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More tamely than your fathers
you submit; You're now grown vassals to 'em in your wit. Mark, when they play, how our fine fops advance The mighty merits of their men of France.
45 Keep time, cry Bon, and humour the cadence. Well please yourselves; but sure 'tis understood That French machines have ne'er done England good. I would not prophesy our House's fate; But while vain shows and scenes you over-rate, 50 'Tis to be fear'd 'That as a fire the former House o'erthrew, Machines and tempests will destroy the New. 53
PROLOCUF to the University of Oxford, 1674. Spoken by
Mr. HART. Ports, your subjects, have their parts assign’d T’unbend and to divert the sov'reigu's mind : When, tir'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 yourselves from envy, care, and strife, You view the various turns of human life ; Safe in our scene, thro' dang'rous courts you go, And undebauch'd the vice of cities know.
Your theories are here to practice brought,
As in mechanic operations wrought :
And man, the little world, before you set,
As once the sphere of crystal shew'd the great.
Bless’d, sure, are you above all mortal kind,
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, 19
And beg from you the value of their wit, [claim
That Shakespeare's, Fletcher's, and great Johnson's
May be renew'd from those who gave them fame.
None of our living poets dare appear,
For Muses so severe are worshipp'd here,
That, conscious of their faults, they shun the eye,
And, as profane, from sacred places fly,
Rather than see th' offended God and die.
We bring no imperfections but our own ;
Such faults as made are by the makers shown:
liave 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 ev'n to the level of their wit ;
Disdaining that which yet they know will take, 34
Hating themselves what their applause must make ;
But when to praise from you they would aspire,
Tho' 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.
PROLOGUE TO CIRCE. By Dri DAVENANT, 1675.
WERE you but half so wise as you're severe,
Our youthful poet should not need to fear;
To his green years your censures you would suit,
Not blast the blossom, but expect the fruit.
The sex that best does pleasure understand,
Will always chufe to err on th' other hand :
They check not him that's awkward in delight,
But clap the young rogne's cheek, and set him right.
Thus hearten'd well, and flesh'd upon his prey,
The youth may prove a man another day.
Your Ben, and Fletcher, in their first young flight,
Did no Volpone nor no Arbaces write ;
But hopp'd about, and short excursions made
From bough to bough, as if they were afraid,
And each was guilty of some slighted maid.
Shakespeare's own Muse her Pericles first bore ;
The prince of Tyre, was elder than the Moore.
'Tis miracle to see a first good play :
All hawthorns do not bloom on Christmas-day..
A slender poet must have time to grow,
And spread and burnish as his brothers do.
Who still looks lean, sure with some pox is curst;
But no man can be Falstaff-fat at first,
Then damn not, but indulge, his rude essays,
Encourage him, and bloat him up with praise,
That he may get more bulk before he dies;
He's not yet fed enough for sacrifice.
Perhaps, if now your grace you will not grudge,
He may grow up to write, and you to judge. 29
PROLOGUL TO CÆSAR BORGIA. By Mr. No ļEE, 1680.
TH' unhappy man who once has trail'd a pen,
Lives oot to please himself but other men;
Is always drudging, wastes his life and blood,
Yet only eats and drinks what you think good.
What praise soe'er the poetry deserve,
Yet ev'ry 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 Leadenhall to Ludgate is in arms.
Were there no fear of Antichrist or France,
In the bless'd time 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.
You sleep o'er wit, and, by my troth, you may;
Most of your talents lie another
You love to hear of some prodigious tale,
The bell that toll'd alone, or Irish whale.
News is your food, and you enough provide,
Both for yourselves and all the world beside.
One theatre there is of vast resort,
Which whilom of Requests was call'd the Court,
But now the great Exchange of News ’uis hight,
And full of hum and buz 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 ed By villains in your own dull island bred.
Would you return to us, we dare engage
To shew you better rogues upon the stage.
You know no poison but plain ratsbane here;
Death's more refin'd and better bred elsewhere, 35
They have a civil way in Italy,
By smelling a perfume, to make you die ; .
A trick would make you lay your snuff-box by.
Murder's a trade so known and practis'd there,
That 'tis infallible as is the Chair:
40 But, mark their feast, you shall behold such pranks; The Pope says grace, but 'tis the Devil gives thanks.