by John Dryden
SPOKEN BY MR. BETTERTON
A S when some treasurer lays down the stick,
Warrants are sign'd for ready money thick,
And many desperate debentures paid,
Which never had been, had his lordship stay'd;
So now, this poet, who forsakes the stage,
Intends to gratify the present age.
One warrant shall be sign'd for every man;
All shall be wits that will, and beaux that can:
Provided still, this warrant be not shown,
And you be wits but to yourselves alone;
Provided, too, you rail at one another,
For there 's no one wit will allow a brother;
Provided, also, that you spare this story,
Damn all the plays that e'er shall come before ye.
If one by chance prove good in half a score,
Let that one pay for all, and damn it more.
For if a good one scape among the crew,
And you continue judging as you do,
Every bad play will hope for damning too.
You might damn this, if it were worth your pains;
Here 's nothing you will like; no fustian scenes,
And nothing, too, of — you know what he means.
No double-entendres , which you sparks allow,
To make the ladies look they know not how,
Simply as 't were, and knowing both together,
Seeming to fan their faces in cold weather
But here 's a story, which no books relate,
Coin'd from our own old poet's addle-pate.
The fable has a moral, too, if sought;
But let that go; for, upon second thought,
He fears but few come hither to be taught.
Yet if you will be profited, you may;
And he would bribe you too, to like his play.
He dies, at least to us, and to the stage,
And what he has he leaves this noble age.
He leaves you, first, all plays of his inditing,
The whole estate which he has got by writing.
The beaux may think this nothing but vain praise;
They 'll find it something, the testator says;
For half their love is made from scraps of plays.
To his worst foes he leaves his honesty,
That they may thrive upon 't as much as he
He leaves his manners to the roaring boys,
Who come in drunk, and fill the house with noise.
He leaves to the dire critics of his wit,
His silence and contempt of all they writ.
To Shakespeare's critic, he bequeaths the curse,
To find his faults, and yet himself make worse;
A precious reader in poetic schools,
Who by his own examples damns his rules
Last, for the fair, he wishes you may be,
From your dull critics, the lampooners, free.
Tho' he pretends no legacy to leave you,
An old man may at least good wishes give you.
Your beauty names the play; and may prove.
To each, an omen of Triumphant Love!
Last updated October 11, 2022