Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to The Tempest
AS 1 when a Tree’s cut down, the secret root
Lives under ground, and thence new Branches shoot,
So from old Shakespear’s honoured dust this day
Springs up and buds a new reviving Play:
Shakespear, who (taught by none) did first impart        5
To Fletcher Wit, to labouring Johnson Art;
He Monarch-like, gave those his subjects law,
And is that Nature which they paint and draw.
Fletcher reach’d that which on his heights did grow,
Whilst Johnson crept and gather’d all below.        10
This did his Love, and this his Mirth digest:
One imitates him most, the other best.
If they have since out-writ all other men,
’Tis with the drops which fell from Shakespear’s Pen.
The Storm which vanish’d on the Neighbring shore        15
Was taught by Shakespear’s Tempest first to roar.
That Innocence and Beauty, 2 which did smile
In Fletcher, grew on this Enchanted Isle.
But Shakespear’s Magick could not copy’d be;
Within that Circle none durst walk but he.        20
I must confess ’twas bold, nor would you now
That liberty to vulgar Wits allow,
Which works by Magick supernatural things;
But Shakespear’s pow’r is sacred as a King’s.
Those Legends from old Priest-hood were receiv’d,        25
And he then writ, as People then believ’d.
But if for Shakespear we your grace implore,
We for our Theatre shall want it more;
Who by our dearth of Youths are forc’d t’ employ
One of our Women to present a Boy.        30
And that’s a transformation you will say
Exceeding all the Magick in the Play.
Let none expect in the last Act to find
Her Sex transform’d from Man 3 to Womankind.
What e’re she was before the Play began,        35
All you shall see of her is perfect Man.
Or, if your fancy will be farther led
To find her Woman, it must be abed.
Gallants, by all good Signs it does appear
That Sixty Seven’s a very damning Year,        40
For Knaves aboard, 4 and for ill Poets here.
Among the Muses there’s a gen’ral Rot;
The Rhyming Monsieur and the Spanish Plot,
Defie or court, all’s one, they go to Pot.
The Ghosts of Poets walk within this place,        45
And haunt us Actors wheresoe’re we pass,
In Visions bloodier than King Richard’s was.
Forthis poor Wretch, he has not much to say,
But quietly brings in his Part o’ th’ Play,
And begs the Favour to be damn’d to-day.        50
He sends me only like a Sh’riffs 5 man here
To let you know the Malefactor’s neer,
And that he means to dye en cavalier.
For, if you shou’d be gracious to his Pen,
Th’ Example will prove ill to other Men,        55
And you’ll be troubled with ’em all agen.
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1667. Published in 1670. [back]
Note 2. Innocence] innocence 1670; Beauty] beauty 1670. [back]
Note 3. 34 and 36 Man] man 1670. [back]
Note 4. aboard] Some editors wrongly give abroad. [back]
Note 5. Sh’riffs] The editors print Sheriff’s. [back]

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