Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Epistles and Complimentary Addresses
To Mr. Southern, on his Comedy called The Wives Excuse
SURE 1 there’s a Fate in Plays; and ’tis in vain
To write, while these malignant Planets Reign.
Some very foolish Influence rules the Pit,
Not always kind to Sence, or just to Wit.
And whilst it lasts, let Buffoonry succeed        5
To make us laugh; for never was more need.
Farce in it self is of a nasty scent,
But the gain smells not of the Excrement.
The Spanish nymph, a Wit and Beauty too,
With all her Charms bore but a single show:        10
But let a Monster Muscovite appear,
He draws a crowded Audience round the Year.
May be thou hast not pleas’d the Box and Pit,
Yet those who blame thy Tale, commend thy Wit;
So Terence Plotted, but so Terence writ.        15
Like his, thy Thoughts are true, thy Language clean;
Ev’n Lewdness is made Moral, in thy Scene.
The Hearers may for want of Nokes repine,
But rest secure, the Readers will be thine.
Nor was thy Labour’d Drama damn’d or hiss’d,        20
But with a kind Civility 2 dismiss’d;
With such good manners, as the Wife 3 did use,
Who, not accepting, did but just refuse.
There was a glance at parting; such a look
As bids thee not give o’re, for one rebuke.        25
But if thou wou’dst be seen as well as read;
Copy one living Author and one dead:
The Standard of thy Style, let Etherege be;
For Wit, th’ Immortal Spring of Wycherly.
Learn, after both, to draw some just Design,        30
And the next Age will learn to Copy thine.

Note 1. Text from the original prefixt to the play, 1692. [back]
Note 2. Civility] Civility, 1692. [back]
Note 3. The Wife in the play, Mrs. Friendall. [back]

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