Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to All for Love, or the World well Lost
WHAT 1 Flocks of Critiques hover here to-day,
As Vultures wait on Armies for their Prey,
All gaping for the Carcase of a Play!
With croaking Notes they bode some dire event,
And follow dying Poets by the scent.        5
Ours gives himself for gone; y’ have watch’d your Time;
He fights this day unarm’d, without his Rhyme,
And brings a Tale which often has been told,
As sad as Dido’s, and almost as old.
His Heroe, whom you Wits his Bully call,        10
Bates of his Mettle, and scarce rants at all;
He’s somewhat lewd, but a well-meaning mind,
Weeps much, fights little, but is wondrous kind;
In short, a Pattern and Companion fit
For all the keeping Tonyes of the Pit.        15
I cou’d name more: A Wife, and Mistress too,
Both (to be plain) too good for most of you;
The Wife well-natur’d, and the Mistress true.
  Now, Poets, if your fame has been his Care,
Allow him all the Candour you can spare.        20
A brave Man scorns to quarrel once a day,
Like Hectors in at ev’ry petty fray.
Let those find fault whose Wit’s so very small,
They’ve need to show that they can think at all.
Errors, like Straws, upon the surface flow;        25
He who would search for Pearls must dive below.
Fops may have leave to level all they can,
As Pigmies wou’d be glad to lop a Man.
Half-wits are Fleas, so little and so light,
We scarce cou’d know they live, but that they bite.        30
But, as the rich, when tir’d with daily Feasts,
For Change become their next poor Tenants Ghests;
Drink hearty Draughts of Ale from plain brown Bowls,
And snatch the homely Rasher from the Coals:
So you, retiring from much better Cheer,        35
For once may venture to do penance here.
And since that plenteous Autumn now is past,
Whose Grapes and Peaches have indulg’d your Taste,
Take in good Part from our poor Poets boord
Such rivell’d Fruits as Winter can afford.        40
Poets, like Disputants, when Reasons fail,
Have one sure Refuge left, and that’s to rail.
Fop, Coxcomb, Fool, are thunder’d through the Pit,
And this is all their Equipage of Wit.
We wonder how the Devil this diff’rence grows,        45
Betwixt our Fools in Verse, and yours in Prose:
For, ’Faith, the Quarrel rightly understood,
’Tis Civil War with their own Flesh and Blood.
The thread bare Author hates the gawdy Coat,
And swears at the Guilt Coach, but swears afoot:        50
For ’tis observ’d of ev’ry Scribling Man,
He grows a Fop as fast as e’er he can;
Prunes up, and asks his Oracle the Glass,
If Pink or Purple best become his Face.
For our poor Wretch, he neither rails nor prays,        55
Nor likes your Wit just as you like his Plays;
He has not yet so much of Mr. Bays.
He does his best; and if he cannot please,
Wou’d quietly sue out his Writ of Ease.
Yet, if he might his own grand Jury call,        60
By the Fair Sex he begs to stand or fall.
Let Cæsar’s Pow’r the Mens Ambition move,
But grace you him, who lost the World for Love!
Yet if some antiquated Lady say,
The last Age is not copy’d in his Play;        65
Heav’n help the man who for that face must drudge,
Which only has the wrinkles of a Judge.
Let not the Young and Beauteous join with those;
For shou’d you raise such numerous Hosts of Foes,
Young Wits and Sparks he to his aid must call;        70
’Tis more than one Man’s work to please you all.
Note 1. 1678. [back]

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