Prologue To "The Loyal Brother; Or, The Persian Prince;" By Mr Southern, 1682.

A poem by John Dryden

POETS, like lawful monarchs, ruled the stage,
Till critics, like damn'd Whigs, debauch'd our age.
Mark how they jump: critics would regulate
Our theatres, and Whigs reform our state:
Both pretend love, and both (plague rot them!) hate.
The critic humbly seems advice to bring;
The fawning Whig petitions to the king:
But one's advice into a satire slides;
The other's petition a remonstrance hides.
These will no taxes give, and those no pence;
Critics would starve the poet, Whigs the prince.
The critic all our troops of friends discards;
Just so the Whig would fain pull down the guards.
Guards are illegal, that drive foes away,
As watchful shepherds, that fright beasts of prey.
Kings, who disband such needless aids as these,
Are safe--as long as e'er their subjects please:
And that would be till next Queen Bess's night: [2]
Which thus grave penny chroniclers indite.
Sir Edmondbury first, in woful wise,
Leads up the show, and milks their maudlin eyes.
There's not a butcher's wife but dribs her part,
And pities the poor pageant from her heart;
Who, to provoke revenge, rides round the fire,
And, with a civil congé, does retire:
But guiltless blood to ground must never fall;
There's Antichrist behind, to pay for all.
The punk of Babylon in pomp appears,
A lewd old gentleman of seventy years:
Whose age in vain our mercy would implore;
For few take pity on an old cast whore.
The Devil, who brought him to the shame, takes part;
Sits cheek by jowl, in black, to cheer his heart;
Like thief and parson in a Tyburn-cart.
The word is given, and with a loud huzza
The mitred puppet from his chair they draw:
On the slain corpse contending nations fall:
Alas! what's one poor Pope among them all!
He burns; now all true hearts your triumphs ring:
And, next, for fashion, cry, God save the king!
A needful cry in midst of such alarms,
When forty thousand men are up in arms.
But after he's once saved, to make amends,
In each succeeding health they damn his friends:
So God begins, but still the Devil ends.
What if some one, inspired with zeal, should call,
Come, let's go cry, God save him at Whitehall?
His best friends would not like this over-care,
Or think him ere the safer for this prayer.
Five praying saints are by an act allow'd;[3]
But not the whole church-militant in crowd.
Yet, should Heaven all the true petitions drain
Of Presbyterians, who would kings maintain,
Of forty thousand, five would scarce remain.

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