caves the shivering natives go;
Bears range abroad, and hunt in tracks of snow:
But when the tedious twilight wears away,
And stars grow paler at the approach of day,
The longing crowds to frozen mountains run;
Happy who first can see the glimmering sun:
The surly savage offspring disappear,
And curse the bright successor of the year. 10
Yet, though rough bears in covert seek defence,
White foxes stay, with seeming innocence:
That crafty kind with daylight can dispense.
Still we are throng'd so full with Reynard's race,
That loyal subjects scarce can find a place:
Thus modest truth is cast behind the crowd:
Truth speaks too low: hypocrisy too loud.
Let them be first to flatter in success;
Duty can stay, but guilt has need to press.
Once, when true zeal the sons of God did call, 20
To make their solemn show at heaven's Whitehall,
The fawning Devil appear'd among the rest,
And made as good a courtier as the best.
The friends of Job, who rail'd at him before,
Came, cap in hand, when he had three times more.
Yet late repentance may, perhaps, be true;
Kings can forgive, if rebels can but sue:
A tyrant's power in rigour is express'd;
The father yearns in the true prince's breast.
We grant, an o'ergrown Whig no grace can mend; 30
But most are babes, that know not they offend.
The crowd, to restless motion still inclined,
Are clouds, that tack according to the wind.
Driven by their chiefs, they storms of hailstones pour;
Then mourn, and soften to a silent shower.
O welcome to this much-offending land,
The prince that brings forgiveness in his hand!
Thus angels on glad messages appear:
Their first salute commands us not to fear.
Thus Heaven, that could constrain us to obey, 40
(With reverence if we might presume to say)
Seems to relax the rights of sovereign sway:
Permits to man the choice of good and ill,
And makes us happy by our own free will.
* * * * *
[Footnote 58: 'Prologue:' spoken when the Duke of York returned from
Scotland in triumph. He went to the theatre in Dorset Gardens, when this
was uttered as the Prologue to "Venice Preserved."]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "THE EARL OF ESSEX; OR, THE UNHAPPY FAVOURITE;"
BY MR J. BANKS, 1682.
SPOKEN TO THE KING AND QUEEN AT THEIR COMING TO THE HOUSE.
When first the ark was landed on the shore,
And Heaven had vow'd to curse the ground no more;
When tops of hills the longing patriarch saw,
And the new scene of earth began to draw;
The dove was sent to view the waves' decrease,
And first brought back to man the pledge of peace.
'Tis needless to apply, when those appear,
Who bring the olive, and who plant it here.
We have before our eyes the royal dove,
Still innocent, as harbinger of love: 10
The ark is open'd to dismiss the train,
And people with a better race the plain.
Tell me, ye Powers! why should vain man pursue,
With endless toil, each object that is new,
And for the seeming substance leave the true?
Why should he quit for hopes his certain good,
And loathe the manna of his daily food?
Must England still the scene of changes be,
Tost and tempestuous, like our ambient sea?
Must still our weather and our wills agree? 20
Without our blood our liberties we have:
Who that is free would fight to be a slave?
Or, what can wars to after-times assure,
Of which our present age is not secure?
All that our monarch would for us ordain,
Is but to enjoy the blessings of his reign.
Our land's an Eden, and the main's our fence,
While we preserve our state of innocence:
That lost, then beasts their brutal force employ,
And first their lord, and then themselves destroy. 30
What civil broils have cost, we know too well;
Oh! let it be enough that once we fell!
And every heart conspire, and every tongue,
Still to have such a king, and this king long.
* * * * *
EPILOGUE FOR "THE KING'S HOUSE."
We act by fits and starts, like drowning men,
But just peep up, and then pop down again.
Let those who call us wicked change their sense;
For never men lived more on Providence.
Not lottery cavaliers are half so poor,
Nor broken cits, nor a vacation whore;
Not courts, nor courtiers living on the rents
Of the three last ungiving parliaments:
So wretched, that, if Pharaoh could divine,
He might have spared his dream of seven lean kine, 10
And changed his vision for the Muses Nine.
The comet that, they say, portends a dearth,
Was but a vapour drawn from play-house earth:
Pent there since our last fire, and, Lilly says,
Foreshows our change of state, and thin third-days.
'Tis not our want of wit that keeps us poor;
For then the printer's press would suffer more.
Their pamphleteers each day their venom spit;
They thrive by treason, and we starve by wit.
Confess the truth, which of you has not laid 20
Four farthings out to buy the Hatfield maid?
Or, which is duller yet, and more would spite us,
Democritus his wars with Heraclitus?
Such are the authors who have run us down,
And exercised you critics of the town.
Yet these are pearls to your lampooning rhymes,
Ye abuse yourselves more dully than the times.
Scandal, the glory of the English nation,
Is worn to rags, and scribbled out of fashion.
Such harmless thrusts, as if, like fencers wise, 30
They had agreed their play before their prize.
Faith! they may hang their harps upon the willows;
'Tis just like children when they box with pillows.
Then put an end to civil wars for shame;
Let each knight-errant, who has wrong'd a dame,
Throw down his pen, and give her, as he can,
The satisfaction of a gentleman.
* * * * *
[Footnote 59: Epilogue spoken in 1682; and full of temporary allusions
now of no earthly interest.]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "THE LOYAL BROTHER; OR, THE PERSIAN PRINCE;"
BY MR SOUTHERN, 1682.
POETS, like lawful monarchs, ruled the stage,
Till critics, like damn'd Whigs, debauch'd our age.
Mark how they jump: critics would regulate
Our theatres, and Whigs reform our state:
Both pretend love, and both (plague rot them!) hate.
The critic humbly seems advice to bring;
The fawning Whig petitions to the king:
But one's advice into a satire slides;
The other's petition a remonstrance hides.
These will no taxes give, and those no pence; 10
Critics would starve the poet, Whigs the prince.
The critic all our troops of friends discards;
Just so the Whig would fain pull down the guards.
Guards are illegal, that drive foes away,
As watchful shepherds, that fright beasts of prey.
Kings, who disband such needless aids as these,
Are safe--as long as e'er their subjects please:
And that would be till next Queen Bess's night: 
Which thus grave penny chroniclers indite.
Sir Edmondbury first, in woful wise, 20
Leads up the show, and milks their maudlin eyes.
There's not a butcher's wife but dribs her part,
And pities the poor pageant from her heart;
Who, to provoke revenge, rides round the fire,
And, with a civil conge, does retire:
But guiltless blood to ground must never fall;
There's Antichrist behind, to pay for all.
The punk of Babylon in pomp appears,
A lewd old gentleman of seventy years:
Whose age in vain our mercy would implore; 30
For few take pity on an old cast whore.
The Devil, who brought him to the shame, takes part;
Sits cheek by jowl, in black, to cheer his heart;
Like thief and parson in a Tyburn-cart.
The word is given, and with a loud huzza
The mitred puppet from his chair they draw:
On the slain corpse contending nations fall:
Alas! what's one poor Pope among them all!
He burns; now all true hearts your triumphs ring:
And, next, for fashion, cry, God save the king! 40
A needful cry in midst of such alarms,
When forty thousand men are up in arms.
