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Now, like some rich or mighty murderer,
Too great for prison, which he breaks with gold, Who fresher for new mischiefs does appear,
And dares the world to tax him with the old,
So 'scapes th' insulting fire his narrow jail,
And makes small outlets into open air;
There the fierce winds his tender force assail,
And beat him downward to his first repair.
The winds, like crafty courtezans, withheld
His flames from burning but to blow them more;
And, every fresh attempt, he is repelled
With faint denials weaker than before.
And now, no longer letted of his prey,
He leaps up at it with enraged desire;
O'erlooks the neighbours with a wide survey,
And nods at every house his threat'ning fire.
The ghosts of traitors from the bridge descend,
With bold fanatic spectres to rejoice;
About the fire into a dance they bend,
And sing their Sabbath notes with feeble voice.
Our guardian angel saw them where they sate
Above the palace of our slumb'ring King;
He sighed, abandoning his charge to Fate,
And, drooping, oft looked back upon the wing.
At length the crackling noise and dreadful blaze
Called up some waking lover to the sight;
And long it was ere he the rest could raise,
Whose heavy eyelids yet were full of night.
The next to danger, hot pursued by Fate,
Half-clothed, half-naked, hastily retire;
And frighted mothers strike their breasts too late,
For helpless infants left amidst the fire.
Their cries soon waken all the dwellers near.
Now murmuring noises rise in every street; The more remote run stumbling with their fear, And in the dark men jostle as they meet.
So weary bees in little cells repose;
But if night-robbers lift the well-stored hive, An humming through their waxen city grows. And out upon each other's wings they drive. Now streets grow thronged and busy as by day:
Some run for buckets to the hallowed quire; Some cut the pipes, and some the engines play;
And some more bold mount ladders to the fire.
In vain: for from the east a Belgian wind
His hostile breath through the dry rafters sent; The flames, impelled, soon left their foes behind, And forward with a wanton fury went.
PROLOGUE TO "AURENG-ZEBE"
Our author, by experience, finds it true
'Tis much more hard to please himself than you,
And, out of no feigned modesty, this day
Damns his laborious trifle of a play;
Not that it's worse than what before he writ,
But he has now another taste of wit,
And, to confess a truth, though out of time,
Grows weary of his long-loved mistress, Rhyme:
Passion's too fierce to be in fetters bound,
And nature flies him like enchanted ground.
What verse can do he has performed in this,
Which he presumes the most correct of his:
But, spite of all his pride, a secret shame
Invades his breast at Shakespeare's sacred name;
Awed when he hears his god-like Romans rage,
He, in a just despair, would quit the stage,
And to an age less polished, more unskilled,
Does with disdain the foremost honours yield.
As with the greater dead he dares not strive,
He would not match his verse with those who live;
Let him retire, betwixt two ages cast,
The first of this and hindmost of the last.
A losing gamester, let him sneak away;
He bears no ready money from the play.
The fate which governs poets thought it fit
He should not raise his fortunes by his wit.
The clergy thrive, and the litigious bar;
Dull heroes fatten with the spoils of war;
All southern vices, Heav'n be praised, are here;
But wit's a luxury you think too dear.
When you to cultivate the plant are loth,
'Tis a shrewd sign 't was never of your growth;
And wit in northern climates will not blow,
Except, like orange-trees, 't is housed from snow.
There needs no care to put a play-house down,
'Tis the most desert place of all the town:
We and our neighbours, to speak proudly, are,
Like monarchs, ruined with expensive war;
While, like wise English, unconcerned you sit,
And see us play the tragedy of wit.
FAREWELL, UNGRATEFUL TRAITOR
Farewell, ungrateful traitor!
Farewell, my perjured swain!
Let never injured creature
Believe a man again.
The pleasure of possessing
Surpasses all expressing;
But 't is too short a blessing,
And love too long a pain.
'Tis easy to deceive us,
In pity of your pain;
But when we love, you leave us
To rail at you in vain.
Before we have descried it,
There is no bliss beside it;
But she that once has tried it
Will never love again.
The passion you pretended,
Was only to obtain;
But when the charm is ended,
The charmer you disdain.
Your love by ours we measure,
Till we have lost our treasure;
But dying is a pleasure,
When living is a pain.
The Jews, a headstrong, moody, murmʼring race
As ever tried th' extent and stretch of grace;
God's pampered people, whom, debauched with ease,
No king could govern nor no God could please
(Gods they had tried of every shape and size
That godsmiths could produce or priests devise);
These Adam-wits, too fortunately free,
Began to dream they wanted liberty;
And when no rule, no precedent, was found
Of men by laws less circumscribed and bound,
They led their wild desires to woods and caves,
And thought that all but savages were slaves.
They who, when Saul was dead, without a blow
Made foolish Ishbosheth the crown forego;
Who banished David did from Hebron bring,
And with a general shout proclaimed him king;
Those very Jews who at their very best
Their humour more than loyalty exprest,
Now wondered why so long they had obeyed
An idol monarch which their hands had made;
Thought they might ruin him they could create,
Or melt him to that golden calf, a State.
But these were random bolts; no formed design
Nor interest made the factious crowd to join.
The sober part of Israel, free from stain,
Well knew the value of a peaceful reign,
And, looking backward with a wise affright,
Saw seams of wounds dishonest to the sight;
In contemplation of whose ugly scars,
They cursed the memory of civil wars.
The moderate sort of men, thus qualified,
Inclined the balance to the better side;
And David's mildness managed it so well
The bad found no occasion to rebel.
But when to sin our biassed nature leans,
The careful Devil is still at hand with means,
And providently pimps for ill desires:
The good old cause, revived, a plot requires;
Plots, true or false, are necessary things
To raise up commonwealths and ruin kings.
Th' inhabitants of old Jerusalem
Were Jebusites; the town so called from them,
And theirs the native right.
But when the chosen people grew more strong,
The rightful cause at length became the wrong;
And every loss the men of Jebus bore,
They still were thought God's enemies the more.
Thus worn and weakened, well or ill content,
Submit they must to David's government:
Impoverished and deprived of all command,
Their taxes doubled as they lost their land;
And, what was harder yet to flesh and blood,
Their gods disgraced, and burnt like common wood.
This set the heathen priesthood in a flame,
For priests of all religions are the same:
Of whatsoe'er descent their godhead be,
Stock, stone, or other homely pedigree,
In his defence his servants are as bold
As if he had been born of beaten gold.
The Jewish rabbins, though their enemies,
In this conclude them honest men and wise;
For 't was their duty, all the learnèd think,
To espouse His cause by Whom they eat and drink.
From hence began that Plot, the nation's curse,
Bad in itself but represented worse,
Raised in extremes and in extremes decried,
With oaths affirmed, with dying vows denied,
Not weighed or winnowed by the multitude,
But swallowed in the mass, unchewed and crude.
Some truth there was, but dashed and brewed with lies 70
To please the fools and puzzle all the wise.