Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Epistles and Complimentary Addresses
[To Peter Antony Motteux, on his Tragedy, called Beauty in Distress]
To my Friend, the AUTHOR.

’TIS 1 hard, my Friend, to write in such an Age
As damns not only Poets, but the Stage.
That sacred art, by Heav’n itself infus’d,
Which Moses, David, Salomon have us’d,
Is now to be no more: The Muses’ Foes        5
Wou’d sink their Maker’s Praises into Prose.
Were they content to prune the lavish Vine
Of straggling Branches, and improve the Wine,
Who but a mad Man wou’d his Faults 2 defend?
All wou’d submit, for all but Fools will mend.        10
But, when to common sense they give the Lie,
And turn distorted Words to Blasphemy,
They give the Scandal; and the Wise discern
Their Glosses teach an Age, too apt to learn.
What I have loosly, or profanely writ,        15
Let them to Fires (their due desert) commit:
Nor, when accus’d by me, let them complain:
Their Faults, and not their Function, I arraign.
Rebellion, worse than Witchcraft, they pursu’d:
The Pulpit preach’d the Crime, the People ru’d.        20
The Stage was silenc’d; for the Saints wou’d see
In fields perform’d their plotted Tragedy.
But let us first reform: and then so live,
That we may teach our Teachers to forgive.
Our Desk be plac’d below their lofty Chairs,        25
Ours be the Practice, as the Precept theirs.
The moral Part at least we may divide,
Humility reward and punish Pride;
Ambition, Int’rest, Avarice, accuse;
These are the Province of the Tragic Muse.        30
These hast thou chosen; and the public Voice
Has equall’d thy Performance with thy choice.
Time, Action, Place, are so preserv’d by thee
That ev’n Corneille might with Envy see
Th’ Alliance of his tripled Unity.        35
Thy Incidents, perhaps, too thick are sown;
But so much Plenty is thy Fault alone:
At least but two, can that good Crime commit,
Thou in Design, and Wycherley in Wit
Let thine own Gauls condemn thee, if they dare;        40
Contented to be thinly regular.
Born there, but not for them, our fruitful Soil
With more Increase rewards thy happy Toil.
Their Tongue, infeebl’d, is refin’d so 3 much;
That 4 like pure Gold, it bends at ev’ry Touch:        45
Our sturdy Teuton yet will Art obey,
More fit for manly Thought, and strengthen’d with Allay.
But whence art thou inspir’d, and Thou alone,
To flourish in an Idiom, not thy own?
It moves our Wonder, that a foreign Guest        50
Shou’d overmatch the most, and match the best.
In underpraising thy Deserts, I wrong;
Here, find the first deficience of our Tongue:
Words, once my stock, are wanting to commend
So Great a Poet and so Good a Friend.

Note 1. Text from the original, prefixed to the play, 1698. [back]
Note 2. Faults] Many edd. wrongly give Thoughts. [back]
Note 3. so] Many edd. wrongly give too. [back]
Note 4. That] Many edd. wrongly give And. These false readings are all in Christie’s text but not in Dr. Saintsbury’s. [back]

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