Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to The Wild Gallant, revived
AS 1 some raw Squire, by tender Mother bred,
Till one and Twenty keeps his Maidenhead;
(Pleas’d with some Sport, which he alone does find,
And thinks a Secret to all Humane kind,)
Till mightily in Love, yet half afraid,        5
He first attempts the gentle Dairymaid:
Succeeding there, and, led by the renown
Of Whetstones Park, he comes at length to Town:
Where enter’d by some School-fellow or Friend,
He grows to break Glass-Windows in the end:        10
His Valour too, which with the Watch began,
Proceeds to duell, and he kills his Man.
By such Degrees, while Knowledge he did want,
Our unfletch’d 2 Author writ a Wild Gallant.
He thought him monstrous leud (I’ll lay my Life)        15
Because suspected with his Landlords Wife;
But, since his Knowledge of the Town began,
He thinks him now a very civil Man;
And, much asham’d of what he was before,
Has fairly play’d him at three Wenches more.        20
’Tis some amends his Frailties to confess;
Pray pardon him his want of Wickedness.
He’s towardly, and will come on apace;
His frank Confession shows he has some Grace.
You balk’d him when he was a young Beginner,        25
And almost spoyl’d a very hopeful Sinner;
But if once more you slight his weak indeavour,
For ought I know, he may turn taile for ever.
Of all Dramatique Writing, Comick Wit,
As ’tis the best, so ’tis most hard to hit.        30
For it lies all in level to the Eye,
Where all may judge, and each Defect may spye.
Humour is that which every Day we meet,
And therefore known as every publick Street;
In which, if e’r the Poet go astray,        35
You all can point, ’twas there he lost his Way,
But what’s so common to make pleasant too,
Is more than any Wit can always do.
For ’tis, like Turkes with Hen and Rice to treat,
To make Regalio’s out of common Meat.        40
But, in your Diet, you grow Salvages:
Nothing but humane Flesh your Taste can please;
And as their Feasts with slaughter’d Slaves began,
So you, at each new Play, must have a Man.
Hither you come, as to see Prizes fought;        45
If no Blood’s drawn, you cry, the Prize is naught.
But Fooles grow wary now; and, when they see
A Poet eyeing round the Company,
Straight each Man for himself begins to doubt;
They shrink like Seamen when a Press comes out.        50
Few of ’em will be found for publick Use,
Except you charge an Oph upon each House,
Like the Train-Bands, and every man ingage
For a sufficient Fool to serve the Stage.
And when with much adoe you get him there,        55
Where he in all his Glory should appear,
Your Poets make him such rare Things to say,
That he’s more Wit than any Man ith’ Play:
But of so ill a mingle with the rest,
As when a Parrat’s taught to break a Jest.        60
Thus, aiming to be fine, they make a Show,
As tawdry Squires in country Churches do.
Things well consider’d, ’tis so hard to make
A Comedy, which should the knowing take,
That our dull Poet, in despair to please,        65
Does humbly beg by me his writ of ease.
’Tis a Land-tax, which he’s too poor to pay;
You therefore must some other Impost lay.
Would you but change for serious Plot and Verse
This motley garniture of Fool and Farce,        70
Nor scorn a Mode, because ’tis taught at home,
Which does, like Vests, our Gravity become,
Our Poet yields you should this Play refuse:
As Tradesmen by the change of Fashions lose
With some content their Fripperies of France,        75
In Hope it may their staple Trade advance.
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1667. [back]
Note 2. unfletch’d] The editors give unfledged. [back]

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