Prologue to the Duchess

by John Dryden

John Dryden

On her return from Scotland

When factious rage to cruel exile drove
The Queen of beauty and the court of love,
The Muses drooped with their forsaken arts,
And the sad Cupids broke their useless darts.
Our fruitful plains to wilds and deserts turned,
Like Eden's face when banished man it mourned.
Love was no more when loyalty was gone,
The great supporter of his awful throne.
Love could no longer after beauty stay,
But wandered northward to the verge of day
As if the sun and he had lost their way.
But now th' illustrious nymph returned again
Brings every grace triumphant in her train:
The wondering Nereids, though they raised no storm,
Foreslowed her passage to behold her form:
Some cried a Venus, some a Thetis passed,
But this was not so fair, nor that so chaste.
Far from her sight flew Faction, Strife and Pride,
And Envy did but look on her, and died.
Whate'er we suffered from our sullen fate,
Her sight is purchased at an easy rate:
Three gloomy years against this day were set,
But this one mighty sum has cleared the debt.
Like Joseph's dream, but with a better doom,
The famine past, the plenty still to come.
For her the weeping heavens become serene,
For her the ground is clad in cheerful green,
For her the nightingales are taught to sing,
And nature has for her delayed the spring.
The Muse resumes her long-forgotten lays,
And Love, restored, his ancient realm surveys,
Recalls our beauties, and revives our plays;
His waste dominions peoples once again,
And from her presence dates his second reign.
But awful charms on her fair forehead sit,
Dispensing what she never will admit;
Pleasing, yet cold, like Cynthia's silver beam,
The people's wonder and the poet's theme.
Distempered Zeal, Sedition, cankered Hate
No more shall vex the church and tear the state;
No more shall Faction civil discords move,
Or only discords of too tender love:
Discord like that of music's various parts,
Discord that makes the harmony of hearts,
Discord that only this dispute shall bring —
Who best shall love the Duke, and serve the King.

Last updated October 14, 2022