But after he's once saved, to make amends,
In each succeeding health they damn his friends:
So God begins, but still the Devil ends.
What if some one, inspired with zeal, should call,
Come, let's go cry, God save him at Whitehall?
His best friends would not like this over-care,
Or think him ere the safer for this prayer.
Five praying saints are by an act allow'd; 50
But not the whole church-militant in crowd.
Yet, should Heaven all the true petitions drain
Of Presbyterians, who would kings maintain,
Of forty thousand, five would scarce remain.
* * * * *
[Footnote 60: 'The Loyal Brother; or, the Persian Prince,' Mr Southern's
first play, acted at Drury-Lane in 1682. The Loyal Brother was intended
for the Duke of York.]
[Footnote 61: 'Queen Bess's night:' alluding to a procession of the
Whigs, carrying party effigies, and a representation of the dead body of
Sir E. Godfrey, on the 17th of November, the birthday of Queen
[Footnote 62: By the Bartholomew Act not more than five Dissenters were
allowed to commune together at one time.]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "THE KING AND QUEEN."
UPON THE UNION OF THE TWO COMPANIES IN 1686.
1 Since faction ebbs, and rogues grow out of fashion,
Their penny scribes take care to inform the nation,
How well men thrive in this or that plantation:
2 How Pennsylvania's air agrees with Quakers,
And Carolina's with Associators:
Both even too good for madmen and for traitors.
3 Truth is, our land with saints is so run o'er,
And every age produces such a store,
That now there's need of two New-Englands more.
4 What's this, you'll say, to us and our vocation?
Only thus much, that we have left our station,
And made this theatre our new plantation.
5 The factious natives never could agree;
But aiming, as they call'd it, to be free,
Those playhouse Whigs set up for property.
6 Some say, they no obedience paid of late;
But would new fears and jealousies create;
Till topsy-turvy they had turn'd the state.
7 Plain sense, without the talent of foretelling,
Might guess 'twould end in downright knocks and quelling:
For seldom comes there better of rebelling.
8 When men will, needlessly, their freedom barter
For lawless power, sometimes they catch a Tartar;
There's a damn'd word that rhymes to this call'd Charter.
9 But, since the victory with us remains,
You shall be call'd to twelve in all our gains;
If you'll not think us saucy for our pains.
10 Old men shall have good old plays to delight them
And you, fair ladies and gallants, that slight them,
We'll treat with good new plays; if our new wits can write them.
11 We'll take no blundering verse, no fustian tumour,
No dribbling love, from this or that presumer;
No dull fat fool shamm'd on the stage for humour.
12 For, faith, some of them such vile stuff have made,
As none but fools or fairies ever play'd;
But 'twas, as shopmen say, to force a trade.
13 We've given you tragedies, all sense defying,
And singing men, in woful metre dying;
This 'tis when heavy lubbers will be flying.
14 All these disasters we well hope to weather;
We bring you none of our old lumber hither;
Whig poets and Whig sheriffs may hang together.
* * * * *
[Footnote 63: Two theatrical companies: the Duke's and the King's
Houses--both full of every species of abomination--at last united in
1686, and the most profligate poet of the age was fitly chosen to
proclaim the banns.]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD,
SPOKEN BY MR HART, AT THE ACTING OF "THE SILENT WOMAN."
What Greece, when learning flourish'd, only knew,
Athenian judges, you this day renew;
Here too are annual rites to Pallas done,
And here poetic prizes lost or won.
Methinks I see you, crown'd with olives, sit,
And strike a sacred horror from the pit.
A day of doom is this of your decree,
Where even the best are but by mercy free:
A day, which none but Jonson durst have wish'd to see.
Here they, who long have known the useful stage, 10
Come to be taught themselves to teach the age.
As your commissioners our poets go,
To cultivate the virtue which you sow;
In your Lycaeum first themselves refined,
And delegated thence to human-kind.
But as ambassadors, when long from home,
For new instructions to their princes come;
So poets, who your precepts have forgot,
Return, and beg they may be better taught:
Follies and faults elsewhere by them are shown, 20
But by your manners they correct their own.
The illiterate writer, empiric-like, applies
To minds diseased unsafe, chance remedies:
The learn'd in schools, where knowledge first began,
Studies with care the anatomy of man;
Sees virtue, vice, and passions in their cause,
And fame from science, not from fortune, draws.
So Poetry, which is in Oxford made
An art, in London only is a trade.
There haughty dunces, whose unlearned pen 30
Could ne'er spell grammar, would be reading men.
Such build their poems the Lucretian way;
So many huddled atoms make a play;
And if they hit in order, by some chance,
They call that nature, which is ignorance.
To such a fame let mere town wits aspire,
And their gay nonsense their own cits admire.
Our poet, could he find forgiveness here,
Would wish it rather than a plaudit there.
He owns no crown from those Praetorian bands, 40
But knows that right is in the senate's hands;
Not impudent enough to hope your praise,
Low at the Muses' feet his wreath he lays,
And, where he took it up, resigns his bays.
Kings make their poets whom themselves think fit,
But 'tis your suffrage makes authentic wit.
* * * * *
SPOKEN BY THE SAME.
No poor Dutch peasant, wing'd with all his fear,
Flies with more haste, when the French arms draw near,
Than we with our poetic train come down,
For refuge hither, from the infected town:
Heaven, for our sins, this summer has thought fit
To visit us with all the plagues of wit.
A French troop first swept all things in its way;
But those hot Monsieurs were too quick to stay:
Yet, to our cost, in that short time, we find
They left their itch of novelty behind. 10
The Italian Merry-Andrews took their place,
And quite debauch'd the stage with lewd grimace:
Instead of wit and humours, your delight
Was there to see two hobby-horses fight;
Stout Scaramoucha with rush-lance rode in,
And ran a tilt at centaur Arlequin.
For love you heard how amorous asses bray'd,
And cats in gutters gave their serenade.
Nature was out of countenance, and each day
Some new-born monster shown you for a play. 20
But when all fail'd, to strike the stage quite dumb,
Those wicked engines call'd machines are come.
Thunder and lightning now for wit are play'd,
And shortly scenes in Lapland will be laid:
Art magic is for poetry profess'd;
And cats and dogs, and each obscener beast,
To which Egyptian dotards once did bow,
Upon our English stage are worshipp'd now.
Witchcraft reigns there, and raises to renown
Macbeth and Simon Magus of the town, 30
Fletcher's despised, your Jonson's out of fashion,
And wit the only drug in all the nation.
In this low ebb our wares to you are shown;
By you those staple authors' worth is known;
For wit's a manufacture of your own.
When you, who only can, their scenes have praised,
We'll boldly back, and say, their price is raised.
* * * * *
SPOKEN AT OXFORD, BY MRS MARSHALL.
Oft has our poet wish'd, this happy seat
Might prove his fading Muse's last retreat:
I wonder'd at his wish, but now I find
He sought for quiet, and content of mind;
Which noiseful towns, and courts can never know,
And only in the shades like laurels grow.
Youth, ere it sees the world, here studies rest,
And age returning thence concludes it best.
What wonder if we court that happiness
Yearly to share, which hourly you possess; 10
Teaching even you, while the vex'd world we show,
Your peace to value more, and better know?
