Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards
Spoken by MRS. ELLEN GWYN in a broad-brimmed hat and waist-belt.

THIS 1 jeast was first of t’ other houses making,
And, five times try’d, has never fail’d of taking;
For ’twere a shame a Poet shoud be kill’d
Under the shelter of so broad a shield.
This is that hat, whose very sight did win yee        5
To laugh and clap as though the Devil were in yee.
As then for Nokes, so now I hope you’l be
So dull, to laugh once more for love of me.
I’ll write a Play, sayes one, for I have got
A broad-brim’d hat and wastbelt towards a Plot.        10
Sayes t’ other, I have one more large than that.
Thus they out-write each other—with a hat.
The brims still grew with every Play they writ;
And grew so large, they cover’d all the wit.
Hat was the Play; ’twas language, wit, and Tale:        15
Like them that find Meat, drink, and cloth in Ale.
What dulness do these Mungrill-wits confess,
When all their hope is acting of a dress!
Thus, two the best Comedians of the Age
Must be worn out with being Blocks o’ th’ Stage:        20
Like a young Girl, who better things has known,
Beneath their Poets Impotence they groan.
See now what Charity it was to save!
They thought you lik’d what onely you for-gave;
And brought you more dull sence, dull sence much worse        25
Than brisk gay Non-sence, and the heavyer Curse.
They bring old Ir’n and glass upon the Stage,
To barter with the Indians of our Age.
Still they write on, and like great Authors show;
But ’tis as Rowlers in wet gardens grow        30
Heavy with dirt, and gath’ring as they goe.
May none, who have so little understood,
To like such trash, presume to praise what’s good!
And may those drudges of the Stage, whose fate
Is, damn’d dull farce more dully to translate,        35
Fall under that excise the State thinks fit
To set on all French wares, whose worst is wit.
French Farce, worn out at home, is sent abroad;
And, patch’d up here, is made our English mode.
Henceforth, let Poets, ’ere allow’d to write,        40
Be search’d, like Duellists before they fight,
For wheel-broad hats, dull Humour, 2 all that chaffe,
Which makes you mourn, and makes the Vulgar laugh:
For these, in Playes, are as unlawful Arms,
As, in a Combat, Coats of Mayle, and Charms.        45
Success, which can no more than beauty last,
Makes our sad Poet mourn your favours past:
For, since without desert he got a name,
He fears to loose it now with greater shame.
Fame, like a little Mistriss of the Town,        50
Is gaind with ease; but then she’s lost as soon;
For, as those taudry Misses, soon or late,
Jilt such as keep ’em at the highest rate,
(And oft the Lacquey, or the Brawny Clown,
Gets what is hid in the loose body’d gown;)        55
So, Fame is false to all that keep her long;
And turns up to the Fop that’s brisk and young.
Some wiser Poet now would leave Fame first;
But elder wits are, like old Lovers, curst:
Who, when the vigor of their Youth is spent,        60
Still grow more fond as they grow impotent.
This, some years hence, our Poets case may prove;
But yet, he hopes, he’s young enough to love.
When forty comes, if ere he live to see
That wretched, fumbling age of poetry;        65
’Twill 3 be high time to bid his Muse adieu:
Well he may please him self, but never you.
Till then, he’l do as well as he began,
And hopes you will not finde him less a man.
Think him not duller for this years delay;        70
He was prepar’d, the women were away;
And men, without their parts, can hardly play.
If they, through sickness, seldome did appear,
Pity the Virgins of each Theatre!
For, at both houses, ’twas a sickly year!        75
And pity us, your servants, to whose cost,
In one such sickness, nine whole Months 4 are lost.
Their Stay, he fears, has ruin’d what he writ:
Long waiting both disables love and wit.
They thought they gave him Leisure to do well;        80
But, when they forc’d him to attend, he fell!
Yet, though he much has faild, he begs to day
You will excuse his unperforming Play:
Weakness sometimes great passion does express;
He had pleas’d better, had he lov’d you less.        85
Note 1. 1670. Published in 1672. The originals are careless in the use of capitals. [back]
Note 2. Humour] Some editors wrongly give Honour. [back]
Note 3. ’Twill] T’will 1672. [back]
Note 4. Months] Mon’ths 1672. [back]

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