Prologue to The Mistakes

by John Dryden

John Dryden


Save ye, sirs, save ye! I am in a hopeful way,
I should speak something, in rhyme, now, for the play:
But the deuce take me, if I know what to say.
I'll stick to my friend the author, that I can tell ye,
To the last drop of claret in my belly.
So far I'm sure 't is rhyme — that needs no granting:
And, if my verses' feet stumble — you see my own are wanting.
Our young poet has brought a piece of work,
In which, tho' much of art there does not lurk,
It may hold out three days — and that's as long as Cork.
But, for this play — (which till I have done, we show not)
What may be its fortune — by the Lord — I know not.
This I dare swear, no malice here is writ:
'T is innocent of all things; ev'n of wit.
He's no high-flyer; he makes no sky-rockets,
His squibs are only level'd at your pockets.
And if his crackers light among your pelf,
You are blown up; if not, then he's blown up himself.
By this time, I'm something recover'd of my fluster'd madness:
And now a word or two in sober sadness.
Ours is a common play; and you pay down
A common harlot's price — just half a crown.
You 'll say, I play the pimp on my friend's score;
But since 't is for a friend, your gibes give o'er:
For many a mother has done that before.
How's this, you cry? an actor write? — we know it;
But Shakespeare was an actor and a poet.
Has not great Jonson's learning often fail'd?
But Shakespeare's greater genius still prevail'd.
Have not some writing actors, in this age,
Deserv'd and found success upon the stage?
To tell the truth, when our old wits are tir'd,
Not one of us but means to be inspir'd.
Let your kind presence grace our homely cheer;
" Peace and the butt" is all our bus'ness here:
So much for that — and the Devil take small beer.

Last updated October 14, 2022