'Tis all we can return for favours past,
Whose holy memory shall ever last;
For patronage from him whose care presides
O'er every noble art, and every science guides:
Bathurst, a name the learn'd with reverence know,
And scarcely more to his own Virgil owe;
Whose age enjoys but what his youth deserved,
To rule those Muses whom before he served. 20
His learning, and untainted manners too,
We find, Athenians, are derived to you:
Such ancient hospitality there rests
In yours, as dwelt in the first Grecian breasts,
Whose kindness was religion to their guests.
Such modesty did to our sex appear,
As, had there been no laws, we need not fear,
Since each of you was our protector here.
Converse so chaste, and so strict virtue shown,
As might Apollo with the Muses own. 30
Till our return, we must despair to find
Judges so just, so knowing, and so kind.
* * * * *
[Footnote 64: Dr Ralph Bathurst, President of Trinity College, Oxford.]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.
Discord and plots, which have undone our age,
With the same ruin have o'erwhelm'd the stage.
Our house has suffer'd in the common woe,
We have been troubled with Scotch rebels too.
Our brethren are from Thames to Tweed departed,
And of our sisters, all the kinder-hearted,
To Edinburgh gone, or coach'd, or carted.
With bonny bluecap there they act all night
For Scotch half-crown, in English three-pence hight.
One nymph, to whom fat Sir John Falstaff's lean, 10
There with her single person fills the scene.
Another, with long use and age decay'd,
Dived here old woman, and rose there a maid.
Our trusty doorkeepers of former time
There strut and swagger in heroic rhyme.
Tack but a copper-lace to drugget suit,
And there's a hero made without dispute:
And that, which was a capon's tail before,
Becomes a plume for Indian emperor.
But all his subjects, to express the care 20
Of imitation, go, like Indians, bare:
Laced linen there would be a dangerous thing;
It might perhaps a new rebellion bring;
The Scot, who wore it, would be chosen king.
But why should I these renegades describe,
When you yourselves have seen a lewder tribe?
Teague has been here, and, to this learned pit,
With Irish action slander'd English wit:
You have beheld such barbarous Macs appear,
As merited a second massacre: 30
Such as, like Cain, were branded with disgrace,
And had their country stamp'd upon their face.
When strollers durst presume to pick your purse,
We humbly thought our broken troop not worse.
How ill soe'er our action may deserve,
Oxford's a place where wit can never starve.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.
Though actors cannot much of learning boast,
Of all who want it, we admire it most:
We love the praises of a learned pit,
As we remotely are allied to wit.
We speak our poet's wit, and trade in ore,
Like those who touch upon the golden shore:
Betwixt our judges can destinction make,
Discern how much, and why, our poems take:
Mark if the fools, or men of sense, rejoice;
Whether the applause be only sound or voice. 10
When our fop gallants, or our city folly,
Clap over-loud, it makes us melancholy:
We doubt that scene which does their wonder raise,
And, for their ignorance, contemn their praise.
Judge then, if we who act, and they who write,
Should not be proud of giving you delight.
London likes grossly; but this nicer pit
Examines, fathoms all the depths of wit;
The ready finger lays on every blot;
Knows what should justly please, and what should not. 20
Nature herself lies open to your view;
You judge by her, what draught of her is true,
Where outlines false, and colours seem too faint,
Where bunglers daub, and where true poets paint.
But by the sacred genius of this place,
By every Muse, by each domestic grace,
Be kind to wit, which but endeavours well,
And, where you judge, presumes not to excel.
Our poets hither for adoption come,
As nations sued to be made free of Rome: 30
Not in the suffragating tribes to stand,
But in your utmost, last, provincial band.
If his ambition may those hopes pursue,
Who with religion loves your arts and you,
Oxford to him a dearer name shall be,
Than his own mother university.
Thebes did his green, unknowing youth engage;
He chooses Athens in his riper age.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "ALBION AND ALBANIUS."
Full twenty years and more, our labouring stage
Has lost on this incorrigible age:
Our poets, the John Ketches of the nation,
Have seem'd to lash ye, even to excoriation:
But still no sign remains; which plainly notes,
You bore like heroes, or you bribed like Oates.
What can we do, when mimicking a fop,
Like beating nut-trees, makes a larger crop?
Faith, we'll e'en spare our pains! and, to content you,
Will fairly leave you what your Maker meant you. 10
Satire was once your physic, wit your food:
One nourish'd not, and t'other drew no blood:
We now prescribe, like doctors in despair,
The diet your weak appetites can bear.
Since hearty beef and mutton will not do,
Here's julep-dance, ptisan of song and show:
Give you strong sense, the liquor is too heady:
You're come to farce,--that's asses' milk,--already.
Some hopeful youths there are, of callow wit,
Who one day may be men, if Heaven think fit: 20
Sound may serve such, ere they to sense are grown,
Like leading-strings till they can walk alone.
But yet, to keep our friends in countenance, know,
The wise Italians first invented show:
Thence into France the noble pageant pass'd:
'Tis England's credit to be cozen'd last.
Freedom and zeal have choused you o'er and o'er:
Pray give us leave to bubble you once more;
You never were so cheaply fool'd before:
We bring you change, to humour your disease; 30
Change for the worse has ever used to please:
Then, 'tis the mode of France; without whose rules
None must presume to set up here for fools.
In France, the oldest man is always young,
Sees operas daily, learns the tunes so long,
Till foot, hand, head keep time with every song:
Each sings his part, echoing from pit and box,
With his hoarse voice, half harmony, half pox:
_Le plus grand roi du monde_ is always ringing,
They show themselves good subjects by their singing: 40
On that condition, set up every throat:
You Whigs may sing, for you have changed your note.
Cits and citesses raise a joyful strain,
'Tis a good omen to begin a reign:
Voices may help your charter to restoring,
And get by singing what you lost by roaring.
* * * * *
EPILOGUE TO "ALBION AND ALBANIUS."
After our AEsop's fable shown to-day,
I come to give the moral of the play.
Feign'd Zeal, you saw, set out the speedier pace:
But the last heat, Plain Dealing won the race:
Plain Dealing for a jewel has been known;
But ne'er till now the jewel of a crown.
When Heaven made man, to show the work divine,
Truth was His image stamp'd upon the coin:
And when a king is to a god refined,
On all he says and does he stamps his mind: 10
This proves a soul without alloy, and pure;
Kings, like their gold, should every touch endure.
To dare in fields is valour; but how few
Dare be so thoroughly valiant,--to be true!
The name of great let other kings affect:
He's great indeed, the prince that is direct.
His subjects know him now, and trust him more
Than all their kings, and all their laws before.
What safety could their public acts afford?
Those he can break; but cannot break his word. 20
So great a trust to him alone was due;
Well have they trusted whom so well they knew.
The saint, who walk'd on waves, securely trod,
While he believed the beckoning of his God:
But when his faith no longer bore him out,
Began to sink, as he began to doubt.
Let us our native character maintain;
'Tis of our growth to be sincerely plain.
To excel in truth we loyally may strive,
Set privilege against prerogative: 30
He plights his faith, and we believe him just;
His honour is to promise, ours to trust.
