Verse > John Dryden > Poems
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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue to Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen
 
FIRST PROLOGUE.
1
HE 1 who writ this, not without Pains and Thought,
From French and English Theaters has brought
Th’ exactest Rules by which a Play is wrought,
 
2
The Unities of Action, Place, and Time;
The Scenes unbroken; and a mingled chime        5
Of Johnsons 2 Humour with Corneilles 3 rhyme.
 
3
But while dead colours he with care did lay,
He fears his Wit or Plot he did not weigh,
Which are the living Beauties of a Play.
 
4
Plays are like Towns, which, howe’re fortifi’d
        10
By Engineers, have still some weaker side,
By the o’reseen Defendant unespy’d.
 
5
And with that Art you make approaches now;
Such skilful fury in Assaults you show,
That every Poet without shame may bow.        15
 
6
Ours therefore humbly would attend your doom,
If, Souldier-like, he may have Terms to come
With flying colours and with beat of Drum.
The Prologue goes out, and stayes while a Tune is play’d, after which he returnes again.
 
SECOND PROLOGUE.
I had forgot one half, I do protest,
And now am sent again to speak the rest.        20
He bows to every great and noble Wit;
But to the little Hectors of the Pit
Our Poet’s sturdy, and will not submit.
He’ll be before-hand with ’em, and not stay
To see each peevish Critick stab his Play;        25
Each Puny Censor, who, his skill to boast,
Is cheaply witty on the Poets Cost.
No Criticks Verdict should, of right, stand good,
They are excepted all, as men of blood;
And the same Law should shield him from their fury,        30
Which has excluded Butchers from a Jury.
You’d all be Wits —————
But writing’s tedious, and that way may fail;
The most compendious Method is to rail;
Which you so like, you think your selves ill us’d,        35
When in smart Prologues you are not abus’d,
A civil Prologue is approv’d by no man;
You hate it as you do a Civil woman.
Your Fancy’s pall’d, and liberally you pay
To have it quicken’d, e’re you see a Play.        40
Just as old Sinners, worn from their delight,
Give money to be whip’d to appetite.
But what a Pox keep I so much ado
To save our Poet? he is one of you;
A Brother Judgment, and, as I hear say,        45
A cursed Critick as e’er damned a Play.
Good salvage Gentlemen, your own kind spare;
He is, like you, a very Wolf or Bear;
Yet think not he’ll your ancient rights invade,
Or stop the course of your free damning trade;        50
For he (he vows) at no Friend’s Play can sit,
But he must needs find fault, to show his Wit;
Then, for his sake, ne’er stint your own delight;
Throw boldly, for the sets to all that write;
With such he ventures on an even lay,        55
For they bring ready money into Play.
Those who write not, and yet all Writers nick,
Are Bankrupt Gamesters, for they damn on Tick.
 
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1667. [back]
Note 2. Johnsons] Here and elsewhere editors correct to Jonson’s. [back]
Note 3. with Corneilles] Bell wrongly inserted old between these words. [back]
 
 
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