Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to the University of Oxford
Spoken by MR. HART.

POETS, 1 your Subjects, have their Parts assign’d,
T’ unbend and to divert their Sov’reign’s Mind:
When, tyr’d with following Nature, you think fit
To seek repose in the cool shades of Wit,
And from the sweet Retreat, with Joy survey        5
What rests, and what is conquer’d, of the way.
Here, free your selves from Envy, Care, and Strife,
You view the various Turns of humane Life;
Safe in our Scene, through dangerous Courts you go,
And undebauch’d the Vice of Cities know.        10
Your Theories are here to Practice brought,
As in Mechanick Operations wrought;
And Man, the little World, before you set,
As once the Sphere of Chrystal Shew’d the Great.
Blest sure are you above all Mortal Kind,        15
If to your Fortunes you can suit your Mind;
Content to see, and shun, those ills we show,
And Crimes, on Theatres alone, to know.
With joy we bring what our dead Authors writ,
And beg from you the value of their Wit:        20
That Shakespear’s, Fletcher’s, and great Johnson’s Claim
May be renew’d from those who gave them Fame.
None of our living Poets dare appear;
For Muses so severe are worshipt here
That, conscious of their Faults, they shun the Eye,        25
And, as Prophane, from sacred Places fly,
Rather than see th’ offended God, and dye.
We bring no Imperfections, but our own;
Such Faults as made are by the Makers shown.
And you have been so kind that we may boast,        30
The greatest Judges still can pardon most.
Poets must stoop, when they would please our Pit,
Debas’d even to the Level of their Wit;
Disdaining that which yet they know will take,
Hating themselves what their Applause must make.        35
But when to Praise from you they would aspire,
Though they like Eagles mount, your Jove is higher.
So far your Knowledge all their Pow’r transcends,
As what should be beyond what Is, extends.
Spoken by MRS. MARSHALL.

Oft has our Poet wisht, this happy Seat
Might prove his fading Muses last Retreat:
I wonder’d at his Wish, but now I find
He sought for 2 quiet, and content of mind;
Which noisefull Towns and Courts can never know,
And onely in the shades, like Laurels, grow.        45
Youth, e’er it sees the World, here studies Rest,
And Age, returning thence, concludes it best.
What wonder if we court that happiness,
Yearly to share, which hourly you possess;
Teaching ev’n you, while the vext World we show,        50
Your Peace to value more, and better know
’Tis all we can return for favours past,
Whose holy Memory shall ever last,
For Patronage from him whose care presides
O’er every noble Art, and every Science guides:        55
Bathurst, a name the learn’d with reverence know,
And scarcely more to his own Virgil owe;
Whose Age enjoys but what his Youth deserv’d,
To rule those Muses whom before he serv’d.
His Learning, and untainted Manners too,        60
We find (Athenians) are deriv’d to you;
Such Antient Hospitality there rests
In yours, as dwelt in the first Grecian Breasts,
Whose kindness was Religion to their Guests.
Such Modesty did to our Sex appear,        65
As had there been no Laws we need not fear,
Since each of you was our Protector here.
Converse so chast, and so strict Vertue shown,
As might Apollo with the Muses own.
Till our return, we must despair to find        70
Judges so just, so knowing, and so kind.
Note 1. 1674. Printed twice over in the Miscellanies of 1684. [back]
Note 2. sought for] One version has here sought. [back]

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