Prologue To "Albion And Albanius."

A poem by John Dryden

Full twenty years and more, our labouring stage
Has lost on this incorrigible age:
Our poets, the John Ketches of the nation,
Have seem'd to lash ye, even to excoriation:
But still no sign remains; which plainly notes,
You bore like heroes, or you bribed like Oates.
What can we do, when mimicking a fop,
Like beating nut-trees, makes a larger crop?
Faith, we'll e'en spare our pains! and, to content you,
Will fairly leave you what your Maker meant you.
Satire was once your physic, wit your food:
One nourish'd not, and t'other drew no blood:
We now prescribe, like doctors in despair,
The diet your weak appetites can bear.
Since hearty beef and mutton will not do,
Here's julep-dance, ptisan of song and show:
Give you strong sense, the liquor is too heady:
You're come to farce,--that's asses' milk,--already.
Some hopeful youths there are, of callow wit,
Who one day may be men, if Heaven think fit:
Sound may serve such, ere they to sense are grown,
Like leading-strings till they can walk alone.
But yet, to keep our friends in countenance, know,
The wise Italians first invented show:
Thence into France the noble pageant pass'd:
'Tis England's credit to be cozen'd last.
Freedom and zeal have choused you o'er and o'er:
Pray give us leave to bubble you once more;
You never were so cheaply fool'd before:

We bring you change, to humour your disease;
Change for the worse has ever used to please:
Then, 'tis the mode of France; without whose rules
None must presume to set up here for fools.
In France, the oldest man is always young,
Sees operas daily, learns the tunes so long,
Till foot, hand, head keep time with every song:
Each sings his part, echoing from pit and box,
With his hoarse voice, half harmony, half pox:
Le plus grand roi du monde is always ringing,
They show themselves good subjects by their singing:
On that condition, set up every throat:
You Whigs may sing, for you have changed your note.
Cits and citesses raise a joyful strain,
'Tis a good omen to begin a reign:
Voices may help your charter to restoring,
And get by singing what you lost by roaring.

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