Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue. Spoken at the opening of the New House, March 26, 1674
A PLAIN 1 built House, after so long a stay,
Will send you half unsatisfi’d away;
When, fall’n from your expected Pomp, you find
A bare convenience only is designed.
You, who each Day can Theatres behold,        5
Like Nero’s Palace, shining all with Gold,
Our mean ungilded Stage will scorn, we fear,
And for the homely Room, disdain the Chear.
Yet now cheap Druggets to a Mode are grown,
And a plain Suit (since we can make but one        10
Is better than to be by tarnisht gawdry known.
They, who are by your Favours wealthy made,
With mighty Sums may carry on the Trade;
We, broken Banquiers, half destroy’d by Fire,
With our small Stock to humble Roofs retire;        15
Pity our Loss, while you their Pomp admire.
For Fame and Honour we no longer strive;
We yield in both, and only beg to live;
Unable to support their vast Expense,
Who build and treat with such Magnificence,        20
That, like th’ Ambitious Monarchs of the Age,
They give the Law to our Provincial Stage.
Great Neibours enviously promote Excess,
While they impose their Splendor on the less;
But only Fools, and they of vast Estate,        25
Th’ extremity of Modes will imitate,
The dangling Knee-fringe and the Bib-cravat.
Yet if some Pride with want may be allow’d,
We in our plainness may be justly proud;
Our Royal Master will’d it should be so;        30
Whate’er he’s pleased to own can need no show;
That sacred Name gives Ornament and Grace;
And, like his Stamp, makes basest Mettals pass.
’Twere Folly now a stately Pile to raise,
To build a Play-house, while you throw down Plays;        35
Whilst Scenes, Machines, and empty Opera’s reign,
And for the Pencil you the Pen disdain;
While Troops of famish’d Frenchmen hither drive,
And laugh at those upon whose Alms they live:
Old English Authors vanish, and give place        40
To these new Conqu’rors of the Norman Race.
More tamely than your Fathers you submit;
You’re now grown Vassals to ’em in your Wit.
Mark, when they play, how our fine Fops advance
The Mighty Merits of these Men of France,        45
Keep time, cry Ben, 2 and humour the Cadence.
Well, please your selves; but sure ’tis understood,
That French Machines have ne’er done England good.
I would not prophesie our Houses Fate;
But while vain Shows and Scenes you overrate,        50
’Tis to be feared——
That, as a Fire the former House o’erthrew,
Machines and Tempests will destroy the new.
Though what our Prologue said was sadly true,
Yet, Gentlemen, our homely House is new,        55
A Charm that seldom fails with wicked you.
A Country Lip may have the Velvet touch:
Tho’ she’s no Lady, you may think her such:
A strong Imagination may do much.
But you, loud Sirs, who thro’ your Curls look big,        60
Criticks in plume and white vallancy Wig,
Who lolling on our foremost Benches sit,
And still charge first, (the true forlorn of Wit)
Whose favours, like the Sun, warm where you roul,
Yet you, like him, have neither heat nor Soul;        65
So may your Hats your Foretops never press,
Untouch’d your Ribbons, sacred be your Dress;
So may you slowly to old Age advance,
And have th’ Excuse of Youth for Ignorance;
So may Fop corner full of Noise remain,        70
And drive far off the dull, attentive Train;
So may your Midnight Scowrings happy prove,
And Morning Batt’ries force your way to love;
So may not France your Warlike Hands recal,
But leave you by each other’s Swords to fall,        75
As you come here to ruffle Vizard Punk,
When sober rail, and roar when you are drunk.
But to the Wits we can some Merit plead,
And urge what by themselves has oft been said:
Our House relieves the Ladies from the frights        80
Of ill-pav’d Streets, and long dark Winter Nights;
The Flanders Horses from a cold bleak Road,
Where Bears in Furs dare scarcely look abroad;
The Audience from worn Plays and Fustian Stuff
Of Rhime, more nauseous than three Boys in Buff.        85
Though in their House the Poets Heads appear,
We hope we may presume their Wits are here.
The best which they reserv’d they now will play,
For, like kind Cuckcolds, tho’ w’ have not the way
To please, we’ll find you abler Men who may.        90
If they shou’d fail, for last Recruits we breed
A Troop of frisking Monsiers to succeed.
(You know the French sure Cards at time of need.)
Note 1. 1674. First printed in 1684. [back]
Note 2. Ben] Many editions give Bon. [back]

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