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TO “ THE PROPHETESS.” (BY BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.] REVIVED BY MR. DRYDEN.
WHAT Nostradame, with all his art, can guess
The fate of our approaching Prophetess?
A play, which, like a perspective set right,
Presents our vast expenses close to sight;
But turn the tube, and there we sadly view
Our distant gains; and those uncertain too:
A sweeping tax, which on ourselves we raise,
And all, like you, in hopes of better days.
When will our losses warn us to be wise?
Our wealth decreases, and our charges rise.
Money, the sweet allurer of our hopes,
Ebbs out in oceans, and comes in by drops.
We raise new objects to provoke delight;
But you grow sated, ere the second sight.
False men, e'en so you serve your
They rise three stories in their towering dress ;
And, after all, you love not long enough
To pay the rigging, ere you leave them off.
Never content with what you had before,
But true to change, and Englishmen all o'er.
Now honour calls you hence; and all your care
Is to provide the horrid pomp of war.
In plume and scarf, jack-boots, and Bilbo blade,
Your silver goes, that should support our trade.
Go, unkind heroes, leave our stage to mourn ;
'Till rich from vanquish'd rebels you return;
And the fat spoils of Teague in triumph draw,
His firkin-butter, and his usquebaugh.
Go, conquerors of your male and female foes ;
Men without hearts, and women without hose.
Each bring his love a Bogland captive home;
proper pages will long trains become; With
copper collars, and with brawny backs,
Quite to put down the fashion of our blacks.
Then shall the pious Muses pay their vows,
And furnish all their laurels for your brows ;
Their tuneful voice shall raise for your delights ;
We want not poets fit to sing your flights.
But you, bright beauties, for whose only sake
Those doughty knights such dangers undertake,
When they with happy gales are gone away,
With your propitious presence grace our play;
And with a sigh their empty seats survey:
Then think, on that bare bench my servant sat;
I see him ogle still, and hear him chat;
Selling facetious bargains, and propounding
That witty recreation, caíld dumb-founding.
Their loss with patience we will try to bear ;
And would do more, to see you often here:
That our dead stage, revived by your fair eyes,
Under a female regency may rise.
Enter MR. BRIGHT. GENTLEMEN, we must beg your pardon; here's no Prologue to be had to-day; our new play is like to come on, without a frontispiece; as bald as one of you young beaux, without your periwig. I left our young poet, snivelling and sobbing behind the scenes, and cursing somebody that has deceived him.
Enter MR. BOWEN. Hold your prating to the audience: here's honest Mr. Williams, just come in, half mellow, from the Rose Tavern. He swears he is inspired with claret, and will come on, and that extempore too, either with a prologue of his own or something like one. Oh, here he comes to his trial, at all adventures; for my part'I wish him a good deliverance.
[Exeunt MR. BRIGHT and MR. BOWEN.]
Enter MR. WILLIAMS. Save ye, sirs, save ye! I am in a hopeful way. I should speak something in rhyme, now, for the play: But the deuce take me, if I know what to say. I'll stick to my friend the author, that I can tell ye, To the last drop of claret, in my belly. So far I'm sure 'tis rhyme—that needs no granting : And, if my verses' feet stumble-you see my own are
Our young poet has brought a piece of work,
In which, though 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 donę, we show not)
What may be its fortune-by the Lord—I know not.
This I dare swear, no malice here is writ:
'Tis innocent of all things ; even of wit.
He's no high-flier; he makes no sky-rockets,
His squibs are only levellid at your pockets,
And if his crackers light among your pelf,
You are blown up; if not, then he's blown up himself.
By this time, I'm something recover'd of my fluster'd
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 ?
But Shakspeare's greater genius still prevail'd.
Have not some writing actors, in this age,
Deserved and found success upon the stage ?
To tell the truth, when our old wits are tired,
Not one of us but means to be inspired.
presence grace our homely cheer; Peace and the butt is all our business here : So much for that; and the devil take small beer.
SURE there is a dearth of wit in this dull town,
When silly plays so savourily go down;
As, when clipp'd money passes, tis a sign
A nation is not over-stock'd with coin.
Happy is he, who, in his own defence,
Can write just level to your humble sense;
Who higher than your pitch can never go ;
And, doubtless, he must creep, who writes below
So have I seen, in hall of knight, or lord,
A weak arm throw on a long shovel-board ;
He barely lays his piece, bar rubs and knocks,
Secured by weakness not to reach the box.
A feeble poet will his business do,
Who, straining all he can, comes up to you:
For, if you like yourselves, you like him too.
An ape his own dear image will embrace ;
An ugly beau adores a hatchet face:
So, some of you, on pure instinct of nature,
Are led, by kind, to admire your fellow creature.
In fear of which, our house has sent this day,
To ensure our new-built vessel, call’d a play;
No sooner named, than one cries out,—These stagers
Come in good time, to make more work for wagers.
The town divides, if it will take or no;
The courtiers bet, the cits, the merchants, too;
A sign they have but little else to do.
Bets, at the first, were fool-traps; where the wise,
Like spiders, lay in ambush for the flies:
But now they're grown a common trade for all,
And actions by the new-book rise and fall;
Wits, cheats, and fops, are free of Wager-hall.
One policy as far as Lyons carries ;
Another, nearer home, sets up for Paris.
Our bets, at last, would even to Rome extend,
But that the pope has proved our trusty friend.
Indeed, it were a bargain worth our money,
Could we ensure another Ottoboni.
Among the rest there are a sharping set,
That pray for us, and yet against us bet.
Sure Heaven itself is at a loss to know
If these would have their prayers be heard, or no :
For, in great stakes, we piously suppose,
but very faintly they may lose.
Leave off these wagers; for, in conscience speaking,
The city needs not your new tricks for breaking :
And if you gallants lose, to all appearing,
You 'll want an equipage for volunteering;
While thus, no spark of honour left within ye,
When you should draw the sword, you draw the guinea.
To say, this comedy pleased long ago,
Is not enough to make it pass you now.
Yet, gentlemen, your ancestors had wit;
When few men censured, and when fewer writ.
And Jonson, of those few the best, chose this,
As the best model of his master-piece.
Subtle was got by our Albumazar,
That Alchymist by this Astrologer;
Here he was fashion'd, and we may suppose
He liked the fashion well
, who wore the clothes.
But Ben made nobly his what he did mould;
What was another's lead, becomes his gold:
Like an unrighteous conqueror he reigns,
Yet rules that well, which he unjustly gains.
But this our age such authors does afford,
As make whole plays, and yet scarce write one word:
Who, in this anarchy of wit, rob all,
And what is their plunder, their possession call :
Who, like bold padders, scorn by night to prey,
But rob by sunshine, in the face of day:
Nay, scarce the common ceremony use
Of, Stand, sir, and deliver up your Muse;
But knock the Poet down, and, with a grace,
Mount Pegasus before the author's face.
Faith, if you have such country Toms abroad,
'Tis time for all true men to leave that road.
Yet it were modest, could it but be said,
They strip the living, but these rob the dead;
Dare with the mummies of the Muses play,
And make love to them the Ægyptian way;
Or, as a rhyming author would have said,
Join the dead living to the living dead.
Such men in Poetry may claim some part:
They have the licence, though they want the art;
And might, where theft was praised, for Laureats stavd,
Poets, not of the head, but of the hand.
They make the benefits of others stųdying,
Much like the meals of politic Jack-Pudding,
Whose dish to challenge no man has the courage ;
'Tis all his own, when once he bas spit i' the porridge.