Epilogue To The Wild Gallant, When Revived.

A poem by John Dryden

Of all dramatic writing, comic wit,
As 'tis the best, so 'tis most hard to hit,
For it lies all in level to the eye,
Where all may judge, and each defect may spy.
Humour is that which every day we meet,
And therefore known as every public street;
In which, if e'er the poet go astray,
You all can point, 'twas there he lost his way.
But, what's so common, to make pleasant too,
Is more than any wit can always do.
For 'tis like Turks, with hen and rice to treat;
To make regalios out of common meat.
But, in your diet, you grow savages:
Nothing but human flesh your taste can please;
And, as their feasts with slaughter'd slaves began,
So you, at each new play, must have a man.
Hither you come, as to see prizes fought;
If no blood's drawn, you cry, the prize is nought.
But fools grow wary now: and, when they see
A poet eyeing round the company,
Straight each man for himself begins to doubt;
They shrink like seamen when a press comes out.
Few of them will be found for public use,
Except you charge an oaf upon each house,
Like the train bands, and every man engage
For a sufficient fool, to serve the stage,
And when, with much ado, you get him there,
Where he in all his glory should appear.
Your poets make him such rare things to say,
That he's more wit than any man i' th' play:
But of so ill a mingle with the rest,
As when a parrot's taught to break a jest.
Thus, aiming to be fine, they make a show,
As tawdry squires in country churches do.
Things well consider'd, 'tis so hard to make
A comedy, which should the knowing take,
That our dull poet, in despair to please,
Does humbly beg, by me, his writ of ease.
'Tis a land-tax, which he's too poor to pay;
You therefore must some other impost lay.
Would you but change, for serious plot and verse,
This motley garniture of fool and farce,
Nor scorn a mode, because 'tis taught at home,
Which does, like vests, our gravity become,
Our poet yields you should this play refuse:
As tradesmen, by the change of fashions, lose,
With some content, their fripperies of France,
In hope it may their staple trade advance.

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