British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview
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We might well call this short mock-play of ours
A posy made of weeds instead of flowers;
Yet such have been presented to your noses,
And there are such, I fear, who thought 'em roses.

Would some of 'em were here, to see, this night, 5
What stuff it is in which they took delight. Here, brisk, insipid rogues, for wit, let fall
Sometimes dull sense; but oft'ner, none at all:
There, strutting heroes, with a grim-faced train,
Shall brave the gods, in King Cambyses' vein.110
For (changing rules, of late, as if men writ
In spite of reason, nature, art, and wit)
Our poets make us laugh at tragedy,
And with their comedies they make us cry.
Now, critics, do your worst, that here are met; 15
For, like a rook, I have hedged in my bet.2
If you approve, I shall assume the state
Of those high-flyers whom I imitate:
And justly too, for I will show you more
Than ever they would let you know before: 20
I will not only show the feats they do, But give you all their reasons for 'em too.

Some honor may to me from hence arise;
But if, by my endeavors, you grow wise,
And what you once so praised shall now despise,

Then I'll cry out, swelled with poetic rage,
'Tis I, John Lacy,3 have reformed your stage.

7] Q1 blades for rogues.
21] Q1 I will both represent the feats they do.
23] Q1 Some honor to me will from this arise.
Ranting tragedy fashion (an echo of Falstaff's phrase. I Henry IV, II iv.). Successive editions of Elkanah Settle's popular heroic drama, Cambyses, King of Persia (acted in 1667), had appeared in 1671 and in 1672, and it was again reprinted in 1675.
Like a sharper, I have played safe by wagering both ways (i.e., he stands to win either way, whether the critics take his imitation of high-flown heroic drama seriously or not).
Lacy created the part of Bayes.


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British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan
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