Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to Albion and Albanius
FULL 1 twenty years and more, our lab’ring Stage
Has lost, on this incorrigible age:
Our Poets, the John Ketches of the Nation,
Have seem’d to lash yee ev’n to excoriation:
But still no sign remains; which plainly notes        5
You bore like Hero’s or you brib’d 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,
We’ll fairly leave you what your Maker meant you.        10
Satyre was once your Physick, Wit your Food;
One nourisht not, and t’ other drew no Blood.
Wee now prescribe, like Doctors in despair,
The Diet your weak appetites can bear.
Since hearty Beef and Mutton will not do,        15
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 Heav’n 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 count’nance, know,
The Wise Italians first invented show;
Thence into France the Noble Pageant past;        25
’Tis England’s Credit to be cozn’d last.
Freedom and Zeal have chous’d 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 Opera’s daily, learns the Tunes so long,        35
Till Foot, Hand, Head, keep Time with ev’ry Song.
Each sings his part, echoing from Pit and Box,
With his hoarse Voice, half Harmony, half Pox.
Le plus grand Roy du Monde, is always ringing;
They show themselves good Subjects by their singing.        40
On that Condition, set up every Throat;
You Whiggs may sing, for you have chang’d your Note.
Cits and Citesses, raise a joyful Strain,
’Tis a good Omen to begin a Reign:
Voices may help your Charter to restoring,        45
And get by singing, what you lost by roaring.
After our Æsop’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:        50
Plain Dealing for a Jewel has been known;
But ne’er till now the Jewel of a Crown.
When Heav’n made Man, to show the work Divine,
Truth was his Image, stampt upon the Coin:
And, when a King is to a God refin’d,        55
On all he says and does, he stamps his Mind.
This proves a Soul without allay, 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?        60
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 publick Acts afford?        65
Those he can break, but cannot break his Word.
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 believ’d the beckning of his God;        70
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.
T’ excel in Truth we Loyally may strive,        75
Set Privilege against Prerogative:
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 it self was made.        80
Note 1. 1685. [back]

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