Success, which can no more than beauty last,
Makes our sad poet mourn your favors past:
For, since without desert he got a name,
He fears to lose it now with greater shame.
Fame, like a little mistress of the town,
Is gained with ease; but then she's lost as soon.
For, as those tawdry misses, soon or late,
Jilt such as keep 'em at the highest rate --
(And oft the lacquey, or the brawny clown,
Gets what is hid in the loose-bodied gown) -- 10 So, Fame is false to all that keep her long; And turns up to the fop that's brisk and young.
Some wiser poet now would leave Fame first:
But elder wits are, like old lovers, curst:
Who, when the vigor of their youth is spent, 15 Still grow more fond, as they grow impotent. This, some years hence, our poet's case may prove;
But yet, he hopes, he's young enough to love.
When forty comes,1 if e'er he live to see
That wretched, fumbling age of poetry, 20 'Twill be high time to bid his Muse adieu: Well he may please himself, but never you.
Till then, he'll do as well as he began,
And hopes you will not find him less a man.
Think him not duller for this year's delay;2 25 He was prepared, the women were away; And men, without their parts, can hardly play.
If they, through sickness, seldom did appear, 30 Pity the virgins of each theatre! For, at both houses, 'twas a sickly year!
And pity us, your servants, to whose cost,
In one such sickness, nine whole months are lost.3
Their stay, he fears, has ruined what he writ:
Long waiting both disables love and wit.
They thought they gave him leisure to do well; 35 But, when they forced him to attend, he fell! Yet, though he much has failed, he begs, today,
You will excuse his unperforming4 play:
Weakness sometimes great passion does express;
He had pleased better, had he loved you less. 40