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Licentiousness freedom's destruction may bring, | The blossoms of liberty gaily 'gan smile,
Unless prudence prepares its defence.
The goddess of sapience bid Iris take wing,
And on Britons bestow'd common-sense.

Four cardinal virtues she left in this isle, As guardians to cherish the root;

And Englishmen fed on the fruit. Thus fed, and thus bred, by a bounty so rare, Oh! preserve it as pure as 'twas giv'n. We will while we've breath; nay we'll it in death,

And return it untainted to heav'n.



§ 1. Epilogue to A Woman killed with Kindness. 1617.

AN honest crew, disposed to be merry,
Came to a tavern by, and call'd for wine:
The drawer brought it (smiling like a cherry),
And told them it was pleasant, neat, and fine.
Taste it, quoth one; he did: O fie! (quoth

This wine was good: now 't runs too near
the lee.

Another sipp'd to give the wine his due,

And said unto the rest it drank too flat; The third said it was old; the fourth too new; Nay, quoth the fifth, the sharpness likes me

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§ 2.

Prologue to The Unfortunate Lovers. Spoken at Black-Friars. 1643. DAVENANT. WERE you but half so humble to confess, As you are wise to know, your happiness ; Our author would not grieve to see you sit Ruling with such unquestion'd pow'r his wit: What would I give, that I could still preserve My loyalty to him, and yet deserve Your kind opinion by revealing now The cause of that great storm which clouds his brow; [you, And his close murmurs, which, since meant to I cannot think or mannerly or true! Well; I begin to be resolv'd, and let My melancholy tragic Monsieur fret; Let him the several harmless weapons use Of that all-daring trifle call'd his Muse. Yet I'll inform you what, this very day, Twice before witness I have heard him Which is, that you are grown excessive proud; For ten times more of wit, than was allow'd Your silly ancestors in twenty year, [here: Y' expect should in two hours be given you


| For they, he swears, to th' theatre would come
Ere they had din'd, to take up the best room;
There sit on benches, not adorn'd with mats,
And graciously did vail their high-crown'd hats
To every half-dress'd player, as he still
Thro' th' hangings peep'd to see how the house
did fill.

Good easy-judging souls! with what delight
They would expect a gig or target fight;
A furious tale of Troy, which they ne'er thought
Was weakly written, so 'twere strongly fought;
Laugh'd at a clinch, the shadow of a jest,
And ery'd A passing good one, I protest!'
Such dull and humble-witted people were
Even your forefathers, whom we govern'd here;
And such had you been too, he swears, had not
The poets taught you how to unweave a plot,
And trace the winding scenes; taught you t



Thus they have arm'd you 'gainst themselves to What was true sense, not what did sound like


[write. Made strong and mischievous from what they You have been lately highly feasted here. With two great wits*, that grac'd our theatre. But, if to feed you often with delight Will more corrupt, than mend, your appetite; He vows to use you, which he much abhors, As others did your homely ancestors.

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Not Cutter the pretended cavalier;
For, to confess ingenuously here
To you, who always of that party were,
I never was of any; up and down
I roll'd, a very rake-hell of this town.
But now my follies and my faults are ended,
My fortune and my mind are both amended;
And if we may believe one who has fail'd be-
[no more.
Our author says he'll mend—that is, he'll write

$4. Prologue to Nero. 1675. LEE.

