Epilogue For "The King's House."

A poem by John Dryden

We act by fits and starts, like drowning men,
But just peep up, and then pop down again.
Let those who call us wicked change their sense;
For never men lived more on Providence.
Not lottery cavaliers are half so poor,
Nor broken cits, nor a vacation whore;
Not courts, nor courtiers living on the rents
Of the three last ungiving parliaments:
So wretched, that, if Pharaoh could divine,
He might have spared his dream of seven lean kine,
And changed his vision for the Muses Nine.
The comet that, they say, portends a dearth,
Was but a vapour drawn from play-house earth:
Pent there since our last fire, and, Lilly says,
Foreshows our change of state, and thin third-days.
'Tis not our want of wit that keeps us poor;
For then the printer's press would suffer more.
Their pamphleteers each day their venom spit;
They thrive by treason, and we starve by wit.
Confess the truth, which of you has not laid
Four farthings out to buy the Hatfield maid?
Or, which is duller yet, and more would spite us,
Democritus his wars with Heraclitus?
Such are the authors who have run us down,
And exercised you critics of the town.
Yet these are pearls to your lampooning rhymes,
Ye abuse yourselves more dully than the times.
Scandal, the glory of the English nation,
Is worn to rags, and scribbled out of fashion.
Such harmless thrusts, as if, like fencers wise,
They had agreed their play before their prize.
Faith! they may hang their harps upon the willows;
'Tis just like children when they box with pillows.
Then put an end to civil wars for shame;
Let each knight-errant, who has wrong'd a dame,
Throw down his pen, and give her, as he can,
The satisfaction of a gentleman.

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