Archive for August 10th, 2014

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Prologue to “Constantine the Great” by Thomas Otway

What think ye meant wise Providence, when first
Poets were made? I’d tell you, if I durst,
That ‘twas in Contradiction to Heaven’s Word,
That when its Spirit o’er the Waters stirr’d,
When it saw All, and said, That All was good,
The Creature Poet was not understood.
For, were it worth the Pains of six long Days,
To mould Retailers of dull Third-Day-Plays,
That starve out threescore Years in hopes of Bay.
‘Tis plain they ne’er were of the first Creation,
But came by meer Equiv’cal Generation.
Like Rats in Ships, without Coition bred;
As hated too as they are, and unfed.
Nature their Species sure must needs disown,
Scarce knowing Poets, less by Poets known.
Yet this poor Thing, so scorn’d, and set at nought,
Ye all pretend to, and would fain be thought.
Disabl’d wasting Whore-Masters are not
Prouder to own the Brats they never got,
Than Fumbling, itching Rhimers of the Town,
T’ adopt some base-born Song that’s not their own.
Spite of his State, my Lord sometimes descends,
To please the Importunity of Friends.
The dullest He, thought most for Business fit,
Will venture his bought Place, to aim at Wit.
And though he sinks with his Imploys of State,
‘Till Commen Sense forsake him, he’ll Translate.
The Poet and the Whore alike complains,
Of trading Quality, that spoils their Gains;
The Lords will Write, and Ladies will have Swains.
Therefore, all you who have Male Issue born,
Under the Starving Sign of Capricorn;
Prevent the Malice of their Stars in time,
And warn them early from the Sin of Rhime:
Tell ’em how Spencer stary’d, how Cowley mourn’d,
How Butler’s Faith and Service was return’d;
And if such Warning they refuse to take,
This last Experiment, O Parents, make!
With Hands behind them see the Offender ty’d,
The Parish Whip, and Beadle by his Side
Then lead him to some Stall that does expose
The Authors he loves most, there rub his Nose;
‘Till like a Spaniel lash’d, to know Command,
He by the due Correction understand,
To keep his Brains clean, and not foul the Land.
‘Till he against his Nature learn to strive,
And get the Knack of Dullness how to thrive.

From: Otway, Thomas, The Works of Thomas Otway; Volume the Second. Containing The Atheist, The Orphan, Caius Marius, Venice Preserv’d with his Poems Upon Several Occasions, 1712, J. Tonson:London, pp. 394-395.
(https://archive.org/stream/worksofmrthomaso02otwa#page/394/mode/2up)

Date: 1683

By: Thomas Otway (1652-1685)