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

Later Poems

Prologue (To a Play for Mr. Dennis’s Benefit)

In 1733, When He Was Old, Blind, and in Great Distress, a Little before His Death

AS when that hero, who in each campaign

Had braved the Goth, and many a Vandal slain,

Lay fortune-struck, a spectacle of woe,

Wept by each friend, forgiv’n by ev’ry foe;

Was there a gen’rous, a reflecting mind,

But pitied Belisarius old and blind?

Was there a chief but melted at the sight?

A common soldier but who clubb’d his mite?

Such, such emotions should in Britons rise,

When, press’d by want and weakness, Dennis lies;

Dennis! who long had warr’d with modern Huns,

Their quibbles routed, and defied their puns;

A desp’rate bulwark, sturdy, firm, and fierce,

Against the Gothic sons of frozen verse.

How changed from him who made the boxes groan,

And shook the stage with thunders all his own!

Stood up to dash each vain pretender’s hope,

Maul the French tyrant, or pull down the Pope!

If there ’s a Briton, then, true bred and born,

Who holds dragoons and wooden shoes in scorn;

If there ’s a critic of distinguish’d rage;

If there ’s a senior who contemns this age;

Let him to-night his just assistance lend,

And be the Critic’s, Briton’s, old man’s friend.