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Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

Poems: 1713–17

Prologue Designed for Mr. D’Urfey’s Last Play

  • ‘Tom’ D’Urfey was a writer of popular farces under the Restoration. Through Addison’s influence his play The Plotting Sisters was revived for his benefit; and the present prologue was possibly written for that occasion. It was first published in 1727.

  • GROWN old in rhyme, ’t were barb’rous to discard

    Your persevering, unexhausted Bard:

    Damnation follows death in other men,

    But your damn’d poet lives and writes again.

    The adventurous lover is successful still,

    Who strives to please the Fair against her will.

    Be kind, and make him in his wishes easy,

    Who in your own despite has strove to please ye.

    He scorn’d to borrow from the Wits of yore,

    But ever writ, as none e’er writ before.

    You modern Wits, should each man bring his claim,

    Have desperate debentures on your fame;

    And little would be left you, I ’m afraid,

    If all your debts to Greece and Rome were paid.

    From this deep fund our author largely draws,

    Nor sinks his credit lower than it was.

    Tho’ plays for honour in old time he made,

    ’T is now for better reasons – to be paid.

    Believe him, he has known the world too long,

    And seen the death of much immortal song.

    He says, poor poets lost, while players won,

    As pimps grow rich while gallants are undone.

    Though Tom the poet writ with ease and pleasure,

    The comic Tom abounds in other treasure.

    Fame is at best an unperforming cheat;

    But ’t is substantial happiness to eat.

    Let ease, his last request, be of your giving,

    Nor force him to be damn’d to get his living.