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And did not steal their plots, but made 'em Ah what a pleasure it is to discover, prize.

In her eyes pity, who causes my pain. But should he all the pains and charges count

I Of taking 'em, the bill so high would When with unkindness our love at a stand mount

is, That, like prize-goods, which thro' the And both have punish'd ourselves with

the pain, He could have had 'em much more cheap Ah what a pleasure the touch of her hand at home.

is, He still must write, and, banquier-like, each Ah what a pleasure to press it again !

day Accept new bills, and he must break or pay. When thro' his hands such sums must When the denial comes fainter and fainter, yearly run,

And her eyes give what her tongue does You cannot think the stock is all his own.

deny, His haste his other errors might excuse, Ah what a trembling I feel when I venBut there's no mercy for a guilty Muse; 39

ture, For, like a mistress, she must stand or fall, Ah what a trembling does usher my joy! And please you to a height, or not at all.




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CELIMENA, of my heart,

None shall e'er bereave you: If with your good leave I may Quarrel with you once a day,

I will never leave you.


Celimena. Passion 's but an empty name

Where respect is wanting:
Damon, you mistake your aim;
Hang your heart, and burn your

If you must be ranting.

SELF-LOVE, which never rightly understood, Makes poets still conclude their plays are

good, And malice, in all critics, reigns so high, That for small errors they whole plays de

cry; So that to see this fondness, and that

spite, You'd think that none but madmen judge

or write. Therefore our poet, as he thinks not fit T'impose upon you what he writes for

wit; So hopes, that leaving you your censures

free, You equal judges of the whole will be: 10 They judge but half, who only faults will


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Poets, like lovers, should be bold and

dare, They spoil their business with an over

care; And he, who servilely creeps after sense, Is safe, but ne'er will reach an excel

lence. Hence 't is, our poet, in his conjuring, Allow'd his fancy the full scope and swing. But when a tyrant for his theme he had, He loos’d the reins, and bid his Muse run

mad: And tho’ he stumbles in a full career, Yet rashness is a better fault than fear. He saw his way; but in so swift a pace, To choose the ground might be to lose the

race. They then, who of each trip th' advantage

take, Find but those faults which they want wit

to make.


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[To the Bearer.] Hold, are you mad ?

you damn'd confounded dog, I am to rise, and speak the epilogue. [To the Audience.] I come, kind gen

tlemen, 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

natures We had for all the world, when human

creatures; And therefore I that was an actress here, Play all my tricks in hell, a goblin there. 10 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 the

prime Of Easter term, in tart and cheese-cake

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 ’l all be slander'd, and be thought de

vout. 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:




[This, Dryden's most famous heroic play, is divided into two parts, which seem to have been presented on successive days. It was first acted at some time between May 8, 1670, when a son was born to Nell Gwyn, the chief actress in the play, and February 20, 1671, when it was entered on the Stationers' Register (Malone, I, 1, 94). The first edition is dated 1672.

The second song is printed also in Westminster Drollery ; or, a Choice Collection of the Newest Songs and Poems, 1671, under the title, A Song at the King's House (the Theater Royal). The first song is twice printed in the same collection, once under the title, A Vision, and once under the same title as the other song.]

Here Nelly lies, who, tho' she liv'd a slattern, Yet died a princess, acting in St. Cathar'n. 30


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in ye.


To set on all French wares, whose worst is

wit. French farce, worn out at home, is sent

abroad; And, patch'd up here, is made our English

mode. Henceforth, let poets, ere allow'd to write, Be search’d, like duellists, before they fight, For wheel-broad hats, dull humor, all that

chaff Which makes you mourn,

and makes the vulgar laugh: For these, in plays, are as unlawful arms, As, in a combat, coats of mail and charms.




