A Prologue

Poets like lawful monarchs ruled the stage,
Till critics like damned Whigs debauched our age.
Mark how they jump: critics would regulate
Our theatres, and Whigs reform our state:
Both pretend love, and both (plague rot 'em) hate.
The critic humbly seems advice to bring,
The fawning Whig petitions to the King:
But one's advice into a satire slides,
T' other's petition a remonstrance hides.
These will no taxes give, and those no pence:
Critics would starve the poet, Whigs the prince.
The critic all our troops of friends discards;
Just so the Whig would fain pull down the guards.
Guards are illegal that drive foes away,
As watchful shepherds that fright beasts of prey:
Kings who disband such needless aids as these
Are safe—as long as e'er their subjects please;
And that would be till next Queen Bess's night,
Which thus grave penny chroniclers endite.
Sir Edmund Berry first in woeful wise
Leads up the show, and milks their maudlin eyes:
There's not a butcher's wife but dribs her part,
And pities the poor pageant from her heart;
Who to provoke revenge rides round the fire,
And with a civil congee does retire.
But guiltless blood to ground must never fall:
There's Antichrist behind to pay for all.
The punk of Babylon in pomp appears,
A lewd old gentleman of seventy years,
Whose age in vain our mercy would implore,
For few take pity on an old cast whore.
The devil, who brought him to the shame, takes part,
Sits cheek by jowl, in black, to cheer his heart,
Like thief and parson in a Tyburn cart.
The word is given, and with a loud huzzaw
The mitred moppet from his chair they draw:
On the slain corpse contending nations fall;
Alas, what's one poor pope among 'em all!
He burns; now all true hearts your triumphs ring,
And next (for fashion) cry, ‘God save the King.’
A needful cry in midst of such alarms,
When forty thousand men are up in arms.
But after he's once saved, to make amends
In each succeeding health they damn his friends:
So God begins, but still the devil ends.
What if some one inspired with zeal should call,
‘Come, let's go cry “God save him” at Whitehall’?
His best friends would not like this over-care,
Or think him e'er the safer for that prayer.
Five praying saints are by an Act allowed,
But not the whole church militant in crowd.
Yet should heaven all the true petitions drain
Of Presbyterians who would kings maintain,
Of forty thousand, five would scarce remain.
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