Thus Britain's basis on a word is laid,
As by a word the world itself was made.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "ARVIRGUS AND PHILICIA REVIVED."
BY LODOWICK CARLELL, ESQ., 1690.
SPOKEN BY MR HART.
With sickly actors and an old house too,
We're match'd with glorious theatres and new;
And with our alehouse scenes, and clothes bare worn,
Can neither raise old plays, nor new adorn.
If all these ills could not undo us quite,
A brisk French troop is grown your dear delight;
Who with broad bloody bills call you each day
To laugh and break your buttons at their play;
Or see some serious piece, which we presume
Is fallen from some incomparable plume; 10
And therefore, Messieurs, if you'll do us grace,
Send lackeys early to preserve your place.
We dare not on your privilege intrench,
Or ask you why you like them? they are French.
Therefore some go, with courtesy exceeding,
Neither to hear nor see, but show their breeding:
Each lady striving to out-laugh the rest;
To make it seem they understood the jest.
Their countrymen come in, and nothing pay,
To teach us English where to clap the play: 20
Civil, egad! our hospitable land
Bears all the charge, for them to understand:
Mean time we languish and neglected lie,
Like wives, while you keep better company;
And wish for your own sakes, without a satire,
You'd less good breeding, or had more good nature.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "DON SEBASTIAN."
SPOKEN BY A WOMAN.
The judge removed, though he's no more my lord,
May plead at bar, or at the council board:
So may cast poets write; there's no pretension
To argue loss of wit from loss of pension.
Your looks are cheerful; and in all this place
I see not one that wears a damning face.
The British nation is too brave to show
Ignoble vengeance on a vanquish'd foe.
At last be civil to the wretch imploring;
And lay your paws upon him without roaring. 10
Suppose our poet was your foe before,
Yet now, the business of the field is o'er;
'Tis time to let your civil wars alone,
When troops are into winter quarters gone.
Jove was alike to Latian and to Phrygian;
And you well know, a play's of no religion.
Take good advice, and please yourselves this day;
No matter from what hands you have the play.
Among good fellows every health will pass,
That serves to carry round another glass: 20
When with full bowls of Burgundy you dine,
Though at the mighty monarch you repine,
You grant him still Most Christian in his wine.
Thus far the poet; but his brains grow addle,
And all the rest is purely from his noddle.
You have seen young ladies at the senate door
Prefer petitions, and your grace implore;
However grave the legislators were,
Their cause went ne'er the worse for being fair.
Reasons as weak as theirs, perhaps, I bring; 30
But I could bribe you with as good a thing.
I heard him make advances of good nature;
That he, for once, would sheath his cutting satire.
Sign but his peace, he vows he'll ne'er again
The sacred names of fops and beaux profane.
Strike up the bargain quickly; for I swear,
As times go now, he offers very fair.
Be not too hard on him with statutes neither;
Be kind; and do not set your teeth together,
To stretch the laws, as cobblers do their leather. 40
Horses by Papists are not to be ridden,
But sure the Muses' horse was ne'er forbidden;
For in no rate-book it was ever found
That Pegasus was valued at five pound;
Fine him to daily drudging and inditing:
And let him pay his taxes out in writing.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "THE PROPHETESS."
BY BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
SPOKEN BY MR BETTERTON. 1690.
What Nostradame, with all his art, can guess
The fate of our approaching Prophetess?
A play which, like a perspective set right,
Presents our vast expenses close to sight;
But turn the tube, and there we sadly view
Our distant gains; and those uncertain too:
A sweeping tax, which on ourselves we raise,
And all, like you, in hopes of better days;
When will our losses warn us to be wise?
Our wealth decreases, and our charges rise. 10
Money, the sweet allurer of our hopes,
Ebbs out in oceans, and comes in by drops;
We raise new objects to provoke delight,
But you grow sated ere the second sight.
False men, e'en so you serve your mistresses:
They rise three storeys in their towering dress;
And, after all, you love not long enough
To pay the rigging, ere you leave them off.
Never content with what you had before,
But true to change, and Englishmen all o'er. 20
Now honour calls you hence; and all your care
Is to provide the horrid pomp of war.
In plume and scarf, jack-boots, and Bilbo blade,
Your silver goes, that should support our trade.
Go, unkind heroes! leave our stage to mourn,
Till rich from vanquished rebels you return;
And the fat spoils of Teague in triumph draw,
His firkin-butter, and his usquebaugh.
Go, conquerors of your male and female foes!
Men without hearts, and women without hose: 30
Each bring his love a Bogland captive home;
Such proper pages will long trains become;
With copper collars, and with brawny backs,
Quite to put down the fashion of our blacks.
Then shall the pious Muses pay their vows,
And furnish all their laurels for your brows;
Their tuneful voice shall raise for your delights;
We want not poets fit to sing your flights.
But you, bright beauties! for whose only sake
Those doughty knights such dangers undertake, 40
When they with happy gales are gone away,
With your propitious presence grace our play;
And with a sigh their empty seats survey:
Then think, on that bare bench my servant sat;
I see him ogle still, and hear him chat;
Selling facetious bargains, and propounding
That witty recreation, call'd dumfounding.
Their loss with patience we will try to bear;
And would do more, to see you often here;
That our dead stage, revived by your fair eyes, 50
Under a female regency may rise.
* * * * *
[Footnote 65: This prologue was forbid by the Earl of Dorset, then Lord
Chamberlain, after the first day of its being spoken.]
[Footnote 66: King William was at this time prosecuting the war in
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "THE MISTAKES."
BY JOSEPH HARRIS, COMEDIAN, 1690. (WRITTEN BY SOME OTHER.)
_Enter Mr Bright._
Gentlemen, we must beg your pardon; here's no Prologue to be had
to-day; our new play is like to come on, without a frontispiece;
as bald as one of you young beaux, without your periwig. I left
our young poet, snivelling and sobbing behind the scenes, and
cursing somebody that has deceived him.
_Enter Mr Bowen._
Hold your prating to the audience: here is honest Mr Williams,
just come in, half mellow, from the Rose Tavern. He swears he is
inspired with claret, and will come on, and that extempore too,
either with a prologue of his own or something like one. Oh,
here he comes to his trial, at all adventures: for my part I
wish him a good deliverance.
[_Exeunt Mr Bright and Mr Bowen._
_Enter Mr Williams._
Save ye, sirs, save ye! I am in a hopeful way.
I should speak something in rhyme, now, for the play:
But the deuce take me, if I know what to say.
I'll stick to my friend the author, that I can tell ye,
To the last drop of claret in my belly.
So far I'm sure 'tis rhyme--that needs no granting:
And, if my verses' feet stumble--you see my own are wanting.
Our young poet has brought a piece of work,
In which, though much of art there does not lurk,
It may hold out three days--and that's as long as Cork. 10
But for this play (which till I have done, we show not)
What may be its fortune--by the Lord! I know not.
This I dare swear, no malice here is writ:
'Tis innocent of all things--even of wit.
He's no highflier--he makes no sky-rockets,
His squibs are only levell'd at your pockets.
And if his crackers light among your pelf,
You are blown up; if not, then he's blown up himself.