GOOD plays, and perfect sense, as scarce are


As civil women in this d-d lewd town;
Plain sense is despicable as plain clothes,
As English hats, bone-lace, or woollen hose.
"Tis your brisk fool that is your man of note;
Yonder he goes, in the embroider'd coat:
Sach wenching eyes, and hands so prone to

The genteel fling, the trip, and modish shuffle;
Salt soul and flame, as gay as any prince;
Thus tags and silks make up your men of sense.
I'm told that some are present here to-day
Who, ere they see, resolve to damn this play,
So much would interest with ill-nature sway.
But, ladies, you, we hope, will prove more civil,
And charm these wits that dainn beyond the
Then let each critic here all hell inherit, devil;
You have attractions that can lay a spirit.
A bloody fatal play you'll see to-night;
I vow to God, 't has put me in a fright.
The meanest waiter huffs, looks big, and struts,
Gives breast a blow, then hand on hilt he puts.
"Tis a fine age, a tearing thundering age,
Pray heaven this thund'ring does not crack the
This play I like not now-
And yet, for aught I know, it may be good,
But still I hate this fighting, wounds, and
Why, what the devil have I to do with Ho-
Let heroes court her; I cry, Pox upon her!
All tragedies, i'gad, to me sound oddly;
I can no more be serious, than you godly.

§ 5. Epilogue to Tyrannic Love; spoken by Nell Gwyn, when she was to be carried off dead by the bearers. 1572. Dryden. To the Bearer.

HOLD! are you mad, you damn'd con-
founded dog?

I am to rise, and speak the epilogue.
To the Audience.

I come, kind gentlemen, strange news to tell ye;
I am the ghost of poor departed Nelly.
Sweet ladies, be not frighted, I'll be civil:
I'm what I was, a little harmless devil;
For, after death, we sprites have just such na-
We had, for all the world, when human crea-
And therefore I, that was an actress here,
Play all my tricks in hell, a goblin there.


Gallants, look to't; you say there are no sprites;
But I'll come dance about your beds at nights;
And 'faith you'll be in a sweet kind of taking,
When I surprise you between sleep and waking.
To tell you true, I walk, because I die
Out of my calling, in a tragedy.

O poet, damn'd dull poet! who could prove
So senseless, to make Nelly die for love!
Nay, what's yet worse, to kill me in my prime
Of Easter-term, in tart and cheesecake time!
I'll fit the fop; for I'll not one word say,
T'excuse his godly out-of-fashion play;
A play which if you dare but twice sit out,
You'll all be slander'd, and be thought devout.
But farewell, gentlemen; make haste to me;
I'm sure ere long to have your company.
As for my epitaph, when I am gone,
I'll trust no poet, but will write my own :

Here Nelly lies, who, tho' she liv'd a slattern",
Yet died a princess, acting in St. Cath`rinef.

$6. Prologue to Alcibiades. 1675. OTWAY.
NEVER did rhymer greater hazards run,
'Mongst us by your severity undone;
Tho' we, alas! to oblige ye have done most,
And bought ye pleasures at our own sad cost,
Yet all our best endeavours have been lost.
So oft a statesman lab'ring to be good,
His honesty's for treason understood;
Whilst some false flattering minion of the court
Shall play the traitor, and be honour'd for't.
To you, known judges of what's sense and wit,
Our author swears he gladly will submit:
But there's a sort of things infest the pit,
That would be witty spite of nature too,
And, to be thought so, haunt and pester you.
Hither sometimes those would-be-wits repair,
In quest of you; where, if you
don't appear,
Cries one-Pugh! D-n me, what do we do

Straight up he starts, his garniture then puts
In order, so he cocks, and out he struts
To the coffee-house, where he about him looks:
Spies friend; cries, Jack-I've been to-night at
th' Duke's;

The silly rogues are all undone, my dear,
I'gad, not one of sense that I saw there.
Thus to himself he'd reputation gather
Of wit, and good acquaintance, but has neither.
Wit has indeed a stranger been, of late ;
'Mongst its pretenders, nought so strange as that.
Both houses too so long a fast have known,
That coarsest nonsense goes most glibly down.
Thus though this trifler never wrote before,
Yet faith he ventured on the common score:
Since nonsense is so generally allow'd,
He hopes that this may pass amongst the crowd.

$7. Epilogue to Aurengzebe. 1676. DRYDEN.

A PRETTY task! and so I told the fool, Who needs would undertake to please by rule:

Her real character.

+ The character she represented in the play.

