246 SAMUEL JOHNSON
Prologue to the Comedy of A Word to the Wise, (by Hugh Kelly}. Spoken by Mr. Hull
THIS night presents a play which public rage, Or right, or wrong, once hooted from the stage. From zeal or malice, now no more we dread, For English vengeance wars not with the dead. A generous foe regards with pitying eye The man whom fate has laid where all must lie.
To wit reviving from its author's dust, Be kind, ye judges, or at least be just, For no renew'd hostilities invade The oblivious grave's inviolable shade. Let one great payment every claim appease, And him, who cannot hurt, allow to please ; To please by scenes unconscious of offence, By harmless merriment or useful sense. Where aught of bright, or fair, the piece dis- plays,
Approve it only; 'tis too late to praise. If want of skill, or want of care appear, Forbear to hiss ; the poet cannot hear. By all, like him, must praise and blame be
At best a fleeting gleam, or empty sound. Yet then shall calm reflection bless the night When liberal pity dignify'd delight ; When pleasure fired her torch at Virtue's flame, And Mirth was Bounty with an humbler name.