Prologue To The Rival Ladies.

A poem by John Dryden

'Tis much desired, you judges of the town
Would pass a vote to put all prologues down:
For who can show me, since they first were writ,
They e'er converted one hard-hearted wit?
Yet the world's mended well; in former days
Good prologues were as scarce as now good plays.
For the reforming poets of our age,
In this first charge, spend their poetic rage:
Expect no more when once the prologue's done:
The wit is ended ere the play's begun.
You now have habits, dances, scenes, and rhymes;
High language often; ay, and sense, sometimes.
As for a clear contrivance, doubt it now;
They blow out candles to give light to the plot.
And for surprise, two bloody-minded men
Fight till they die, then rise and dance again,
Such deep intrigues you're welcome to this day:
But blame yourselves, not him who writ the play;
Though his plot's dull, as can be well desired,
Wit stiff as any you have e'er admired:
He's bound to please, not to write well; and knows
There is a mode in plays as well as clothes;
Therefore, kind judges....


2. Hold; would you admit
For judges all you see within the pit?

1. Whom would he then except, or on what score?

2. All who (like him) have writ ill plays before;
For they, like thieves condemn'd, are hangmen made,
To execute the members of their trade.
All that are writing now he would disown,
But then he must except--even all the town;
All choleric, losing gamesters, who, in spite,
Will damn to-day, because they lost last night;
All servants, whom their mistress' scorn upbraids;
All maudlin lovers, and all slighted maids;
All who are out of humour, all severe;
All that want wit, or hope to find it here.

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