Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to Tyrannick Love, or the Royal Martyr
SELF-LOVE (which never rightly understood) 1
Makes Poets still conclude their Plays are good.
And Malice in all Criticks raigns so high,
That for small Errors, they whole Plays decry;
So that to see this fondness, and that spite,        5
You’d think that none but Mad-men judge or write.
Therefore our Poet, as he thinks not fit
T’ impose upon you what he writes for Wit
So hopes that, leaving you your censures free,
You equal Judges of the whole will be:        10
They judge but half, who only faults will see.
Poets, like Lovers, should be bold and dare,
They spoil their business with an over-care;
And he, who servilely creeps after sence,
Is safe, but ne’re will reach an Excellence.        15
Hence ’tis, our Poet, in his conjuring,
Allow’d his Fancy the full scope and swing.
But when a Tyrant for his Theme he had,
He loos’d the Reins, and bid his Muse run mad;
And though he stumbles in a full career,        20
Yet rashness is a better fault than fear.
He saw his way; but in so swift a pace,
To chuse the ground might be to lose the race.
They then, who of each trip th’ advantage take,
Find but those Faults, which they want Wit to make.        25
Spoken by MRS. ELLEN when she was to be carried off dead by the Bearers.
TO THE BEARER.  Hold! are you mad? you damn’d, confounded Dog!
I am to rise, and speak the Epilogue.
TO THE AUDIENCE.  I come, kind Gentlemen, strange news to tell ye;
I am the Ghost of poor departed Nelly.
Sweet Ladies, be not frighted; I’le be civil;        30
I’m what I was, a little harmless Devil.
For, after death, we Sprights have just such Natures,
We had, for all the World, when humane Creatures;
And, therefore, I, that was an Actress here,
Play all my Tricks in Hell, a Goblin there.        35
Gallants, look to ’t, you say there are no Sprights;
But I’ll come dance about your Beds at nights;
And faith you’ll be in a sweet kind of taking,
When I surprise you between sleep and waking.
To tell you true, I walk, because I dye        40
Out of my Calling, in a Tragedy.
O Poet, damn’d dull Poet, who could prove
So senseless, to make Nelly dye for Love!
Nay, what’s yet worse, to kill me in the prime
Of Easter-term, in Tart and Cheese-cake time!        45
I’le fit the Fopp; for I’le not one word say,
T’ excuse his godly, out of fashion Play;
A Play, which, if you dare but twice sit out,
You’ll all be slander’d, and be thought devout.
But, farewel, Gentlemen, make haste to me,        50
I’m sure e’re long to have your company.
As for my Epitaph when I am gone,
I’le trust no Poet, but will write my own.
Here Nelly lies, who, though she lived a Slater’n,
Yet dy’d a Princess, acting in S. Cathar’n.        55
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1669. The editors make nonsense by printing the first line thus:
Self-love, which, never rightly understood,

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