By this time, I'm something recover'd of my fluster'd madness:
And now, a word or two in sober sadness. 20
Ours is a common play; and you pay down
A common harlot's price--just half-a-crown.
You'll say, I play the pimp, on my friend's score;
But since 'tis for a friend your gibes give o'er:
For many a mother has done that before.
How's this? you cry; an actor write?--we know it;
But Shakspeare was an actor, and a poet.
Has not great Jonson's learning often fail'd?
But Shakspeare's greater genius still prevail'd.
Have not some writing actors, in this age, 30
Deserved and found success upon the stage?
To tell the truth, when our old wits are tired,
Not one of us but means to be inspired.
Let your kind presence grace our homely cheer;
Peace and the butt is all our business here:
So much for that;--and the devil take small beer.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "KING ARTHUR."
SPOKEN BY MR BETTERTON.
Sure there's a dearth of wit in this dull town,
When silly plays so savourily go down;
As, when clipt money passes, 'tis a sign
A nation is not over-stock'd with coin.
Happy is he who, in his own defence,
Can write just level to your humble sense;
Who higher than your pitch can never go;
And, doubtless, he must creep, who writes below.
So have I seen, in hall of knight, or lord,
A weak arm throw on a long shovel-board; 10
He barely lays his piece, bar rubs and knocks,
Secured by weakness not to reach the box.
A feeble poet will his business do,
Who, straining all he can, comes up to you:
For, if you like yourselves, you like him too.
An ape his own dear image will embrace;
An ugly beau adores a hatchet face:
So, some of you, on pure instinct of nature,
Are led, by kind, to admire your fellow-creature.
In fear of which, our house has sent this day, 20
To insure our new-built vessel, call'd a play;
No sooner named, than one cries out, These stagers
Come in good time, to make more work for wagers.
The town divides, if it will take or no:
The courtiers bet, the cits, the merchants too;
A sign they have but little else to do.
Bets, at the first, were fool-traps; where the wise,
Like spiders, lay in ambush for the flies:
But now they're grown a common trade for all,
And actions by the new book rise and fall; 30
Wits, cheats, and fops, are free of wager-hall.
One policy as far as Lyons carries;
Another, nearer home, sets up for Paris.
Our bets, at last, would e'en to Rome extend,
But that the pope has proved our trusty friend.
Indeed, it were a bargain worth our money,
Could we insure another Ottoboni.
Among the rest there are a sharping set,
That pray for us, and yet against us bet.
Sure Heaven itself is at a loss to know 40
If these would have their prayers be heard, or no:
For, in great stakes, we piously suppose,
Men pray but very faintly they may lose.
Leave off these wagers; for, in conscience speaking,
The city needs not your new tricks for breaking:
And if you gallants lose, to all appearing,
You'll want an equipage for volunteering;
While thus, no spark of honour left within ye,
When you should draw the sword, you draw the guinea.
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "ALBUMAZAR."
To say, this comedy pleased long ago,
Is not enough to make it pass you now.
Yet, gentlemen, your ancestors had wit;
When few men censured, and when fewer writ.
And Jonson, of those few the best, chose this
As the best model of his masterpiece.
Subtle was got by our Albumazar,
That Alchymist by this Astrologer;
Here he was fashion'd, and we may suppose
He liked the fashion well, who wore the clothes. 10
But Ben made nobly his what he did mould;
What was another's lead becomes his gold:
Like an unrighteous conqueror he reigns,
Yet rules that well which he unjustly gains.
By this our age such authors does afford,
As make whole plays, and yet scarce write one word:
Who, in his anarchy of wit, rob all,
And what's their plunder, their possession call:
Who, like bold padders, scorn by night to prey,
But rob by sunshine, in the face of day: 20
Nay, scarce the common ceremony use
Of, Stand, sir, and deliver up your Muse;
But knock the Poet down, and, with a grace,
Mount Pegasus before the owner's face.
Faith, if you have such country Toms abroad,
'Tis time for all true men to leave that road.
Yet it were modest, could it but be said,
They strip the living, but these rob the dead;
Dare with the mummies of the Muses play,
And make love to them the Egyptian way; 30
Or, as a rhyming author would have said,
Join the dead living to the living dead.
Such men in poetry may claim some part:
They have the licence, though they want the art;
And might, where theft was praised, for Laureates stand,--
Poets, not of the head, but of the hand.
They make the benefits of others' studying,
Much like the meals of politic Jack-Pudding,
Whose dish to challenge no man has the courage;
'Tis all his own, when once he has spit in the porridge. 40
But, gentlemen, you're all concern'd in this;
You are in fault for what they do amiss:
For they their thefts still undiscover'd think,
And durst not steal unless you please to wink.
Perhaps you may award, by your decree,
They should refund; but that can never be.
For should your letters of reprisal seal,
These men write that which no man else would steal.
* * * * *
[Footnote 67: An old play written by one Tomkins, four years, however,
after Jonson's "Alchymist," and resuscitated in 1668.]
* * * * *
You saw our wife was chaste, yet thoroughly tried,
And, without doubt, ye are hugely edified;
For, like our hero, whom we show'd to-day,
You think no woman true, but in a play.
Love once did make a pretty kind of show:
Esteem and kindness in one breast would grow:
But 'twas Heaven knows how many years ago.
Now some small chat, and guinea expectation,
Gets all the pretty creatures in the nation:
In comedy your little selves you meet; 10
'Tis Covent Garden drawn in Bridges Street.
Smile on our author then, if he has shown
A jolly nut-brown bastard of your own.
Ah! happy you, with ease and with delight,
Who act those follies, Poets toil to write!
The sweating Muse does almost leave the chase;
She puffs, and hardly keeps your Protean vices pace.
Pinch you but in one vice, away you fly
To some new frisk of contrariety.
You roll like snow-balls, gathering as you run, 20
And get seven devils, when dispossess'd of one.
Your Venus once was a Platonic queen;
Nothing of love beside the face was seen;
But every inch of her you now uncase,
And clap a vizard-mask upon the face.
For sins like these, the zealous of the land,
With little hair, and little or no band,
Declare how circulating pestilences
Watch, every twenty years, to snap offences.
Saturn, even now, takes doctoral degrees; 30
He'll do your work this summer without fees.
Let all the boxes, Phoebus, find thy grace,
And, ah! preserve the eighteen-penny place!
But for the pit confounders, let 'em go,
And find as little mercy as they show:
The Actors thus, and thus thy Poets pray;
For every critic saved, thou damn'st a play.
* * * * *
EPILOGUE TO "THE HUSBAND HIS OWN CUCKOLD."
BY MR JOHN DRYDEN, JUN., 1696.
Like some raw sophister that mounts the pulpit,
So trembles a young Poet at a full pit.
Unused to crowds, the parson quakes for fear,
And wonders how the devil he durst come there;
Wanting three talents needful for the place--
Some beard, some learning, and some little grace.
Nor is the puny Poet void of care;
For authors, such as our new authors are,
Have not much learning, nor much wit to spare:
And as for grace, to tell the truth, there's scarce one 10
But has as little as the very Parson:
Both say, they preach and write for your instruction:
But 'tis for a third day, and for induction.
The difference is, that though you like the play,
The Poet's gain is ne'er beyond his day.
