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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue to The True Widow
 
HEAV’N 1 save ye Gallants, and this hopeful Age,
Y’ are welcome to the downfal of the Stage:
The Fools have labour’d long in their Vocation;
And Vice (the Manufacture of the Nation)
O’erstocks the Town so much, and thrives so well,        5
That Fopps and Knaves grow Druggs, and will not sell.
In vain our Wares on Theaters are shown,
When each has a Plantation of his own.
His Cruse 2 ne’r fails; for whatsoe’re he spends,
There’s still God’s Plenty for himself and friends.        10
Shou’d Men be rated by Poetick Rules,
Lord, what a Poll would there be rais’d from Fools!
Mean time poor Wit prohibited must lye,
As if ’twere made some French Commodity.
Fools you will have, and rais’d at vast expence,        15
And yet as soon as seen, they give offence.
Time was, when none wou’d cry that Oaf was mee,
But now you strive about your Pedigree.
Bauble and Cap no sooner are thrown down,
But there’s a Muss of more than half the Town.        20
Each one will challenge a Child’s part at least;
A sign the Family is well increas’d:
Of Forreign Cattle there’s no longer need,
When w’are supply’d so fast with English Breed.
Well! Flourish, Countrymen; drink, swear, and roar;        25
Let every free-born Subject keep his Whore,
And wandring in the Wilderness about,
At end of 40 years not wear her out.
But when you see these Pictures, let none dare
To own beyond a Limb, or single share;        30
For where the Punk is common, he’s a Sot
Who needs will father what the Parish got.
 
Note 1. 1678. The play is by Shadwell. The Prologue was reprinted in 1690 with Aphra Behn’s The Widow Ranter. [back]
Note 2. Cruse] Editors till Christie absurdly give Cause. [back]
 
 
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