Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to King Arthur, or the British Worthy
Spoken by Mr. BETTERTON.

SURE 1 there’s a dearth of Wit in this dull Town,
When silly Plays so savourly 2 go down;
As, when Clipp’d Money passes, ’tis a sign
A Nation is not over-stock’d with Coin.
Happy is he, who in his own Defence,        5
Can write just level to your humble Sence;
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,
Secur’d by Weakness not to reach the Box.
A feeble Poet will his Bus’ness do,
Who, straining all he can, comes up to you:
For, if you like your Selves, you like him too.        15
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, t’ admire your fellow Creature.
In fear of which, our House has sent this Day,        20
T’ insure our New-Built-Vessel, call’d a Play;
No sooner Nam’d, than one crys 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;        25
A sign they have but little else to do.
Betts 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 News-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 Betts, at last, wou’d ev’n to Rome extend,
But that the Pope has proved our Trusty Friend.        35
Indeed, it were a Bargain, worth our Money,
Cou’d we insure another Ottobuoni.
Among the rest there are a sharping Sett,
That Pray for us, and yet against us Bett:
Sure Heav’n it self is at a loss to know        40
If these wou’d have their Pray’rs 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:        45
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 shou’d draw the Sword, you draw the Guinea.
Spoke by Mrs. BRACEGIRDLE.

I’ve had to-day a Dozen Billet-Doux
From Fops, and Wits, and Cits, and Bow-street Beaux:
Some from Whitehal, but from the Temple more:
A Covent-Garden Porter brought me four.
I have not yet read all: But, without feigning,
We Maids can make shrewd Ghesses at your Meaning.        55
What if, to shew your Styles, I read ’em here?
Me thinks I hear one cry, Oh Lord, forbear:
No, Madam, no; by Heav’n, that’s too severe.
Well then, be safe——
But swear henceforwards to renounce all Writing,        60
And take this Solemn Oath of my inditing,—
As you love Ease and hate Campaigns and Fighting.
Yet, Faith, ’tis just to make some few Examples:
What if I shew’d you one or two for Samples?
  Pulls one out.] Heres, one desires my Ladyship to meet        65
At the kind Couch above in Bridges-Street.
Oh Sharping Knave! That wou’d have you know what,
For a Poor Sneaking Treat of Chocolat.
  Pulls out another.] Now, in the Name of Luck, I’ll break this open,
Because I Dreamt last Night I had a Token;        70
The Superscription is exceeding pretty,
To the Desire of all the Town and City.
Now, Gallants, you must know, this precious Fop
Is Foreman of a Haberdashers-Shop:
One who devoutly cheats, demure in Carriage,        75
And courts me to the Holy Bands of Marriage;
But, with a Civil Inuendo too,
My Overplus of Love shall be for you.
  Reads.] Madam, I swear your Looks are so Divine,
When I set up, your Face shall be my Sign;        80
Tho Times are hard—to show how I Adore you,
Here’s my whole Heart, and half a Guinea for you.
But, have a Care of Beaux; They’re false, my Honey;
And, which is worse, have not one Rag of Money.
  See how Maliciously the Rogue would wrong ye!        85
But I know better Things of some among ye.
My wisest way will be to keep the Stage,
And trust to the Good Nature of the Age:
And he that likes the Musick and the Play
Shall be my Favourite Gallant to-day.        90
Note 1. 1691. [back]
Note 2. savourly] savourily Scott: favourably Bell. [back]

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