But with the Parson 'tis another case,
He, without holiness, may rise to grace.
The Poet has one disadvantage more,
That if his play be dull, he's damn'd all o'er,
Not only a damn'd blockhead, but damn'd poor. 20
But dulness well becomes the sable garment;
I warrant that ne'er spoil'd a Priest's perferment:
Wit's not his business, and as wit now goes,
Sirs, 'tis not so much yours as you suppose,
For you like nothing now but nauseous beaux.
You laugh not, gallants, as by proof appears,
At what his beauship says, but what he wears;
So 'tis your eyes are tickled, not your ears.
The tailor and the furrier find the stuff,
The wit lies in the dress, and monstrous muff. 30
The truth on 't is, the payment of the pit
Is like for like, clipt money for clipt wit.
You cannot from our absent author hope
He should equip the stage with such a fop:
Fools change in England, and new fools arise,
For though the immortal species never dies,
Yet every year new maggots make new flies;
But where he lives abroad, he scarce can find
One fool for millions that he left behind.
* * * * *
[Footnote 68: 'John Dryden, jun.': second son of the poet, who was at
Rome when this play was brought out.]
* * * * *
PROLOGUE TO "THE PILGRIM."
BY BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
REVIVED FOR OUR AUTHOR'S BENEFIT, ANNO 1700.
How wretched is the fate of those who write!
Brought muzzled to the stage, for fear they bite.
Where, like Tom Dove, they stand the common foe;
Lugg'd by the critic, baited by the beau.
Yet worse, their brother poets damn the play,
And roar the loudest, though they never pay.
The fops are proud of scandal, for they cry,
At every lewd, low character,--That's I.
He who writes letters to himself would swear,
The world forgot him, if he was not there. 10
What should a poet do? 'Tis hard for one
To pleasure all the fools that would be shown:
And yet not two in ten will pass the town.
Most coxcombs are not of the laughing kind;
More goes to make a fop, than fops can find.
Quack Maurus, though he never took degrees
In either of our universities,
Yet to be shown by some kind wit he looks,
Because he play'd the fool, and writ three books.
But, if he would be worth a Poet's pen, 20
He must be more a fool, and write again:
For all the former fustian stuff he wrote
Was dead-born doggerel, or is quite forgot:
His man of Uz, stript of his Hebrew robe,
Is just the proverb, and as poor as Job.
One would have thought he could no longer jog;
But Arthur was a level, Job's a bog.
There, though he crept, yet still he kept in sight;
But here, he founders in, and sinks down right,
Had he prepared us, and been dull by rule, 30
Tobit had first been turn'd to ridicule:
But our bold Briton, without fear or awe,
O'erleaps at once the whole Apocrypha;
Invades the Psalms with rhymes, and leaves no room
For any Vandal Hopkins yet to come.
But when if, after all, this godly gear
Is not so senseless as it would appear;
Our mountebank has laid a deeper train,
His cant, like Merry-Andrew's noble vein,
Cat-calls the sects to draw them in again. 40
At leisure hours, in epic song he deals,
Writes to the rumbling of his coach's wheels,
Prescribes in haste, and seldom kills by rule,
But rides triumphant between stool and stool.
Well, let him go; 'tis yet too early day,
To get himself a place in farce or play.
We know not by what name we should arraign him,
For no one category can contain him;
A pedant, canting preacher, and a quack,
Are load enough to break one ass's back: 50
At last, grown wanton, he presumed to write,
Traduced two kings, their kindness to requite;
One made the doctor, and one dubb'd the knight.
* * * * *
[Footnote 69: 'Quack Maurus:' Sir Richard Blackmore.]
* * * * *
EPILOGUE TO "THE PILGRIM."
Perhaps the parson stretch'd a point too far,
When with our Theatres he waged a war.
He tells you, that this very moral age
Received the first infection from the stage.
But sure, a banish'd court, with lewdness fraught,
The seeds of open vice, returning, brought.
Thus lodged (as vice by great example thrives)
It first debauch'd the daughters and the wives.
London, a fruitful soil, yet never bore
So plentiful a crop of horns before. 10
The poets, who must live by courts, or starve,
Were proud so good a government to serve:
And, mixing with buffoons and pimps profane,
Tainted the stage, for some small snip of gain.
For they, like harlots under bawds profess'd,
Took all the ungodly pains, and got the least.
Thus did the thriving malady prevail:
The court, its head, the poets but the tail.
The sin was of our native growth, 'tis true;
The scandal of the sin was wholly new. 20
Misses they were, but modestly conceal'd;
Whitehall the naked Venus first reveal'd,
Who, standing as at Cyprus, in her shrine,
The strumpet was adored with rites divine.
Ere this, if saints had any secret motion,
'Twas chamber-practice all, and close devotion.
I pass the peccadilloes of their time;
Nothing but open lewdness was a crime.
A monarch's blood was venial to the nation,
Compared with one foul act of fornication. 30
Now, they would silence us, and shut the door,
That let in all the barefaced vice before.
As for reforming us, which some pretend,
That work in England is without an end:
Well may we change, but we shall never mend.
Yet, if you can but bear the present Stage,
We hope much better of the coming age.
What would you say, if we should first begin
To stop the trade of love behind the scene,
Where actresses make bold with married men? 40
For while abroad so prodigal the dolt is,
Poor spouse at home as ragged as a colt is.
In short, we'll grow as moral as we can,
Save here and there a woman or a man:
But neither you, nor we, with all our pains,
Can make clean work; there will be some remains,
While you have still your Oates, and we our Haines.
* * * * *
[Footnote 70: 'Parson:' Jeremy Collier.]
* * * * *
TALES FROM CHAUCER.
TO HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF ORMOND.
My Lord,--Some estates are held in England by paying a fine at the
change of every lord: I have enjoyed the patronage of your family, from
the time of your excellent grandfather to this present day. I have
dedicated the translation of the "Lives of Plutarch" to the first Duke;
and have celebrated the memory of your heroic father. Though I am very
short of the age of Nestor, yet I have lived to a third generation of
your house; and by your Grace's favour am admitted still to hold from
you by the same tenure.
I am not vain enough to boast that I have deserved the value of so
illustrious a line; but my fortune is the greater, that for three
descents they have been pleased to distinguish my poems from those of
other men; and have accordingly made me their peculiar care. May it be
permitted me to say, that, as your grandfather and father were cherished
and adorned with honours by two successive monarchs, so I have been
esteemed and patronised by the grandfather, the father, and the son,
descended from one of the most ancient, most conspicuous, and most
deserving families in Europe?
It is true, that by delaying the payment of my last fine, when it was
due by your Grace's accession to the titles and patrimonies of your
house, I may seem, in rigour of law, to have made a forfeiture of my
claim; yet my heart has always been devoted to your service; and since
you have been graciously pleased, by your permission of this address, to
accept the tender of my duty, it is not yet too late to lay these poems
at your feet.