For 't were a shame a poet should be kill'd
Under the shelter of so broad a shield.
This is that hat, whose very sight did win ye
To laugh and clap as tho' the devil were
As then, for Nokes, so now I hope you 'll

be So dull, to laugh, once more, for love of “I'll write a play,” says one, " for I have

got A broad-brimm'd hat, and waist-belt,

tow’rds a plot.” Says t'other: “I have one more large than

that." Thus they out-write each other with a hat ! The brims still grew with every play they

writ; And grew so large, they cover'd all the

wit. Hat was the play; 't was language, wit, and

tale: Like them that find meat, drink, and cloth

in ale. What dulness do these mungril wits con

fess, When all their hope is acting of a dress ! Thus, two the best comedians of the age Must be worn out, with being blocks o'th'

stage; Like a young girl who better things has

known, Beneath their poet's impotence they groan. See now what charity it was to save ! They thought you lik’d, what only you

forgave; And brought you more dull sense, dull

sense much worse Than brisk gay nonsense, and the heavier

SUCCESS, which can no more than beauty

last, Makes our sad poet mourn your favors

past: For, since without desert he got a name, He fears to lose it now with greater shame. Fame, like a little mistress of the town, Is gain'd with ease, but then she's lost as




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For as those tawdry misses, soon or late,
Jilt such as keep 'em at the highest rate;
(And oft the lackey, or the brawny clown,
Gets what is hid in the loose-bodied gown,)
So, Fame is false to all that keep her long;
And turns up to the fop that's brisk and

young Some wiser poet now would leave Fame

first, But elder wits are like old lovers curst; Who, when the vigor of their youth is spent, Still grow more fond, as they grow impo

tent. This, some years hence, our poet's case

may prove; But yet, he hopes, he's young enough to

love. When forty comes, if e'er he live to see That wretched, fumbling age of poetry, 20 ’T will be high time to bid his Muse adieu: Well he may please himself, but never you. Till then, he'll do as well as he began, And hopes you will not find him less a Think him not duller for this year's de

lay; He was prepard, the women were away; And men, without their parts, can hardly




If they, thro’ sickness, seldom did appear,
Pity the virgins of each theater:
For, at both houses, 't was a sickly year!
And pity us, your servants, to whose cost,
In one such sickness, nine whole months

are lost. Their stay, he fears, has ruind what he

writ: Long waiting both disables love and wit. They thought they gave him leisure to do

well; But, when they forc'd him to attend, he

fell ! Yet, tho' he much has fail'd, he begs, to-day, You will excuse his unperforming play: Weakness sometimes great passion does

express; He had pleas'd better, had he lov'd you


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THEY who have best succeeded on the

stage Have still conform’d their genius to their

age. Thus Jonson did mechanic humor show, When men were dull, and conversation low. Then comedy was faultless, but 't was

coarse: Cob's tankard a jest, and Otter's

horse. And, as their comedy, their love was mean; Except, by chance, in some one labor'd






THEY who write ill, and they who ne'er durst

write, Turn critics, out of mere revenge and spite: A playhouse gives 'em fame; and up there

starts, From a mean fifth-rate wit, a man of parts. (So common faces on the stage appear; We take 'em in, and they turn beauties

here.) Our author fears those critics as his fate; And those he fears, by consequence, must

hate, For they the traffic of all wit invade, As scriv'ners draw away the bankers' trade. Howe'er, the poet's safe enough to-day, They cannot censure an unfinish'd play: But, as when vizard-mask appears in pit, Straight every man who thinks himself a

wit Perks up, and, managing his comb with

grace, With his white wig sets off his nut-brown

face; That done, bears up to th' prize, and views

each limb, To know her by her rigging and her trim; Then, the whole noise of fops to wagers go: “Pox on her, 't must be she;" and:

“ Damme, no !” Just so, I prophesy, these wits to-day Will blindly guess at our imperfect play;

Which must atone for an ill-written play. They rose,

but at their height could seldom

stay. Fame then was cheap, and the first comer

sped; And they have kept it since, by being dead. But, were they now to write, when critics

weigh Each line, and ev'ry word, throughout a

play, None of 'em, no, not Jonson in his height, Could pass, without allowing grains for

weight. Think it not envy, that these truths are

told; Our poet 's not malicious, tho' he's bold. 'T is not to brand 'em, that their faults are

shown, But, by their errors, to excuse his own. If love and honor now are higher rais'd, 'T is not the poet, but the age is prais'd. Wit's now arrivd to a more high degree; Our native language more refind and free. Our ladies and our men now speak more wit In conversation, than those poets writ. Then, one of these is, consequently, true;



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