Prologue To His Royal Highness,

A poem by John Dryden


In those cold regions which no summers cheer,
Where brooding darkness covers half the year,
To hollow caves the shivering natives go;
Bears range abroad, and hunt in tracks of snow:
But when the tedious twilight wears away,
And stars grow paler at the approach of day,
The longing crowds to frozen mountains run;
Happy who first can see the glimmering sun:
The surly savage offspring disappear,
And curse the bright successor of the year.
Yet, though rough bears in covert seek defence,
White foxes stay, with seeming innocence:
That crafty kind with daylight can dispense.
Still we are throng'd so full with Reynard's race,
That loyal subjects scarce can find a place:
Thus modest truth is cast behind the crowd:
Truth speaks too low: hypocrisy too loud.
Let them be first to flatter in success;
Duty can stay, but guilt has need to press.
Once, when true zeal the sons of God did call,
To make their solemn show at heaven's Whitehall,
The fawning Devil appear'd among the rest,
And made as good a courtier as the best.
The friends of Job, who rail'd at him before,
Came, cap in hand, when he had three times more.
Yet late repentance may, perhaps, be true;
Kings can forgive, if rebels can but sue:
A tyrant's power in rigour is express'd;
The father yearns in the true prince's breast.
We grant, an o'ergrown Whig no grace can mend;
But most are babes, that know not they offend.
The crowd, to restless motion still inclined,
Are clouds, that tack according to the wind.
Driven by their chiefs, they storms of hailstones pour;
Then mourn, and soften to a silent shower.
O welcome to this much-offending land,
The prince that brings forgiveness in his hand!
Thus angels on glad messages appear:
Their first salute commands us not to fear.
Thus Heaven, that could constrain us to obey,
(With reverence if we might presume to say)
Seems to relax the rights of sovereign sway:
Permits to man the choice of good and ill,
And makes us happy by our own free will.

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