Prologue To "The Earl Of Essex; Or, The Unhappy Favourite;" By Mr J. Banks, 1682.

A poem by John Dryden


When first the ark was landed on the shore,
And Heaven had vow'd to curse the ground no more;
When tops of hills the longing patriarch saw,
And the new scene of earth began to draw;
The dove was sent to view the waves' decrease,
And first brought back to man the pledge of peace.
'Tis needless to apply, when those appear,
Who bring the olive, and who plant it here.
We have before our eyes the royal dove,
Still innocent, as harbinger of love:
The ark is open'd to dismiss the train,
And people with a better race the plain.
Tell me, ye Powers! why should vain man pursue,
With endless toil, each object that is new,
And for the seeming substance leave the true?
Why should he quit for hopes his certain good,
And loathe the manna of his daily food?
Must England still the scene of changes be,
Tost and tempestuous, like our ambient sea?
Must still our weather and our wills agree?
Without our blood our liberties we have:
Who that is free would fight to be a slave?
Or, what can wars to after-times assure,
Of which our present age is not secure?
All that our monarch would for us ordain,
Is but to enjoy the blessings of his reign.
Our land's an Eden, and the main's our fence,
While we preserve our state of innocence:
That lost, then beasts their brutal force employ,
And first their lord, and then themselves destroy.
What civil broils have cost, we know too well;
Oh! let it be enough that once we fell!
And every heart conspire, and every tongue,
Still to have such a king, and this king long.

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