Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to An Evening’s Love, or the Mock Astrologer
WHEN 1 first our Poet set himself to write,
Like a young Bridegroom on his Wedding-night,
He laid about him, and did so bestir him,
His Muse could never lye in quiet for him:
But now his Honey-moon is gone and past,        5
Yet the ungrateful drudgery must last,
And he is bound, as civil Husbands do,
To strain himself, in complaisance to you:
To write in pain, and counterfeit a Bliss,
Like the faint smackings 2 of an after-Kiss.        10
But you, like Wives ill pleas’d, supply his want;
Each Writing Monsieur is a fresh gallant:
And though, perhaps, ’twas done as well before,
Yet still there’s something in a new Amour.
Your several Poets work with several Tools,        15
One gets you Wits, another gets you Fools:
This pleases you with some by-stroke of Wit,
This finds some cranny that was never hit.
But should these janty Lovers daily come
To do your Work, like your good Man at home,        20
Their fine small-timber’d Wits would soon decay;
These are Gallants but for a Holiday.
Others you had, who oftner have appear’d,
Whom for meer impotence you have cashier’d:
Such as at first came on with Pomp and Glory,        25
But, over-straining, soon fell flat before ye.
Their useless weight with patience long was borne,
But at the last you threw ’em off with scorn.
As for the Poet of this present night,
Though now he claims in you an Husbands right,        30
He will not hinder you of fresh delight.
He, like a Seaman, seldom will appear,
And means to trouble home but thrice a year;
That only time from your Gallants he’ll borrow;
Be kind to day, and Cuckold him to morrow.        35
My Part being small, I have had time to day
To mark your various censures of our Play.
First, looking for a Judgement or a Wit,
Like Jews, I saw ’em scatter’d through the Pit;
And where a lot of Smilers lent an Ear        40
To one that talk’d, I knew the Foe was there.
The Club of jests went round; he, who had none,
Borrow’d o’ th’ next, and told it for his own.
Among the rest, they kept a fearful stir,
In whisp’ring that he stole th’ Astrologer;        45
And said, betwixt a French and English Plot,
He eased his halfe-tir’d Muse, on Pace and Trot.
Up starts a Mounsieur, new come o’er, and warm
In the French stoop, and the pull-back o’ th’ Arm:
Morbleu dit il, and cocks, I am a Rogue,        50
But he has quite spoil’d the fein’d Astrologue.
’Pox, says another, here’s so great a stir
With a Son of a Whore, Farce that’s regular,
A Rule, where nothing must decorum shock!
Dam’me, ’tis as dull as Dining by the Clock.        55
An Evening! why the Devil should we be vext,
Whether he gets the Wench this night or next?
When I heard this, I to the Poet went,
Told him the House was full of Discontent,
And ask’d him what excuse he could invent.        60
He neither swore nor storm’d, as Poets do,
But, most unlike an Author, vow’d ’twas true;
Yet said, he used the French like Enemies,
And did not steal their Plots, but made ’em Prize.
But should he all the pains and charges count        65
Of taking ’em, the Bill so high wou’d mount,
That, like Prize-Goods, which through the Office come,
He should have had ’em much more cheap at home.
He still must write, and, Banquier-like, each Day
Accept new Bills, and he must break, or pay.        70
When through his hands such sums must yearly run,
You cannot think the Stock is all his own.
His haste his other errors might excuse,
But there’s no mercy for a guilty Muse;
For, like a Mistress, she must stand or fall,        75
And please you to a height, or not at all.
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1668. [back]
Note 2. smackings] Edd. give smacking. [back]

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