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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue to The Spanish Fryar, or the Double Discovery
 
NOW, 1 Luck for us, and a kind hearty Pit,
For he who pleases, never failes of Wit.
Honour is yours:
And you, like Kings at City Treats, 2 bestow it;
The Writer kneels, and is bid rise a Poet.        5
But you are fickle Sovereigns, to our Sorrow;
You dubb to day, and hang a man tomorrow:
You cry the same Sense up, and down again,
Just like brass Money once a year in Spain:
Take you i’ th’ mood, what e’er base metal come,        10
You coin as fast as Groats at Bromingam; 3
Though ’tis no more like Sense in ancient Plays
Than Rome’s religion like St. Peter’s days. 4
In short, so swift your Judgments turn and wind,
You cast our fleetest Wits a mile behind.        15
’Twere well your Judgments but in Plays did range,
But ev’n your Follies and Debauches change
With such a Whirl, the Poets of your Age
Are tyr’d, and cannot score ’em on the Stage,
Unless each Vice in short-hand they indite,        20
Ev’n as notcht Prentices whole Sermons write.
The heavy Hollanders no Vices know,
But what they us’d a hundred years ago;
Like honest Plants, where they were stuck, they grow;
They cheat, but still from cheating Sires they come;        25
They drink, but they were christen’d first in Mum.
Their patrimonial Sloth the Spaniards keep,
And Philip first taught Philip how to sleep.
The French and we still change; but here’s the Curse,
They change for better, and we change for worse;        30
They take up our old trade of Conquering,
And we are taking theirs, to dance and sing:
Our Fathers did for change to France repair,
And they for change will try our English Air.
As Children, when they throw one Toy away,        35
Straight a more foolish Gugaw comes in play;
So we, grown penitent, on serious thinking,
Leave Whoring, and devoutly fall to Drinking.
Scowring the Watch grows out of fashion wit;
Now we set up for Tilting in the Pit,        40
Where ’tis agreed by Bullies, chicken-hearted,
To fright the Ladies first, and then be parted.
A fair attempt has twice or thrice been made,
To hire Night-murth’rers, and make Death a Trade.
When Murther’s out, what Vice can we advance?        45
Unless the new-found Pois’ning Trick of France:
And when their art of Rats-bane we have got,
By way of thanks, we’ll send ’em o’er our Plot.
 
Note 1. 1681. Published in 1682. [back]
Note 2. Kings at City Treats,] Kings, at City Treats 1682. [back]
Note 3. Bromingam] The editors print Birmingham. [back]
Note 4. 12–13 Omitted in the 2nd edition, 1686. [back]
 
 
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