Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
Prologues to the University of Oxford, II
By John Dryden (1631–1700)
 
Spoken by Mr. Hart
1674

POETS, your subjects, have their parts assigned,
T’ unbend, and to divert their sovereign’s mind:
When, tired 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 conquered, of the way.
Here, free yourselves from envy, care, and strife,
You view the various turns of human life;
Safe in our scene, through dangerous courts you go,
And, undebauched, the vice of cities know.        10
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 showed the great.
Blest sure are you above all mortal kind,        15
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,
And beg from you the value of their wit:        20
That Shakespeare’s, Fletcher’s, and great Jonson’s claim
May be renewed from those who gave them fame.
None of our living poets dare appear;
For Muses so severe are worshipped here
That, conscious of their faults, they shun the eye,        25
And, as profane, from sacred places fly,
Rather than see the offended God, and die.
We bring no imperfections, but our own;
Such faults as made are by the makers shown;
And you have been so kind that we may boast,        30
The greatest judges still can pardon most.
Poets must stoop, when they would please our pit,
Debased even to the level of their wit;
Disdaining that which yet they know will take,
Hating themselves what their applause must make.        35
But when to praise from you they would aspire,
Though they like eagles mount, your Jove is higher.
So far your knowledge all their power transcends,
As what should be, beyond what is, extends.
 
 
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