(Prologue To The University Of Oxford, Spoken By Mr Hart, At The Acting Of "The Silent Woman.")
No poor Dutch peasant, wing'd with all his fear,
Flies with more haste, when the French arms draw near,
Than we with our poetic train come down,
For refuge hither, from the infected town:
Heaven, for our sins, this summer has thought fit
To visit us with all the plagues of wit.
A French troop first swept all things in its way;
But those hot Monsieurs were too quick to stay:
Yet, to our cost, in that short time, we find
They left their itch of novelty behind.
The Italian Merry-Andrews took their place,
And quite debauch'd the stage with lewd grimace:
Instead of wit and humours, your delight
Was there to see two hobby-horses fight;
Stout Scaramoucha with rush-lance rode in,
And ran a tilt at centaur Arlequin.
For love you heard how amorous asses bray'd,
And cats in gutters gave their serenade.
Nature was out of countenance, and each day
Some new-born monster shown you for a play.
But when all fail'd, to strike the stage quite dumb,
Those wicked engines call'd machines are come.
Thunder and lightning now for wit are play'd,
And shortly scenes in Lapland will be laid:
Art magic is for poetry profess'd;
And cats and dogs, and each obscener beast,
To which Egyptian dotards once did bow,
Upon our English stage are worshipp'd now.
Witchcraft reigns there, and raises to renown
Macbeth and Simon Magus of the town,
Fletcher's despised, your Jonson's out of fashion,
And wit the only drug in all the nation.
In this low ebb our wares to you are shown;
By you those staple authors' worth is known;
For wit's a manufacture of your own.
When you, who only can, their scenes have praised,
We'll boldly back, and say, their price is raised.