Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to The Wild Gallant
IS 1 it not strange to hear a Poet say,
He comes to ask you how you like the Play?
You have not seen it yet! alas ’tis true;
But now your Love and Hatred judge, not You.
And cruel Factions (brib’d by Interest) come,        5
Not to weigh Merit, but to give their Doome.
Our Poet, therefore, jealous of th’ Event,
And (though much Boldness takes) not confident,
Has sent me whither you, Fair ladies, too
Sometimes upon as small Occasions goe,        10
And from this Scheme, drawn for the Hour and Day,
Bid me inquire the Fortune of his Play.
The curtain drawn discovers two Astrologers;
The Prologue is presented to them.
  1 Astrol. reads.  A figure of the heavenly Bodies in their several Apartments, Feb. the 5th, half an hour after three after Noon, from whence you are to judge the success of a new play, called the Wild Gallant.
  2 Astrol.  Who must judge of it, we or these gentlemen? We’ll not meddle with it; so tell your poet. Here are, in this House, the ablest Mathematicians in Europe for his purpose.
  They will resolve the Question, e’r they part.        15
1 Ast.  Yet let us judge it by the Rules of Art:
  First Jupiter, the Ascendants Lord disgrac’d,
  In the twelfth House and near grim Saturn plac’d,
  Denote short life unto the Play:—
2 Ast.                    —Jove yet,
In his apartment Sagitary, set        20
Under his own Roof, cannot take much Wrong.
1 Ast.  Why then the Life’s not very short, nor long;
2 Ast.  The Luck not very good, nor very ill;
Prolo.  That is to say, ’tis as ’tis taken still.
1 Ast.  But, brother, Ptolomy the learned says,        25
  ’Tis the fifth House from whence we judge of Plays.
  Venus, the Lady of that House, I find
  Is Peregrine; your Play is ill design’d;
  It should have been but one continued Song,
  Or at the least a Dance of 3 hours long.        30
2 Ast.  But yet the greatest Mischief does remain,
  The twelfth Apartment bears the Lord of Spain;
  Whence I conclude, it is your Author’s Lot,
  To be indanger’d by a Spanish plot.
Prolo.  Our Poet yet Protection hopes from you;        35
  But bribes you not with any thing that’s new.
  Nature is old, which Poets imitate;
  And for Wit, those that boast their own estate
  Forget Fletcher and Ben before them went,
  Their Elder Brothers, and that vastly spent:        40
  So much, ’twill hardly be repair’d again,
  Not though supply’d with all the wealth of Spain.
  This Play is English, and the growth your own;
  As such it yields to English Plays alone.
  He could have wish’d it better for your Sakes,        45
  But that in Plays he finds you love Mistakes:
  Besides, he thought it was in vain to mend
  What you are bound in Honour to defend;
  That English wit, how e’r despis’d by some,
  Like English valour, still may overcome.        50
The Wilde Gallant has quite play’d out his Game;
He’s marry’d now, and that will make him tame.
Or if you think Marriage will not reclaim him,
The Critiques swear they’ll damn him, but they’ll tame him.
Yet, though our Poet’s threatened most by these,        55
They are the only People he can please:
For he, to humour them, has shown to day
That which they only like, a wretched Play.
But though his Play be ill, here have been shown
The greatest Wits and Beauties of the Town;        60
And his Occasion having brought you here,
You are too grateful to become severe.
There is not any Person here so mean,
But he may freely judge each Act and Scene.
But if you bid him chuse his Judges, then        65
He boldly names true English Gentlemen;
For he ne’r thought a handsome Garb or Dress
So great a Crime to make their Judgment less;
And with these Gallants he these Ladies joyns,
To judge that Language their Converse refines.        70
But if their Censures should condemn his Play,
Far from disputing, he does only pray
He may Leanders Destiny obtain:
Now spare him, drown him when he comes again.
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1663. [back]

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