Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE PROLOGUE, by RICHARD EUGENE BURTON



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THE PROLOGUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Hey! How they push! The pit is crowded now
Last Line: (they go forth.)
Subject(s): Actors & Actresses; Courts & Courtiers; Plays & Playwrights ; Theater & Theaters; Tragedy; Actresses; Royal Court Life; Royalty; Kings; Queens; Dramatists; Stage Life


First Spectator.
Hey! how they push! The pit is crowded now;
A family man must come in season, sooth,
If he would see the play. On Saturdays
The folk, work finished, bring their wives and all,
Hoarding each penny through the thrifty week.
And look! an actor comes, 'tis curtain-time.

Second Spectator. Nay, 'tis but Master Prologue, he that struts
About the stage and mouths to please himself,
Speedily making way for the real stuff,
The kings and queens and all the quality
That sit at banquet in the regal hall.

Third Spectator. Thou liest, fool, see where they pantomime;
There's more than one; faith, 'tis the very play.

Second Spectator. God's love, it is a zany. Proper acts
Have each their fore-piece; so it is to-day.

First Spectator's Wife. Peace, dolt! They speak; only the gallants talk,
The yeomanry should harken, look and learn.
(The play begins without a prologue.)

First Cobbler in audience.
How handsomely they give the lines. Methinks
There never was a scene since I was got
So brave in carriage, nor by half so grand,
As this of Fortunatus and his purse.
'Twas well for him he chose the chink of gold
Afore aught else -- as, wisdom, beauty, health.

Second Cobbler. I heard but now good Master Prentice there
(Him yonder with his dame) affirm it roundly
That he had sometime seen this famous piece,
And how these incidents are all aside
From the grave acts that make the tragedy,
The true main action that will come erelong;
This a mere farce to make us laugh withal.

First Cobbler. Th'art drunken, man;
The actors sweat as though 'twas serious;
And mark you that the stage is gallant-full,
Which would not be unless the act's begun.

Third Cobbler. Yet, by my awl, 'tis hardly six o' the clock,
And he says true, the fore-piece comes the first;
Mayhap it is newfangled, Spanish, French,
To speak the prologue by more mouths than one.
Nay, Hodge is right, 'tis surely not the play.

Second Cobbler. Ye silly knaves, I prithee prate no more;
I know the playhouse, and if this be not
The prologue, nothing else, I'll buy and burn
Ten tapers for the church come Candlemas.
(The play is enacted, and, being finished, the people jostle their way out
of the pit.)

First Citizen. 'Twas handsome-done, -- but still a parlous trick,
This giving of the plot with ne'er a word
Of fore-speech, when one looked for something such;
Though I have heard it said 'tis often so,
This showing of the play sans anything
To gloss it. Well, I would that I had known;
So would I not have chattered with my mates,
Thinking the best to come, but bent my mind
On Fortunatus and his fortunes great.
I lost full half the lines, by our lady, yes.
'Twould fetch the tears another time. Ah me,
Had I but known! A play's a mocking thing!
(They go forth.)





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