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MR DRYDEN'S PLAY,
The applause I gave among the foolish crowd
Was not distinguished, though I clapped aloud:
Or, if it had, my judgment had been hid:
I clapped for company, as others did.
Thence may be told the fortune of your play;
Its goodness must be tried another way.
Let's judge it then, and, if we've any skill,
Commend what's good, though we commend it ill.
There will be praise enough; yet not so much,
As if the world had never any such:
Ben Johnson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Shakespeare, are,
As well as you, to have a poet's share.
You, who write after, have, besides, this curse,
You must write better, or you else write worse.
To equal only what was writ before,
Seems stolen, or borrowed from the former store.
Though blind as Homer all the ancients be,
'Tis on their shoulders, like the lame, we see.
Then not to flatter th' age, nor flatter you,
(Praises, though less, are greater when they're true,)
You're equal to the best, out-done by you;
Who had out-done themselves, had they lived now.
t John, Lord Vaughan, eldest surviving son of Richard, Earl of Carbery.
TO THE FIRST PART,
MRS ELLEN GWYN,
IN A BROAD-BRIMMED HAT, AND WAIST-BELT.*
This jest was first of the other house's making,
And, five times tried, has never failed of taking;
For 'twere a shame a poet should be killed
Under the shelter of so broad a shield.
This is that hat, whose very sight did win ye
To laugh and clap as though the devil were in ye.
As then, for Nokes, so now I hope you'll be So dull, to laugh once more for love of me. I'll write a play, says one, for I have got
A broad-brimmed hat, and waist-belt, towards a plot. Says the other, I have one more large than that.
Thus they out-write each other—with a hat 1
The brims still grew with every play they writ;
And grew so large, they covered all the wit.
Hat was the play; 'twas language, wit, and tale:
Like them that find meat, drink, and cloth in ale.
What dulness do these mongrel wits confess,
When all their hope is acting of a dress!
Thus, two the best comedians of the age
Must be worn out, with being blocks o' the stage;
Like a young girl, who better things has known, \
Beneath their poet's impotence they -groan. /
See now what charity it was to save!
They thought you liked, what only you forgave;
* There is a vague tradition, that, in this grotesque dress, (for the brims of the hat were as broad as a cart-wheel,) Nell Gwyu had the good fortune first to attract the attention of her royal lover. Where the jest lav, is difficult t» •iiseover: it seems to have originated with the duke of York's players.
And brought you more dull sense, dull sense much worse Than brisk gay nonsense, and the heavier curse. They bring old iron, and glass upon the stage, To barter with the Indians of our age. Still they write on, and like great authors show;But 'tis as rollers in wet gardens grow Heavy with dirt, and gathering as they go. May none, who have so little understood, To like such trash, presume to praise what's good!And may those drudges of the stage, whose late
Is damned dull farce more dully to translate, Fall under that excise the state thinks fit To set on all French wares, whose worst is wit. French farce, worn out at home, is sent abroad;And, patched up here, is made our English mode. Henceforth, let poets, ere allowed to write, Be searched, like duelists before they fight, For wheel-broad hats, dull honour, all that chaff, Which makes you mourn, and makes the vulgar laugh:
For. these, in plays, are as unlawful arms, As, in a combat, coats of mail, and charms.
Mahomet Boabdelin, the last king of Granada. Prince Abdalla, his brother.
Abdelmelech, chief of the Abencerrages.
Zulema, chief of the Zegrys.
Abenamak, an old Abencerrago.
Selin, an old Zegry.
Ozmyn, a brave young Abencerrago, sonto Abenamar.
Hamet, brother to Zulema, a Zegry,
Gomel, a Zegry.
Ferdinand, king of Spain. Duke of Aucos, his General. Don Alonzo D'aguilar, a Spanish Captain.
Almahide, Queen of Granada.
Messengers, Guards, Attendants, Men, and Women.
SCENE.—Granada, and the Christian Camp besieging it.