Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue to Cæsar Borgia, Son of Pope Alexander the Sixth
TH’ 1 unhappy man who once has trail’d a Pen,
Lives not to please himself, but other men;
Is always drudging, wasts his Life and Blood.
Yet only eats and drinks what you think good.
What praise soe’re the Poetry deserve,        5
Yet every Fool can bid the Poet starve.
That fumbling Lecher to revenge is bent,
Because he thinks himself or Whore is meant:
Name but a Cuckold, all the City swarms;
From Leaden-hall to Ludgate is in Arms.        10
Were there no fear of Antichrist or France,
In the best 2 times 3 poor Poets live by chance.
Either you come not here, or, as you grace
Some old acquaintance, drop into the place,
Careless and qualmish with a yawning Face.        15
You sleep o’re Wit, and by my troth you may;
Most of your Talents lye another way.
You love to hear of some prodigious Tale,
The Bell that tolled alone, or Irish Whale.
News is your Food, and you enough provide,        20
Both for your selves and all the World beside.
One Theatre there is of vast resort,
Which whilome of Requests was called the Court.
But now the great Exchange of News ’tis hight,
And full of hum and buzz from Noon till Night:        25
Up Stairs and down you run, as for a Race,
And each Man wears three Nations in his Face.
So big you look, tho’ Claret you retrench,
That, arm’d with bottled Ale, you huff the French.
But all your Entertainment still is fed        30
By Villains in our 4 own dull Island bred:
Would you return to us, we dare engage
To show you better Rogues upon the Stage.
You know no Poison but plain Rats-bane here;
Death’s more refind, and better bred elsewhere.        35
They have a civil way in Italy
By smelling a perfume to make you dye,
A Trick would make you lay your Snuffbox by.
Murder’s a Trade—so known and practis’d there,
That ’tis Infallible as is the Chair——        40
But mark their Feasts, 5 you shall behold such Pranks;
The Pope says Grace, but ’tis the Devil gives Thanks.
Note 1. 1680. The play is by Lee. [back]
Note 2. best] Editors till Christie wrongly give blest. [back]
Note 3. times] The editors wrongly give time. [back]
Note 4. our] Some editors wrongly give your [back]
Note 5. Feasts] Some editors wrongly give Feast. [back]

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