Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to The Indian Emperor
ALMIGHTY 1 critiques! whom our Indians here
Worship, just as they do the Devil—for fear;
In Rev’rence to your Power, I come this day,
To give you timely warning of our Play.
The Scenes are old, the Habits are the same        5
We wore last Year, before the Spaniards came.
Our Prologue, th’ old-cast too 2
For to observe the new it should at least
Be spoke 3 by some ingenious Bird or Beast.
Now, if you stay, the Blood that shall be shed        10
From this poor Play be all upon your Head.
We neither promise you one Dance or Show;
Then Plot and Language, they are wanting too.
But you, kind Wits, will those light Faults excuse,
Those are the common Frailties of the Muse;        15
Which who observes, he buys his Place too dear;
For ’tis your Business to be cozen’d here.
These wretched Spies of Wit must then confess,
They take more Pains to please themselves the less.
Grant us such Judges, Phœbus, we request,        20
As still mistake themselves into a Jest;
Such easy Judges that our Poet may
Himself admire the Fortune of his Play;
And arrogantly, as his Fellows do,
Think he writes well, because he pleases you.        25
This he conceives not hard to bring about,
If all of you would join to help him out:
Would each Man take but what he understands,
And leave the rest upon the Poet’s Hands.
Spoken by a Mercury.
To all and singular in this full Meeting,
Ladies and Gallants, Phœbus sends me greeting.
To all his Sons, by whate’er Title known,
Whether of Court, of Coffee-house, or Town;
From his most mighty Sons, whose Confidence
Is plac’d in lofty Sound and humble Sense,        35
Even to his little Infants of the Time,
Who write new Songs and trust in Tune and Rhyme;
Be’t known, that Phœbus (being daily griev’d
To see good Prays condemn’d and bad receiv’d)
Ordains your Judgment upon every Cause        40
Henceforth be limited by wholesome Laws.
He first thinks fit no Sonnetteer advance
His Censure farther than the Song or Dance.
Your Wit burlesque may one Step higher climb,
And in his Sphere may judge all dogrel Rhyme;        45
All proves, and moves, and loves, and honours too;
All that appears high Sense, and scarce is low.
As for the Coffee-wits, he says not much;
Their proper Business is to damn the Dutch.
For the great Dons of Wit ———        50
Phœbus gives them full Privilege alone
To damn all others, and cry up their own.
Last, for the Ladies, ’tis Apollo’s Will,
They should have power to save, but not to kill;
For Love and he long since have thought it fit,        55
Wit live by Beauty, Beauty reign by Wit.
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1665. [back]
Note 2. 7–9. These lines are not in all copies. [back]
Note 3. spoke] spoke, 1665. [back]

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