1723 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Steele

Leonard Welsted, "Prologue to the Conscious Lovers" 1723; Welsted, Epistle and Odes on Several Subjects (1724) 79-81.



To win our Hearts, and to secure your Praise,
The Comic-Writers strive by various Ways;
By subtil Stratagems they act their Game,
And leave untry'd no Avenue to Fame:
One writes the Spouse a Beating from his Wife;
And says, Each stroke was copy'd from the Life:
Some fix all Wit and Humour in Grimace,
And make a Livelyhood of Pinkey's Face:
While One gay Shew and costly Habits tries,
Confiding to the Judgment of your Eyes;
Another smuts his Scene, (a cunning Shaver)
Sure of the Rakes' and of the Wenches' Favour!

Oft have these Arts prevail'd; and one may guess,
If practis'd o'er again, would find Success:
But this bold Sage, the Poet of To-night,
By new and desp'rate Rules resolv'd to write:
Fain would he give more just Applauses Rise,
And please by Wit, that scorns the Aids of Vice;
The Praise he seeks, from worthier Motives springs;
Such Praise, as Praise to those that give it, brings!

Your Aid, most humbly sought, then, Britons, lend,
And Liberal Mirth, like Liberal Men, defend:
No more let Ribaldry, with Licence writ,
Usurp the Name of Eloquence, or Wit;
No more let lawless Farce uncensur'd go;
The lewd dull Gleanings of a Smithfield Show!
'Tis yours, with Breeding to refine the Age,
To chasten Wit, and moralize the Stage.

Ye Modest, Wise and Good, ye Fair, ye Brave,
To-night the Champion of your Virtues save,
Redeem from long Contempt the Comic Name,
And judge Politely for your Country's Fame.