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THE unhappy man, who once has trail'd a pen,
Lives not to please himself, but other men;
Is always drudging, wastes his life and blood,
Yet only eats and drinks what you think good.
What praise soe'er the poetry deserve,
Yet every fool can bid the poet starve.
That fumbling lecher to revenge is bent,
Because he thinks himself or whore is meant :
Name but a cuckold, all the city swarms;
From Leadenhall to Ludgate is in arms:
Were there no fear of Antichrist, or France,
In the blest 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 sleep o'er wit, and by my troth you may;
Most of your talents lie another way.
You love to hear of some 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 beside.
One theatre there is of vast resort,
Which whilome of Requests was call'd the Court;
But now the great Exchange of News 'tis hight,
And full of hum and buz from noon 'till night.
Up stairs and down you run, as for a race,
And each man wears three nations in his face.
So big you look, though claret you retrench,
That, arm'd with bottled ale, you huff the French.
But all your entertainment still is fed
By villains in your own dull island bred.
Would you return to us, we dare engage
To show you better rogues upon the stage.
You know no poison but plain ratsbane here;
Death's more refined, and better bred elsewhere.
They have a civil way in Italy,
By smelling a perfume to make you die;
A trick would make you lay your snuff-box by.
Murder's a trade, so known and practised there,
That 'tis infallible as is the chair.
But, mark their feast, you shall behold such pranks;
The Pope says grace, but 'tis the Devil gives thanks.
TO "SOPHONISBA," 1680.
THESPIS, the first professor of our art,
At country wakes, sung ballads from a cart.
To prove this true, if Latin be no trespass,
"Dicitur et plaustris vexisse Poëmata Thespis."
But Eschylus, says Horace in some page,
Was the first mountebank that trod the stage:
Yet Athens never knew your learned sport
Of tossing poets in a tennis-court.
But 'tis the talent of our English nation
Still to be plotting some new reformation:
And few years hence, if anarchy goes on,
Jack Presbyter shall here erect his throne,
Knock out a tub with preaching once a day,
And every prayer be longer than a play.
Then all your heathen wits shall go to pot,
For disbelieving of a Popish-plot:
Your poets shall be used like infidels,
And worst, the author of the Oxford bells:
Nor should we 'scape the sentence, to depart,
E'en in our first original-a cart.
No zealous brother there would want a stone,
To maul us cardinals, and pelt Pope Joan:
Religion, learning, wit, would be suppress'd,
Rags of the whore, and trappings of the beast:
Scot, Suarez, Tom of Aquin, must go down,
As chief supporters of the triple crown;
And Aristotle 's for destruction ripe;
Some say, he call'd the soul an organ-pipe,
Which, by some little help of derivation,
Shall then be proved a pipe of inspiration.
IF yet there be a few that take delight
In that which reasonable men should write;
To them alone we dedicate this night.
The rest may satisfy their curious itch,
With city-gazettes, or some factious speech,
Or whate'er libel, for the public good,
Stirs up the shrove-tide crew to fire and blood.
Remove your benches, you apostate pit,
And take, above, twelve pennyworth of wit;
Go back to your dear dancing on the rope,
Or see what's worse, the devil and the pope.
The plays that take on our corrupted stage,
Methinks, resemble the distracted age;
Noise, madness, all unreasonable things,
That strike at sense, as rebels do at kings.
The style of forty-one our poets write,
And you are grown to judge like forty-eight.
Such censures our mistaking audience make,
That 'tis almost grown scandalous to take.
They talk of fevers that infect the brains;
But nonsense is the new discase that reigns.
Weak stomachs, with a long disease oppress'd,
Cannot the cordials of strong wit digest.
Therefore thin nourishment of farce ye choose,
Decoctions of a barley-water muse:
A meal of tragedy would make
Unless it were a very tender chick.
Some scenes in sippets would be worth our time;
Those would go down; some love that's poach'd in rhyme;
We must lie down, and, after all our cost,
Keep holiday, like watermen in frost;
While you turn players on the world's great stage,
And act yourselves the farce of your own age.
TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, 1681. THE famed Italian muse, whose rhymes advance Orlando and the Paladins of France,
Records, that, when our wit and sense is flown, "Tis lodged within the circle of the moon,
In earthen jars, which one, who thither soar'd,
Set to his nose, snuff'd up, and was restored.
Whate'er the story be, the moral's true;
The wit we lost in town, we find in you.
Our poets their fled parts may draw from hence,
And fill their windy heads with sober sense.
When London votes with Southwark's disagree,
Here they may find their long-lost loyalty.
Here busy senates, to the old cause inclined,
May snuff the votes their fellows left behind:
Your country neighbours, when their grain grows dear,
May come, and find their last provision here:
Whereas we cannot much lament our loss,
Who neither carried back, nor brought one cross.
We look'd what representatives would bring;
But they help'd us, just as they did the king.
Yet we despair not; for we now lay forth
The Sibyl's books to those who know their worth;
And though the first was sacrificed before,
These volumes doubly will the price restore.
Our poet bade us hope this grace to find,
To whom by long prescription you are kind.
He, whose undaunted Muse, with loyal rage,
Has never spared the vices of the age,
Here finding nothing that his spleen can raise,
Is forced to turn his satire into praise.
UPON HIS FIRST APPEARANCE AT THE DUKE'S THEATRE, AFTER HIS RETURN FROM SCOTLAND, 1682.
IN those cold regions which no summers cheer,
Where brooding darkness covers half the year,
To hollow caves the shivering natives go;
Bears range abroad, and hunt in tracks of snow:
But when the tedious twilight wears away,
And stars grow paler at the approach of day,
The longing crowds to frozen mountains run;
Happy who first can see the glimmering sun :
The surly, savage offspring disappear,
And curse the bright successor of the year.
Yet, though rough bears in covert seek defence,
White foxes stay, with seeming innocence:
That crafty kind with daylight can dispense.
Still we are throng'd so full with Reynard's race,
That loyal subjects scarce can find a place:
Thus modest truth is cast behind the crowd:
Truth speaks too low; Hypocrisy too loud.
Let them be first to flatter in success;
Duty can stay, but guilt has need to press.
Once, when true zeal the sons of God did call,
To make their solemn show at heaven's Whitehall,
The fawning devil appear'd among the rest,
And made as good a courtier as the best.
The friends of Job, who rail'd at him before,
Came cap in hand when he had three times more.
Yet late repentance may, perhaps, be true;
Kings can forgive, if rebels can but sue:
A tyrant's power in rigour is express'd;
The father yearns in the true prince's breast.
We grant, an o'ergrown Whig no grace can mend ;
But most are babes, that know not they offend.
The crowd to restless motion still inclined,
Are clouds, that tack according to the wind,
Driven by their chiefs they storms of hailstones pour;
Then mourn, and soften to a silent shower.
Oh, welcome to this much-offending land,
The prince that brings forgiveness in his hand!
Thus angels on glad messages appear:
Their first salute commands us not to fear:
Thus Heaven, that could constrain us to obey,
(With reverence if we might presume to say)
Seems to relax the rights of sovereign sway:
Permits to man the choice of good and ill,
And makes us happy by our own free-will.