The world is sensible that you worthily succeed, not only to the honours
of your ancestors, but also to their virtues. The long chain of
magnanimity, courage, easiness of access, and desire of doing good even
to the prejudice of your fortune, is so far from being broken in your
Grace, that the precious metal yet runs pure to the newest link of it;
which I will not call the last, because I hope and pray it may descend
to late posterity: and your flourishing youth, and that of your
excellent Duchess, are happy omens of my wish. It is observed by Livy
and by others, that some of the noblest Roman families retained a
resemblance of their ancestry, not only in their shapes and features,
but also in their manners, their qualities, and the distinguishing
characters of their minds. Some lines were noted for a stern, rigid
virtue, savage, haughty, parsimonious, and unpopular: others were more
sweet and affable, made of a more pliant paste, humble, courteous, and
obliging, studious of doing charitable offices, and diffusive of the
goods which they enjoyed. The last of these is the proper and indelible
character of your Grace's family. God Almighty has endued you with a
softness, a beneficence, an attractive behaviour winning on the hearts
of others; and so sensible of their misery, that the wounds of fortune
seem not inflicted on them, but on yourself. You are so ready to
redress, that you almost prevent their wishes, and always exceed their
expectations; as if what was yours, was not your own, and not given you
to possess, but to bestow on wanting merit. But this is a topic which I
must cast in shades, lest I offend your modesty, which is so far from
being ostentatious of the good you do, that it blushes even to have it
known; and therefore I must leave you to the satisfaction and testimony
of your own conscience, which, though it be a silent panegyric, is yet
You are so easy of access, that Poplicola was not more, whose doors were
opened on the outside to save the people even the common civility of
asking entrance; where all were equally admitted--where nothing that was
reasonable was denied--where misfortune was a powerful recommendation,
and where (I can scarce forbear saying) that want itself was a powerful
mediator, and was next to merit.
The history of Peru assures us, that their Incas, above all their titles
esteemed that the highest which called them Lovers of the Poor--a name
more glorious than the Felix, Pius, and Augustus of the Roman emperors,
which were epithets of flattery, deserved by few of them, and not
running in a blood like the perpetual gentleness and inherent goodness
of the Ormond family.
Gold, as it is the purest, so it is the softest and most ductile of all
metals. Iron, which is the hardest, gathers rust, corrodes itself, and
is therefore subject to corruption; it was never intended for coins and
medals, or to bear the faces and inscriptions of the great. Indeed, it
is fit for armour, to bear off insults, and preserve the wearer in the
day of battle; but the danger once repelled, it is laid aside by the
brave, as a garment too rough for civil conversation; a necessary guard
in war, but too harsh and cumbersome in peace, and which keeps off the
embraces of a more humane life.
For this reason, my Lord, though you have courage in an heroical degree,
yet I ascribe it to you but as your second attribute: mercy,
beneficence, and compassion claim precedence, as they are first in the
Divine nature. An intrepid courage, which is inherent in your Grace, is
at best but a holiday kind of virtue, to be seldom exercised, and never
but in cases of necessity: affability, mildness, tenderness, and a word
which I would fain bring back to its original signification of virtue, I
mean good-nature, are of daily use: they are the bread of mankind, and
staff of life; neither sighs, nor tears, nor groans, nor curses of the
vanquished, follow acts of compassion and of charity, but a sincere
pleasure and serenity of mind, in him who performs an action of mercy,
which cannot suffer the misfortunes of another without redress, lest
they should bring a kind of contagion along with them, and pollute the
happiness which he enjoys.
Yet since the perverse tempers of mankind, since oppression on one side,
and ambition on the other, are sometimes the unavoidable occasions of
war; that courage, that magnanimity, and resolution, which is born with
you, cannot be too much commended. And here it grieves me that I am
scanted in the pleasure of dwelling on many of your actions; but [Greek:
aideomai Troas] is an expression which Tully often uses, when he would
do what he dares not, and fears the censure of the Romans.
I have sometimes been forced to amplify on others; but here, where the
subject is so fruitful that the harvest overcomes the reaper, I am
shortened by my chain, and can only see what is forbidden me to reach,
since it is not permitted me to commend you, according to the extent of
my wishes, and much less is it in my power to make my commendations
equal to your merits. Yet in this frugality of your praises there are
some things which I cannot omit without detracting from your character.
You have so formed your own education, as enables you to pay the debt
you owe your country; or, more properly speaking, both your countries,
because you were born, I may almost say, in purple, at the castle of
Dublin, when your grandfather was Lord-Lieutenant, and have since been
bred in the court of England.
If this address had been in verse, I might have called you, as Claudian
calls Mercury, _Numen commune, gemino faciens commercia mundo_. The
better to satisfy this double obligation, you have early cultivated the
genius you have to arms, that when the service of Britain or Ireland
shall require your courage and your conduct, you may exert them both to
the benefit of either country. You began in the Cabinet what you
afterwards practised in the Camp; and thus both Lucullas and Caesar (to
omit a crowd of shining Romans) formed themselves to war by the study of
history, and by the examples of the greatest captains, both of Greece
and Italy, before their time. I name those two commanders in particular,
because they were better read in chronicle than any of the Roman
leaders; and that Lucullus, in particular, having only the theory of war
from books, was thought fit, without practice, to be sent into the field
against the most formidable enemy of Rome. Tully, indeed, was called the
learned consul in derision; but then he was not born a soldier--his head
was turned another way; when he read the Tactics, he was thinking on the
bar, which was his field of battle. The knowledge of warfare is thrown
away on a general who dares not make use of what he knows. I commend it
only in a man of courage and resolution: in him it will direct his
martial spirit, and teach him the way to the best victories,--which are
those which are least bloody, and which, though achieved by the hand,
are managed by the head. Science distinguishes a man of honour from one
of those athletic brutes whom undeservedly we call heroes. Cursed be the
poet who first honoured with that name a mere Ajax, a man-killing idiot!
The Ulysses of Ovid upbraids his ignorance, that he understood not the
shield for which he pleaded: there was engraven on it plans of cities
and maps of countries which Ajax could not comprehend, but looked on
them as stupidly as his fellow-beast, the lion. But on the other side,
your Grace has given yourself the education of his rival; you have
studied every spot of ground in Flanders, which for these ten years past
has been the scene of battles and of sieges. No wonder if you performed
your part with such applause on a theatre which you understood so well.
If I designed this for a poetical encomium, it were easy to enlarge on
so copious a subject; but, confining myself to the severity of truth,
and to what is becoming me to say, I must not only pass over many
instances of your military skill, but also those of your assiduous
diligence in the war, and of your personal bravery, attended with an
ardent thirst of honour--a long train of generosity--profuseness of
doing good--a soul unsatisfied with all it has done and an
unextinguished desire of doing more. But all this is matter for your own
historians; I am, as Virgil says, _Spatiis exclusus iniquis_.
