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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Prologues and Epilogues
Prologue to Albumazar
 
TO 1 say this Comedy pleas’d long ago
Is not enough to make it pass you now.
Yet, Gentlemen, your Ancestors had wit,
When few Men censur’d, and when fewer writ;
And Johnson (of those few the best) chose this        5
As the best Model of his Master-piece.
Subtle was got by our Albumazar,
That Alchymist by his Astrologer:
Here he was fashion’d, and we may 2 suppose
He lik’d the fashion well who wore the 3 Cloaths.        10
But Ben made nobly his what he did Mould;
What was another’s Lead, becomes 4 his Gold:
Like an unrighteous Conqueror he Reigns,
Yet rules that well, which he unjustly Gains.
But this our Age such Authors does afford,        15
As make whole Plays, and yet scarce write one word;
Who, in this Anarchy of Wit, rob all,
And what’s their Plunder, their Possession call:
Who, like bold Padders, scorn by Night to prey,
But rob by Sun-shine, in the Face of Day:        20
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 Owner’s Face.
Faith, if you have such Country Toms abroad,        25
’Tis time for all true Men to leave that Road.
Yet it were modest, could it but be said,
They strip 5 the Living, but these rob the Dead;
Dare with the Mummies of the Muses play,
And make Love to them the Ægyptian way;        30
Or, as a Rhiming Author would have said,
Join the Dead Living to the Living Dead.
Such Men 6 in Poetry may claim some Part;
They have the Licence, tho’ they want the Art;
And might, where Theft was prais’d, for Laureats stand, 7        35
Poets, not of the Head, but of the Hand.
They make the Benefits 8 of others’ studying,
Much like the Meals of Politick Jack-Pudding,
Whose dish to challenge no Man has the Courage; 9
’Tis all his own, when once 10 h’ has spit i’ the Porridge.        40
But, Gentlemen, you’re all concern’d in this;
You are in Fault for what they do amiss:
For they their Thefts still undiscovered think,
And durst not steal, unless you please to wink.
Perhaps, you may award by your Decree,        45
They shou’d refund,—but that can never be; 11
For should you Letters of Reprisal seal,
These Men write that which no Man else would steal.
 
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1668. Reprinted in Covent Garden Drollery, 1672. The play is by Tomkis. [back]
Note 2. we may] I should 1672. [back]
Note 3. lik’d the] likes my 1672; who wore the] that wears my 1672. [back]
Note 4. becomes] became 1672. [back]
Note 5. strip] stript 1672. these] they 1672. [back]
Note 6. Such Men] Yet such 1672. [back]
Note 7. Such as in Sparta weight for Laurels stand 1672. [back]
Note 8. the Benefits] their Benefit 1672. [back]
Note 9. Whose Broth to claim there’s no one has the Courage 1672. [back]
Note 10. when once] after 1672. [back]
Note 11. 45–46 omitted 1672. [back]
 
 
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