Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to Aureng-Zebe
OUR 1 Author by experience finds it true,
’Tis much more hard to please himself than you;
And out of no feign’d Modesty, this day,
Damns his laborious Trifle of a Play;
Not that its worse than what before he writ,        5
But he has now another taste of Wit;
And, to confess a Truth (though out of Time,)
Grows weary of his long-loved Mistris Rhyme.
Passion’s too fierce to be in Fetters bound,
And Nature flies him like Enchanted Ground:        10
What Verse can do he has perform’d in this,
Which he presumes the most correct of his;
But spite of all his pride, a secret shame
Invades his Breast at Shakespear’s sacred name:
Aw’d when he hears his Godlike Romans rage.        15
He in a just despair would quit the Stage;
And to an Age less polish’d, more unskill’d,
Does with disdain the foremost Honours yield.
As with the greater Dead he dares not strive,
He wou’d not match his Verse with those who live:        20
Let him retire, betwixt two Ages cast,
The first of this, and hindmost of the last.
A losing Gamester, let him sneak away;
He bears no ready Money from the Play.
The Fate which governs Poets, thought it fit,        25
He shou’d not raise his Fortunes by his Wit.
The Clergy thrive, and the litigious Bar;
Dull Heroes fatten with the Spoils of War:
All Southern Vices, Heav’n be prais’d, are here;
But Wit’s a Luxury you think too dear.        30
When you to cultivate the Plant are loth,
’Tis a shrewd sign ’twas never of your growth:
And Wit in Northern Climates will not blow,
Except, like Orange-trees, ’tis hous’d from Snow.
There needs no care to put a Play-house down,        35
’Tis the most desart place of all the Town:
We and our Neighbours, to speak proudly, are
Like Monarchs, ruin’d with expensive War;
While, like wise English, unconcern’d you sit,
And see us play the Tragedy of Wit.        40
A pretty task! and so I told the Fool,
Who needs would undertake to please by Rule:
He thought that, if his Characters were good,
The Scenes entire, and freed from noise and bloud;
The Action great, yet circumscrib’d by Time,        45
The Words not forc’d, but sliding into Rhime,
The Passions rais’d and calm’d by just Degrees,
As Tides are swell’d, and then retire to Seas;
He thought in hitting these his bus’ness done,
Though he perhaps has fail’d in ev’ry one:        50
But, after all, a Poet must confess,
His Art’s, like Physick, but a happy ghess.
Your Pleasure on your Fancy must depend:
The Lady’s pleas’d, just as she likes her Friend.
No Song! no Dance! no Show! he fears you’l say:        55
You love all naked Beauties, but a Play.
He much mistakes your methods to delight;
And, like the French, 2 abhors our Target-fight:
But those damn’d Dogs can never be i’ th’ right.
True English hate your Monsieur’s paltry Arts,        60
For you are all Silk-weavers, in your hearts.
Bold Brittons, 3 at a brave Bear-garden Fray,
Are rouz’d; and, clatt’ring Sticks, cry, Play, play, play.
Meantime, your filthy Forreigner will stare,
And mutter to himself, Ha gens Barbare! 4        65
And, Gad, ’tis well he mutters; well for him;
Our Butchers else would tear him limb from limb.
’Tis true, the time may come, your Sons may be
Infected with this French 5 civility:
But this in After-ages will be done:        70
Our Poet writes a hundred years too soon.
This Age comes on too slow, or he too fast;
And early Springs are subject to a blast!
Who would excel, when few can make a Test
Betwixt indiff’rent Writing and the best?        75
For Favours cheap and common, who wou’d strive,
Which, like abandoned Prostitutes, you give?
Yet scatter’d here and there, I some behold,
Who can discern the Tinsel from the Gold:
To these he writes; and, if by them allow’d,        80
’Tis their Prerogative to rule the Crowd.
For he more fears (like a presuming Man)
Their Votes who cannot judge, than theirs who can.
Note 1. 1675. Published in 1676. [back]
Note 2. French] French 1676. [back]
Note 3. Brittons] Brittons 1676. [back]
Note 4. gens] Saintsbury conjectures gent. [back]
Note 5. French] French 1676. [back]

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