Love in a Wood; The Gentleman Dancing-Master; The Country Wife; The Plain Dealer

By William Wycherley; Peter Dixon | Go to book overview
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Prologue∘

Custom, which bids the thief from can harangue∘
All those that come to make and see him hang,
Wills the damned poet (though he knows he's gone)∘
To greet you ere his execution.

Not having fear of critic 'fore his eyes,∘ 5
But still rejecting wholesome good advice, He e'en is come to suffer here today
For counterfeiting (as you judge) a play,∘
Which is against dread Phoebus highest treason.
Damned, damning judges, therefore you have reason-- 10
You he does mean, who for the selfsame fault That damning privilege of yours have bought;
So the huge bankers, when they needs must fail,
Send the small brothers of their trade to jail;
Whilst they, by breaking, gentlemen are made, 15
Then, more than any, scorn poor men o'th' trade. You hardened renegado poets, who
Treat rhyming brother worse than Turk would do,∘
But vent your heathenish rage, hang, draw and quarter:∘
His muse will die today a fleering martyr,∘ 20
Since for bald jest, dull libel or lampoon There are who suffer persecution
With the undaunted briskness of buffoon,
And strict professors live of raillery,
Defying porter's lodge or pillory.∘ 25
For those who yet write on, our poet's fate Should as co-sufferers commiserate;
But he in vain their pity now would crave,
Who for themselves (alas) no pity have,
And their own gasping credit will not save.∘ 30
And those, much less, our criminal would spare, Who ne'er in rhyme transgress--if such there are.∘
Well then, who nothing hopes needs nothing fear;
And he, before your cruel votes shall do it,
By his despair declares himself no poet. 35

-5-

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