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And wand'ring in the wilderness about,
At end of forty years not wear her out.
But when you see these pictures, let none dare
To own beyond a limb or single fhare:
For where the punk is common, he's a fot,
Who needs will father what the parish got.
H' unhappy man, who once has trail'd a pen,
Lives not to pleafe himfelf, but other men;
Is always drudging, waftes his life and blood,
Yet only eats and drinks what you think good.
What praise foe'er the poetry deserve,
Yet ev'ry fool can bid the poet ftarve.
That fumbling letcher to revenge is bent,
Because he thinks himself or whore is meant:
Name but a cuckold, all the city fwarms;
From Leadenhall to Ludgate is in arms:
Were there no fear of Antichrift or France,
In the bleft time poor poets live by chance.
Either you come not here, or, as you grace
Some old acquaintance, drop into the place,
Careless and qualmish with a yawning face:
You fleep o'er wit, and by my troth you may;
Most of your talents lie another way.
You love to hear of fome prodigious tale,
The bell that toll'd alone, or Irish whale.
News is your food, and you enough provide,
Both for yourselves, and all the world befide.
One theatre there is of vaft refort,
Which whilome of Requests was called the Court;
But now the great Exchange of News 'tis hight,
And full of hum and buz from noon 'till night.
Up ftairs and down you run, as for a race,
And each man wears three nations in his face.
So big you look, tho' claret you retrench,
That, arm'd with bottled ale, you huff the French.
But all your entertainment ftill is fed
By villains in your own dull island bred.
Would you return to us, we dare engage
To fhew you better rogues upon the stage..
You know no poifon but plain ratsbane here;
Death's more refin'd, and better bred elsewhere.
They have a civil way in Italy
By fmelling a perfume to make you die;
A trick would make you lay your fnuff-box by.
Murder's a trade, fo known and practis'd there,
That 'tis infallible as is the chair.
But, mark their feaft, you fhall behold fuch pranks;
The pope fays grace, but 'tis the devil gives thanks.
TO SOPHONISBA, acted at Oxford, 1680.
HESPIS1, the firft profeffor of our art,
At country wakes, fung ballads from a cart.
To prove this true, if Latin be no trespass,
Dicitur & plauftris vexiffe Poemata Thefpis.
But fchylus, fays Horace in fome page,
Was the first mountebank that trod the ftage:
Yet Athens never knew your learned sport
Of toffing poets in a tennis-court.
But 'tis the talent of our English nation.
Still to be plotting fome new reformation:
And few years hence, if anarchy goes on,
Jack Prefbyter fhall here erect his throne,
Knock out a tub with preaching once a day,
And ev'ry prayer be longer than a play.
Then all your heathen wits fhall go to pot,
For disbelieving of a Popifh-plot:
Your poets fhall be us'd like infidels,
And worst the author of the Oxford bells:
Nor should we 'fcape the fentence, to depart,
E'en in our first original, a cart.
1 Thefpis was born in Icaria, a town of Attica. inventor of tragedy, as having reduced it to fome regularity. He carried his company from town to town in a cart, and they coloured their faces with lees of wine, that they might more naturally refemble the fatyrs, whofe faces were red and glowing.
No zealous brother there would want a ftone,
To maul us cardinals, and pelt pope Joan:
Religion, learning, wit, would be fuppreft,
Rags of the whore, and trappings of the beaft:
Scot, Suarez, Tom of Aquin, must go down,
As chief fupporters of the triple crown ;
And Ariftotle's for deftruction ripe;
Some fay, he call'd the foul an organ-pipe,
Which, by fome little help of derivation,
Shall then be prov'd a pipe of infpiration.
F yet there be a few that take delight
To them alone we dedicate this night.
The reft may fatisfy their curious itch
With city-gazettes, or fome factious speech,
Or whate'er libel, for the public good,
Stirs up the fhrove-tide crew to fire and blood.
Remove your benches, you apoftate pit,
And take, above, twelve pennyworth of wit;
Go back to your dear dancing on the rope,
Or fee what's worfe, the devil and the pope.
The plays that take on our corrupted stage,
Methinks, refemble the diftracted age;
Noife, madnefs, all unreafonable things,
That ftrike at fenfe, as rebels do at kings.
The ftyle of forty-one our poets write,
And you are grown to judge like forty-eight.
Such cenfures our mistaking audience make,
That 'tis almoft grown fcandalous to take.
They talk of fevers that infect the brains;
But nonfenfe is the new difeafe that reigns.
Weak ftomachs, with a long difease oppreft,
Cannot the cordials of ftrong wit digeft.
Therefore thin nourishment of farce ye choose,
Decoctions of a barley-water muse:
A meal of tragedy would make ye fick,
Unless it were a very tender chick.
Some fcenes in fippets would be worth our time; Thofe would go down; fome love that's poach'd in rhime;
We must lie down, and, after all our coft,
Keep holiday, like watermen in froft;
While you turn players on the world's great ftage,
And at yourselves the farce of your own age.