The Mourning Bride/Prologue

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THE Time has been when Plays were not so plenty,
And a less Number New would well content ye.
New Plays did then like Almanacks appear;
And One was thought sufficient for a Year:
Tho' they are more like Almanacks of late;
For in one Year, I think, they're out of Date.
Nor were they without Reason join'd together;
For just as one prognosticates the Weather,
How plentiful the Crop, or scarce the Grain,
What Peals of Thunder, and what Show'rs of Rain;
So t'other can foretel, by certain Rules,
What Crops of Coxcombs, or what Floods of Fools.
In such like Prophecies were Poets skill'd,
Which now they find in their own Tribe fulfill'd:
The Dearth of Wit they did so long presage,
Is fall'n on us, and almost starves the Stage.
Were you not griev'd, as often as you saw
Poor Actors thresh such empty Sheafs of Straw?
Toiling and lab'ring, at their Lungs Expence,
To start a Jest, or force a little Sence.
Hard Fate for us! still harder in th' Event;
Our Authors Sin, but we alone Repent.
Still they proceed, and, at our Charge, write worse;
'Twere some Amends if they could reimburse:
But there's the Devil, tho' their Cause is lost,
There's no recovering Damages or Cost.
Good Wits, forgive this Liberty we take,
Since Custom gives the Losers leave to speak.
But if provok'd, your dreadful Wrath remains,
Take your Revenge upon the coming Scenes:
For that damn'd Poet's spar'd who Damns a Brother,
As one Thief 'scapes, that Executes another.
Thus far alone does to the Wits relate;
But from the rest we hope a better Fate.
To please and move has been our Poet's Theme,
Art may direct, but Nature is his aim;
And Nature miss'd, in vain he boasts his Art,
For only Nature can affect the Heart.
Then freely judge the Scenes that shall ensue,
But as with Freedom, judge with Candour too.
He wou'd not lose thro Prejudice his Cause;
Nor wou'd obtain precariously Applause.
Impartial Censure he requests from all,
Prepar'd, by just Decrees to stand, or fall.