Prologue To "The Prophetess." By Beaumont And Fletcher.

A poem by John Dryden

SPOKEN BY MR BETTERTON. 1690.


What Nostradame, with all his art, can guess
The fate of our approaching Prophetess?
A play which, like a pérspective 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 mistresses:
They rise three storeys 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![2] leave our stage to mourn,
Till rich from vanquished 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;
Such 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, call'd dumfounding.
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.

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