Prologue To "The Mistakes." By Joseph Harris, Comedian, 1690. (Written By Some Other.)

A poem by John Dryden

[Enter Mr Bright.]

Gentlemen, we must beg your pardon; here's no Prologue to be had
to-day; our new play is like to come on, without a frontispiece;
as bald as one of you young beaux, without your periwig. I left
our young poet, snivelling and sobbing behind the scenes, and
cursing somebody that has deceived him.

[Enter Mr Bowen.]

Hold your prating to the audience: here is honest Mr Williams,
just come in, half mellow, from the Rose Tavern. He swears he is
inspired with claret, and will come on, and that extempore too,
either with a prologue of his own or something like one. Oh,
here he comes to his trial, at all adventures: for my part I
wish him a good deliverance.

[Exeunt Mr Bright and Mr Bowen.]

[Enter Mr Williams.]

Save ye, sirs, save ye! I am in a hopeful way.
I should speak something in rhyme, now, for the play:
But the deuce take me, if I know what to say.
I'll stick to my friend the author, that I can tell ye,
To the last drop of claret in my belly.
So far I'm sure 'tis rhyme--that needs no granting:
And, if my verses' feet stumble--you see my own are wanting.
Our young poet has brought a piece of work,
In which, though much of art there does not lurk,
It may hold out three days--and that's as long as Cork.
But for this play (which till I have done, we show not)
What may be its fortune--by the Lord! I know not.
This I dare swear, no malice here is writ:
'Tis innocent of all things--even of wit.
He's no highflier--he makes no sky-rockets,
His squibs are only levell'd at your pockets.
And if his crackers light among your pelf,
You are blown up; if not, then he's blown up himself.
By this time, I'm something recover'd of my fluster'd madness:
And now, a word or two in sober sadness.
Ours is a common play; and you pay down
A common harlot's price--just half-a-crown.
You'll say, I play the pimp, on my friend's score;
But since 'tis for a friend your gibes give o'er:
For many a mother has done that before.
How's this? you cry; an actor write?--we know it;
But Shakspeare was an actor, and a poet.
Has not great Jonson's learning often fail'd?
But Shakspeare's greater genius still prevail'd.
Have not some writing actors, in this age,
Deserved and found success upon the stage?
To tell the truth, when our old wits are tired,
Not one of us but means to be inspired.
Let your kind presence grace our homely cheer;
Peace and the butt is all our business here:
So much for that;--and the devil take small beer.

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