He thought that if his characters were good, The scenes entire, and freed from noise and blood,

The action great, yet circumscrib'd by time,
The words not forc'd, but sliding into rhyme,
The passions rais'd and calm'd by just degrees,
As tides are swell'd and then retire to seas;
He thought in hinting these his bus'ness done,
Though he, perhaps, has fail'd in ev'ry one.
But, after all, a poet must confess,
His art's like physic, but a happy guess.
Your pleasure on your fancy must depend;
The lady's pleas'd, just as she likes her friend.
No song! no dance! no show! he fears you'll


You love all naked beauties, but a play.
He much mistakes your methods to delight,
And, like the French, abhors our target fight:
But those damn'd dogs can never be i'th' right.
True English hate your Monsieurs' paltry arts;
For you are all silk-weavers in your hearts.
Bold Britons, at a brave bear-garden fray,
Are rous'd, and, clatt'ring sticks, cry, Play,
play, play!

Mean time, your fribbling foreigner will stare,
And mutter to himself, Ah, gens barbare!
And, 'gad, 'tis well he mutters, well for him;
Our butchers else would tear him limb from

'Tis true, the time may come, your sons may be
Infected with this French civility:
But this in after-ages will be done;
Our poet writes an hundred years too soon.
This age comes on too slow or he too fast;
And early springs are subject to a blast.
Who would excel, when few can make a test
Betwixt indifferent writing and the best?
For favours cheap and common who would

Which, like abandon'd prostitutes, you give?
Yet scatter'd here and there I some behold,
Who can discern the tinsel from the gold;
To these he writes; and, if by them allow'd,
'Tis their prerogative to rule the crowd;
For he more fears (like a presuming man)
Their votes who cannot judge, than theirs who


§8. Epilogue to the First Part of The Rover, or the Banished Cavaliers. 1677. Mrs.BEHN.

THE banish'd cavaliers! a roving blade!
A popish carnival! a masquerade!
The devil's in't if this will please the nation,
In these our blessed times of reformation,
When conventicling is so much in fashion.
And yet

That mutinous tribe less factions do beget,
Than your continual differing in wit.
Your judgment (as your passion) 's a disease;
Nor Muse nor Miss your appetite can please;
You're grown as nice as queasy consciences,

Whose each convulsion, when the spirit moves,
Damns every thing that maggot disapproves.
With canting rule you would the stage refine,
And to dull method all our sense contine.
With th' insolence of commonwealths you rule,
Where each gay fop, and politic brave fool,
On monarch Wit impose without controul.
As for the last, who seldom sees a play,
Unless it be the old Black-Friars way,
Shaking his empty noddle o'er bamboo,
He cries, Good faith, these plays will never do.
Ah, sir! in my young days, what lofty wit,
What high-strain'd scenes of fighting, there
were writ!

These are slight airy toys. But tell me, pray,
What has the House of Commons done to-day?
Then shows his politics, to let you see
Of state affairs he'll judge as notably
As he can do of wit and poetry.
The younger sparks, who hither do resort,

Pox o' your gentle things! give us more sport;
Damme! I'm sure 't will never please the court.

Such fops are never pleas'd, unless the play Be stuff'd with fools, as brisk and dull as they; Such might the half-crown spare, and in a glass

At home behold a more accomplish'd ass; Where they may set their cravats, wigs, and faces,

And practise all their buffoon'ry grimacesSee how this huff becomes-this damme stare, Which they at home may act, because they


But must with prudent caution do elsewhere. O, that our Nokes, or Tony Lee, could shew A fop but half so much to th' life as you!


Epilogue to The Duke of Guise. 1683. Spoken by Mrs. Cook. DRYDEN. MUCH time and trouble this poor play has cost, And, 'faith, I doubted once the cause was lost. Yet no one man was meant, nor great nor small;

Our poets, like frank gamesters†, threw at all. They took no single aim—

But like bold boys, true to their prince and hearty,

Huzza'd, and fir'd broadsides at the whole party.
Duels are crimes; but when the cause is right
In battle every man is bound to fight:
For what should hinder me to sell my skin
Dear as I could, if once my heart were in?
Se defendendo never was a sin.

