Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue and Epilogue to Troilus and Cressida, or Truth found Too Late
Spoken by MR. BETTERTON, representing the Ghost of SHAKSPEAR.

SEE, 1 my lov’d Britons, see your Shakespeare rise,
An awfull Ghost confess’d to human Eyes!
Unnam’d, methinks, distinguish’d I had been
From other Shades by this eternal Green,
About whose Wreaths the vulgar Poets strive,        5
And with a Touch, their wither’d Bays revive.
Untaught, unpractis’d, in a barbarous Age,
I found not, but created first the Stage.
And if I drain’d no Greek or Latin Store,
’Twas that my own Abundance gave me more.        10
On foreign Trade I needed not rely,
Like fruitfull Britain, rich without Supply.
In this my rough-drawn Play, you shall behold
Some Master-strokes, so manly and so bold
That he, who meant to alter, found ’em such        15
He shook; and thought it Sacrilege to touch.
Now, where are the Successors to my Name?
What bring they to fill out a Poets Fame?
Weak, short-liv’d Issues of a feeble Age;
Scarce living to be Christen’d on the Stage!        20
For Humour Farce, for Love they Rhyme dispence,
That tolls the Knell for their departed Sence.
Dulness might thrive in any Trade but this:
’Twould recommend to some fat Benefice.
Dulness, that in a Playhouse meets Disgrace,        25
Might meet with Reverence in its proper place.
The fulsome Clench that nauseats the town
Wou’d from a Judge or Alderman go down!
Such Virtue is there in a Robe and Gown!
And that insipid Stuff which here you hate,        30
Might somewhere else be call’d a grave Debate;
Dulness is decent in the Church and State.
But I forget that still ’tis understood,
Bad Plays are best decry’d by showing good:
Sit silent then, that my pleas’d Soul may see        35
A Judging Audience once, and worthy me:
My faithful Scene from true Records shall tell,
How Trojan Valour did the Greek excell;
Your great Forefathers shall their Fame regain,
And Homers angry Ghost repine in vain.        40
Spoken by THERSITES.

These cruel Critiques put me into Passion,
For in their lowring Looks I reade Damnation:
You except a Satyr, and I seldom fail;
When I’m first beaten, ’tis my Part to rail.
You British Fools of the old Trojan Stock,        45
That stand so thick one cannot miss the Flock,
Poets have cause to dread a keeping Pit,
When Womens Cullyes come to judge of Wit.
As we strew Rats-bane when we Vermine fear,
’Twere worth our Cost to scatter Fool-bane here;        50
And after all our judging Fops were serv’d,
Dull Poets too shou’d have a Dose reserv’d,
Such Reprobates as, past all Sence of Shaming,
Write on, and nere are satisfy’d with Damming,
Next, those, to whom the Stage does not belong        55
Such whose Vocation onely is to Song,
At most to Prologue; when for Want of Time
Poets take in for Journey work in Rhime.
But I want Curses for those mighty Shoales
Of scribling Chlorisses, and Phillis Fools:        60
Those Ophs should be restrain’d, during their Lives,
From Pen and Ink, as Madmen are from Knives:
I cou’d rayl on, but ’twere a Task as vain
As Preaching Truth at Rome, or Wit in Spain:
Yet to huff out our Play was worth my trying;        65
John Lilbourn scap’d his Judges by defying.
If guilty, yet I’m sure oth’ Churches Blessing,
By suffering for the Plot, without confessing.
Note 1. 1679. The original text is careless in the use of capitals. [back]

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