Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TEMPEST: PROLOGUE, by JOHN DRYDEN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE TEMPEST: PROLOGUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: As, when a tree's cut down, the secret root
Last Line: To find her woman, it must be abed.
Variant Title(s): The Tempest: Prologue, Or The Enchanted Island
Subject(s): Dramatists; Fletcher, John (1579-1625); Jonson, Ben (1572-1637); Plays & Playwrights ; Poetry & Poets; Shakespeare, William (1564-1616); Dramatists

As, when a tree's cut down, the secret root
Lives underground, and thence new branches shoot;
So from old Shakespeare's honored dust, this day
Springs up and buds a new reviving play:
Shakespeare, who (taught by none) did first impart
To Fletcher wit, to laboring Jonson art.
He, monarch-like, gave those, his subjects, law;
And is that nature which they paint and draw.
Fletcher reached that which on his heights did grow,
While Jonson crept, and gathered all below.
This did his love, and this his mirth digest:
One imitates him most, the other best.
If they have since outwrit all other men,
'Tis with the drops which fell from Shakespeare's pen.
The storm which vanished on the neighboring shore,
Was taught by Shakespeare's 'Tempest' first to roar.
That innocence and beauty which did smile
In Fletcher, grew on this 'Enchanted Isle.'
But Shakespeare's magic could not copied be;
Within that circle none durst walk but he.
I must confess 'twas bold nor would you now
That liberty to vulgar wits allow,
Which works by magic supernatural things;
But Shakespeare's power is sacred as a king's.
Those legends from old priesthood were received,
And then writ, as people then believed.
But if for Shakespeare we your grace implore,
We for our theater shall want it more:
Who by our dearth of youths are forced to employ
One of our women to present a boy;
And that's a transformation, you will say,
Exceeding all the magic in the play.
Let none expect in the last act to find
Her sex transformed from man to womankind.
Whate'er she was before the play began,
All you shall see of her is perfect man.
Or if you fancy will be farther led
To find her woman, it must be abed.

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