'Tis a fine world, my masters-right or wrong, The Whigs must talk, and Tories hold their


They must do all they can

But we, forsooth, must bear a Christian mind,
And fight like boys with one hand tied behind :
Nay, and when one boy's down 'twere wond-
rous wise

To cry, Box fair, and give him time to rise.

Alluding to the rivalry of the Spitalfields manufactures with those of France. ↑ This play was written jointly by Dryden and Lee.

When fortune favours, none but fools will dally:

Would any of you, sparks, if Nan or Mally Tipp'd you th' inviting wink, stand, Shall I, shall I?

A trimmer cried (that heard me tell the story)
Fie, Mistress Cook! 'faith you're too rank a
Wish not Whigs hang'd, but pity their hard
You women love to see men make wry faces.
Pray, Sir, said I, don't think me such a Jew;
I say no more, but give the devil his due.
Lenitives, says he, best suit with our condition.
Jack Ketch, says I, 's an excellent physician.
I love no blood. Nor I, Sir, as I breathe;
But hanging is a fine dry kind of death.
We trimmers are for holding all things even.
Yes, just like him that hung 'twixt hell and

Have we not had men's lives enough already?-
Yes, sure; but you're for holding all things
Now, since the weight hangs all on one side,
You trimmers should, to poise it, hang on

Damn'd neuters, in their middle way of steering,
Are neither fish nor flesh, nor good red-herring:
Not Whigs nor Tories they, nor this nor that;
Nor birds, nor beasts, but just a kind of bat;
A twilight animal, true to neither cause,
With Tory wings, but Whiggish teeth and


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So far I'm sure 'tis rhyme-that needs no granting: [are wanting. And, if my verses' feet stumble-you see my own Our young poet has brought a piece of work, In which tho' much of art there does not lurk, It may hold out three days—and that's as long as Cork *.

But for this play-(which till I have done we show not)

What may be its fortune-by the Lord-I know
This I dare swear, no malice here is writ: [not.
"Tis innocent of all things-even of wit.
He's no high-flyer-he makes no sky-rockets,
His squibs are only levell'd at your pockets:
And if his crackers light among your pelf,
Ye are blown up; if not, then he's blown up
[fluster'd madness:
By this time I'm something recover'd of my
And now, a word or two in sober sadness.
Ours is a common play; and you pay down
A common harlot's price-just half a crown.
You'll say, I play the pimp on my friend's score;
But since 'tis for a friend, your gibes give o'er:
For many a mother has done that before.
How's this? you cry: an actor write! we
know it;

But Shakspeare was an actor and a poet.
Has not great Jonson's learning often fail'd,
While Shakspeare's greater genius still prevail'd?
Have not some writing actors, in this age,
Deserv'd and found success upon
the stage?
To tell the truth, when our old wits are tir'd,
Not one of us but means to be inspir'd.
Let your
kind presence grace our homely cheer;
Peace and the butt, is all our bus'ness here;
So much for that, and the devil take small beer.

§ 11. Prologue to the Old Bachelor. 1693. CONGREVE.

How this vile world is chang'd! In former days Prologues were serious speeches before plays; Grave, solemn things (as graces are to feasts), Where poets begg'd a blessing from their guests. But now no more like suppliants we come! A play makes war, and prologue is the drum. Arm'd with keen satire, and with pointed wit, We threaten you, who do for judges sit, To save our plays; or else we'll damn your pit. But for your comfort, it falls out to-day, We've a young author, and his first-born play: So, standing only on his good behaviour, He's very civil, and entreats your favour. Not but the man has malice, would he show it: But, on my conscience, he's a bashful poet; You think that strange-no matter; he'll outgrow it.

