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E that hath feafted you these forty years,
And fitted fables for your finer ears,
Although at firft he fcarce could hit the bore;
Yet you, with patience harkning more and more,
At length have grown up to him and made known,
The working of his pen is now your own:
He prays you would vouchsafe, for your own fake,
To hear him this once more, but fit awake.
And though he now present you with fuch wool,
As from mere English flocks his mufe can pull,
He hopes when it is made up into cloth,
Not the most curious head here will be loth
To wear a hood of it, it being a fleece,
To match, or thofe of Sicily, or Greece.
His fcene is Sherwood, and his play a Tale,
Of Robin Hood's inviting from the vale
Of Be'voir, all the fhepherds to a feast:
Where, by the casual absence of one guest,
The mirth is troubled much, and in one man
As much of fadness fhewn as passion can :
The fad young shepherd, whom we here present,
Like his woes figure, dark and difcontent,
[The fad shepherd paffeth filently over the flage.
For his loft love, who in the Trent is faid
To have miscarried; 'las! what knows the head
Of a calm river, whom the feet have drown'd?
Hear what his forrows are; and if they wound
Your gentle breasts, so that the end crown all,
Which in the scope of one day's chance may fall:
Old Trent will send you more fuch tales as these,
grow young again as one doth please.
[Here the Prologue thinking to end, rèturns upon a new purpose, and speaks on.
But here's an herefy of late let fall,
That mirth by no means fits a pastoral:
Such fay fo, who can make none, he prefumes:
Elfe there's no scene more properly affumes
The fock. For whenee can sport in kind arise,
But from the rural routs and families?
Safe on this ground then, we not fear to-day,
To tempt your laughter by our ruftick play.
I Wherein if we distaste, or be cry'd down,
We think we therefore fhall not leave the town;
Nor that the fore-wits that would draw the rest
Unto their liking, always like the best.
The wife and knowing critick will not fay,
This worst, or better is, before he weigh
Whêr every piece be perfect in the kind:
And then, though in themselves he difference find,
Wherein if we DISTATE, or be cry'd down.] Diftate hath no meaning; we must restore a fingle letter to give it one. Difiafte is the true reading; the fenfe displeafe, difguft, common to the writers of this age.
Yet if the place require it where they stood,
The equal fitting makes them equal good.
You fhall have love and hate, and jealousy,
As well as mirth, and rage, and melancholy :
Or whatsoever elfe may either moye,
Or stir affections, and your likings prove.
But that no ftile for paftoral should go
Current, but what is ftamp'd with Ah and O;
Who judgeth fo, may fingularly err;
As if all poefie had one character:
In which what were not written, were not right,
Or that the man who made fuch one poor flight,
In his whole life, had with his winged skill
Advanc'd him upmoft on the mufes hill.
When he like poet yet remains, as those
Are painters who can only make a rose.
From fuch your wits redeem you, or your chance,
Left to a greater height you do advance
Of folly, to contemn thofe that are known
Artificers, and truft fuch as are none.