Yet not to be wholly silent of all your charities, I must stay a little
on one action, which preferred the relief of others to the consideration
of yourself. When, in the battle of Landen, your heat of courage (a
fault only pardonable to your youth) had transported you so far before
your friends, that they were unable to follow, much less to succour you;
when you were not only dangerously, but in all appearance mortally
wounded; when in that desperate condition you were made prisoner and
carried to Namur, at that time in possession of the French: then it was,
my Lord, that you took a considerable part of what was remitted to you
of your own revenues, and, as a memorable instance of your heroic
charity, put it into the bands of Count Guiscard, who was governor of
the place, to be distributed among your fellow-prisoners. The French
commander, charmed with the greatness of your soul, accordingly
consigned it to the use for which it was intended by the donor; by which
means the lives of so many miserable men were saved, and a comfortable
provision made for their subsistence, who had otherwise perished, had
not you been the companion of their misfortune; or rather sent by
Providence, like another Joseph, to keep out famine from invading those
whom in humility you called your brethren. How happy was it for those
poor creatures that your Grace was made their fellow-sufferer! and how
glorious for you that you chose to want rather than not relieve the
wants of others! The heathen poet, in commending the charity of Dido to
the Trojans, spoke like a Christian: _Non ignara mali, miseris
succurrere disco_. All men, even those of a different interest, and
contrary principles, must praise this action as the most eminent for
piety, not only in this degenerate age, but almost in any of the former;
when men were made _de meliore luto_; when examples of charity were
frequent, and when there were in being, _Teucri pulcherrima proles,
magnanimi heroes nati melioribus annis_. No envy can detract from this:
it will shine in history, and, like swans, grow whiter the longer it
endures, and the name of ORMOND will be more celebrated in his captivity
than in his greatest triumphs.
But all actions of your Grace are of a piece, as waters keep the tenor
of their fountains: your compassion is general, and has the same effect
as well on enemies as friends. It is so much in your nature to do good,
that your life is but one continued act of placing benefits on many, as
the sun is always carrying his light to some part or other of the world;
and were it not that your reason guides you where to give, I might
almost say that you could not help bestowing more than is consisting
with the fortune of a private man or with the will of any but an
What wonder is it, then, that being born for a blessing to mankind, your
supposed death in that engagement was so generally lamented through the
nation! The concernment for it was as universal as the loss; and though
the gratitude might be counterfeit in some, yet the tears of all were
real: where every man deplored his private part in that calamity, and
even those who had not tasted of your favours, yet built so much on the
fame of your beneficence, that they bemoaned the loss of their
This brought the untimely death of your great father into fresh
remembrance: as if the same decree had passed on two short successive
generations of the virtuous; and I repeated to myself the same verses
which I had formerly applied to him: _Ostendunt terris hunc tantum fata,
nec ultra esse sinunt_. But to the joy, not only of all good men, but of
mankind in general, the unhappy omen took not place. You are still
living to enjoy the blessings and applause of all the good you have
performed, the prayers of multitudes whom you have obliged, for your
long prosperity; and that your power of doing generous and charitable
actions may be as extended as your will; which is by none more zealously
desired than by your Grace's most humble, most obliged, and most
* * * * *
It is with a poet as with a man who designs to build, and is very exact,
as he supposes, in casting up the cost beforehand; but, generally
speaking, he is mistaken in his account, and reckons short in the
expense he first intended. He alters his mind as the work proceeds, and
will have this or that convenience more, of which he had not thought
when he began. So has it happened to me: I have built a house, where I
intended but a lodge; yet with better success than a certain nobleman,
who, beginning with a dog-kennel, never lived to finish the palace he
From translating the first of Homer's Iliads (which I intended as an
essay to the whole work) I proceeded to the translation of the twelfth
book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, because it contains, among other things,
the causes, the beginning, and ending of the Trojan war. Here I ought in
reason to have stopped; but the speeches of Ajax and Ulysses lying next
in my way, I could not baulk them. When I had compassed them, I was so
taken with the former part of the fifteenth book, which is the
masterpiece of the whole Metamorphoses, that I enjoined myself the
pleasing task of rendering it into English. And now I found, by the
number of my verses, that they began to swell into a little volume;
which gave me an occasion of looking backward on some beauties of my
author, in his former books. There occurred to me the hunting of the
boar, Cinyras and Myrrha, the good-natured story of Baucis and Philemon,
with the rest, which I hope I have translated closely enough, and given
them the same turn of verse which they had in the original; and this, I
may say without vanity, is not the talent of every poet. He who has
arrived the nearest to it, is the ingenious and learned Sandys, the best
versifier of the former age; if I may properly call it by that name,
which was the former part of this concluding century. For Spenser and
Fairfax both flourished in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; great masters
in our language; and who saw much farther into the beauties of our
numbers, than those who immediately followed them. Milton was the
poetical son of Spenser, and Mr Waller of Fairfax; for we have our
lineal descents and clans, as well as other families. Spenser more than
once insinuates, that the soul of Chaucer was transfused into his body;
and that he was begotten by him two hundred years after his decease.
Milton has acknowledged to me, that Spenser was his original; and many
besides myself have heard our famous Waller own, that he derived the
harmony of his numbers from the Godfrey of Bulloigne, which was turned
into English by Mr Fairfax. But to return. Having done with Ovid for
this time, it came into my mind, that our old English poet Chaucer in
many things resembled him, and that with no disadvantage on the side of
the modern author, as I shall endeavour to prove when I compare them.
And as I am, and always have been, studious to promote the honour of my
native country, so I soon resolved to put their merits to the trial, by
turning some of the Canterbury tales into our language, as it is now
refined; for by this means, both the poets being set in the same light,
and dressed in the same English habit, story to be compared with story,
a certain judgment may be made betwixt them, by the reader, without
obtruding my opinion on him. Or if I seem partial to my countryman, and
predecessor in the laurel, the friends of antiquity are not few; and
besides many of the learned, Ovid has almost all the beaux, and the
whole fair sex, his declared patrons. Perhaps I have assumed somewhat
more to myself than they allow me, because I have adventured to sum up
the evidence; but the readers are the jury, and their privilege remains
entire to decide according to the merits of the cause, or, if they
please, to bring it to another hearing, before some other court. In the
meantime, to follow the thread of my discourse (as thoughts, according
to Mr Hobbs, have always some connexion), so from Chaucer I was led to
think on Boccace, who was not only his contemporary, but also pursued
the same studies; wrote novels in prose, and many works in verse:
particularly is said to have invented the octave rhyme, or stanza of
eight lines, which ever since has been maintained by the practice of all
Italian writers, who are, or at least assume the title of, Heroic Poets.
He and Chaucer, among other things, had this in common, that they
refined their mother tongues; but with this difference, that Dante had
begun to file their language, at least in verse, before the time of
Boccace, who likewise received no little help from his master Petrarch.
But the reformation of their prose was wholly owing to Boccace himself,
who is yet the standard of purity in the Italian tongue; though many of
his phrases are become obsolete, as in process of time it must needs
happen. Chaucer, as you have formerly been told by our learned Mr Rymer,
first adorned and amplified our barren tongue from the Provencal, which
was then the most polished of all the modern languages; but this subject
has been copiously treated by that great critic, who deserves no little
commendation from us his countrymen. For these reasons of time, and
resemblance of genius in Chaucer and Boccace, I resolved to join them in
my present work; to which I have added some original papers of my own;
which, whether they are equal or inferior to my other poems, an author
is the most improper judge; and therefore, I leave them wholly to the
mercy of the reader. I will hope the best, that they will not be
condemned; but if they should, I have the excuse of an old gentleman,
who, mounting on horseback before some ladies, when I was present, got
up somewhat heavily, but desired of the fair spectators that they would
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