Well, I'm his advocate-by me he prays you, (I don't know whether I shall speak to please you) He prays- bless me! what shall I do now? Hang me if I know what he prays, or how! And 'twas the prettiest prologue as he wrote it: Well, the deuce take me if I ha'n't forgot it.

*The siege of the city of Cork.

O Lord! for Heaven's sake excuse the play,
Because, you know, if it be damn'd to-day,
I shall be hang'd for wanting what to say.
For my sake then-but I'm in such confusion,
I cannot stay to hear your resolution. [Runs off.

$12. Prologue, spoken by Lord Buckhurst, at
Westminster School, at a Representation of
Mr. Dryden's CLEOMENES, the Spartan
Hero, at Christmas, 1695.
PISH! Lord, I wish this prologue was but
Then young Cleonidas would boldly speak:
But can Lord Buckhurst in poor
English say,
Gentle spectators, pray excuse the play?
No, witness all ye gods of ancient Greece,
Rather than condescend to terms like these,
I'd go to school six hours on Christmas-day,
Or construe Persius while my comrades play.
Such work by hireling actors should be done,
Who tremble when they see a critic frown;
Poor rogues, that smart, like fencers, for their

And if they are not wounded, are not fed.
But, sirs, our labor has more noble ends,
We act our tragedy to see our friends:
Our gen'rous scenes are for pure love repeated,
And if you are not pleas'd, at least you're treated.
The candles and the clothes ourselves we bought,
Our tops neglected, and our balls forgot.
To learn our parts we left our midnight bed,
Most of you snor'd whilst Cleomenes read.
Not that from this confession we would sue
Praise undeserv'd, we know ourselves and you:
Resolv'd to stand or perish by our cause,
We neither censure fear, nor beg applause,
For those are Westminster and Sparta's laws.
Yet if we see some judgement well inclin'd,
To young desert and growing virtue kind,
That critic by ten thousand marks should know,
That greatest souls to goodness only bow;
And that your little hero does inherit
Not Cleomenes' more than Dorset's spirit.

$13. Prologue to the Royal Mischief. 1696. PRIOR.

LADIES, to you with pleasure we submit This early offspring of a virgin-wit. From your good-nature nought our authoress fears:

Sure you'll indulge, if not the muse, her years;
Freely, the praise she may deserve, bestow;
Pardon, not censure, what you can't allow;
Smile on the work, be to her merits kind,
And to her faults, whate'er they are, be blind.
Let critics follow rules; she boldly writes
What Nature dictates, and what Love indites.
By no dull forms her queen and ladies move,
But court their heroes, and agnize their love.
Poor maid! she'd have (what e'en no wife
would crave)

A husband love his spouse beyond the grave:
And, from a second marriage to deter,
Shows you what horrid things step-mothers are.

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§ 14. Prologue to Love and a Bottle. 1699. FARQUHAR.

[Servant attending with a Bottle of Wine.] Repent, though late, upon their dying day; As stubborn atheists who disdain to pray, So in their pangs most authors, rack'd with fears, Implore your mercy in our suppliant prayers. But our new author has no cause maintain'd, Let him not lose what he has never gain'd: Love and a bottle are his peaceful arms; Ladies and gallants, have not those some charms? For love, all mankind to the fair must sue; And, sirs, the bottle he presents to you. Health to the play I toast [Drinks.]—e'en let it pass,

Sure none sit here that will refuse their glass!
O there's a damning soldier-let me think-
He looks as he were sworn-to what? To drink.

Come on then; foot to foot be boldly set,
And our young author's new commission wet.
He and his bottle here attend their doom,
From you the poet's Helicon must come;
If he has any foes, to make amends
He gives his service [Drinks.]-Sure you now

are friends;

No critic here will he provoke to fight;
The day be theirs, he only begs his night.
Pray pledge him now, secur'd from all abuse;
Then name the health you love, let none refuse.

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